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Reviews of Deephaven (1877)

by Sarah Orne Jewett

"New Publications." New York Times, 28 April 1877. Supplement, p. 8.

    Deephaven is a prolonged study of some New-England seaside port, like New-Bedford or Portsmouth, which has had former glories of West Indian or whaling trade, and now abounds in women, old sailors, and boys. Kate Lancaster and the author are friends of the variety that is always "going roand" to see the one the other. Kate writes a note to the authoress, and then:
     "I showed this note to my aunt, and soon went round very much interested. My latch-key opened the Lancasters' door, and I hurried to the parlor, where I found my friend practicing with great diligence. I went up to her, and she turned her head and kissed me solemnly. You need not smile. We are not sentimental girls, and are both much averse to indiscriminate kissing, though I have not the adroit habit of shying in which Kate is proficient. It would sometimes be impolite in any one else, but she shies so affectionately."
     After further suspense we are let into the momentous secret. These two young persons are actually not going to Europe or Newport or Lenox for the Summer. No; they are going delightfully and refreshingly to an old house in Deephaven to observe the habits of small seaside boys, angular country folk, and decrepit fishermen, and even to lure from the sides of wharves that prickly and very indigestible fish called a cunner. It need hardly be said that the tale is not a thrilling one. Such well-regulated young women do not even need a yachtsman with a brown moustache to enliven their Summer. They go to a dreary circus performance, and listen to the prudently circumspect yarn of the superannuated sailor, gossip about the musty remains of good society still lingering in the ancient town, and indulge in other harmless amusements. In fact, if condensed considerably, the book would read well in letters, and at the manuscript stage; it is by some mistake, doubtless, that it got into print at all.


from "Our Book-Shelf," The Cottage Hearth - 4 (June 1877) 146.

     In the preface to this charming little book, the author says she has often been asked if Deephaven may not be found somewhere on the map of New England, and she answers the question by saying that the place and the people are but remotely, if at all, connected with the real and actual. We think no one can read the book without believing, for the time at least, that Deephaven is an actual place, and Mrs. Kew and Captain Sands actual personages, so completely has the author invested them with an atmosphere of reality.
     Some of the sketches have already appeared in the Atlantic; and as they appear in the book, which can hardly be called a story, they form the experiences of two girls, Boston girls, spending a summer in the quiet, old-fashioned fishing town of Deephaven.
     The book is very quietly and simply written, and partakes more of the character of familiar letters from some friend, who tells you of all that goes on in the isolated town, and of all the quaint characters with whom she becomes acquainted, rather than of anything "bookish."
     It is essentially a nice book; the kind of quiet, delightful reading which you would choose for a summer afternoon under the trees, in the shadow of a ledge of rocks upon the beach of some other and equally charming Deephaven.

    F. R.

"Miss Jewett's Deephaven." Atlantic Monthly 39:236 (June 1877), 759.

     -- The gentle reader of this magazine cannot fail to have liked, for their very fresh and delicate quality, certain sketches of an old New England sea-port, which have from time to time appeared here during the last four years. The first was Shore House, and then there came Deephaven Cronies and Deephaven Excursions. These sketches, with many more studies of the same sort of life, as finely and faithfully done, are now collected into a pretty little book called Deephaven, which must, we think, find favor with all who appreciate the simple treatment of the near-at-hand quaint and picturesque. No doubt some particular sea-port sat for Deephaven, but the picture is true to a whole class of old shore towns, in any one of which you might confidently look to find the Deephaven types. It is supposed that two young girls -- whose young-girlhood charmingly perfumes the thought and observation of the whole book -- are spending the summer at Deephaven, Miss Denis, the narrator, being the guest of her adored ideal, Miss Kate Lancaster, whose people have an ancestral house there; but their sojourn is only used as a background on which to paint the local life: the three or four aristocratic families, severally dwindled to three or four old maiden ladies; the numbers of ancient sea-captains cast ashore by the decaying traffic; the queer sailor and fisher folk; the widow and old-wife gossips of the place, and some of the people of the neighboring country. These are all touched with a hand that holds itself far from every trick of exaggeration, and that subtly delights in the very tint and form of reality; we could not express too strongly the sense of conscientious fidelity which the art of the book gives, while over the whole is cast a light of the sweetest and gentlest humor, and of a sympathy as tender as it is intelligent. Danny is one of the best of the sketches; and another is The Circus at Denby, which perhaps shows better than any other the play of the author's observation and fancy, with its glancing lights of fun and pathos. A sombre and touching study is that of the sad, simple life so compassionately depicted in In Shadow, after which the reader must turn to the brisk vigor and quaintness of Mrs. Bonny. Bits of New England landscape and characteristic marine effects scattered throughout these studies of life vividly localize them, and the talk of the people is rendered with a delicious fidelity.
     In fact, Miss Jewett here gives proof of such powers of observation and characterization as we hope will some day be turned to the advantage of all of us in fiction. Meanwhile we are very glad of these studies, so refined, so simple, so exquisitely imbued with a true feeling for the ideal within the real.

The Eclectic Magazine of foreign literature, science, and art  25  (June 1877),  p. 760.

Review of Deephaven by S. O. Jewett in "Literary Notices."

    In this dainty and unpretentious little volume the author professes to give some of the more noteworthy features of a summer spent in a secluded and decayed old fishing hamlet on the New England coast; and if they are not a bona-fide transcript of actual experiences and observations, they are certainly a very remarkable instance of imaginative realism. The mouldering but picturesque village, the rotting wharves and dilapidated houses, the deserted harbor and surf-beaten light-house, the gray desolation that broods over the rugged coast and exhausted country, the general society of the place with its eighteenth-century class distinctions and its complacent self-sufficiency, and the sharply differentiated individual characters that seem to develop themselves more completely among a seafaring folk than elsewhere -- all these are portrayed with pre-Raphaelite fidelity and minuteness of detail, and yet with a graciousness of sympathy and a delicacy of touch that seem to impart a poetic atmosphere to the whole. Not the least pleasing feature of the work is the amiable disposition of the author not to seek mere amusement from her contact with unusual people and quaint social conditions, but to comprehend and appreciate them; and while there is humor in the sketches of a very genuine kind, it is not the satirical and cynical humor now so much in vogue, but the humor of Lamb and of Hood -- the humor which is likely to bring a tear to the eye as well as a smile to the lips. The reader will often find himself laughing with the quaint and almost grotesque characters introduced, but never at them; and even while he laughs he will be conscious that his sympathies are appealed to quite as effectively as his risibilities. We know of few books that illustrate so truly and attractively the great law of human fellowship -- the fact that, in spite of all differences of rank, of station, of education, and of surroundings, a man is a man, actuated by the same feelings, inspired by the same hopes, and touched by the same sorrows.
    "Deephaven" is neither a story, nor a series of descriptive essays, nor a mere collection of character studies; but it possesses the charms of all, and offers something enjoyable to well-nigh every class of readers.

Editor's note:  In a letter of 28 July 1877, Jewett wrote to Theophilus Parsons about this review: "I wish you would look at one in the June Eclectic if you ever come across that number -- for it was such high praise -- and praise that went to my heart -- and will make me try to come up to the high-water mark which the writer seems to think I have reached, and which I certainly think I have not."


Saturday Review (June 30, 1877), p. 811

     . . . a collection of tolerably clever social sketches of New England life and character, under the title of Deep Haven;


"A Chat About New Books," Maurice F. Egan, Catholic World 44, (January 1887), 561-2.

     Miss Sarah O. Jewett's Deephaven (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.) is a series of quiet studies of life in a New England seaboard town. It has many charming bits of humor and tenderness; and the description of the old house at Deephaven is worthy of Hawthorne, with a touch of womanly sentiment. Among the contents of faded Miss Katharine's escritoire -

     "There was a box which Kate was glad to find, for she had heard her mother wonder if some such things were not in existence. It held a crucifix and a mass-book and some rosaries, and Kate told me that Miss Katharine's youngest and favorite brother had become a Roman Catholic while studying in Europe. It was a dreadful blow to the family; for in those days there could have been few deeper disgraces to the Brandon family than to have one of its sons go over to popery. Only Miss Katharine treated him with kindness, and after a time he disappeared without telling even her where he was going, and was only heard from indirectly once or twice afterward. It was a great grief to her. 'And mamma knows,' said Kate, 'that she always had a lingering hope of his return, for one of the last times she saw Aunt Katharine before she was ill she spoke of soon going to be with all the rest, and said, 'Though your Uncle Harry, dear' -- and stopped and smiled sadly; 'you'll think me a very foolish old woman, but I never quite gave up thinking he might come home.'"

Reviews of the 1893 Edition

"Book Reviews." Vassar Miscellany, Volume XXIII, Number 3, 1 December 1893

    A summer with a friend by the sea. Such an outline -- alluring to any imagination -- Sarah Orne Jewett has chosen, filling it in with her delicate suggestive touch, and using as a background a simple, old fishing town on the New England coast. It is difficult to analyze the charm of Deephaven. The reading public of to-day rebels against description except as an accessory, is growing weary of local color, and hesitates whether to pronounce in favor of a plot or a pastel. Yet the reader who may have selected Deephaven as "a good book to dip into," finds himself loath to skip a page, even while he acknowledges that the descriptive element predominates, that the "atmosphere" is perfect, and that there is nothing to suggest either a pastel or a plot.
    The chronicle of bright keen days alongshore, and evenings à deux  before a driftwood fire in  the old Brandon house," is so easily, so carelessly told, that one suspects as little as in an essay of Charles Lamb, the consummate art. The character of Kate's great-aunt, Katharine, whose dead presence seems to linger in the stately rooms, is indicated only by subtle suggestions -- the old ship letters "tied with very pale and tired-looking blue ribbon," in her écritoire; the "antiquated piano," which she had used to play, sitting by herself when it grew dusky in the west parlor; the recollection in the hearts of her neighbors of the proud old woman's kindliness.
    It is a book of impressions, rather than of description -- yet the reader cannot but perceive the absence of all striving after effect. Sincerity alone can give such simplicity and naturalness to the aspect and life of Deephaven. The people are individuals, not types. Surroundings and events are hardly novel, but Miss Jewett's individuality and her keen observation give a charm to cunner-fishing, or a traveling circus.
     She confesses to "an instinctive, delicious interest in what to other eyes is unflavored dullness." In this interest, this breadth of sympathy, lies the power of the book. "It is wonderful, the romance, the tragedy, the adventure, which we may find in a quiet, old-fashioned country town!" The pathos of "In Shadow" and the account of Miss Chauncey, -- a sweet, half-crazed gentlewoman, the last of her race -- is characteristic of the author's best work.
    The aim of Deephaven is to show the true relationship between the life in the country and in small villages imbued "with the spirit of the past," and the town-life, which represents the modern, progressive element. "Human nature is the same the world over," and Miss Jewett has proved that one may be of Boston, a Bostonian -- and yet delight in "loyalty to the tradition of its ancestors," the primitive, placid life of old-fashioned Deephaven.  [ by A. L. C.]

The Writer
(Boston, MA) 6  (December 1893) p. 227.

    Since "Deephaven" was first given to the public in book form, in 1877, Miss Jewett has written many books that have helped to give her a place among the best known writers of the country. Although "Deephaven" was her first book, however, and was written almost in her girlhood, it is altogether one of the best pieces of work that the author has ever done. Its absolute fidelity in description of New England life and character, its fresh humor, its delightful portraiture of the two girls whose summer stay in Deephaven is the foundation of the story, and the touching pathos of the minor passages make it a distinct feature in the literature of New England, and give to it a peculiar charm. The story is well worthy of the attractive holiday dress now given to it by the publishers. This new edition is not one of the old style "holiday books" designed chiefly for show as an ornament upon the parlor table. It is a beautiful library edition, carefully printed from new plates, fittingly illustrated and strikingly bound. The use of the Mayflower in the original design upon the cover was a happy thought. The illustrations, about fifty in number, are in keeping with the spirit of the book, and, like the story, they are faithful pictures of New England scenery and life. Mr. and Mrs. Woodbury have done admirable work, and it has been reproduced with admirable skill. Those who have known "Deephaven" in the past will read the book again with new delight in this new edition, and those who have never read it until now are fortunate indeed, since their first enjoyment of the story will be heightened by all the aids that the modern bookmaker's finest art can give. 
                                                                   William H. Hills

The Atheneum 3459 (February 10, 1894) p. 178

   Deephaven, by Sarah Orne Jewett, seems to be a reprint of a book published some years ago in America -- a reprint for which the gratitude of English readers is due to Messrs. Osgood, Mellvaine & Co. The author informs us in the preface that her object was to create a sympathy between city people and the inhabitants of out-of-the-way country villages, by making them understand one another's points of view; and certainly, so far at least as arousing interest in the old-world inhabitants of decaying villages is concerned, Miss Jewett has been most successful. Deephaven is supposed to be a seacoast town, which was once busy and thriving, but has now, through embargoes and the like, fallen into irretrievable decay; naturally it is peopled to a great extent by old salts full of weather-lore and of interminable yarns about their voyages. The talk of these men is quite the best part of the book: their discursive, half-deprecating, half-assured manner is admirably rendered, but perhaps nowhere quite so well as in the chapter where Capt. Sands gives his views on second-sight. The old women of Deephaven are hardly less delightful with their trite maxims and pious ejaculations; indeed, it is wonderful that with very similar ways of talking they should all be so well discriminated: if a preference is to be assigned to any it must be to Mrs. Patton, the charwoman, whose character is thus pithily summed up by her neighbor Miss Dockum: "Good consistent Church-member; always been respected; useful among the sick." The two Boston-bred young ladies who are the heroines of the book are the least well done; they are sometimes rather tiresomely childish and "high-schooly" (if the phrase may be allowed) in their behavior, or in their asseverations that they do not mind their frocks being spoiled; but one gets reconciled to them in the end, as they manage so excellently to draw out all the other quaint characters. Most of the illustrations really illustrate the letterpress, and in themselves are good.

The Critic 20 (December 9, 1894) p. 375.

    ANY ILLUSTRATED edition of Sarah Orne Jewett's "Deephaven" would be wlecomed, as any other new edition would be; but the drawings by Charles Herbert and Maria Oakes Woodbury, in the edition under review, are so pretty and appropriate as to add considerably to the reader's pleasure. There is no mistaking the character of the scenery or the persons depicted. Nowhere but in New England will one find these sunlit village, streets, rough roads, rotting wharves, jolly old sea-captains, mackerel-salters, widows and gravestones -- for even the latter look jolly, with their dates of birth and deaths so very remote from one another. In her new preface the author adverts to the fact that when the book was first published, the summer movement from city to country had but just begun; since then, there have been many changes, mostly for the better, but the types have not changed very much, and "Deephaven" is still an accurate picture of the out-of-the-way New England village. The new edition is bound in a very pretty cover of white, dark green and silver.   (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.)

Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College

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