Penelope: A Changing Tale

Home Read Excerpt Novel Time Line ---------------- Many Stories of Penelope
---------------- Smith 1765 Edwards 1792 Benedict1813 Stout1823 Raum1871 Power1876 Ellis1885 Salter1890 Mayes1890 Stockton1896 Streets1897 Stilwell1916 © after 1923 Stout1951 Crawford1970 Hayes1991 Schott1999 Waldrup1999 Phillips2006 King2011 McFarlane2012

The story of Penelope has passed from grandparents to children for centuries and has been printed two dozen different ways.

To see how the story has evolved over the years, stay on this page, A Changing Tale.

To see a list of the printed versions and to read many of the non-copyrighted versions, then click on Many Stories.

To see the time line of my novel interspersed among real historical events, then click on Novel Time Line.

Book Description

Title: Penelope: A Novel of New Amsterdam
ISBN: 978-0-9851122-0-2 Publication Date: March 2012
Format: 5.5 x 8.5 paperback
Length: about 380 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction (adventure)
Price: $15.00 plus shipping

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A Changing Tale

In the early narrations by parent or grandparent to child, the boring parts were eliminated, such as the name of the first husband, their backgrounds, and the voyage details. Dates were forgotten or muddled.

A memorable storyteller would embellish the plain facts, such as the gory details of the Indian attack and a lonely survival on the beach, and stretch out the drama of the young Indian ready to put Penelope out of her misery with the older Indian saving her. And then produce a happy ending.

New generations arose and dispersed across the region, each branch of the family taking a slightly different version with them. Then more than a century after the events, descendants from different branches of the family recited the story to strangers, such as Samuel Smith, who wrote a history of New Jersey in 1765, and Rev. Oliver Hart, pastor of the Hopewell church, who gathered information for Morgan Edward’s Materials Towards A History Of The Baptists in Jersey, published in 1792. Or a descendant, such as Nathan Stout, published his own story in 1823.

Compare these three earliest printed versions: 1765, 1792 and 1823

Each narration of about 2 pages elaborates the scene just enough to pique our interest. Two relate a shipwreck at Sandy Hook, presumably the barrier island, and one claims the coast near Middletown, several miles away. Two have no dates and one provides a date of 1620, several years before Peter Minuet bought Manhattan.

One version gives Penelope no last name; the second assigns Penelope’s father a last name of Van Princis; the third puts that name on her husband. Two allege the crew survived the wreck; one says Indians killed them all. Each writes that Indians mutilated Penelope and killed her husband and she sheltered in a hollow log.

Two describe rescue by a young and an old Indian; one by a lone Indian with a dog. They all agree the Indian saved her life. Two say the Indian delivered her to New Amsterdam; one says white men came searching. According to all three sources she married Mr. Stout but only one claims she lived to be 110 years old.

Which one is the true version?    

Highlights of Later Printings

The American Centennial of 1876 erupted with interest in American history and genealogy. (The D.A.R. was not founded until 1890.) John Carroll Power in 1876 had supposedly read Benedict’s account. He embellished it with a scalping, suggested dates of 1680-90, and waxed eloquently about Penelope of ancient Greece.

Circa 1890, Edward Mayes (whose version is the one I first saw) corrected Benedict’s dates by 20 years.

In 1896 Frank Stockton, a popular writer of the time, presented “a series of historic incidents in panoramic form” in his Stories of New Jersey, including eight pages about Penelope.

Thomas Hale Streets in 1897 was the first to seriously analyze the story from an historical perspective and proposed a marriage date of 1644 in order for Penelope and Richard Stout’s two oldest sons to be of age in 1665 to claim land in Middletown.

In 1916 John E. Stillwell expanded the historical analysis further and also liked 1644.

Deborah Crawford’s 1970 book Four Women in a Violent Time is classified as non-fiction. Nevertheless she fictionalized most of her story about Penelope and gave the husband the name of Kent Van Princes. Tisquantum is the name of the Indian rescuer as it is on the commemorative medal.

In 1999 Penelope Schott published her narrative poem, well-done but highly imaginative as poetry should be.

Waldrup’s 1999 non-fiction Colonial Women: 23 Europeans Who Helped Build a Nation devotes 6 pages to Penelope.

In Paula E. Phillips’ 2006 PublishAmerica debut novel As Good As Dead: The Penelope Stout Story, Penelope Thompson is forced by her Anabaptist father to marry Baron Kent vanPrinces and they sail on the ship Kath to America.

Jim McFarlane’s 2012 debut novel Penelope: A Novel of New Amsterdam weaves a ransom and a search for a murderer with historical events of 1648, including de Kath’s capture of a Spanish ship, charges against its privateer crew for stealing pearls and pieces of eight, and de Kath’s last voyage from Curacao to New Amsterdam with a cargo of salt plus passengers Penelope Kent and her husband Matthew Prince. Numerous historic figures populate the muddy streets of New Amsterdam and Gravesend.