From Literary Digest Vol. XII No. 24 (April 11, 1896)
In an old-fashioned farm-house, on a wide elm-bordered street, in the town of Randolph, Mass., lives Miss Mary E. Wilkins, one of America's most fascinating and successful writers of short stories. Her middle name, which was her mother's, is Eleanor. She invariably uses only the initial letter. In this homestead Miss Wilkins has lived since her early girlhood. In an article entitled “A New England Recluse,” contributed to Donahoe's, Mr. Albert Doyle, who has lately had the privilege of visiting the author, gives a free-hand sketch of her as she appears at home, first paying the following compliment to the genius of her pen:
“It is a joy to read her books. It is like taking a breath of fresh, pure country air full of sweetness, and laden with odors of the wild grape, and of new-mown hay, and of violets. You read of blue skies, and green fields, and white fields, and honest, hard-working men, and hard-working, honest women, and country girls and boys, simple and lovable, like many whom we knew in the past. And that is the sad part of her stories. We can not remember any of her characters now living with us, yet we know we have met them in the dead days, and we grieve that they are gone, and love the writer for bringing them back to us.”
Mr. Doyle then tells us that Miss Wilkins has blue eyes and auburn hair, and a small, graceful figure; that her complexion is charming, and is said to be her one vanity. He describes her home, saying:
“The house is one of those square, white-painted, green-blinded edifices which marked the wealth and importance of the dweller therein half a century or so ago. It has no beauty in itself, being boldly plain and glaring, like all of its kind; but the green waving boughs of the elms and the lilacs tone it down and give it an air of quiet and reserve. There is a barn connected with the house, and a row of rambling outbuildings lends to its picturesqueness. A wide hay-field lies back of and beside the house, and in the barnyard is a cider press, and usually a row of shining milk-cans, airing in the sun. … Opposite her house is an old school building. The scene has one flaw for a picture; for modern customs have deemed it necessary to illuminate the street with incandescent lights, and to run trolley-cars in front of the door of this real old New England farmhouse. The north side of the house is occupied by Miss Wilkins. She has a reception-room and a library downstairs, and the furnishings and decorations of these rooms have many evidences of the simple yet artistic tastes that you would expect in her home. Warm colors predominate, and bright bits of bric-a-brac, comfortable couches and fauteuils, and a cheerful old-fashioned looking fireplace give an excedingly hospitable appearance to the apartments. Here all of her stories are written, not in one particular room, for she has a desk in each of them, and writes in the room her fancy chooses.”
We are told that Miss Wilkins now has so many engagements to write that she will accept no more for the present, but that with all her fame and her increasing fortune she preserves a wonderful modesty and simplicity of manner. To quote again:
“The majority of those who live near her and know her by sight display the greatest astonishment as they speak of her fame. They do not seem to understand how the little dramas, full of situations, characters, and words so familiar to them, could have given the writer such a high place in the literary world. Every newspaper utterance in regard to her is greeted with the same words of surprise. Their astonishment knew no bounds when she wrote a two-thousand-dollar prize detective story, and they are amazed when they hear a stranger from distant parts inquire if Randolph is not the home of Mary E. Wilkins. It is only very recently that they commenced to point her out on the streets to visiting friends.
“Miss Wilkins does not court notoriety. She is very retiring and modest, and says that an interviewer is a bête noir to her. She has always been averse to having anything of a personal or opinionative nature appear in print. She says that in regard to most subjects broached by interviewers, her opinions are not sufficiently formulated to allow of expression. Even close friends have been refused ‘personal talks’ for publication. She does not think that letting the world know her idea of the new woman, or the name of her favorite flower, book, or hero, will make the world wiser. She is always hospitable to writers who call upon her, and in an impersonal way will give them every assistance.”