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Old Friends and New

Reviews of Old Friends and New, 1879
by Sarah Orne Jewett

"Old Friends and New" The Literary World 10 (Nov. 22, 1879) 381.

     Old Friends and New. By Sarah O. Jewett. [Houghton, Osgood & Co. $1.25.] Another volume from the pen that wrote Deephaven, with the qualities which made that so attractive; the same simplicity and freshness, keenness of insight, delicate humor and exquisite descriptive power. It is a rare gift to be able to write a good short story; it is an equally rare one to be able to use the materials which lie close at hand - at everybody's hand. To do this requires tact and skill, as well as an observing eye and nicety of discrimination, and, moreover, such breadth of sympathies, such a "fellow-feeling" for one's kind, that the events of the most common matter-of-fact life seem worth the telling; and all this Miss Jewett has. She is not only one of the sweetest and most charming of writers, but her pages have all along suggestions helpful towards a kindlier and higher way of living; not tacked on in the shape of a moral at the end, but running through them like a golden thread. These sketches are, "A Lost Lover" (which is a little prose idyl), "A Sorrowful Guest" (reminding us of Hawthorne's fancies), "A Late Supper" (one of the good short stories above referred to), "Mr. Bruce," "Lady Sydney's Flowers" (containing a whole sermon in brief), "Lady Ferry," and, last, one of the Deephaven experiences, called "A Bit of Shore Life," which is as good as it can be.

     "Old Friends and New" Good Company 4 (Nov. 3, 1879) p. 287-288.

     It would be wholly a work of supererogation, if one should undertake to tell the readers of Good Company what delightful companionship they might find in the stories of Miss Jewett. In this last collection of them they will greet some "old friends" - "A Late Supper," and "A Sorrowful Guest," being among them -- and make some new ones not less pleasing than the old. Miss Jewett will have an audience somewhat less numerous than some of the other story tellers, but she will have an audience whose quality will be of the finest, and whose admiration will be of the heartiest. The purity of her sentiment, the unstrained felicity and naturalness of her style, the thorough likableness of all the people to whom she introduces us, all conspire to render her stories about as nearly perfect in their way as anything in this world ever gets to be. With which uncompromising sentiment the critic may as well take himself off, before he is tempted to some other enthusiastic utterance.

     "Old Friends and New" New Orleans Daily Picayune (Dec. 15, 1879) p. 7.

     The title of this volume covers a series of stories, more or less melancholy, which will doubtless please very sentimental people.

    "Old Friends and New" The Nation. 29 (Dec. 25, 1879) p. 444.

     'Old Friends and New' is a collection of Miss Jewett's stories, most of which have already appeared in the magazines. They are all gracefully done, and 'The Lost Lover' and 'Madame Ferry' may be especially commended for the delicate fancy they illustrate.

    Saturday Review. ( Dec. 27, 1879) p. 806.

     Miss Jewett's Old Friends and New is a miniature collection of brief and graceful stories.

from "CULTURE AND PROGRESS," Scribner's Monthly 21 (Dec. 1880) 323.

        Miss Jewett's "Old Friends and New."

    IT is a highly commendable practice for a young writer to begin by studying his acquaintances and the social conditions of his own immediate neighborhood. A genuine talent is sure to find material, even where nature is most unpicturesque, and humanity, to the superficial eye, most barren of interest; for it is the depth and acuteness of the writer's insight, rather than the character of his subject, which primarily determines the value of his work. It is this obvious genuineness of Miss Jewett's slight and delicate sketches which redeem them, as a whole, from the commonplaceness into which they occasionally lapse. They are so manifestly the results of actual observation that they almost impress us as personal confidences, and make us ashamed of being caught napping. "A Bit of Shore Life," for instance, which, like several of the othersketches, is told in the first person, is, to all appe arances, autobiographical, and betrays the most intimate knowledge of the modes of thought and the ways of life in New England. The fisherman's little boy, with his old manners and serious, practical talk, is a delightful study, and the description of the auction and the visit to the two dreary old maids give us glimpses into the very heart of New England. The other sketches in the volume, perhaps with the exception of "Mr. Bruce" and "A Lost Lover," impress us as being too feeble toendure long the light of permanent publicity. They are written , however, with considerable vivacity, and in irreproachable English, but their substance is so slight that the reader may be excused if he yields to the temptation to skip. Some of them -- as, for instance, "Miss Sydney's Flowers" -- have a very juvenile air, as if they were originally intended for publication in a Sunday-school paper.

     "Old Friends and New" by Horace Scudder

    Atlantic Monthly 45 (May 1880), 685-6.

     Miss Jewett has already begun to appropriate an audience, and may, if she choose, whisper to herself of her readers as a clergyman openly speaks of his people. The womanly kindness which pervades her writings gives her readers a warmer interest in them than the mere weight of their literary quality might command. Yet we shall not be hasty to separate these elements of her work, but accept the pleasure which it gives, and, confessing her claim upon our regard, compare her latest book with her previous one, rather than with an absolute standard.

     Deephaven, as our readers will easily remember, was a series of sketches, in which there was no development of plot, but a rambling description of life in a New England fishing-village, caught together by the simple device of bringing into the village two city girls of refinement, who occupy an old mansion, and sally forth from it on their voyages of discovery. The charm lay chiefly in the sympathetic delineation of character, and in the pictures of homely life seen from the side of this fresh, unspoiled, and reverent girlhood. The two young summer visitors at Deephaven won upon the fishermen and their families in the real life of their visit, as they do upon readers in the scarcely less real life of the book; and while they call upon us to look on this simple seaside picture they are not conscious that it is they who have most of our thoughts. Nothing could be purer than the relation between young and old which Deephaven disclosed.

     In Old Friends and New the same charm reappears. The book is a collection of seven stories, some of which first saw the light in the pages of this magazine. We name the titles that our readers may recall those familiar to them: A Lost Lover, A Sorrowful Guest, A Late Supper, Mr. Bruce, Miss Sydney's Flowers, Lady Ferry, A Bit of Shore Life. One of them, at least, Mr. Bruce, appeared before the Deephaven sketches and is a lively piece of girlish fun, refined and agreeable, but immature, and hardly worthy a place in the volume. The stories, written and published at different times, have a singular and apparently unintended agreement in one theme. As in Deephaven, so in these disconnected stories, there are two foci about which the circle of events [are] is described, the young maid and the old maid. Here, as there, it is the life of the old as seen by young eyes which is delineated, and in nothing is the sweet reverence of youth, as portrayed in Miss Jewett's writings, more profoundly shown than in the frequent and touching pictures of old and lonely age. Miss Horatia Dane in A Lost Lover, Miss Catherine Spring in A Late Supper, Miss Sydney in Miss Sydney's Flowers, Lady Ferry in the story of that name, old Mrs. Wallis in A Bit of Shore Life, -- all these are portraits in Miss Jewett's Dream of Old Women, and with womanly chivalry she has taken under her special protection those whom the irreverence of youth has most flouted. Her old maids, moreover, are not pieces of faded sentimentalism; she has shown them in their dignity and homely truthfulness, but she lets us smile quietly with her at their quaintness.

     The motive of love as a passion between the young is almost wholly absent from these stories, and as excursions among other emotions and principles they have a certain originality, due in part to this abstemiousness. Yet since no strong motive of any kind is called in, the stories remain chiefly sketches, studies, episodes. We shall not quarrel with Miss Jewett for not doing something else than what she has done; she has acquired already a greater firmness of touch in these pencil sketches, and the skill with which the pretty story of A Late Supper is worked up indicates that she may yet succeed in the more difficult art of making her characters act for themselves. At present they cling to her skirts, and she leads them about with her. Cranford is often mentioned in comparison with Deephaven, and there are points of likeness: in some respects Deephaven comes closer to nature, but perhaps that is because it is nearer home; yet Cranford has what Deephaven lacks, an individuality apart from the author. The figures are projected more boldly, because drawn by the hand of one who was primarily a novelist. In Deephaven and in these later sketches, the author has not yet felt the confidence which would enable her to withdraw her direct support from her characters. She cautiously holds, for the most part, to the form of the story which permits her to be present during most of the action. We suggest, as a practical experiment in story-telling, that she avail herself of the method which is sometimes used in Mr. James's stories, where one of the characters, not identified with the story-teller, is charged with this duty. It might gradually strengthen her in an ability to conceive of a story which had its own beginning, middle, and end, and was not taken as a desultory chapter of personal experience.

Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College, assisted by Linda Heller.

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