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Sarah Orne Jewett of Maine

Sarah Orne Jewett /


She is quite possibly the finest writer the Piscataqua region has produced. Thousands of readers are discovering the life and work of Sarah Orne Jewett today and her home in South Berwick, Maine has been preserved just as it was when she lived there.




Sarah Orne Jewett
(1849- 1909)
Poet, short story writer and novelist

READ: All of Jewett's writing online 

Even as a child, Sarah Orne Jewett felt a link to the past. Her paternal ancestors had helped found Rowley, Massachusetts. She could trace her lineage on her mother’s side of the family to early colonial times in Exeter, New Hampshire. Sarah’s grandfather, a wealthy merchant and sea captain, had connections to Portsmouth. She was born in South Berwick, Maine the second of three daughters of Dr. Theodore H. Jewett and Caroline Perry Jewett. At the time the family lived in her grandfather’s fine Georgian mansion, that still overlooks the crossing of the village’s two main streets.

Her education at the Berwick Academy nearby was intermittent because Sarah was often sickly. While excused from school she often accompanied her father, the prominent country doctor, on his daily rounds in his carriage. They had a close relationship. Under his guidance she learned to observe nature and the people they visited, and for whom she developed great empathy. Her book A Country Doctor is based on the life of Theodore Jewett.

While still quite young Sarah traveled with family and friends to New York and Philadelphia – indeed as far as Wisconsin one summer. So, from an early age, Sarah’s outlook was focused not only on South Berwick and its lovely rural surroundings, but also far beyond. These experiences of nature, local people and distant travel made a deep impression on her and would later resonate in her writing.

Sarah began writing as a young girl, first in her diary and by composing juvenile verses. At nineteen she published The Shipwrecked Buttons under the pseudonym of Alice C. Eliot. A month later, in December 1869, her story Mr. Bruce appeared in the prestigious Atlantic Monthly. The magazine’s editor William Dean Howells encouraged her to publish more short stories. They appeared as a collection under the title Deephaven in 1877. So, at age 28 Sarah Orne Jewett became known as one of New England’s leading writers and as such, joined the members of Boston’s literary elite.

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