Memoirs of The German Princess
By Dr. Paul A. Scanlon
Reviewed by Carol L. Bowman
Historical fiction can be a fascinating read, as actual characters and events that have shaped history unfold. Dr. Paul A. Scanlon, in his first novel, ‘Memoirs of The German Princess’, does this brilliantly, as he lifts the reader into the backdrop of late 17th Century London. The author allows Maria von Wolway of dubious German royalty, later known as Mary Carleton, but who always considered herself ‘The German Princess,’ to relate her own tales, exploits and tragedies in the form of first person memoir.
Scanlon, with a PhD in literature from the University of Dublin, has taught English literature all over the world, completing his last eleven-year stint in Oman. He, along with his wife, Marit, returned to write and relax in Ajijic two years ago. Attributed to his emphasis on Elizabethan prose romance and his exhaustive year-long research on the colorful German Princess, he takes the reader magically into the late 1600’s through dialogue and vernacular commensurate with the times. Detailed descriptions of the environs and events in London which impacted on the life of this intriguing woman, including the devastating plague, the Great Fire and the intricacies of the London Theater, bring the period into focus. We can hear the sounds, smell the odors and taste the fare of London during this era.
I found it refreshing that a contemporary author could capture the unique historical perspectives in England, as well as in Jamaica, where Mary Carleton suffered banishment by the courts for her unsavory exploits and highway robberies. Her involvement with pirate, Captain Henry Morgan in Port Royal, Jamaica further demonstrates her determination to stray from the norm of the aristocratic woman of her generation.
Dr. Scanlon first came upon reference to this little known figure when he was editing Daniel Defoe‘s 1722 novel, Moll Flanders, for a Canadian press. “Imbedded in a footnote was a reference to The German Princess as a possible influence on Defoe,” said Paul describing how he came upon this historical character. “There was a question mark next to her name and the question mark remained whenever I came upon it. I became intrigued- ‘who the devil was she,’ I thought.” And so the spark of investigating and writing about this, at times celebrated, yet more often controversial, individual became Scanlon’s quest.
Referring to the depth of the landscape of 17th century London and Jamaica, Paul said, “Having led such an adventurous life, which took the heroine to different parts of the world and thrust her into many difficult and interesting situations, I soon found that my reading had to keep pace with her exploits. The language of the age seemed to me to be an important feature of the work…” Scanlon has managed to capture it all.
A real page turner, ‘Memoirs of The German Princess’ not only relates the story of a flamboyant historical figure, but also exemplifies the plight of women, daring to be bold, in the male dominated society of the time. Even until her demise at the end of the gallows’ rope, she continued to maintain her dignity as ‘The German Princess’ while writing her memoirs from her prison cell. Mary Carleton has been referred to in later recounts as the ‘first British feminist.’
(Ed. Note: Join Paul at Oasis Cloud Café’s, “Meet the Author” event on Oct. 29, 2014, 11AM when he will discuss Memoirs of the German Princess in depth. Paperback available on amazon.com at $12.29 and electronically on Kindle at $4.95, Nook, and lulu Marketplace ebook.)