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The Wife of his Youth

Turning now to collections of short stories, we catch a new phrasing of the old negro theme in Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt's "The Wife of His Youth." This new element is due to a delicate irony that would jar in such a subject if the writer were not himself of the Blue Veins whose foibles amuse the man who has had all a successful lawyer's opportunity for the study of human nature. His theme in all the stories is the result of racial mingling. Occasionally, as in "The Sheriff's Children" and "The Web of Circumstance," the treatment is tragic. In "Cicely's Dream" and "The Bouquet" it is pathetic, while in "A Matter of Principle," "Her Virginia Mammy," and "The Wife of His Youth" irony is the main characteristic. All these stories are strong; but the last three claim special attention. How the racial situation in America might strike a man of mixed blood, but of keen intellect and broad mind, has been a curious question to many, and Mr. Chesnutt has answered it interestingly.

Wells, Benjamine W. "Southern Literature of the Year." The Forum. 29 (June, 1900): 510.