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In the summer of 1888 Mabie began the serial publication, in The Christian Union, of his picture of an idealized state of human nature and society, "In The Forest of Arden," which, when issued several years later between covers, was to win a wide popularity. This fantasy was written in Greenwich while Mabie was living with the Button family. Serious though it was in its underlying purposes, one has little difficulty in detecting in the vein of charming sentiment that runs through it and in the lightness of touch and flexibility of style with which it was written, a reflection of the writer's buoyancy of spirits at the prospect of the early return from the Adirondacks of his wife, fully recovered, and of his children.
In a midsummer note to Miss King he referred to the serial appearance of "In the Forest of Arden":
To Miss Grace King
New York, August 8, 1888.
My Dear Miss King,— I am delighted that you find the "Forest of Arden" worth staying in for a few minutes each week. I have put the chapters into cold type with a good deal of trepidation. When one is dealing entirely with sentiment and imagination one has no judgment as to the quality of the work; it is simple and a word spoken out of the heart. I know that to a great many the whole thing must seem a piece of moonshine; but I have hoped that to a few the idea might be clear and helpful.
I do not intend to inflict myself upon you, but there is one other article of mine which I am sending you because it deals with your art. When you have done with it will you please return the review to me; I have no other copy.
You have reason to feel honest gratification in the reception with which your story has met. I hear the best things said about it. I am especially delighted that its interior beauty is so widely recognized. It is certainly a book with a soul in it.