Two Little Green Doors

From New York Times (Mar 5, 1911)

Mary E. Wilkins Writes of One, and Another Mary of the Other

There is a bit of mystery about a charming little story called “Through the Little Green Door,” by Mary Dickerson Donahey, published by Edward Stern & Co., Philadelphia ($1). The mystery is in the little green door, and the title of the book, which is taken from it. There is a similar book this Winter, called simply “The Green Door,” which is reprinted from a story written by Mary E. Wilkins, and published in a periodical some eighteen years ago. Another coincidence is that in both books the little heroine steps through a little green door into the past. But there the resemblance stops.

The story of the better-known author, Mrs. Freeman, a very pretty little story, previously reviewed, is short and has little to it. It is a moral tale, told as a good writer can tell it, of a discontented little girl who, through a knowledge of more primative times, comes to be satisfied with her own life. The door is in the house of her grandmother. No one will tell her anything about it; but one day, managing to slip through, she finds herself in the past. She then becomes a little girl in the days of her great-grandmothers, when children were seen and not heard, when there were many tasks for even small hands to perform, when houses were cold and bleak, and when there were dangers without of Indians and wild animals.

The little green door of the later tale is also in the house of the grandmother of the little heroine, and through it she, too, steps into a past, but quite a different one. The country she finds is “Little Child Land.” It is the home of the childhood of all the grown people, those living or who have passed beyond, who have preserved, with added years, a child heart, with its gayety, its love and sympathy. Where the heart has hardened, the little child life in Little Child Land becomes weak and ill, and it may even pass away entirely. They are little spirit children, but they have work to do keeping strong, as far as possible, the child life in their grown-up selves. Or where the grown-up self has passed into the great beyond, the child life, living on in this childhood's world, has more general work to do. There are queer metamorphoses in Child Land, for the little people are always of the age which their grown-up selves think them. From twelve to fourteen is the average age of the children, the age of good times, the age most often re-lived; but a big little boy or girl, playing football or dolls, may suddenly toddle off a small baby, as memory carries it back.

Judith, the heroine of the book, a real child, enters this land, which is filled with joy and gladness and sweet and happy thoughts. It is a happy change, for Judith lives with a grandmother and grandaunt who have nearly lost their little child selves. The child self of Aunt Aurelia is so weak and ill that it is confined to the bed in Little Child Land, and grandmamma's child self is very low indeed. It has been hard for Judith to live with these two older people, who cannot remember that they have ever been children themselves. The duty which is given her to earn a permanent admission to Little Child Land is to awaken the child heart in the two older people.

It is altogether a pretty idea; but the mystery remains that the name of the book should be so-similar to that of the older and quite different story. Any one who can develop so charming a one as this, has no need to borrow ideas; and if it is not borrowed how strange the coincidence. Are we all dreaming and writing of lands of the past, just now? Perhaps so. There is the “Land of Memory,” for instance, into which Tyltyl and Mytyl venture, in Maeterlinck's “Blue Bird.”

“Through the Little Green Door” is dedicated “ To All the Little Lost Child Selves in All the World.”

The Two “Green Doors” Again

From New York Times (Apr 9, 1911)

The New York Times Review of Books;

One of the clipping-bureaus that pesters me after a book has appeared, has just done me a favor by sending me your review of “Through the Little Green Door” nearly four years ago. I don't attach much importance to the general run of reviews, and never subscribe to the bureaus; but I'm glad I saw your “write up,” for two reasons — or, maybe, for three.

It is good to see that some people really do read the books and try to give them a real review. It is good to say “Thank you” for appreciation received, and for understanding of what one is trying to do. And it's better yet to have a chance to say “I didn't — honest Injun” — when accused, though ever so delicately, of helping oneself to another's ideas. I'd never read Mrs. Freeman's story.

I thought, when my publisher wrote me of the advent of “The Green Door” of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, that I was saved from accusations by the fact that mine came out a few months ahead. When, lo and behold! they spring this eighteen-year-old fact upon me, and confound me utterly.

The truth is, that I wrote my “Green Door” nearly four years ago, as one of three books I was to do for Stern & Co. It, with the MS. for “Down Spiderweb Lane,” was in their hands on Nov. 1, 1907, and had they chosen to bring it out after “The Castle of Grumpy Grouch,” instead of this Winter, this contretemps would never have happened. After I finished it, there didn't seem to be a title to fit except the one I chose — and the publishers and I discussed others by the hour. Would we had chosen another!

My next story was to have been “Tree-Top Town,” and I finished it the month before I heard about “Chantecler,” and though it's all about wild birds, and children who go visiting them, I will not, after this experience, bring it out now — so there's a lot of work gone to the chickens!

MARY D. DONAHEY. Cleveland, Ohio, March 8.