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114Bulletin of Friends Historical Association The Virginia Exiles. By Elizabeth Gray Vining. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company. 1955. 317 pages. $3.95. Sometime in the 1930's Elizabeth Gray Vining read Exiles in Virginia , the narrative, the journals, the numerous documents collected by Thomas Gilpin and printed in 1848. To this she has added research in meeting records, journals, and other historical materials, and the result is The Virginia Exiles, at the same time a meticulously accurate piece of Quaker history and a perceptive, carefully wrought work of fiction, matured by long consideration and deepened by contemporary significance. These twenty Philadelphians, seventeen of them Friends, were imprisoned on suspicion of being "inimical to the cause of American liberty", denied the right of appeal and trial, released because it became expedient. The question of individual liberty in a democracy is forever in the mind of the hero created by the author, the historical characters, and the reader. It is most interesting to read the principal source in conjunction with the novel and to watch the transformation into fiction taking place. Elizabeth Gray Vining starts with a strong basis of historical fact; the events, documents, actual persons, recorded words and observations are much more numerous than the reader has supposed they could be. All this must be organized, condensed, molded into the sort of unity achieved more easily in fiction than in life. The narrative is made to center on the young Caleb Middleton, created for the novel and inserted among the exiles in place of Evan Jones, from whom he inherits the charge of undermining confidence in the currency . His character soon begins to mature as no one else's does as it is developed by the ordeal, the association with Friends, and by a most satisfactory and lovely romance. His family and that of Loveday Parry, whom he is to marry, are supplied: thus history takes on the companion fiction to mutual advantage. Characterizations seem quite good in both groups: John Hunt and Loveday Parry are exceptionally fine. They appeal to the author, who often shows an especial tenderness and a delicate artistry in describing the gentle and the lovely, whemer the beauty lies in spirit or body or both. Whenever either one of them enters the scene, something happens, not to plot alone but also to the style of writing. Usually the book is detached, cool and lucid yet somehow compelling, but when Elizabeth Gray Vining writes of John Hunt, John Woolman looks over her shoulder, and when she writes of Loveday, Shakespeare's youngest and happiest heroines have something to say. Out of deference to Loveday, Phyllis Pike could easily have been discarded. The novel gathers vitality and reality as soon as the historical material is added to it, and each strengthens the other. The novel reader may want more action and less cogitation, the historian is sure to miss a statement of sources, but neither is apt to leave The Virginia Exiles half read. It is a memorable piece of historical fiction. Wilmington, OhioDorothy Gilbert Thorne ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
p. 114
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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