Queer Judson / Joseph C. Lincoln. D. Appleton and Co.: New York. 1925
The setting is "Wellmouth", a small Cape Cod town. The time is the 1880's—there are trains and telegrams, but not automobiles and telephones.
Carey Judson is the protagonist. He's the elder son of a prominent Wellmouth family—indulged and college-educated. However, he's in deep disgrace-he'd been working as a Boston stockbroker, when his partner looted the company and bankrupted it. Now he's working as the bookkeeper for his brother's fish wholesaling company. This is awkward, because many of the townspeople had their money invested thru his company, many who could not afford the loss. Everyone who knows him realizes he was unsuited to be a stockbroker, that he is too dreamy, too un-business-minded business, (and he's not very good at bookkeeping, either). They do still blame him however, for being irresponsible, and he accepts the blame. He spent his youth studying nature, especially shore birds (instead of shooting them). So, he is "Queer Judson".
George Judson, the younger brother, has been very supportive, has helped clear up the "smash". His social climbing wife, Cora T., is annoyed that George has Carey living with them in the old family homestead. Several other old friends and relatives are also sympathetic and supportive, in their gruff, "get over it" way. Carey gradually wins over his curmudgeonly neighbor, Capt. Tobias Higgins, and his wife Phoebe, with his great skill at carving and painting statues of shore birds. The statues are far too realistic to be just decoys, and there is a demand from wealthy outdoorsmen for them, so there is a realization that Carey does have a great offbeat skill after all.
Carey gradually comes out of his depressed shell. He slowly pursues his secret dream of paying back the neediest victims of the smash. He's interested in his old friend Emily Sayles, and she in him, but they can't pursue it with his prospects so dim. This changes dramatically when his rich aunt dies and leaves him a bundle, but it doesn't last—George needs the money to avoid a smash himself, and Carey loyally gives it to him. This being New England, the characters don't tell each other their thoughts and problems until (almost) too late. The brothers willingly sacrifice for each other, yet keep the dire consequences to themselves.
There are common Lincoln themes here, I think: 1. The artist is misunderstood; he's an outsider among the gossips and conventional thinking of a small town; 2. New England taciturnity almost ruins the day; 3. Love, hard work, and someone willing to bend the rules of non-interference save the situation.
I liked the book very much. The array of characters is mostly well drawn, varied, interesting, and believable. Sea captains are often main characters in Lincoln's books, because their nautical terms are so colorful, and Capt. Higgins takes that part here. Higgins even has the right politics:
(Higgins to Carey) "I'll see you makin' good and showin' them up for idiots and that'll be enough for me. They're Republicans, I tell you. They wouldn't know anything if they did know it. They ain't capable of knowin' anything, or they'd be Democrats."
Tourism has been seen for a long time as a potential problem:
Prof. Knight to Carey, about Cape Cod: "I always liked this place and ... I've had some good times here. It wasn't spoiled then by a lot of city visitors. Hope it isn't yet." "Not altogether." "Humph! It will be some day. Judson, it is a good thing for fellows like you and me that we are living just at this period. There are still plenty of decent cannibal islands to run away to when civilization get wearisome. A hundred years from now they'll be going through Patagonia in Pullmans."
It is just assumed that men smoke pipes or cigars. Seal skin coats for women are the fashion. (In at least one Lincoln book set at a later time, they are an antique fashion). Capt. and Mrs Higgins have a house with a "whale walk", not a "widow's walk". "Boston big bugs" are the rich and effete city folk.
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David Kew, May 2001