Campbell, Jane C.
CAMPBELL, Jane C.
Born circa 1820s; died date unknown
Jane C. Campbell published two collections of short tales, the first initially under the title The Money-Maker, and Other Tales (1845), then in 1856 as American Evening Entertainment; or, Tales of City and Country Life. The second, Evenings at Home; or, Tales for the Fireside, was published in 1859. The first volume presents a series of didactic tales aimed mainly at a young female audience. It includes the story of two brothers who both experience serious financial setbacks. The first loses his fortune because he is married to a woman who ruins his thriving business by her insistence on wearing the most expensive foreign fashions. The second brother can reestablish his fortune because he has a loving, loyal wife and daughter, both with simple tastes. They work for him until his business is lucrative once again.
The heart of the collection of tales is "Catherine Clayton." In this short story, the father dies leaving his wife, their daughter Catherine, and several younger children with only a small inheritance. Catherine learns to develop the skills that enable her to be a good governess. The story recounts her humiliations, defeats, and her growing self-respect as she finally learns to support her family. Campbell contrasts Catherine's efforts with the frivolous lives of other teenage girls who waste rather than earn money.
Campbell's tales are heavily charged with moral messages. Her diction is solemn and authoritative, and she launches clear, consistent attacks against a society that does not encourage its women to work. She is thoroughly opposed to an education that promotes extravagance and frivolity as well as the pursuit of profit at the expense of social conscience. In most of her tales a rich man takes care of an infant who is not his own, and marriages are across class lines, demonstrating that a true American community is based on work and personal merit.
—ROSE F. KAVO