Sarah Orne Jewett
Sarah Orne Jewett was born in South Berwick, Maine. While she was formally educated, she learned much about Maine and its people by going on rounds with her father, a doctor. Jewett did not write novels in the traditional sense; rather, she strung together sketches and vignettes of country life in her regionalist style. In her most enduring work, The Country of Pointed Firs (1896), Jewett explores the themes of relationships, storytelling, and the changing natural environment. From 1881 until her death in 1909, Jewett lived with her close friend Annie Adams Fields in what a “Boston marriage,” an arrangement in which two women lived together without the financial support of a man.
Based on Jewett’s early experiences while accompanying her father on his medical rounds, this novel is about an orphaned girl named Nan, who is taken in by a country doctor and spends time with her new father while he is visiting his patients. In the end, Nan chooses to become
a doctor rather than to marry, which in 1884 would have been an unconventional resolution.
Taking the advice of her editor William Dean Howells to collect her short pieces and arrange them into a loosely fitting framework, Jewett found a narrative structure that became uniquely her own in Deephaven.
Sarah Wyman Whitman designed the cover for this edition. Read more about Whitman and see a book cover she designed for Annie Fields's biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe here.
Considered her masterpiece, The Country of Pointed Firs follows the life of a young female writer who spends the summer in Dunnet Landing, a small Maine coastal village. Here, she learns about the history of the place through stories told to her by local villagers.
Sarah Wyman Whitman designed the beautiful cover for this volume. Read more about Whitman and see a book cover she designed for Annie Fields's biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe here.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson invited friends Jewett and Fields to join the Boston Authors Club. Jewett replied for the both of them:
I cannot quite bear the idea of seven or eight Authors dinners in a winter. Letting alone the selfish side of what I might get, I cannot see that it would be in my power to give much in this way. I believe heartily in an alliance like a Copyright League which has a practical end but the social end looks a little impossible to my short sighted ego.
This encouragement from William Dean Howells, editor of The Atlantic, was all Jewett needed to start working on Deephaven:
I have finished a continuation of “The Shore-house…” I worked very hard on it… and expected a letter of criticism… so it was “ever so nice” to have a letter from Mr. Howells… beginning with “Your paper is perfectly charming” and saying also “You have an uncommon feeling for talk. I hear your people…” I was all the better pleased because I felt I had tried to earn the praise.