Simpkinsville and Vicinity


Arkansas Stories of Ruth McEnery Stuart
Edited with an Introduction by Ethel C. Simpson
978-1-55728-575-1 (paper)
July 1999


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For nearly thirty years, from the first story by Ruth McEnery Stuart published in the New Princeton Magazine in 1888 until her death in 1917, readers throughout the United States knew her stories of life in Simpkinsville, an imaginary village in southwest Arkansas. Besides their importance in the history of local-color fiction, Stuart’s stories of Simpkinsville evoke that connection between past and present that many Americans are continually seeking. They assert the values of rural family life and closeness to the land.

Stuart portrays characters and incidents with delicious humor that overrides the sentimental tone dominant in most local-color writing. Her stories and sketches celebrate the minor triumphs, joys, and tragedies of country and small town life with the same intimacy and charm she displayed on lecture platforms throughout the country.

The ten stories collected here are chosen from the best of Stuart’s work and prefaced by Ethel C. Simpson in a wise and revealing introduction that is at the same time a scholarly discussion and an amiable welcome to Simpkinsville. This reissue of a classic in Arkansas storytelling will be met with enthusiasm by historians, folklorists, and general readers alike. In Stuart’s depiction of the plain folk of Arkansas, she both entertains and instructs as she gently mocks the foibles of human nature and the attitudes and tastes of the rural South in the Gilded Age.

Ethel C. Simpson is the Arkansas Studies Bibliographer and head of the archives and manuscripts department of the University of Arkansas Libraries. She has also published Image and Reflection: A Pictorial History of the University of Arkansas and coedited the Selected Letters of John Gould Fletcher, both for the University of Arkansas Press.

With the publication of A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory during the Year 1819 by Thomas Nuttall, edited by Savoie Lottinville, the University of Arkansas Press inaugurated its new paperback reprint series, Arkansas Classics. This hallmark series will bring back into print, and keep in print, important works about Arkansas and by Arkansans. These books are essential reading for scholars and for general readers who wish to know more about the state’s history and literature, its people, and its cultural heritage. Titles will come from all eras of Arkansas’s past and will include fiction and nonfiction, personal accounts and scholarly studies, many with new introductions and annotations. This list as it develops will reflect the diversity of voices and experiences that is Arkansas.

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