Orphan Sandy is best left alone

Novels about orphans who won fame, fortune, and family were a staple of popular literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Alice Hegan Rice’s Sandy is an example of the deserving orphan novel at its worst.
Sandy waves his jacket in salute to his new homeland, America.

Sandy by Alice Hegan Rice

New York: The Century Co., 1905. Project Gutenberg ebook # 14079. 1905 bestseller #2. My grade: C.

The novel opens with Sandy Kilday, age 16, stowing away on a ship bound for America. He’s been on his own since age 14 when he ran away from nasty relatives.

Cover art shows Sandy leaning on a post, looking out on a ship heading to America.On board ship, Sandy sees a pretty girl, meets a minor crook, and decides to be a doctor.

When he gets off the ship, Sandy gives up plans of medicine and goes off with the crook who is going to Kentucky where the pretty girl lives.

After exciting adventures, such as losing his kitten, Sandy is taken in by Judge and Mrs. Hollis in Clayton, Kentucky, which is where the pretty girl lives.

Sandy has more exciting adventures, such as having to sit out most of a dance with a girl he doesn’t like, before he can prove his heroism.

By the time the novel ends, Sandy is a married lawyer with the maturity of a 10-year-old.

Rice’s novel reads like a collaborative project by an elementary school writers’ group.

Adult readers should seek entertainment elsewhere.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Lovey Mary gets help from Mrs. Wiggs

In Lovey Mary, Alice Hegan Rice returns to the Cabbage Patch with a cheerful novel that redeploys Mrs. Wiggs from her 1902 bestseller.

Orphaned Lovey Mary, 13, is acutely aware that she’s not loved.

When Mary’s former tormentor, Kate Rider, drops her infant at the orphan asylum, Mary becomes his foster mother.

Two years later, when Kate returns for Tommy, Mary kidnaps him rather than give him up.

The pair end up in the Cabbage Patch. Mrs. Wiggs and her children help Mary find work, make friends, and overcome her feelings of inadequacy.

Mary wants to live up to her friends’ good opinion. She visits Kate, who is hospitalized after an accident, and brings her back to the Cabbage Patch, where Kate dies.


Mary and Tommy return to the orphanage.

Mary’s good behavior is rewarded: She and Tommy are taken on a railroad trip to Niagara Falls.

Lovey Mary has slender plot and inadequate character development. The novel’s best scenes, such as Mary’s recitation of her lines from Faust “with a volubility that would have shamed an auctioneer,” have no bearing on the plot.

Five years later, Lucy Maud Montgomery will use themes and incidents similar to those of Lovey Mary with far greater skill in Anne of Green Gables.

Go with the redhead.

Lovey Mary
by Alice Hegan Rice
1903 bestseller #4
Project Gutenberg ebook #5970
Photo credit: Niagara Falls by jnystrom

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

No Charm Left in Mrs. Wiggs’ Cabbage Patch

Nothing about Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch was what I expected. I was prepared for a quaint, Beatrix Potter-type tale for children. Boy, was I surprised.

The Cabbage Patch is the city slum where Mrs. Wiggs and her five children have lived since her drunken husband died and her country cottage burned to the ground.

On his deathbed, Jim, the family breadwinner, tells his mother to seek help from “The Christmas lady” who brought them basket from her church. Lucy, Jim’s Christmas lady, writes a newspaper story about the family’s situation. Contributions flood in that allow the family to scrape by for a year.

Meanwhile, a man helps Billy Wiggs and his sister get jobs that will allow the family to get along without accepting charity.

When Lucy meets Billy’s kind “Mr. Bob,” he is none other than the fiancé Lucy spurned for keeping bad company. The lovers are reunited and the book ends in a rose-colored glow.

Much of this 1901 story is foreign to today’s readers: horse carts, peg-legs, home Sunday Schools, for example. And I’m sure the moral issues over which Lucy and Bob split would be totally incomprehensible.

Despite its charming title, this sappy won’t appeal today’s readers, adult or juvenile.

Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch
Alice Hegan Rice
Century, 1901
160 pages
Bestseller #2 for 1902,
Bestseller #6 for 1903
Project Gutenberg ebook #4377
My Grade: C-
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni