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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Ruth McEnery Stuart (1856–1917)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
RUTH MCENERY STUART became prominent among writers of dialect stories, by an originality and charm which offset the disadvantages of her being a late comer in a well-worked field. One of her earliest magazine stories, ‘Lamentations of Jeremiah Johnson,’ proved that the possibilities of the dialect story were by no means exhausted. It was brightened with kindly humor; was in itself a quaint conception, having that general character of pleasantness which distinguishes Mrs. Stuart’s stories, making them always readable.  1
  ‘Lamentations of Jeremiah Johnson’ was followed by other stories of negro life: ‘The Golden Wedding,’ ‘Lucindy,’ ‘Crazy Abe,’—each told with force and naturalness, each a picture in which scenes and situations stand out by a quick succession of masterly strokes. Her characters are not subtle, but clear and sharp. To understand them, eyesight, not imagination, is required. There are more classic ways than hers of telling a story; but few are written with less effort to be brilliant at the expense of truth. Her comedy rarely degenerates into melodrama. Her pathos is never overdrawn.  2
  She has not confined herself altogether to tales of negro life. ‘Babette’ is a pretty and conventional idyl of Creole life in New Orleans. The ‘Sonny’ series tells of the birth and education of the child of an Arkansas planter. The stories of Simpkinsville are of life in an Arkansas village. ‘The Unlived Life of Little Mary Ellen’ is a pathetic tale of old-fashioned Southern gentlefolk.  3
  Mrs. Stuart lived the greater part of her life among the people and scenes which she describes so well. She was born in Marksville, Aroyelles Parish, Louisiana, in 1856. In 1879 she married Mr. Alfred O. Stuart, a planter of southern Arkansas, where she learned to know the after-the-war negro of the Southern plantations,—the “new issue” negro, as he is described by his fellows of the old régime. There too she became acquainted with the country people, whose simple lives and quaint speech are recorded in her stories of Arkansas.  4
  Among Mrs. Stuart’s books are: ‘A Golden Wedding and Other Tales’ (1893), ‘Carlotta’s Intended’ (1894), ‘The Story of Babette’ (1894), ‘Solomon Crow’s Christmas Pockets’ (1896), ‘Sonny’ (1896), ‘In Simpkinsville’ (1897), ‘Moriah’s Mourning’ (1898), ‘Holly and Pizen’ (1898), ‘The Woman’s Exchange’ (1899), ‘Napoleon Jackson’ (1902), ‘George Washington Jones’ (1903), ‘The River’s Children’ (1904), ‘The Second Wooing of Salina Sue’ (1905), ‘Aunt Amity’s Silver Wedding’ (1908), ‘Sonny’s Father’ (1910), ‘Danny Do-Funny’s Wisdom Jingles’ (1913), ‘The Cocoon’ (1915).  5
  In 1891 Mrs. Stuart moved to New York where she lived until her death on May 6th, 1917.  6
 
 
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