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The Wife of his Youth

Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt, whose touching story, "The Wife of His Youth," published in the July Atlantic has, perhaps, caused more favorable comment than any other story of the month, is more than a promising new writer in a new field. Mr. Chesnutt has a firmer grasp than any preceding author has shown in handling the delicate relations between the white man and the negro from the point of view of the mingling of the races. Perhaps the most tragic situation in fiction that has ever been conceived in this country is that in which a mulatto finds himself with all the qualities of the white race in a position where he must suffer from the disadvantages of the coloured race. Mr. Chesnutt has for several years treated this subject in a capable and artistic manner, and has proved himself not only the most cultivated but also the most philosophical story writer that his race has yet produced; for, strange to relate, he is himself a coloured man of very light complexion. Born in North Carolina, he made a career for himself in his native state as a teacher and a man of enterprise, and h[e] won the high respect of the community by his integrity of character. He is also a scholar of no mean attainments. Seeking a wider field of usefulness he eventually went to Cleveland, Ohio, where for a number of years he has had his home and is known as a very successful lawyer.

Mr. Chesnutt has published more of his stories through the Atlantic Monthly than in any other magazine, and this fact in itself speaks for the high literary quality of his work. We understand that he is now giving more of his time to literary work and that one of these days we may look for a novel from him in which his philosophical grasp, his imaginative power and literary skill may combine to give us an expression of the life of his people not yet realised by any writer either white or coloured in the States. Mr. Chesnutt is still a man in middle life, of a quiet, tranquil temperament, ambitious, industrious and successful. There is no reason why great things should not be expected of him.

Anon. "Review of 'The Wife of His Youth,' and bio note." In: Chronicle and Comment, The Bookman, 7 (August 1898): 452.