Campus News

Sarah Orne Jewett Manuscripts Uncovered

Story posted June 15, 2004

Two previously unrecorded Sarah Orne Jewett manuscripts, "A Dark Night" and "A Village Patriot," were recently donated to Bowdoin College by Ms. Nathalie B. Thompson, a private collector from Vero Beach, Florida.

Ms. Thompson, who is aware of Bowdoin's high regard for the Maine writer, wanted to place the manuscripts where they could be used by an "appreciative community."

The manuscripts will be housed in the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives at the Bowdoin library.

Such manuscripts are extremely important for literary scholars and students of writing, because they provide primary evidence for research into establishing what an author wrote, how that text was revised during the process of editing, and both why and how published versions of a literary piece differ from the final draft and, over time, from each other.

The short stories, bound in separate volumes, were originally drafted for the Bacheller Newspaper Syndicate, which distributed works for publication principally in the northeastern United States. "A Dark Night" first appeared in the Philadelphia Press in serialization during April 1895. "A Village Patriot" was purchased by the Syndicate in 1896 and was published variously, including in the Boston Evening Transcript (July 3, 1896) and, a day later, in the New York Times.

Bound with Jewett's manuscript of "A Dark Night" is a manuscript draft of Richard Henry Stoddard's "New Year's Day Half a Century Ago," which had been similarly submitted to the Bacheller Syndicate for publication. Stoddard, a popular poet, scholar, literary editor, and acquaintance of Nathaniel Hawthorne, also published widely on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, making Stoddard's association with these two distinguished Bowdoin alumni (Class of 1825) a pleasant coincidence with the placing of his manuscript at their alma mater.

These bound manuscripts are also interesting in their former ownership. Syndicate owner Irving Bacheller prepared both volumes as gifts for Herbert Foster Gunnison, editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac. Friends since their college days at St. Lawrence University, Bacheller and Gunnison were intimately associated with the literati of New York, and these volumes represent physical artifacts of that intellectual scene. They had remained in private hands until their recent donation to Bowdoin.

Jewett (1849-1909), regarded through her writing by many as the prominent voice of a bygone New England sentimentality, became the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Bowdoin (Litt.D. 1901). These two manuscripts enhance the College's already established collection of manuscripts and published works that document her writing career.

For more on Sarah Orne Jewett and Bowdoin's collection of her papers click here.

The public is welcome to examine the Jewett manuscripts and any other of Bowdoin's Special Collections. The department, on the third floor of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call (207) 725-3288.

« Back | Campus News | Academic Spotlight | | Subscribe to Bowdoin News by Email