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The Country of the Pointed Firs

Letters & Photographs associated with The Country of the Pointed Firs

The current owner of the Anchorage has provided copies of historical and recent photographs and descriptions of the house where Jewett stayed in 1895.  These appear here with his consent and may not be reused without his permission.

Copyright 2008, Ken Buck
The Anchorage, circa 1890, as it appeared when Sarah Orne Jewett was there. Stone wall across from lane barely visible at right. Original house color was medium tan with white trim. The colors were changed to white with green trim in the 1930s.


Copyright 2008, Ken Buck
The Anchorage, October 2004, with ocean in the distance at left.


Sarah Orne Jewett wrote the following letters in 1895, when she was staying near Martinsville, Maine.  Martinsville, according to Richard Cary,

is a hamlet at the end of one of Maine's myriad "points" that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean, several miles south of Rockland. Seeking "peace and quiet" after a nagging attack of pneumonia, Jewett accompanied by Fields, rented The Anchorage from a Boston doctor. In these idyllic surroundings, with a view of the Monhegan Light ten miles out at sea, Jewett caught up with some editorial work, walked, rode. and visited extensively, soaking up the atmosphere of the area, which has arresting resemblances to the locale of The Country of the Pointed Firs, serialized in the Atlantic Monthly starting January 1896.


Firs marching down to the shore.
Island view from Marshall Point, Port Clyde.

To Louisa Dresel
The transcription is by Richard Cary; click here to view the full letters and Cary's notes.

     The Anchorage
     Martinsville, Maine
     September 4, 1895

     Dear Loulie:

     I don't know whether you would find this a good sketching ground but it is certainly a dear untroubled corner of the world. The house stands in a green field that slopes to the sea and we have three families of neighbours and two empty little old houses pretty near and some other neighbours -- the Dwyer family -- a little farther off. One Dwyer child brings the mail for fifteen cents a week and the boy catches cunners and lobsters (small ones two cents each) and other Dwyers do other things and are a heritage from the last people who were here. And this is a story-and-a-half house and I sleep in the little back corner bedroom and look out from my bed at a stonewall across the lane and a little field where men in blue overalls have been digging potatoes and beyond them are the dark pointed firs that cover most of this coast of Maine. Dear A. F. and I say "let's go out doors" and after we have stayed  [unfinished letter ends here]
 



Copyright 2008, Ken Buck
The Anchorage in 2003. The window at the farthest right is the bedroom where Sarah Orne Jewett stayed.



The Anchorage

     Martinsville, Maine
     Friday
     September 28, [1895]

     Dear Loulie:
     I began a long letter to you when I first came and here I am just going away and it never got finished! But I have thought of you many times and wished that you could see this bit of country which to the eyes of my imagination is even better than such a place as Folly Cove. I have had a little shop going, a nice smallish table, right in front of the window of my nice little back bedroom, and I sit there now looking down a dear lane with stone walls, toward the bay. There are two masts of a schooner just at the end and there are some wind bent trees growing just at the right place at the highest point of the lane where you seem to be able to jump over into the water! We have been very contented and have liked our little housekeeping so much. I have been busy with proofs and with a little writing but I have not got done anything like what I hoped as much I mean! However, I hope to be very busy after I get settled down at home. My sister Mary has been here this last week and we have sailed and walked a great deal and had most lovely weather. ...

Copyright 2008, Ken Buck

The Anchorage at center, and neighboring houses, circa 1890. The back bedroom where Sarah Orne Jewett stayed is at leftmost corner of house. Lane and stone wall (hidden) run behind house. Fields at left behind the wall.


To Sarah Wyman Whitman
    From Annie Fields, Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett

     Sunday, September 8, 1895,
     The Anchorage, Martinsville, Maine.

     You would not think from this handsome and large paper what a small plain bushy corner of the world this letter comes from. The golden-rod is all in bloom, and there is a lighthouse (Monhegan) off the coast, and the Anchorage is a nice story-and-half house that stands in a green field that slopes down to the sea. I sleep in a little back bedroom whose window gives on a lane and a stone wall and a potato field, where the figures of J. F. Millet work all day against a very unFrench background of the pointed firs that belong to Maine, like the grey ledges they are rooted in. I don't think you would like it very well unless you fell to painting and then -- Oh my! -- I don't wish for you as I do in most places -- perhaps it is because the landscape is usually without figures -- in spite of the potato field. But oh! I have found such a corner of this world, under a spruce tree, where I sit for hours together, and neither thought nor good books can keep me from watching a little golden bee, that seems to live quite alone, and to be laying up honey against cold weather. He may have been idle and now feels belated, and goes and comes from his little hole in the ground close by my knee, so that I can put my hand over his front door and shut him out, -- but I promise you and him that I never will. He took me for a boulder the first day we met; but after he flew round and round he understood things, and knows now that I come and go as other boulders do, by glacial action, and can do him no harm. A very handsome little bee and often to be thought of by me, come winter.

Copyright 2008, Ken Buck
Recent photo of the room Jewett describes herself as occupying at the Anchorage in 1895.
 

Inland view from Marshall Point, Port Clye, near Martinsville.

Whether Jewett rented the local schoolhouse at Martinsville to work on her writing is a matter of controversy.  Paula Blanchard argues that Jewett's description in her letters of her work space at the Anchorage makes clear that Jewett did not need to work at the schoolhouse during this period (Sarah Orne Jewett, 275n).  Though an exhibit on display at the Marshall Point Light House Museum in June 2003 asserted that the town records of Martinsville showed Jewett renting the schoolhouse, the actual records have not been produced.  Whether or not she actually used it, she may well have seen the local schoolhouse as a model for the one her narrator uses in the novella.  However, the Martinsville schoolhouse is built on the same plan as many other small schoolhouses still standing in Maine.

Martinsville Schoolhouse, not far from the Anchorage,
a private home in June 2003


Copyright 2005-2008 - Terry Heller
Coe College


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The Country of the Pointed Firs