Standish of Standish

Standish of Standish

Quick Facts about Standish of Standish: Date of publication: 1889 Author: Jane Goodwin Austin (NOT the English Jane Austen!) Setting: Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the early years of the settlement Plot Synopsis: The novel opens with the Mayflower anchored in the harbor and the women demanding to be taken ashore to do their laundry after months onboard. The Pilgrims eventually find and then settle in Plymouth where they deal with the difficulties of the first winter, including numerous deaths. The first summer is more successful, as is the first fall, and Pilgrims invite the Wampanoag to a feast by way of saying thank you. Another year passes as the

Continue Reading

Blurred lines: history versus romance

Why are some sources on the Pilgrims considered reliable or useful, while others are ignored or even ridiculed? There is a fair amount of speculation and imaginative reconstruction in even the driest of histories, and those are the points I find the most fascinating. What truly separates a historical novel from history? Jane G Austin made no secret of the fact that she was writing a “romance” of the Plymouth Colony in Standish of Standish (1889). The preface begins, “The history of the Old Colony includes, among some very stern facts, a deal of sweet and tender romance, hitherto hardly

Continue Reading

Modern Responses to Austin’s Fiction

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting with a lovely group of people at the Doraville Public Library’s American Short Stories discussion group. They read Austin’s short story, “William Bradford’s Love Life,” which Austin had first published in 1869, and which I’ve previously written about here. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from our discussion, but I was so excited to hear their responses! Reviews were mixed, and I don’t think anyone really loved the story. Nobody was happy with the female characters. It’s hard to feel sympathy for Dorothy, mooning about and putting up with her husband whispering

Continue Reading

“William Bradford’s Love Life”

One of Austin’s more infamous short stories is “William Bradford’s Love Life,” first published in Harper’s in 1869 and later reprinted in her David Alden’s Daughter, a collection of her earlier Pilgrim stories, in 1892. You can read the original copy in Harper’s archives here: http://harpers.org/archive/1869/06/william-bradfords-love-life/ I say infamous because of the repercussions of the story, because she received a fair amount of criticism and was later vilified by historians seeking to correct the “facts.” It’s one of Austin’s first attempts at historical fiction, but it also becomes one of the most problematic, and it may very well be one of

Continue Reading

How I discovered Austin and the Pilgrims

In the summer of 2010, I was lucky enough to participate in a week-long workshop for community college faculty in Plymouth, Massachusetts, sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Community College Humanities Association. We spent a week listening to scholars discuss various topics, such as the relationship between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims and the intricacies of Calvinist philosophies, and we toured sites such as Pilgrim Hall and Plymouth Plantation, where we also had access to archival materials and other reference materials. And on one of our last nights, we spent a fun evening at Pilgrim

Continue Reading