"Don't fret your gizzard, Melissy. Nobody won't think nothing she does is ridickilous—for ye know it's ginerally thought she's a rich widder, and every body'll be ready to swaller her poitry—I don't care if it's the tarnalest mess o' stuff that ever was put together."
I first encountered The Widow Bedott Papers during an unsuccessful search for digital copies of Neal's Saturday Gazette containing pieces by Edward P. Mitchell (as "Ralph Roanoke"), and was immediately struck by its rich humor, cleverness, and place in literary history. Arguably, by the time it was written, Frances M. Whitcher's comic vernacular style was already an overworked technique (witness the character Teague O'Regan in Modern Chivalry); nonetheless, the natural music of the characterization shines out, and—more importantly—the underlying satire and social commentary is gratifying (albeit sometimes disturbing) to the practised eye. When this work was first published serially in the late 1840's, it was an instant success, though soon to be overshadowed by the greater genius of Uncle Tom's Cabin. As with others among my "nearly-forgotten treasures," I could not allow it to fade away without some act of resistance on my part.
The text is taken from the original 1856 edition. While I have not intentionally added or omitted a single word in the body of work itself, I have omitted references to page numbers in the table of contents, as well as the superfluous* illustrations and their captions. I corrected the author's name, given as "Whicher," to "Whitcher," to match later editions. I also did my best to standardize the use of quotes and apostrophes, and parentheses vs. brackets, and to correct any obvious typographical errors. Given the nature of the text, spell checking was out of the question.
So here it is: the master HTML version, the home-brew Kindle version, and the actual Amazon publication.
As Mr. Maguire says, "Wife, fill the elder a glass o' cider."
May 27, 2020
*Although the introduction refers to illustrations by the author, they do not actually appear in the book. The ones that were published, while they may possibly have been inspired by her drawings, were drawn by Jacob A. Dallas, and engraved by Nathaniel Orr. For a citation, see this link.
ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures