Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 23, 2011


The Even Hand by Quincy Germaine (1912)

Not only is this a forgotten book, it's a darned near unknown book.  Also, it's a book I have never read or even seen, a state I hope to change in the future.

     According to a review in The Christian Advocate, the novel is "a thinly disguised story of the Lawrence strike in the cotton mills."  The Lawrence, Massachusetts, strike was one of the early chapters in the labor movement in America.  Known as the "Blood and Roses" strike, it marked the first death in the labor movement and is still celebrated with that city's annual Blood and Roses Day.  The Even Hand takes a sympathetic view of the laborers, but walks a fine line between the two sides and emphasizes the importance of fairness for both sides.

     From a review in The Bookseller:  "A story of retributive justice...remarkably successful and full of promise."  And from English Mechanics and the World of Science:  "...Certainly a book which deserves wide reading, for its interest as a story, its study of an important problem, and its promise for future work."  There was no future work, at least in novel form, from the author.

      Which brings us to some confusion about the author.  Who was "Quincy Germaine"?  One online seller stated that he was fairly certain the author was Francis Yenwood, of whom I know nothing except that he illustrated the book rather than wrote it.  Another online source indicates Luther H. Cary, which seems a bit more reasonable because the book was copyrighted in his name.  Cary also copyrighted a number of books published under other names, including every book I have been able to find from the publisher of The Even Hand, The Pilgrim Press of Norwood, Massachusetts.  I believe the most probable reason is that Cary was the publisher and hasd purchased all rights to the books he published.  I say this only because I know he was not the author.  The person behind the "Quincy Germaine" name was a woman named Caroline Wright.

     Caroline Wright was an eccentric (at least during the later part of her life) lady.  She also lived next door to my great-grandmoother and was a friend of my family in the small village where I was raised.  My memories of Caroline are hazy, although she did not die until I was in high school, or perhaps out of high school.  She was always in the background in the adult world and, as such, I never paid much attention.  I remember when I was young, she and my great-grandmother would spend Christmases with us and (perhaps) Thanksgivings also.

     Caroline lived in an old house near the edge of town, with only a field separating her home from the town of Carlisle.  (My grandfather's name for her was "The Carlisle Morning Glory"; evidently she was always good for passing on some gossip.)  The house was always badly in need of paint.  She lived alone and frustrated the local police with her "emergency" signal, which was an American flag pinned upsidedown in  her front window.  The emergency was usually a squirrel that had got into her house, but the police had to stop every time a passing cruiser saw the upsidedown flag because they could not tell if there would be a real emergency.  (There never was.)  A local farmer used the field next to her house and would often water the crops at night with a sprinkling system.  Caroline would go out some nights when the sprinkler was running to shower.

     I have no idea of her age, but I suspect she was born in the 1880s, or perhaps the early 1890s -- which would have made her at least twenty years younger than my great-grandmother.  My mother once mentioned that Caroline had a boy staying with her one summer, whether alone or with his family I have no idea.  My mother and he would play all that summer on Caroline's lawn.  My mother said the boy grew up to be a well-known playwright -- and, naturally, I've forgotten his name .  Caroline drove an old gray car, probably 1930s vintage (again, my spotty memory does little for details), in excellent condition.  Toward the end of her life (and, believe me, she was spry well into her old age) she told me that she had given the car in trust to a friend with instructions to keep it well hidden and not to tell her where.  She was tired of having strangers come up to her and offer to buy the car; "That'll teach them," she said.  I really had a hard time following that logic.

     One Christmas -- I must have been ten or so -- her present to me was an old key.  The first of my future collection, she said, because keys make a fascinating hobby.  My young self accepted the gift with grace, although my mind was spinning with whatever Fifties version of WTF I could muster.  My older sister did not get off so easy.  One day Caroline spent hours teaching her to walk in high heels, up and down the hallway over and over and over again.  When my sister was thirteen, Caroline wisked her off the Boston:  "She's a young lady now.  She needs to learn how to eat lobster properly."

     Caroline was college-educated, I'm pretty sure.  She worked in some capacity in a mental hospital, because my father used to say that maybe it was contagious in Caroline's case.  In the early 1910s however, Caroline had literary ambitions.  She published short stories and poems, as well as the book in question, under the cloak "Quincy Germaine".  (I suspect -- and I've been doing a lot of suspecting in this post -- that the Quincy part of the pseudonym came from my Great-Uncle Quincy who lived next door to her.)  I've been able to locate several of her stories in (strangely enough) The Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics, a magazine that had several name changes during that time.  And, yes, this is the Boston Cooking-School of Fanny Farmer fame.  Some day, I'll get up the courage to read these stories and perhaps repost them.

     But The Even Hand is the Quincy Germaine I want to read.  The labor movement in the early part of the century is a fascinating topic, one that had much of its start near my childhood home.  It will also be interesting to see how accurately the reviews of the book were.


     For more forgotten books, from people who have actually read them this time, go to Pattinase where Patti Abbott has the links and some reviews


1 comment:

  1. Though in the Boston area, Quincy is certainly a name one hears nearly every day, as well, because of the town...but your suspicions are probably germane.... So, how's that key collection coming along? Reminds me a bit of meeting Laurel Buck in college, and her telling me about the last years of Doris Pitkin Buck, her grandmother, who had a few curious notions of her own.

    Looking forward to your review. Another Agnes Smedley might await rediscovery...