Lonely Lily: a vintage children’s book by Mary L. Code

Lonely Lily or The Shepherd’s Call, a tiny thin book published in the U.K. in 1893, gently tells a sweet but powerful story of faith.  It is written for children, but nevertheless fascinated me with its suspenseful telling of the inner journey of hearts, from despair to comfort.

I am struck by how much more serious children’s lives were when this book was written, and how mature the themes in children’s books were, compared to today. It is heart-warming to see the traits of diligence, patience, duty and faith demonstrated in this story.

The beautifully designed front cover of Lonely Lily gives the image of a girl pondering, as she stares out the window at the moon and stars

 

The story

Grandmother Parfitt, an “old, silent woman” lives a reclusive life in an attic apartment with her granddaughter Lily, “a fair, pale flower, pale from the atmosphere of smoke and heaviness” in their city.

Life had dealt Grandmother much bitterness and regret through the deaths of her husband and children, neglect from those from whom she expected kindness, and the theft of her treasures. She has drawn away from others and wants Lily to do the same.

Lily loves to hear about her grandmother’s happy days living in the beautiful country of Switzerland, and one day wonders if heaven is like the countries where she’d been. Grandmother tells her she shouldn’t worry about such things at her young age and senses that Lily is lonely.

Soon Lily is allowed to spend time with Rose, a girl who lives in the same building, and through her family starts to get some answers to her questions about faith. Yet “the child felt alone and ‘outside’; and still she did not see the hand that would guide her [to heaven], nor hear the voice that was saying ‘Come unto me’.”

It wasn’t until Lily was invited to Annie Spencer’s to hear weekly Bible lessons that Lily finally understood God’s kind invitation. Annie, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is afflicted with a spine condition that causes her constant pain, yet she welcomes a group of girls to visit every Saturday. After her lesson, she senses that Lily has questions and takes her aside for a quiet talk. Then Lily understands that God forgives, and promises not to send anyone away who comes to Him. Finally, she loves Him for sending Jesus to die for her sins, and is comforted. Lily is no longer lonely.

After a torrential rain, Lily’s granny returns from work cold and drenched, and becomes seriously ill. Lily reads to her from her new Bible, which brings hope to Granny for her feelings of regret. She feels sorry for her hard heart and how she had done cruel wrongs in her life. Grandmother realizes that God can love and forgive even her, knows Jesus is her Savior, and forgives those who had done her wrong. After granny’s peaceful passing, Lily is taken in by Rose’s loving family.

About the book

I must admit that it was a sad book, even though good things happened at the end. Quite a serious book, especially for children, it is nevertheless a beautiful one.

My edition, published in 1893, is called the New Edition. The original was apparently published in the 1860’s.  My copy has an interesting inscription: “To Lillian From Rudi”. Did Rudi give this to Lillian because her name was similar to Lily? No inscription date is written, which is unusual.

Judging from all of my online searches, this seems to be a rare book and relatively unknown author. I only found one copy of it at AbeBooks that seems to be an authentic copy of the original printed book.

I found only one of the author’s books, Left at Home , on Gutenberg.com. The OCAC/WorldCat lists several copies of all of her books in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

I found no information on the author, which is surprising because my copy lists four other books she had written.

 

Do you have any similar gems to share?

Here are three of my previous posts about other vintage children’s books if you’d like to check them out:

Sam’s Mission , by Beatrice Marshall, published 1892

The Little Hunchback Zia , by Frances Hodgson Burnett (the author of the well-known The Secret Garden and A Little Princess), published 1915

Junior Instructor Encyclopedia , first published 1916

 

Fair’s Fair in Calgary

Fair’s Fair is my favorite used book store in Calgary, actually a “chain”, with 5 locations around the city. They are a joy to browse because they are organized, neat, well-lit, clean, well-labelled and full of near-new books (that is, except for their wonderful vintage books!). The staff at all locations are friendly and helpful.

A few weeks ago, I bought a gift for a friend, encouraged in the baby shower invitation to bring a gently used favorite book, signed, in place of a card. What a sweet idea! I had borrowed The Rosie Project through my library, and found it at Fair’s Fair’s central location. This is where they have their warehouse, an enormous facility with endless shelves going up to the ceiling. I especially appreciated their shelves set aside for award-winning books, like Pulitzer Prize winners.

As I went to buy the book, the children’s shelf caught my eye, one sweet little board book in particular, Guess How Much I Love You. I bought that one, too. (Guess how much they cost—only $15! And a week later as I was buying baby clothes, I amazingly ran across a cute little pink Guess How Much I Love You outfit.)

Rosie Project  Guess how much I love You

Recently I had the privilege of browsing the vintage children’s books at the Mount Royal (17th Avenue SW) store. It was breathtaking. I’ve never seen so many beautiful classic books for young adults and children in one place. All the usual books and collections were represented there, including Nancy Drew, Elsie Dinsmore, school readers, fairy tales, classics like Alice in Wonderland and Bambi, Mother Goose, the My Book House series, Dr. Seuss, Winnie the Pooh, and the Journeys through Bookland series.

I had brought in books to trade, and they gave me credit for half of them (which is actually quite good, as they are picky). I turned right around and used that credit for these gems…

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The Little Hunchback Zia, published 1915, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (the author of the well-known The Secret Garden and A Little Princess)
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Sam’s Mission, by Beatrice Marshall, published 1892

 

Lonely Lily by M.L. Code, published 1893
Lonely Lily by M.L. Code, published 1893

(I’ll post more about these three soon!)

So remember that if you live in the Calgary area, or are passing through, Fair’s Fair is worth a visit!