William Dean Howells to Mary Rice JewettSarah Orne Jewett Letters -- From after 1909
Jewett died June 24, 1909
Annie Adams Fields to Katharine and Louisa Loring
[Upper left corner printed in pencil in another hand: Annie Fields]
148 Charles St.
[Penciled in another hand: 1910.]*
Here comes a Christmas box for two who are still in the woods or by the sea! but quite unforgotten! The box contains gauds alas! but may they be welcome gauds -- one a pretty hat pin for Louisa which Sarah chose for me one day saying: "There dear, you will like that for a present some day, it is so pretty! And the other a little string of venetian beads which [holds ?] an ornament beautifully -- this is for Katherine
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(Louisa, don't you touch it, except you may borrow it to wear some day if you are very good!) It is so light that you never think of it and yet it will hold a jewel in place round the neck quite beautifully -- This is for Katherine! and all for love and Christmas Day
Christmas=tide: Fields writes her hyphen here to appear as an equal sign. She did this quite often. See for example her Diary of a West Indian Island Tour.
1910: This letter offers no helpful clues about its date, except for this date penciled in apparently by a curator. One reason for doubting it is that there is no mention of Sarah Orne Jewett. This would not necessarily be odd were the letter from before 1910, for Jewett would also have written the Loring sisters. Likewise, were the letter from a later year, before Fields's death in January 1915, Fields might not mention her missing companion. But it seems odd that Jewett is not mentioned the 2nd Christmas after her death. Still, in the absence of more definite information, the 1910 date has been retained.
The manuscript of this letter is held by the Beverly MA Historical Society in the Loring Family Papers (1833-1943), MSS: #002, Series II, Letters to Louisa Putnam Loring (1854-1924) Box 1 Folder 10. Transcription and notes by Terry Heller, Coe College.
To Miss Mary Jewett
York Harbor, Sept. 14, 1919.
DEAR MISS JEWETT:
Yesterday there came a box of your dear sister's and my dear friend's books, which I suppose came from you. At any rate I thank you for it with a heart warm with reading in it [Deephaven] in many places. Just now I was reading to my daughter about that circus, and the lecture to young men, and we were between laughing and crying. What beautiful work everywhere. Nobody has ever come near it.
I hope you will like my choosing for my American Stories, that delicious sketch The Courting of Sister Wisby.* It has been hard to choose, and as a story this is slighter than some others, but the study of the supposed teller of it is all but incomparable in that dearest and sweetest old mullein-gatherer.
Sometime when you have time and can copy my letter to your sister suggesting the kind of work she should best do for the Atlantic, I should be very grateful for it.
My daughter joins me in love. It was such a pleasure to see you.
W. D. HOWELLS.
P. S. I shall have my say about your sister in my introduction to the book of stories.**
*"The Courting of Sister Wisby" was originally published in Atlantic Monthly (59:577-586), May 1887, collected in The King of Folly Island and Other People (1888), then reprinted in Tales of New England (1890).
In The Great Modern American Short Stories (1920), Howells says:
The three great artists, working always in simple and native stuff, whom I have almost inevitably grouped together in the order of my acquaintance with their stories, are collectively, if not severally, without equal among their contemporaries in their order of fiction. I like the beautiful art, the gentle nature-love and the delicate humor of Sarah Orne Jewett because I knew it first as the very junior editor whom it first came to in settled form, but I do not know that I value it more than the stories of Mrs. Wilkins Freeman or the stories of Miss Alice Brown, which I knew with the rest of the public when they began to appear in response to other editorial welcome. I think The Revolt of "Mother" had the widest and warmest welcome from the whole English-reading world; Miss Brown's story here is fairly suggestive of her far-reaching study of New England life; and very possibly it is because of my earlier liking for Sarah Orne Jewett's story that I like it most ["The Courting of Sister Wisby"]. She is less dramatic in the piece chosen than the others; the story is scarcely more than a placid and whimsical study of scene and character; it was hard to find any story of hers that was more than a study, but how preciously richer than a story this study is!
This letter comes from Life in Letters of William Dean Howells, edited by Mildred Howells. New York: Doubleday, 1928. v. 2, pp. 15-16, 41, 146, 391-2.
Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.
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