During his time, E. P. Roe was the most popular American novelist. His books
sold more copies than even those of Mark Twain. At the height of his popularity
he suddenly died of a heart attack, barely 50 years old. Here is a tribute to
him evidently written soon after his death, taken from The Orange County Advertiser
and Business Men's Directory, edited and published by James G. Dwyer, Cornwall,
1890, page 51. [All the places named are in New York state.]
Edward Payson Roe
March 7, 1838 - July 19, 1888
He was born in Moodna, town of New Windsor and was the youngest child of
a family of thirteen children. He received a thorough education. He was one
of the first volunteers to offer his services in the civil war. He was made
chaplain of his company. He came home on a thirty days furlough and married
the beautiful and accomplished daughter of Nathaniel Sands, one of the first
families of Orange County. Mrs. Roe left her home of culture and refinement
and returned with her husband to the war to nurse the wounded soldiers.
After the close of the war he was stationed at Highland Falls in charge of
the First Presbyterian Church there. It was there that he wrote Barriers
Burned Away, a story of the Chicago fire. When I asked him how he came
to write the story, his answer was that he was reading the paper one morning
when the fire first broke out, and in a casual way he made the remark to Mrs.
Roe, "I think I would be able to write a story of the fire with your
assistance." Like all noble women she encouraged him in the work. He
started at once for the burning city together material for the book, returning
after a few weeks, he started on the work of his life, destined as he was
to become the greatest author of his day. Barriers Burned Away, first
edition, was 50,000. The public is too familiar with his work to go into further
He engaged in the nursery business in Highland Falls and not having land
enough at that place he purchased a beautiful home in Cornwall that he loved
so well and where he lived and died. At this place he built up the largest
nursery trade in the country, shipping millions of plants annually throughout
the United States and Canada, and as far as the old world. He was a born horticulturist.
From boyhood up he loved the beautiful in nature. Every flower and shrub around
his beautiful home was planted by his own hands.
His death was very sudden but he was always prepared to meet his Heavenly
Father, who seen fit to endow him with all the gifts that will be found in
noble manhood. When we lost him we lost a friend indeed. Ministers and horticulturists
came from far and near to pay tribute to one who could find time to rest only
when death claimed him. Time will not permit me to go any further, but I trust
some future day I will be able to write a biographical sketch of his life.
Barriers Burned Away
was first published serially in a magazine, the New York Evangelist.
(Sample chapter of Barriers Burned Away)
In 1872, when it came out in book form, it shortly became
the most popular book of the year. When his next two novels achieved similar
success, Roe decided to leave the ministry and give full time to writing. He
believed he could reach more people with the message of Christianity through
his writing than through preaching. He eventually would write about a dozen
more novels, as well as a number of popular short stories. He also wrote a non-fiction
book, Success with Small Fruits, primarily about the cultivation of strawberries.
-- Bob Sander-Cederlof --
November 5, 1999
Full Text of 20 Books by E. P. Roe
Danny Carlton has created a wonderful web site
which is an online library of many old works of literature.
Among hundreds of books by other authors, you can find the full text of the following books by E. P. Roe:
Also, most of E. P. Roe's books are now available for download at ManyBooks.net.
Reviews of some books by E.P.Roe
quoted from the original promotional material.
He Fell in Love with His Wife (1886)
This book was inspired by a newspaper account telling of a widowed farmer
who visited the county poor house, looking for a good housekeeper. He is
supposed to have said, "If there is a worthy woman here, I will marry her."
From the dust jacket:
"A simple, strong story of American life.
"The stern, silent hero is a farmer, a man with honest, sincere views of
life, and of sufficient education to make him an alien among the other
farmers. Bereft of his wife, to whom he had been sincerely attached, his
home is cared for by a succession of domestics of varying degrees of
"At last, from a most unpromising source, comes a young woman applicant
that the farmer feels is the housekeeper he needs. He decides to marry her
before she enters his service to protect them both from the coarse
suspicions of the villagers.
"Thus enters into the grim history of this man's life a romance as bright
and delicate as a golden thread, developing on both sides a love that could
surmount all difficulties and survive the censure of friends as well as the
bitterness of enemies."
From a review by Julian Hawthorne (son of Nathaniel Hawthorne):
"The more I think over the book the better I like it in all its parts.
Upon the whole I think that Mr. Roe has written the best American
novel that has been published this year." -- New York World
The following reviews are from a catalog included at the back
of an 1878 edition of "A Face Illumined"
and an 1888 edition of "Taken Alive"
Barriers Burned Away (1872)
"When so much trashy and soul enervating literature is issued under the
head of religious novels, it is refreshing to see one like the Rev. Mr.
Roe's Barriers Burned Away, written with an earnest purpose. Sensational,
and yet to good effects -- inartistic, as might be looked for in the young
author's first attempt, and yet unhackneyed, lively and fascinating." --
"The characters are delineated with truthfulness and consistency. In their
conception the author shows equal originality and boldness. Even Old Bill
Cronk, the rough, hard-swearing, hard-drinking, big-fisted, big-hearted
Western drover, could not be spared from the scene." -- New York Tribune.
"We congratulate Mr. Roe upon his story of the day." -- New York Observer.
"We accord a hearty commendation to this work.
The narrative is vigorous, often intense, but rarely if ever melodramatic.
Its language is usually no less chaste than forcible and impressive.
It betrays a power of invention and description which is not met
with every day in the best of writers of popular fiction." -- Dr. Ripley, in the New York Tribune
What Can She Do? (1873)
"The moral purpose of this book is amply worthy of the author's zeal. It is
that young women should be educated in such a way that if left without
money they shall be able to support themselves. Mr. Roe is especially
severe on our American vice of 'pride of occupation.' " -- New York Evening
"We consider that parents are indebted to the author for the most practical
story of the day." -- Philadelphia Age.
"His works have an honest, healthy tone, and a purpose. His narrative is
full of interest -- in the present case unusually so. We must not forget in
particular to allude to his always charming bits of country life; his
gardening at once poetic and profitable." -- New York Evening Express
"The narrative is fascinating." -- Chicago Advance.
"An exceedingly well-written story." -- Churchman.
Opening of a Chestnut Burr (1874)
"In the Opening of a Chestnut Burr, Mr. Roe has made a marked advance upon
his two previous stories. He has already exhibited a remarkable power of
description, which in this volume he uses with good effect in the scenes of
fire and shipwreck. It is thoroughly religious, thoroughly Christian both
in tone and teaching." -- Harper's Magazine.
"The character of the selfish, morbid, cynical hero, and his gradual
transformation under the influence of the sweet and high-spirited heroine,
are portrayed with a masculine firmness, which is near akin to power, and
some of the conversations are animated and admirable." -- Atlantic Monthly
"The most able story that we have had from the pen of Mr. Roe. It is also
the best of the so-called religious novels published of late." -- The
"There are many stirring and dramatic scenes in the story, while its
quieter phases are not wanting in grace and sweetness." -- Boston Traveler.
"Mr. Roe has laid out his greatest power in depicting the character of the
heroine, who is a model of saintly purpose and ardent piety without losing
the peculiar charms of female loveliness. He is strong in his delineation
of character. All his personages have a clear, sharp-cut individuality, and
make a fresh and deep impression on the reader." -- New York Tribune.
From Jest To Earnest (1875)
"His plots are never commonplace. The change in Lottie's character is
well-delineated, and with a naturalness and artistic skill which we do not
often find in the so-called religious novels." -- Harper's Magazine.
"It is surprising to find how genuinely interesting his stories always are.
There is nothing of the vulgarly sensational about them." Eclectic
"Mr. Roe's books are religious novels in perhaps the best sense of the
term." -- Zion's Herald, Boston.
"A simple, pure story, such as Mr. Roe has always written, is one of the
most potent vehicles of moral and religious training that can be employed."
-- Buffalo Daily Courier.
"Mr. Roe's works have had a fine, noble purpose, each and all. The present
story is an excellent one -- of high tone and deep religious strength." --
Boston Evening Traveler.
"It is a thoroughly good story because pervaded by an influence thoroughly
pure." -- American Rural Home.
"The hero is simple, strong, and manly; much such a man as Mr. Lincoln must
have been had he turned his attention to theology instead of politics." --
New York World.
"A bright, vivacious story, full of wit and even frolic." -- Portland
"He vindicates his right to use the talent which God has given him for the
instruction and interest of the thousands who read his works." -- New York
Near To Nature's Heart (1876)
The story is set in the Revolutionary War, in honor of the American
"His heroine absorbs the main interest of the plot. She is a pure child of
Nature, with a limited experience of life, and none of society; but her
artless characters combines a treasure of noble principle, womanly
devotion, and high-souled conduct, which is rarely found among the fruits
of the choicest culture. Mr. Roe has no small sense of humor, and in the
course of the story makes excellent use of Irish oddities and the Irish
dialect to enliven the scene." -- New York Tribune.
"The stirring scenes of the Revolution afford ample material for dramatic
incidents, which are skillfully employed. Vera is by far the most original
of Mr. Roe's conceptions, and is drawn with very decided artistic skill."
-- Harper's Magazine.
The half-insane outlaw, the gentle and devoted wife, the one noble and
beautiful daughter, and old Gula the African, together form a remarkable
group." -- New York Observer.
"For while he tells a story admirably well, and paints character with the
skill of a master, he carefully eschews sensationalism." -- Albany Evening
"The plot is sufficiently complex, the story is told smoothly, and its
interest is well sustained throughout. His views are broadly catholic, and
his notions of morality and right living are thoroughly sound and
wholesome." -- Evening Post.
"In its plot it is original; in its diction it is eminently smooth and
graceful; and in its moral it is above all praise." -- Boston Evening
"The best of the author's stories." -- Christian Union.
"Mr. Roe is one of the most successful of American story writers, and his
last effort is an advance on his earlier books. A large amount of military
history is woven into the narrative, giving the work a certain solid value.
Larry, Saville's servant, makes fun for the million, his lusty wife, Molly,
aiding him in no small degree. The book is well written and deeply
interesting." -- Boston Literary World.
"The avidity and delight with which Mr. Roe's books are read is a most
hopeful sign, and shows that people will read what is good for them if only
they can get it." -- Advance, Chicago.
"His heroine is a pure child of nature, with a limited experience of life,
and none of society; but her artless character combines a pleasure of noble
principle, womanly devotion, and high-souled conduct, which is rarely
found among the fruits of the choicest culture." -- New York Tribune
A Knight of the XIXth Century (1877)
"In the delineation of character, which enters into the development of the
plot, Mr. Roe shows his greatest strength; his characters are portrayed in
lively colors and with excellent effect. This preserves the narrative from
the monotony and commonplace which can scarcely be avoided in ethical
fictions, and is the secret of its success." -- New York Tribune.
"It is a book which those who begin will be pretty sure to finish, deriving
from it a new impulse to the truest knighthood." -- Harper's Magazine.
"It is eminently thoughtful, admirably constructed, and thoroughly
interesting from cover to cover." -- Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post.
"The whole tone of the work is manly and healthful. It is thoroughly noble
in all its teachings and tendencies." -- Utica Herald.
"The most charming book yet produced by Mr. Roe, and one of the very best
of its class ever written." -- Christian Union.
"Enhances the author's already well-established reputation. Mr. Roe is
sensational, but to a degree that is not unhealthy, and his books will be
less ephemeral than the general run of religious novels." -- Springfield
"This book contains the elements of perfect work, clearness and brilliancy
of style, conciseness and beauty of expression, a good plot, an
entertaining story, and a most excellent moral." -- Christian Intelligencer.
"The characters are drawn from real life." -- Christian Union.
"Mr. Roe's style is never commonplace." -- Boston Courier.
"He has greatly improved the art of telling a story." -- New York Evening Post.
"His stories are uniformly of intense interest." -- Boston Home Journal.
A Face Illumined
"The author does not, as is often the case, make the moral design an excuse for literary shortcomings.
His characters are stamped with a strong individuality, and depicted with a naturalness
that indicates a keen student of human nature and modern life." -- Boston Traveller
Without a Home
"The ultimate design of the story is to trace the origin and growth, and exhibit the pernicious
results of the morphia habit. Mr. Roe has graphically, and at times powerfully and dramatically,
portrayed its influence to wither and destroy manhood and to wreck the happiness of the family.
The harrowing incidents which are the consequence of the evil are not so ostentatiously exhibited
as to be revolting, but are ingeniously distributed over a story that has a substantial
and independent interest of its own." -- Harper's Magazine
A Day of Fate
"It is a love story, pure and simple, of the type that belongs to no age or clime or school,
because it is the story of the love that has been common to humanity,
wherever it has been lifted above the level of the brutes." -- New York Observer
His Sombre Rivals
"A strong story.
A study of love and of war; a tale of army service during the Rebellion,
and of the home life that waited so anxiously on it.
It is a study, too, of love and suffering, and an argument against atheism,
but not a controversial one -- the story itself is the argument." -- Philadelphia Inquirer
Nature's Serial Story
"Mr. Roe has walked with us through
happy valleys where peace and contentment brood, where we can hear the
song of the bird and the merry jest of the reaper, and watch the alternate
shadow and sunshine that dim and glorify the human heart." -- Philadelphia Record
"The chief elements of Mr. Roe's popularity as a novelist are a very exact
understanding of the habits of thought of the great majority,
sympathy with the ordinary passions and sentiments, respect for whatever is just
and decorous, and, lastly, the art of telling a simple story in a simple and
effective manner." -- New York Tribune
The Earth Trembled
"The latest novel by E. P. Roe, who is the most popular American novelist,
is one combining all his best characteristics.
The story involves much of the war period, and is a strong and
fascinating love-story. There is a high moral tone and a sympathetic fervor
to Mr. Roe's writing that is always appreciated." -- Boston Evening Traveller
Driven Back to Eden
"E. P. Roe is perhaps never better than when describing country life,
for which he has a genuine enthuiasm;
and his 'Driven Back to Eden' is perfectly free from sensationalism.
The story is fully illustrated, and contains enough adventure to easily carry off
the details of practical life, which the author gives with an air of authority
that can only arise from experience." -- Boston Courier
An Original Belle
"The descirptions of battle scenes in the war and the lurid picture of the
draft riots in New York are worth reading.
Nothing that Mr. Roe has ever written is so vivid and dramatic as his sketch
of the three terrible days in New York when the mob ruled the city,
sacked the colored orphan asylum, and spread dismay in a thousand homes.
It has the quality of history also, as the author has made careful research and
employs no incidents which did not really occur." -- San Francisco Chronicle