of Plymouth

The Little

The Pilgrim

Uncle Jabez

PHS 1963



Charles I


Some Pilgrim Fictions

In this article, we will be surveying the appearance of the Plymouth Pilgrims in popular fiction. The fiction of a fiction, as it were, as the "Pilgrims" themselves are more of a mythic construction that a historical one. It is interesting to observe that while the actual historical story of the early Plymouth colonists has been well-represented in the various accounts of our nation's origins, the images that are generally presented to our imaginations when the Pilgrims are referred to have been are inspired by a series of inspirational vignettes which owe more to the romantic notions than to history.  Some of these glorified events, such as the "Five Kernals of Corn" or the "First Church Service in New England" have lost their immediate potency and are no longer commonly found in popular sources, but the episodes of the "Landing on Plymouth Rock", the "First Thanksgiving" and the "Courtship of Myles Standish" still engage the public imagination. Each of the big three events in the Pilgrim Story has its origin in actual historical circumstance, yet each modern story is essentially fictional. There is no contemporary evidence for the celebrated Landing on the Rock on December 11, 1620 nor the purported love triangle among Myles, Priscilla and John, and the idea that the feast in the autumn of 1621 was an official Calvinist "Thanksgiving" in the minds of those who attended, or the first in a subsequent series has no historical basis whatsoever. 

We shall consider the effect of such tales on the public understanding of the Pilgrim Story and look at some of the less familiar of these fictional narratives, including possibly the weirdest of all Pilgrim tales, The Strange Story of Doctor Senex.

Some Pilgrim Fictions

The Pilgrims are as well remembered for the stories that they inspired as they are for the actual history they created. This is not necessarily a bad thing for two reasons. Firstly, the story of the Plymouth colonists arrival in the New World and their subsequent influence on later birth of the United States would never have seized as large a share of fame and celebration as it has without the symbolic spin that the historians, poets and writers put upon it. Later than Jamestown, smaller and less influential than Boston, Plymouth would be a footnote today if the historical facts were strictly observed. Secondly, even it the historians had established the Pilgrim Story as the central origins myth that it became, its emotional grip on the American and international public would have been significantly less without the work of the Forefathers' Day story of the Landing, the romance of Priscilla, Myles and John, and the November legend of the First Thanksgiving.

Notwithstanding the quibbles of historians, these familiar stories transmuted the simple facts of history into something far grander. By elevating the mundane actions of the first colonists into heroic myths, popularizers transformed their story into an American epic and imbued the Pilgrims' actions with an importance and meaning analogous to the Biblical apotheosis of the history of certain Near Eastern tribes into the central epic of all mankind. History by itself has no particular meaning; it is the work of authors and poets to provide significance to the chronicle of human events.

These archetypes were conceived in the same way that a historical novelist constructs a story, taking a particular moment and location in the past and building a fiction around the basic historic core. In the case of the Landing, it was known that the scouting party from the Mayflower finally set foot on the mainland in Plymouth harbor on December 11, 1620. Tradition led Elder Thomas Faunce to believe that this physically took place on a large boulder at the foot of Cole's Hill. Faunce's evidence comes to us at third-hand, recorded by later historians from the testimony of witnesses to Faunce's assertion such as Deacon Ephraim Spooner or Mrs. Joanna White. Yet, despite the absence of primary source confirmation, the story, if unlikely, is still conjecturally possible.  However, the fictional elements that were built upon this small foundation confused the landing of the scouting party with that of the entire Mayflower company (which didn't arrive in Plymouth until December 16, and didn't land until Monday the 18th) and places Mary Chilton and John Alden among those who first stepped on the Rock. It is the fiction which is primarily represented in the depictions of the landing scenes, not the fact, and the depictions are what determined the general conception of what occurred on the Rock in 1620.

One of the most common methods for making history meaningful is to re-tell the occurrences in narrative or story form, providing plot and characterizations that will catch the imagination of the listener. The appearance of Pilgrims in fiction (verbal or illustrational) was responsible for their popularization and dissemination in American culture.  Historical stories and novels introduce the actors and events of the past and make them part of the general culture. When they become more influential than the facts themselves, the stories or legends could obscure more than they reveal about history. The fictional inventions, the made-up story elements such as characterization, imputed motivation, invented dialogue and imaginary scenic descriptions become the grist for further dramatizations, artistic renderings and political orations.  The accessible fiction becomes the baby cuckoo which grabs all the attention so that the real (and usually far less exciting) event is crowded out, and it is the fiction which becomes for most people the real story while the actual history is relegated to a footnote.  The result is two narratives with the same factual basis but with very different claims to popular acceptance and historical reality.

Sometimes, as with the Landing, they were simply examples of folk history. In other cases they began as straight-forward plays poems or novels. For the greater part, the fictions were simply forgotten, but on occasion, as with the Courtship, they were added to the common impression of the past, replacing real history once their fictional origin was forgotten. The Pilgrims have figured in a  number of literary treatments since 1800. Possibly the earliest of these was a play in blank verse; Joseph Crosswell's A New World Planted or, The Adventures of the Forefathers of New England Who Landed in Plymouth, December 22, 1620 (A Historical Drama in Five Acts, Boston: 1802). Crosswell, (or rather Joseph Croswell, Jr.?) identified by George Willison (Saints and Strangers) as a Plymouth shopkeeper,  lived on Court St. just north of the Plymouth Federal/Compass Bank building. His play is a dramatization of the first years of the colony. Despite the fact that Carver is governor throughout, A New World Planted includes events from the first several years of the colony.  The plot has Lyford, Oldham, Billington and a fictional individual, Molton (for Thomas Morton?), conspiring to overthrow "this mushroom government" and introduce Roman Catholicism and other subversions to New Plymouth. This is attempted by contriving an attack by the Narragansetts which also tries to draw Massasoit in by destroying the good feelings that first united the two peoples.  Fortunately the cooperation of the colonial leaders and Massasoit foil this plot. With the help of Winslow, Standish and Hopkins on the Pilgrim side and Tisquanto, Samosett and Hobomock on the Native side as well as Captain Jones and his crew (with names such as Maintop, Binnacle, Kelsoe, Sawney and Paddy), the company survives to generously banish their enemies and have Brewster deliver a prescient synopsis of the history of the country up to 1800.  

The love interest in the story comes from the subplot of "Pocahonte, a native beauty, daughter of Massasoit" and her English love interest, John Hampden. Hampden sights the lovely Pocahonte (who is wearing English clothes procured by Samoset) and inquires of Winslow about her :
"Hampden, the lady you describe is Pocahonte,
The only daughter of King Massasoit;
She's of a lively penetrating wit,
And learn'd to speak some English of
She offered to learn me to use the bow,
To hunt the deer and shoot the flying fowl,
If I would teach my native tongue to her.
Thus we alternately employ'd our time-
I shall never forget the pleasing task
Of our excursions thro' thick shaded paths,
Hunted the various tenants of the woods.
Here sweet felicity despotic reigns,
And constantly her sov'reign power maintains." (p. 19)

This will give some idea of the 18th century style in which the play is written. It might be noted that a John Hampden was an actual participant in a visit to Massasoit in 1623 as recorded by Winslow in his Good Newes from New-England (1624).

Another early Pilgrim drama is noted by Willison, who transcribes a playbill of a curious melodrama from January, 1808, which our readers may find amusing:

Or, the landing of our Forefathers at
plymouth rock

In the course of the Melo Drama, the following scenery, Incidents, &c.

A View of the Rock and Plymouth Bay, and the landing of the Pilgrims. The whole scene represents Winter, with a snow storm. After returning thanks for their safe arrival, Carver orders one of the Pilgrims to cut on the Rock, DECEMBER 22nd, 1620, the day of the landing. [this despite the fact that it was on December 11 Old Style at the time!]

An alarm of Indians...

A comic scene between an Irish Boatswain and an Indian Woman. The perilous situation of Juliana through the treachery of one of the Pilgrims. The act concludes with a GLEE and CHORUS.

In act II—Scene 1st Represents several half finished Houses... a shell sounds to announce the arrival of Massasoit. A Grand INDIAN MARCH. A Treaty of Peace and Amity... The treachery of Samoset who tries to carry off the person of Juliana. She struggles and seizes his Tomahawk and pursues him—he implores her pardon—which she grants—he wrests the Tomahawk from her and aims a dreadful blow, when Winslow rushes in to her rescue—his gun misses fire—he draws his sword and a combat ensues—in the mean time Juliana takes the gun at fires at Samoset without effect—Winslow is wounded, and Samoset pursues Juliana—who is seen ascending a rock—she reaches the summit, and as Samoset is following, she strikes him with the fuzee, and he falls headlong down the precipice...

the indian method of lying in ambush
And the act concludes with a Procession of Indians, carrying Winslow and Juliana on their boughs.

In act 3, the Indians preparing to sacrifice one of the Pilgrims.

Scene 2d.
A dreadful Combat with Clubs and Shields, between Samoset and Squanto.

Scene last—A View of an Indian Encampment, A Marriage and Nuptial Dance,

after which
The Genius of Columbia descends in a Magnificent Temple, surrounded with clouds.

It is easy to see how fictions such as this might very well lead the unwary astray in matters of history! Actually the real problem arises not in the more obviously ridiculous stories such as the "Melo Drama" but in historical poems or novels which bear some resemblance to reality. Pilgrim Hall and Plimoth Plantation are often asked to find the historical source for "facts" which were actually only fictional flourishes in old books such as Faith White's Letterbook (1866), Standish of Standish (1889) or the original Courtship of Myles Standish (1843 - Longfellow published his in 1858).

Faith White's Letterbook, which is presented as a collection of letters describing life in Leyden and Plymouth in the 1620s, has actually been cited as a primary source by naive readers. As the book opens, Faith White (age 15) lives in Leyden with her parents and three siblings; Paul, Mary and David (who with Mary and their grandfather soon dies in good period fashion) and writes like a good little literate and pious Victorian girl. She begins her account to an imaginary friend with descriptions of her family and friends Jasper Moore, his sister Ellen (AKA "Little Sunshine") and Patience Brewster, who remains behind when the Speedwell departs. After an expanded voyage (with various characterizations such as "quaint, thoughtless Constantia Hopkins") and various cute conversations they arrive at Cape Cod and Plymouth. Her brother Peregrine is born amid much sentimentality, before the others die with all of the religious support of the mid-19th century.

The greater part of the text in fact is taken up with the death-bed scenes and accompanying pious agonizing which was so very congenial to Victorian taste in fiction. Mrs. Bradford drowns without rumor of suicide — that will come later with Standish of Standish. Christmas is reluctantly omitted with memories of celebrations back in Holland, and log houses are erected ashore. Eventually Faith, Paul and Peregrine endure their father's death and their mother (or apparently, Faith's stepmother) marries Edward Winslow.  Although the Alden/ Standish/Mullins triangle is observed, the harvest feast with the Indians in early October 1621 is described as just that, and the first thanksgiving occurs as it should in the summer of 1623. Faith becomes ill and dies just after the arrival of her friend Patience, in September, 1623. As historical fiction Faith White's Letterbook, aside from the understandable dramatizations, is quite accurate when using the known facts, but its very verisimilitude allowed it to assume a status it never aspired to as an actual account of the early colony. Quite dated and out of fashion today, Faith White's Letterbook remains an interesting example of the use of the Pilgrim story for the tastes and needs of the mid-19th century.

The basic story of the well-known Standish/Mullins/Alden love triangle first appeared as a brief notice of an Alden family tradition in Rev. Timothy Alden's American Epitaphs (1814).  Here it Rev. Alden simply says:

"Mrs. Rose Standish, consort of captain Standish, departed this life on the 29th of January, 1621. This circumstance is mentioned as an introduction to the following anecdote, which has been careful handed down by tradition.

In a very short time after the decease of mrs. Standish, the captain was led to believe, that, if he should obtain miss Priscilla Mullins, a daughter of mr. William Mullins, the breach in his family would be happily repaired. He, therefore, according to the custom of those times, sent to ask mr. Mullins' permission to visit his daughter. John Alden, the messenger, went and faithfully communicated the wishes of the captain. The old gentleman did not object, as he might have done, on account of the recency of the captain Standish's bereavement. He said it was perfectly agreeable to him, but the young lady must also be consulted. The damsel was then called into the room, and John Alden, who is said to have been a man of most excellent form with a fair and ruddy complexion, and, in a very courteous and prepossessing manner, delivered his errand. Miss Mullins listened with respectful attention, and at last, after a considerable pause, fixing her eyes on him, with an open and frank countenance, said, prithee, John, why do you not speak for yourself ? He blushed, and bowed, and took his leave, but with a look, which indicated more, than his diffidence would permit him otherwise to express. However, he soon renewed his visit, and it was not long before their nuptials were celebrated in ample form... What report he made to his constituent, after the first interview, tradition does not unfold; but it is said, how true the writer knows not, that the captain never forgave him to the day of his death."

It was from such small beginnings that the whole Courtship story emerged. The first "Courtship" was published in the Rover, a small weekly New York magazine (vol. I, no. 18, pp. 273-4) attributed to "Moses Mullins, 1672." It is interesting to see how the first Courtship compares with the famous Longfellow version of 15 years later:


Miles Standish in the May-flower came
     Across the stormy wave,
And in that little band was none
     More generous or brave.

Midst cold December's sleet and snow
     On Plymouth Rock they land;
Weak were their hands but strong their hearts,
     That pious pilgrim band.

Oh, sad it was in their poor huts
     To hear the storm-winds blow;
And terrible at midnight hour,
     When yell'd the savage foe.

And when the savage, grim and dire,
     His bloody work began,
For a champion brave, I have been told,
     Miles Standish was the man.

But, oh, his heart was made to bow
     With grief and pain full low,
For sickness on the pilgrim band
     Now dealt a dreadful blow.

In arms of death so fast they fell
     They scarce were buried,
And his dear wife, whose name was Rose,
     Was laid among the dead.

His sorrow was not loud, but deep,     
     For her he did bemoan,
And such keen anguish wrung his heart,
     He could not live alone.

Then to John Alden he did speak,
     John Alden was his friend,
And said "friend John, unto my wish
     "I pray thee now attend.

"My heart is sad, `tis very sad,
     "My poor wife Rose is gone,
"And in this wild and savage land
     "I cannot live alone.

"To Mr. William Mullins, then
     "I wish you would repair,
"And see if he will give me leave
     "To wed his daughter fair."

Priscilla was the maiden's name;
     Comely and fair was she,
And kind of heart she was withal,
     As any maid could be.

John Alden, to oblige his friend,
     Straightway to Mullins went,
And told his errand like a man,
     And ask'd for his consent.

Now Mr. Mullins was a sire
     Quite rational and kind,
And such consent would never give,
     Against his daughter's mind.

He told John Alden, if his child
     Should be inclin'd that way,
And Captain Standish was her choice,
     He had no more to say.

He then call'd in his daughter dear,
     And straightway did retire,
That she might with more freedom speak,
     In absence of her sire.

John Alden had a bright blue eye,
     And was a handsome man,
And when he spoke, a pleasant look
     O'er all his features ran.

He rose, and in a courteous way
     His errand did declare,
And said, "fair maid, what word shall I
     To Captain Standish bear?"

Warm blushes glow'd upon the cheeks
     Of that fair maiden then:
At first she turn'd away her eyes,
     Then look'd at John again;

And then, with downcast modest mien,
     She said with trembling tone,
"Now prithee, John, why dost thou not
     Speak for thyself alone?"

Deep red then grew John Alden's face;
     He bade the maid good bye;
But well she read, before he went,   
     The language of his eye.

No matter what the language said,
     Which in that eye was rife—
In one short month Priscilla was
     John Alden's loving wife.

It was when Samuel Wordsworth Longfellow, who was by-the-by a descendant of Standish and Alden, took the story and composed his version of the Courtship that it became a universally known legend of the Pilgrims.

Jane G. Austen's Standish of Standish is another well-crafted (if like the previous book of a quite obsolete literary fashion)  historical novel. It covers the colony story from the "First Monday Washday" on November 23 at Provincetown to Standish's proposal to his ostensible cousin Barbara in 1623. Her view of history is well summed up in a statement about the famous Treaty with Massasoit:

Facts are stubborn things and History is sacred, and the scene just described in all its details simple matter of History [!], but it is not a singular irony of fate that we who spend our lives in a crusade against strong drink and tobacco must, nevertheless, despair of rivaling the virtues of these men, who began their solemn covenant with the savages they had come to Christianize, by giving them gin [or actually brandy], and ended it by accepting from them tobacco?1

Facts are fine and so is embellishment if there are enough facts embedded in it, but how much better it could have been. Since Standish of Standish is still generally available in secondhand bookshops (it went through several editions and was adapted for the stage), I won't provide a précis of the story, but simply list the various legends that are given support in the narrative. Among these are:

  • The First New England Monday Washday (page 1). While it is true that the Mayflower women did go ashore on the date cited to wash clothes after the long voyage, there is no evidence to suggest that this was the origin of the later traditional washday. Then again, as with using the Rock as a landing place, there is no evidence to the contrary either.
  • That John Alden's height as six feet (page 7).
  • That the Mullins (or "Molines") family were French Huguenots or Walloons — Priscilla is famous for her onion soup — which was later exploded when Mullin's immediate Dorking, Surrey, origin was subsequently discovered (p.14).
  • That Samuel Fuller was an actual physician or doctor (and even served at St. Bartholomew's in London - p. 3)
  • That Captain Jones was an ex-pirate and slaver (p.4). This calumny has no basis in fact, and was derived from the mis-identification of one Thomas Jones, master of another Mayflower who had in fact been a slaver before it was determined by M.R.G. Marsden in 1904 that it was a Christopher Jones  whose Mayflower brought the Pilgrims to America. She also relates the old story that Jones was bribed by the Dutch not to bring them to their original destination at the mouth of the Hudson River, but as this was believed in Secretary Morton's day, there is no call to criticize even if modern scholars have rejected the claim.
  • Log Cabins, as was generally believed at the time (p. 101.
  • Mary Chilton is given credit as first woman on the Rock (p.180).
  • Priscilla is seated at her spinning wheel when John arrives on his famous errand (p.245), and the immortal line about speaking for himself is uttered (p.249).
  • The Frenchman's Curse, traditionally believed to have been uttered by one of the unfortunate captives on Cape Cod, with deadly result to the Natives (p. 258).
  • The First Thanksgiving is developed in a grand manner (p.278), with the Thursday in November date (amid a burst of Indian Summer both in 1621 and the two years following- p.282).
  • Quadequina is credited with bringing popped corn to the first feast (p. 281).
  • Mrs. Austin does avoid (except by implication) asserting that Dorothy Bradford definitely committed suicide in Provincetown harbor, and she actually dismisses the "Pulpit Rock" story for Clark's Island but by in large she labors to good purpose to use not only most actual events of the history, but most of the legends as well in developing her tale.  She brings in the scallop shell and the term "pilgrim" at Thanksgiving even suggests a use of a non-carbonated proto-root beer by the Indians. It is not a bad book, but how effective it has been in setting the legends in cultural concrete !

There are no early Thanksgiving stories.There is no mention of the now famous dinner of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag in the autumn of 1621 in any secondary source before the 1840s, as the whole idea of a "First Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims and the Indians, which was drawn from the harvest celebration described in Winslow's letter in Mourt's Relation (1622), had been forgotten and apparently no one had a copy of that rare book in the period when the Pilgrims first became popular. In early works on the Pilgrims2 the harvest is simply noted following Bradford's mention of it. New England scholars relied on an abridged version of Mourt's that had been published in Purchas His Pilgrims (Samuel Purchas' 1626 collection of voyages and explorations that continued Richard Hakluyt's earlier compilation), which omitted the famous description of the feast. The missing elements were not discovered until 1822 when the Massachusetts Historical Society secured a copy of the original Mourt's from Philadelphia and published the passages omitted from Purchase.  It was only in 1844 when Alexander Young, in publishing the entire text of Mourt's Relation in his Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, misidentified the harvest celebration as a "first thanksgiving" that the idea appeared at all, and it took years before the concept caught on. After Young presented the idea, it turned up from time to time but the association between the Plymouth Pilgrims and the Thanksgiving holiday did not become dominant until after 1900.

However, there are other stories that have never achieved popular appeal. Some even omit the Pilgrims themselves while trading on well-known names from the Plymouth story.  A curious dime novel, Massasoit's Daughter; or, The French Captives by A.J.H. Duganne which was published by Beadle and Adams of New York in 1861, is a story of various Europeans (including Louis de Luzerne, his sister Marie, Abbe Claude, Captain Pierre, Robin Ball and Captain Pierce, Lopez the Spaniard) shipwrecked off Plymouth and captured by the Pequods on Mt. Wachusett. Inspired by the story of the 6 or so French sailors enslaved by the Natives shortly before the arrival of the Pilgrims, the "French Captives" under go various hair-raising adventures which feature Tisquontam and his daughter Monoma as Iroquois, and Massasoit and his daughter Princess Sameeda as Narragansett, of all things!

However, the most curious story with Pilgrim associations that I have found is E.E. Baldwin's The Strange Story of Doctor Senex. Published in 1891 by the Minerva Publishing Company in New York, Doctor Senex opens in upstate New York when a lawyer, George Marsh, is summoned out on "a dark and stormy night" by an old man in Revolutionary War era clothes to visit the mysterious Dr. Senex. Taken to an ancient mansion, he encounters the Doctor in a strange domed room lit by a lamp fashioned as a silver skull whose only furniture is a huge clock "with a dial as unique as the lamp. It was marked off in circles and segments in exact counterpart to the [four colored circles on the tiled] floor, but with the addition, that at the end of each segment were carved figures, representing the four epochs in man's existence, beginning with a child at the upper; a youth at the right; a man in his prime at the lower, and old age at the top." He then meets the Doctor himself, a man with long white hair, strong features and a piercing eye who informs him that he, Senex, has less than a day to live, as measured by the strange clock.

Senex takes Marsh to a laboratory where he tells him that as he has known his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and perhaps earlier ancestors, he has chosen Marsh to be his executor and trustee. Senex then mixes a few drops from two vials and sprinkles some powder on it and drinks the mixture — which transforms him in a virile young man for a few minutes until the clock strikes four, whereupon he just as suddenly becomes an incredibly old man, and dies. Marsh is left in the alchemical laboratory with the inevitable manuscript which tells Senex's story, which he is to read a year later after the Doctor's funeral.

Doctor Senex is a story of a Hermetic mage who discovered the secret of long if not eternal life, and not an unusual plot — except that we find that Senex came to America as a teenager aboard the Mayflower in 1620! Son of one Sebastian Senex and his wife Mary, the boy  grows to rebel against the strictures of Plymouth Colony life, refusing to keep the Sabbath. Summoned by the elders, he goes to the log meetinghouse where he declares "I prefer the green fields and shady forests to this gloomy, artificial, narrow prison which you are pleased to call the `Temple of the Lord.' I loathe this structure, I loathe your canting creed, I loathe the unnatural regulations you seek to impose upon us as individuals and as a community. I have nothing to extenuate, nothing to regret—save the anguish my public punishment may cause my parents. I prize first my liberty, and next to that my honesty of conviction; if they are in conflict with your ordinances, punish me for them, but never hope for my retraction or repentance. Do your worst !"

Sentenced to be whipped in the pillory, he is pardoned through the entreaties of his father and is sent back to Europe where he enters the service of a Dr. Frederick Heingardt in Amsterdam. It is here that Senex learns about alchemy and assists his master in a fatal experiment to achieve physical regeneration. Following the death of Heingardt, the novel follows the usual pattern of such stories and has no further Plymouth connections. Senex travels to Alexandria as an older man where he encounters a strange old librarian, Artixus, who has inherited the last few hundred books from the great Library of Alexandria which are hidden away under some ruins. Senex follows the old man and sees the collection (much to the Librarian's distress) just before it and its custodian are lost in a fire.

Senex however saves two scrolls which give him the secret of renewing life through certain drugs and the transfusion of the blood of a younger person into the body of the older. After some further wandering he arrives in England where he is able to save the life of a young Dr. Novus. They become partners in the quest and Senex convinces his friend to try the experiment for the sake of knowledge and science. However, once it is underway and Novus' vitality restores youth to Senex, Novus repents his decision and curses his mentor before dying as a worn out husk. Senex, now quite different in appearance, escapes detection and takes up with Novus' girl friend who doesn't recognize him. He falls in love with her and later saves her from death through his knowledge of esoteric medicine, but the curse has its effect as the girl becomes demented and later dies. Senex then moves to Paris where he is able to take the vital force out of a young would-be Rosicrucian who is an inmate in a mental institution. Following this last depredation he re-emigrates to America and settles in the upstate New York town where he repents his vampiric career and the story passes to lawyer Marsh.

The Doctor Senex story has only a bit on the Pilgrims but it is a very revealing bit. It shows how historical fiction not only informs our impressions of the past, but how our impressions of the present determines the  meaning in the historical fiction we find acceptable. Although it is not often recognized, there was a strong minority position during the 19th century which rejected the Pilgrims and saw them not as representatives of all that was good in the nation's traditions but rather as either "damned Yankees" or as Puritans who by the end of the century had become emblematic of all of the hypocrisy and repressiveness of the Victorian Era. What we see in Senex's youthful and wilful rebellion against the Plymouth Elders reflected the contemporary rebellion of modern youth against Victorian sanctimonious and restriction.

The Pilgrim image in the national imagination therefore not only created the positive stereotypes of the Pilgrims that we all grew up with, but was seized on by those who resented their "works" as a symbol of what was wrong or ludicrous with American society. However, the positive image proved stronger, and despite the calumniators and debunkers of the `90s and `20s, they retained their inspirational role through popular art and fiction, at least until now. The question remains now whether the Pilgrims; archetypes of "Eurocentricism" and other no-no's of our current crop of multicultural debunkers, will retain their position as exemplars of the American Way, or whether they will suffer the fate of Columbus to be cast as villains in the annals of popular history. It will not be serious history that determines their fate, but rather the same popular press and public art which was responsible for their meteoric rise to American mythic status. So stay tuned and seewhat  the next generation receives as the Images of the Pilgrims — it should be interesting as well as revealing of the state of our national soul.

Austin, Jane G. Standish of Standish. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1892, p. 195.

None of the following have any reference to a 1621 "Thanksgiving": Nathaniel Morton, New England's Memorial (1669); Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana (1702);Thomas Prince, A Chronological History of New England (1736); Hannah Adams, An Abridgement of the History of New England For the Use of Young Persons (1805); Thomas Robbins, An Historical View of the First Planters of New-England (1815); John Davis in his extensive notes to the 1826 edition of Morton's New Englands Memorial; Francis Baylies, An Historical Memoir of the Colony of New Plymouth (1830); The Pilgrim Fathers, or the Lives of Some of the First Settlers of New England, Designed for Sabbath School Libraries (1830); James Thatcher, A History of the Town of Plymouth (1832).  After Young, the idea is presented in W.S. Russell's Guide to Plymouth and Recollections of the Pilgrims (1846), but was omitted from subsequent editions of his Pilgrim Memorials, and Guide to Plymouth (1851, 1855, 1864) which may indicate its relative importance in the Pilgrim Story at that time.