The Nation (review date 1892)
“‘Silhouettes of American Life’ by Rebecca Harding Davis,” in The Nation, Vol. 55, No. 1423, Oct. 6, 1892, p. 262.
[In the following review of Silhouettes of American Life, the human aspect of Davis's stories is noted and warmly received.]
Mrs. Davis has gathered, under the suggestive title, Silhouettes of American Life, a baker's dozen of short stories—sketches rather—which, in spite of their lightness, their briefness both of matter and interest, are worth the reading. The great poets, as Lowell says, have found man more interesting than nature; have considered nature as no more than the necessary scenery, artistically harmful if too pompous or obtrusive, before which man acts his tragi-comedy of life. And so, as extremes meet, the average reader usually finds his liking following in similar lines. Long and labored descriptions bore him, or, more often, merely serve as an opportunity for indulging in the art of skipping. Mrs. Davis is always ready to place her mountains and her woods in due prominence, and is evidently a lover of the out-door world; but it is the human interest; after all, which is first with her and which gives the best value to her work. It helps to make the tales natural as well; for in a short story which has a genuine bit of human interest to start with, there is no need for striving after effects, either scenic or dramatic. “A Wayside Episode” is perhaps the poorest, because the most artificial, of the collection. The situation seems impossible, and that is enough to spoil it, even had the incidents actually happened. Amoug the rest, where there is such an even range of excellence, it would be hard to pick.