Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton

Mary Hamilton, Author, Helen Dick Davis, Editor, Ellen Douglas, Foreword by University Press of Mississippi $25 (259p) ISBN 978-0-87805-579-1
This remarkable memoir owes its existence to the indefatigable Davis ( Shim ), who met the elderly Mary Hamilton in 1931 and encouraged her to set down her recollections of life in the Mississippi Delta backwoods during the latter part of the 19th century. Rejected by Little, Brown in 1933, the manuscript, edited by Davis from Hamilton's handwritten original, resurfaced in 1991; Davis copy-edited it and approved its publication before her recent death. The unlettered yet vividly expressive Hamilton writes graphically of her arduous work, deep sorrows and exalting joys. She begins her account in Arkansas in the early 1880s, when the teenage Mary met and married Frank Hamilton, an Englishman who was manager of a lumber camp charged with clearing the forests of the Delta. Her straightforward narrative details cooking for large groups of lumberjacks, childrens' births and deaths, impermanent homes in camps and farms, loneliness, natural disasters and her husband's death in 1914. The book includes holograph pages from the original manuscript and a preface by Davis. A unique autobiography of a Southern pioneer woman. ( Oct. )
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
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