NYT Feb 16, 1907 By the Light of the Soul

From New York Times (Feb 16, 1907)


Was Aunt Maria Stout or Thin; What Color Was Evelyn's Fluffy Hair, and Where Did Gladys Live, Anyhow? — Some Questions Touching “By the Light of the Soul.”

New York Times Saturday Review of Books:

I was much interested in the paragraph of London Literary Talk in the last number of The New York Times Saturday Review of Books which raised the question of the physical proportions of Aunt Maria in Mary Wilkins Freeman's new novel, “By the Light of the Soul.” I, too, was puzzled to know whether my mental picture of Aunt Maria should be that of a short, stout woman or of the usual thin New England type. It seems to me that a writer who succeeds in creating such living characters as those of Mrs. Freeman usually are must have such a close imaginative acquaintance with them as would preclude the possibility of such mistakes.

And, unless I am in error, this is not the only discrepancy in Mrs. Freeman's novel. On Page 140 Evelyn is described as having a “fluff of yellow hair,” but on Page 405 her “dark hair” tumbles about her face, and again on Page 423 Maria strokes her sister's “fluffy, dark head.” Her hair seems to have remained fluffy, but it has changed from light to dark. Of course, in the first instance Evelyn is a child, and in the others she has grown to young ladyhood and, as the author makes Evelyn herself remark about some one else, “Sometimes light children grow dark as they grow older.” The question is whether the change is intentional (and I find no evidence for this) or another slip.

But there is a more serious inconsistency in the latter part of the book. On Page 42 and throughout all the early portion of the novel Gladys Mann is represented as belonging to a poor white family of Edgham, N. J. On Page 244 Mr. John Dorsey is introduced as a resident of Amity, “a typical little New England village.” Yet, when we come to Page 383 we read that Gladys's husband (and presumably she had married a man in her native town) “spent most of his money in carousing with John Dorsey and her father.” Also, on the same page, it is stated that “the last time Maria had been in Amity was soon after Gladys's first baby was born.” Now Maria had been teaching in Amity all along, and nothing has been said to indicate that Gladys had left her original home in Edgham. Moreover, on the next page (484) Maria receives a letter, postmarked “Edgham,” from Mrs. Mann, announcing Gladys's death! Where did Gladys live, anyway?

Washington, D. C., Feb. 13, 1907.