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

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It is now less than a year since the “Wide, Wide World,” a novel in two volumes, was sent forth to try its fortunes. The title-page bore upon its face a name unknown to the public, except as the author of a single magazine article. No one could read the volumes just named without a desire to know something of the author. The inquiry among the reading public became general, “Who is Elizabeth Wetherell?”—but it has resulted so far in no disclosure beyond the fact that she is the author of the “Wide, Wide World,” and nothing more. In other words, the authorship of these volumes is a secret, and likely to be so kept for some time, as long, perhaps, as that of “Jane Eyre” and “Shirley.”

The “biography” of the lady, therefore, must needs be very brief. The only other events of her life that I know are, that she has recently contributed a very ingenious and original article to one of the leading annuals, and that she is about to—but, maybe, that would be telling.

The “Wide, Wide World,” with some minor faults, and among them, that of a title savouring of affectation, is one of the most original and beautiful works of fiction of which American literature can boast. It is the only professed novel in which real religion, at least as understood by evangelical Christians, is exhibited with truth. We know not how it could be possible for any one to read the story of “Little Ellen Montgomery” (which ought to have been the title of the book), without being made both wiser and better by the perusal; and we have yet to hear of the first person, young or old, that has commenced the story without finishing it. No living writer has such power to open the fountains of tears, or to warm the heart with thoughts and instances of goodness.

The author’s descriptions and narrations have the particularity and the life-like verisimilitude of De Foe, while her delineations of character are so minutely individual as to make one believe them taken from real life.