“The descriptions of battle scenes in the war and the lurid picture of the draft riots in New York are worth reading. Nothing that Mr. Roe has ever written is so vivid and dramatic as his sketch of the three terrible days in New York when the mob ruled the city, sacked the colored orphan asylum, and spread dismay in a thousand homes. It has the quality of history also, as the author has made careful research and employs no incidents which did not really occur.
“The following story has been taking form in my mind for several years, and at last I have been able to write it out… At this distance from the late Civil War, it is time that passion and prejudice sank below the horizon.
“The title of the story will naturally lead the reader to expect that deep shadows rest upon many of its pages. I know it is scarcely the fashion of the present time to portray men and women who feel very deeply about anything, but there certainly was deep feeling at the time of which I write, as, in truth, there is today.
“That man is an opium-eater,” he said in a low tone, and his explanation of the effects of the drug was a diagnosis of Mr. Jocelyn’s symptoms and appearance. The firm’s sympathy for a man seemingly in poor health was transformed into disgust and antipathy, since there is less popular toleration of this weakness than of drinking habits. The very obscurity in which the vice is involved makes it seem all the more unnatural and repulsive, and it must be admitted that the fullest knowledge tends only to increase this horror and repugnance, even though pity is awakened for the wretched victim.
The Charleston Earthquake of August 31, 1886 (8.6 on the Richter scale) was strong enough to be felt in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans and Milwaukee. It caused speculation that Florida had broken off the continent. [Wikipedia: 1886 Charleston earthquake] Roe’s novel explores its effects in the context of the relations between North and South after the American Civil War.
Edward Payson Roe (1838-1888) was educated at Williams College and Auburn Theological Seminary.
“Barriers Burned Away, a story of the Great Chicago Fire, was first published serially in a magazine, the New York Evangelist. In 1872, when it came out in book form, it shortly became the most popular book of the year. When his next two novels achieved similar success, Roe decided to leave the ministry and give full time to writing. He believed he could reach more people with the message of Christianity through his writing than through preaching.
This book was inspired by a newspaper account telling of a widowed farmer who visited the county poor house, looking for a good housekeeper. He is supposed to have said, “If there is a worthy woman here, I will marry her.”
From the dust jacket:
“A simple, strong story of American life.
“The stern, silent hero is a farmer, a man with honest, sincere views of life, and of sufficient education to make him an alien among the other farmers.