To Have And To Hold Mary Johnston Essay

Ralph Percy’s first-person narrative begins in 1621, only fourteen years after the founding of the Jamestown colony, where he has settled as a tobacco farmer after serving in the European wars. His friend John Rolfe urges him to marry one of the brides for sale who have just arrived from England. Idly casting dice, Percy vows that if he throws ambsace, he will go buy a bride—and ambsace he throws. Among the milkmaids, he sees a dark-eyed and dazzling beauty who returns his look with scorn. After Percy rescues her from the forceful advances of Edward Sharpless, however, and asks her to marry him, she agrees. They are married by Jeremy Sparrow, a picaresque minister who befriends Percy. When Percy takes his bride, Jocelyn Leigh, upriver to his farm, she informs him that to escape persecution in England, she disguised herself as her waiting woman and came to America, where she married him only as a last resort. Respecting her appeal to his generosity, Percy does not press his connubial rights. She in turn remains wary, aloof, and aristocratic.

Shortly thereafter, there arrives from England Lord Carnal, an arrogant favorite of King James, who dotes upon such exquisitely handsome young men. It was to escape marriage to him that Jocelyn, the king’s ward, fled England. In Virginia, Carnal expects everyone to give him his way and to have the marriage annulled, and he is enraged when Percy defies him.

As her husband continues to defend her honor and her person, disregarding the risk to himself, Jocelyn develops a grudging respect for him. He disarms Carnal at rapier play, defeats him at wrestling, and saves her from abduction. When orders come from...

(The entire section is 684 words.)

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
To Have and to Hold, by Mary Johnston (1900), was one of the most popular books of the year. It is a historical romance and deals with life in the Virginia colonies in the early part of the seventeenth century. Ralph Percy, the hero of the tale, an Englishman of birth and breeding, is leading a life of adventure in Virginia, when a cast of the dice decides him to choose a wife from among the shipload of maids who have just arrived from England. He hastily marries a proud and lovely maid who proves to be none other than Jocelyn Leigh, the King’s ward, who had fled the country disguised as a serving-maid, in order to escape marriage with Lord Carnal, the King’s favorite, whom she despised. Carnal traces her and follows her to Virginia, where he does everything in his power to get possession of her, and uses every foul means possible to rid himself of her husband. Percy and Lord Carnal, who are bitter enemies, have various encounters, in all of which the former succeeds in getting the best of his rival. News comes from England that Jocelyn and her husband are to be brought back there by order of the King and the latter imprisoned, while the former is forced to comply with his Majesty’s wishes. Jocelyn and Percy flee in the night, pursued by Lord Carnal, and set sail in a small boat accompanied by Jeremy Sparrow, the minister who married them and who has been their staunch friend, Diccon, a servant, and Carnal, who by this means is kept in their power. They are wrecked and cast upon a desert island, where Percy encounters a band of pirates who have come ashore to bury their Captain. He conquers them, assumes the character of Kirby, a famous pirate, and becomes their commander. Percy and his companions remain upon the pirate ship until his orders against attacking an English merchantman cause rebellion, and during the fracas Sparrow seizes the wheel and runs the ship upon the rocks. After their rescue Percy is sentenced to be hung as a pirate, when Jocelyn’s pleading for his life saves him and reveals how much she has grown to love the man whom she married so hastily. The ship returns to Virginia where, after long separation and many thrilling experiences, Percy and Jocelyn are at length re-united and Carnal, a physical wreck, takes poison and thereby ends a life of baseness and disappointed hopes.


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