The Literary World,
December 28, 1850

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The Wide, Wide World. By Emily [sic] Wetherell. Putnam.

THIS is a very excellent example of the now common class of religious novels. The heroine is a little girl, whose mother is forced to leave, for the healing influences of a foreign clime, her native land, while her child is placed by her father in the care of Miss Fortune, a New England spinster of most vinegar composition. There is no let up to her severity. She is, however, sketched with considerable humor, and several scenes of rude country life are presented in a very agreeable style. This discussion of the pros and cons touching a contemplated “Bee,” would not do discredit to the pages of Mary Clavers.

“As a general thing the meals at Miss Fortune’s were silent solemnities; an occasional consultation, or a few questions and remarks about farm affairs, being all that ever passed. The breakfast this morning was a singular exception to the common rule.

“‘I am in a regular quandary,’ said the mistress of the house when the meal was about half over.

“Mr. Van Brunt looked up for an instant, and asked ‘what about?’

“‘Why how I am ever going to do to get those apples and sausage-meat done. If I go to doing ’em myself I shall about get through by spring.’

“‘Why don’t you make a bee?’ said Mr. Van Brunt.

“‘Aint enough of either on ’em to make it worth while. I aint a going to have all the bother of a bee without something to show for’t.’

“‘Turn ’em both into one,’ suggested her counsellor, going on with his breakfast.


“‘Yes--let ’em pare apples in one room and cut pork in t’other.’

“‘But I wonder who ever heard of such a thing before,’ said Miss Fortune, pausing with her cup of coffee half way to her lips. Presently, however, it was carried to her mouth, drunk off, and set down with an air of determination.

“‘I don’t care,’ said she, ‘if it never was heard of. I’ll do it for once anyhow. I’m not one of them to care what folks say. I’ll have it so! But I won’t have ’em to tea, mind you; I’d rather throw apples and all into the fire at once. I’ll have but one plague of setting tables, and that. I won’t have ’em to tea. I’ll make it up to ’em in the supper though.’

“‘I’ll take care to publish that,’ said Mr. Van Brunt.

“‘Don’t you go and do such a thing,’ said Miss Fortune, earnestly. ‘I shall have the whole country on my hands. I won’t have but just as many on ’em as ’ll do what I want done; that’ll be as much as I can stand under. Don’t you whisper a word of it to a living creature. I’ll go round and ask ’em myself to come Monday evening.’

“‘Monday Evening--then I suppose you’d like to have up the sleigh this afternoon. Who’s a-coming?’

“‘I don’t know; I ha’n’t asked ’em yet.’

“‘They’ll every soul come that’s asked, that you may depend; there aint one on ’em that would miss of it for a dollar.’

“Miss Fortune bridled a little at the implied tribute to her housekeeping.’ [sic]

“‘If I was some folks I wouldn’t let people know I was in such a mighty hurry to get a good supper,’ she observed rather scornfully.

“‘Umph!’ said Mr. Van Brunt; ‘I think a good supper aint a bad thing; and I’ve no objection to folks knowing it.’

“‘Pshaw! I didn’t mean you,’ said Miss Fortune; ‘I was thinking of those Lawsons, and other folks.’

“‘If you’re agoing to ask them to your bee you aint of my mind.’

“‘Well I am though,’ replied Miss Fortune; ‘there’s a good many hands of ’em; they can turn off a good lot of work in an evening; and they always take care to get me to their bees. I may as well get something out of them in return if I can.’

“‘They’ll reckon on getting as much as they can out o’ you, if they come, there’s no sort of doubt in my mind. It’s my belief Mimy Lawson will kill herself some of these days upon green corn. She was at home to tea one day last summer, and I declare I thought—’

“What Mr. Van Brunt thought he left his hearers to guess.”

Without laying claims to an elaborately planned plot, the story is not devoid of interest, and its religious teachings are worthy of all praise for their gentleness and earnestness, and the happy manner in which they are introduced. The author’s chief fault is diffuseness. She tells a story or describes a scene with a woman’s indiscriminate minuteness. The consequence is, that the reviewer, hardened to novel reading, gets over her two sizeable volumes at a rate which she would hardly think complimentary. The book would stand a great deal of compression--a fact the author would do well to bear in mind, if disposed for another experiment on the public. But this is a common and characteristic trait of the novel literature of the day, particularly of English literature; and, we may add, of this especial class of religious fictions. So that the Wide, Wide World, in taking a canvas proportional to the text, is by no means unique.


“The Literary World, December 28, 1850,” Wide, Wide World Digital Edition, accessed March 2, 2021,


Reviewer compliments The Wide, Wide World for standing out among the "now common class of religious novels"; offers an excerpt illustrating the novel's "agreeable style"; concludes with a complaint about the author's "diffuseness" (novel mistakenly attributed to "Emily" Wetherell)


Dedicated Review
Mixed Stance




Literary World. Unsigned review of The Wide, Wide World, by Emily [sic] Wetherell [Susan Warner]. 7, no. 204 (December 28, 1850): 524-525. Proquest American Periodicals (90104263).


IRIS Center
Reviews Archive: Jill Kirsten Anderson
Transcriptions: Jill Kirsten Anderson, Gabrielle Borders, and Elizabeth Korinke




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