February 15 - Cut and Paste

Story topics

On February 15, 1898, Paul Laurence Dunbar in Washington, D. C., wrote two letters to his fiancée Alice Ruth Moore in Brooklyn, asking her to help him prepare his first volume of short stories for publication.

Dearest, won't you do me a favor -- look up the Sunday Journal containing my story "How Mandy's Pickaninny Played Cupid."  Please do it right away.  Cut it out, cut off the title and write "Jimsella" for a title, paste it on sheets of paper and mail it to Dodd & Mead.  Please dear, it means very much to me.  The story was published about four Sundays ago.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, February 15, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

The story Paul mentioned had appeared in a newspaper under one title, but Paul planned to use a different title in the book to be published by Dodd, Mead & Co.  Later that day, Paul asked another favor of Alice regarding his collection of stories.

I can only scribble you a hasty line as I am going out to lunch and want to catch the noon mail.  Kemble is really to illustrate my book -- to make the drawings.  I enclose the names of the stories and want you to try and choose a name for the book.  Let me hear from you at once.  Don't forget about the Journal story.

Names of the Stories

The Ordeal at Mt. Hope
The Trial Sermons on Bull Skin
Anner Lizer's Stumblin' Block
A Family Feud
At Shaft 11
Nelse Hatten's Vengeance
The Colonel's Awakening
Aunt Mandy's Investment
The Intervention of Peter
Mt. Pisgah's Christmas Possum
The Deliberation of Mr. Dunken

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, February 15, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Edward W. Kemble was a political cartoonist who had illustrated the original edition of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus stories.  The next day, Alice replied to Paul's letters and suggested a title for his book.

Looked over the files of the Journal and found that "Jimsella" was in Jan. 9.  Could not get one there so ordered it.  Will send it to Dodd & Mead at once.  I still think "The Ordeal at Mt. Hope and Other Stories" a good title, don't you?

Alice Ruth Moore to Paul Laurence Dunbar, February 16, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Despite Alice's suggestion, the book was published as Folks from Dixie in the summer of 1898.  Paul's stories and Kemble's illustrations were praised by critics, and the original drawings became keepsakes in the Dunbar home.

A really enjoyable book, full of pathos and humor, is "Folks from Dixie," by Paul Laurence Dunbar.  It contains twelve short stories of negro life, remarkable in their clever characterization, and written in an easy, fluent, yet graceful style, notwithstanding the abundance of dialect, which, however, is as easy to read as plain English.  Quite a special attraction of no mean quality is added to it by those uniquely characteristic and clever illustrations by E. W. Kemble.

"Book Reviews," by Edward Ackermann.  Book Notes (New York, New York).  June 1898.  Page 35.

The Dunbar home is in Le Droit Park.  It is a pretty and attractive home, tasteful and homelike.  The author's study is a pleasant room on the second floor.  One side of the study has its walls entirely covered with a large bookcase, which contains among its volumes the various editions of Mr. Dunbar's works and numerous presentation volumes from his brother craftsmen.  On the opposite wall and above the mantel are portraits of friends, authors, and the originals of Kemble's illustrations for "Folks from Dixie."

"Orpheus of His Race."  The Washington Post (Washington, D. C.).  January 29, 1899.