AMONG THE NEW BOOKS.
Good Novel of Colonial Virginia by Mary Johnston.
In “Prisoners of Hope” She Has Achieved a First-Class Piece of Literary Creation and Reproduced the Everyday Life of Old Virginia—”The Black Curtain,” by Flora Haines Loughead, Is Marred by Too Much Melodrama.
As a picture of the days of the restoration in Virginia, “Prisoners of Hope” (Houghton-Mifflin), by Mary Johnston, is a book that distinctly belongs to the first grade of imaginative literature. Its purpose is clearly to reveal the everyday life of colonial Virginia. One is divided between wonder at the author’s remarkable familiarity with the history of the period and admiration for her skill in the handling of her material.
The story is interesting, not so much for the plot, if indeed it may be said to have a plot, as for the clear descriptions of everyday life, the character studies, and the numerous dramatic situations. The center of interest is Verney Manor, the home of Colonel Verney, who, with his handsome daughter, Mistress Patricia Verney, is one of the leading characters. In the opening scene Colonel Verney lands from a sloop with numerous purchases made in Jamestown, among which are an important box of dazzling wearing apparel for the young woman, six negro slaves, and three convicts from Newgate, who had been transported in chains from England. One of the latter is Godfrey Landless, a son of one of Cromwell’s Ironsides.
Landless is put to work beside a member of that strange scet [sic] known as Mugglestonians. This Mugglestonian, who has a remarkable vocabulary of biblical curses at his command, is drawn toward Landless and reveals to him some of the outlines of a plot that is being formed for the overthrow of the monarchy in Virginia. Landless becomes the active leader of the conspiracy. He falls deeply in love with Mistress Patricia, who, at first, regards him with some aversion. A storm at sea gives him the opportunity to demonstrate his heroism in the saving of Patricia Verney’s life. This act might have purchased his freedom had not his connection with the conspiracy been revealed. He is arrested and imprisoned.
Some of his fellow-conspirators, with less regard than himself for consequences, had plotted with the neighboring tribe of Indians to burn Verney Manor and massacre all the inhabitants. A trusted friend manages to inform Landless in his cell and the latter determines to save the household. With a broken piece of glass he gradually cuts the ropes that bind him, and just before the Indians come he gives the alarm. It is a bloody battle, but the savages are at last beaten off. Landless is then free to declare his love.
Students of early American history should not omit the reading of this fascinating tale, in which much of the nation’s early life is so faithfully portrayed.