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Jewett's father, Theodore Herman Jewett, was a doctor specializing in "obstetrics and diseases of women and children," and Jewett often accompanied him on his rounds, becoming acquainted with the sights and sounds of her native land and its people. Her mother was Caroline Frances (Perry). As treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that developed in her early childhood, Jewett was sent on frequent walks and through them also developed a love of nature. In later life, Jewett often visited Boston, where she was acquainted with many of the most influential literary figures of her day; but she always returned to South Berwick, small seaports near which were the inspiration for the towns of "Deephaven" and "Dunnet Landing" in her stories.
Jewett was educated at Miss Olive Rayne's school and then at Berwick Academy, graduating in 1866. She supplemented her education with reading in her extensive family library. Jewett was "never overtly religious", but after she joined the Episcopal church in 1871, she explored less conventional religious ideas. For example, her friendship with Harvardlaw professorTheophilus Parsons stimulated an interest in the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth-century Swedishscientist and theologian, who believed that the Divine "was present in innumerable, joined forms -- a concept underlying Jewett's belief in individual responsibility."
Sarah Orne Jewett reading.
At age 19, Jewett published her first important story in the Atlantic Monthly, and her reputation grew throughout the 1870s and 1880s. Her literary importance arises from her careful, if subdued, vignettes of country life that reflect a contemporary interest in local color rather than in plot. Jewett possessed a keen descriptive gift that William Dean Howells called "an uncommon feeling for talk -- I hear your people." Jewett made her reputation with the novellaThe Country of the Pointed Firs (1896).A Country Doctor (1884), a novel reflecting her father and her early ambitions for a medical career, and A White Heron (1886), a collection of short stories are among her finest work. Some of Jewett's poetry was collected in Verses (1916), and she also wrote three children's books. Willa Cather described Jewett as a significant influence on her development as a writer, and "feminist critics have since championed her writing for its rich account of women's lives and voices." In 1901 Bowdoin College conferred an honorary doctorate of literature on Jewett, the first woman to be granted an honorary degree by Bowdoin.
Sarah Orne Jewett.
Jewett never married, but she established a close friendship with writer Annie Adams Fields (1834-1915) and her husband, publisher James Thomas Fields, editor of the Atlantic Monthly. After the sudden death of James Fields in 1881, Jewett and Annie Fields lived together for the rest of Jewett's life in what was then termed a "Boston marriage". Some modern scholars have speculated that the two were lovers. Both women "found friendship, humor, and literary encouragement" in one another's company, traveling to Europe together and hosting "American and European literati." In France Jewett met Thérèse Blanc-Bentzon with whom she had long corresponded and who translated some of her stories for publication in France.
The Queen's Twin and Other Stories, Houghton-Mifflin, 1899
The Tory Lover, Houghton-Mifflin, 1901
An Empty Purse: A Christmas Story, privately printed, 1905
Reference in popular culture
The 2019 film The Lighthouse based a character's down-east accent on Jewett's phonetic transcription of period speech in southern Maine..
^Aubrey E. Plourde, A Woman's World: Sarah Orne Jewett's Regionalist Alternative, scholarship.rollins.edu, Retrieved December 19, 2013. In his Sarah Orne Jewett, F.O. Matthiessen wrote "The distinction and refinement of Sarah Jewett's prose came out of an America which, with its Tweed rings and grabbing Trusts, its blatantly moneyed New York and squalid frontier towns, seemed most lacking in just these qualities. They are essentially a feminine contribution, and the fact that they now appear more valuable than anything the men of her generation could produce is a symptom of what had happened to New England since the Civil War. The vigorous genius of the earlier golden day had left no sons. Emily Dickinson is the heir of Emerson's spirit, and Sarah Jewett the daughter of Hawthorne's style." F.O. Matthiessen, Sarah Orne Jewett, public.coe.edu, Retrieved December 19, 2013
^For instance, one stroll she found "neighborly with the hop-toads and with a joyful robin who was sitting on a corner of the barn, and I became very intimate with a great poppy which had made every arrangement to bloom as soon as the sun came up." Fields, ed. Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett, 45.
^Cary, 29. Jewett wrote to a teenage reader: "I cannot tell you just where Dunnet Landing is except that it must be somewhere 'along shore' between the regions of Tenants Harbor and Boothbay, or it might be farther to the eastward in a country that I know less well." Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project.
^See, for instance, Dottie Webb,"Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Adams Fields: Boston Marriage and Cultural Nexus,"  There is a more cautious appraisal on the website of the Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project. Fields was fifteen years older than Jewett, but they had similar tastes in "reading, writing, and the arts." Richard Cary, Sarah Orne Jewett (New Haven, CT: Twayne, 1962), 25.
^Sarah Orne Jewett: Novels and Stories (New York: Library of America, 1994), 924, 927