Widow Spriggins, and Other Sketches

"I don't like to differ with a person like you," said Mrs. Ludlow, "but the sentiments you have just expressed wound my feelings; they remind me painfully of the awful doctrines that Mrs. Lee teaches those that come under her influence. Don't you remember the Bible teaches us 'our own righteousness is filthy rags,' but if you and Mrs. Lee have got so blinded as to think your own works can save you, I don't see that you can do better than improve the opportunity, and leave the Society to a wider field of usefulness. If Mrs. Lee knows about 'em, and she ought to I'm sure, why then she must count this fever a special providence in her behalf."
—Mary Elmer

This volume completes the published works of Frances M. Whitcher. Ensconced in upstate New York—far from the urban, "Bohemian" crowd—she translated her observations of convention, prejudice, pretension, and sluggard intellect into ripe and bounteous humor. I offer a tip of the hat to Mrs. M. L. Ward Whitcher [Rev. Whitcher's subsequent wife] for editing the collection, and undertaking a reasonable completion of Mary Elmer.

Although Widow Spriggins is the earlier piece, it is nearly as clever as Widow Bedott, and lays much of the literary groundwork. If anything, the wordplay is even bolder, and at times reminds me of Finnegans Wake. And while Mary Elmer was her only attempt at a non-comic work (unfortunately, she died before it was finished), nonetheless its biting satire at times is worthy of Elizabeth Stoddard or even Charles Dickens.

In "Aunt Magwire's Account of the Mission to Muffletegawny," once again young Jefferson acts the wag. When asked, after the new parson's sermon, if he didn't think him very sublime, he begins to invoke Edmund Burke, and immediately receives a "hunch*" from his mother, who has heard his response on another such occasion. After a bit of research, I'm pretty sure this is the quote he was about to give: "It is thus with the vulgar, and all men are as the vulgar in what they do not understand."

[*i.e., an elbow in the ribs.]

I chose the 1887 edition because the scan and resulting OCR text are in the best condition. I also used the original 1868 edition as a cross-check. While I did my best to fix obvious typographical errors, as with Widow Bedott, I gave up the notion of spell-checking the text, due to its extensive representation of colloquial dialect.

So here it is: the master HTML version, the home-brew Kindle version, and the actual Amazon publication.

As Jabez Spriggins says, "Well, you'll take sum of the egg-nogg, won't ye!"

November 5, 2020

ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures