“It was May-time in England. The last breath of a long winter had blown its final farewell across the hills,—the last frost had melted from the broad, low-lying fields, relaxing its iron grip from the clods of rich, red-brown earth which, now, soft and broken, were sprouting thick with the young corn’s tender green.”
I finally found it! This is exactly the kind of a gem I always hope to find, as I browse and browse and browse in the vintage section at used book stores and book sales.
A novel—at least a hundred years old—with some wonderful characters, a can’t-put-it-down plot, a spiritual element, a bit of romance, the joy of nature, an educational element, all put together with excellent writing. 523 pages with not a single picture, and I couldn’t bear for it to end. I am still amazed that a 1904 novel can do that.
The story is set in England. Pastor John Walden, the forty-something ‘man of worship’, is introduced as having a cheerful, sanguine disposition, athletic looking, strong of character. He is the owner of one of the smallest ‘livings’ in England, an old relic of a church of medieval days, which he’d bought and renovated to the point where it was a tourist interest in the woodland village of St. Rest. A thirteenth-century sarcophagus was discovered during the renovations, which apparently houses a great saint. One window remains incomplete, for which Walden continues to slowly gather pieces of genuine, authentic stained glass, bit by bit, to fill a circular rose carving.
“He was a great lover of books and, to a moderate extent, a collector of rare editions; …He loved antiquarian research and all such scientific problems as involved abstruse study and complex calculations, but equally he loved the simplest flower and the most ordinary village tale of sorrow or mirth recounted to him by any one of his parishioners. He gave himself such change of air and scene as he thought he required, by taking long swinging walks around the country, and found sufficient relaxation in gardening, a science in which he displayed considerable skill…For the rest, he was physically sound and morally healthy and moved as it were on the straight line from Earth to Heaven beginning each day as if it were his first life opportunity and ending it soberly and with prayer as though it were his last.”
The story begins during the May-time celebration. The children parade through town singing, and arrive at Parson John’s place with the Maypole. He’d planned to give an appropriately spiritual message for the day. But with the little two-year-old Ipsy calling to her beloved friend, “Passon! Tum ‘ere! Passon! Tum ‘ere!”, he puts the child on his shoulders and joins their parade and songs.
We meet various townspeople, including old Josie who seems to be the only one left with common sense and convictions. Sinister, conscious-less Mr. Leach has his own agenda to further his interests at others’ expense, which includes chopping down the Five Sisters, a four-hundred-year old grove of trees that are the town’s pride and joy. Wealthy Sir Martin Pippett unofficially runs the town and its main businesses, but resents the reality that soft spoken Parson John Walden actually stands quietly over him in authority and influence.
One day Mrs. Spruce, his housekeeper, shows the parson a letter from Miss Maryllia Vancourt, the property owner, about her upcoming arrival. Mrs. Spruce is in a tizzy because she has a lot of cleaning to do in this house that has been abandoned for 10 years. This also disturbs John because for years he has been walking on Miss Vancourt’s forested property with his dog Nebbie (short for Nebuchadnezzar) and has even been using the library inside her house. He dreads the return of this modern Squiress, expecting that she most likely will bring modern ways with her, and will hunt, shoot, smoke, and perhaps swear.
Maryllia does in a sense bring modern ways to the village in the form of her friends and acquaintances, who exude wealth and privilege, living lives of bored gossip, fashions, food and obsessed with status. She, however, has little interest in such a lifestyle, nor is she interested in the wealthy male version of the same, Lord Rocksmith, who considers himself engaged to her. In herself, she presents a modern independence of intelligence, thought and strength, of poise and vision, of integrity and compassion, unusual for a woman in that small community of simple folk.
Maryllia and John clash, especially as he disapproves of her worldliness and the society that she keeps. Yet each encounter shows their true colors, pleasing colors. They are actually cut from the same cloth in their common qualities of humility, strength of character, goodness and faith. Eventually, they begin to see past their first impressions and develop an affectionate friendship, which leads to love. The ending is not predictable, and keeps the tension high until the last words.
Often throughout the book, literary geniuses are quoted, such as Chaucer, Spenser, Herrick and Longfellow. Here is a quote of Epictetus, which John is pondering:
“Had we understanding thereof, would any other thing better beseem us than to hymn the Divine Being and laud Him and rehearse His gracious deeds? These things it were fitting every man should sing, and to chant the greatest and divinest hymns for this, that He has given us the power to observe and consider His works, and a Way wherein to walk. If I were a nightingale, I would do after the manner of a nightingale; if a swan, after that of a swan. But now I am a reasoning creature, and it behooves me to sing the praise of God; this is my task, and this I do, nor as long as it is granted me, will I ever abandon this post. And you, too, I summon to join me in the same song.”
“A wonderfully advanced’ Christian way of looking at life, for a pagan slave of the time of Nero!” thought Walden… “With all our teaching and preaching, we can hardly do better.” Amen!
I can’t say enough good about this book! Highly recommended for all ages!
Give this book to a young reader to introduce them to top quality, wholesome literature.
This lovely book is available through Amazon and other online booksellers. You can read it for free at Online books, Project Gutenberg, Public Bookshelf and other sites. You can learn more about the author at this U.K. website.
Yes, there are still MANY places to buy books in Calgary! Although many book stores have gone out of business, there are still many places where we can get books to hold in our hands.
Of course you can buy new books, but don’t forget the “gently used” option! And best of all, buying from these “brick-and-mortar” stores (actual physical buildings, as opposed to online book stores) can have a double joy of supporting the less fortunate. Woo-hoo!
Here are the thrift stores that I shop at that have a great selection of books, including some books that are practically brand new. Most of these have a good selection of Christian books, and amazing prices!
Women in Need Thrift Stores – W.I.N.S Bowness: 6432 Bowness Road NW, Calgary, AB T3B 0E7, 403-288-4825. Revenues from W.I.N. stores fund women in poverty and their families through their Free Goods Referral Program and their Family Resource Centres.
The Good Samaritan Thrift Store: 4628 Bowness Rd NW Calgary, AB T3B 0B3, 403- 288-4404. This store supports the Mustard Seed Ministry and other local Calgary charities.
Mission Thrift Store – formerly Bibles for Missions –3423 – 26th Ave S.W., Calgary, AB, T3E 0N3, Phone number (403) 246-7298 (they also have stores in Lethbridge, Okotoks and Red Deer) – Free Bibles, low prices! Mission Thrift stores support the International Bible League and the Bible League of Canada.
W.I.N.S. Richmond/Killarney: 2907 Richmond Rd SW, Calgary, AB T3E 2J5, 403-242-4969
“58th Avenue Thrift Store Row”
Goodwill on MacLeod Trail (just north of 58th Avenue): 5707 MacLeod Trail SW, Calgary, AB T2H 0J7, 403-252-1514 – “The largest Goodwill store in Alberta”. Goodwill Industries of Alberta is committed to providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity to enhance their lives through meaningful employment.
Salvation Army Store – 121 58th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB. All Salvation Army Thrift Stores, are 100 per cent charity-based and exist to generate funds to support Salvation Army programs and services that help residents in the areas in which they operate, including food banks, shelters, children’s camps, addiction treatment facilities and many other community programs. According to their website, the Salvation Army is Canada’s largest non-governmental provider of social programs.
World Serve Thrift Store – 105 58th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB T2H 0N7, Phone number (403) 474-4766. World Serve exists to advance the Gospel, and impact nations. Learn more about them here.
Value Village – 104-58 Avenue SE, Calgary, AB T2H 0N7, Phone number (403) 255-5501. Click here to see which organizations Value Village supports.
W.I.N.S Fisher Park: [a small store, not on 58th Avenue, but a bit south on MacLeod Trail then east on 71st Ave] 134 71 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2H 0R9, 403-255-7514
A cluster of great thrift stores near 32nd Ave and 34th Street NE
MCC Thrift Shop – Mennonite Central Committee – 2946 32 Street NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 6J7, Phone number (403) 272-0282. AMAZING PRICES! Proceeds from sales go directly to developing countries for AIDS projects, education and water projects. They also have some projects right here in Alberta including services for our First Nations people.
Salvation Army Store – 3508 32 Ave NE #416, Calgary, AB T1Y 6J2, Phone number (403) 250-2110
Value Village – 3405-34th Street NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 6J6, Phone number (403) 291-3323
Books between Friends – #14 – 3434 34th Street NE, Calgary T1Y 6X3, 403-291-3855, www.booksbetweenfriends.com – another book shopper I met at a thrift store raved about this one, I haven’t visited yet. They have been raising money for Calgary charities since 2003.
Urban Thrift Store – 3434 34 Avenue NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 6X3, Phone number(403) 769-1934, a small store with a boutique feel, Urban Thrift Store supports Haiti Arises, and a classroom in Haiti.
(Not close together – they are all over the S.E. quadrant)
W.I.N.S Dover: 3525 – 26 Ave. SE, Calgary, AB T2B 2M9, 403-235-6448 – this location has their furniture warehouse!
Goodwill 10426 Macleod Trail SE Calgary 403-225-2258, daily sales! More Goodwill Stores and a map can be found here.
Value Village Shawnessy: Unit #1, 240 Midpark Way SE, Calgary, AB T2X 1N4, (403) 201-5350 – One of my favorites! More Value Village Stores and a map can be found here.
Calgary’s Fair’s Fair Bookstores are also a fantastic source of books of all kinds, plenty of near-new used books, and a huge selection among its several stores around Calgary. You can get more information about them in my post here.
And I just want to give another reminder of my recent post about Used Book Treasures, an organization that has beautiful new and used Christian books, especially many for children and youth. Their sale at the church is over, but you can still contact them by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (403) 254-2686.
Also check the Christian newspaper City Light News for more locations of some of these stores, as well as loads of other news and great information.
Did I miss any? Leave a comment and I’ll update this post with more stores. Thanks!
Joy to the world! the Lord is come; let earth receive her king.
–Isaac Watts, Joy to the World
All week I’ve had this song in my mind. I’d start many days with it as a way to counter my early morning tangle of thoughts and concerns. It has been refreshing to correct my thinking with this truth.
Today is Christmas. Shopping and wrapping, feasting and laughing and hugging, church and singing have all brought me so much joy. Now, at this moment I am alone. We’re not supposed to be alone at Christmas, apparently, but it can be lovely.
I have just walked through a snowy forest, said “Merry Christmas” to large families I passed on the path, breathed in the aromatic blue smoke of campfires and watched the children sled down the hill. I am also thinking about the true meaning of Christmas, and checking to see if I really do celebrate it.
Does Christ’s birth make such a difference in my life that I actually rejoice about it? Yes, I realize it does. God came to earth as a human being, and my most essential needs are satisfied by what Jesus accomplished.
I am truly at peace. I guess that’s because I believe that the important things are taken care of. I have peace with God, a clear conscience, and I rest in the hope of heaven and eternal life. The God of all creation forgave—and forgives—me, because Jesus paid for my life with his.
I have an overall purpose in life, and that is satisfying. I am humble when I sit down to talk to God, but I am not timid because he is full of grace. I feel important and valuable to him, and when I ask for his help for a loved one, or myself, I am certain that he is moved to action.
When things go wrong, when something frightens or upsets me, I know that eventually I can find understanding and guidance. The Bible is full of help and promises that God’s spirit will teach and comfort us. Even the very act of praying begins to set things right.
Now as I leave the forest and drive home on sparsely populated streets, I smile as I see empty parking lots in front of all the stores and businesses, because it means that as a society we have chosen to honor this day, and cease from our other distractions.
This holiday—this holy day—celebrates the fact that Almighty God wanted to draw close to us. He wanted this so much that he came to live on this earth through his human son, Jesus, and made himself visible, audible, touchable, loveable and most importantly, REACHABLE.
This is what I’m celebrating.
(Originally posted December 2011)
For a long time, I have wanted to introduce you to some great blogs and bloggers, by way of listing some of my favorite posts. A few of these have a similar focus to my own blog–books, writing, reviews–but some are completely different!
To start with, here are two posts from Susan Bailey’s blog on Louisa May Alcott. We met through our mutual interest in this great author. Of course I would go crazy for the antique music box! The second link showcases a beautiful book that introduces young children to an author they might have otherwise missed.
Mitch Teemley is relevant, humorous, a brilliant wordsmith, straightforward, spiritual – you’ve just got to have a look at his site, starting with these:
Marcia is a children’s librarian and posts fascinating information (and gorgeous photos!) about books, travel and more. See if these don’t make you drool…
Ready to laugh? Intrigued by controversy? This hip lady will make you smile, give her opinions, and educate you at the same time!
I discovered that this next blog had a listing of vintage books, and the author actually set outs to read them all! Wow. Not only that, she has ongoing reading clubs and challenges. Check out these posts…
Mary Phillips loves Bronte, Austen, Alcott, and her posts include poetry, pretty pictures, literary musings…and her sparkling personality!
These are just the tip of the iceberg! I have the pleasure of following so many talented bloggers offering fascinating views and uplifting information to the world of online literature. It will take more posts to cover them all.
I hope you found some new reading material and inspiration in these blogs! If you have some to recommend to me, leave me a comment. Thanks for reading!
Thanks also to these creative photographers…
Unsplash at Pixabay for laptop photo “Home Office”
Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, at Flickr for “Blogging Au Plein Air, after Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot”
A big selection of quality books, including children’s books, classics, Christmas and Christian books, are available for one more day of this sale!
I just discovered this sale, sponsored by Used Book Treasures, and bought 3 gems, including two unique Christmas books written by classic authors, for only $3 each.
You can browse through the various categories at the Lutheran Church of our Savior in southeast Calgary on
Saturday, November 26, 2016, from 10 AM to 4 PM,
at 8831 Fairmont Drive SE
If you need more information you can email email@example.com or call (403) 254-2686.
Treat yourself to a nice browse-through and see what treasures you find! Start your Christmas shopping the day after Black Friday at this collection of great gifts for all ages, especially kids.
Home-schoolers, you don’t want to miss this one!
Let me know what you find!
This lovely little children’s book published in 1892 is set in Long Leatham, England, at the time of Jubilee Day, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne.
Sam is a young boy about eight or nine years old who one day goes to church and hears a traveling missionary say that however weak or insignificant you may be, you may do great things for God if you earnestly desire it. However difficult and impossible that may seem at first, God will make it possible if you ask him with all your heart. He will show you the way. (Yes! I’m inspired! Even a children’s book can get these truths out.)
To Sam’s mind, that meant that even the youngest could be going out into the world to tell people about the love of Jesus. Although Sam is normally a quiet inactive child, he thinks about it, and takes it very deeply to heart. Soon, he wants to do that so badly that he actually tells his sister his secret and makes a plan to leave home with his tiny little rucksack and go to a particular city to find this traveling pastor.
Sam’s sister tries to talk him out of it but he will not change his mind. So she agrees to go with him and they secretly pack up some things for their trip and set up very early the next morning in the dark. The sister believes that she can persuade her brother to come back home so she assumes that they will be home by nightfall.
But she is wrong and they come across a lot of troubles that they didn’t expect and some unsavory people that robbed them. In the end they are brought home and sadly, the boy dies. (Sniff sniff!) His sister and family however believe that he ultimately accomplished his goal. All the people that found out about his determination to tell people about the love of Jesus make his story go public, far and wide, and many children are inspired by that story.
I do not like unhappy endings, on the other hand I do like realistic books, and what happened to this little boy was realistic. I love the idea that with determination, and a passion for doing good and to love others and to bring glory to the Lord, there are so many ways for that to be accomplished. We don’t have to rely on our human ingenuity or strength or wisdom.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the beautifully developed characters of the other children, and references to actual historic events. It was taking place during the Jubilee celebration of Queen Victoria, and throughout the little book there were references to other events going on in history, as well as details about life at that time.
A rather exciting and unique thing about this book is that although this book was written by Beatrice Marshall, who seems to have been a fairly famous author at that time–I could not find any place online where it was for sale, or any cover image.
What I did find was that it appears in online copies of something called the Publishers Circular. It is listed in the October 1st 1892 edition and in the “Monthly Package for July to December 1892”. It says Beatrice Marshal is the author of Dolly’s Charge. But I looked all over the internet and that is all I could find about this book.
So it sort of makes me excited to think, what if I have the only copy of this book, wouldn’t that be extraordinary?
Sam’s Mission was illustrated by C. Manning, published in 1892 by James Nisbet & Company Ltd, London; on the back page is typed: “Lorimer and Chalmers, Printers, Edinburgh”.
As previously posted, I love diaries, and I found many diaries online, including Mark Twain’s “discoveries” of Adam’s Diary and Eve’s Diary. Then I looked at an actual diary from 1771, written by Anna Green Winslow of Boston, noticing that, in many respects, what was important to this 12-year-old girl in the 18th century is still important to 12-year-old girls today.
Another one I found at Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) was The Real Diary of a Real Boy by Henry A. Shute, written in 1902. Henry seemed to grow up in a similar rural area to where my dad grew up, and his diary entries are quite similar to some of my dad’s.
I naturally assumed this “real diary” was the actual diary of the author when he was a boy. But it’s not! Aargh. I was very disappointed to learn that it is a fictionalized journal as I was researching for information on the author. But it is based on real life, and I found it fun to read, especially knowing that the author was a farmer, musician and a juvenile judge in his hometown!
This humorous work was supposedly written by a reluctant writer whose dad persuaded him to keep a journal for a year. The boy’s childhood is all about exploring the land, his abilities and the boundaries of authority. I loved reading about the relatively carefree life that Henry lives, his independence, and his physically demanding adventures and discoveries in the outdoors.
In the Introduction, the now-grown Henry starts out: “In the winter of 1901-02, while rummaging an old closet in the shed-chamber of my father’s house, I unearthed a salt-box …”
Then he describes the contents of the box:
“Fish-line…with…hook, to which adhered the mummied remains of a worm that lived and flourished many, many years ago.
Popgun…. One blood alley, two chinees, a parti-colored glass agate, three pewees, and unnumbered drab colored marbles.
Six-inch bean-blower, for school use—a weapon of considerable range and great precision when used with judgment behind a Guyot’s Common School Geography.
Unexpended ammunition for same, consisting of putty pellets.
Frog’s hind leg, extra dry. Wing of bluejay, very ditto.
Letter from “Beany,” postmarked “Biddeford, Me.” and expressing great indignation because “Pewt” “hasent wrote.”
Copy-book inscribed “Diry.”
“Diry” means Diary. This boy started many entries with a weather report, “brite and fair”. He seemed to get into a fight several times a week, and goes into great detail about his and his friends’ shenanigans and punishments, which seemed to be pretty important occasions!
Here he tells about his average summer days (I decided to doctor up some of the spelling and punctuation for ease of reading!):
July 21. Awful hot. Big thunder shower and lightning struck a tree in front of Perry Molton’s house.
July 22. Went to church. Beany let the wind out of the organ and it squeaked and made everybody laugh. Keene and Cele sing in the choir. Father feels pretty big about it.
July 23. I got stung by hornets today. I went in swimming at the eddy and when I was drying my clothes I set rite down on a stump where there was a nest of yellow bellied hornets. They all lit on me and I thought I was afire for a minute. I ran and dove rite off the bank and swam way out under water. When I came up they were buzzing round jest where I went down. When I came out the fellers put mud on my bites and after a while they stopped hurting. I tell you the fellers jest died laughing to see me run and holler.
July 24. Brite and fair. I was all swelled up with hornet bites but they didn’t hurt any, I looked jest like Beany when he had the mumps. Everyone laughed at me.
The author, called The Mark Twain of Exeter (New Hampshire, where he grew up), includes an “update” at the end, 30 years later, telling where all of his friends and relatives were and what they were now doing, showing how the ones doing all the mischief grew up and became proper, successful human beings (most of them!). This ending is quite a creative and amusing feature to the book.
Henry Shute wrote over 20 books about mischievous boys, all set in his hometown. He graduated from Harvard University in 1879. In the 1890’s, he began writing for the Exeter News-Letter, and this diary published in 1902 was what brought him national recognition. He went on to publish in the SATURDAY EVENING POST from 1925 to 1928.
Project Gutenberg is a tremendous resource. Below is the link to this diary, and links to the other three diaries I reviewed, and I hope you will find something you enjoy there. Let me know if you do!
Real Diary of a Real Boy http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5111
Diary of Anna Green Winslow http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20765
Extracts from Adam’s Diary by Mark Twain http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1892
Eve’s Diary by Mark Twain http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/8525
Photos from SeacoastNH.com: http://www.seacoastnh.com/famous-people/thomas-bailey-aldrich/henry-shute-was-juvenile-delinquent-judge/
Book covers from LibraryThing.com
In previous posts, I wrote about my absolute joy in reading Extracts from Adam’s Diary and Eve’s Diary. Reading (and even re-reading) some parts of these made me laugh almost to exhaustion. Other parts were serious and surprisingly tender compared to the other books I’ve read by Mark Twain.
At Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) I also found Diary of Anna Green Winslow, a Boston School Girl of 1771. It was written by a 12-year-old girl, and published in 1894. The editor, Alice Morse Earle, included an in-depth family history.
Miniature of Colonial Diarist Anna Green Winslow
Quite the Lineage!
Anna was born in 1759 in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her family did not feel that Halifax could provide the society or the schooling that would “finish” their daughter. So they sent 10-year-old Anna to America to live with Judge Winslow’s older sister, Aunt Sarah Deming, and her husband, in Boston.
Miss Winslow traveled in high social circles and had quite the lineage! On her mother’s side, she was descended from a Puritan, Percival Green, who sailed from London, England, in 1635. On her father’s side, Anna’s great-great-great grandfather was the older brother of Pilgrim Edward Winslow, who arrived on the Mayflower as did Anna’s great-great-great grandmother, Mary Chilton.
Anna’s interests and daily life
Anna is clearly fascinated with people, and details visits and conversations with the many people she interacts with. She writes about fashions, the weather (waist-high snow!), her sewing skills and various domestic duties, and her attempts to improve her writing skills. She records the many visits she makes to help and encourage friends and relatives who are ill. Anna mentions her spiritual progress in strengthening her relationship with God, and writes many notes about Biblical scriptures she reads and sermons she hears.
1771 not so different from 2016?
I find it fascinating to compare people from different eras, and noticed an obvious contrast in Anna’s memoirs between the orderliness and apparent serenity of their lives, and our disjointed, hurried lives of today.
Parents and society required children and teens to work more in 1771. A sense of duty and responsibility to family and society was more internalized and self-motivated in children then, compared to now. Family members seemed more engaged with each other then–especially the females and children who spent so much time in the home together. Yet I am surprised that there was so much emphasis on proper etiquette and connections that families would actually send a 12-year-old girl away to be trained and refined!
Twelve-year-old Anna rarely talks about her friends. By contrast, for many youth in 2016, friends seem to have taken the place—or a higher priority—over family relationships. I think our children today devote more time on physical fitness, entertainment, pleasure, and buying “toys” than in Anna’s time, partly because our automated society gives us more free time and money. But it’s also partly because we as adults encourage children to have fun.
However, having said all that, I don’t think that pre-teens are that different now than they were then in 1770’s Boston, when it comes to what is truly important to them. Children value that family closeness no matter what century they live in. And they all have hopes and dreams to be a valuable member of society, be accepted by their peers, enjoy particular hobbies, be healthy, and many still reach for a connection with the divine.
“Mom, there’s no way I’m wearing that!”
Anna Green Winslow’s diary entry in handwriting
In this handwritten letter, Anna seems annoyed that her mother doesn’t let her wear the latest fashions, something that annoys plenty of Anna’s 2016 counterparts as well! She says that her hat makes her look like a “street seller”:
“Dear mamma, you don’t know the fation [fashion] here—I beg to look like other folk…”
She closes this journal entry (which is also a letter to her mother) affectionately:
“…with duty, love and compliments as due, particularly to my dear little brother (I long to see him)…Your ever dutiful daughter…”
Any thoughts? Do leave a comment!
Up next is a diary reluctantly written by a boy in rural America in the 1860’s.
You can read buy Anna’s diary at Amazon, and read it at https://archive.org/stream/diaryofannagreen00wins#page/72/mode/2up .
Project Gutenberg is also a tremendous resource. Below are the links of these three diaries, and there are many more diaries there! I hope you will find something you enjoy there.
Diary of Anna Green Winslow http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20765
Eve’s Diary by Mark Twain http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/8525
Extracts from Adam’s Diary by Mark Twain http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1892
Miniature of Colonial Diarist Anna Green Winslow and Anna Green Winslow’s diary entry in handwriting from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anna_Green_Winslow.gif
Book covers from LibraryThing.com
As I mentioned in my previous post, I love diaries, and at Project Gutenberg I found many diaries available to read, listen to and download to my Kindle. The first one I read was Excerpts from Adam’s Diary, supposedly written by Adam. This book by the American humorist Mark Twain was published in 1904.
Well, naturally, Eve also kept a diary, which Twain “discovered.” It was first published in the 1905 Christmas issue of the magazine Harper’s Bazaar, and in book format in June 1906.
Mark Twain is known for his wit, but I had no idea how eloquent and tender he could be. Here are journal entries from Eve’s Diary. Notice that, compared to Adam’s focus on building and exploring, Eve is concerned with order and beauty. She delights in her endless discoveries of God’s gifts of flowers, plants, animals…and even her own reflection!
Here are some of my favorite passages:
First days in Eden, and losing the moon
Everything looks better today than it did yesterday. In the rush of finishing up yesterday, the mountains were left in a ragged condition, and some of the plains were so cluttered with rubbish and remnants that the aspects were quite distressing…. There are too many stars in some places and not enough in others, but that can be remedied presently, no doubt.
The moon got loose last night and slipped down and fell out of the scheme—a very great loss, it breaks my heart to think of it. There isn’t another thing among the ornaments and decorations that is comparable to it for beauty and finish. It should have been fastened better. If we can only get it back again… For I do love moons, they’re so pretty and so romantic. I wish we had five or six; I would never go to bed; I should never get tired lying on the moss-bank and looking up at them.
I got a basket and started for a place on the extreme rim of the circle, where the stars were close to the ground and I could get them with my hands… But it was farther than I thought… I couldn’t get back home, it was too far and turning cold; but I found some tigers and nestled in among them and was most adorably comfortable, and their breath was sweet and pleasant, because they live on strawberries. I had never seen a tiger before, but I knew them in a minute by the stripes.
Her first impressions of Adam
I followed the other Experiment around, yesterday afternoon, at a distance, to see what it might be for, if I could. But I was not able to make it out. I think it is a man. I had never seen a man, but it looked like one and I feel sure that it is what it is. I realize that I feel more curiosity about it than any of the other reptiles. If it is a reptile, and I suppose it is; for it has frowzy hair and blue eyes, and looks like a reptile. It has no hips; it tapers like a carrot; when it stands, it spreads itself apart like a derrick; so I think it is a reptile, though it may be architecture.
Her new discovery
I laid a dry stick on the ground and tried to bore a hole in it with another one, in order to carry out a scheme that I had, and soon I got an awful fright. A thin transparent bluish film rose out of the hole, and I dropped everything and ran! I thought it was a spirit, and I WAS so frightened! … there was a pinch of delicate pink dust in the hole. I put my finger in, to feel it, and said OUCH! and took it out again. It was a cruel pain. I put my finger in my mouth; and by standing first on one foot and then the other, and grunting, I presently eased my misery; then I was full of interest, and began to examine…Suddenly the name of it occurred to me, though I had never heard it before. It was fire!
Extract from Adam’s Diary
….perhaps I ought to remember that she is very young, a mere girl, and make allowances. She is all interest, eagerness, vivacity, the world is to her a charm, a wonder, a mystery, a joy; she can’t speak for delight when she finds a new flower, she must pet it and caress it and smell it and talk to it, and pour out endearing names upon it. And she is color-mad: brown rocks, yellow sand, gray moss, green foliage, blue sky; the pearl of the dawn, the purple shadows on the mountains, the golden islands floating in crimson seas at sunset, the pallid moon sailing through the shredded cloud-rack, the star-jewels glittering in the wastes of space—none of them is of any practical value, so far as I can see, but because they have color and majesty, that is enough for her, and she loses her mind over them.
If she could quiet down and keep still a couple minutes at a time, it would be a reposeful spectacle. In that case I think I could enjoy looking at her; indeed I am sure I could, for I am coming to realize that she is a quite remarkably comely creature—lithe, slender, trim, rounded, shapely, nimble, graceful; and once when she was standing marble-white and sun-drenched on a boulder, with her young head tilted back and her hand shading her eyes, watching the flight of a bird in the sky, I recognized that she was beautiful.
If there is anything on the planet that she is not interested in it is not in my list…When the mighty brontosaurus came striding into camp, she regarded it as an acquisition, I considered it a calamity;…she wanted to domesticate it, I wanted to…move out. She believed it could be tamed by kind treatment and would make a good pet; I said a pet twenty-one feet high and eighty-four feet long would be no proper thing to have about the place, because, even with the best intentions and without meaning any harm, it could sit down on the house and mash it, for any one could see by the look of its eye that it was absent-minded…
She thought we could start a dairy with it,…but…it was too risky…She thought…we could stand him in the river and use him for a bridge…but it failed: every time she got him properly placed…he came out and followed her around like a pet mountain. Like the other animals. They all do that.
Eve ponders her existence, and the stars melting
At first I couldn’t make out what I was made for, but now I think it was to search out the secrets of this wonderful world and thank the Giver of it all for devising it.
By watching, I know that the stars are not going to last. I have seen some of the best ones melt and run down the sky. Since one can melt, they can all melt; since they can all melt, they can all melt the same night. That sorrow will come–I know it. I mean to sit up every night and look at them as long as I can keep awake; and I will impress those sparkling fields on my memory, so that by-and-by when they are taken away I can by my fancy restore those lovely myriads to the black sky and make them sparkle again, and double them by the blur of my tears.
Forty Years Later… It is my prayer, it is my longing, that we may pass from this life together–a longing which shall never perish from the earth, but shall have place in the heart of every wife that loves, until the end of time, and it shall be called by my name.
At Eve’s Grave: ADAM: Wheresoever she was, THERE was Eden.
As you can see, this short book is by turns charming, hilarious and serious. Eve’s Diary is one of the most imaginative books I’ve read, my current favorite of Mark Twain’s wealth of writings. I hope you will read it and also enjoy all of the many detailed pen and ink drawings. It’s also available as an ebook at Project Gutenberg, and in print form at Amazon and other online bookstores.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these diaries by Mark Twain, and diaries in general, and you can leave a comment below. More diaries to come!