MR. CHESNUTT’S NEW BOOK AND SOME OTHERS.
THE Wife of His Youth: That author is indeed fortunate who stands alone in command of a field rich in material for ministering to human interest both intellectual and social, and who is by knowledge, sympathy and literary equipment pre-eminently qualified to bring the resources of his exclusive domain into effective and artistic presentation. Probably no other American is so marked by fitness and ability to address his countrymen through "stories of the color line" as Mr. Chesnutt, and that he can make this manner of address singularly persuasive and powerful is distinctly shown in the nine stories of the new volume, named for the one that attracted general attention and admiration less than two years ago.
Even more strongly marked in this collection than in "The Conjure Woman" is proof of Mr. Chesnutt’s power to levy tribute at the same time on both gravity and gayety and bid them infuse a dramatic quality into straightforward description or simple narration. In a striking degree is he master also over the management of contrast as a picturesque means to a literary end, whether the contrast be between details of situation, concurrence of events, or profession and practice.
By the way, is it not a gracious act on the author’s part to ignore the sooty blackness of the union depot of "Groveland" (an easily read figure for our Forest City), where several of the characters make their entrances and exits, and to make a place in literature for our public square "with flowers and statues, and fountain’s playing"?
There is now and then a touch the flick of which on the reader’s sensation is like the sting of fire, none the less scorching for uncertainty whether or no intentional sarcasm lurks in the quiet words. Depths that appall are revealed in the two stories "The Sheriff’s Children" and "The Web of Circumstance," while the author shares with us his enjoyment of life’s little comedies in such stories as "A Matter of Principle," "The Passing of Grandison" and "Uncle Wellington’s Wives."
As compared with "The Conjure Woman" the present volume produces the effect of a greater self-possession on the author’s part and of a fuller revealing of the power at his command. It also strengthens the conviction that broader, deeper work than the short story is to be expected from his pen. In external appearance the volume has the distinction of being noticeably attractive even amid the lavish profusion of the book-trade’s holiday supply. Published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Received from Burrows.
Hanscom, Alice E., "Mr. Chesnutt’s New Book and Some Others," Town Topics [Cleveland] 24 (16 Dec. 1899): 6.