The Female Prose Writers of America: With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of their Writings/Caroline Orne

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Mrs. Orne has published chiefly through the magazines, in which, during the last twenty years, more than a hundred of her tales have appeared. These would make, if collected, several large volumes. Her writings are generally of a practical cast, on subjects of every-day life, and have been deservedly popular.

Her early childhood was passed in the most retired part of, at that time, a retired country town, Georgetown, Mass.

Early impressions are seldom effaced, and the first six years of her life spent amid rural scenes gave a permanent tone and colouring to her mind. She was educated to love birds and flowers, and the children of the family were always called to look at a rainbow as an object worthy of peculiar admiration. One of her dearest pleasures was to watch, with her sister, the early garden-plants, when they first broke through the dark, rich soil. But the wild flowers which grew in profusion near the paternal dwelling, yielded, if possible, a delight still more vivid. Among these, the violets which gemmed the green and sunny slopes, held pre-eminence. Birds were still more fondly cherished than flowers, the love bestowed on them, like themselves, having more vitality. A number of orioles, or, as they were generally called in that vicinity, golden robins, glancing in and out of the cloud of snowy or rose-tinted blooms, which covered some old apple-tree, was a treat that must have been enjoyed with a similar zest, to be truly appreciated.

Nor were the winter evenings without their pleasures, though books were scarce, and newspapers almost unknown. Her maternal grandmother, who was a member of the family, was an accomplished story teller, and she used to listen, spell-bound, to the wild legends, tales of Indian warfare, or the trials and hardships of the pioneer’s domestic life, which were related in a clear, emphatic manner, that gave to them a charm and a raciness, which could never have been imparted to a written story.

At a very early age she commenced attempting to write her thoughts. She recollects a manuscript “Picture Book” which was the joint production of her sister, her brother, and herself. It was her part of the task to compose the stories; her sister’s, who, for one so young, could very neatly execute imitation print, to transfer them to the book; and her brother’s, who, only a short time previous, had attained to the dignity of jacket and trowsers, to illustrate them with appropriate pen-and-ink devices.

These stories were simple and unpretending, though she was often ambitious to press into her service, long, sonorous words. The way she managed this was unique. When in a writing mood, she used to select a number of words which she considered uncommonly splendid, and each of these she made a kind of nucleus round which to weave her thoughts, such as they were. Being always written on a slate, they were speedily effaced to make room for more.

The reading of Pope’s poetical works formed a new and never-to-be-forgotten era of her life. While reading the “Rape of the Lock,” the aerial sylphs, and the lovely, mischievous sprites, which form its light and graceful machinery, seemed constantly hovering round her, while passages of other poems, such as the three opening lines of “Eloisa to Abelard,”

“In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Where heavenly, pensive contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing melancholy reigns,”

haunted her with their plaintive melody, as if chanted by spirit-voices close to her ear.

At the early age of fifteen, necessity compelled her to enter upon the practical duties of life. In connexion with her sister, she opened a private school in Salem, Mass., in the mean time devoting what intervals of leisure she could obtain in pursuing such studies as would better qualify her for her task. Among their pupils was the late Mrs. Judson, whom, for a while, they subsequently employed as an assistant.

The second tale Mrs. Orne ever attempted to write, appeared anonymously in the “Ladies Magazine,” published in Boston, and edited by Mrs. Hale. Subsequently other stories from her pen were published in different periodicals, all of them anonymously. A very encouraging letter received from Isaac C. Pray, in consequence of a story which she sent to the “Pearl and Galaxy,” a paper of which he was one of the editors, stimulated her to devote what leisure she could command to writing, and from that time her stories were published in her name.

Mrs. Orne’s maiden name was Chaplin. She has no middle name, though it is often printed with the initial “F.” This mistake arises from there being a Miss Caroline F. Orne, a resident of Cambridgeport, who has many years written for publication, though most of her articles have been in verse.

She was mostly educated by her mother, and when, for one term, as a kind of finishing, she, with fear and trembling, on account of her supposed deficiencies, entered a justly celebrated school, she, to her surprise, found no difficulty in ranking with the first.

The late Jeremiah Chaplin, D. D. (a cousin to both of her parents), who was, for several years, President of Waterville College, corrected the first compositions which she ever wrote, which she thought worthy of being seen, and the manner in which he pointed out their beauties, as well as defects, had a lasting and salutary influence.

When about six years old, her father removed from Rowley to Salem, Mass., where she resided, with a few temporary exceptions, till she was married. Since her marriage, except the first four years at Meredith-Bridge, she has resided at Wolfboro’, New Hampshire.