NYT Nov 9, 1907 Fair Lavinia

From New York Times (Nov 9, 1907)


Mary Wilkins Freeman's Latest Book a Gallery of Dainty Maids with Decorous Romances.

Of maids that bloom lily-white in old gardens — for they have a way of being slim and fair and tall — of such maids, wearing quaint corkscrew curls trailing over pretty sloping shoulders, daintily arrayed in sprigged muslin, and minutely shod with satin slippers — of maids such as these Mrs. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman has made the volume called “The Fair Lavinia and Others,” (Harpers.) The book is a book of short stories, and the Fair Lavinia is the first of the stories, but not the first of the maids. The first of the maids is caled Isabel, blue-eyed, ivory-skinned, pale-haired, enjoying the inestimable advantage (for the purposes of pure romance) of being beautifully in love with a youth who is such a moon-calf that he spends his time raving about the imagined charms of another lady whom he has never seen, and takes Isabel to be his confidant, till in the end his eyes are opened, not without some innocent strategy on the part of the fair Isabel herself. Mrs. Freeman is very clever about that strategy.

The second of the maids is called Amarina, “because her grandmother's name had been Amanda and her mother's Marina.” Young persons took frightful chances at the font in those days. Sentiment was unrestrained by fear of the syllabic consequences. Amarina blooms very sweetly in Mrs. Freeman's hands; garbed in a lemon-colored muslin gown, she is introduced in the act of making her first lace cap — being about to turn 30, and 30 being the age at which all modest unmarried women naturally don caps in token of defeat. Of course, Amarina's romance comes in time to save her, and very nice and old-fashioned it is — Amarina's romance — quaintly invented and fitly worded.

Eglantina is the third maid — still fair, and ever so tall. But her beauty is marred by a birthmark, and her lover is a blind man who writes verses in her honor upon the window pane, feeling the letters with clever fingers. It is the story of a sensitive soul which finds its reward, and it is tenderly imagined, if it is not quite convincing. Then there is Adeline, blessed with two maiden aunts, Jane and Eliza. “Adeline sewed with a sort of surface patience,” (though she did not like to sew,) sitting where the sun trickled down upon her through the delicately interlaced grapevines upon a trellis arching over her head. It was a “tradition that no women of the family ever screamed.” Adeline wore lilac muslin, (not lemon colored,) and she had golden hair parted over a serene forehead. These lily ladies of Mrs. Freeman's are apt to have serene foreheads. She has chosen the day of serenity. You may have heard your own grandaunts phrase it otherwise. Their word was “repose of manner.” And no doubt it was a beautiful thing of its kind, though somewhat overdone.