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CURRENT LITERATURE

LIBRARY TABLE: GLIMPSES OF NEW BOOKS

The Conjure Woman and other stories. By Charles W. Chestnutt. Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

Among the Superstitious

"There are seven stories in the collection, all having their motive in the negro belief in ‘conjuration, goophering, bewitching.’ The thread on which the stories are strung is furnished in the opening tale of The Goophered Grapevine. The reporter of the tales," says the Plain Dealer, of Cleveland, "a Northern man from the region of the Great Lakes, was advised by his family doctor to seek a permanent residence in a warmer and more equable climate for the benefit of his wife’s health. Being engaged in grape culture in Northern Ohio, he removed to North Caroline and purchased an abandoned vineyard in that State. On going to examine it an old negro, Uncle Julius, was found to be living as a squatter on the property, and, it was afterward discovered, had been marketing what grapes could be gathered from the neglected vines. The negro, who had been before the war a slave on the land, strongly advised the Northerner not to make the purchase, because ‘de truf ov de matter is dat dis yer ole vimyard is goophered.’ Then followed the story of the ‘goopherin’’ by ‘ole conjuh ’oman,’ told with a humor all the more delicious from the solemn earnestness of the old darky, and his seeming thorough belief in the deadly power of the ‘goopher’ laid upon the grapes by the ‘conjure woman.’ The story failed of its purpose, for the vineyard was bought, but Julius lost nothing by the transaction, for he was engaged as coachman, and there were reasons for suspecting that he still had all wanted for his own consumption of the delicious ‘scuppernon grapes,’ for, as Julius said, ‘ef dey’s anything a nigger lub nex’ ter ’possum en’ chik’n, en watermillyums, it’s scuppernon’s.’ In each of the half-dozen stories that follow, old Julius had a scheme of his own to further by the telling and generally attained his object, although it is not until the tale is done and the reporter of the story furnishes the sequel that the scheme of the sly old darky becomes apparent."

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"The Conjure Woman and Other Stories," in "Library Table: Glimpses of New Books," Current Literature 26 (Aug. 1899) 186.