Mary P. Wells Smith, Now 87 Sees First Book Republished
Distinguished Greenfield Woman Receives Literary Honor for Volume Printed 52 Years Ago--To Be Honored by Hampden County Women's Club.
To Mary P. Wells Smith of Greenfield, who has now attained the gracious age of 87 years, has come the unique distinction of seeing again in print the book with which she embarked upon her literary career a half century past. Fifty years ago, boys and girls first became acquainted with the delightful stories of farm life which she tells in a little volume of juvenile tales entitled "Jolly Good Times." The book, enlivened with bright blue covers, was put out for the pleasure of the little folks in 1875, if one cares to 'be exact as to date, and well-thumbed copies of it, to this day, persist in children's departments at city libraries and among the books which mother and dad have handed down to the youngsters of the present generation.
So popular were these stories and so wholesome that no less a person than Miss Clara W. Hunt. superintendent of the children's department of the Brooklyn Public library and recognized critic of juvenile literature, made the request to Mrs. Smith's publishers that "Jolly Good Times" be put in modern dress and offered anew to the boys and girls. So in the front ranks of the child books of the fall is 'to be found this volume, illustrated in color and in black and white sketches with some clever historical drawings of Old Deerfield facing the inside of the covers, all in all a much more charming volume than it was 50 years ago in its original dress.
Old Colonial Home
Mrs. Smith, who could not possibly have been more charming back in those early days when she first attempted a literary career than she is today, with her white hair. her air of gracious living and her quiet hospitality, is enthusiastic in her delight over this honor which has come so late in her life. In an interview granted yesterday in her lovely old. colonial home in High Street, in Greenfield, she admitted that her new distinction was affording her boundless satisfaction and that she found as much delight in looking over the new volume as though it were the first instead of the last of over 20 successful books which have marked her literary endeavors of the past half century.
Mary P. Wells Smith, whom the Hampden County Women's Club pro poses to honor at the opening meeting of the season in Holyoke in mid- October as one of the women of whom Western Massachusetts may well be proud, is a gentlewoman of the old school. Her home has been in possession of her family for a great many years and she herself has lived in it since 1897. It is an old-fashioned house, set well back from the street surmounting a rather steep terrace and from its broad porch, the guest is ushered into such a living room as must have marked many a prosperous American household a generation ago. Rare pieces of antique furniture, walls hung with family portraits, copies of religious paintings by the great masters, a sampler which some great-grandmother of the house stitched with patient fingers a hundred years ago, low arm chairs and a dignified old fireplace, all mark a room of great appeal. It is a suitable setting for the distinguished woman who is its mistress.
Writes Own Experiences
Her book, she says, was based upon her own childhood adventures at what is known as the Jesse Nimms farm in the Greenfield Meadows where she lived for a time with her family, and she herself is the Millie of the stories. She is the daughter of the late Dr. Noah S. Wells of Shelburne Falls, though her mother was Greenfield born. Her parents moved to Attica, N. Y., where she was born and lived until she was nine years old. It was then that the family moved back to Greenfield and lived for a time on the farm in the meadows. She was married young to Judge Fayette Smith of Cincinnati, a lawyer who rose to considerable fame in legal circles of the Ohio City, and they lived in the Middle West for 32 years. When time came for Judge Smith to retire, they returned to New England and settled for the rest of their lives in the old home on High Street in Greenfield which had been the property of Dr. John F. Moore, former Unitarian. minister in the town and a relative of the judge.
Aside from the 20 juvenile books which she has written, Mrs. Smith is also the author of a volume prepared by her for the American Unitarian association and concerning the post-office mission founded by Miss Ellis in Cincinnati during the years when that city was the home of Judge and Mrs. Smith.
She is writing no new books these days for her one infirmity which age has brought, her is the lessening of her eyesight. She says that during the war, she overtaxed her sight, caring for her home in the morning, knitting for the soldiers or doing other Red Cross work In the afternoon and reading the newspapers and writing at night. Now whatever writing she attempts, is done with the aid of a secretary and someone else must read to her. She still sees well enough, so that no one to whom she does not confide her difficulty is likely to suspect it. She goes to church each Sunday at the Unitarian Church with which she became affiliated when she was 20 years old. Often she walks the distance which one might think rather formidable to a woman of her years. and in her family pew lends a note of old time dignity to the congregation, with her rustling silk gown relieved at wrist and throat by a soft frill of white lace.
Commenting on the youthfulness which she still maintains at 87 years, she gave expression to her creed of living "To use one's powers and so to hold them. keeps one young." she said. At the meeting of the Hampden Women's Club next week, she will speak a few words of her literary experiences.
--unidentified newspaper clipping ca1927 (found pasted in a copy of Jolly Good Times)
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