Pocahontas resurfaces, though, in the early 1890's as Americans tried to put the Civil War behind them in celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World. In a Funk & Wagnalls series known as the "Columbian Historical Novels," John R. Musick wrote "Pocahontas: A Story of Virginia." Part history, part dime romance, this novel demonstrates the dual nature of the Pocahontas legend. While 19th century authors recognized the historical significance of the events of her life, they just couldn't resist tailoring the story to please themselves and their audience. Musick admits in Chapter VII of his novel:
"There is no story more dear to the heart of the American than that of Pocahontas. It has been so often narrated that it has become a nursery legend, yet in all history none more dramatic touching can be found. It has moved hearts since it was first told to civilized ears. Each succeeding generation reads anew the tender tale, narrated, perhaps, by some new author, who, in song or story, makes of Smith and his child rescuer the incarnation of his own fancy. It has been told in romance, sung to the sweet notes of the harp, performed on the stage, and gravely narrated by the historian, yet wherever heard, however told, it loses nothing [I wonder if he saw Brougham's play...]; the story itself is always the same, and never fails to move the heart of the listener."
As Musick here contradicts himself, so the many Pocahontas authors and artists struggle with the malleable nature of the legend. The novel begins with a typically Edenic Virginia and a typically fairy-like Pocahontas wandering through pastoral landscapes in perfect communion with nature. After an expansive recounting of Pocahontas' heroic plea to her father to spare Smith's life, Musick begins to make the legend into the incarnation of his fancy. Rolfe is made a back-stabbing liar and Smith a near-saint.
Rolfe sees the opportunity to marry royalty and tells Pocahontas that her true love, Smith, is dead. She reluctantly agrees to marry Rolfe, and they are whisked off to England where they become the toast of London. When Pocahontas, now Lady Rebecca Rolfe, runs into Smith, however, she dies of a broken heart:
"Tricked, held in captivity, and deceived by the man who professed to love her into marriage---who can wonder that poor Pocahontas was speechless? The flood of recollections, the whirlwind of emotions which overcame her at that moment were too much for even her stoical Indian nature."
Three days later she would be dead.
The marriage to Rolfe clearly doesn't sit well with many people. It just doesn't fit the fairy-tale mold: she saved Smith, so HE should get the girl, or at least maintain possession of her heart. The Pocahontas legend is vague enough, though, for Musick and his ilk to simply bend the story to accommodate their sense of justice.