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LETTERS TO SARAH ORNE JEWETT

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.
 



 

To Miss Sarah Orne Jewett
184 Commonwealth Avenue,
Feb'y 1, 1891.

DEAR MISS JEWETT:

     I had written about your book for some far forthcoming Study, and when I took it up just now to read something over again in it, I thought I had thanked you for it. Thank you now and always.

     I opened and read The White Rose Road, which I had left because I always want to read Mr. Teaby and Going to Shrewsbury whenever I am in eyeshot of these. But "The W. R. R." is beautiful, and it made the tears come to my eyes out of the everlasting ache in my heart for all that is poor, and fair and pitiful.

     You have a precious gift, and you must know it, and can be none the worse for your knowledge. We all have a tender pleasure in your work, which there is no other name for but love. I think no one has shown finer art in a way, than you, and that something which is so much better than art, besides. Your voice is like a thrush's in the din of all the literary noises that stun us so.

     I hope your mother is better, and that we shall see you before long in Boston.

     Give my love to your nephew, and our united affection to all your house.

Yours sincerely,
W. D. HOWELLS.
 

**The stories referred to in this letter appear in Strangers & Wayfarers.


To Miss Sarah Orne Jewett
40 W. 59th St., Nov. 28, 1893.

DEAR FRIEND:

     The other night I read your Second Spring to Mrs. Howells, and we rejoiced in it, and loved every touch and tint in it, as we always do in your work. What a divine creature you are in it, and how you do make other people's joinery seem crude and clumsy! No, you are too friendly and kind for that, but it seems so, out of a mere sense of shame and unworthiness.

     That boy, whom no successive pieces of pork would fill, where is he that I may go and sit at his feet forever?

     We read that you have been very sick and we are sorry for you with all our hearts.
 

Love to Mrs. Fields, from
Yours sincerely,
W. D. HOWELLS.


To Miss Sarah Orne Jewett
York Harbor, Me.,
Sept. 25, 1901.

MY DEAR MISS JEWETT:

     I am almost wounded more by your supposition that I could let anything in the way of work keep me from answering you than I am by the fact that I never got your letter.

     I am going home with an arrow in my breast that sticks through the back of my coat in a way that will excite universal comment.* But I hope to pull it before next summer, and we all hope to see you, for we expect to be back next summer, for York has done Mrs. Howells good. She joins Pilla and me in lasting affection to you and yours.
 

Sincerely yours,
W. D. HOWELLS.

     * I shall just say, "Oh! That? Miss Jewett did it."


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.

Yours sincerely,
W. D. HOWELLS.

     P. S. I shall have my say about your sister in my introduction to the book of stories.**
 

**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!

Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College


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