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The Country of the Pointed Firs

Editions of The Country of the Pointed Firs

Because The Country of the Pointed Firs has been organized in several different ways, it can be useful to have a visual record gathered in one place of the main editions to appear between the original publication in Atlantic Monthly during 1896 and the Riverside edition of 1927, including the edition edited by Willa Cather in 1925.  What follows is an elaboration of the basic work presented by Weber and Weber in 1949. 
    The majority of literary critics to discuss the text of this book argue that Jewett's 1896 text should be viewed as a single whole work, and the subsequently composed Dunnet Landing stories as sequels.  "William's Wedding," among the sequels stands out because its publication was posthumous, and we have no indication that Jewett, herself, ever intended to publish it.
    To understand some of the effects of the various additions of chapters and their reordering, it is useful to have a chronology of the events recounted in the book and its sequels.

Notes on Chronology in The Country of the Pointed Firs and the Sequels

            The 1896 first edition seems to be presented chronologically.  The most precise date in the book is the day of the Bowden Reunion, which takes place on Saturday 15 August.  This chronology lists the main incidents covered in the whole book and in the sequels.

            Page numbers are from Sarah Way Sherman's 1997 facsimile edition of the 1896 text, followed by the sequels.

Arrival in June
2    In revising from Atlantic to first edition, Jewett adjusted the arrival date, from "late June" to just June, but later in the first edition chapter 2, the narrator says she arrived in late June (6).

Rents schoolhouse as July days are flying fast  (7).

Captain Littlepage comes to schoolhouse – early July (18).
 This event is dated in late July in Atlantic text.

The trip to Green Island
Seems to follow close upon the Littlepage meeting, after which Todd introduces Green Island as a destination.
54         The midsummer sun dries up the scanty sheep pasture on the islands.

Mrs. Fosdick comes to visit – late in July (86)
86         The summer is described as quiet at Todd's house before this visit.

On Shell-heap Island
129      "the month was August."  

A Dunnet Shepherdess
215    The narrator recognizes William's voice, so this after the Green Island visit, and probably after the Fosdick episode, since the summer seems to have been quiet between the Green Island trip and Fosdick's visit.

Bowden Reunion – 15 August
141  This probably is Saturday, since Mrs. Blackett plans to go to Meeting the next morning, before returning to Green Island.   This works for 1891 and 1896, in case Jewett was using a real calendar.

Along Shore
184-5    The setting is summer, but not specified.  There is a good deal of detail to suggest that the weather is hot in the early afternoon when the story opens – the lack of activity, the light breezes, throwing the sleeping boy overboard.
 212       When she last sees Tilley, she reflects that they had so long been strangers before becoming friends at last.  This would seem to place their conversation about as late in the summer as it could be.

The Foreigner
233    An evening "at the end of August."
            Paragraph four begins with announcement that the narrator has been talking with Elijah, placing it clearly after "Along Shore."

The Queen's Twin
258    "One September day."

The Backward View
207    "Between August fog and autumnal mist."

William's Wedding
276    "Far on in May," this is the spring after her stay the previous summer.  She plans a trip to France this summer.

The Atlantic Monthly Text - 1896

January - 77: 5-18 -- Chapters 1 - 7
March - 77: 302-312 -- Chapters 8 - 11
July - 78: 75-88 -- Chapters 12 - 15
September - 78: 352-366 -- Chapters 16 - 20

The Atlantic Monthly chapters were numbered in Roman numerals, but they were not titled.
The September segment divided the chapters differently than they appear in the first edition.
    In Atlantic, Chapter 18 ends with this paragraph:

      "Hadn't you better urge the horse a little, Almiry?" she asked. "He's had it easy as we came along, and he can rest when we get there. The others are some little ways ahead, and I don't want to lose a minute."

    Chapter 19 begins with the party arriving at the Bowden Reunion, and it is followed by Chapter 20, which was later titled "The Feast's End."

In the 1896 first edition, Atlantic chapters 18 and 19 were combined in "The Bowden Reunion," chapter 18, and "The Feast's End" became chapter 19.

For a discussion of how the first edition text came to differ from the Atlantic text, see Cynthia J. Goheen, “Editorial Misinterpretation and the Unmaking of a Perfectly Good Story: The Publication History of The Country of the Pointed Firs.” American Literary Realism 30.2 (Winter 1998): 28–42.   JSTOR Link
       Though this essay contains inaccuracies -- notably mistaken order of the final four chapters of the 1919 and 1924 editions -- the account of Jewett's correspondence with Atlantic editor Horace Scudder and with Houghton Mifflin in the summer of 1896 is quite helpful.
    Goheen points out that Scudder and Jewett originally intended to publish the whole first edition text in Atlantic, but Scudder decided to let the final two chapters appear for the first time in the 1896 first edition (35).
    See also "History of a Text: Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs." Marco A. Portales. New England Quarterly 55.4 (Dec. 1982): 586-92.

First Edition Text - 1896

Table of Contents
I. The Return
II. Mrs. Todd
III. The Schoolhouse
IV. At the Schoolhouse Window
V. Captain Littlepage
VI. The Waiting Place
VII. The Outer Island
VIII. Green Island
IX. William
X. Where Pennyroyal Grew
XI. The Old Singers
XII. A Strange Sail
XIII. Poor Joanna
XIV. The Hermitage
XV. On Shell-heap Island
XVI. The Great Expedition
XVII. A Country Road
XVIII. The Bowden Reunion
XIX. The Feast's End
XX. Along Shore
XXI. The Backward View

1910 Edition

As the images below indicate, this edition, published a year after Jewett's death and copyrighted by her sister, contains two sequel stories following the final chapter of the first edition.  No explanation is given in the text for these additions.  However, this note appeared in the same year, when it introduced "William's Wedding" in Atlantic Monthly 106 (1910): 33-40:

   [After the publication of 'A Dunnet Shepherdess' in the Atlantic for December, 1899, and its subsequent appearance in a volume of collected stories, Miss Jewett received many appeals to bring William Blackett's lifelong love of Esther Hight, 'the shepherdess,' who had given the better part of her days to the care of her stricken mother, to a happy termination. The story of 'William's Wedding' was written, but the manuscript was mislaid, and has only just been found. Miss Jewett had hoped to give to it an hour or two of final revision to make it conform more perfectly to her fastidious taste, but few lovers of her work will find any flaw.
   The two chief characters are thus described in earlier stories: --
   'I turned, startled in the silence of the wide field, and saw an elderly man, bent in the shoulders as fishermen often are, gray-headed and clean-shaven, and with a timid air. It was William. . . . He was about sixty, and not young-looking for his years. Yet so undying is the spirit of youth, and bashfulness has such a power of survival, that I felt all the time as if one must try to make the occasion easy for some one who was young and new to the affairs of the social world.' (The Country of the Pointed Firs.) 'As for Esther, she might have been Jeanne d'Arc returned to her sheep, touched with age, and gray with the ashes of a great remembrance. She wore the simple look of sainthood and unfeigned devotion. My heart was moved by the sight of her plain sweet face, weather-worn and gentle in its looks, her thin figure in its close dress, and the strong hand that clasped a shepherd's staff. . . . She had lived in sunshine and rain among her silly sheep, and been refined instead of coarsened, while her touching patience with a ramping old mother, stung by the sense of defeat, and mourning her lost activities, had given back a lovely self-possession and habit of sweet temper. . . . I love to remember her worn face and her young blue eyes.' ('A Dunnet Shepherdess,' in The Queen's Twin)

This note really provides no direct evidence that Jewett approved either the publication of "William's Wedding" or the additions of "A Dunnet Shepherdess" and "William's Wedding" to her original book.
     It is possible that the most important decision in developing this edition was simply mechanical, the decision to number the sequels in the same sequence as the chapters, as if they were simply a continuation of the original story or were additions to a collection of sketches, and, therefore, that the additions followed Jewett's intentions.  This use of numbering persists through all the various editions through 1927.
    Weber and Weber point out that when "A Dunnet Shepherdess" was transferred from The Queen's Twin (1899) to The Country of the Pointed Firs, the vacated space was filled by adding "By the Morning Boat" (first collected in Strangers and Wayfarers, 1890) to the contents of The Queen's Twin, with the result that two distinct texts of Jewett's 1899 collection remain in circulation.

Images courtesy of Google Books and the
Houghton Library of Harvard University.



WorldCat Information
Notice that this information gives a different chapter order than the book contents, which may help account for the error by Jeff Morgan in Sarah Orne Jewett's Feminine Pastoral Vision (2002), p. 33.

Title:     The country of the pointed firs /
Author(s):     Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909.
Publication:     Boston, Houghton Mifflin,
Year:     1910
Description:     269 p. ; 18 cm.
Language:     English
Contents:     The return ; Mrs. Todd ; The schoolhouse ; At the schoolhouse window ; Captain Littlepage ; The waiting place ; The outer island ; Green island ; William ; Where pennyroyal grew ; The old singers ; A strange sail ; Poor Joanna ; The hermitage ; On Shell-heap island ; The great expedition ; A country road ; The Bowden reunion ; The feast's end ; Along shore ; A Dunnet shepherdess ; William's wedding ; The backward view
Geographic:     Maine - Social life and customs - Fiction.
Class Descriptors:     LC: PS2132; Dewey: 813.4
Responsibility:     by Sarah Orne Jewett.

1919 Visitors' Edition
Images available courtesy of Parks Library at Iowa State University.

In addition to photograph illustrations, this edition includes several changes to the textual content.  These are "explained" in a note at the beginning.  However, there is no explanation for changing the order of the stories, for placing "The Backward View" after the three sequels.  The first edition seems clearly chronological in the ordering of the chapters; this edition breaks the chronology by placing before "The Backward View," "William's Wedding" -- which takes place in May, nearly nine months after the narrator's departure from Dunnet Landing. Likewise, "The Queen's Twin" chronologically precedes "William's Wedding" and probably also, "Along Shore"





Charles Sumner Olcott
Author and photographer.  His books include:
    The Lure of the Camera 1914
   The Life of William McKinley 1916

WorldCat Description
Note erroneous naming of the final chapter.

The country of the pointed firs /
Sarah Orne Jewett
1919 Visitors ed.
English  Book : Fiction 306 p. : front. ; 21 cm.
Boston : Houghton Mifflin,
Author(s):         Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909.
Publication:       Boston : Houghton Mifflin,
Edition: Visitors ed.
Year:    1919
Description:       306 p. : front. ; 21 cm.
Language:         English
Contents:          The return.--Mrs. Todd.--The schoolhouse.--At the schoolhouse window.--Captain Littlepage.--The waiting place.--The outer island.--Green Island.--William.--Where pennyroyal grew.--The old singers.--A strange sail.--Poor Joanna.--The hermitage.--On Shell-Heap Island.--The great expedition.--A country road.--The Bowden reunion.--The feast's end.--Along shore.--A Dunnet shepherdess.--William's wedding.--The queen's twin.--The backyard view.
Class Descriptors:         LC: PS2132
Responsibility:   by Sarah Orne Jewett ; with illustrations from photographs by Charles S. Olcott.

1924 Edition
Images courtesy of the McIntyre Library, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

This edition is not illustrated, and it is made to look a good deal like the first 1896 edition, using the original Whitman cover design, except that the ink is black rather than gold, as on the 1896 cover.  No evidence has been found so far to indicate who made decisions about altering the order of the final "chapters."  Clearly, though, the sequels have been treated as either items in a collection of sketches or chapters in a single book.  In this order, they are at least roughly chronological except for "The Backward View."  It is possible, but not very likely that the editor(s) of this edition thought of "The Backward View" as following "William's Wedding" chronologically, but internal evidence in the two texts make it clear that "The Backward View" takes place in September of the first summer, while "William's Wedding" takes place the following May.





WorldCat Description

The country of the pointed firs; Jewett, Sarah Orne,
Title:     The country of the pointed firs,
Author(s):     Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909.
Publication:     Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin company
Year:     1924
Description:     306 p. front. 17 cm.
Language:     English
Class Descriptors:     LC: PS2132
Responsibility:     by Sarah Orne Jewett.

1925 Mayflower Edition
Selected and Arranged by Willa Cather

It would seem clear that Cather followed the 1924 edition.  For a thorough explanation of the development of the Mayflower Edition, see Melissa Homestead. "Willa Cather Editing Sarah Orne Jewett."  American Literary Realism 49,1 (Fall 2016) 63-89.











The Riverside Press Cambridge




            * * *




PREFACE BY WILLA CATHER        ix         

I. THE RETURN          1         

II. MRS. TODD           3         

III. THE SCHOOLHOUSE       11        



VI. THE WAITING PLACE     31        

VII. THE OUTER ISLAND     42        

VIII. GREEN ISLAND             48        

IX. WILLIAM 66        


XI. THE OLD SINGERS          80        

XII. A STRANGE SAIL           86        

XIII. POOR JOANNA             98        

XIV. THE HERMITAGE          115      

XV. ON SHELL-HEAP ISLAND         127      

XVI. THE GREAT EXPEDITION        134      

XVII. A COUNTRY ROAD     144      


XIX. THE FEAST'S END         175      

XX. ALONG SHORE   184      


XXII. THE QUEEN'S TWIN    242      

XXIIL WILLIAM'S WEDDING           279      





Available courtesy of Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.

Text Link:

 Publication Information: Book Title: The Best Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett. Contributors: Willa Cather - author, Sarah Orne Jewett - author. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company. Place of Publication: Boston, MA. Publication Year: 1925

1927 Riverside Edition

As this edition follows the same arrangement of "chapters" as that in volume 1 of Cather's Mayflower edition, we may speculate that Houghton Mifflin had decided after 1925 to issue a single-volume edition of The Country of the Pointed Firs, adopting Cather's order.  However, Cather's name is not mentioned, nor is her preface included.  Perhaps this really is a reissue of the 1924 edition, with added illustrations and a new cover?
    The volume includes uncredited reproductions of two Charles S. Olcott photographs that had appeared in the 1919 edition.
    "Down the co'st to Cold Spring Light" appears as a frontispiece.  In the 1919 edition, this photograph appears in Chapter 17 A Country Road, in which the title quotation occurs.
    "The Waiting Procession of seaward-bound firs" appears facing p. 280, in "William's Wedding."  In the 1919 edition, it appears facing p. 242, near the beginning of "William's Wedding," in which the title quotation occurs.





Original binding is faded
from what appears to be green
somewhat similar to the background.

Images available courtesy of the
Ramaker Library
Northwestern College
Orange City, IA


WorldCat Description

The country of the pointed firs /
Author(s):     Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909.
Publication:     Boston : Houghton Mifflin,
Year:     1927
Description:     306 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.
Language:     English
Series:     The Riverside Library;
Geographic:     Maine - Social life and customs - Fiction.
Class Descriptors:     LC: PS2132; Dewey: 813
Responsibility:     by Sarah Orne Jewett.

Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College
Updated:  July 2012

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The Country of the Pointed Firs