Mary Noailles Murfree Criticism - Essay

New York Times Book Review (review date 29 July 1899)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Miss Murfree's New Book.” New York Times Book Review (29 July 1899): 499.

[In the following review of Murfree's The Bushwhackers, and Other Stories, the critic says that a less-known author might not have been able to publish such ordinary stories.]


Charles Egbert Craddock is the pen name of a lady who writes many interesting stories, and it is only fair to say that most of them are more interesting than those which go to make up the present volume. Nevertheless these are a fairly good lot, as the auctioneers would put it. The title of the volume [The Bushwhackers, and Other Stories] is taken from a story in which it must be said that the “Bushwhackers” do not play a very conspicuous part. Perhaps the author has been going to the theatre and has learned that the name of a play is not always indissolubly associated with the subject matter. This acceptance of a side issue as a suggestion for a title is, however, more frequently met with in the profession which always has the billboard in mind than in that which has only the newspaper advertisement to consider.

“The Bushwhackers” is a dialect story. The author having made a reputation as a writer of tales of the Tennessee mountains, must perforce remain forever among those who say “we-uns” and “you-uns.” The hero of this little tale talks in a manner which will delight all those who find no comfort in plain English. He would probably prove to be a highly uninteresting youth in real life, but in this tale he is a character study, and therefore he is to be accepted as something out of the ordinary. He is full...

(The entire section is 705 words.)

Richard Cary (essay date 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cary, Richard. “Mystique of the Mountains.” In Mary N. Murfree, pp. 45-78. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967.

[In the following essay, Cary examines Murfree's mountain fiction in detail.]

The first story to be printed under the name of Charles Egbert Craddock, “The Dancin' Party at Harrison's Cove,” was originally intended as the opening chapter of a novel that Miss Murfree and her sister had planned to write. After the customary family reading, it was decided that this segment had a unity of its own and should be sent to the Atlantic Monthly as it stood. Howells published the story in May, 1878, and in the next six years Miss Murfree sold seven...

(The entire section is 14202 words.)

Harry R. Warfel (essay date fall 1970)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Warfel, Harry R. “Local Color and Literary Artistry in Mary Noailles Murfree's In the Tennessee Mountains.Southern Literary Journal 3 (fall 1970): 154-63.

[In the following essay, Warfel says that Murfree is less a typical local color writer than a skillful manipulator of literary materials in the romantic mode.]

It is good to have a new reprinting of In the Tennessee Mountains, originally published in 1884. Not only do the eight stories demonstrate the geographical and human substance of local-color fiction, which Professor Nathalia Wright analyzes in detail in her Introduction, but they also make clear the fact that Mary Noailles Murfree...

(The entire section is 3144 words.)

Dennis Loyd (essay date 1970)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Loyd, Dennis. “Tennessee's Mystery Woman Novelist.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 29 (1970): 272-77.

[In the following essay, Loyd briefly describes Murfree's life and works, urging Tennesseans to rediscover her.]

Tennessee's list of literary personalities is a long one, but no name on that list has created quite the stir as that of Mary Noailles Murfree. Miss Murfree, or “Miss Mary” as she was known in her native Murfreesboro, was characterized by her quiet, graceful manners, her love of music, and her witty conversation. But none of her townspeople knew that she was also a writer.

The mystery arose when Miss Murfree submitted a...

(The entire section is 2379 words.)

Doris Lanier (essay date 1972)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Lanier, Doris. “Mary Noailles Murfree: An Interview.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 31 (1972): 276-78.

[In the following essay, Lanier presents an edited version of an 1885 newspaper interview with Murfree.]

While working on her novel The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains,1 Mary Noailles Murfree spent about two months at Montvale Springs, a mountain resort in Blount County, in East Tennessee, studying the mountaineers of the surrounding area.2 On November 15, 1885, an article appeared in a Macon, Georgia, newspaper, which concerned an interview with Joseph A. Farrell,3 who spent three weeks at Montvale while Miss...

(The entire section is 1085 words.)

Allison Ensor (essay date 1978)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ensor, Allison. “The Geography of Mary Noailles Murfree's In the Tennessee Mountains.Mississippi Quarterly 31 (1978): 191-99.

[In the following essay, Ensor offers a detailed analysis of the actual geographical areas portrayed in Murfree's book of short stories, concluding that Murfree's descriptions were often vague and general because she had not really travelled much in Tennessee.]

Mary Noailles Murfree, who won such fame in the 1880's with her Tennessee mountain stories written under the name Charles Egbert Craddock, was hesitant about using actual place names in her fiction. In 1881 she wrote Thomas Bailey Aldrich, editor of the Atlantic...

(The entire section is 3417 words.)

Durwood Dunn (essay date 1979)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dunn, Durwood. “Mary Noailles Murfree: A Reappraisal.” Appalachian Journal 6 (1979): 197-205.

[In the following essay, Dunn reevaluates Murfree in light of previous criticism and concludes that Murfree's stereotypical portrayals of Tennessee life obscured a true understanding of the mountain people.]

Even at the height of her brief popularity in the 1880's, Mary Noailles Murfree's literary reputation rested largely on the momentary uniqueness or novelty of her materials—the mountains and mountaineers of the Cumberland Mountains in middle Tennessee and their counterparts in the more rugged Great Smoky Mountains in east Tennessee. Murfree herself realized...

(The entire section is 3844 words.)

Thomas Daniel Young (essay date 1981)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Young, Thomas Daniel. “The South: Old and New.” In Tennessee Writers, pp. 11-16. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981.

[In the following essay, Young places Murfree in the literary context of her times.]

At the end of the Civil War there was intense concern for and interest in things southern. In 1873, Edward King, on assignment for Scribner's Monthly, toured the South with a photographer and gathered material for a series of articles and sketches published serially in Scribner's as The Great South. In New Orleans, King became acquainted with the work of George Washington Cable and sent two of his stories back to New York; one...

(The entire section is 1713 words.)

Ian Marshall (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Marshall, Ian. “Mary Noailles Murfree: Ecofeminist of the Great Smoky Mountains.” In Story Line: Exploring the Literature of the Appalachian Trail, pp. 51-69. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.

[In the following essay, Marshall posits the theory that Murfree was an “ecofeminist”—a writer whose women characters had a special relationship with nature and whose male characters were often anti-nature.]

At Mollies Ridge Shelter just a few miles into the Great Smoky Mountains. I'm talking with a young man recently graduated from the University of North Carolina, who's hiking with his father. They've been out for about three weeks, heading...

(The entire section is 8842 words.)