The Power to Deny – A New Book about Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson
By Jim Miller
It is not uncommon for people to live in Horsham or some place very near Horsham for years and years before they somehow happen to discover Graeme Park. But when Wendy Stanley moved here from Canada a decade ago it took her only a few weeks to find it and only minutes to become excited about it. She learned a bit about Elizabeth Graeme’s life as a privileged but restricted woman of the eighteenth century and started to write a novel about her. Wendy describes her book, The Power to Deny, just published last December, as historical fiction. But it is hardly fiction at all. There is very little in it that is not documented or did not actually happen.
That is because Wendy did such extensive, detailed research about her subject. She visited Elizabeth-related sites in Philadelphia – her burial site at Christ Church, the graveyard at Old Swedes Church where she and Henry Fergusson were married, the house where her sister Jane lived, as well as lots of libraries and, of course, Graeme Park. While poring through an original journal at the Pennsylvania Historical Society library, written in solitude with a quill pen by Elizabeth’s own hand, a pressed flower fell out of the pages. It had been there nearly three centuries!
Elizabeth’s life story seems a natural for a novel, considering her struggles in romance, as a writer, as a property owner during the Revolutionary War, and generally as a female during that turbulent era. Wendy put it all together in this book, which took her eight years of working in solitude at her computer, when time away from juggling all of the obligations of life as a 21st century wife, mother, and employee would allow, to write.