Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library
  PREVIOUSNEXT  

CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · QUICK INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHIES
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · PORTRAITS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Annie Trumbull Slosson (1838–1926)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
ANNIE TRUMBULL SLOSSON—who was born in Stonington, Connecticut, of the Trumbull family learned in politics, war, science, and bibliography, and who married in 1867 Edward Slosson of New York—made friends with the public in a charming little book entitled ‘The China-Hunter’s Club,’ published in New York in 1878, and still dear to the pottery-loving heart.  1
  In 1888 ‘Fishin’ Jimmy’ appeared in the New Princeton Review. He was at once recognized in this country, preached about, quoted, and “conveyed” to transatlantic admirers, who held him up as a model, perfect in his way, as he is. Other of her stories, written on the same lines, have been published in that and other magazines since, not very numerously; and in 1891 seven of them were gathered into a volume called ‘The Seven Dreamers.’ A longer one, ‘Aunt Liefy,’ was published in book form.  2
  Mrs. Slosson was fortunate in selecting the short story as her mode of expression, and in her choice of subjects and place; for she is the apostle—the defender, rather—of the eccentric mystic; and were her characters and her scenes placed in any other part of the white world than New England, it is doubtful whether, even with her skill in creating illusion, she would be able to convince the readers that these strange dreams are true.  3
  But he who has solved the mystery of its stern ice-bound winters, its sweet chill springs, its prodigal summers: and has learned to know its rural people, whose daily food is work, to whom responsibility comes early and stays late; whose manners are as country manners must be, and whose speech is plain; whose conscience is a scourge; whose hearts are often as tender and as pure as their own arbutus blooming under snow,—to such a reader, nothing she has to say of this strange, bitter-sweet country is impossible.  4
  He who has gotten at the secret of New England can believe that Mrs. Slosson has seized upon a perfectly recognizable element of its life when she draws its men and women as shrewd, witty, wise, and “off” on some point. Her characters for the most part tell their own story: or they tell them to the writer, who instinctively shows herself to be of a different mold, perhaps a different creed, but whose intercourse with her homely friends has no superciliousness in it, or the hardness of the mere exploiter of literary “copy”; she treats them rather with a fine reverence and tender charity, which at the same time recognizes the sharp passages in the drama of life. This dramatic power is perhaps a hint that she would be a weaver of pure romance; but the subtle instinct of the artist tells her that to make such characters as hers other than they are, she must throw them upon a perfectly naturalistic background.  5
  Therefore she paints a scene, minute in detail, recognizable by every visitor to the chosen regions where her story is laid. It may be the old “Indian burying-ground,” so called, in the pine forest along the banks of Gale River; or the margin of Pond Brook in Franconia, the peaceful little village among the northern hills; or in a street in quiet Sudbury. Or Hartford is the chosen spot; and Hartford names, and faces as stable as New England principles, are introduced to give an air of reality to such a whimsical conception as ‘Butterneggs.’  6
  Mrs. Slosson is a trained botanist and entomologist, and to the skill of the literary artist is added a store of experience gleaned from the meadows and the woods. All the lovely wild flowers of the northern spring and summer are gathered in heaps of soft greenness and bits of bright color in her backgrounds; and all the songs of the thicket, the swamp, and the wood, make music there. But there are lonely farm-houses, where solitary souls have thought and pondered in the long winter nights, till they have mused too long; and to recompense them for the companionship, the beauty, the poetry, which they have missed, like Peter Ibbetson in du Maurier’s lovely story they have “learned how to dream.” Cap’n Burdick’s dream is of the millennium. Uncle Enoch Stark’s is of his sister Lucilla, who died before he was born, but to him lives vaguely somewhere in the dim West. Aunt Randy dreams that Jacob, a worm, “favors” her dead boy; and when he becomes a butterfly, she is convinced of the resurrection. Wrestlin’ Billy earned his name because he shared with the patriarch the honor of a struggle with an angel. “Faith Came and Went” in the vision of a plain, shy Sudbury woman. A Speakin’ Ghost comforted and illumined a Kittery exile imprisoned as caretaker in a New York City house.  7
  “They have different names for sech folks,” continues Aunt Charry. “They say they’re ‘cracked,’ they’ve ‘got a screw loose,’ they’re ‘a little off,’ they ‘ain’t all there,’ and so on. But nothin’ accounts for their notions so well to my mind as to say they’re all jest dreamin’…. And what’s more, I believe when they look back on those soothin’, sleepy, comfortin’ idees o’ theirn, that somehow helped ’em along through all the pesterin’ worry and frettin’ trouble o’ this world,—I believe, I say, that they’re glad too.”  8
  All this is impossible? Who shall say that these dreams are but the expansion of idiosyncrasies? For, science to the contrary, they are chapters in the history of the soul.  9
  From too tense a strain on the emotions Mrs. Slosson is delivered by a whimsical and acute sense of humor,—a distinctly feminine humor,—which happily comes to relieve the overcharged heart. Without it the reader would be unduly oppressed; but who can resist a Speakin’ Ghost who is not dim nor fair nor cold, but “about fourteen or fifteen, I should think, and noway pretty to look at: real freckled, but that warn’t no great drawback to me, an’ he had a kind of light reddish-yaller hair, not very slick, but mussy and roughlike. I knowed he was from the country as soon’s I seed him. Any one could tell that. His hands were red an’ rough an’ scratched, an’ he had warts.”  10
  And who could help comforting with promises of “what she would be let to do in heaven,” poor Colossy the little paralytic, who dreamed about cooking, and made a pudding with “a teacupful of anise and cumin,” cooked in a “yaller” baking-dish, in “a pint of milk and honey”?  11
  The humor of ‘Butterneggs’ is pure fun. Loretty Knapp, Coscob Knapp, a spinster of seventy, brisk, keen, and controversial, is possessed with the truth of heredity; and to trace its effects, dreams of a sister, who inherited all the family traits. For Coretty Knapp, born at sea, and lost for thirty years, when she appeared in Hartford “wrapped in furry an’ skinny garm’nts,” was a Knapp all over. The ministers’ meeting called to find out the original religion, politics, and social instincts of this modern Caspar Hauser failed indeed in its object, but firmly settled the theory of inheritance. ‘Butterneggs’ is the most “knowing,” bewildering story,—the fun almost bubbling over, but never quite.  12
  Mrs. Slosson’s lovely spirit teaches her to preserve the dignity of New England life through all the whimsicalities of her characters. Her religion is the kindly one of a belief in the final reward of good living; and that “up yonder,” as Mrs. Peevy in ‘Dumb Foxglove’ put it, “they make allowances fast enough.” Her most eccentric and highly intensified characters are never repulsive, but claim the sympathy with which she would surround all those who in a kindlier tongue than ours are called God’s Fools.  13
  Among Mrs. Slosson’s later books are ‘White Christopher’ (1901); ‘Aunt Abby’s Neighbors’ (1902); ‘A Dissatisfied Soul’ (1908); ‘A Little Shepherd of Bethlehem’ (1913); and ‘Puzzled Souls’ (1915).  14
 
 
CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.