Literature and Life (Complete)

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Author: William Dean Howells

I.

One says of every summer, when it is drawing near its end, "There never was such a summer"; but if the summer is one of those which slip from the feeble hold of elderly hands, when the days of the years may be reckoned with the scientific logic of the insurance tables and the sad conviction of the psalmist, one sees it go with a passionate prescience of never seeing its like again such as the younger witness cannot know. Each new summer of the few left must be shorter and swifter than the last: its Junes will be thirty days long, and its Julys and Augusts thirty-one, in compliance with the almanac; but the days will be of so small a compass that fourteen of them will rattle round in a week of the old size like shrivelled peas in a pod.

To be sure they swell somewhat in the retrospect, like the same peas put to soak; and I am aware now of some June days of those which we first spent at Kittery Point this year, which were nearly twenty-four hours long. Even the days of declining years linger a little here, where there is nothing to hurry them, and where it is pleasant to loiter, and muse beside the sea and shore, which are so netted together at Kittery Point that they hardly know themselves apart. The days, whatever their length, are divided, not into hours, but into mails. They begin, without regard to the sun, at eight o’clock, when the first mail comes with a few letters and papers which had forgotten themselves the night before. At half-past eleven the great mid-day mail arrives; at four o’clock there is another indifferent and scattering post, much like that at eight in the morning; and at seven the last mail arrives with the Boston evening papers and the New York morning papers, to make you forget any letters you were looking for. The opening of the mid-day mail is that which most throngs with summer folks the little postoffice under the elms, opposite the weather-beaten mansion of Sir William Pepperrell; but the evening mail attracts a large and mainly disinterested circle of natives. The day’s work on land and sea is then over, and the village leisure, perched upon fences and stayed against house walls, is of a picturesqueness which we should prize if we saw it abroad, and which I am not willing to slight on our own ground.

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Chicago: William Dean Howells, "1," Literature and Life (Complete), ed. Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926 in Literature and Life (Complete) (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1909), Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8PD4KMVYQ3SJJVL.

MLA: Howells, William Dean. "1." Literature and Life (Complete), edited by Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926, in Literature and Life (Complete), Vol. 22, New York, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1909, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8PD4KMVYQ3SJJVL.

Harvard: Howells, WD, '1' in Literature and Life (Complete), ed. . cited in 1909, Literature and Life (Complete), Doubleday, Page & Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 April 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8PD4KMVYQ3SJJVL.