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!

 

 

Diaries from Hundreds—even Thousands—of Years Ago

I love diaries, and have written in various forms of journals since I was about 10 years old.  I enjoy reading them almost as much as writing them, and find reliving first hand experiences (yes, even my own) fascinating, educational and often humorous and inspiring.

 

Journals and Diaries

At Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) I found many diaries available to read, listen to and download, and added a few to my Kindle.  The first ones I read were Mark Twain’s books, which are supposedly diaries written by Adam and Eve.

The author imagines this first couple as being rather tentative about each other! I tried to select a few extra-special parts, but there are too many, so here are a few paragraphs from the beginning of the book entitled Extracts from Adam’s Diary, starting with Twain’s note:

* * * * * * * * * * *

Extracts from Adam's Diary[NOTE.– I translated a portion of this diary some years ago… Since then I have deciphered some more of Adam’s hieroglyphics, and think he has now become sufficiently important as a public character to justify this publication. – – M. T.]

Monday
This new creature with the long hair is a good deal in the way It is always hanging around and following me about. I don’t like this; I am not used to company. I wish it would stay with the other animals….

Tuesday
Been examining the great waterfall. It is the finest thing on the estate, I think. The new creature calls it Niagara Falls–why, I am sure I do not know. Says it looks like Niagara Falls…. I get no chance to name anything myself. The new creature names everything that comes along, before I can get in a protest. And always that same pretext is offered–it looks like the thing. There is the dodo, for instance. Says the moment one looks at it one sees at a glance that it “looks like a dodo”. It will have to keep that name no doubt. It worries me to fret about it, and it does no good anyway.  Dodo! It looks no more like a Dodo than I do.

1280px-Thomas_Cole_The_Garden_of_Eden_detail_Amon_Carter_Museum

Wednesday
Built me a shelter against the rain, but could not have it to myself in peace. The new creature intruded. When I try to put it out, it shed water out of the holes it looks with, and wiped it away with the back of its paws, and made a noise such as some of the other animals make when they are in distress. I wish it would not talk, it is always talking… And this new sound is so close to me; it is right at my shoulder, right at my ear, first on one side and then on the other, and I am used only to sounds that are more or less distant from me…

Sunday
This morning found the new creature trying to clod apples out of that forbidden tree.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Adam and Eve’s first child is named Cain. When Eve “finds” Cain, Adam can not figure out what kind of animal it is or where she found it.  At first Adam thinks Cain is a fish, a kangaroo, or a bear. Eventually he figures out it is a human, like himself.

I love how they talk about God as a beloved family member.  Eventually, despite his initial deep annoyance with Eve, Adam finds himself in love with her.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain

This 104-page book is well worth checking out, and I hope you will get as many laughs as I did!  It’s available as an ebook and audio book at Project Gutenberg, and in print form at Amazon and other online bookstores.

If you do read it, I’d love to hear your reactions.  You can leave a comment below in the “Leave a Reply” box.  I’ll look at Eve’s Diary in my next post!

 

ebook:  Extracts from Adam’s Diary by Mark Twain   http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1892

audio book http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=adam+s+diary

Garden of Eden  Thomas Cole [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Cole_The_Garden_of_Eden_Amon_Carter_Museum.jpg

Review of The Little Hunchback Zia by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“And it came to pass nigh upon nineteen hundred and sixteen years ago”

Front page, The Little Hunchback Zia

This begins Frances Hodgson Burnett’s little book published in 1916 about a rejected, deformed orphan boy who is sent to beg for the cruel woman who keeps him.

The Little Hunchback Zia

The Little Hunchback Zia

One day, hiding in the brush near the road to Bethlehem, he watches a surprising number of families and animals pass by on the road, playful and happy. But Zia falls asleep sobbing in unbearable loneliness.

The Little Hunchback Zia

Yet in the night Zia awakens smiling, feeling an unexplainable calm, without and within. Soon he sees one part of the sky growing lighter, and the sheep nearby suddenly attentive. In the darkness, a weary man walks slowly up the road, leading a donkey which carries a woman. A radiance surrounds her.

 

The Little Hunchback ZiaAlthough he thinks he is dreaming, Zia nevertheless feels compelled to follow them. And as the crippled and diseased boy climbs the steep hill toward Bethlehem, he does not waver or stumble.

Whatever had led Zia to Bethlehem now leads him to find the radiant woman and her husband in the mangers of the cave. The woman invites him to come near to the new born baby.

But he refuses, warning her that he is an unclean leper. Yet she insists. “Draw nigh,” the woman says, “and let his hand rest upon thee!”

Front cover, The Little Hunchback Zia

Zia obeys. He bows his head to the Holy child and feels the feather light touch of his tiny fingers. Soon Zia is healthy and standing upright for the first time in his life.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, the well-known author of The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and many other books, writes in a way that immediately engages and grips her reader. Every page of this little book seemed to draw me deeper into Zia’s experiences and emotions. Even though the story is based on the well-known events in the Bible, and the ending is predictable, every compassionate word of this beautiful story is precious.

The intricately drawn illustrations were done by Spencer Baird Nichols and W.T. Benda. I always love it when a book has a beautifully hand-written presentation in the front pages, and this brand-new book was a gift to a Sunday School student for faithful attendance during 1916.

Inscription, The Little Hunchback Zia

You can buy a printed copy of this sweet book on Amazon, read the Kindle version for free on Amazon, and various versions for free on www.gutenberg.org, www.childrenslibrary.org, and http://www.online-literature.com/burnett/3042/ .

Discovering Out of Town Book Stores

While on holiday visiting relatives in the Denver area, I decided to check the yellow pages for used bookstores, just in case I had some time to visit them. And I lucked out and got to go to three of them!

The Bookworm in Boulder, Colorado

This bookstore came highly recommended by a friend of our family who lives up in the mountains west of Boulder, an earthy town northwest of Denver. This was originally just to be a place for me to meet another dear friend, and what a great choice that turned out to be, since I got way more browsing time than expected. Clean, well-lit, organized, stocked with a huge supply of books, nicely labelled categories, and staffed by pleasant people, this was a dream of a used bookstore. After browsing my favorite sections (writing, children, fiction, religion) for over an hour, I wandered close to the cash register area and hit the mother lode of old books. Many of their antique books had been shelved along with the newer books, so I was surprised to see one large section (surrounding a desk) completely filled with books published fifty or more years ago. I found this at just the time that my friend was planning to pick me up, and as I awaited her text, I hoped she’d be delayed just a bit longer.

image

After being assured by staff that I was allowed to snoop through these shelves and the boxes on the floor, I kneeled down on the floor and pulled some books out that were hidden behind a stack of boxes. One of them, I discovered, was a Bible published in 1865. After researching its value, the lovely manager of the store said, “I’m sorry, but this is quite expensive.” It was worth $75 U.S.–more than I wanted to pay. But in her hands were three other old children’s books that she thought I might like, which was a very sweet gesture. I ended up buying two old school readers for $3 each, and the Mere Christianity Journal for $6 in perfect condition. (The idea of using this journal to “dialogue with” C.S. Lewis about his thoughts is thrilling!)

image

Red Letter Books in Boulder, Colorado

After a fantastic lunch of fish tacos, my friend wanted to browse around another book store–happy dance!–so we went to Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall to one recommended by the sweet manager at Bookworm for its many old and rare books. Red Letter Books was a different type of store, smaller, crowded, not as organized and tidy, but with a bigger selection of interesting books. Outside on the sidewalk were its $1 sale books, and I snatched up a hardcover of Gilead, the Pulitzer Prize’ winner by Marilynne Robinson, for my friend. She in turn bought me Watership Down, which has twice been recommended to me by my pastor. (Now is apparently the time for me to read it, so in spite of the two other books I have on the go, I started reading it immediately!)

image

I came away with 5 additional books from Red Letter Books, most between $5 and $10: the two books I was missing from my set of 1950’s Winnie the Pooh books, a 1904 romance novel called God’s Good Man, and two other children’s books, Child Rhymes, and Stepping Stones to Literature, both published in the early twentieth century.

Capital Hill Books in Denver

While wandering around and taking pictures in Denver of the gold-domed state capital, the spires of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and the Molly Brown House, I stopped in Capital Hill books. A small but bright and orderly used book store, it has various notes and communications around the store that give it a cheerful personality.

image

It is arranged and labelled well, and although it has few old children’s books, I couldn’t resist a 1905 edition of my all-time favorite children’s book, A Childs’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I also have a 1950’s version of this beautiful book, which I bought with my allowance money in 1965, as well as a more recent large edition that I bought because of the gorgeous illustrations

In a way, I’m surprised at how these stores are apparently thriving while many other new book stores are failing. I am so grateful to the owners, and all the other used book lovers that help keep them going!

image

The Junior Instructor, my First Encyclopedia

The other day I got out two of my favorite books from my childhood, The Junior Instructor, Books 1 and 2. These were originally published in 1916, and the ones my mom gave us as small children were published in 1956.

Jr Instructor books 024

I was looking for some of the children’s prayers I’d learned, and while I looked for them, I ended up stopping on almost every page, mesmerized by the bright, colorful, happy images.

Jr Instructor books 009

Jr Instructor books 015
I was absolutely convinced that the boy in the picture was my big brother and couldn’t figure out how they had snuck a photo of him!

I remember as a little girl of about four years old, sitting with these tall, heavy books on my lap, enthralled with the images. I was fascinated by the full-sized color photos and paintings, and just assumed that a line drawing was waiting for someone with crayons to color it in. Oops!

Jr Instructor books 017

As I grew up and learned to read, I wanted to know all about the endless variety of subjects, from circuses, folk tales, history, weather and birds…

Jr Instructor books 029
I remember working very hard to memorize this sign language!

Jr Instructor books 005

Jr Instructor books 032

…to songs, and what the farmer (or fireman, teacher, milkman, cowboy, policeman, secretary) does…

Jr Instructor books 008

 

Jr Instructor books 011

…to finger plays, Smokey the Bear, aboriginal symbols, parties, math, games, escalators, and even a “futuristic” space ship.

Jr Instructor books 018

At the end are 20 pages of questions and answers that cover nearly everything a child could ask.

Now as I look through them, I notice some things I didn’t notice ever before. I see that many subjects have been enhanced with a story or poem, or both, possibly for the reader that is not interested in the dry factual text.

Jr Instructor books 027
Notice: “All small children should play outdoors at least three hours every day…” !

Jr Instructor books 026

I also noticed they show how to make a “spool knitter”, made out of a spool of thread and nails, which produces a long knitted rope. I made one of these when I was about 10 years old—and painstakingly looped the yarn over and under and around to make a colorful rope—and I bet this is where I got the idea.

Jr Instructor books 031

I found Junior Instructors available to buy on eBay, Etsy and Amazon, but none that were free to download.

Here are some more of my favorite pages from the Junior Instructors, Volumes 1 and 2, for your enjoyment!

Jr Instructor books 013

 

Jr Instructor books 001

Jr Instructor books 021 

 

Jr Instructor books 014

Jr Instructor books 004
Detail of the embossed hard cover of Book 2

Jr Instructor books 023 cropped

Jr Instructor books 033  Jr Instructor books 022

Jr Instructor books 012

Jr Instructor books 019

 

Review of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887, Part 3

Romance, 1887-style!  Or…was it 2000-style?

In the introduction to the 1915 printing of this book published in 1887, Sylvester Baxter describes the novel as “the ingenious device by which a man of the 19th century is transferred to the end of the 20th”, and notes that in the decade that followed its publication, the world was filled with the agitation it helped kindle. According to the website Quebecois Libre, by the early 1890s, about 13 years after the book was published, there were already 165 “Bellamy Clubs”!

Not only was Edward Bellamy knowledgeable about industrial, social, and political issues and customs, he was also a creative storyteller. This novel ends with a fascinating look at Julian West’s romantic relationships. As the middle of the novel weighed down with social contrasts and details of Bellamy’s 1887-imagined lifestyle of Boston in the year 2000, I started to wonder if I could actually finish it. But the whirlwind ending kept me reading every word.

My first two posts in this review focused on the general premise and the author. In this post, I summarize sections from Looking Backward to give more glimpses into Edward Bellamy’s 1887 vision, and a taste of his writing and the plot. But before I do, I want to share what a previous owner of my copy of this book wrote. Probably inspired by what he or she read, the following penciled notes appear on the copyright page, and I thought they were worthy of passing along:

“He who falls and gains his feet shows more strength than he who never falls.” “God’s greatest gift is time. Use it right.” “Look ahead to realize, not back to regret.”

Previous owner's notes
Previous owner’s notes

The novel begins with a Preface, supposedly written by a twentieth century author speaking to a twentieth century reader about the novel he or she is about to read. In Chapter 1 the narrator, a fictional character Julian West, introduces himself by emphasizing that he was born in 1857, not 1957, and he describes his former way of life:

In late 19th century, society was in 4 classes or nations: rich, poor, educated, ignorant—not like today, 2000. As were my parents and grandparents before me, I was wealthy, not working, living off the labours of others, not giving any service to the world, idle, living off my grandparents’ sum of money, shifting the burden of support to others’ shoulders, an art now [in the 2000’s] happily lost, but perfected by ancestors. All sought this accomplishment, to live on the income of his investments. This arrangement seems preposterous now.

Society in those former days can be compared to a coach where many pull it with a rope, and few ride. …the hallucination the riders shared was that they were unlike the rope-pullers, they were superior. This changes any feeling for the suffering of men into a distant, philosophical compassion. This is the only explanation the narrator can give for his own indifference at the late 1800’s toward the misery of others.

Child workers in Millville,NJ
Wikipedia – Child workers in Millville,NJ Photographed by Lewis Hine

Julian West is visiting his fiancé and her family on Decoration Day, May 30, 1887. They want their house to be completely built before they get married, but strikes by carpenters, plumbers and other tradesmen have been delaying it for years. All agree that working classes all over the world seem to be going crazy at once. He leaves them and goes to his home, where he has a subterranean sleeping chamber for his insomnia. He calls for his hypnotist to help him sleep.

He wakes on September 10, 2000, having slept 113 years, to unfamiliar voices discussing him, a woman repeatedly whispering “Promise me you will not tell him.” He is in the home of Dr. Leete who lives in a house built on Julian West’s property. Dr. Leete explains to him that Julian’s house was burned down, and since no one knew of his subterranean sleeping chamber, they assumed he died. The area was recently being excavated and they found the chamber, and Mr. West inside it, asleep.

From an upper story window, Julian notices an absence of chimneys, and an obvious increase in material prosperity applied toward adornment of the city. He will soon find that the sidewalks have “public umbrellas” during the rain. Julian meets Leete’s beautiful daughter who has the same name as his late fiancé, Edith. He comments that the women of the twentieth century dress gracefully compared to the 19th century. (I was surprised that the author did not imagine any motorized vehicles whatsoever, and only referred to horses as transportation, but have learned that mass production of automobiles did not start until about 1901, about 14 years after the book was published.)

Wikipedia - State Street Boston 1801
Wikipedia – State Street Boston 1801

After a walk around the neighbourhood, Mr. West and Dr. Leete have a conversation:

“I saw very little that was not new. But I think what surprised me as much as anything was not to find any stores on Washington Street, or any banks on State. What have you done with the merchants and bankers? Hung them all, perhaps, as the anarchists wanted to do in my day?”

“Not so bad as that,” replied Dr. Leete. “We have simply dispensed with them. Their functions are obsolete in the modern world…There is neither selling nor buying nowadays;…As soon as the nation became the sole producer of all sorts of commodities…a system of direct distribution from national storehouses took the place of trade, and for this money was unnecessary…A credit corresponding to his share of the annual product of the nation is given to every citizen, and a credit card issued him with which he procures…whatever he desires.”

“How is the amount of credit…determined?” Julian asks. “With what title does the individual claim his particular share? What is the basis of allotment?”

“His title,” replied Dr. Leete, “is his humanity. The basis of his claim is that fact that he is a man.”

“Do you possibly mean that all have the same share?…Some men do twice the work of others!”

“We require of each that he shall make the same effort…we demand of him the best service it is in his power to give…A man’s endowments…merely fix the measure of his duty…The Creator sets men’s tasks for them by the faculties he gives them…I suppose in the nineteenth century, when a horse pulled a heavier load than a goat, I supposed you rewarded him.”

Citizens choose tasks based upon their natural strengths and interests, and the nation now values and even supports artists, writers, and those with other creative talents. Education is free and compulsory to the age of twenty-one.

Inside the Mall Cribbs Causeway Bristol by Brian Robert Marshall
Inside the Mall Cribbs Causeway Bristol by Brian Robert Marshall

Later, Dr. Leete and his daughter Edith take Julian to the store: a vast hall of light from windows and a dome a hundred feet above, a magnificent fountain, mellow tinted walls, chairs and sofas where people conversed, signs on the walls indicating where each category of goods was.   The orders for merchandise are taken are sent by pneumatic transmitters to the warehouse and are filled immediately and delivered by larger tubes and distributed to homes by store clerks.

This could describe many a modern mall in the year 2014. It sounds like the rudiments of online shopping, doesn’t it?

Edith enthusiastically explains to Mr. West that now everyone is able to hear a choice of music, by carrying the idea of labor-saving-by-cooperation into their musical service as into everything else. Instead of music—and only one type of music—being available only to the most wealthy of society, a number of music halls (full of musicians playing) are connected by telephone with all the houses. Four different pieces of music are being performed at one time, which the listener can choose by pushing one of four buttons, with music available twenty-four hours a day for even the sleepless and the sick.

This to me is amazing foresight to the readily available music we are accustomed to, through records since about 1900, then cassettes, and now through modern means such as CD’s and music downloads from the internet.

Wikipedia - 1850s chamber music
Wikipedia – 1850s chamber music

To Mr. West’s question, “Who are willing to be domestic servants in a community where all are social equals?” the answer is that there is no housework to do. Washing is all done at public laundries at low cost, cooking at public kitchens, making and repairing of all clothing is done in public shops. They choose houses no larger than they need, and furnish them so as to involve the minimum of trouble to keep them in order. “What a paradise for womankind the world must be now!” he exclaims.

This could be likened to our abundance of restaurants with infinite choices available, but I do so like the idea of families and their neighbors gathering for low cost meals at a place within walking distance. (In 1887 there were dining rooms connected with hotels, but apparently not yet restaurants.)

Soon they are discussing how formerly the preference was given to more efficient workers, yet the new twenty-first century system encourages the weaker as well as the stronger with the hope of rising to be leaders. “For those too deficient in mental or bodily strength…we have a sort of invalid corps, providing members with a light class of tasks fitted to their strength…all eager to do what they can. Who is capable of self support? There is no such thing in a civilized society as self-support.”

This should give a good idea of the utopian world the author hoped would be found in the year 2000, and his philosophies on individualism versus cooperation.

Wikipedia - Florence Bascom 1890, "the new woman"
Wikipedia – Florence Bascom 1890, “the new woman”

I debated about whether or not to include a description of the whirlwind romantic ending of the story—a SPOILER—but decided that since the book is so accessible, I suggest that you read it yourself. Just click on this link right now, to find an electronic copy of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887 at Gutenberg.org. Then,

  • under the Download options, click on the top one, “Read this book online”
  • scroll down to the Table of Contents links
  • click on Chapter XXV, and that will take you to page 255 (page numbers are on the left).

(If you would like a printed copy of Looking Backward, you can find several on Amazon, and Spark notes are also available.)

Starting at this point will give you all the romantic background. Here you will finally find out why in Chapter 1, as Mr. West was first awakening in the year 2000, the woman was begging her father, “Promise you won’t tell him.” It’s brilliant—I couldn’t put it down!

I wonder what Edward Bellamy would think of North America in the real 2000, or 2014. How would he explain the fact that we are still a society of individualism, of have’s and have-not’s? What drives us to over-spend and often ignore the basic needs of our brothers and sisters in third-world countries? Those are pretty big questions to which I have no clear, simple answers.  I suspect, though, that we might shed some light on the matter by using the author’s words:  “…he that does not love, does not know God”.  When our hearts and lives lack peace with our Maker, we have little or no pipeline to the source of love, and as a result have only a meager supply of grace to offer to others.

What do you think of Looking Backward 1887 to 2000?  Of Bellamy’s utopia?  Of our 21st century society?

Review of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887, Part 2

In a recent post I began describing this 1887 book written by Edward Bellamy. Here is more about the author.

Ns house & LBbk 031The first page leaves no doubt as to why he wrote this book .

“We ask to put forth just our strength, our human strength,

All starting fairly, all equipped alike.

But when full roused, each giant limb awake,

Each sinew strung, the great heart pulsing fast,

He shall start up and stand on his own earth,

Then shall his long, triumphant march begin,

Thence shall his being date.”

Browning

“This great poet’s lines express Edward Bellamy’s aim in writing his famous book. That aim would realize in our country’s daily being the Great Declaration that gave us national existence; would, in equality of opportunity, give man his own earth to stand on, and thereby—the race for the first time enabled to enter unhampered upon the use of its God-given possibilities—achieve a progress unexampled and marvelous.”

The above quote is from Sylvester Baxter’s introduction, “The Author of ‘Looking Backward’”.  According to Baxter, Bellamy had a steadfast faith in the intrinsic goodness of human nature, a sense of the meaning of love in its true and universal sense. Bellamy was born in 1850 in Massachusetts, the son of a beloved clergyman and grandson of an early pastor of Springfield. Among his ancestors was Dr. Joseph Bellamy, a distinguished theologian, friend of Jonathan Edwards, and although the author outgrew the religious practices of his family, they still marked his views with a strongly anti-materialistic and spiritual cast.

As I read, I found similarities between Bellamy’s ideals and these early years of the 21st century. An ethical purpose dominated his ideas, and he held that a merely material prosperity would not be worth the working for, as a social ideal. I look at society in the recent decades—1990s and 2000s especially—as ones with a focus on material prosperity, and the current society—the 2010s—as beginning to focus more on working for the betterment of mankind, rather than the largest net-worth.

As I have noticed in what I’ve read about creative types such as artists and writers, the author’s start in life was somewhat divergent. He attended college but did not graduate; he studied law in Germany but didn’t practice. His travels to Hawaii by way of Panama preceded his decision to pursue a literary career, beginning as a journalist. He began his literary career by writing imaginative short stories for magazines, one review calling the author “the lineal intellectual descendant” of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

When Looking Backward was the sensation of the year, newspapers claimed that Bellamy was “posing for notoriety” (the meaning of the word “notoriety” in 1890 apparently meaning fame, rather than a bad reputation). But Sylvester Baxter believes that the author was indifferent to all the offers of advertising, lecturing, publishing opportunities that would have earned him large sums of money.

While writing his last book, Equality, an elaboration and sequel to Looking Backward, his health gave way. In 1897 he and his family went to Denver, seeking a cure for consumption. During that year, letters came from mining camps, farms, and villages wanting to do something for him to show their love. He was 2000 miles from home, yet found himself among friends because in ten years his book had sold a million copies in U.S. and England, and had been translated into many languages and dialects.

He returned to his home in New England and died in 1898. At the simple service held, some passages from his books were read as a fitting expression in his own words of that hope for the bettering and uplifting of humanity, which was the real passion of his noble life.

“If we love one another, God dwells in us and his love is perfected in us…He that loves his brother dwells in the light…If any man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar…he that does not love, does not know God.   Here is the very distillation of Christ’s teaching as to the conditions of entering on the divine life.”

Ns house & LBbk 030

You can find printed copies of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887 on Amazon, and free ebooks of this book at Gutenberg.org.

[More of this 19th century author’s vision of the “new order of the year 2000” coming in Part 3 of my review of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887]

Review of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887

At a recent used book sale I bought an intriguing book written by Edward Bellamy. It was published in 1887, with the premise of having been written in the year 2000. The author imagines how the country would look in another century if certain idealistic industrial, political and economic changes were made to enable the best possible society for all citizens. Bellamy felt that instead of writing a non-fiction analysis and critique of the country’s economy, it would be more interesting to tell the story of a fictional character who falls asleep and wakes up over one hundred years later to find a changed society. Ns house & LBbk 028 One of my reasons for searching out books over a hundred years old is similar to this author’s reasons for writing it. I want to know how the world has changed, and I want to understand how people thought, what their priorities were, what their values were and how they compare to ours today.

This book has the added benefit for me of being written as fiction, which I find a much easier form for conveying ideas, perspectives and attitudes. I don’t find the topics of industry and economics interesting, so I wasn’t enthusiastic about that part of it. But I do find it fascinating to read the author’s and main characters’ discussions on those topics, and their comparisons between the two time periods. I’ve probably learned more from Looking Backward about the industrial history of the country than in any social studies class I ever endured.

The book was published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, and The Riverside Press, Cambridge. On the copyright page is the phrase “Four hundred and forty-seventh thousand”. Could this be the number of copies? Sylvester Baxter, Boston journalist and urban planner at the time, wrote the introduction. The front cover and first blank page were signed “W.J. Wilde, Red Deer”, which I assume refers to Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, a town about 150 kilometers north of Calgary. It is called the Memorial Edition because this particular edition was copyrighted by Emma S. Bellamy in 1915 after the author’s death. Ns house & LBbk 043 The book begins with an “Author’s Preface” (which is not the author Edward Bellamy, but the author of the “book within a book”, Julian West), supposedly written on December 26, 2000, in Boston. “Living as we do in the closing year of the twentieth century, enjoying the blessings of a social order at once so simple and logical that it seems but the triumph of common sense, it is no doubt difficult…to realize that the present organization of society is…less than one century old.”

The ancient industrial system “with all its shocking social consequences” had been expected to last to the end of time. “How strange and wellnigh incredible does it seem that so prodigious a moral and material transformation as has taken place since then could have been accomplished in so brief an interval!” The language is so eloquent, music to my cerebral ears.

To summarize the beginning, when a 19th century man named Julian West awakes to find himself in the 21st century under the care of a family in Boston, he begins to explore, question and discuss the changes he sees with the family members. The first and most obvious change he notices from an upper balcony of a three-story home is that the city is obviously now prosperous, full of fine houses, open squares filled with trees, statues and fountains, and public buildings of colossal size and architectural grandeur.

As he questions his host, he learns that the government now operates many locations of the exact same stores for people to obtain food and other consumables. They do not use money; instead, they use a “credit card”. The funds backing the credit card are provided by the government and are distributed equally to every citizen. Employment, then, is not the source of one’s income and buying power; it is each person’s contribution to the cogs of the wheel running an orderly society.

Some refer to this book as utopian, some call the principles in the book socialist or Marxist, many note that it was one of the most popular, important books of its day. According to SparticusEducational.com, Ns house & LBbk 031the novel was highly successful and sold over 1,000,000 copies. It was the third largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben-Hur.

As Bellamy’s biographer, Franklin Rosemont, has pointed out: “The social transformation described in Looking Backward has in turn transformed, or rather liberated, the human personality. In Bellamy’s vision of the year 2000, selfishness, greed, malice, insanity, hypocrisy, lying, apathy, the lust for power, the struggle for existence, and anxiety as to basic human needs are all things of the past.”

I knew the name Bellamy sounded familiar. The author was apparently the cousin of Francis Bellamy, famous for creation of the Pledge of Allegiance. You can find printed copies of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887 on Amazon, and free ebooks of Edward Ballamy’s book at Gutenberg.org.

[More to come in Part 2 of my review of Looking Backward 2000 – 1887 by Edward Bellamy!] Ns house & LBbk 033

I Love Old Books! (Part 4)

Even though I don’t necessarily need to read all the gems that I find at the book sales—it’s enough to surround myself with them—I do read them.  Now, to be honest, if a book is more than 50 or 100 years old, after quickly thumbing through it to touch and smell the pages, I generally don’t feel excited enough to sit down and read it on the spot.  I confess that I expect to find it dry, pedantic, colorless or irrelevant.  But I am almost always wrong.

I find surprisingly relevant, valuable words, stories and messages written by authors with extraordinary depth, thoughtfulness, insight, and wholesomeness, and a different internal perspective than many contemporary authors.  Their attitudes and perspectives very often inspire and elevate my own.

Some antique books are actually difficult to read because they are visually and verbally dense, but they are well worth the effort.  An example is R.D. Blackmoor’s Lorna Doone, written in 1869.  The first time I ever saw this book was at a library in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, where we were camping.  I had an afternoon to relax so I decided to see what kind of love stories people in the ­­­­19th century wrote.  But the “old” definition of romance is not focused entirely on a love story.  I was surprised and at first disappointed that the Romance of Exmoor was not the kind of romance that Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer wrote.

Lorna Doone falls under the definition of “a novel depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in a historical or imaginary setting.”  I muddled through the first several chapters and then realized I didn’t know what was going on with the characters or the plot.  I had to restart it about four times, but after that, something magical happened and I got into the language.  Then I couldn’t put it down!  I encourage you to give it a try, in the original or a more recent version.  It’s a story of loyalty, love, courage, heroism—and it’s not just the men who risk their lives.

titus

Another example is one published in 1894, Titus, a Comrade of the Cross, a book my mom gave me.  Apparently, the original publisher of this book offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could produce a manuscript that would set a child’s heart on fire for Christ. In six weeks, the demand was so great for Florence Morse Kingsley’s book that they printed 200,000 additional copies.  Can you imagine that in 1894?

For years I was thrilled enough to just look at the unique cover and text.  But again, once I finally started reading it and got a feel for the language, I was immersed in a suspenseful adventure.  In the midst of the gripping plot, I discovered that a whole chunk of the pages was missing (don’t tell Mom!), but I just picked it up on the next available page and devoured the rest of it.  In fact, I felt such admiration and affection for one of the characters, we ended up using his name for the middle name of one of our children.

Are you a kindred old-book-loving spirit?  Leave me a comment, or a Like, so I can find you!

I Love Old Books! (Part 3)

Happy New Year!  I wonder what books 2013 holds!

I enjoy everything about old books: hunting for them, inhaling the smell of leather and studying them: their covers, publishers, inscriptions, signs of aging, and knowing that I am holding something that was on this earth in a different century. I don’t necessarily need to read all the gems that I find; it’s enough to surround myself with them. But reading them is the frosting on the cake!

In my first post on old books, I mentioned McGuffey’s Eclectic Fourth Reader, published in 1853 by Winthrop B Smith. After digging it out of storage (behind some other books), I thumbed through it and was curious to know what exactly the students were learning from those readers at that time. So I started on page one and made the commitment to read the entire book (over 300 pages of small font). It was a big commitment because I assumed that the lessons were going to be hitting-over-the-head moralizing, boring history, monotonous poetry and irrelevant essays.

But I was in for a pleasant surprise. I wish my school reading assignments (and my children’s) had been as full of such disturbing, dramatic, eye-opening fiction and non-fiction as these. They would motivate a student to read. Even the moralizing stories were great. Yes, there was tough slogging through some, but I was usually rewarded by the end of the piece.

I admit that I skipped most of the diction, articulation, pronunciation and vocabulary lessons. But from time to time, I would read those, and I found it humorous to see how the “incorrect” pronunciations were a Southern U.S. accent:

“E-spe-cial-ly, not ‘spe-cial-ly…
Gov-erns, not gov-uns…
Win-dow-blind, not win-der-bline”

As I was noting my favorite selections, I was curious to know a bit more about the authors, and found most of them well-represented on the internet. One that stood out for me was The Steamboat Trial, by Jacob Abbott, and not so easy to find online, so I’ve included the first 2 pages here, and the last 2 pages here.

Here are a few other poems, plays and essays well worth checking out: Washing Day, by Mrs. Anna Letitia Barbauld, Shylock (from The Merchant of Venice, by Shakespeare), Remarkable Preservation by Professor Wilson, and Religion the Only Basis of Society by William Ellery Channing.  Hope you find something that grabs you!