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George Higby Throop, 1818-1896
Nag's Head. Or, Two Months Among "The Bankers." A Story of Sea-shore Life and Manners
Philadelphia: A. Hart, T.K. and P.G. Collins, printers, 1850.

Summary

George Higby Throop, who wrote under the pseudonym Gregory Seaworthy, tutored the children of Cullen Capehart, who owned a plantation in Bertie County, North Carolina. In the summer months, Throop accompanied the family to their vacation home at Nags Head on North Carolina's Outer Banks. The experience inspired his first work, a semi-autobiographical novel named after the resort town. Throop began work on the book while still living with the Capeharts, but in 1849 he moved to Philadelphia to complete the work and publish two more, Bertie (1851) and Lynde Weiss (1852).

Nag's Head: or, Two Months Among "The Bankers." A Story of Sea-Shore Life and Manners can hardly be called a novel, for it is really a loosely fictionalized journal of Throop's summer there with the Capeharts. The novel has neither a discernible plot nor fully drawn characters. The narrator of the book, Gregory Seaworthy, is a "Northerner" who is employed as a tutor for the children of a wealthy planter. The tutor is also a former sailor, as was Throop. The narrator is familiar with North Carolina literature, as he makes several allusions to other authors from the state, including Calvin Henderson Wiley.

Seaworthy accompanies his employers (who are never named) to their summer cottage on Nags Head and records local folklore and history as well as his impressions of the people and their customs. He also offers interesting descriptions of the ferries and schooners that ply the sound and the coastline. Seaworthy claims to be a story of life among "the Bankers," but he says comparatively little about the native inhabitants of the Outer Banks. His attention is focused almost solely on the planter population. He details the various recreational activities—from swimming to fishing to large dances—of men and women, young and old, married and single.

North Carolina literary historian Richard Walser concludes in an article on Throop that Nag's Head "has little literary merit, but it possesses a sprightly humor and lively style. Its principal attraction lies in its value as social history" (p. 20). In his introduction to the 1958 edition of the novel, Walser also notes that Nag's Head was the first novel set in North Carolina during a contemporary, rather than historic, time period (p. xi).

Works Consulted: Powell, William S., ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996; Walser, Richard, "Introduction," Nag's Head and Bertie: Two novels, by George Higby Throop, Charlotte, NC: Heritage Press, 1958; Walser, Richard, "The Mysterious Case of George Higby Throop (1818-1896); or, The Search for the Author of the Novels Nag's Head, Bertie, and Lynde Weiss," North Carolina Historical Review, 33:1 (1956): 12-44.

Michael Sistrom

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