Back Charles W. Chesnutt, “The Kiss”

Charles W. Chesnutt (1858–1932)
From Charles W. Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, & Essays

Still Life with Money, Pipe and Letters, 1914, oil on canvas by Ohio artist Charles Alfred Meurer (1865–1955). Image courtesy of Artnet.

A century ago (give or take a year), Charles W. Chesnutt wrote “The Kiss.” Yet the story was not published until 1974—more than forty years after his death.

Discouraged by the sales of his last book, Chesnutt abandoned writing full-time after 1905. For the next thirty years he still wrote fiction on the side, and he allowed his early novels to be made into movies. Yet he was unable to find publishers for his new work; the dialect tales, the satirical stories on racial conflict and “passing,” and the postbellum novels that made him famous in the 1890s were regarded as old-fashioned in the early twentieth century.

“The Kiss,” however, “seems positively un-Chesnutt-like” (to quote literary scholar Charles Duncan) and shows Chesnutt grappling with modern attitudes and the latest conventions. Set in his hometown of Cleveland, it details the heart-rending consequences of an adulterous affair.

Read “The Kiss” by Charles W. Chesnutt

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