From The Critic Vol. 43 No. 2 (Aug 1903)
Miss Wilkins may know her own New England no more intimately now than when she first so successfully celebrated it. But it is plain that she has grown to look upon it a little differently; more tenderly, — almost, as it were, more maternally; and though her comedy was always of the kind that is near to pathos, she seems now more than ever to smile through tears of sympathy at her own most delicious creations. Such, at least, is the impression produced by her two latest books,* which contain, in all, twelve remarkable short stories. Inevitably, these books stimulate the wish that Miss Wilkins, who is a good novelist, but a great writer of short stories, should continue to practise the latter art to the end of her days. For the present, these two unpretending volumes may well be a matter of national pride; we have surely nothing more individual, nothing we could exhibit with fewer reservations.
If Mr. Peter Newell, whose unquestioned talents are of distinctly another order, had not been permitted to illustrate it, “The Wind in the Rose-Bush” would be a volume to cherish. The title story is a masterpiece of insight, significance, controlled imagination. Although, like the remaining five stories in the book, it is a ghost story, it seems almost to vulgarize it to call it so, with such masterly plausibility is the ghostly related to the human. Miss Wilkins has never been one to make use of hackneyed tools; yet a striking feature of these tales of the supernatural is the complete avoidance of the conventional vocabulary of horror. Miss Wilkins's ghosts do not require a dark and musty milieu; and by the unexpectedness of their introduction into familiar, sunlighted, domestic scenes, she secures an intensity of effect that the well-worn machinery of ghost-literature could never compass. Nor would any less unconventional writer than Miss Wilkins have bethought himself to assign such fitting individualities to these by no means passive apparitions; or to replace the sinister criminal of tradition with such bland and cheerful substitutes as figure in “The Shadows on the Wall” and “The Wind in the Rose-Bush.” Nothing could be more uncannily appropriate than that the ghost of malicious Aunt Harriet, who haunted the “south-west chamber,” should have been given to petty, teasing tricks, like snatching bodices and brooches. It is the pastime of the little “lost ghost,” overworked during its baby lifetime, to glide pathetically about the house in search of clothes to put away or dishes to wash.
*“The Wind in the Rose-Bush.” By Mary E. Wilkins. Doubleday, Page & Co., $1.50.
“Six Trees.” By Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. Harper, $1.50.