Theodora Sarah Orne Jewett was born on September 3, 1849 to Caroline Frances Perry and Dr. Theodore Herman Jewett. Her father, a physician, was the son of a prosperous merchant in South Berwick, Maine, a shipbuilding and manufacturing town upriver from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Her childhood was a comfortable one, rich in the cultural and educational activities of a thriving New England town. But Sarah, as she was known, was considered a sickly child, and her father often took her on his rounds to visit patients, bringing her into contact with other rural New Englanders whose experiences and circumstances were quite different from her own. She credited her father's keen eye for natural detailas well as human nature and its foibles her first schooling in the art of observation. With her elder sister, Mary, and her younger sister, Caroline, Sarah attended local schools, finishing at Berwick Academy (1861-66), her father's alma mater.
In her creative writing Jewett began with short stories, first publishing 'Jenny Garrow's Lovers' in 1868 in the periodical The Flag of Our Union under the pseudonym A. C. Eliot. Though pleased by this first publication, Jewett knew she had yet to break into the real literary market. The third story she submitted to The Atlantic Monthly magazine was at last accepted by assistant editor William Dean Howells; it appeared in 1869 under the title 'Mr. Bruce' with the same pseudonym. So began a lifelong association with Howells and his successors as editors of the Atlantic, Thomas Bailey Aldrich and Horace Scudder, relationships that would help Jewett develop as a writer.
In the early 1870s Jewett was freed from financial concerns by a small legacy from her paternal grandfather. She began a peripatetic life, traveling to Cambridge and Boston where she met the literary stars of her era, including John Greenleaf Whittier, Howells, Aldrich, and the book publisher James T. Fields and his wife, Annie, herself a writer and translator. All the while, Jewett was reading works of contemporary European writers such as Gustave Flaubert and George Sand, as well as New England authors like Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Harriet Beecher Stowewhose Maine novel, Pearl of Orr' Island, Jewett had first read as a young girl and about which she later claimed it gave her 'to see with new eyes and to follow eagerly the old shore where genius pointed the way.'
In September 1873 the Atlantic published 'The Shore House,' the first of a group of stories set in a fictional Maine seaport and the beginning of the collection that was published in April 1877 as her first full length book, Deephaven. A second collection of seven stories, Old Friends and New, was published in 1879, followed in 1881 by Country By-Ways, a book of nine pieces. That same year, upon the death of James T. Fields, Sarah came to visit his widow, Annie, and stayed to spend part of the year at her house on Charles Street in Boston. Thus began the pattern of annual visits in which Sarah would live and travel with Annie in between periods at home in South Berwick. This relationship would become the most important one in Sarah's life.
Over the next decade or so, she published five new collections of stories that contain some of her finest short fiction, especially A White Heron and Other Stories (1886). She also wrote works for children, such as Betty Leicester (1890); two novels, A Country Doctor (1884) and A Marsh Island (1885); and a semiautobiographical book about her father.
Annie and Sarah took four trips to Europe together in 1882, 1892, 1898, and 1900, visiting such luminaries as the Dickens family, Tennyson, Mrs. Humphry Ward, Henry James, and Rudyard Kipling.
The story of an endearing, unlikely friendship set against the backdrop of a remote and beautiful Maine coastal town, The Country of the Pointed Firs is one of Sarah Orne Jewett's most loved works, and it quickly earned her a reputation as a talented writer upon its publication. Praised by Alice Brown for its "idyllic atmosphere of country life," Jewett's moving novel shows her intimate understanding of New England and its unique inhabitants, whose prickly exteriors often concealed a warm and loyal nature.
This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition includes four additional Dunnet Landing stories: "The Queen's Twin," "A Dunnet Shepherdess," "The Foreigner," and "William's Wedding."