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The Life of Nancy 

Reviews of "The Life of Nancy"

    from Horace Scudder (see Sarah Orne Jewett: A Reference Guide p. 30),
    "Half a Dozen Story Books." Atlantic 76:456 (October 1895) 559.

Miss Jewett never quite parts with that air of fine breeding which gives grace and beauty to her work, and makes her characters the objects of a compassion born of fuller knowledge than they possess of themselves.

    from "Fiction."
    Literary World (Boston): 26 (11/16/1895) 388.

Some of Miss Sarah Orne Jewett's most delightful work is to be found in the stories which make up the volume entitled "The Life of Nancy." The one from which it is named -- the tale of Nancy, the fresh, dimpled country maid, on her first visit to Boston, counting all things as delight, and accepting each small kindness as evidence of a real, underlying friendliness, and the same Nancy years after lying helpless on her bed in the country neighborhood which she has done so much to cheer and elevate, and still feeding on the thought of that happy visit -- is simply and pathetically beautiful. Even better, perhaps, is the story of "A War Debt," with its picture of the picturesque, half-ruined Virginia manor house, the shadows of the Civil War still brooding over it; and we are grateful to Miss Jewett for the hinted hope of the last sentence, added since the tale appeared in the "Century." But it is difficult to choose where all are so good. The gentle drollery of "Fame's Brief Day," the homely but no less genuine pathos of "The Only Rose," the charm of childhood in "Little French Mary," the delicious New Englandism of "The Guests of Mrs. Timms" -- each and all are admirable in their way. And it is a way that is Miss Jewett's own, the ripened fruit of a lifetime of experience and observation, and widely distinct and distinguishable from the way of other people, from the gaunt, sordid, painful, crotchety New England which we find in some other novels and stories; for Miss Jewett's keenness of vision is tempered with a tenderness no less discriminating, her records are as kind as they are accurate, and her own sweetness of good breeding finds a way into the recesses of the true courtesy, honor, and worth which often underlie the rugged exterior of her country people. (Houghton, Mifflin & Co. $1.25.)

    from "Recent Publications."
    The Daily Picayune (11/22/1895) 9.

THE LIFE OF NANCY. By Sarah Orne Jewett.
12 mo.; pp. 322; cloth. $1.25. Boston and New York; Houghton, Mifflin & Co. For sale by Geo. F. Wharton.

Whatever this author writes is sure to possess interest enough to be worth reading, and the one who reads the ten charming short stories and sketches in this book mayhap to find them interesting enough to be worth reading again. They are very clever.

    from "Talk about Books."
    The Chautauquan 22 (12/1895) 380.

Several entertaining short stories by Sarah Orne Jewett, bound in a single volume is entitled "The Life of Nancy."1 The first shows how in a condition of physical helplessness one can be happy, and the second, "Fame's Little Day," is an amusing account of how a simple news item increased the self esteem of two plain old people. Each of the succeeding stories is equally interesting and well written.

1. The Life of Nancy. By Sarah Orne Jewett. 332 pp. $1.25. Boston and New York; Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

The Independent 47 (12/12/1895) 1689.

The Life of Nancy, by Sarah Orne Jewett (Boston Houghton, Mifflin & Co., $1.25), is the title given to a collection of short stories by Miss Jewett, whose work is always excellent. There are ten sketches in the book redolent of that flavor so often found in the fiction of the Atlantic Monthly. Miss Jewett in her own way is inimitable; her style is charming; but we cannot help stopping short and staring at a construction like "All this placidity and self-assurance were," etc., on page 2 of The Life of Nancy. "This were" quite a shock and a surprise to us when we read it.

from "Comment on New Books"
Atlantic Monthly 77 (February 1896): 279 (in 274-283)

The Life of Nancy, by Sarah Orne Jewett. (Houghton.) The title story of this collection of ten tales might well stand as a representative title for a very large part of Miss Jewett's work. She has done precisely this, -- got at the life of "Nancy," the homely New England maiden whose city sister is "Annie;" not at the mere external circumstance of Nancy, but at her life, what she thinks about, dreams about, knows in her soul; not, again, at some sharp moment in Nancy's experience, some acidulous drop into which her life has been distilled, but at her common experience as it flows on year after year. With each new volume Miss Jewett shows a finer power over language, while preserving the old, simple flavor of sympathy and strong sense of what is humanly probable in the characters she portrays.

    from "Books Received."
    Godey's Magazine 132 (2/1896) 210.

THE LIFE OF NANCY. By Sarah Orne Jewett. We are too prone to think of style as a mere dexterity in words. It is rather a dexterity with ideas, the throwing of countless little side-lights, the analysis of seemingly solid colors into rainbows of richness, the suggestion of constant little excursions of thought without losing sight of the main pathway. It is this industry that makes it possible for a great "stylist" to write about nothing at all in the most entertaining manner. The narrator of stirring events can spare this ability. The ultra-realist is a pauper indeed without it. It is this fact that makes so many studies of New England life as bald and stony as their own fields. Miss Jewett seems to lack the kaleidoscope of style, and her histories of the inconsequential betray the poverty of their subject. Or if the plots have intrinsic interest, they are smothered in a mass of detail ill-chosen and lazily narrated. The present volume contains ten short stories, none of them without occasional bits of delightful observation. Cloth, $1.25. (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston and New York.)

    from "Recent Fiction."
    The Nation 62 (2/27/1896) 181-2.

     Miss Jewett is content, and most heartily contents us, with the American at home, almost restricted to the New Englander working his unproductive farm, fishing on the more responsive sea, and gossiping up and down the village streets. The incidents in the volume entitled 'The Life of Nancy' are simple almost to bareness, but they are exalted by a sympathetic revelation of human nature and by an exquisite literary representation. The fussy old maids, kind or cross, the unconsciously humorous and self-complacent sea-faring men, the taciturn husbands and loquacious, irrelevant widows, all are in a way characteristically of New England, but Miss Jewett goes deep enough to link them with a wider world and to insure them greeting as kin, irrespective of geographical limitation and local accident. When a thing is perfectly well done, it is profitless to try to explain how and why. Nature's special endowments defy analysis, and those curious about seemingly wonderful achievements are restricted to guessing what has been added by care and industry to the original, inexplicable faculty, the unknown and incalculable quantity. What Miss Jewett appears to have gained by her sincere and loving application to letters is facility of expression which shows neither haste nor waste, and a classic beauty of form and serenity of manner. She has certainly proclaimed that beauty and truth are not antagonistic, and that the real and the ideal are inextricably woven in the warp of human life.

     from "Book Reviews."
    Overland monthly and Out West magazine. / Volume: 27, Issue: 159, Mar 1896, pp. 349-351.

     The Life of Nancy.1

     NO SWEETER stories of New England life have ever been told than the ten short tales collected under the title of the first. They are filled with that sympathetic tenderness, and humorous pathos that all students of the Yankee seem to find in their lives.

     It is useless to relate the stories of her stories here, for the mere mention of the fact that Miss Jewett has published another volume of New England sketches is enough to arrest the attention of her vast audience in this country. But whether the reader cares for the New England scene and the New England character of not, he will be amply repaid for the time devoted to this little book. There is a tear and a smile on every page.

     1 The Life of Nancy. By Sarah Orne Jewett. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.: 1895. $1.25

Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College

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The Life of Nancy