On July 28, 1901, a newspaper announced the publication of a new short story by Paul Laurence Dunbar in Lippincott's magazine.
The August "New" Lippincott is entirely given up to idle day fiction which does not tax the brain, but diverts and stimulates the mind, causes many a laugh and leaves an impression of time well spent in the society of Owen Wister, Cyrus Townsend Brady, Paul Laurence Dunbar and others not yet so well known, but whose work is distinctly original and full of promise.
The Denver Times (Denver, Colorado). July 28, 1901.
Paul's story in Lippincott's that month was called "The Mortification of the Flesh," and it was the first in a series of five short pieces known collectively as Ohio Pastorals. The stories take place around Dayton where Paul spent his youth, and the characters speak in Midwestern dialect. This excerpt is part of a conversation between two farmers.
"'Pears to me like I've had oncommon good luck this year."
"Well, you have had good luck, there ain't no denyin' that. It 'pears as though you've been ee-specially blest."
"Now look, my pertater vines was like little trees, an' nary a bug on 'em."
"An' you had as good a crop o' corn as I've ever seen raised in this part o' Montgomery County."
Excerpt from "The Mortification of the Flesh," by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). August 1901. Page 250.
Plots in the Ohio Pastorals deal with themes like marriage, children, and religious faith, but not race relations. These sweet and gentle stories were a great change from Paul's tragic novel The Sport of the Gods that had been published in Lippincott's a few months earlier.
Paul Laurence Dunbar has two veins in story-telling. The one deals with the Negro, and is mostly pathetic or tragic. The other depicts humorously the Ohio farmer and his domestic belongings. This is the vein of the Ohio Pastorals, now appearing in Lippincott's, and his present "Mortification of the Flesh" is a specimen of good-humored characterization.
The Chicago Post (Chicago, Illinois). July 23, 1901.
Readers will welcome the first in a series of Ohio Pastorals by Paul Laurence Dunbar. "The Mortification of the Flesh" is about two Ohio farmers and a widow. It is in Mr. Dunbar's best humorous style.
The Buffalo Commercial (Buffalo, New York). July 27, 1901.
Paul Laurence Dunbar's series of Ohio Pastorals in Lippincott's Magazine of the last three months have been a surprise to those who associate him exclusively with his own race. His knowledge of the characteristics and motives of the white country folk of Ohio is astonishing and delightful.
The News-Herald (Hillsboro, Ohio). October 31, 1901. Page 4.
Paul told his agent that the Ohio Pastorals had been in development for years. His letter referred to Harrison Morris, an editor at Lippincott's.
I have your letter of the 24th and in answer would say that you are wrong in thinking that I send my best work elsewhere and the second best to you. This is not true. The agreements with both Mr. Morris of Lippincott's and Mr. Lorimer of the Saturday Evening Post were made as far back as 1898; both are my personal friends. To Mr. Morris, I have been sending but one line of work lately, these are the things in the serial of Ohio stories which was begun three years ago, and when I shall have finished the novellette which is to make the book he wants of these stories, I shall be free, unless I do the serial of African stories which was planned with him even before the Ohio stories. Now, do you see my position with him?
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Paul R. Reynolds, October 25, 1901. Paul Laurence Dunbar collection, New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (Microfilm edition, Roll 3).