[N.P.]: [N.D.]. One sheet measuring 180 x 110mm with author's manuscript and signature to recto. Fine, with just a faint central foldline visible from verso, else unmarked. A lovely example of Jewett presenting a quotation from her coming-of-age novel Betty Leicester and highlighting the intimacy between two young women.
The selection reads in full:
"'Sometimes the river was narrow and deep and the Starlight's course lay near the shore, so that the children came running down to the water's edge to see the pretty boat go by, and envy Betty and Mary Beck in the shadow of her great white sail.' Sarah O. Jewett. From Betty Leicester."
By age 19, Sarah Orne Jewett had solidified her reputation as a Massachusetts author, publishing work praised by Willa Cather and other feminist critics “for its rich account of women’s lives and voices.” Her book Betty Leicester, A Story for Girls presents a female coming-of-age tale at a time when much literature of the genre focused on boys. Yet the character Betty Leicester's story would resonate with many young women reading; for Betty experiences growing pains as she returns home to New England after several years abroad and discovers that she is no longer a little girl. She finds both struggle and solace in returning to her childhood friend Mary Beck; reunited for the first time since age 11, the two young women realize they have idealized each other in their absence and must learn to accept and love the women they have become. Petty jealousies occasionally ignite, as "Becky" worries that the sophisticated Betty might replace her with an older girl or even a beau. But the pair open their hearts to each other, taking criticisms as chances to learn, and using the boat the Starlight as a place to escape from outside influences.
Notably, this selection from Betty Leicester finds echoes in the preface of Jewett's posthumously published letters. Compiled and published by her longtime love and partner, Annie Fields, the letters and their preface reveal how personal Jewett's writing was, and how aware of her own partner was of this. "The beautiful river Piscataqua swept good-sized vessels up to the very banks of the village. Here...Sarah Orne Jewett grew up with hills and waters and large open country all around her. This wild land she knew and loved" (Fields). (Item #5086)