Friday, April 6, 2012

After the Winter

Kate Chopin (1850–1904)
From Kate Chopin: Complete Novels & Stories

During a few weeks at the end of 1891, still early in her brief career as a published author, Kate Chopin wrote nine stories in quick succession and sold every one of them. The last of the bunch, “After the Winter,” a tale written expressly for Easter, was bought by Youth’s Companion—but it never appeared there.

Chopin’s story includes a mention on the very first page to the calamity that had turned the main character into a misanthrope; while he was away fighting in the Civil War, his wife had grown “wanton with roaming” and had left him. It was Chopin’s first reference in her fiction to an unfaithful spouse, and it’s possible, one biographer* suggests, that youth in the 1890s needed to be protected from even a passing reference to adultery—especially one that describes “women whose pulses are stirred by strange voices and eyes that woo.”

According to her accounts book, the magazine paid her $50 in January 1892—the second highest sum she would receive for a piece of writing during the early 1890s. But the editors never printed it, so Chopin turned around and sold it four years later for another $5 to the New Orleans Times-Democrat, one of the local newspapers, which published it as a story for Easter.

* The publication history of “After the Winter,” is described in Emily Toth’s Unveiling Kate Chopin (1999).

Notes: The reference on the first page to the Louisiana Tigers is to a brigade in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The brigade distinguished itself during the 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign and fought until end of the war. The French phrase en bon ami (p. 893) means “as a good friend.”

Trézinie, the blacksmith’s daughter, stepped out upon the gallery just as M’sieur Michel passed by. He did not notice the girl but walked straight on down the village street. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

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