Alice in Sunderland
New York: Cochrane Publishing Co., 1909. First Edition. First printing. Small octavo (19cm). Grayish-tan, pictorial textured cloth, 153pp. A bright, straight copy, Near Fine, in the publisher's binding.
A curious little novel of country manners, built around an itinerant school-teacher's term in a rural Vermont schoolhouse. A contemporary review in the Rutland (Vermont) Daily Herald notes the novel's regional interest, concluding it "shows a fair insight, without much sympathy, into the lives of the 'truly rural' population of Vermont, and the experience of Alice in dealing with rebellious pupils, complacent superintendent and meddling mothers is true enough to the life lived therein." Another Vermont reviewer identifies Miss Torrey as a school teacher and a native of Bennington county.
The book's title is clearly intended as a pun on Alice in Wonderland, and while the author does not go so far as to indulge in Carrollian inversions of logic, she does present a young single woman making her own way in an alien and sometimes absurd social milieu. And Alice's internal musings, which frequently break the narrative, occasionally betray dim echoes of Carroll's Alice, as in the opening scene when she arrives at her new establishment: "...the first thing that impressed her was that the house faced up the mountainside. This seemed wrong, though why she couldn't tell and didn't try to, but afterward it occurred to her that being Mt. Pleasant one expected a view, and that no one looked up the side of a mountain for a view, but rather down it..."
It is a tartly-written story, droll enough that we wish we could find out more about the author who, alas, aside from scattered references to the current work, appears lost to history. The book is scarce; we trace no other copies in commerce, and only four locations are noted in WorldCat (LC, OSU, ASU, Morgan). SMITH T-311.