My week in Plymouth

My week in Plymouth

I was excited to publish “Inventing the Pilgrims in American Literature” for the May 2017 edition of the Mayflower Journal, the members-only journal for the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.  But I was even more excited when the director invited me to come to Plymouth for a week to conduct research in local archives and meet historians and others who work with Pilgrim and Plymouth history. I flew to Plymouth on May 19 and spent eight busy days trying to accomplish as much as I could. I finished up my week with a lunch talk with the Mayflower Society staff

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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

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A Peep at the Pilgrims in 1636: A Tale of Olden Times

Quick Facts: Date of Publication: 1824, the same year as Hobomok Author: Harriet Vaughan Foster Cheney Setting: Mostly around Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1636 just before the Pequot War Plot Synopsis: Miriam Grey is a young Puritan woman in Plymouth. Loved by all in the community for her sweetness and beauty, she is a faithful daughter and cheerfully endures the deprivations of pioneer life for the sake of her father, to whom she is very obedient. She falls in love with the English Edward Atherton, who is visiting Miles Standish, his relative. But like Standish, Edward is not Puritan, and Miriam’s

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Hobomok

Quick Facts: Date of publication: 1824, the same year as Harriet Vaughan Cheney’s A Peep at the Pilgrims in 1636: A Tale of Olden Times, and only a year after James McHenry’s The Spectre of the Forest, or Annals of the Housatonic, the earliest Pilgrim/Puritan novel I’ve identified Author: Lydia Maria Child, her first publication Setting: Naumkeak, now present-day Salem Massachusetts, in 1629, just before the arrival of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and later Plymouth, through about 1633 Plot Synopsis: Mary Conant, the daughter of a harsh Puritan, loses her lover, Charles Brown, when he is banished from the colony

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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

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Myles Standish: The Love Triangle

Poor Myles Standish. I suppose every compelling narrative must have some comic relief, and in many stories about the Pilgrims, he often fulfills that role, either by being the hothead who loves a good fight or by being the loser in a love triangle. Even his physical appearance is grounds for humor; he was apparently rather short and had reddish hair. Love Triangle Standish is probably most remembered today for his botched attempts at courting Priscilla Alden. But I’ve got some questions about the origin of that story. In Harriet Vaughn Cheney’s Peep at the Pilgrims, Standish is Edward Atherton’s

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