MABEL PARKER or, THE HIDDEN TREASURE: A Tale of the Frontier Settlements by

MABEL PARKER or, THE HIDDEN TREASURE: A Tale of the Frontier Settlements

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KIRKUS REVIEW

First printing in its original form of a Horatio Alger, Jr., novel written in 1878 and unearthed in manuscript only recently. As editor Gary Scharnhorst explains in his preface, Alger was known for his 103 juveniles written between 1864 and 1897, clichÉ-besotted tales based invariably on a poor boy's rise from rags to riches by way of the single winning stroke of fortune. Alger himself, however, lusted for literary respectability, and to achieve it he wrote this sentimental novel. His publisher declared bankruptcy before the novel could be published, though in 1904--after Alger's death--it was rewritten as a young-adult novel and published. This version, in turn, is its first publication as Alger wrote it. If it's worth an hour's read, the reason could only be to get a reminder of what the popular literary marketplace was like in 1878 America--and how similar it was to our television-and-romance fare of today. The novel is set in a small upstate New York frontier village some 60 years in the past. A shifty lawyer in New York City has discovered a secret drawer in a cheap desk he bought; the drawer holds a kind of will and a map showing where $50,000 in gold is buried under an apple tree. Instead of digging up the treasure for himself alone, the lawyer goes to the upstate village where the no-longer-wealthy son of the man who buried the treasure now lives. The lawyer is familiar with the son, a widower, and is willing to forego his claim on the treasure if the rightful inheritor will give him the hand of his beautiful daughter. The daughter, though, who has a fairly keen mind and is something of a feminist, refuses to help her father regain his former station in life--she's in love with a highborn ninny who has just graduated from Harvard Law School. Will the lawyer ultimately force her into his clutches? The issue is circumvented when the family accidentally comes into possession of the map and digs up the gold for themselves. There are some subtle touches and even unconsciously erotic ploys here, but the book really is just a curio.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Archon/Shoe String