Sand 'N' Bushes.
Maria Louise Pool.
Chicago: Herbert S. Stone & Co.
There are some interesting points about this novel: it is one of the oldest novels set on Cape Cod (along with those of Sarah McLean Greene), and the author and main characters are women. On the other hand, the plot is a thin romance, and, while there are 365 pages, the margins are really wide. The style is breezy, light but proper- the most annoying character shows her caliber by saying "ain't", often. I suspect the target audience was adolescent girls.
The protagonists are 2 women apparently in their early twenties: Amabel and the diarest, from somewhere on the Massachusetts South Shore. They buy horses at auction in Boston - a scary, exciting experience for young ladies. Then they ride from home to Cape Cod, all the way to Provincetown, just for the adventure - they could easily have taken the train, or a steamer, or even bicycles. Amabel's rather obnoxious younger brother trails along on his bicycle:
It is wrong to kill boys; if it were not wrong I'm sure very few of them would live to grow up. And a person doesn't wish to be hanged for taking the lives of boys.
Proper ladies still rode side-saddle, and Amabel rather scandalizes everyone when she makes a split skirt, buys a man's saddle, and rides astride - this mild reform is a theme throughout. Time and distance seem to be telescoped unrealistically - or perhaps I don't have a good idea of the pace of horse travel on the Cape's sandy excuses for roads in the 1890s; but bicycle travel was not fun then. The descriptions of the landscape are the familiar ones from that era, when there were very few trees and not even much grass.
...one might save a great deal of money in Wellfleet; and if one dwelt here long enough an occupation might be chosen--there is a choice between cranberry culture, farming, fishing and the making of razor-strops. Perhaps the latter business is particularly exhilarating. This was the first time in her life, Amabel said, that she had traced the razor strop to its lair.
They stay in Provincetown at the Pacific House (vs. the genuine Atlantic House?), and again meet actor Tom Riddle, who has followed the same path down Cape. The hotel proprietor is Portuguese, as are other Provincetown citizens, whom the ignorant characters dismissively refer to as Portugees, while the nice characters find them to be warm and competent. [Was there a literature in which the Portuguese were vilified? I haven't seen any, yet the stories I've read seem to go out of their way to praise them, implying to me that there was a general question of their character.] The 2 bad characters eventually pair up, as does Tom Riddle with the hotel owner's daughter Delcina, and the protagonists take a steamer back to the mainland. There is a suspicion that the sleazy male dude has actually offered a tip to Delcina, the cad!
Jun 2009, I received an interesting note from John Burrows explaining the significance of Maria Louise Pool:
'two women in their early twenties' would be correct if changed to '2 women
apparently in their middle age'. Pool was 55 years old the summer prior to
the posthumous publishing of this book in 1898 (she died of pneumonia at age
1856 in 1898).
The review mentions the women rode horses from 'somewhere in the
Massachusetts South Shore'.
Pool was very specific in describing places, and their journey originates
from their home in Rockland.
Maria Louise Pool was one of the most open gay authors of the 19th century.
She lived with Caroline Branson, who is included in many books (in one
Caroline is called 'Carlos', a name that also appears in letters of friends.
The two are buried together at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Rockland.) In
1896 Pool published 'In A Dike Shanty' ('In A Dyke Shanty' in manuscript),
dedicated to Caroline M. Branson, my partner and friend in the dike land,
the dike days, and all days, I dedicate this record of a happy summer.
Their dike is on the property of Mass Audobon Society in Marshfield.
Maria Louise Pool is gaining attention as a 19th century gay writer, and
'Sand 'N' Bushes' is not only one of the first novels set on Cape Cod, but
is also the first lesbian vacation novel (1898) set in Provincetown.
Yours, John Burrows
(a design historian, and researcher on Maria Lousie Pool)
J.R. Burrows & Company
P.O. Box 522
Rockland, MA 02370
our Cape Cod library