, its political importance growing more and more negligible, that ancient promontory of ideas has continued to lose its relative literary significance.
In one field of literature only has New England
maintained its rank since the Civil War
, and that is in the local short story.
Here women have distinguished themselves beyond the proved capacity of New England
men. Mrs. Stowe
and Rose Terry Cooke
, women of democratic humor, were the pioneers; then came Harriet Prescott Spofford
and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
, women with nerves; and finally the three artists who have written, out of the material offered by a decadent New England
, as perfect short stories as France
can produce-Sarah Orne Jewett
, Mary Wilkins Freeman
, and Alice Brown
These gifted writers portrayed, with varying technique and with singular differences in their instinctive choice of material, the dominant qualities of an isolated, in-bred race, still proud in its decline; still inquisitive and acquisitive, versatile yet stubborn, with thrift passing over into avarice, and mental power degenerating into smartness; cold and hard under long repression of emotion, yet capable of passion and fanaticism; at worst, a mere trader, a crank, a grim recluse; at best.