Chesnutt's Works





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The Wife of His Youth.

Nine color-line stories by Charles W. Chestnutt are grouped under the title of the first one, "The Wife of His Youth," The first story is dramatic and pointed. The hero of it is a mulatto, who has "arrived"--become rich and important, has cultivated his mind and become bookish. He has views of the distinction made between the people who are more than one-half white or one-half black. "We people," he says, "are ground between the upper and nether millstone. Our fates lies between the absorption by the white race and extinction in the black. The one does not want us yet, but may take us in time. The other would welcome us, but it would be for us a backward step."

This mulatto resolves to marry a cultivated and handsome young woman with only a drop of Negro blood in her viens. But there arrives on the scene an old black woman to whom he was, in the old slave days, nominally married. Other types found "on the color line" are well portrayed, but high ideas which the author seeks to inculcate are in striking contrast with the "rag-time" propensities of the colored race with which fiction and the stage has made all so familiar. "Her Virginia Mammy" is the title of one of the stories and others are "The Sheriff's Children," "A Matter of Principle," "Cicely's Dream," "The Passing of Grandison," "Uncle Wellington's Wives," "The Bouquet" and "The Web of Circumstance." While the first story takes first rank in importance and telling, the others are well written and deal with the colored race question in a searching way. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Indianapolis: The Bowen-Merrill Co.)


Rev. of The Wife of His Youth in: "New Books," The Indianapolis News, 3 Feb. 1900: 5.