« PreviousContinue »
than energetic, yet reflecting changes like a prism. She paints nature. as she sees it, which is far out of the common range of vision. She delights in contrast and variety, choosing the psychical rather than the physical. While every character of her creation wears its distinctive mark, it also always bears the stamp of introspection. Her sense of humor is pervading, delicate, and charms by its unexpectedness. Her work is too fine and refined ever to be listed in the wildly popular, sweeping-the-earth class. In the mass, the public is too ignorant of literature as literature to appreciate fully such stories as hers. They attract the general reader by their humaneness. It is only in the higher courts, where good work counts, that her inability to slight, her careful technique, and conscientious revision, have received their full measure of praise.
Her early style inclined to mannerisms. She had a tendency to avoid pronouns, repeating proper names wearingly. This tendency. in Emmy Lou' was happily used, imparting the effect of simplemindedness for which she strove. Carried to excess in stories of adults it often delayed the action. But while her later work may show greater ease she has lost some of the "effervescence" that characterized 'Emmy Lou.' With this her critics have something to do. Her taste, reflecting her character, is for delicate detail, for complicated, hidden currents; and it is a mistake to urge her to leave her natural bent for the broader, so' called dynamic springs of life.
Perfection is not claimed for Mrs. Martin's work, but it is this critic's opinion that it offers one of the most interesting studies of literary evolution to be found in American literature. She is emphatically a modern product. In style she most resembles Henry James, though where he has glitter she has feeling. Her 'Emmy Lou' is in line with James's 'What Maisie Knew.' Both see adult life through a child's eyes, but where Mr. James has created a lovely but unfortunate child, Mrs. Martin has made a lovely but happy one.
Perhaps Mrs. Martin's chief lack is her inability to see life as a whole. She sees it episodically, and for that reason her books are lacking in plot. The short story, that most difficult branch of fiction, is emphatically her forte. 'Emmy Lou' and 'Letitia' are far better than the House of Fulfilment,' her one continuous narrative. This is because her art recognizes the delicate, inner emotions, taking but little count of outer media. Her characters live moment by moment, each moment being carefully portrayed; they grow, but the reader has no sense of gradual progression to a foreordained ending.
In considering Mrs. Martin's work in detail, it will easily be seen why 'Emmy Lou' is so far her best. She was a creation, and with many imi
the Boyville Stories' introduced a type that has since had
tators. Emmy Lou was born to be loved, and her counterpart exists. in many a home; in increasing numbers, since her character has furnished a key unlocking the understanding of ambitious but mistaking parents.
Running serially in McClure's Magazine during 1900, 'Emmy Lou' was, in 1902, presented in book form. To teachers, parents, and pupils it was a revelation. It called forth praise from all advanced teachers and caused anger to those who saw in their profession only a way—often the only way of earning a livelihood. In addition to its general appeal it fascinated an audience of higher critical powers than the omnivorous and vagarious-minded reader. After six years of publicity it remains that delight of the publisher, a "steady seller." It has just gone into its fifteenth edition.
'Abbie Ann' is the only story for children that Mrs. Martin has ever written. 'Emmy Lou' and 'Letitia' are both about childhood, but in the light of adult retrospection; 'Abbie Ann' is from the point of view of the little heroine herself. Many critics have seemed to miss this point in comparing 'Abbie Ann' with the former studies.
According to recent statistics, most literary masterpieces have been produced by authors between the ages of fifty and sixty. Mrs. Martin has just passed forty, hence it is fair to predict that with her powers still in their upward growth her greatest and best work will be produced in the years to come.
Evelyn Snead Barnett
(Prior to 1897 several short stories appeared in the Youth's Companion, Harper's Weekly, The Independent, Short Stories, St. Nicholas, and other magazines.)
His Children. Ladies' Home Journal, May, 1898.
The Case of Mrs. Burrows. St. Nicholas, March, 1899. Catherine of Arrogance. Ladies' Home Journal, August, 1900. Emmy Lou Series. McClure's Magazine, July, 1900-'02. Emmy Lou, Her Book and Heart. McClure, Phillips and Company, October, 1902.
The Rights of Man. Harper's Magazine, February, 1903.
A Warwickshire Lad. Collier's Weekly, June 20, 1903.
God Rest You, Merry Christians. McClure's Magazine, December, 1904.
The House of Fulfilment. McClure's Magazine, 1904.
The House of Fulfilment. McClure, Phillips and Company, October, 1904.
Abbie Ann. St. Nicholas, 1906.
Abbie Ann. The Century Company, September, 1907.
Letitia Nursery Corps, U.S.A. American Magazine, 1906. Letitia Nursery Corps, U.S.A. The S. S. McClure Company, November, 1907.
HARE AND TORTOISE
From 'Emmy Lou.' Copyright, McClure, Phillips and Company, and used here by permission of the author and the publishers.
THERE was head and foot in the Second Reader. Emmy Lou heard it whispered the day of her entrance into the Second Reader room.
Once, head and foot had meant Aunt Cordelia above the coffee tray and Uncle Charlie below the carving-knife. But at school head and foot meant little girls bobbing up and down, descending and ascending the scale of excellency.
There were no little boys. At the Second Reader the currents of the sexes divided, and little boys were swept out of sight. One mentioned little boys now in undertones.
But head and foot meant something beside little girls bobbing out of their places on the bench to take a neighbor's place. Head and foot meant tears-that is, when the bobbing was downward and not up. However, if one bobbed down to-day there was the chance of bobbing up to-morrow-that is with all but Emmy Lou and a little girl answering to the call of "Kitty McKoeghany."
Step by step Kitty went up, and having reached the top, Kitty stayed there.
And step by step, Emmy Lou, from her original alphabetically-determined position beside Kitty, went down, and then, only because further descent was impossible, Emmy Lou stayed there. But since the foot was nearest the platform Emmy Lou
took that comfort out of the situation, for the Teacher sat on the platform, and Emmy Lou loved the Teacher.
The Second Reader Teacher was the lady, the nice lady, the pretty lady with white hair, who patted little girls on the cheek as she passed them in the hall. On the first day of school, the name of "Emma Louise MacLaurin" had been called. Emmy Lou stood up. She looked at the Teacher. She wondered if the Teacher remembered. Emmy Lou was chubby and round and much in earnest. And the lady, the pretty lady, looking down at her, smiled. Then Emmy Lou knew that the lady had not forgotten. And Emmy Lou sat down. And she loved the Teacher and she loved the Second Reader. Emmy Lou had not heard the Teacher's name. But could her grateful little heart have resolved its feelings into words, “Dear Teacher" must ever after have been the lady's name. And so, as if impelled by her own chubby weight and some head-and-foot force of gravity, though Emmy Lou descended steadily to the foot of the Second Reader class, there were compensations. The foot was in the shadow of the platform and within the range of Dear Teacher's smile.
Besides, there was Hattie.
Emmy Lou sat with Hattie. They sat at a front desk. Hattie had plaits; small affairs, perhaps, but tied with ribbons behind each ear. And the part bisecting Hattie's little head from nape to crown was exact and true. Emmy Lou admired plaits. And she admired the little pink sprigs on Hattie's dress.
After Hattie and Emmy Lou had sat together a whole day, Hattie took Emmy Lou aside as they were going home, and whispered to her.
"Who's your mos' nintimate friend?" was what Emmy Lou understood her to whisper.
Emmy Lou had no idea what a nintimate friend might be. She did not know what to do.
"Haven't you got one?" demanded Hattie. Emmy Lou shook her head.
Hattie put her lips close to Emmy Lou's ear.
"Let's us be nintimate friends," said Hattie.
Though small in knowledge, Emmy Lou was large in faith. She confessed herself as glad to be a nintimate friend.
When Emmy Lou found that to be a nintimate friend.
meant to walk about the yard with Hattie's arm about her, she was glad indeed to be one. Hitherto, at recess, Emmy Lou had known the bitterness of the outcast and the pariah. Emmy Lou had stood around, principally in corners, to avoid being swept off her little feet by the big girls at play, and had gazed upon a paired-off and sufficient-unto-itself world.
Hattie seemed to know everything. In all the glory of its newness Emmy Lou brought her Second Reader to school. Hattie was scandalized. She showed her Reader soberly encased in a calico cover.
Emmy Lou grew hot. She hid her Reader hastily. Somehow she felt that she had been immodest. The next day Emmy Lou's Reader came to school discreetly swathed in calico.
Hardly had the Second Reader begun, when one Friday the music man came. And after that he came every Friday and stayed an hour.
He was a tall, thin man, and he had a point of beard on his chin that made him look taller. He wore a blue cape, which he tossed on a chair. And he carried a violin. His name was Mr. Cato. He drew five lines on the blackboard, and made eight dots that looked as though they were going upstairs on the lines. Then he rapped on his violin with his bow, and the class sat up straight.
"This," said Mr. Cato, "is A," and he pointed to a dot. Then he looked at Emmy Lou. Unfortunately Emmy Lou sat at a front desk.
"Now, what is it?" said Mr. Cato.
"A," said Emmy Lou obediently. She wondered. But she had met A in so many guises of print and script that she accepted any statement concerning A. And now a dot was A.
"And this," said Mr. Cato, "is B, and this is C, and this D, and E, F, G, which brings us naturally to A again," and Mr. Cato with his bow went up the stairway punctuated with dots.
Emmy Lou wondered why G brought one naturally to A
But Mr. Cato was tapping up the dotted stairway with his bow. "Now, what are they?" asked Mr. Cato.
"Dots," said Emmy Lou, forgetting.
Mr. Cato got red in the face and rapped angrily.