With a native's love for the characters she created, Waycross-born writer Caroline Miller captured the imagination of readers at home and abroad when she recreated with striking lyricism an historical south Georgia and its peoples.
With affectionate and painstaking detail, Miller's novel 1933 Lamb in His Bosom captured the hard yet spiritually full lives of a yeoman class of pioneer farmers. Lamb in His Bosom tells the story of a class of Southerner often bypassed by many novels that indulge a popular fascination with melodramatic, if atypical, extremes, like violent destitution or plantation mythology.
With the surprising commercial success of Lamb in His Bosom, Caroline "Carrie" Miller became the first Georgian to win a prestigious Pulitzer Prize for a novel, and she was honored as well with the prestigious French Prix Femina.
Born Caroline Pafford in Waycross, Georgia in 1903, she was the youngest of seven children of schoolteacher Elias Pafford and his wife Levy Zan Hall Pafford. Soon after graduating Waycross High School, she married William D. Miller, her former high school English teacher, and they moved to Baxley.
As a young housewife and while rearing three young boys, Miller had published a short story and shared local honors for a prizewinning play. Later Miller recalled that, though she felt nearly overwhelmed by the pressures of motherhood, she clung to inspiration she got from the examples of the pioneer women in her own family history, and she determined to write an historical novel based on their experience.
She found herself driving countless miles on the pine barrens' back roads between Baxley and Darien with her three young sons in tow, and along the way Miller sought out older residents, whom she discovered to be living treasuries of the south Georgia "piney woods." Making notes of their diction and manners, Miller invested the world of her book's heroine, Cean Carver, and her family with a stunning historical realism.
According to the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Miller was able to "recapture the often monotonous rhythms of household activities; the stoic almost fatalistic endurance of her pioneer ancestors; and the poetic beauty of backcountry Georgia." The New York Times' critic Louis Kroenenberger said Lamb
has a wonderful freshness about it; not simply the freshness of a new writer, but the freshness of a new world. It all seems to have happened far away and long ago, yet Mrs. Miller has caught it roundly here and made it in its small way imperishable.
Lamb would go through more than thirty printings in its first edition, and there would be translations into several languages. Ironically, the eclipse of Miller's celebrity was hastened by Lamb in his Bosom'scommercial success, which prompted a Macmillan editor to go talent scouting for novelists in Georgia, where he would meet young woman named Margaret Mitchell, who had a manuscript of her own.
The pressure of the instant fame that attended the Pulitzer Prize drove a wedge into Miller's marriage. Divorced in 1937 from William Miller, she would marry Clyde Ray Jr., with whom she had a son and a daughter, and settled in Waynesville, North Carolina.
Following her success, Miller continued to write but published only a handful of stories and one more book. Lebanon (1944) was another novel about a young woman again set in the antebellum south Georgia lowlands, but it was edited beyond her liking and critics compared it unfavorably with her first novel.
Lamb in His Bosom's popularity eventually receded as the national critics flocked to another Georgia woman's spectacularly romantic novel -- Gone With the Wind -- became a Hollywood phenomenon. However, a new generation of readers ultimately rediscovered the quiet brilliance of Lamb in His Bosom, as Miller's novel was republished in "Southern classic" editions in the 1990s and early 21st century.
The town of Baxley, too, honored the author anew with a "Caroline Miller Day" in 1991, and she was one of nine Georgia authors in an Atlanta literary cultural exhibit for the 1996 Olympic Games. Miller died on July 12, 1992, in Waynesville, North Carolina, at the age of 88.
The following titles by Caroline Miller may be found in the Hall of Fame collection of the HargrettLibrary:
Lamb in His Bosom. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1933.
Lamb in His Bosom. New York: Windsor Edition, 1933.
Lamb in His Bosom. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1933.
Lamb in His Bosom. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1934.
Lamb in His Bosom. Hamburg: The Albatross, 1935.
Colons en Géorgie. [Lamb in His Bosom. French.] Paris: Hachette, 1935.
Lamb in His Bosom. London: Frederick Muller, 1936.
Colonos en Georgia. [Lamb in His Bosom. Spanish.] Barcelona: Ediciones del Zodiaco, 1945.
Lamb in His Bosom. New York: Avon, 1961.
Lamb in His Bosom. Dunwoody: Norman S. Berg, 1968.
Lamb in His Bosom. Franklin Center: Franklin Library, 1972.
Lamb in His Bosom. New York: Pinnacle, 1977.
Lamb in His Bosom. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 1993.
Lamb in His Bosom. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 2011.
Les Saisons et les Jours. [Lamb in His Bosom. French.] Paris: Belfond, 2013.
Stoere zwoegers. [Lamb in His Bosom. Dutch.] Den Haag: Zuid-Hollandiscle Uitgevers-Mantschappij, 19--.
Lebanon. Garden City: Doubleday Dorian and Company, Inc. 1944.
Lebanon. Philadelpha: The Blakiston Co. 1944.
Emory University's Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library holds personal and literary papers of Caroline Pafford Miller from 1914-1992.