The Wife of His Youth: And Others Stories of the Color Line. By Charles W. Chesnutt. With illustrations by Clyde O. De Land. Publishers, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., New York and Boston. Price $1.50.
With the publication six months ago of the "Conjure Woman" it became apparent that the rather overworked field of the negro in fiction was beginning to receive a new treatment. This was of a character to enrich the field temporarily, bringing out qualities which had been obscured in a cultivation of the picturesque, but at the same time destined to make the negro less valuable as literary material. The "Conjure Woman" embodied features of the darker side of slavery. With similar sympathy, intimate knowledge and behind-the-scenes acquain-tance, the author of the "Conjure Woman" employs in his second volume fiction presented with attractive diction as a medium for the study of the negro of today, especially that unfortunate class created in defiance of laws of God and nature, innocent victims of a crime with equipment derived from one species darkened by the historic facts of the other. Episodes in the North and the South are described illustrating the difficulties under which these beings labor, and presenting with dramatic force proofs of the law that the sins off the fathers shall be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. The reader is impressed with the candor displayed in handling the various manifestations of hybrid character, with the delicacy of insinuation almost as intangible as the fleeting glow beneath certain white skins, the tint of certain eyes, of the wrinkle of some hair. At the same time there seems to be now and then a faint inclination to touch upon the idea of legal sanction of the perpetuation in younger generations of an evil which no human law may justify if race purity is to be maintained.
Rev. of The Wife of His Youth: And Other Stories of the Color Line in "New Books," Southern Farm Magazine 7 (Jan 1900): 25