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.