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.

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