American Revolution Overshadows Janice Meredith

Paul Leicester Ford’s subtitle to his 1900 bestselling romance, Janice Meredith, reveals what’s good and bad about the novel: It’s about the American Revolution, not about Janice Meredith.

As the novel opens, a man calling himself Charles Fownes, newly arrived in New Jersey from England, begins a five-year indenture to Lambert Meredith.

Meredith’s pro-British sentiments and high-handedness with this tenant farmers have made him unpopular with the lower strata of society, which in 1774 is already seething with resentment against King George. Locals suspect Fownes is a deserter from the British army using a false name.

Fownes is immediately enamored of Meredith’s buxom, 15-year-old daughter, Janice, and almost as soon smitten with enthusiasm for the rebel cause. Before long, he’s doing work for General Washington.

Yorktown is under siege seven years later before Ford reveals who the indentured servant really is.

The implausibility of both the fictional characters and the plot makes this long novel seem longer than the Revolution.

Having generals Washington, Howe, and Cornwallis pour their top-secret plans into Janice’s shell-like ear beggars belief. She’s a brainless bimbo, with a mental age of about 4.

Janice Meredith would have been a much better book without Janice Meredith in it.

Janice Meredith: A Story of the American Revolution
By Paul Leicester Ford
Mary Mannering Edition
With a Miniature by Lillie V. O’Ryan
and numerous Scenes from the Play
Project Gutenberg EBook #5719
My grade: C-

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Historical fact renders Alice of Old Vincennes implausible

Maurice Thompson got the idea for Alice of Old Vincennes from a scrap of a letter by Gaspard Roussillon dated 1788. The letter aroused Thompson’s curiosity. His research stirred his imagination to plug gaps in the historical record.

Roussillon, a wealthy and influential French trader, has adopted the lovely orphaned Protestant child, Alice Tarleton, and is bringing her up as his daughter.

When the colonies declare war on the Crown, the French at Vincennes side with the colonies against the British and their Indian allies.

Colonel George Rogers Clark sends the rough Lt. Helm and the suave Lieutenant Fitzhugh Beverley to take charge of the miliary post at Vincennes.

The British under Hamilton take the fort, but they don’t get the American flag: Alice takes it down and has it hidden. Hamilton determines to break “the frogs” of Vincennes.

Beverley escapes and heads for Clark’s encampment, surviving torture by Indians and torture by the elements of nature. Clark, though outnumbered, outsmarts Hamilton and retakes Vincennes.

Alice and Beverley marry and go to live with their kin in Virginia.

The facts Thompson unearthed were sufficiently romantic that little embroidery was necessary to create a plot. Unfortunately, the historical facts appear totally implausible when presented in novel form.

Literature demands plausibility that life does not produce.

Alice of Old Vincennes
by Maurice Thompson
1901 Bestseller #2
Project Gutenberg e-book #4097
My grade B-
©2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Project Gutenberg