Sarah Orne Jewett
Biography of Sarah Orne Jewett
Sarah Orne Jewett (September 3, 1849 – June 24, 1909) was an American novelist and short story writer, best known for her local color works set in or near South Berwick, Maine, on the border of New Hampshire, which in her day was a declining New England seaport.
Jewett's family had been residents of New England for many generations. Her father was a doctor, and Jewett often accompanied him on his rounds, becoming acquainted with the sights and sounds of her native land and its people. As treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that developed in early childhood, Jewett was sent on frequent walks and through them also developed a love of nature. In later life, Jewett often visited Boston, where she was acquainted with many of the most influential literary figures of her day; but she always returned to South Berwick, the "Deephaven" of her stories.
Jewett was educated at Miss Olive Rayne's school and then at Berwick Academy, graduating in 1865. She supplemented her education through an extensive family library. Jewett was "never overtly religious," but after she joined the Episcopalian church in 1871, she explored less conventional religious ideas. For example, her friendship with Harvard law professor Theophilus Parsons stimulated an interest in the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth-century Swedish scientist and theologian, who believed that the Divine "was present in innumerable, joined forms — a concept underlying Jewett's belief in individual responsibility."
She published her first important story in the Atlantic Monthly at age 19, and her reputation grew throughout the 1870s and 1880s. Her literary importance arises from her careful, if subdued, vignettes of country life that reflect a contemporary interest in local color rather than plot. Jewett possessed a keen descriptive gift that William Dean Howells called "an uncommon feeling for talk — I hear your people." Jewett made her reputation with the novella The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896). A Country Doctor (1884), a novel reflecting her father and her early ambitions for a medical career, and A White Heron (1886), a collection of short stories are among her finest work. Some of Jewett's poetry was collected in Verses (1916), and she also wrote three children's books. Willa Cather described Jewett as a significant influence on her development as a writer, and "feminist critics have since championed her writing for its rich account of women's lives and voices."
Sarah Orne Jewett House at South Berwick, Maine in c. 1910
Jewett never married; but she established a close friendship with writer Annie Fields (1834-1915) and her husband, publisher James Thomas Fields, editor of the Atlantic Monthly. After the sudden death of James Fields in 1881, Jewett and Annie Fields lived together for the rest of Jewett's life in what was then termed a "Boston marriage." Some modern scholars have speculated that the two were lovers. In any case, "the two women found friendship, humor, and literary encouragement" in one another's company, traveling to Europe together and hosting "American and European literati."
On September 3, 1902, Jewett was injured in a carriage accident that all but ended her writing career. She died three months after being paralyzed by a stroke in 1909. The Georgian home of the Jewett family, built in 1774 overlooking Central Square at South Berwick, is now a National Historic Landmark and Historic New England museum called the Sarah Orne Jewett House.
Sarah Orne Jewett's Works:
* Deephaven, James R. Osgood, 1877
* Play Days, Houghton, Osgood, 1878
* Old Friends and New, Houghton, Osgood, 1879
* Country By-Ways, Houghton-Mifflin, 1881
* A Country Doctor , Houghton-Mifflin, 1884
* The Mate of the Daylight, and Friends Ashore, Houghton-Mifflin, 1884
* A Marsh Island, Houghton-Mifflin, 1884
* A White Heron and Other Stories, Houghton-Mifflin, 1886
* The Story of the Normans, Told Chiefly in Relation to Their Conquest of England,G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1887
* The King of Folly Island and Other People, Houghton-Mifflin, 1888
* Tales of New England, Houghton-Mifflin, 1890
* Betty Leicester: A Story for Girls, Houghton-Mifflin, 1890
* Strangers and Wayfarers, Houghton-Mifflin, 1890
* A Native of Winby and Other Tales, Houghton-Mifflin, 1893
* Betty Leicester's English Christmas: A New Chapter of an Old Story, privately printed for the Bryn Mawr School, 1894
* The Life of Nancy, Houghton-Mifflin, 1895
* The Country of the Pointed Firs, Houghton-Mifflin, 1896
* The Queen's Twin and Other Stories,Houghton-Mifflin, 1899
* The Tory Lover, Houghton-Mifflin, 1901
* An Empty Purse: A Christmas Story, privately printed, 1905
Sarah Orne Jewett Poems
A Country Boy In Winter
The wind may blow the snow about, For all I care, says Jack, And I don’t mind how cold it grows, For then the ice won’t crack.
A Wild Rose
A blushing wild pink rose, By tangled woods and ways, A passing sweet that goes With summer days.
A Caged Bird
High at the window in her cage, The old canary sits and sings, Nor sees across the curtain pass The shadow of a swallow's wings.
A Farmer's Sorrow
The clouds look low and heavy, as if there would be rain, It always means bad weather when you hear the brook so plain.
A Child's Grave
More than a hundred years ago They raised for her this little stone; 'Miss Polly Townsend, aged nine,' It says, is sleeping here alone
Down in a field, one day in June, The flowers all bloomed together,
A Four-Leaved Clover
Dear Polly, these are joyful days! Your feet can choose their own sweet ways; You have no care of anything. Free as a swallow on the wing,
Oh, rest your oars and let me drift While all the stars come out to see! The birds are talking in their sleep As we go by so silently.
On Star Island
High on the lichened ledges, like A lonely sea-fowl on its perch, Blown by the cold sea winds, it stands,
To-day upon thy ruined walls The flowers wave flags of truce, For time has proved thy conqueror, And tamed thy strength, Dunluce!
A Night In June
The starlight from one clear, bright star, The moonlight, faint and white From the little moon, low in the sky,
I heard the city bells at morning ring, The eastern sky was faintly tinged with light; The tired town in heavy sleep lay still,
Where out beyond the eastern hills Was faintest light, there, scorning Shadows which warned us back, we turned
In A Christmas Letter
We are so close together Though you are far away, God bless my darling and keep her safe, I whisper when I pray;
A Farmer's Sorrow
The clouds look low and heavy, as if there would be rain,
It always means bad weather when you hear the brook so plain.
The wet won't make much trouble now, for all the crops are in,
And yet I somehow hate to see the long fall rains begin.
I couldn't sense the half I read, the air is close and still,
If I were young as once I was, I'd go up on the hill.
It isn't as it used to be when I could come and go,
And keep upon my feet all day, now I am stiff and slow.