"THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH."
Houghton, Mifflin & Co. have issued Charles W. Chestnutt’s collection of short stories, entitled "The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line."
No one but an earnest lover of the Sons of Ham could have evolved this little work. It is a pathetic and original plea for the day of universal brotherhood--for the social habitation of the race befriended by Lincoln, without which their blood-won civic rights seem empty privileges. To an ordinary thinker the only happy solution of the problem could be a rigid enforcement of the law forbidding miscegenation. The influence of a negro ancestor may be traced to the twelfth generation, but the same is not true of a white ancestor in a negro’s family tree. Union must hence mean deterioration of some sort of the white race. Mr. Chestnutt may be forgiven for idealizing his jet heroes and heroines since that is a Caucasian failing. He has not exaggerated the colored man’s fidelity, love of justice and mental ability. One must admire the mulatto, who in his middle age of affluence and position in colored circles--let none underrate the latter--has the courage to acknowledge the shabby black wife of his youth.
"The Sheriff’s Children" and "The Bouquet" are strong, sad little tales; while "The Passing of Grandison" and "Uncle Wellington’s Wives" furnish the humorous note. The book is a well-written one, sanely avoiding the fixing of blame, and must enlist one’s sympathy for "the dusky children of the sun," who are an ever-present problem for the thinker. Kindly interest is small compensation to a gentle-hearted race, the faces of whose members have known, to use a homely phrase, the mysterious touch of the tar brush.
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., publishers.
Rev. of The Wife of His Youth in "Some of the Latest Publications," The Bulletin [San Francisco] 10 Dec 1899: 23.