Chesnutt's Works





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Conjure Woman Reviews

A new, quaint Afro-American figure has been added to American literature by Charles W. Chesnutt, in Uncle Julius McAdoo, the shrewd old negro, who tells the seven stories grouped under the title of "The Conjure Woman" (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.). These clever dialect tales, all dealing with plantation superstition in an amusing manner, concern respectively, "The Goophered Grapevine," "Po' Sandy," "Mars Jeems' Nightmare," "The Conjurer's Revenge," "Sis Beckey's Pickaninny," "The Gray Wolf's Ha'nt," "Hot-foot Hannibal." The "Conjure Woman" of the first tale, Aunt Peggy, is a North Carolina specimen of the Creole Voodoo. This "Cunjuh 'oman wuz feared by all de darkies fum Rockfish ter Beaver Crick. She could wuk de mos' powerfulles' kin' er goopher-could make people hab fits, er rheumatiz, er make 'em dwinel away en die; en dey say she went out ridin' de niggers at night, fer she wuz a witch, 'sides bein' a cunjuh 'oman." This is how she put the spell on the "goopher," or bewitched, vineyard, and it is a good sample of the humor in the book:

"De nex' day Aun' Peggy come up ter de vumya'd. De Niggers seed her slippin' 'roun', en dey soon foun' out what she 'uz doin' dere. Mars Dugal' had hi'ed her ter goopher de grapevimes. She sa'ntered roun' 'mongs de vimes, en tuk a leaf fum dis one, en a grape-hull fum dat one, en a grape-seed fum anudder one; en den a little twig fum here, en a little pinch er dirt fum dere,--en put it all in a big black bottle, wid a snakes toof en a speckle' hen's gall en some ha'rs fum a black cat's tail, en den fill' de bottle wid scuppernon's wine. W'en she got de goopher all ready en fix', she tuk'n went out in de woods en buried it under de root uv a red oak tree, en den come back en tole one er de niggers she done goophered de grapevimes, en a'er a nigger w'at eat dem grapes 'ud be sho ter die inside'n twel' mont's."


"A New Afro-American Humorist." [Rev. of The Conjure Woman] "Books of the Day." The Philadelphia Record. March 31, 1899: 8.