Review of Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson

When I was in elementary school in Denver, Colorado, there was a book high on the top shelf of the school library that kept catching my eye. The book’s title was my name. How intriguing! I saw it year after year, but I couldn’t reach it, and anyway it looked too thick and grown-up to me. After I left elementary school, from time to time, I would run across the book. I got the impression that it was an overly historical book and very dull. Nevertheless, I’d often think, “One day I’m going to read that.”

Fast forward almost twenty years and I was now living in San Diego, California. One of the places a co-worker had taken me was called Old Town, a historical part of San Diego that included an area called “Ramona’s Marriage Place”. (Here is a photo of me there in 1981.) One day I was browsing around at the public library…and there it was! Helen Hunt Jackson’s book, Ramona. Well within reach now, and no time like the present, I checked it out. I was surprised to find out that it was considered a classic American novel. And to my amazement, this historical novel was set right THERE…in the San Diego area!

Serendipity!

This novel tells the story of Ramona, a half-native woman from a wealthy Spanish family, who meets Alessandro, one of the Native American shepherds near her home. They develop a friendship which turns into love, marriage, devotion and tragedy because of discrimination against her husband.

Helen Hunt Jackson delves into some politically incorrect territory for that time in history. In October of 1879, she learned about the plight of the Native Americans and the mistreatment they received from the government. Sympathizing with their cause, she toured many of their impoverished communities, and wrote articles and a book to publicize their struggles. In 1883 the plot of a novel came to her suddenly one morning, and she began writing.

Of course I highly recommend this classic novel. The inside flap of my 1912 edition says

For over a half century Helen Jackson’s romantic story of Spanish and Indian life in California has been widely read until it has become an American classic. Originally published in 1884, “Ramona” has been issued in various editions, with a total of 135 printings. The Atlantic Monthly has termed the story “one of the most artistic creations of American literature,” while the late Charles Dudley Warner [an American essayist, novelist, and friend of Mark Twain] called it “one of the most charming creations of modern fiction.” Born in 1831, Mrs. Jackson was an ardent champion of the Indians to the end of her useful life, in 1885. “Ramona” has been three times produced as a motion picture, been played on the stage, adapted for a pageant and may eventually be utilized for a grand opera.”

More of my personal connection

I have always had an interest and a special place in my heart for the Native Americans, so of course I loved this book with its focus on these people. That, along with the fact that it was a romance based on actual history, including characters living out their faith, made it nearly the perfect book. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that the tragedy in the story was softened by an unexpected ending of kindness.

The book inspired the Ramona Pageant, which is still performed in the hills of Hemet, California. It is said to be California’s Official Outdoor Play and the longest continuously running outdoor drama in the United States. The original “Ramona” movie came out in 1928, and was remade in 1936, starring Don Ameche and Loretta Young. I’d always known that my grandmother named me after the song, but when I found out that the song was created for the movie based on the book that I loved, I was beyond excited!

While I was growing up, many teachers and other adults sang the first few lines of the song to me, and I finally found a copy of the entire song online. It just so happens that I love it; it is a very sweet, flowing love song. I love the references to nature–hills, mountains, babbing brook, kissing the sky, meeting by the waterfall–and hearing the church “mission bells above”.

One year our family toured southern California and we stayed overnight in the town of Ramona, northeast of San Diego. The town was named to capitalize on the popularity of the fictional character from the best selling novel. I made sure we stopped in Temecula, one of the towns mentioned in the novel (much to my family’s disappointment!), where I purchased a book called The Annotated Ramona and a little Spanish maiden figurine as a memento. The book opened up the whole historical side of the book to me, as well as a biography of the author. I learned that later in her life she moved to Colorado, my home state. Magical!

Here is a postcard a friend in California recently sent me. Notice in the far lower right corner it says, “The Real Ramona”. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but it is clearly quite an old photograph. Very intriguing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of my history, and will check out this wonderful book. It’s a gem!

Thunder and Lightning and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

While listening to a radio program which mentioned Santa’s reindeer in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, something occurred to my mom about Donner and Blitzen. In her native German language, donner means thunder, and blitzen means lightning. We were both curious to know if the creator of the song chose these names because of these meanings.

Well!  What fun we had on the phone, her asking questions and me surfing the Internet to find the answers. The first link I landed on said that the song came from the book.

Book? Rudolph was a book before it was a song? Now I’m really interested! Who wrote the book, and when?

In 1939, Robert L. May, an ad man for Montgomery Ward retail store, was asked by his boss to write a little story that could be made into one of the booklets that the department store gave away to their customers at Christmas time. He created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in a rhyming story poem.

May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, wrote the lyrics and melody for a song based on the character in the book. He borrowed most of the reindeer names from the classic 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (more commonly known as “Twas the Night before Christmas”) written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr. or Clement Moore.

And now we come to the answer to our original question. According to ThoughtCo.com,

The 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” refers to “Dunder” and “Blixem”…Dutch names written into the poem by Livingston.

Only in later versions, modified by Moore in 1844, were the two names changed to German: Donder (close to Donner, thunder) and Blitzen (lightning), to better rhyme with “Vixen.”

Finally, for some reason, in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Johnny Marks turned “Donder” into “Donner.” Whether he made the change because he knew German or because it just sounded better is uncertain. In any event, there is certainly some logic in using German Donner and Blitzen (thunder and lightning) for the names.

Since 1950 or so, the two reindeer names have been Donner and Blitzen in both “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”

So, Mom, now we know! Here are some other fun links to check out:

The Archive.org video of the 1948 Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer film, including some stanzas from the original story poem by Robert.L.May

The touching story from the December 22, 1975 Gettysburg Times newspaper, “Robert May Tells How Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Came Into Being”  (Part 2)

An NPR webpage with audio of their interview with Robert L. May’s granddaughter in which she reads the poem. The webpage includes images of the original color sketches for the book drawn by Robert May’s friend in the art department, Denver Gillen.

Happy New Year everybody!

Book review of The Sojourner by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

If you had offered me a book with a rather off-putting cover drawing about a family who endured the hardships of trying to make a living on a farm in the late 1800’s, I’d have probably declined. That’s been done in various scenarios, and sounds depressing. I’d have preferred something with more pizzazz and originality.

But when I found this book on the shelf of a thrift store, I discovered some key information to change my mind. It was published in 1953, the author’s name was familiar, she had won a Pulitzer Prize, and it was $2.50 that would go toward a good cause. Seemed like a good bet, and a good book to bring home. And was it ever.

The story centers around Ase, whose brother Ben is the apple of his mother’s eye. After his father dies, Ben leaves the farm to seek fortune and adventure. Their mother grieves his loss, and will not believe that he went on his own volition. She never pretends to have any affection for Ase, but he nevertheless devotes himself to her care and making a success of their farm. He marries energetic trickster Nellie and they start a family. He is a thoughtful philosophical dreamer, yet too responsible to let his own longings interfere with his duties.

Ase is wise, yet timid and unable to articulate what is in his huge heart and his keen mind, so others find him an easy target, including his own children. He opens his home to those down on their luck, and finds true friendship in unlikely places. Through hopeful and sad events, despite all the years that go by without any word of  him, Ase never stops hoping for the return of his brother.

From page one The Sojourner was too gripping to put down, and I didn’t want to miss one single word. Each character in turn was introduced in a few pages to make you feel as if you had known them for a lifetime. Each had their own strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures. The intense commitment of the farming community to their livelihood and to one another show the stoicism and dedication that built the powerful American society of the early twentieth century.

Reading it was a quiet experience. I don’t just mean that I read it in silence; it also calmed my mind. The longer I read, the more I joined this family miles away from the nearest neighbor, and enjoyed the restful evenings without electricity, as though I could hear the silent breeze rustling the grass in their distant field. All of these combined to make a quality story of depth, common yet uncommon humanity, spiritual truth, and a satisfying outcome.

Following the motivations, decisions and outcomes in each of their journeys was illuminating. It makes me feel like I understand those in my little circle, and people all around the world, even more. It is the kind of book I keep hoping to discover in contemporary fiction and rarely seem to find. (Please enlighten me if you have found otherwise, I’d love to find some great contemporary fiction!) And the wonderful thing is that in learning more about her, I have discovered nine more novels of hers to read.

Marjorie Rawlings’ classic novel is a great example of why I comb the vintage book sections and why I trust the classic authors of fifty or more years ago. Tell me: where else can you get a heartwarming, inspiring experience every evening for three weeks…all for the grand total of two-and-a-half dollars?

Goodnight Poems of Eugene Field

A while back I was browsing the shelves of antiquarian books at Fair’s Fair on 9th Avenue, and ran across a beautiful set of books, The Works of Eugene Field. Two volumes particularly caught my eye, A Little Book of Profitable Tales and A Little Book of Western Verse, and I perused wonderful pieces such as “The First Christmas Tree”, “Winken Blinken and Nod” and “Little Boy Blue”.

These were only being sold as a set, and I wasn’t interested in paying the asking price of one hundred dollars, so I went home to see if I could find them in electronic form.

 

Sure enough, I could read some of A Little Book of Western Verse on the Internet Archive BookReader, and download many of Eugene Field’s beautiful works for free from Gutenberg.org. I have been reading Western Verse today on my Kindle.

How have I missed this author up until now? Eugene Field started publishing poetry in 1789. He wrote imaginative, gentle rhyming verses for children and adults, perfect for a peaceful bedtime read. “Mother and Child” is about a rose, falling in love with the dewdrop that lands on its petals. “The Divine Lullaby” is about hearing God’s voice in the ocean, the wind, snow and bells, saying “Sleep well, my child.”

This world needs these beautiful words, and I hope many rediscover Eugene Field’s remarkable talent. Here are a few lines from several more.

From “Winken, Blinken and Nod”, one of his most well-known works:

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night

Sailed off in a wooden shoe —

Sailed on a river of crystal light,

Into a sea of dew.

From the peaceful poem “In the Firelight”:

The firelight shadows fluttering go.

And as the shadows round me creep,

A childish treble breaks the gloom,

And softly from a further room

Comes, “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

One of Field’s most well-known poems is “Little Boy Blue”, but it’s not the one that I learned as a child. Here is the first verse:

The little toy dog is covered with dust,

But sturdy and stanch he stands;

And the little toy soldier is red with rust,

And his musket molds in his hands.

Time was when the little toy dog was new

And the soldier was passing fair,

And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue

Kissed them and put them there.

 

Statue of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod in Washington Park, Denver, Colorado. Assumed to be by Matt Wright.
Statue of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod in Washington Park, Denver, Colorado, by Matt Wright.

In “Christmas Treasure” a father asks his beloved little son what he would like from Santa Claus:

And then he named this little toy,

while in his round and mournful eyes

there came a look of sweet surprise,

that spake his quiet, trustful joy…

he lisped his evening prayer

…with childish grace;

Then, toddling to the chimney-place,

he hung this little stocking there.

From “Norse Lullaby”:

The sky is dark and the hills are white

As the storm-king speeds from the north to-night,

And this is the song the storm-king sings,

As over the world his cloak he flings:

“Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;”

From “The Twenty-Third Psalm”:

My Shepherd is the Lord my God,—

There is no want I know;

His flock He leads in verdant meads,

Where tranquil waters flow.

This next one shares memories of a carefree childhood wandering among nature’s tranquil creatures and greenery, from “Long Ago”:

I once knew all the birds that came

And nested in our orchard trees;

For every flower I had a name—

My friends were woodchucks, toads, and bees;

I knew where thrived in yonder glen

What plants would soothe a stone-bruised toe—

Oh, I was very learned then;

But that was very long ago!

The love of a parent, from “Some Time”:

Last night, my darling, as you slept,

I thought I heard you sigh,

And to your little crib I crept,

And watched a space thereby;

And then I stooped and kissed your brow,

For oh! I love you so—

You are too young to know it now,

But some time you shall know!

Here is the sweetest little story poem of a father, finally resting with a book after a long day, from “At The Door”:

I thought myself indeed secure,

So fast the door, so firm the lock;

But, lo! he toddling comes to lure

My parent ear with timorous knock.

…then as the father takes his laughing darling in his arms, he ponders the end of his own life, when he is knocking on heaven’s gate. He hopes his heavenly father will unlock that door in the same way, and welcome him with the same joy!

And although not a lullaby, I had to include this humorous little ditty, from his poem “The Bibliomaniac’s Prayer”:

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom’s way

That I may truths eternal seek;

I need protecting care to-day,—

My purse is light, my flesh is weak…

Let my temptation be a book,

Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,

Whereon when other men shall look,

They’ll wail to know I got it cheap.

(I guess that means I’m a bibliomaniac!  Any others out there?  You?)

Spending an hour reading his poetry was such a calming experience because Field’s word pictures take you into the sweet, quiet experiences he writes about. I will keep these handy for the end of a hectic day!

Thank you, Eugene Field!

 

[And thank you to these who generously provided images: TheVintagePrincipal for the image of The Works of Eugene Field, Keri S. Hathaway for the image of the statue , Wikimedia/Internet Archive Book Images for the image from The Golden Staircase-Poems and Verses for Children , Sue Clark on Flickr for the image of Teeny Weeny , and Wikimedia for the image of Eugene Field ]

Review of God’s Good Man: A Simple Love Story, by Marie Corelli

“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.

20170304_102124

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.

20170304_102202

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.

20170304_102225

Sam’s Mission: A Story of Jubilee Year, by Beatrice Marshall

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.

20151121_110750

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.)

20151121_111038-str

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.

20151121_110903-str

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.

20151121_111326-str

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.

20151121_111259-str

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.

publishers-circular-1892-sshot-0-13-july2-issue

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”.

Little Grain’s Big Adventure by Jacqueline Price

How very exciting! An adorable children’s book, with quality writing, unique and exotic locales and wildlife, gorgeous artwork and beautiful lyrical language!
bkmk-side-1

Little Grain is bored with his hum-drum life tumbling in the surf among all the other grains of sand, and asks his friend Little Bird to take him to see the sights of Hawaii.  He ventures even farther, all the way to the Gulf of Alaska, and a strong wind strands him on an iceberg.  Now poor Little Grain is scared, cold, and homesick for his family and his warm sandy bay.  If only he could get some help!

This book is full of exotic plants, fascinating land forms, and unusual animals of the ocean, land and air, each in turn the most beautiful thing Little Grain has ever seen.  And THIS BOOK is one of the most beautiful things I’VE ever seen!

front-cvr

The lyrical and alliterative words make Little Grain’s Big Adventure a joy-filled reading experience, and on each page we can find our tiny main character making comments in little white speech bubbles.  I am drawn in, re-reading it over and over, savoring the unique, calming imagery in the language.

This story of a little grain of sand was inspired by the author’s family trip to Napili Bay in Maui, and is enhanced with brilliant, bold illustrations. As a librarian at an elementary school, Jacquie discovered a talented fifth-grade boy who agreed to illustrate her book, and brought to life all the marvels Little Grain encounters from Hawaii to Vancouver Island and Alaska, and back.  After admiring the art, I could hardly believe that the illustrator was not a professional artist.  (Yet!)

back-cvr-crop-photos

I fell in love with this story years ago when Jacquie sent it to our children’s writers group for our feedback. How wonderful to find out she was doing a book signing at our local Chapters Indigo bookstore in Calgary!

20160917_144231

This book is such a treasure.  I highly recommend it!

You can purchase a copy of Little Grain’s Big Adventure at the author’s website, www.jacquelinedprice.com.

What a beautiful present it would make for a child’s birthday or a holiday gift.  (And…..psssst!   Jacquie has another book coming out soon!)

bkmk-side-2

The Real Diary of a Real Boy by Henry A. Shute

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!

 

diary-real-boy-librarything-2

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.

Henry A. Shute of Exeter, NH / seacoastNH.com
Henry A. Shute of Exeter, NH / seacoastNH.com

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.”

Henry A. Shute with a young fan (c)Exeter Historical Society on Seacoastnh.com
Henry A. Shute with a young fan (c)Exeter Historical Society on Seacoastnh.com

“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!

diary-real-boy-librarything

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.

Henry A. Shute reading to boy students (c)Exeter Historical Society on SeacoastNH.com
Henry A. Shute reading to boy students (c)Exeter Historical Society on SeacoastNH.com

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

 

Photo credits:

Photos from SeacoastNH.com:  http://www.seacoastnh.com/famous-people/thomas-bailey-aldrich/henry-shute-was-juvenile-delinquent-judge/

Book covers from LibraryThing.com

Diary of Anna Green Winslow, a Boston School Girl of 1771

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.

Diary Anna Winslow

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

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

 

Photo credits:

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

Eve and her Pet Brontosaurus

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.

Diary Eves Diary Mark Twain pg8525.cover.medium

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.

Eve Diary Reflection cr and strI 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!

Eve in sun

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.

Their Love

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.

Mark Twain
Author Mark Twain

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!