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Uncollected Essays
 


"OUTGROWN FRIENDS"

BY SARAH ORNE JEWETT

EDITED BY MARJORIE PRYSE
 
 

Copyright

Marjorie Pryse's edition of "Outgrown Friends" appeared originally in New England Quarterly 69:3 (September 1996) 461-72. It is reprinted here by permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University, which claims physical ownership of the manuscript marked bMS Am1783.22(91), and by permission of Marjorie Pryse, and New England Quarterly, who together hold copyright on the edition. Though this document is governed by the conventions of fair use for scholars and teachers, no material from this text may be reprinted without the permission of those named above.
 
 

Introduction by Marjorie Pryse

     "OUTGROWN Friends" is an unfinished holograph published here for the first time by permission of the Houghton Library at Harvard University. As I have argued in "Archives of Female Friendship and the 'Way' Jewett Wrote" (NEQ 67:1 [March 1993] ), although the manuscript is undated, Jewett apparently wrote it during the early 1870s, just prior to the sketches that began appearing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1873 and that would form her first published book, Deephaven (1877). Jewett's essay continues a dialogue between friendship and fiction that she initiated in her diary entries, particularly between 1867and 1873, and extended into Deephaven; "Outgrown Friends" is thus a transitional text which gives readers a glimpse of Jewett's development as a writer.

     Caught between loyalty and growth, Jewett explores the maturing woman's dilemma: how to separate from old friends while remaining true to the concept of friendship itself. Although her letters to companion Annie Adams Fields (also in the Houghton) reflect Jewett's rather typical nineteenth-century sentimental construction of friendship in practice -- (with references to "Fuffy," "Mouse," and "Little Books," three of Jewett's nicknames for Fields), a construction that Fields herself meticulously edited out of her 1911 edition of Jewett's letters (the originals in the Houghton bear Fields's penciled deletions of Jewett's affectionate expressions) -- "Outgrown Friends" shows Jewett taking a much more modern approach to feeling in theory. Indeed, in the essay Jewett struggles with the relationship between growth, change, loss, and the subjective construction of sentiment.

     At his death in 1931, Jewett's nephew, Theodore Jewett Eastman, son of her younger sister Caroline, bequeathed the holograph to the Houghton Library along with other compositions and manuscripts "from the books in the homestead of Sarah Orne Jewett" (as the plate reads in the library's manuscript copy of The Country of the Pointed Firs). The holograph is divided into three folders in the collection, the first two of which contain what appears at the beginning to be a close-to-final draft; Jewett has signed the draft under the title and in the opening pages makes very few changes in the text. At some point in copying this draft, she brings into the essay (and includes in her own pagination) the possibility for a fictional frame, and the draft bears evidence within the first few pages of her intention. She introduces a narrator, "E.," who later in the essay becomes "Helen" (an early version of Helen Denis of Deephaven), and an admiring listener, Bessie (an early version of Kate Lancaster). Once she moves more decidedly from essay to fictional form near the end of the holograph, however, she seems unable to complete the essay itself. The third folder includes much rougher notes towards a fiction that would include an essay titled "Outgrown Friends" along with earlier draft notes on the subject of friendship.

     In editing this manuscript, I have transcribed Jewett's interlinear revisions as if they represented her final draft and have added punctuation and paragraph breaks to Jewett's own only where doing so makes for clearer reading. Jewett uses quotation marks so sparingly, however, that for clarity I have omitted the few she had inserted. I have indicated in brackets where the holograph begins to include the fictional frame, where the rougher notes of folder three begin, and where it becomes difficult to trace the progress of those notes. Despite the complexities of editing and transcribing what clearly remained for Jewett an unfinished work, the essay in its holograph form adds to Jewett's canon and deserves to be read in its own right, as well as for its significance in her development as a writer.


OUTGROWN FRIENDS

BY SARAH O. JEWETT

     THERE are old friends who are always new friends: who are always responsive, fresh, and interesting. There are others, whom we might compare to a novel, by the first few chapters of which, we are fascinated. For instance, it is the description of the characters that interests us, but we find what the author goes on to say about them the dullest possible reading; so, perhaps by the time we finish the first volume we have no desire to follow their fortunes further. But a story may be laid aside without causing one any feeling of self-reproach or hurting the feelings of another; while there are few of us who care much for our friends who have not been sadly puzzled by one whom we have outgrown. I do not speak of the persons who can go from friendship to friendship as a butterfly from one flower to another; without a pang of regret, to whom one crony is as good as another provided they can amuse or aid or admire to the satisfactory extent, as the flowers sought by the bee must all yield him honey. These outside friendships and mere society friends are apart from the subject, but there are sincere true loving friendships also, from some of which we drift away sooner or later, deploring oftentimes that the boats which went for a time side by side over the sea, have been forced to part company.

     It would be a satisfaction to find even some slight justification for the apparent fickleness against which we have fought, and to which we have finally been obliged to yield. If we really have outgrown them, the consequent knowledge of our own progress becomes both a gratification & a sorrow.

     Arthur Helps1 truthfully says: "His former childs-clothes will no more fit a man than some of his former friendships." In the first twenty years of our lives no one is surprised at our being changeable. Our mental growth as well as our physical is expected and provided for. It causes as little remark that a boy changes his friends; his opinions; his ways during a year, as that he grows several inches in height. We do not wonder much at his being intimate with now this schoolmate and now that. We acknowledge the fact that boys are apt to do so, but that they are false and faithless by nature and will probably never be worth depending upon as friends, we should be slow to suggest. But when the boy stops increasing in stature, leaves his school and enters into business we dislike to see him changeable as regards his friends and are apt to condemn him as insincere. He may not be so at all, for he may be changing his tastes as rapidly as during his schooldays, for growth is undoubtedly change, and who would wish to hinder that? In such a case as this we are not wrong in looking at friendship as a means toward an end; that end being the formation & development of the young man's character.

     [Inserted above the text, as an addition:] Oh! said E. I'm beginning to feel in awe of you. Why it's a very solemn essay. I supposed it was one of your sketches. Please give me a little time to compose my thought, for I began to listen in a state of unbecoming levity.

     Often times our friends seem like the rounds of a ladder which help us to raise ourselves, our ascent to the level of each giving us a wider view. If a man is "growing" who needs friends -- all of us do not care for them -- and the old associates do not keep pace with him, he will inevitably find sympathy elsewhere. He may keep his affection for the old acquaintance years upon years after he has gone beyond him and found someone else who could give him the better gift and stronger help which he needed. It must be a selfish person who takes what his friends can give him and goes on carelessly; who cares for men and women only as they are useful, and until they begin to be tiresome.

     Some persons are unerring in their selection of friends; others are sure to make blunders, and to be disappointed because the new friend is not at all what he was at first taken to be. We idealize people and when we find our mistake it seems as if they had wilfully deceived us. A new acquaintance only lasts a little while for some people. They like novelty in friends as they do in clothes. It is not like the scarlet cloak of the peasant woman which keeps her warm year after year, but more the fashion of a higher civilization which changes continually.

     [Inserted above the text:] Bessie
 

     There is a great deal of truth in one of "H.H."s poems,2 written in answer to someone who had spoken slightingly of new friends:
 

     But newest friend, is oldest friend in this:
     That waiting him we longest grieved to miss
     One thing we sought.
 

     [Inserted above the text:] Essay
 

     There is a peculiar feeling of fascination about a new friend which one seldom has toward a person however beloved, whom one has known a long time. And it is hard to control this by any effort of the will. So long as the feeling lasts, people influence us wonderfully. Sometimes it seems almost a pity that our acquaintance with some friends should not cease at a certain point, for at first their power over us is so great. We are blind to any fault. We show each other our best traits; if at all imaginative we are sure to idealize each other's characters making the good influences even better. But by and by we begin to notice some weakness or pettiness to which we have been blind before and finally become susceptible of receiving pain and disappointment. Though in such a case there are two issues: either the affection was what some old writer calls a straw fire love and we do not regret its having burned out, or the friendship is genuine. Though the faults annoy or grieve they do not really hinder the progress of it and so we take the friend for better for worse as the man & woman promise when they marry. However, one gets an impulse from these charming first impressions for they always leave a deep imprint on our characters. (One can so often see where one has changed some opinion radically -- and we never can be our old selves again.) [Followed by notation: omit?]

     Sometimes one of our friends is going away or we leave him for a long time and as we part sorrowfully we promise ourselves that we are to be friends always but a few years go by and letters do not serve to carry on the knowledge of each other; instead of our interest being renewed and strengthened it slowly decreases. We are not to blame. It is not inconstancy or fickleness. We are, in a certain sense done with that friend. It grows at length if we are advancing at all, to be like the fondness some people have for the playthings of their childhood. They cannot use them at all now; it would be absurd to try playing with the old top or doll, or to bring back the former depth of interest in the picture book. They are fond of these things merely because they used to be fond of them in the old days. They remember their old happiness; they would not like to have their toys given away or lost, but they have really nothing to do with them now. To outgrow a friendship in this way is far less painful than any other, because there seems less reason to accuse ourselves of faithlessness, the hindrance being something beyond our control. Letters and messages will not give us the help of spending a day together. There must be some anticipation of a meeting. I think the theory of our being under the influence of personal magnetism is confirmed by the difficulty of keeping up intimacies when the friends are separated after all. It is on the same principle that we can form so little idea of the eloquence of an orator by reading his speeches.

     Besides this so few persons have the faculty of writing letters which give one anything beside the generalities of their lives. The loveableness, the unconscious influence, the individuality of a man is so much more readily recognized when one is with him. The knowledge of his character may remain deeply imprinted on the mind of his friends. If he is a man of strong personality & great individuality his influence may last and prove effectual for a long time but such a person as this is rare. It fades with time. Then there are different degrees of receptivity, as we have quick or dull memories, rushing to new interests, quickly learning & forgetting or slowly possessing & then retaining. It may be urged that hundreds & thousands of friends have been constant to each other through many years of separation and in spite of the surroundings and other friends of each being unknown. This, I also, am sure of but I know that nine tenths of such correspondences as I have described grow after a time very faltering and unsatisfactory and the letters are much the same things over and over unless the writers have a positive talent for description & lives that are not utterly commonplace. I do not refer to correspondences carried on between persons who have a common interest in science or literature. There are some men and women who have few friends but are happy in keeping them all their lives, caring little for new people. Sometimes one leaves his companions behind but does not seem to miss their companionship being satisfied with the same friendship and looking for sympathy in the places where he always received it. Though he really has outgrown the people the friendship remains unaltered.

     Some people have a genius for friendship. They may not be specially gifted in other ways and new acquaintances are apt to be disappointed in them at first, having heard much of their charms. But there is a peculiar sympathetic interested manner which is always winning a new admirer & friend. A person like this may be reserved about his -- perhaps it is safest to say her -- own thoughts and affairs and yet be skilful at drawing out the confidences of others. There must be a most delicate tact and a power to remove self-consciousness, be an attentive listener and have a great perception of character. Such a woman sees her friends at their best, but people who are glad to talk about themselves but have not had much chance for so doing will be her most ardent friends. She will have a kindly interest in what one says and gives you a fresh interest in your self because she is so entertained or moved to sorrow by what you tell her. Now such a friend as this is not unfrequently 'outgrown,' strange as it may seem. One may never have been so intimate with any other soul and yet the time comes when there is no longer any need of the friendship, and one sees other people's devotion with surprise and wonders what there was about the old friend to have inspired the depth of feeling in himself also. Part of the reason may be this: that during the intimacy the confidences are all upon one side. We do not know the friend enough for there must be taking as well as giving, and when our interest in ourselves is done away with, either by change of circumstances & objects in life, the friend who belonged to that phase of our existence is outgrown as well as the thoughts & feelings themselves which were incident to it.

     There are many young persons who being in advance of or not finding exactly the sympathy they need in friends their own age become very devoted to and dependant upon some older person. But if they are in advance of their boy and girl friends it is not wonderful that by and by they find themselves ahead of some men and women also and so they outgrow these persons to whom they used to look up with veneration: they become self-reliant and can give as much as they receive. It seems to me a man or woman can rarely be put in a more responsible place than this; when a bright young man or young girl with great possibilities confides their hopes and plans and hindrances. So much depends upon the influences and advice, the kindness they receive. They may be undeveloped and possibly a little conceited and given to tiresome introspection. They may give undue attention to their fits of the blues, which come to them like hopeless winters before the eager springs. But be patient with the girl or boy and give them the best counsel you can. Teach them to be their best selves always. They would be contented with little from your hands, a little petting and comforting when they are discouraged and discontented and praise when they come to you conquerors from a fight of which the details may be wearisome. Don't try to quench enthusiasm by your own apparent familiarity with and disregard for the things in life which look bright and worthy prizes to their eyes. Be as intimate with the young friend as you can. Even if you think that it is a queer unwarranted fancy they have taken to you, they will grow tired of you shortly. Hold them fast by your love and interest while you may and give them all the help in your power. Don't tell them your faults and short-comings for our friends find those out for themselves, but encourage their friendship for you, if you wish to be of service. How many people dislike the class they call "knowing" young people and are more friendly toward good natured unaspiring boys and girls. [The following sentence appears to have been canceled, then restored:] They are often not agreeable but it is hard to turn the best scholars out of school to deny them the lessons we can teach.

     It is often a bitter mortification to find our affection slowly waning when there seems as much reason as ever to care greatly for our friend. We fight against its withdrawal and are careful not to be less demonstrative, to keep up everything that has the semblance or appearance at least of a form taken by our old love. We ardently wish to bring our old feelings back again but it is little use. And one does not enjoy coming down to a quiet commonplace liking for a person who has inspired a more intense affection. If we cannot go on as we began we hardly care to be friends at all. We are very dependant upon someone for a time, and suddenly we awake to the consciousness that we love the dear soul still but with a vague difference. This is a melancholy discovery when the friend has not changed but lives on faithfully and unsuspectingly. We find ourselves in advance of the old self. The friend belonged to that old self and would still if new ideas and influences had not been at work upon our characters and changed us. We accuse ourselves of faithlessness and try to keep up the old fashion of our real intimacy long after the charm is lost. It is so difficult to steer between the rocks of honest indifference, and hypocrisy -- so hard to deny the love to which we used to respond so heartily, its equal return. It is hard to be sincere where our sincerity would only shock and give pain, and so we let our lives take their course. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a disposition to care always, somewhat at least, for all who have ever been our friends. It seems to me that friendship is often much like people's tempers -- the more violent the sooner over and the slower the growth of the feeling, the longer it remains a part of us.

     It seems to me that if a person has one very intimate friend he always feels the need & is ready for another. For one friend cannot give us friendship at all points. We are apt to expect too much from our friends. We ask for gifts they cannot give and do not half appreciate their really strong points. We do not know our best friends well enough; we do not allow them to know us. Half the knowledge we get of people is given unconsciously, and the degree of intimacy depends upon one's shrewdness at reading character. Our friends are not half the help and pleasure that they might be. We might be better friends ourselves. We take far more trouble and a greater depth of interest in our other affairs and friendship is merely incidental in the lives of many. Everyone necessarily knows some people better than he does the rest of the world, but friendship lies beyond the mere fulfilling of our duty to our neighbor, and beyond a regard for etiquette & the keeping of society laws.

     Who cannot recall some friend who might have been nearer and dearer, whom we might have helped more, but alas it is too late to know him better, to be less reserved about our own life & more interested in his. We are very economical of our friendship and it would be idle to wish that all friends should be lovers. We often expect more show of affection than people can give us. We must try to win the best which each can give us. We must not look only for a stimulating friendship; for eagerness and courage from a timid quiet person, or for only comfort and petting from some earnest busy man or woman who is fighting hard his battle of life, hurried and eager, careless of the minor worries. We must not let our imagination dress the quiet helpful friend in the gay uniform of war and action or our soldier in the garments of a nun. We must not grumble as we often do at not finding our friends responsive and ready to fall into the same mood as ourselves. We dislike finding them fresh & good-natured when we are feeling cross and tired. But there is only a small proportion of the people we meet who are so intuitively sympathetic or gifted with sufficient perception of character to enable them to suit themselves to us accurately. We do not always wish to be agreed with but we like our friends to discern when we are in the mood for antidotes! We soon weary of a friend who requires many explanations & apologies at our hands, who is not contented with the knowledge of our caring for them, but is forever demanding new assurances by their suspicions of our actions as if they never could quite make up their minds that it is safe to trust us. The exigent people and the undemonstrative people, the variable people may all be good friends to us after all. But it seems to me that the truest friendship may have little to do with our every day life and its details. There are some who know our best selves, our innermost natures, to whom we can speak without hesitation of even our thoughts of the world to come. The deeper the friendship reaches the more secure and sweet it is, and the less likely to be outgrown and forgotten. The formalities of friendship are little satisfaction, and many people having no experience of what lies beyond, laugh at friendship and scorn the dependence of two people upon each other, thinking it a silly sentiment and affectation.

     One might say a great deal on the subject of books being outgrown friends inasmuch as they also are very dear at one time, and when we again look to them for the charm we fail to find it. We think we have come to them in the same mood but find our mistake to take a radical case; how many children have been taught and delighted by Jacob Abbott's storybooks,3 and how many will be in days to come. An older person has to skip page after page or grow very sleepy. But there are books one, reads when one is grown up and when we try re-reading them there seems to be a strange alteration in the book itself. It is like a fresh rose.
 

     [Here Jewett brings into the holograph three pages titled "Beginning of talk -- Outgrown Friends" and introduces a second, first-person "listener" -- who becomes the narrator of the fictional frame which includes "Helen's" essay.]
 

     That is all I have written so far, said Helen apologetically. What do you think of it? It seems disconnected to me now and as if I had drifted off too often. I have a habit of drifting which it is hard to outgrow. While I was writing this afternoon I thought I was keeping carefully to my subject.

     I think it is very true, said Bessie, and it made me think of dozens of other things you might have said. So you see I was interested. Thank you for reading it.

     I must tell you, said I, something my aunt told me not long ago -- I thought of it when you were reading about our protesting against the waning affection as you call it. Aunty said that when she was a child she was very fond of her dolls and played with them after most of her friends were tired of theirs. Finally she found she didn't care so much about them as she used and grew very sad about it. She says she wondered what there would be for her to amuse herself with and there seemed nothing to fill the dollies places. So at last one day she went to the lonesomest place in the house, a closet up under the garret eaves, and made a solemn vow to God that she never would give up playing with dolls as long as she lived.

     We all three laughed a little but were deeply impressed by the pathos of my anecdote, and sat still a little while watching the waves.

     There was one thing that troubled me, said Helen. It seemed as if my idea of friendship was more theoretical than practical. You see there are so many people in the world who never get beyond having mere acquaintances & so many others who have only cronies.

     (I should like to write an essay on Cronies.)

     None of these understand what friendship can be to us. They confuse it with falling in love. Of course a very intense friendship is like that. Did you ever count up the people you know in society who have even one really intimate friend outside their own household?
 

     [The paginated draft ends abruptly at this point. The third folder includes the following rougher and untitled draft, along with fragments of notes that appear to have been incorporated into the larger essay and which are not reproduced here.]
 

     I wish your essay had been on Friendship in general, said Bessie. I can think of ever so many things for you to say which are not exactly relevant to the subject now. I have always thought a great deal about our being so different with our different friends. And then there are the awakenings which come to us sometimes. We may have known somebody for years even & never been real friends though we have been unconsciously growing toward the point where love becomes possible. A day comes when we are alone together. We arrange to go to walk or spend an evening carelessly, thoughtlessly, and come home by ourselves, and we are true friends [Jewett inserts, "begin a talk"] forever after. We wonder why we never cared so much for each other before.

     I think that girls who are playmates and friends in childhood are apt to lose each other for a while when they first grow up -- and then become friends again. The childish friendship is not a satisfying one but after a little while they seem to be better friends than ever.

     I wonder you did not say something about books being outgrown friends, said B. We all have had experiences of that kind. How strange it seems to try rereading a book which you have been delighted with a year or two before and find that the charm has utterly vanished. It makes me think of a rose bud which one leaves at night and finds in the morning wilted and crumpled, leaning hopelessly over the side of the vase. Why do we not always find our pet book the same.

     Do you always feel like playing the same tunes, said Bessie. Last night you droned out some tunes that sounded like the dead march in Saul4 and the night before you played the tunes that the Jubilee Singers5 sing and wasn't it the night before you played so many of the Strauss waltzes? And one enjoys our very best friends a great deal more at some times than at others.

     In the woods the other day I said you must not mistake me when I say that we must not admit people into the inmost circle of our friendships except on purely social grounds. You will find as you go on in life that it is the only safe and unrepentant way -- because in order to touch true success it is impossible for human beings to help forming themselves into groups of those who like the same things and whose natural instincts are the same & who have the same standards of refinement. I think that we learn this usually simply through our mistakes, and it is a very bungling way. If only when new people amuse us or flatter us, or take us off our own hands we could stop and listen to that voice that steadily says Don't, we could avoid all sorts of mortifying and trying experiences that for the sake of a moment's pleasure we continue to saddle ourselves with, sometimes for years together.

     [The order of notes becomes uncertain here, or a page or pages may be missing.]

     [G]o and take off that sea sandy gown and I think you had better wash your hands. Have you been whittling kelp again you naughty. I shall steal your pocket knife.

     Helen was very hilarious and she & Bessie who is tall and elegant and is rather unapproachable in winter society chased each other furiously down the hall to the billiard room where they scuffled & dodged about the table like two school boys.

     After tea we sat on the piazza to see the sunset and Bessie again demanded an account of Helen's afternoon. What is the use of being friends with an authoress if she never is any more good to you than a commonplace girl. Read us your story.

     It isn't a story at all said Helen. It is an attempt at an essay which I began a long time ago & felt like finishing. I don't suppose it is good for much in a literary point of view but I have thought a great deal about those things.

     What things[?]

     I am going to stay out of doors all the evening. I'm tired. Don't you know what a halo of millers there was around the light the other night? Wait until tomorrow. Some callers will be sure to interrupt us now.

     No, insisted Bessie. Go and bring your essay down stairs and we will go to the shore. There will be light enough out of doors for an hour yet.

     I have called it 'outgrown friends,' said Helen, but I have not kept closely to my subject and it is very carelessly written.


     Marjorie Pryse is Professor of American Literature and Women's Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York, coeditor of AMERICAN WOMEN REGIONALISTS: A NORTON ANTHOLOGY, editor of SELECTED SHORT STORIES OF MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN and STORIES FROM THE COUNTRY OF LOST BORDERS by Mary Austin, and author of numerous articles about Sarah Orne Jewett.


NOTES

     1Sir Arthur Helps (1817-75), a minister at Oxford, was a popular British poet, essayist, and miscellaneous writer of his day. His essay collections, in which Jewett's quotation likely appears, included Friends in Council (1847) and Companions or My Solitude (1851).

     2Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-85),poet, novelist, and friend of Emily Dickinson, published poetry as "H. H." During the 1870s, most of the leading magazines published her work. Later Jewett met Jackson, and they shared a friendship with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Jackson's longtime mentor. These lines are from "H.H."'s poem "A New Friend," first published in Verses (Boston: Fields, Osgood, 1870). The poem has been reprinted by Cheryl Walker, in American Poets of the Nineteenth Century (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992).

     3Jacob Abbott (1803-79), Massachusetts educator and Congregational clergyman, was the author of the twenty-eight-volume "Rollo Books" series, begun in 1834. These stories about a boy named Rollo from a New England farm helped break down the prejudice of the times against allowing children to read fiction and were known for the respect and empathy they showed for children's lives.

     4Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759), born in Germany, came to England in 1710, where he wrote his major work. His oratorio Saul was composed in 1738.

     5The Jubilee Singers were a student choral group composed of former slaves and organized in 1871 at the newly established Fisk University in Nashville. The group sang in Boston in 1872, then toured New England and the British Isles; they established the black spiritual in the history of American music and were the first to introduce and popularize this music among white audiences.


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