Discovering Ralph Connor

In July of 2009, I went for a hike in our nearby Rockies. It was on Grotto Mountain, an expansive mountain that fills the landscape east of the mountain town of Canmore, Alberta, one of my favorite towns in Alberta.

Here is a photo I took from the trail on Grotto Mountain, looking south….

….and another looking west at a group of peaks called The Three Sisters:

After hiking I went into Canmore and took some pictures of the town, including this one:

… and I loved it so much, I used it for my Gravatar!

Okay, that’s all to set up the fact that I love the area around Canmore.

While on another hike this past summer, I’d met someone who recommended a tour of the Canmore Mines, so I thought I’d get some information about it, to plan a visit.

Well, one online rabbit-trail led to another, and soon I was on a webpage and map of Historic Sites in Canmore. Good! More things to see when I go there the next time!  Included was this note:

Ralph Connor United Church, a little farther down 8th Street, was built in 1890 and is now a Provincial Historic Site. The church is named for its first reverend, Charles Gordon, who used the pen name Ralph Connor for the 35 books he authored.

Hmm, never heard of him.

Did it say he wrote books?!

With the description, I was surprised to see a photograph almost identical to my photo of the mountains behind the church:

Wow, that’s “my church”, now I’m interested! So who is this obscure author Ralph Connor, and what kind of novels did he write?

It turns out that from 1890 to 1893 he served as a missionary in the Northwest Territories (including what is now Alberta, which didn’t become a province until 1905) before moving to Manitoba.

Okay, now I’m really interested. Here is more detail of Rev. Charles Gordon’s fascinating background in a section from an excellent archived article in Maclean’s magazine November 15,1953:

He was Canada’s most prolific bestseller at the turn of the 19th century!  So why haven’t I heard of him before?

Probably because a preacher-author in the early 1900s writing about hard-drinking lumbermen in Canada being moved to prayer couldn’t have much of a following.

Wrong.  The same Maclean’s article says:

“From Calcutta to New York… five million copies… Canada’s all-time best-selling novelist” ?!  And in the United States police were called out to control crowds attending lectures he gave… President Woodrow Wilson admired his books and Henry Ford, as Connor’s luncheon host, sent a servant to his library to get a pile of them for the author to autograph.

That was then, in about 1900.

Yet, even now, he is included in the Canadian Encyclopedia’s article about best selling English books in Canada. I have found his novels in hardcover at a local bookstore, available at my library, and at Amazon and other booksellers online, including gutenberg.org.

This October 15, 1959 article and photo in the Glengarry Ont newspaper honors Ralph Connor, as well as this very moving account written in 2016 about the Reverend Charles Gordon as a Chaplain in World War I.

In 1921 a silent movie was made of his book Sky Pilot , starring Colleen Moore (who was a popular silent movie star).

I’m currently reading his book Black Rock: A Tale of the Selkirks , which is written about the Canmore area. It only took me a few sentences to understand why his books have been so popular–excellent writing, brilliant dialogue and inspiring, gripping plots!

Today I went back to my original 2009 photo and zoomed in on the sign in front of the church.  Sure enough, there it is, “Ralph Connor”. I had never noticed the sign, I was only looking at how beautiful it was to have the mountains in the background of the church steeple.

Now I look forward to visiting the church on my next drive to Canmore, knowing the history of Reverend Charles Gordon who built the first church in that town (which is still going strong after 125 years!), and through the lifelike “sermons” in his novels, became famous as author Ralph Connor.

Am I the only one who hadn’t heard of Ralph Connor? Have you read any of his books? If so, let me know what your favorites are! If not, I hope you have a look at one of his novels and let me know what you think!

Fun and Frolic: Stories for the Young from the 1800s

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!

Imagine! The best quality books for free!

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:

Gutenberg.org’s Top 100 eBooks as of Yesterday

Download 20 Popular High School Literature Books

The Library of Congress Classic Books

Classic eBooks by Female Writers

11 places for thrifty bookworms to download free e-books

Classic Children’s Books Now Digitized and Put Online

UCLA Children’s Book Collection at Archive.org

International Children’s Digital Library

 

Enjoy!  And please, share your favorites!

 

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

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!

                       Illustration for the poem “The Lamplighter”

 

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.

Fellow vintage book readers

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.

https://leavesandpages.com/2013/04/23/reviews-sylvester-or-the-wicked-uncle-the-grand-sophy-by-georgette-heyer/

https://leavesandpages.com/book-reviews-index/

https://leavesandpages.com/book-reviews-by-publishing-date/

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!

https://figmentsandframes.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/modern-tales-animal-stories/

Books Around the Table

This is my newest discovery, I’m just starting to mine the blog posts.

https://booksaroundthetable.wordpress.com/category/vintage-childrens-book-illustrations/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-3

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…

http://theartofchildrenspicturebooks.blogspot.com/2015/04/

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!

https://www.rd.com/culture/rare-books-worth-a-fortune/

 

Such great stuff from awesome bloggers!

Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day – June 21

As part of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation work with its aboriginal peoples, we are celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day today!

In my area of Calgary there are events well worth attending at Fort Calgary and Canmore to honor our First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.

National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21

There are plenty of resources for teachers and children here:

The story of Claire and her Grandfather is designed to enhance young people’s awareness of some of the many contributions and inventions by Aboriginal people.  In addition to the text, there is also an online audio story.

 

Coloring pages abound!  …..like this one:

 

Here is more information on National Indigenous Peoples Day, and a video of making fry bread.

 

I’m proud of our country for this initiative!

Review of All In by Lisa Simonds

I have just finished one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read, and am absolutely in awe of this new author’s writing talent.

Lisa Simonds has the ability to write in a way that lets us experience all the action, dialogue, thoughts and scenes–without noticing that we’re reading a book.

 

The pace of All In is perfect, and the book is gripping. I stayed up way too late to see what happened next. However, I am sensitive and very picky about which characters I spend my time with, and felt increasingly uncomfortable living Cami’s life along with her.

On the other hand, I admired this woman’s strength, commitment, authenticity and honesty with herself, as well as with others. I was positive that a book of this quality was worth powering through, and the ending was exactly what I was expecting: excellent!

 

I admire–and require–novels that are realistic, and every character and scene in All In was exactly that. The dialogue was natural, nothing in the plot line was cliched or predictable. The transformation that happened in Cami’s heart and life felt completely genuine.

I look forward to Lisa’s next masterpiece!

The ebook is available now, and the print version will be available in August 2019. You can also enjoy the author’s musings at her blog, Leaves of Grace. Here is one post among many that showcases the excellence and depth of her writing.

Review of Back to Arcady by Frank Waller Allen

Thirty years ago it was said of me that I was as gallant a beau as ever bowed over a fair lady’s hand… I am more years past fifty than I like to acknowledge, and now a girl of twenty is coming to upset the habits and routine of a lifetime.

One of my treasures from this spring’s used book sales is a sentimental romance written in 1905, full of detailed background borders on every page.

As is typical of novels written at the turn of the century, the language is exquisite, the tone is thoughtful, and the plot gentle, original and full of genuine emotion. I read it in two sittings.

The dedication sets the author’s tone…

The story takes place in a small village in Kentucky. It begins with the narrator anticipating a visit from the daughter of his one true love, Drucilla.

“I knew her mother in the long ago. She herself was but twenty when last I saw her, and yet today hers in the only face that remains clear in my memory… Shortly after I saw Drucilla for the last time, she married William Dudley, the companion of my youth and friend of my  manhood. …Then when little Marcia Dudley–My Lady o’ Roses–was born, the mother died…”

“It is in the silence that follows the storm,” says the proverb, “and not the silence before it, that we should search for the budding flower.”

Many years later when she was a young lady, Marcia’s father, dying, sent a letter begging him to take his only child and guard her as his own. Marcia travels across the ocean to America. At first sight of her, the narrator (who is never named), is shocked to see what appears to be his long lost love, so similar is Marcia’s face to her mother’s. He introduces Marcia to his neighbor Louis and others in the nearby village, and she settles in.

In time, Louis tells them both how he had previously traveled to France, where he had been bewitched by a woman playing a sweet tune on a violin. They’d fallen in love, but they couldn’t be together. The woman vowed that she could never play her violin again until she reunited with her love, and he’d returned to Kentucky broken-hearted.

Marcia eventually reveals that she was the one Louis had loved in Paris, but she had not known where he’d gone when he left her. Now they are reunited, and the narrator muses,

“Then, after a while, there came to me from without the night, like unto the perfume of roses, the soft, warm tones of a lover’s violin bearing the message with which, years and years ago in a garden in Picardy, Margot o’ the Crimson Lips gave the heart of her to the Dreammaker.”

Here was a lovely discovery about halfway through…

It was not easy to find information about the author. Frank Waller Allen was an American author born in 1878 in Kentucky, United States. He was educated at Transylvania University, Kentucky, 1902, and worked as a journalist, minister, professor and lecturer.

Among the author’s other books are My Ships Aground (1900); The Golden Road (1910); The Lovers of Skye (1913); The Brothers of Bagdad (1913); Painted Windows (1918); The Great Quest (1918); My One Hundred Best Novels (1919); Wings of Beauty (1929); and Creative Living (1930).

You can read Back to Arcady online at Archive.org, or Forgotten Books, or buy it from Amazon, Abe books, eBay and other online book sellers.

Calgary’s 2019 Spring Used Book Sales

Two huge book sales offer Calgarians the opportunity to support worthwhile causes. I have attended these for at least 10 years, and always find great deals and unique books.

#1 – Wednesday to Sunday May 1st to 5th, 2019 RESET Society book sale at the Crossroads Market, 1235 26 Ave SE

RESET (formerly Servants Anonymous Society) is having its Annual Book Drive and Sale on May 1st to 5th, 2019, at the Outpost Tent at Crossroads Market.

Looking for vintage books? This one is my pick for finding vintage treasures! They are in a special enclosed area in the back right corner, very nicely organized.

Wednesday & Thursday, May 1 & 2, from 3pm-8pm
Friday to Sunday, May 3 – 5, from 10am – 5pm

Heading to the Book Sale with Calgary Transit? There is a stop located @ 26 Ave 11 St SE for route 24 and 302.  For more information or to volunteer, email info@resetcalgary.ca or call 403-237-8477. The proceeds from this book sale help RESET provide great supports for vulnerable women and their children.

 

#2 – Friday to Sunday May 10th to 12th, 2019 CBC Calgary READS book sale, at the Calgary Curling Club, 720 3 St NW

The impact of this sale on Calgary’s children is enormous, as it provides help for increasing literacy through proceeds raised by selling huge quantities of joy-filled books for adults and children.

Calgary Reads is committed to working with parents, educators, corporate partners and the community at large to foster a joyful relationship with reading in all children in Calgary and beyond.

Such worthy causes!  I hope you’ll join the fun and find some treasures!

Titus: A Comrade of the Cross – a classic novel for Easter

In 1894, a publisher held a writing competition to obtain the best manuscript that would inspire a child’s Christian faith. Florence Kingsley submitted her manuscript for Titus: A Comrade of the Cross and won the $1,000 award. In six weeks, 200,000 copies had been printed to meet demand.

The story is about a young boy named Titus, the son of a downtrodden mother and a poor, violent fisherman. His brother Stephen is remarkably kind, considering the fact that he was crippled from a beating by their father. Titus is cynical of what he hears about Jesus, and warns Stephen against any hope of healing.

This historical novel takes place at the time of the first Easter.

“Titus was listening with all his ears, but he said nothing, for he hoped that the man would speak further…. He could have slipped away in the dark easily enough, and was half-minded to do so.

Then he reflected that he might learn something more of his mysterious birth and parentage, if he stayed; besides, he had a strong curiosity to see the much-talked-of Barabbas; and underneath all, was an unconfessed desire to share in the exciting events which were soon to follow.”

 

Over thirty years ago, I was given a copy of this hardcover novel,. The cover was ragged, and as I skimmed the text I could tell that the language was ancient and confusing. It sat on my shelf for a long time because I had no interest in reading it, but I kept it out of affection for the person who gave it to me.

Finally, years later, I picked it up and started reading it, and couldn’t put it down. The language wasn’t a problem once I got used to it, and even though halfway through the book I found that a whole chunk of pages was missing, the suspenseful plot and true-to-life characters still mesmerized me.

I can honestly say that my faith grew tremendously from reading–and having “lived”–this story.

I was still reading it when my first son was born, and we gave him a middle name that was not the name of a relative, but of a character that touched me deeply in Titus: A Comrade of the Cross. 

 

Because Titus: Comrade of the Cross is so well-known and well-loved, this book is readily available to read online or by download, at such sites at archive.org and google books. Free audio of the book is offered at LibriVox. Hardcover copies are also easily available at various online bookstores, including Chapters-Indigo. Lamplighter.net features a great video blurb about it, and Bookworm Blessings has an excellent review and summary.

Although it was originally written for children and youth, I recommend this book for any age. Its longevity attests to its quality! The author wrote a total of 3 books in this “Comrades of the Cross” series, including Stephen: A Soldier of the Cross and The Cross Triumphant, as well as many other books.

Are you familiar with Florence M. Kingsley? Have you read any of her other books? Let me know if you have any favorites you’d like to recommend.  You can leave me a comment below. I always love hearing from you!

And I wish you a Happy Easter!