emma_in_dream: (Singin')
Mary Martha Sherwood wrote “The History of the Fairchild Family” in three volumes, published 1818, 1842 and 1847. I read the first book, which is chiefly about the Fairchild children – Emily, Lucy and Henry – realising that all humans are depraved sinners in need of redemption. To quote from the first few pages:

Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild loved and feared God, and had done so, by the mercy of God, ever since their younger days. They knew that their hearts were very bad, and that they could not be saved by any good thing they could do: on the contrary, that they were by nature fitted only for everlasting punishment: but they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and loved him for having died for them; and they knew he would save them, because he saves all those who trust in him.

The book is essentially a series of vignettes of the children being instructed on the righteous path. Emily, for example, succumbs to the temptation to eat some forbidden plums: 'no eye was looking at her, but the eye of God, who sees every thing we do, and knows even the secret thoughts of the heart; but Emily, just at that moment, did not think of God.'

Even worse, their cousin Augusta plays with candles after being told not to and is burnt alive. The stakes are high in this novel, because every sin is a step towards losing their souls forever. When Mr Fairchild catches his children quarrelling, he first thrashes them, reciting Dr. Watts's 'Let dogs delight to bark and bite' between blows of the cane, and then takes them to spend the afternoon beneath a gibbet where the rotting corpse of a murderer is hanging. Lesson learned.

The works were massively popular in the 19th century, in print constantly until 1913. There is some evidence, though, that it was not always read as intended. Lord Hamilton wrote that 'there was plenty about eating and drinking; one could always skip the prayers, and there were three or four very brightly written accounts of funerals in it.’

Frances Hodgson Burnett, perhaps a more pious child, states that she read it in two sections, first reading the religious statements because she thought she should and then reading the story for pleasure.
emma_in_dream: (CaptainAmerica)
I am charmed by Lucie Cobbe Heaton Armstrong’s social column, originally appearing in the issue of * Women’s Suffrage Journal* for 1 May 1884.

It begins “Mrs. Frank Morrison gave a highly-successful ‘At Home’ the other day, at the South Kensington Hotel, for the principal supporters of women’s suffrage. There was quite a brilliant company assembled. I noticed Lady Harberton and Lady Wilde amongst the guests. The meeting was held in a charming room, with cream-coloured panels picked out with a narrow line of pale pink and pale blue,”

I for one applaud the combination of feminism and fashion, bread and roses too.
emma_in_dream: (CaptainAmerica)
In 1884 the Bigelow Free Public Library in Clinton, Massachusetts, circulated 35,820 books, and listed the most popular writers of fiction as William T. Adams, Horatio Alger, Jr., M. J. Holmes, and Mrs. Southworth.

Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth, or E.D. E. N. Southworth, was the author of *The Hidden Hand* a bestseller. Praised by critics and adored by readers, the narrative was printed in Robert Bonner’s New York Ledger in 1859, 1868, 1869, and again in 1883, before being released in book form in 1888.

*The Hidden Hand* was a cultural phenomenon as well as a literary one. Like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s *Uncle Tom’s Cabin*, Southworth’s novel was both adapted for the stage, with at least forty dramatic adaptations of the novel made during Southworth’s lifetime. One of the most (in)famous featured seasoned actor (and future presidential assassin) John Wilkes Booth in the role of the novel’s most notorious villain, Black Donald. There was also a line of clothing, labelled the ‘Capitola look’ after the heroine.

Echoing a trope of nineteenth-century literature as well as many children’s classics, the thirteen-year-old girl is penniless, homeless, and alone when first introduced to readers. Whisked away at birth to prevent her father’s greedy brother from murdering her, Cap is unaware of her heritage, and her maternal relatives are, in turn, unaware of her existence. For more than a decade, the nurse who brought Capitola to New York and has been serving as her guardian has hidden the Virginia heiress. Now, the aged and ailing Nancy Grewell feels that the time has come to finally reveal the girl’s existence. Leaving her ward with a stock of food and money, Nancy sets out for the South. Although the elderly woman succeeds in her quest, the trip exhausts her. Within hours of revealing the secret to Cap’s uncle, Nancy dies.

This is a shame, as this part of the novel is my favourite, genuinely gothic and horrible, with a dead baby substituted for a live one, a blood red birth mark, a dead woman in an attic, the servant who sees all. I’ll add, too, that though Cap was raised by Nancy she is strangely unmoved by her death.

Back in New York, Capitola’s previously desperate situation has become even more dire. During the months that Nancy has been away, the girl has run out of food and money. Evicted from her tenement home, the would-be heiress is now a homeless street beggar. Harassed each night by lecherous men and forced to sell pieces of her clothing for food, Cap finds herself in both physical want and sexual danger. As she later tells a magistrate about the experience, “‘Oh, sir—I can’t—I—how can I? Well, being always exposed, sleeping out-doors, I was often in danger from bad boys and bad men,’ said Capitola, and dropping her head upon her breast, and covering her crimson cheeks with her hands, for the first time she burst into tears and sobbed aloud”. Cap’s virginity and virtue are always being assailed by bad men, but her verve always keeps them at bay.

Blocked from various forms of employment because of her gender, Cap realizes that her life would be much easier if she were male. As a result, rather than wait for a boy to take care of her, Capitola decides to transform herself into a boy so that she can take care of herself. Cutting her hair short and trading her petticoats for a pair of pants, she announces, “I went into that little back parlor a girl, and I came out a boy”.

When a policeman discovers her gender-bending disguise one day, he arrests her for cross-dressing. Although this event ends her boyish days, it reunites her with her kind if cantankerous maternal relative, Major Ira Warfield. Setting out for New York after learning of his niece’s existence, the gentleman—in one of the many coincidences in Southworth’s novel—happens to be at the police station when his gender-bending niece is brought in. Paying his niece’s fine, Major Warfield brings her back to the South.

Capitola’s reunion with a member of her Virginia family, however, does not signal a happily-ever-after ending. Nor does it signal an end to her tomboyish behavior. When Cap’s villainous paternal uncle, Gabriel LeNoir, learns of her existence, he vows to eliminate her. “Yes! It is that miserable old woman and babe!” he exclaims upon learning of Capitola’s return with Major Warfield, “in every vein of my soul, I repent not having silenced them both forever while they were yet in my power!”.

With the help of the town’s most notorious criminal, Black Donald, he makes repeated attempts to abduct and murder his heiress niece. In keeping with the sensational style that made Southworth famous, each of these plots involves an array of thrilling, page-turning events: Gabriel and Black Donald don disguises, leap out from behind bushes, hide under beds, establish secret hideouts, fall through trap doors, live in haunted mansions, and—in one especially hilarious moment—even impersonate a camp minister.

In spite of such imaginative and persistent efforts, the terrible twosome are unable to capture Cap who emerges triumphant and, I am amazed to say, making rude gestures at them

'Turning as she wheeled out of sight, Capitola–I am sorry to say–put her thumb to the side of her nose and whirled her fingers into a semicircle, in a gesture more expressive than elegant.'
emma_in_dream: (trance)
You probably know more about William Taylor Adams, who wrote over 100 novels as “Oliver Optic”, than you think. Louisa May Alcott, in 1875’s *Eight Cousins*, launched a thinly veiled attack on the hyperactive and unrealistic novels in the highly successful Oliver Optic series According to Alcott, too many juvenile novels extolled criminal activity, slangy language, mysterious luck, and sudden success. Speaking through one of her characters, she emphatically criticised the overwrought portrayals as “optical delusions”.

Adams responded promptly with pointed prose in *Oliver Optic’s Magazine: Our Boys and Girls*:

MISS LOUISE (sic) M. ALCOTT is publishing a story in a magazine. It is called “Eight Cousins.” We have read only the portion to which our attention has just been called, and looked over two or three chapters of another portion. It is a critical story; or, at least, it contains a chapter of criticism. The topic is “Sensational Books for Boys,” and she treats it as flippantly as though she knew what she was writing about. The mother of the two boys in the story says she “has read a dozen at least of these stories,” from which we infer that Miss Alcott has read them; but, judging from some of the quotations she makes, she read them with her elbows. . . . She mixes things terribly. She quotes from one book, and judges another by what she quotes. She quotes from the Optic books, and then fastens upon them the sins of other books, as we shall presently show. . . . She seems to have deliberately misrepresented the books she writes about.

Oliver Optic wrote over 100 childrens’s novels, mostly for boys, and also edited his own magazine.

I read *Little by Little: Or the Cruise of the Flyaway* (1860), which seems a lot less trashy than his reputation implies. The lead character works thriftily to pay off the mortgage on his widowed mother’s house and has mild adventures in his fishing boat. It’s hard to see why these books were hated so much. Caroline M. Hewins, director of the Hartford (Connecticut) Public Library, described his works in the most hyperbolic terms:

I wish that I could tell you of great results, and that the children of Hartford had walked in procession to the Park, and there, Savonarola-like, burned their idols, Alger, Optic, Castlemon, and Elsie; but unfortunately, my regard for truth prevents any such statement.

Having said that, Hewins nonetheless bought Optic books for the Hartford Public Library.

Oliver Optic apparently aroused fierce emotions and yet, apparently, wrote fairly innocuous stories.
emma_in_dream: (BTTF)
To quote another critic, , ". . . in the Himalayas of junk turned out by writers of juvenile fiction the Elsie Books stand like Everest as the worst ever written by anybody, and that Elsie Dinsmore is without peer the Most Nauseating Heroine of all time."
emma_in_dream: (Corellia)
I can’t remember the technical term I’m looking for. Is it aporia, a deliberate hole in the argument? Or paralipsis, where an idea is suggested but most points omitted? Or is there another term for what Stevenson does in *Treasure Island* where he completely ignores race while making the entire book about slavery?

When the explorers arrive at Treasure Island they see an animalistic brown figure, running parallel to the ground. Based on readings of *Coral Island* or *Boys Own Adventures* one might expect this to be a native of the island – but it is Ben Gunn. His skin is so burnt by the sun that “even his lips were black; and his fair eyes looked quite startling in so dark a face”.

The whole story is about a group of white men battling it out on the island, competing for the pirate treasure trove. Not a black person in sight.

And yet it is the story of Jim Hawkins leaving Bristol on the Hispaniola to make his forture.

Jim Hawkins - Jim Hawkins name points to the historical figure of Sir John Hawkins. In 1562, sponsored by a “syndicate of London merchants and investors”, Hawkins sailed to Sierra Leone, where he “stayed some good time, and got into his possession, partly by the sword and partly by other meanes, to the nomber of 300. negroes at the least, besides other marchandises, which that country yeeldeth”. With this human cargo in the holds of his ships, Hawkins sailed to Española—Hispaniola—in the West Indies. The profits were so huge that after loading his own three ships with gold, silver, pearls, ginger, sugar, hides, and other goods he collected in trade, Hawkins found that he had “more than he could conveniently carry home”.

Hawkins’s voyage the first English slave-trading expedition, and its success prompted Elizabeth I to invest in others; in effect, Hawkins and his investors inaugurated the British slave trade. (Incidentally, a biography of Hawkins came out the year before *Treasure Island* was written).

Bristol – The port owed its wealth to the slave trade. Bristol was one of the three major slave ports in England, along with Liverpool and London, and moved perhaps 500,000 people in the eighteenth century.

Hispaniola – Ground zero of the slave trade, the first place reached by Columbus (1492), the first place where the modern slave trade was implemented (1493), site of the first slave uprising (1522) and the first successful slave uprising (1804).

The novel invites further consideration of the slave trade – the pivotal moment when Hawkins finds out that Silver is a pirate is linked back to slavery.

“It was a master surgeon, him that ampytated me, out of college and all—Latin by the bucket, and what not; but he was hanged like a dog, and sun-dried like the rest, at Corso Castle. That was Roberts’ men, that was…”

Corso Castle was a purpose-built ‘slave emporium’, a British fort on the Gold Coast with underground cells for 1,500 slaves (kept underground to prevent uprisings). It was the administrative centre towards which the surrounding slave forts reported.

The pirate Roberts to whom Silver refers is Bartholomew Roberts, who started out as a slaver and became one of the major pirates of the eighteenth century. Stevenson’s immediate source was *A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates*, from which he also borrowed the names Israel Hands and Ben Gunn. Roberts and his crew were captured and hung at Corso Castle and their bodies displayed at various forts.

The Master surgeon he references was a real person, with a connection to the slave trade and mutiny. Captured and on the way to his trial at Corso Castle, Scudamore attempted to organize an uprising among the prisoners. He “endeavoured to bring over the Negroes to his Design of murdering the People, and running away with the Ship”. Scudamore justified the prospective mutiny to his fellow pirates by saying that “it was better venturing to do this, run down the Coast, and raise a new Company, than to proceed to Cape Corso, and be hang’d like Dogs, and Sun dry’d”.

I am fascinated. There’s not a single direct reference to slavery in the book and yet it feels like it underpins everything, lurking beneath the pages like a whole other novel trying to get out.
emma_in_dream: (Buffy)
I’ve elected to read Horatio Alger Jr on the grounds of his enormous popularity at the turn of the nineteenth century. Some very clever and diligent researchers have taken the circulation records (1891-1902, with a gap 1892-4) from the Muncie Indiana Public Library and cross referenced them to the census. They can actually analyse who was borrowing what!

It turns out that a lot of people were reading Alger. He was the single most circulated author - Horatio Alger, Jr. (9,230), Harry Castlemon (7,339), Oliver Optic (5,208), Martha Finley (4,609), Edward S. Ellis (3,004), Edward R. Roe (2,991), Louisa May Alcott (2,976), F. Marion Crawford (2,120), Rosa N. Carey (1,992), and Eugenie John (1,823). The list is dominated by juvenile fiction writers I have never read.

By way of contrast, Mark Twain barely registered with 877 circulations, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which was borrowed 149 times. The three most often borrowed Alger books eclipsed Twain’s total circulation – The Young Adventurer (422), The Telegraph Boy (364), The Young Circus Rider(359).

I read Ragged Dick (circulated 308 times). This was Alger’s big break, first serialised in a newspaper in 1867 and then, due to its success, printed in 1868. While the story would be described as ‘rags to riches’, it is really more rags to middle-class security. The protagonist, Ragged Dick, uses his quick wits to move from boot black to clerk, gaining an education through night school, Sunday school and perseverance.

As to the literary merits of the book, I will defer to Carl B. Roden, assistant librarian to Chicago Public Library in 1880, who described them in as fast food:

That is the substance of the indictment which librarians bring against the widely known and ravenously devoured writings of the redoubtable Oliver Optic, of Horatio Alger, of the Elsie [Dinsmore] books [written by Martha Finley] and all of that ilk; their transparent tawdriness and falsity of plot; their cheap and paltry “written down” style; their general tone and aspect of insubstantiality; like a stick of chewing gum, tickling the palate for the moment with their fleeting flavor, only to turn into a nubbin of sticky nothingness in the end, to be cast out and forgotten.

I think this is a fair call. No one would read Alger for his style. But clearly there is a satisfaction to reading his plots, essentially the same one written again and again, of upward mobility.

* In case you want to know more about who was reading Alger in turn of the century heartland America, there were 1,361 patrons. 45% were blue collar and 55% white collar readers. 27% were female, which would tie into other evidence of his popularity with girls such as a 1899 survey of Californian students. The 665 girls who responded listed Louisa May Alcott as their most often read author, followed by Sophie May, Martha Finley, and Horatio Alger.
emma_in_dream: (obbit)
I have seen two challenges I will participate in next year.

I do a lot of Victorian reading anyway. Even in this bad year I read and reviewed six Victorian works.


And I am hoping to share this one with my kids:

emma_in_dream: (obbit)
This is the most schmaltzy story, the very epitome of Victorian mawkishness. It features the blind daughter of a toymaker who has been misled by her father her whole life as to her surroundings. Although she lives in a hovel and her father works for a harsh man, he tells her that they have a lovely house and that their grim master is always winking and nodding as he says mock harsh things.

I always have this balancing act with Dickens – he is such a good writer that I get suckered in to his stories and then the second I stop reading I fall about laughing at the ridiculously over the top sentimentality of it. I have to whisper that I feel the same way about the Christmas movie *Love Actually*.
emma_in_dream: (steve)
Ethel Turner was promoted as the Louisa May Alcott of the South. This is unsurprising, given the obvious parallels between the Woolcott family and Alcott’s creations. There’s flighty, feminine Meg March and Meg Woolcott who is also on the road to matrimony and motherhood. Jo March is the wild harum scarum child, mirrored by Judy Woolcott. Amy March’s vanity matches Nel Woolcott’s. The main difference is, of course, there is no saintly Beth figure to die in *Seven Little Australians*.
emma_in_dream: (Lotr)
“Though now children’s books come yearly in hundreds, Mrs. Molesworth’s books have not been superseded, and very likely never will be” (The Times 22 Jul. 1921).
emma_in_dream: (obbit)
A letter to the editor in an 1873 magazine reported the sighting of a fancy dining railroad car in Cleveland, called the FANNY FERN. The conductor who had sighted it wrote 'as I looked at it, the many truths she has written came to my mind, and I said to myself, Fanny Fern's name is one that will be remembered as long as memory lasts'.

And sadly I had not heard of her, though she has had an afterlife of sorts, including a 2005 opera of her life titled A.F.R.A.I.D. (American Females for Righteousness Abasement Ignorance & Docillity).

But she is well worth reading.

Fanny Fern was the pseudonym of Sarah Willis Parton who began writing to support herself after the death of her first husband. Nightmarishly, she lost her husband, mother and eldest child in two years, and was left a widow with two young children. Her parents refused to support her, arguing that she was the responsibility of her husband’s family. Her in-laws also refused to support her financially, as did her extremely well off brother.

She began writing for the newspapers in desperation, as the usual sources of support for a middle class woman of the time had failed her. (It should be noted that her brother was an editor who could have helped her out in this career but chose not to.)

She wrote in a lively, conversational manner about matters of interest to women – fashion, courting, marriage, children – and she was very popular She wrote as a nineteenth-century feminist and supported women’s rights to divorce, to have guardianship of their children, opposed wife beating, and supported the right to vote. She was keen on prison reform and also that big nineteenth-century thing where they took kids out of the slums on the east coast and sent them out as free labour to the frontier. Which presumably seemed like a good idea at the time though it just looks like the stolen generation to me.

In 1855, the already-famous Fanny Fern began writing for Robert Bonner’s New York Ledger at the unheard-of (and highly publicized) rate of $100 per column of type. Within a year, the Ledger’s circulation had increased by 100,000 subscribers and had become the highest-circulating periodical to that point in American history. Fern’s column ran weekly, without a single interruption, until her death in1872.

Her collected articles were printed as books, beginning with *Fern Leaves from Fanny's Portfolio* in 1853 and ending with *Caper Sauce* in 1872. However, her personal life continued to be rocky, as she divorced her second husband in 1853. She married a third time in 1856, to a man a decade her junior who agreed to sign a contract accepting that her personal property and income would remain hers alone.

Fern wrote only a handful of novels, and the most popular was *Ruth Hall* (1854), an extremely thinly veiled autobiography in which Fern got her revenge on her family and her in-laws by describing the events of her life in fiction. Her in-laws were portrayed as moustache-twirlingly evil. Her brother became Hyacinth Hall, and calling him Hyacinth was practically a revenge in itself. She published them under the name Fern but those in the know immediately identified who she was writing about, which really seems to serve them right.

*Ruth Hall* isn’t a brilliant work, except for the visceral hatred that it expresses for her in-laws who are described as selfish, penny-pinching, ignorant, unkempt, sanctimonious, lying, prying, bullying, child-stealing, physically abusive villains who are also entirely physically repulsive and slightly greasy. Her father and brother-in-law come off relatively lightly in comparison, being described as merely cold, stupid, selfish and vain. I have to turn to Dickens to find characters that are equally repulsive, and even then it’s not Fagin who, despite his greasy nastiness at least provides Oliver with some sausages and a roof over his head. The only comparably villainous nineteenth-century characters I can think are at the Bill Sykes level of total evil.

In short, Fern got her revenge both through a life well lived and also by naming and shaming her family in the most public of ways.
emma_in_dream: (Methos)
19th century reading...

I found the 27th report of the Canadian Female Compassionate Society at this site: http://eco.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.40120/2?r=0&s=1

I am charmed by the language. 'The Ladies... have only a brief but satisfactory report to present to the subscribers, on this the close of the 30th year of its formation, a period during which its utility has been sufficiently tested by the continued support of the public to render any further observation on that subject superfluous.'
emma_in_dream: (alexa)
I assume this book was a Christmas publication, aimed at the Victorian middle class. It’s nicely illustrated and contains two almost painfully pious short stories. John Strange’s one is about two boys spending Christmas at school and comforting each other in the absence of their families. Mrs Molesworth’s is about some children who are led into a fib by naughty neighbours. Luckily they quickly repent.

I’ve heard of Mrs Molesworth before – perhaps in a Nancy Mitford novel? She certainly typifies the kind of bland, heavy on the improving message kind of children’s literature which we associate with the Victorians.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I wrote about Carus Wilson before. He was the headmaster at the school the Brontes were sent to and lives on in the form of Charlotte Bronte’s scathing denunciation of him in *Jane Eyre*.

He edited a magazine and wrote evangelical stories for small children aimed at getting them to REPENT.

Here is another of his charming stories, from his collection *A Child’s First Tales* (1836).

'Look there! Do you not see a man hung by the neck? Oh! It is a sad sight. A rope is tied around his neck to what they call the gal-lows; and there he hangs till he is quite dead.'
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I want to shout out to Frederick Enoch, a very perceptive reader, who in 1846 bought a copy of the collected poems of the Brontes (published as Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell).

He was one of two – count them, two – people to buy copies of the book that year. Rather embarrassing for the authors, but their readership made up in quality for what it lacked in quantity. Mr Enoch wrote to them, praising the poems and asking for their autographs. He got what turned out to be the only document in the world with the ‘signatures’ of the three Bell brothers on it.

After the publication of *Jane Eyre*, the poetry sold like hot cakes, but Mr Enoch was ahead of his time.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Her's a review I wrote earlier this year:

I attempted to read Sartor Resartus (1836) but found it literally unreadable. The novel purports to be a commentary on the thought and early life of a German philosopher called Diogenes Teufelsdröckh (which translates as 'god-born devil-dung'),author of a tome entitled "Clothes: their Origin and Influence", but was actually metatextual. Carlyle uses the sceptical English reviewer of the imaginary book to parody transcendentalism.

I’m a big fan of metatext in some contexts. I love, for instance, AS Byatt’s use of imaginary nineteenth-century texts and scholarly commentaries in *Possession*. I love Sperenza’s *By the Winners* as a mix up of academic writing and adventure writing.

But in order for any of these to make sense, you need to be familiar with the text being rewritten. I know squat about transcendentalism, except that Louisa May Alcott’s father followed it and it seemed to consist mostly of admiring the scenery while doing not actual or money-earning work, so I found this totally unreadable.

I may have a go at his history of the French revolution, but otherwise this will have to be the sum of my knowledge about Carlyle:

• Had a famously unhappy marriage.
• Wrote an unreadable book.
• Was an oddly popular author in the nineteenth century.
emma_in_dream: (pic#)
Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth, Her Mother's Secret, 1910

EDEN Southworth wrote: ‘It was in these darkest days of my woman’s life that my author’s life commenced’.

She married a wastrel and they parted in 1844 when she had a toddler and was pregnant with a second child. Southworth wrote to support herself, and after a rocky start did extremely well. She secured an exclusive arrangement with the New York Ledger, meaning that all her works had a readership of 100,000s in magazine form before their reissue in book form. She arguably had a readership as big as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, but has been forgotten by modern literary criticism.

Southwoorth basically wrote soap operas. The descriptions are incredibly lush. It’s all about appearance. I am struck by the details of the appearance of the women in *Her Mother’s Secret* (1910).

'She took her daughter’s arm, and they arose from the sofa.

For a moment they stood, quite accidentally, facing a tall mirror, between two windows on the opposite side of the room, and that mirror for the moment reflected two beautiful forms, of which it would be difficult to decide the one to bear off the palm for beauty.

The elder lady, Elfrida Force, was a tall, stately blonde, with a superbly rounded form, a rich complexion, and an affluence of golden brown hair, rippling all over her fine head, and gathered into a mass at the nape of her graceful neck. She wore an inexpensive, closely fitting dress of dark blue serge, whose very plainness set off the perfection of her figure and enhanced the brilliancy of her complexion, showing to the best advantage that splendid beauty, which at the age of thirty-five had reached its zenith. Just now, however, the vivid 8brightness of her bloom had faded to a pale rose tint, and her lovely blue eyes seemed heavy with unshed tears.

Her young daughter, Odalite, equally beautiful in her way, was yet of an entirely opposite type. She was of medium height, and her form, though well rounded, was slender almost to fragility. Her head was small, and covered with rippling, jet black hair. Her eyes and eyebrows were black as jet; her features were delicate and regular; and her complexion was of a clear, ivory-white. She wore a crimson, merino dress, plainly made, closely fitting, and relieved only by narrow, white ruffles at throat and wrists.

Only for a moment they paused, and then they walked out of the room, and the pretty picture disappeared.'

Frustratingly, I randomly chose *Her Mother’s Secret* and it turns out that the two sequels are not available except in hard copy. I was enthralled by the melodrama but not enough to spend roughly $50 per book on the sequels. I shall have to live not knowing what happened in the end. What is the terrible secret that Elfrida Force is hiding? Will Colonel Angus Anglesea succeed in blackmailing Odalite into marrying him? Or will she marry the noble, young Leonidas? I will literally never know.

Though I can guess.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
This short story is an extremely minor work by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Three of the four stories are entirely negligible, stories about the proud grain of wheat, the child who goes behind the mirror and a retelling of a fairy tale. I have already read different versions of these tales, by authors like Mrs Molesworth and Louisa May Alcott. I believe this is what we call a potboiler.

The first and most substantial tale is about Elizabeth, raised in France by her pious aunt. After her return to an American guardian she continues to seek to do good, trying to sell her jewels to send money to the impoverished peasants on her French estate, using St Elizabeth and the miracle of the roses as her model.

Hodgson Burnett had already found her niche – children’s stories, with a wish fulfilment element of great riches being bountifully given to the poor, as in *Little Lord Fauntleroy*. This is a less convincing, more religious, version of the same.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I've finally found a book about literary domestics (which we would call sentimentals or soaps). I love her description of Mary Jane Holmes' The English Orphans, or a Home in the New World.

'The novel has a little bit of everything of literary domesticity, as well as most of the familiar trappings and excesses of many Victorian novels. Mystery is the order of the day, coincidences abound, and revelations follow. There are many tears and many love songs in the pursuit of love. Deaths occur from starvation, scarlet fever and consumption. Tales of rags to riches and riches to rags are intertwined, and the rich and fashionable are simultaneously satirized and aped. There are caricatures aplenty, from rakes to ideal men and from frivolous ladies to noble selfless women.


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