previous next

[383] With her it became pathos, the pathos of sympathy and understanding; there is a grip of it in each one of her tales. One does not cry over a story like A White Heron, but one feels at the end of it like finding the sturdy little heroine and calling her a good girl. No art can go farther. Her delight was in the simple and the idyllic rather than in the dramatic. A story like A Native of Winby has very little of plot; but no tale was ever more worth the telling. It is a quivering bit of human life, a section of New England, a tale as true as a soul's record of yesterday.

There remains the element of style. She was one of the few creators of the short story after the seventies who put into her work anything like distinction. She was of the old school in this, of the school of Irving and Hawthorne and Poe. Indeed her style has often been likened to Hawthorne's, effortless, limpid, sun-clear in its flowing sentences, and softened and mellowed into a Sleepy-Hollow atmosphere—the perfect style, it would seem, for recording the fading glories of an old regime.

Her best stories are perhaps Miss Tempy's Watchers, The Dulham ladies, The Queen's twin, A White Heron, and A native of Winby. Lightness of touch, humour, pathos, perfect naturalness—these are the points of her strength. She was a romanticist, equipped with a camera and a fountain pen.

To touch the seventies anywhere is to touch romance. Even Howells was not fully a realist until into the eighties. The new local colour work was not primarily realism. The new writers who now sprang up to portray local peculiarities in all parts of the land sought, even as Harte had done, to throw an idealized atmosphere over their pictures. One thinks of Mrs. Jackson and Ramona1 and of Eggleston and The Hoosier schoolmaster,2 and, in the realm of the short story, of George W. Cable and Charles Egbert Craddock.

Cable was one of the discoveries of Edward King during his tour of the South for Scribner's monthly in 1872. It was in New Orleans that he found him working as a humble clerk by day, and by night dreaming over a collection of reading matter as foreign to his work-day world as that which once had engaged another dreaming clerk, Charles Lamb. Among his enthusiasms were the old Spanish and French archives of

1 See also Book III, Chap. X.

2 Ibid.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New England (United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1872 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: