Full Texts of Classic Works

On Being Young—a Woman—and Colored by Marita O. Bonner (1925)

Marita Odette Bonner (1899 – 1971) was a short story writer, playwright, and essayist. Between 1925 and 1927 she produced a great number of short stories featuring characters from varied cultures navigating urban life. She became noted for two prize-winning essays — “On Being Young—A Woman—and Colored” (1925), presented here, and “Drab Rambles” (1927). 

One of the earliest Black students at Radcliffe College, she was academically talented as well as a gifted pianist and composer. Upon her 1922, graduation, when she was named “Radcliffe’s Beethoven,” Bonner continued to blossom, becoming a noted figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement.

In the late 1920s, Bonner wrote three plays, the best known of which was The Purple Flower (1928). Her writings often dealt with the challenges of being Black in a racist society, a theme exemplified in the essay that follows. Read More→


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The Dilettante by Edith Wharton (1903 short story-full text)

The Dilettante by Edith Wharton is a short story that was first published in Harper’s Magazine in 1903, and then was part of The Descent of Man and Other Stories in 1904. Close on the heels of this short story collection, Wharton’s very successful first novel, The House of Mirth, was published in 1905, establishing her as a major figure in American literature.

The story centers around the relationship of Mrs. Vervain and Thursdale. Mrs. Vervain is in love with him, though he considers her just a friend (this possibly echoes some of Wharton’s own relationships with men). Arrogantly, Thursdale (the dilettante of the story’s title) even considers Mrs. Vervain something of his own creation. He describes her as “the finest material to work on,” almost as if she is merely clay in his hands. Read More→


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Renascence and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay (full text)

Renascence and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1917) was the first published collection by this eminent American poet. The book’s title reflects Millay’s 1912 poem of the same name, published when she was just nineteen, and still considered one of her finest. Here you’ll find the full text of this work.

From Dover, a recent publisher of this work that’s now in the public domain:

The poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) have been long admired for the lyric beauty that is especially characteristic of her early works. “Renascence,” the first of her poems to bring her public acclaim, was written when she was nineteen. Now one of the best-known American poems, it is a fervent and moving account of spiritual rebirth. Read More→


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Charlie by Kate Chopin — full text of a 1900 short story

Kate Chopin’s long short story (very nearly a novella) “Charlie” was written in 1900 but wasn’t published until 1969, when it appeared in The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, edited by Per Seyersted (Louisiana State University Press). 

Published the year following The Awakening (which at the time was deemed scandalous), Chopin sent  “Charlie” to Youth’s Companion, a magazine that had published other stories by her, but it was rejected. It seems that she decided not to send it out again. 

In his analysis of “Charlie,” Francis Booth (excerpted from his book Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in mid-20th Century Women’s Fiction) writes: Read More→


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The Storm by Kate Chopin (1898) – full text

“The Storm” by Kate Chopin is a short story written in 1898, just a year before what is now her best-known work, The Awakening (a novella). Had it been published it would surely have been just as controversial, since it also explores extramarital passion as its theme. 

At the time these works were written, women — especially married mothers — were supposed to be “the angels in the house.” Any hint of agency over one’s sexual desires in a work of fiction, particularly from a woman’s pen, was considered shocking. The Awakening, now considered a proto-feminist work and a staple in literature courses, was reviled by critics and banned in many quarters long after its publication. Read More→


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