Monday, April 4, 2016

Legend of the Luray Caverns

Pauline Carrington Rust - Legend of the Luray Caverns (1887) direct link 
Open Library main page

I heard about this from a piece at Atlas Obscura (The 19th Century ‘Show Caves’ That Became America’s First Tourist Traps - how could anybody pass up that title?).  The book is an utter fantasy based on a human skeleton found in the caverns - the author wanted some story to explain the find.  Needless to say, it's completely unhistorical.

Pauline Carrington Rust (1860-1928) later published under her married name of Bouvé.  She was born in Arkansas and her father was Albert Rust, Confederate general and post-war member of US House of Representatives.  Her mother's maiden name was Cabell and born in Virginia so I suspect a connection to James Branch Cabell but can't find any.  (There's a book The Cabells and Their Kin which probably has the answer but I'll leave that to somebody with more patience for genealogy than I have.)  After the father died the family moved to Luray, Virginia where his brother lived.  Rust was a journalist and popular writer married to another writer Thomas Tracy Bouvé.  They lived near Boston.  (Her sister Julia Tutwiler was not the Alabama educational reformer.)

So, all that out of the way, what else did she publish?  Probably the best remembered is her 1899 The Shadows Before: A Novel of the Southampton Insurrection (today more commonly called Nat Turner's Rebellion).  It's told from an adult narrator's perspective who witnessed the events as a child.  There's a chapter on it in Mary Kemp Davis' Nat Turner Before the Bar of Judgment (1999).  Her other works were the miscellany of a working writer - Pilate's Wife (seems to have been a short novel), a translation of The Golden Fleece (from a French book not the original), Tales of the Mayflower Children, and an assortment of articles, poetry, histories and so forth.  Apparently she wrote an unpublished memoir of Luray.