"A certain something": Reclaiming Grace Sartwell Mason

Diane Wellins Moul, University of Rhode Island


Grace Sartwell Mason (1877–?), author of more than eighty short stories and at least eight novels and story collections, should be among American writers still studied and written about. The astonishing originality and thematic range of her work, and its grounding in the events and observations of her instructive and passionate life are indicative of the impoverishment that occurs when good writers are allowed to become unknown and unavailable to readers. She lived and worked during the creative renaissance leading up to and following World War I. Between 1906 and 1949, her stories appeared in all of the most widely-read magazines. Yet today, her stories survive only in the decaying periodical archives of a few large-city public libraries. This dissertation re-introduces both the woman and the writer, and issues a call for ongoing analysis of her work and continuing research into the life of one of the twentieth century's vital but forgotten authors. Chapter One provides the historical backdrop against which she worked, while Chapters Two and Three detail what is known of her early and later life. Chapter Four introduces her fiction and provides a summary of available contemporary critical responses to her work, most of which were positive. Chapters Five through Seven examine her love and marriage stories, which have a strong grounding in Victorian literary traditions, but with a distinctly modern essence that still resonates. Chapter Eight examines why it is important that her work be re-established within current literary canons, and outlines some of what remains to be done to help bring this author once more into the light. Two appendices provide detailed chronological listings of her works by genre and by publisher. Viewed from the distance of more than half a century, it becomes dear that her work must be retrieved—her stories are passionate, deeply human, evocative of time and place, and eminently readable. That they represented “popular” literature in their day in no way diminishes their value, and their reinstatement into current canons would enrich our literary heritage and deepen our understanding of our social and cultural history.

Subject Area

American literature|American history|American studies|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Diane Wellins Moul, ""A certain something": Reclaiming Grace Sartwell Mason" (1998). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9920544.