The Mate of the Daylight
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Reviews of The Mate of the Daylight (1884)
from "Minor Notices." The Critic 94 (Dec. 8, 1883) p. 500.
THE PUBLICATION of a new volume by Miss Sarah Orne Jewett is a red-letter day in the annals of New England story-writing. Miss Jewett has caught the spirit of New England in its pleasantest mood. The men and women she paints are not the hard-fisted, money-loving 'Yankees' of the unsympathetic story-writer, but the simple-hearted, hard-working, quick-witted village-folk, who live and die in their native places, but whose sons and daughters go west and grow up with the country. The first story, 'The Mate of the Daylight,' from which the book takes its title, is a 'longshore tale, and is (if we may say so) fresh with salt breezes. We recommend Miss Jewett's stories to foreign, particularly English, readers, for a true picture of New England pastoral life. (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.)
Independent 35 (Dec. 27, 1883) p. 11
The Mate of the Daylight, by Sarah Orne Jewett (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.) takes its title from the first, and, perhaps, the best, of the stories in this new publication. To those who have read her most charming and characteristically New England "Country By-Ways," this book will lack something. The breezy freshness and full up-springing life that filled the first is not found in this; but, on the other hand, the range of subjects is greater and the characters more varied. The old sea captains in the opening story, telling their long yarns, sitting at the door of the fish-house, in their busy idleness, watching the mist coming in, and the fishing boats, scudding before the wind, bring with them the smell of the sea. We see them and become interested in their bits of gossip, when, suddenly, their tale is told, and Miss Jewett carries us off to a farm-house in the Spring time, where, as she says, "the frogs were lifting up their voices in all the swamps, having discovered all at once that they were thawed out, and that it was time to assert themselves"; when "a faint tinge of greenness suddenly appeared on the much-abused and weather-beaten grass by the road-sides, and the willows were covered with a mist of greenish gold." Here was the home and here was lived the life of a "Landless Farmer." Miss Jewett goes a little out of the line of her former characters to introduce a new species to us, not nearly as likeable as those she generally portrays; in fact, a villain in a small way. But she cannot endure him long. He runs his career and disappears, to give place to "Miss Debby's Neighbors," where we feel more at home, and where, if we may allowed to say so, the author does also. And with reason; for in this story all the brightness and cheeriness of the people we met in the "Country Byways," translated out of the good old New England days, come back, and the simple story is told in the naturalness of style that is the charming characteristic of Miss Jewett.
Literary World 15 (Jan. 12, 1884) p. 12.
Eight of Miss Jewett's recent sketches make up this small volume, dedicated to "A. F." (Annie Fields?) Besides the pretty idyl which gives the title, there are other two of her best pieces, delineating country ways and character, the men and women who figure in them being so true to life that one can almost point out their like in any rural neighborhood. Could anything be more real than the incidents and human nature in these two, "A Landless Farmer," and "An Only Son?" In these, as in "Andrew's Fortune" in a former collection, the author is at her best. Equally good in its way is "Miss Debby's Neighbors," a capital sketch, full of the genuine New England vernacular as it is actually talked, not made to order. The others are "A New Parishioner," "Tom's Husband," "The Confessions of a House-Breaker," and "A Little Traveller." Miss Jewett says:
Heaven only knows the story of the lives that the gray old New England farm-houses have sheltered and hidden away from curious eyes as best they might. Stranger dramas than have ever been written belong to the dull-looking, quiet homes, that have seen generation after generation live and die.
This leads us to ask why, as Miss Jewett knows New England common life so thoroughly, and has such an insight into motives and character, will she not try her hand at a long story, taking in the material of some provincial town, widening her horizon; and so in her strong and graceful way develop life-histories instead of incidents. She is always sure of a friendly public.
Nation 38 (January 17, 1884) p. 59.
Miss Jewett's stories need no commendation, but we delay a moment to mark them as another example, of which there are so few among the works of women, of that careful study which finds and brings out what we have to call the negative side of life. The world is accustomed to such positiveness and downrightness of fact and motive that it does not often realize the force of what does not happen - the meaning of not doing. Of the stories before us, "The New Parishioner" and "The Only Son" are striking illustrations, and, at the same time, are by far the most interesting. Miss Jewett, moreover, has a style, in the true sense, a manner of expression, fitting and beautiful, and her own.
Overland Monthly 3 (January 1884), 111.
-----Nothing could be more charming in its way than Miss S. O. Jewett's last collection of sketches, The Mate of the Daylight. To our mind, it is neither better nor less good than previous collections from her pen, but on the same plane of excellence; and it may very well be added that it is doubtful whether any higher plan exists in this sort of sketch writing. The two irresistibly charming traits of all these little tales are the fine insight and sympathy shown in dealing with provincial New England character, and the exceeding simplicity and grace of diction. Mrs. Stowe and Rose Terry Cooke both equal Miss Jewett, or even excel her, in life-like reproduction of New England speech and ways; but Miss Jewett's sketches show a keener sympathy with the New England heart. ----
from "American Literature," The Saturday Review (January 26, 1884) 129.
. . . . and, The Mate of the "Daylight" are, in their several ways, fair average specimens.
The Dial 4 (January 1884), 230.
A few of the aspects of old-fashioned New England country life furnish the subject-matter of a volume by Sarah Orne Jewett, called, from the first of the eight sketches which it includes, "The Mate of the Daylight." They are sketches rather than stories, and it is as such alone that they are possessed of interest. The bareness, the crudity, the provincialism of the life which they picture is well depicted, although Howells has done it better. "Heaven only knows the story of the lives that the gray old New England farm-houses have sheltered and hidden away from curious eyes as best they might. Stranger dramas than have ever been written belong to the dull looking, quiet houses, that have seen generation after generation live and die." This is very profoundly true, but Miss Hewett has shown us little of it in this volume. She has not gone far below the surface, nor can we gain much insight into the deeper recesses of this life from a perusal of her work.
The Manhattan 3 (February 1884), 188.
Among writers of short stories in our republic, there are none who can approach Miss Sarah Orne Jewett in her special field. That field is New England characters and scenes. In these her touch has a felicity which is due to both nature and art. Some of her best traits are found in a little volume just published, entitled The Mate of the Daylight and Friends Ashore. There are eight stories in the book, of which the leading one, "The Mate," though excellent in its way, seems to us to have less of her peculiar charm than those which follow. It would be hard for her to make uninteresting any tale she might choose to tell, but the old sea captains with their yarns, though life-like, seem not drawn with that rare touch she displays elsewhere. Of the stories which follow, "Miss Debbys Neighbors," has all the brightness and breeziness of "Country By-ways," and surely a more delightful book in its way was never written. But all the others share with "Miss Debby" that sweet and simple style, so winning in its naturalness, so wholly free from affectation, and that admirable construction in which the narrator, an indubitable artist, manages so cleverly to conceal her art.
from "Our Bookshelf," Cottage Hearth 10 (Feb. 1884), 62.
Miss Jewett's books all have a quiet, homely flavor, which renders them thoroughly good reading. The "Mate of the Daylight" is no exception to the rule.
Atlantic Monthly 53 (May 1884), 712-3.
by George P. Lathrop
Much less ambitious than any of these longer productions, the short stories which Miss Jewett has added to her former charming group reflect sundry quiet phases of American life with far greater precision. It is one of the difficulties of writing sustained fiction in this country that, society being in a state of flux, indeterminate and shifting, and there being no recognized theory as to its rules, structure, and movement, each novelist has to make his own theory. Thus every work of art becomes partly also an essay, giving the author's opinion as to how the society under his notice is framed; and as the whole matter is in dispute, it is hard for him of for any one to decide how near he is to the truth. Short stories, being less complex, escape that problem, and in few are the advantages of immunity so well employed as in Miss Jewett's. One can scarcely imagine anything that should approach more closely to real occurrences than these do. People are introduced, sitting in their quiet New England houses, or living along-shore, with as little preparation or grouping as if we had come unawares upon the originals themselves; a single incident suffices for the machinery and everything proceeds so exactly as it would in fact that when the quaint, veracious talk, the hopes and fears and little quarrels or joys centring upon that incident, have all been detailed, the story comes to a close because it could not go on without becoming a different story. This method would never do for a novel; and yet it includes a vast deal of refined art little "composition" as there may seem to be about it. The modest sketches and studies which it produces are based on long and sensitive observation; they require delicate and ingenious imagination. Miss Jewett connects in the mind of an old amid a bit of twisted stick, grotesquely like a man's stunted figure, with her discarded lover, come back in mature years; when the renewed episode of sentiment has again faded away, the old maid feels lighter hearted because the wind had swept the suggestive stick from her window-sill. A Landless Farmer tells the tale of a humble New England Lear, who, after surrendering his farm to one of his daughters, is painfully neglected and snubbed until his wandering son comes home to his rescue. Finally, when the daughter is going away, she strips the house of nearly everything, and is scorned by her brother for even rummaging in the pork-barrel. "Well, I'm glad, I'm sure," says the magnanimous farmer-Lear. "I should n't want any child of mine to be without pork." The scale is small, the detail prosaic; but the effects are pathetic and humorous and true. An Only Son is the best piece in the volume; its motive of suspense and emotion is a good one, and the reverse, the utter absence of exaggeration, in the author's treatment intimate a purity of feeling like Björnson's. But it is in the conversation of her people that Miss Jewett's nicest faculty appears. The talk idiomatically, which is hardly dialect and does not become a stumbling-block. They express ideas of an exact fidelity to their quaint bringing-up. And all this is brought before one so gently and incidentally, that to read Miss Jewett is like listening to the casual reminiscences of a lady, say, in a fire-lit study; until the half-seen speaker gives place to the figures she calls up, and we find that there is a little drama going on. She has not sought the broader effects necessary to the novel; but, it is a thing to hope for that we may have novelists who shall use on a large scale, with stronger and more stirring situations, the same thoroughness and unstrained command of materials which in her work are so engaging.
William Dean Howells comments on The Mate of the Daylight in "Open Letters," Century 28:4 (August 1884) p. 634.
… and I have just been reading Miss Jewett's last volume of sketches with exactly the keen delight with which one would meet her farmer and sailor folk in the flesh and hear them talk. Indeed, one does meet them really in her book; and it would be easy to multiply instances on every hand of the recognition of the principle of realism in our fiction.
Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College
The Mate of the Daylight
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