Esther Forbes Edward Weeks - Essay

Edward Weeks

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

To her books Miss Forbes brings a deep and delving delight in the past, a feeling for the New England character by turns shrewd and romantic, and the pepper and salt of everyday living which she translates so accurately into another century.

The Running of the Tide is the story of Salem in the early 1800's when the ships bound out of the skimpy, silted harbor (no vessel larger than four hundred tons could get into it), in their trade with Russia, the West Indies, China, and India, were making it the wealthiest port in the world. (p. 98)

The Salem which Miss Forbes has painted for us is the Salem ashore, not afloat…. The feminine, the distaff side of the town is revealed in a hundred deft touches, and when the ships return and the men walk in we see them high-lighted as it were against the emotion of homecoming or the passionate omen of departure. The color and essential masculinity of the town when the fleet is making ready have the touch of authenticity, but the chapters at sea and the snatches of seafaring talk as they come back to us from the parlors do not carry an equal force…. It is of men ashore and of women who wait that Miss Forbes writes—and that, after all, was essentially the Salem which was at last left high and dry. (p. 100)

Edward Weeks, "Salem and Her Ships," in The Atlantic Monthly (copyright © 1948 by The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston, Mass.; reprinted with permission), October, 1948, pp. 98, 100.