Big Family

By Bellamy Partridge
A SAGE and locally famous raconteur of the New England countryside (fl. 1860-1910) used to lay down the precept, ‘When you tell a story tell good.’ Mr. Partridge, here as in his Country Lawyer, is the instinctive artist in application of that precept. He has a nice feeling for the difference between the story that requires a touch of embroidery to bring it out — let us not be so crass as to mention exaggeration — and the story that, being inherently extravagant, wants the force neat understatement. Everybody knows — the young by reading and hearsay, the old by memory — that family life in small communities in the period of Mr. Partridge’s childhood had its funny aspects, and that the funny aspects multiplied by geometric progression when the family was big. Mr. Partridge has a seemingly effortless knack making these characteristic aspects as tunny on the page as they were in tact; and since there were three generations of the family under one Upper New York State roof, with no fewer than eight members of the youngest, the aspects naturally teem and ramify. Also, there is in the upshot a good deal more than the fun and fireworks and juvenile scrapes (some of them hilariously celebrated, by the way, in drawings by Stephen J. Voorhies), For the Partridges were a happy family as well as a lively one, and happiness— about the hardest thing in the world to make real in print — is everywhere present, if only as a subtle permeation. Thus the book is a hundred or so specific laughs and one generalized sigh — the sigh being tor some over what they have had, for others over what they have missed.
W. F.