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Remick, Martha

REMICK, Martha

Born 11 June 1832, Kittery, Maine; died 11 April 1906, Everett, Massachusetts

Daughter of Rufus and Sally Cram Remick

The youngest daughter of a shipwright and farmer who had earned a lieutenancy in the War of 1812, Martha Remick never married, dedicating her life to writing. A family genealogy, the only source of biographical information on Remick, describes her as "unmarried, authoress and poetess."

In the preface to Agnes Stanhope: A Tale of English Life (1862), Remick declares her purpose to show the "ever-present providence of God," but the novel is a romantic thriller that entertains far more than it elevates. Agnes, a heedless young girl, elopes with her sister Bertha's fiancé Howard. Howard soon turns to cards, whiskey, and evil companions. One of these takes Howard to visit his soon-to-be-discarded mistress Helen, who has planned to poison her faithless lover with arsenic-laced champagne. Howard accidentally drinks the potion, then staggers home to die. Accused of Howard's murder and condemned to die, Agnes escapes to Italy, where she meets and marries De Lacey, Helen's brother, who knows nothing of his sister's fallen life. They return to England, where Agnes is hard-pressed to conceal her identity. The conscience-stricken Helen does finally confess, and Agnes and De Lacey's happiness is assured.

Millicent Halford: A Tale of the Dark Days of Kentucky in the Year 1861 (1865), the story of a Massachusetts girl who goes to live with her slave-owning relatives in Kentucky, is a pro-North Civil War romance. Millicent is appalled by her first exposure to whippings and slave sales. Fred, one of Millicent's Kentucky cousins, agrees with her and joins the Union army; his brother, James, is a supporter of the Confederacy. Fred survives the war and marries Millicent. Using the brothers as symbols of North and South, Remick deliberately leaves James' fate in question, just as the fate of the defeated South was in question when the book was written.

Richard Ireton: A Tale from the Early Settlement of New England (1875), purporting to be a tale of early American Puritans and Quakers, is actually another romantic thriller. Remick's few forays into New England history here produce dancing, party-going Puritans, gaudily clad Quakers, and battle scenes from the French and Indian War that are set in 1681.

Remick's heroines tend to be impossibly virtuous and pallid. To move her somewhat creaky plots forward, she relies heavily on the overworked device of "had she but known the tragedies that would befall her." Despite these flaws, Remick is a talented writer whose heroes and villains alike are flawed, realistic, and sympathetic characters. Her villains have elements of kindness, gentleness, and even nobility, while her heroes have streaks of pride and selfishness. She also offers no simple, moralistic solutions to life's tragedies. The modern reader would still find these books entertaining and worthwhile.

Other Works:

Miscellaneous Poems (1901; available only at the libraries of Brown University and the University of Chicago.)

Bibliography:

Remick, O. P., Geneaology of the Remick Family (1893).

Reference works:

A Critical Dictionary of English and American Authors (1891).

—ZOHARA BOYD

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