Just for fun, since it only comes once every four years, I decided to look around for Leap Year-related literature. I was pleasantly surprised at what I found!
The Pirates of Penzance
Having a birthday on February 29th makes you a “leapling”, and sometimes one birthday every four years can get you in trouble!
This is a comic opera that premiered in New York City on 31 December 1879, and is still being performed 140 years later! Here are some lines from The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty, by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.
For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve’no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February, twenty-eight
days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine-and-twenty.
Through some singular coincidence — I shouldn’t be surprised if were owing
to the agency of an ill-natured fairy —
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year,
on the twenty-ninth of February.
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays, you’re
only five and a little bit over !
You can read the entire work here. I was fortunate enough to see a performance of this in 1981 in San Diego, but at the time I didn’t know enough about it to appreciate its fame and longevity!
Humorous short stories and plays
Tradition said that men should do the asking when it comes to becoming engaged to marry, but during a leap year, a woman was “allowed” to propose marraige. This topic inspired plenty of writers around the turn of the 19th century!
A 1907 short story by John Kendrick Bangs called “The Genial Idiot Discusses Leap Year” appears in The Wit and Humor of America, Volume X of X. You can read this volume here. It is full of surprises, laughter and we can see from the standpoint of 2020 that we’ve come a long way, baby!
The Misses Pringle’s Leap Year: a Comedy in Two Acts, by Amaryllis V. Lord, is a 1912 play which also centers around this theme of women having the “privilege” of proposing marriage–in this case, it is the bachelor parson! You can find it at Amazon and at Forgotten Books. Here is a blurb about it advertised in another book:
THE MISSES PRINGLES’ LEAP YEAR
A Comedy in Two Acts by Amaryllis V. Lord
Ten females and the apparition of a man. Costumes, modern ; scenery,
unimportant. Plays half an hour. The Misses Barbara, Priscilla and
Betsy Pringle, while scorning matrimony in public, have a secret inclina-
tion toward it, and taking advantage of leap year, each, without the
knowledge of the others, proposes by letter to Deacon Smith with sur-
prising results. Very easy and amusing, requiring no scenery and but
little rehearsing. Price, 7cents
And here is one more, an 1885 play I found on Hathi Trust, called Leap-Year: a Comedy in Four Acts for Nine Characters, by Susa S. Vance. The entire play can be downloaded here. Who knew that Leap Years would inspire so many humorous stories?
I even ran across a lovely 1913 Leap Year song that has the sweetest lyrics!
From this century….
Here’s a cute Tigger and Pooh book called Leap Day, read aloud on You Tube.
Happy Leap Day!
With all the romance novels out there, it’s hard to know where the good quality reads are.
So here are some recommendations of clean, well-written romance novels I’ve read over the past couple years.
Some are set in past history, others are set in present day, and one is both!
Falling for June
by Ryan Winfield (2015)
This is a sweet story about a foreclosure clerk Elliot who meets David Hadley, an elderly man living as a hermit in rural Washington State. David needs Elliot’s help to fulfill a promise to his wife June, whom he met in his fifties at the top of a 70 story building. A unique, beautiful love story.
by Elizabeth White (2007)
A classic example of me falling for the cover, but this time the image delivered what it promised! Humor, excellent writing, good plot, wholesome values and witty dialogue. Jana wants the land for wildlife rescue and Grant wants it for hunting. But God knows even stubborn enemies sometimes fall in love…
by Anne Tyler (2016)
I read this voraciously, as I do all of her books. The introverted 28-year-old devoted daughter of a brilliant microbiologist is asked to do her father a very big favor in order to help bring all of his years of research to a successful conclusion. Brilliant fun, good-hearted book!
The Grand Sophy
by Georgette Heyer (1950)
Sophy is a free-spirited young woman who has been left alone far too much by her ever-traveling father, much to the consternation of proper society. A typical Georgette Heyer heroine, this one is shockingly direct and audacious. While he is overseas for an indefinite period of time, she is sent to live with stuffy relatives. They certainly don’t want her there and they look down their noses at her, but she is a take-charge gal and sets out to solve the many problems in the bedeviled family. Along the way, however, she stirs up some new problems. You can’t guess how it’s going to finish until the very end of the breathtaking roller coaster ride, in the last few pages. The version I read was 403 pages, but I didn’t want it to end. It lived up to its high rating as one of the greatest written by this best-selling author of 57 books.
by Rachel Hauck (2018)
In this excellent split-time novel, a love letter is found by someone in the twenty-first century who is related to the writer of the eighteenth century love letter. It switches from authentic depictions of characters, relationships and historical events in 1780 South Carolina, to intertwined storylines in present day Los Angeles. The characters are realistic, with fallible personalities and struggles with faith. Brilliant storytelling, and suspense as the author flips back and forth between the two time periods and the two couples, make it a fascinating read!
I hope you’ll share your favorite Valentine’s Day reads in the comments section below!
Happy Valentine’s Day reading!
I grew up in the U.S. in a predominantly white neighborhood during the sixties and seventies. My city’s school system began forced busing when I was eleven years old, just as I was leaving elementary school and preparing to start junior high. It was a controversy that sparked violence and unrest.
From a social media group established for our 40 year high school reunion, I know that many people of all races suffered from this mandatory integration. Personally, aside from a couple minor incidents, my memories of that time are good.
I enjoyed meeting new friends of all races, and grew in my respect toward my non-white classmates. I am sure that the forced busing policy accomplished some of its goals to intermix blacks and whites successfully.
(If you’re interested, here are two articles I saved from the city newspaper in the early 1970s. One covers a sit-in protest by students, and another shows a more peaceful option for trying to find common ground among different races.)
So did that experience influence the writing of my third book? You decide.
Last year I was pleased to write another educational book intended for the Canadian school curriculum. It turned out to be my favorite so far!
This is the first biographical work I’ve done, and I so enjoyed discovering many unsung heroes! It was nearly impossible to choose which to include in the book, but I am so happy with how the book turned out. I especially love the many full-sized photos.
Some of the heroes included are:
Rose Fortune, Viola Desmond, Addie Aylestock,
Oscar Peterson, Willie O’Ree, Portia White,
Drake, Phylicia George, and Eugenia Duodo.
I hope you’ll be curious enough to look up these great Canadians!
Black History in Canada is a series of educational books published by Beech Street books. My book is entitled Famous Black Canadians and intended for students in grades 4 through 6.
One of the joys of the holiday is settling down
after all the energetic activities
to read inspired holiday fiction.
You are no doubt familiar with some of the well-known holiday books and short stories…
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol… The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson…
Eugene Field’s The First Christmas Tree… O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi…
A Visit from St. Nicholas (‘Twas the night before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore…
And, of course, the sacred Bible accounts of the first Christmas.
Well, here are some gems that I’ve recently discovered.
They are not as well known, perhaps, but are some of the most beautiful holiday stories I’ve read!
“Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck
A farm boy works so hard, only to see disappointment in his father’s eyes, until one Christmas he overhears his parents’ conversation and learns what Dad really thinks of him.
My Christmas Miracle by Taylor Caldwell
A true story of the lowest point of her life
“A Christmas Inspiration” by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Fun-loving young women living together in a boarding house take notice of one of their quirky, quiet neighbors.
“A Gift from the Heart” by Norman Vincent Peale
The true story of a young Swiss girl employed by a wealthy American family and her Christmas surprise.
The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien (1976)
A collection of letters the author wrote from 1920 to 1943 to his children “from Father Christmas”.
and, my VERY favorite,
The Man at the Gate of the World by W.E. Cule
The Magi Caspar’s quest to find the Saviour of the World, and his obedience to the call to stand at the Gate of the World—in the city of Damascus—and wash the feet of weary travelers.
Most of these I found during the past few weeks of reading these two books:
A Classic Christmas, and The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories.
For more selections…
here is American Literature’s beautiful collection of Christmas Stories, and
(I can’t resist!) Linus’s version of the first Christmas.
Wishing you many peaceful, happy hours of reading, and
A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020!
Such a pleasant peek into the
simple family life of the late 1800’s
Ah, the simple innocence of that era. It makes one want to time-travel there for a day, or a year! Obviously, not everyone in 1888 had the leisure shown in this book, there were certainly just as many who had hard and meager lives. But no doubt a book like this brought smiles to many.
This sweet picture book of 45 pages has a short story or vignette that fits on one page, and an illustration in color or black and white to go with it. In tiny writing on the bottom left corner of the cover it says, “Copyright 1888 by J.L. Blamire.”
On the front cover, children are spending time indoors with an unhurried mother, playing with wooden animals and soldiers. It’s interesting to me that children throughout history have enjoyed playing with toy animals, and that animals in general have drawn the attention and affection of children.
I have also seen toys, and toys in books, from various periods in history that include soldiers and equipment for battles. Does that mean that wars are constantly raging throughout history, and children are aware of them because their fathers are away fighting? Or perhaps many of the famous men and women in countries all over the world have been war heroes, and the children grow up wanting also to be heroes?
The inside cover has the neatly hand-written name of the book’s owner, whose last name appears to be Ratledge. But with a little imagination it could instead be Routledge, to match the name of the publisher…a gift from the publisher, Uncle Routledge?
The stories in the book are not earth-shattering or dramatic. They are everyday happenings. But they are related here as the little joys that are present in each day, if we pay attention to them.
The first story pays homage to the world’s grandmothers, which I appreciate, being a grandma of 14 months. It tells of a grandson who learned to whistle before his first birthday, from hearing the other boys in the neighborhood whistling as he was wheeled around in his carriage.
The next story is in noticeably larger type, and includes dashes in the words to divide the syllables for the benefit of young readers.
These little stories told in first person talk of domestic life and the regular events of mothers and their children, who dearly love their parents, siblings and grandparents.
Fun and Frolic Stories includes poetry and information about nature and animals.
The poem “Blowing Bubbles” is surprisingly philosophical, likening the bubbles to our dreams. It asks a question of the adult reading the book:
Will it be always so–are we the same?
We blow our bubbles too, changed but in name.
We have fond hopes, that expand and look bright;
We watch our fancies with eager strained sight.
Tucked between the back page and the back cover is a drawing of a butterfly on 5″ x 7″ lined paper, likely inspired by the “Butterflies” poem. I doubt that this is was drawn by the book’s first owner in the late 1800s, or even from the early 1900s. I suspect it was drawn on a lined pad for letter writing from the 1950s or later.
The back cover shows another scene of mother relaxing with her child outside on a grassy slope. In the scene are baby birds nesting in a woman’s bonnet, looking for worms from their busy mother.
There are remnants of some dried blue flowers tucked into the pages. I always love little surprises like that!
Various artists contributed their talents to the book, but at that time they apparently didn’t include the names of the illustrators, although some of the drawings include signatures of initials or names in the corners.
I couldn’t find another copy of this book anywhere online, but there are many books from the late 1800s published by George Routledge & Sons, such as Little Snowdrop’s Picture Book, published in 1879, available as a Kindle book. J.L. Blamire appears to be the manager of a New York Routledge & Sons bookseller and possibly an author, and/or editor.
I hope you enjoyed “reading” this with me. What fun to have such a pleasant and colorful history lesson couched in with a lovely piece of literature!
Well, you don’t need to imagine it, it’s true!
As a fellow blogger said, “I rarely pay full price for books. Loving classics has its advantages, they are widely available and utterly cheap.”
I couldn’t agree more!
Ever since I figured out how to put them on my Kindle, I’ve had a blast finding vintage treasures on Gutenberg.org, Internet Archive, Google eBooks and many other websites, including searching for free classic Kindle books on Amazon. I’ve also discovered many books in PDF format that I put on my ancient tablet to read, and many of these have beautiful illustrations.
Here is a sampling of some of my favorites, followed by some links to whet your appetite even more!
After reading biographical information on the poet Francis Ridley Havergal, I learned that, among many other books, she contributed to a holiday book called Christmas Sunshine. Havergal’s rich poetry appears alongside Thackeray, Milton, Shakespeare and Dickens in a beautifully illustrated book, here.
Always interested in nature and children’s books, I have found a treasure trove of nature books written for children in the late 1800’s. My favorite is The Child’s Book of Nature by Worthington Hooker, MD, “intended to aid mothers and teachers in the training of children in the observation of nature.” I love that it was a high priority then–let’s reinstate it now!
One that is similar, but written for all ages, is The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In by Sir John Lubbock in 1892. It is part science, part inspiration, and contains some lovely illustrations, like the one below.
One of my favorite fiction authors is Georgette Heyer, and thankfully she was a prolific author. I can find a lot of her books in paperback in bookstores, but for those that I haven’t run across, I can usually find them online. Among her always humorous regencies, Frederica (which I am currently reading) and The Black Moth are two of several Heyer novels loaded onto my Kindle and tablet.
The Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook , although admittedly not vintage or classic, is nevertheless another gem of a book I couldn’t resist including. I loaded it and several other natural healing books onto my Kindle, which I found on Amazon for free!
And here are some interesting websites to get you started as you explore the literary riches of the internet:
Enjoy! And please, share your favorites!
What a joy to know that this 1885 book is still current,
and still bringing the same wonder and delight to new generations of children–and adults!
A Child’s Garden of Verses is my VERY favorite children’s book
…as evidenced by the fact that I have 3 versions of it. It is the author’s imagination and remembrance of his own childhood that I love the most. One of the introductions to his books says that Stevenson “writes as a child, rather than about children”. He was “able to enter into the heart of a boy” –and, I might add, also into the heart of this tomboy!
Robert Louis Stevenson grew up in Scotland. He wrote many other works besides poetry, including short stories, travel writings, plays and novels. Two of his best known novels are Treasure Island, a book the author wrote to keep his stepson amused during a very inclement summer; and Kidnapped, inspired by real events in Scottish history. It is said that Stevenson has never been out of fashion, and that there was an increased interest in him and his works in the 1980s.
The introductions in two of these versions are interesting, and endearing, and tell more about the author…
In elementary school, I learned several of the poems in this book, and I just realized that I can still recite one from memory. Some I memorized because they were an assignment from my teacher (remember memorizing poems and reciting them at an assembly?), others I probably remembered because the rhythm and rhyme held me spell bound and I couldn’t stop reading them over and over.
This first version is near and dear to my heart. It was the first book I bought, and may have been the first thing I ever bought with my own money.
We had a carnival at our elementary school and this was for sale for 75 cents. It never occurred to me before today, but…why would they have sold it? How could my school library have wanted to part with it? I hope it was because they were getting a new copy.
The inscription on this is my mom’s, recording the special event, “School carnival March 5, 1965.” When she wrote that, could she have imagined I’d be sharing it in the new millenium, in cyberspace for all the world to see?
“The Swing” and “Happy Thought” are my two favorites.
This next version I found about 5 years ago at a used book store in Denver, Colorado, while visiting my family. It is dated 1902 and has, of course, illustrations from that era which are quite different, very antique-looking.
I love that each of my copies has an inscription in them for the child receiving it! And I love knowing that it is still on the shelves of bookstores and libraries for more children to enjoy, and to receive as a gift.
I think “The Swing” is my favorite poem because I can feel the wind, the sunshine, and the FREEDOM…
This older version has a word list at the end. Just look at all those “juicy” words (as we call them at my school)!!!
The last version I bought was at a thrift store in Calgary. It is the newest one I have.
I thumbed through it for a long time, but put it back on the shelf because I already had two of them at home. Then I changed my mind. I decided that this one’s illustrations were a glorious feast for the eyes on every page. No doubt it cost me just a little more than a current cup of coffee, and for the joy that it brings my heart it’s so worth it.
Again, here is my favorite poem “The Swing” in this version. Illustrations can sure make a book! Look at the girl’s hair, and her shoe–brilliant!
I can hardly believe it took me so long to post about this book! But in my mind, it wasn’t a vintage book to be reviewed. It was one of my most treasured possessions.
It’s so sweet how Robert Louis Stevenson devoted many pages of this book–apparently written when he was in his mid-30s–to his beloved family, nanny and friends.
This lovely book is EVERYWHERE — as it should be!
May many more generations have the opportunity
to lose themselves in A Child’s Garden of Verses,
its fun, delight, wonder, imagery, peace… and its beauty.
I just wanted to share some of my favorite websites for vintage books and reviews for all of you fellow vintage book afficionados!
Leaves and Pages
“Bibliovore. Botanist. Gardener. Armchair Traveller and Vintage Book Explorer” And I would add: “Voracious Reader”!
A feast! On this blog I find excellent reviews of books published in every year from 1900 to present, and several amazing indexes on her website pages.
Figments and Frames
I’ve been enjoying following this blog for quite a while. The author of this blog is a writer based in Maine and New Jersey, and this is where she documents her growing antique book collection. She also covers a range of similar subjects, including life in frontier America, Native American interactions, early American and indigenous folklore, and all sorts of literature on food, from hunting and gathering to farming innovations and cookbooks. She says she can’t resist buying old illustrated children’s books and literary classics when she can find them. I can relate!
Books Around the Table
This is my newest discovery, I’m just starting to mine the blog posts.
The Art of Children’s Picture Books
This blog is archived and no longer active, but it is full of eye candy! Have a glance at these sweet images…
And just for fun, check out this Reader’s Digest article, which reports that a first edition of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is worth $180,159!