Gesta Romanorum: A unique glimpse into history

Gesta Romanorum is Latin for “Deeds of the Romans”, which makes it sound like this book is a narration of the early culture of Rome, its history and battles.

However, it is actually a Latin compilation of morality stories believed to be written approximately at the end of the 13th century.

There are 181 stories. I have read a number of the tales, which range from half a page to several pages long, and found them interesting and easy to read. The simple plots center around royalty, family, daring exploits, rescues, faith, good morals, courage, and loyalty.

The stories have a pattern: the tale number, title and text of the tale, followed by an explanation for the “beloved” reader of the story’s deeper meaning, from a spiritual perspective.

The book’s main claim to fame is as a source of later works by Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and others. It was apparently one of the most popular books of the time and some consider these to be some of the first short stories published.

An image from Gesta Romanorum – Donaueschingen 145, a manuscript from Upper Swabia in Germany from circa 1452.
A public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

It’s an interesting little book. My little green hardcover copy, which I found at a thrift store, was published in 1877. What fascinates me the most is how arduously these tales were originally recorded eight centuries ago, preserved, and are now readily available for anyone to read today.

…invented by monks as a fireside recreation and commonly applied in their discourses from the pulpit : whence the most celebrated of our own poets and others, from the earliest times, have extracted their plots

from the title page of Gesta Romanorum

“They” (the Monks) might be disposed occasionally to recreate their minds with subjects of a light and amusing nature; and what could be more innocent or delightful than the stories of the GESTA ROMANORUM?”

Douce’s Illustrations of Shakespeare

Example of one of the tales

A tremendous amount of research has been done regarding its origins. The first 68 pages of my copy consist of an 11-page Preface about the origins, translation, revision and printings of the book; the Introduction, including14 pages on the History of Romantic Fabling and 4 pages about the history of the stories in Gesta Romanorum; 30 pages of “Annexed Tales”, and finally, a 10-page table of contents (“Outlines of the Tales”). More notes are included after the tales (which appear to be Swan’s notes).

Illustration from Gesta Romanorum, Image 32v Gesta Romanorum – Donaueschingen. A public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

After Tale number CLXXXI (181) on page 349 is a final note–from the original, not from the editor:

Remarkable Histories, from the Gesta Romanorum, combined with numerous moral and mystical applications, treating of vices and virtues, Printed and diligently revised, at the expense of that provident and circumspect man, John Rynman, of Oringaw; at the workshop of Henry Gran, citizen of the imperial town of Hagenaw, concluded happily, in the year of our safety, one thousand five hundred and eight: March the 20th.

Page after the final tale, Tale CLXXXI

It’s fascinating to touch medieval history through this book! I highly recommend having a look at Gesta Romanorum.

The actual book and plenty of information are easily available online. Wikisource offers an excellent eBook of the 1871 version in two volumes, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Project Gutenberg offers what looks to be only a selection of stories from the original, called Tales from the Gesta Romanorum (which is completely different from my version, but looks interesting and easy to read); the 1845 version of this book for free, here. If you’re interested in getting a hardcopy, as an example, my 1877 hardcover copy sells for about $18.00 USD on Abe Books.

Best Books Ever at Project Gutenberg

I can’t say enough about the riches found in Project Gutenberg! I have found, downloaded and happily read loads of their books in Kindle format, online, or in pdf form–ALL for FREE.

Here I want to whet your appetite by pointing you to some lists of books. But before you delve into the lists below, keep in mind that you can subscribe to their monthly newsletter here, and learn some of the history of their beginnings starting in 1971.

Go ahead and dive into one of these books that you’ve heard of and always meant to read. Challenge yourself to read straight through to at least the end of the first chapter before you decide whether to keep reading or not.

I have done that challenge many, many times with classic books that I was convinced would be dry and dense, and repeatedly been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I became engaged in the story, and what an uplifting experience it was through to the end!

Whether you need a certain classic, or are just looking for your next quality read, here are the top books as of today in their “Best Books Ever” category, sorted by popularity. (Check out my recommendations after the lists!)

I concur with the recommendations of …

Pride and Prejudice (believe me, the book is far better than any of the movie adaptations!),

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (my sons laughed throughout the book as I read it out loud for bedtime),

Great Expectations (had to read it for high school and assumed it would be awful, but it turned out I just couldn’t put it down, loved it),

Treasure Island (not just for boys! this middle-aged woman loved it)

Don Quixote (see my reviews here and here)

[However, I did not enjoy reading Heart of Darkness. It was miserable and depressing and I didn’t find any redeeming qualities to make the misery worthwhile.]

Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

OR

Looking for a top quality author? Or more to read by a favorite author?

Check out their Top 100 Authors listing below. Here’s the listing for the past 30 days (showing how many downloads in parentheses).

I have taken the liberty of highlighting authors I am familiar with, who–in MY opinion–are well worth checking out!
Dickens, Charles (81172)
Austen, Jane (80746)

Doyle, Arthur Conan (61764)
Rizal, José (53999)
Twain, Mark (53385)
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (52126)
Wilde, Oscar (52108)
Carroll, Lewis (42389)
Shakespeare, William (39548)
Stevenson, Robert Louis (36602)
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor (32567)
Tolstoy, Leo, graf (31347)

Wells, H. G. (Herbert George) (31254)
Garnett, Constance (30801)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott) (26219)
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (25917)
Stoker, Bram (25517)
Melville, Herman (25289)
Homer (24437)
Swift, Jonathan (24071)
Joyce, James (23551)
Ibsen, Henrik (23352)
Dumas, Alexandre (22586)
Verne, Jules (21986)
Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank) (21911)
Derbyshire, Charles E. (20733)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel (20472)
Poe, Edgar Allan (20391)
Plato (20198)
Conrad, Joseph (20073)
Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud) (20052)
Kipling, Rudyard (19601)
Jowett, Benjamin (18832)
Poblete, Pascual Hicaro (18331)
Doré, Gustave (17892)
Maude, Aylmer (17481)
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (17243)
London, Jack (17154)
Dante Alighieri (17126)
Kafka, Franz (16810)
Maude, Louise (16807)
Hugo, Victor (16457)
Russell, Bertrand (16273)
James, Henry (15588)
Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (15522)
Brontë, Charlotte (15493)
Lang, Andrew (15453)
Alcott, Louisa May (15174)
Christie, Agatha (15079)
Grimm, Jacob (14913)
Grimm, Wilhelm (14913)
Wyllie, David (Translator) (14731)
Pope, Alexander (14606)
Widger, David (14370)
Shaw, Bernard (14218)
Smith, George O. (George Oliver) (13910)
Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de (13495)
Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich (13465)
Townsend, F. H. (Frederick Henry) (13061)
Wodehouse, P. G. (Pelham Grenville) (12939)
Defoe, Daniel (12384)
Kemble, E. W. (Edward Windsor) (12317)
Barrie, J. M. (James Matthew) (12303)
Thoreau, Henry David (12279)
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (12162)
Butler, Samuel (12038)
Balzac, Honoré de (12009)
Morley, Henry (11852)
Machiavelli, Niccolò (11814)
Burnett, Frances Hodgson (11444)
Leech, John (11381)
Thompson, Max C. (11273)
Craig, Austin (11177)
Hapgood, Isabel Florence (10761)
Hardy, Thomas (10757)
Emshwiller, Ed (10504)
Foote, Mary Hallock (10472)
Maupassant, Guy de (10459)
Marriott, W. K. (William Kenaz) (10443)
Scott, Walter (10377)
Burton, Richard Francis, Sir (10361)
Ipsen, Ludvig Sandöe (10344)
Anthony, A. V. S. (Andrew Varick Stout) (10344)
Mariano, Patricio (10191)
Bacon, Alice Mabel (10092)
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) (10064)
Irving, Washington (10058)
Wharton, Edith (9947)
Buckley, Theodore Alois (9908)
Cary, Henry Francis (9638)
Robertson, James Alexander (9558)
Ormsby, John (9378)
Milne, A. A. (Alan Alexander) (9168)
Burgess, Thornton W. (Thornton Waldo) (9006)
Eliot, George (8998)
Ogden, C. K. (Charles Kay) (8808)
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (8770)
Blair, Emma Helen (8735)
Burroughs, Edgar Rice (8671)
Bourne, Edward Gaylord (8592)

HAPPY READING!

Calgary Book Sales May 2022

Two worthy organizations, Calgary READS and RESET Society of Calgary, are holding their fantastic book sales again!

Both are now looking for volunteers and donations.

Calgary READS

The curling rink transforms into the Calgary READS sale! (You’ll find me at the far, far bottom left part of the photo in the special VINTAGE BOOKS section!)

RESET Society of Calgary

I have found a larger selection of vintage books here, and there is the added bonus of the sale being held beside a huge farmer’s market!

About these great organizations…

RESET Society of Calgary (formerly Servants Anonymous Society), through one-on-one intensive case management in its EXIT (EXploitation, Intervention and Transition) Program, supports women as young as 16, with or without children, as they exit from sexual exploitation.

RESET provides immediate and safe supportive housing allowing women to stabilize and begin the process of healing, and supports each woman’s progress through transitional housing to independent living as the women graduate through the program. You can learn more about their impact here.

Calgary READS’ impact on Calgary’s children is enormous, as it provides help for increasing literacy through proceeds raised by selling huge quantities of joy: the joy of reading books!

The organization is committed to working with parents, educators, corporate partners, and the community at large to foster a joyful relationship with reading in all children, in Calgary and beyond. In a previous year, through the generosity of Calgarians and their amazing volunteers, they received, sorted and sold over 100,000 gently used books and raised over $300,000 for Calgary READS.

Love in a Little Town by J.E. Buckrow

It’s February, the month we celebrate love, and here is a most fitting book to celebrate.

Celia Bassingdale was about to take a long journey—the longest on earth—from the unreal to the real.

First line

Celia’s romantic interest in a young man (whom her grandfather was convinced was only after the fortune she would inherit when he died) prompted a bitter argument between her mother and grandfather. Attempting to right his wrongs, and help build some strong, admirable character in his granddaughter–even at the risk of losing the affection of this beloved girl forever–Grandfather decides to tear Celia away from her sweetheart. He sends her to live with his poor relatives, the Wallerby’s, who are hardworking, respectable people. Furious, she vows never to speak to her Grandfather again.

Celia struggles to meet the challenge of being forced to leave her comfy life to live with strangers. Yet she comes to admire the devotion this family and community have for each other, and their joy in spite of the hard sacrifices they must make. The women of the town’s wealthy society spread ugly, hurtful rumors about her, and twist her good intentions into appearing to be something shameful. Celia’s heart is captured by good-hearted Robert Wayne who works with Mr.Wallerby, and the feelings are mutual. But, although he loves her, he is not wealthy enough to marry anyone, especially a woman who comes from a wealthy family. In the midst of this time, Celia grieves severing her relationship with the one dearest to her, Grandfather.

The author has a deep understanding of human motivation, weakness and strength. Her story inspires readers to focus on what matters the most in life. This beautifully written book is full of warmth, humor, suspense, determination, struggles, honor, family bonds and the most genuine kind of love.

Such a unique cover!

The previous owner wrote their own response in pencil: “Nice quiet book.” That, plus the title of the novel, made me decide to buy it. And it was nice, and quiet, and did not disappoint! Thank you, fellow book lover, for the tip!

The previous owner added her own response, and some nice little poetry clippings

I raved about Love in a Little Town to a close friend, and she–shockingly–wanted to read it for her Christmas holiday book. Even though it is a plain-looking hardcover book written in 1911, and she doesn’t usually read novels like this, she couldn’t put it down. She read it in half the time I did, and loved it, and is ready for more vintage fiction!

Surprise! A clover tucked into one page. Is it from 1911 too???

I get the feeling this is not a very well-known book. Mine is the only review for it on Goodreads , and if you’re interested, you can find a few of my other reviews there. You can get the eBook for free at Google Books , and on Amazon ($41 and up).

Another book by the author

If you haven’t delved into the increasingly popular vintage fiction, this would be a great one to start with! Happy reading, friends!

Too Many Books

Is it possible for a book-lover to have too many books?

Yes. If they are making you crazy.

Otherwise, no.

Tee shirt given to me by a friend and fellow book-lover who, like me, has also run out of shelf space

While I was working in schools, it was a joy to come home and just relish the sight of all my beloved books, and the unread books that held such possibilities of enjoyment.

But something changed when I started working from home. They seem to be staring at me all day, and some even waving at me, saying, “Read me! Read me!”

Even the ones I’ve already read are getting on the bandwagon: “Write a review! Give me away!”

Because I am at home most of the time, they must think that I am now independently wealthy and have all the time in the world to lounge around!

And then there are my Kindle books, which are easier to ignore because my Kindle is out of sight behind the door of a bookshelf. And even when I do open the door, it is so deceptively thin it masquerades as a magazine or pamphlet.

Then there are virtual books on my “For Later Shelf” at my public library’s website. Now these shouldn’t present a problem, because they are really just a list of books I’d like to read in the future. But they are in the back of my mind as an item on my To Do List.

Which brings me to the point of this post:

I’ve realized that this is actually causing me anxiety.

My physical space is de-cluttered, but clearly I also need to de-clutter my mind.

So I started with the rip-the-band-aid-off method. I got on my library’s website and deleted the list of books I was planning to read. I couldn’t believe what a weight it was–and still is–off my shoulders!

By the way, I was inspired by this video by Rincey at Book Riot–she is such a ray of sunshine! Her video and the comments made me feel better as I realized that I am not the only one to have over a hundred books on my public library “For Later Shelf”.

Lesson learned: I shouldn’t start looking for books to read until I have read all the ones I own.

Continuing with the rip-the-band-aid-off method, in the morning of a day when I would be running errands, I pulled books of my shelves that I didn’t absolutely LOVE, and put them in the trunk of my car for trading/donating. That was pretty easy.

The hard part was telling myself that it really was okay to get rid of them, EVEN IF (a) I was pretty sure it would be a great reference book for an amazing article or book I was going to write “one day” (yeah, right); and (b) someone had given them to me as a present (I cherish gifts from people I love, yet got a new perspective from watching this decluttering video, starting at 14:00).

Next was the “there’s no time like the present” method. On a quiet weekend afternoon, I picked up a book off my shelf that has been catching my eye, and which I wasn’t sure I’d like. I figured once I started reading it, I’d know pretty quickly if I liked it or not, and if not, it would go into the trade/donate pile, which would be a victory.

That book was Calico Joe, by John Grisham. I read it straight through, start to finish, in one afternoon. (I only skimmed some of the play-by-play details of baseball games to get back to the plot.) This is why I pick up John Grisham novels in the first place–excellent writing and gripping plots. What a delightful way to spend a few hours! Then off it went to the trade/donate pile for someone else to enjoy.

The result?

Ahhh.

I’ve reached the balance I was sub-consciously longing for. I am now getting along well with my books, and have that joy of being surrounded by so many I love and look forward to reading.

Can you relate? I hope this been helpful. Do you have more tips? If so, speaking for all book lovers, de-clutterers and minimalists who land here at HappilyWriting, thank you for leaving your tips in the comments!

Hedgerow Tales, Mrs. Gatty’s Parables of Nature

Of all the revived, republished classic books available, the 4 Hedgerow Tales are my favorites.

These were ahead of their time, “retold” back in the 1980s, forerunners of the latest trend. The illustrations by Sandra Fernandez are exquisite and appear on almost every page. (Note that these Hedgerow Tales are not related to Enid Blyton’s Hedgerow Tales.)

From the cover, they appear to be children’s picture books, which usually have few words. But these are fairly lengthy stories.

And as the author was schooled in the early 1800s when students were required to demonstrate an excellent vocabulary and use of language, these have more depth in the plot and a richer language than a typical picture book.  In fact, you’d probably need to read it aloud to children under 8.

The story of Charlotte the Caterpillar is about hope, faith and eternal life. Just as Charlotte learns faith from the lark’s wise words, to have faith is to be sure of things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.

The theme of Benjamin Bee is contentment, and a willingness to use the particular gifts God has given us so that the whole community (in this case, the hive) works together.

The story of Robin Redbreast is about God’s provision for those who trust him, even in difficult times.

The theme of Jeremy Cricket is “the heart’s true home–heaven. “This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

In the Hedgerow Tales, Pat Wynnejones retells 4 of the 29 stories from the 1855 book by Margaret Gatty, Parables of Nature.

Mrs. Gatty begins her preface to her collection of stories, Parables from Nature, with a quote from Sir Thomas Browne from his Religio Medici:

There are two books from whence I collect my divinity; besides that written one of God, another of his servant, Nature–that universal and public manuscript that lies expanded unto the eyes of all: those that never saw Him in the one have discovered Him in the other… Those strange and mystical transmigrations that I have observed in silkworms turned my philosophy into divinity. There is in these works of Nature, which seem to puzzle reason, something divine…

Mrs. Gatty was also a marine biologist.

She was well known among professional marine biologists and had several species named after her! The book she wrote in the mid-1850s, British Seaweeds, was of such high quality it was still being used in the 1950’s.

One account of her life says, “To be treated as an equal by men of science gave her a pleasure as great as any of her achievements in the literary world.” It also tells how a memorial tablet in Ecclesfield Church was raised by a public subscription by more than a thousand children ‘as a token of love and gratitude for the many books she wrote for them.’

Publishing timeline of Margaret Gatty’s books

Here is an interesting graphic from WorldCat of her publishing timeline. I love seeing how interest in her books has increased since the turn of the (21st) century!

An interesting side note is that Margaret Gatty’s daughter, Juliana Ewing, was also an accomplished writer, and lived for a time in Canada. Rudyard Kipling mentioned Juliana in his autobiography, and Henry James called her book Jackanapes “a genuine little masterpiece, a wonderful little mixture of nature and art.”

I think it’s delightful that so many homeschooling families use the classics as part of their teaching materials. AmblesideOnline, a free homeschool curriculum, includes a rephrased version of Parables of Nature here.

You can read the 450-word Parables of Nature book for free!

You can buy the four individual Hedgerow Tales books from Better World Books. I like this online bookstore because they have great service and low prices (with no shipping cost–including international shipping!). I’m partial to them because of their values and impact .”Every time you purchase a book from BetterWorldBooks.com, we donate a book to someone in need.”

You can read Parables of Nature online here , download it free to read in various formats at Internet Archive, and download the audio book at LibriVox .

Treat yourself and your family to feel-good, inspirational stories and visual feast of realistic, vibrant art!

I’d love to hear if you’ve read these, or anything like them–drop me a note below!   {{{HUGS}}}

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

What a joy to know that this 1885 book is still current,

and still bringing the same wonder and delight to new generations of children–and adults!

                       Illustration for the poem “The Lamplighter”

 

A Child’s Garden of Verses is my VERY favorite children’s book

…as evidenced by the fact that I have 3 versions of it. It is the author’s imagination and remembrance of his own childhood that I love the most.  One of the introductions to his books says that Stevenson “writes as a child, rather than about children”. He was “able to enter into the heart of a boy” –and, I might add, also into the heart of this tomboy!

Robert Louis Stevenson grew up in Scotland. He wrote many other works besides poetry, including short stories, travel writings, plays and novels. Two of his best known novels are Treasure Island, a book the author wrote to keep his stepson amused during a very inclement summer; and Kidnapped, inspired by real events in Scottish history. It is said that Stevenson has never been out of fashion, and that there was an increased interest in him and his works in the 1980s.

The introductions in two of these versions are interesting, and endearing, and tell more about the author…

 

 

In elementary school, I learned several of the poems in this book, and I just realized that I can still recite one from memory. Some I memorized because they were an assignment from my teacher (remember memorizing poems and reciting them at an assembly?), others I probably remembered because the rhythm and rhyme held me spell bound and I couldn’t stop reading them over and over.

 

This first version is near and dear to my heart. It was the first book I bought, and may have been the first thing I ever bought with my own money.

We had a carnival at our elementary school and this was for sale for 75 cents. It never occurred to me before today, but…why would they have sold it? How could my school library have wanted to part with it? I hope it was because they were getting a new copy.

The inscription on this is my mom’s, recording the special event, “School carnival March 5, 1965.” When she wrote that, could she have imagined I’d be sharing it in the new millenium, in cyberspace for all the world to see?

 

 

“The Swing” and “Happy Thought” are my two favorites.

This next version I found about 5 years ago at a used book store in Denver, Colorado, while visiting my family. It is dated 1902 and has, of course, illustrations from that era which are quite different, very antique-looking.

 

I love that each of my copies has an inscription in them for the child receiving it! And I love knowing that it is still on the shelves of bookstores and libraries for more children to enjoy, and to receive as a gift.

 

 

I think “The Swing” is my favorite poem because I can feel the wind, the sunshine, and the FREEDOM…

 

This older version has a word list at the end.  Just look at all those “juicy” words (as we call them at my school)!!!

 

The last version I bought was at a thrift store in Calgary. It is the newest one I have.

I thumbed through it for a long time, but put it back on the shelf because I already had two of them at home. Then I changed my mind. I decided that this one’s illustrations were a glorious feast for the eyes on every page. No doubt it cost me just a little more than a current cup of coffee, and for the joy that it brings my heart it’s so worth it.

 

Again, here is my favorite poem “The Swing” in this version. Illustrations can sure make a book!  Look at the girl’s hair, and her shoe–brilliant!

 

I can hardly believe it took me so long to post about this book! But in my mind, it wasn’t a vintage book to be reviewed. It was one of my most treasured possessions.

 

 

It’s so sweet how Robert Louis Stevenson devoted many pages of this book–apparently written when he was in his mid-30s–to his beloved family, nanny and friends.

This lovely book is EVERYWHERE — as it should be!

May many more generations have the opportunity

to lose themselves in A Child’s Garden of Verses,

its fun, delight, wonder, imagery, peace… and its beauty.

Fellow vintage book readers

I just wanted to share some of my favorite websites for vintage books and reviews for all of you fellow vintage book afficionados!

Leaves and Pages

“Bibliovore. Botanist. Gardener. Armchair Traveller and Vintage Book Explorer”  And I would add: “Voracious Reader”!

A feast! On this blog I find excellent reviews of books published in every year from 1900 to present, and several amazing indexes on her website pages.

https://leavesandpages.com/2013/04/23/reviews-sylvester-or-the-wicked-uncle-the-grand-sophy-by-georgette-heyer/

https://leavesandpages.com/book-reviews-index/

https://leavesandpages.com/book-reviews-by-publishing-date/

Figments and Frames

I’ve been enjoying following this blog for quite a while.  The author of this blog is a writer based in Maine and New Jersey, and this is where she documents her growing antique book collection. She also covers a range of similar subjects, including life in frontier America, Native American interactions, early American and indigenous folklore, and all sorts of literature on food, from hunting and gathering to farming innovations and cookbooks. She says she can’t resist buying old illustrated children’s books and literary classics when she can find them. I can relate!

https://figmentsandframes.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/modern-tales-animal-stories/

Books Around the Table

This is my newest discovery, I’m just starting to mine the blog posts.

https://booksaroundthetable.wordpress.com/category/vintage-childrens-book-illustrations/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-3

The Art of Children’s Picture Books

This blog is archived and no longer active, but it is full of eye candy! Have a glance at these sweet images…

http://theartofchildrenspicturebooks.blogspot.com/2015/04/

And just for fun, check out this Reader’s Digest article, which reports that a first edition of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is worth $180,159!

https://www.rd.com/culture/rare-books-worth-a-fortune/

 

Such great stuff from awesome bloggers!

Review of Back to Arcady by Frank Waller Allen

Thirty years ago it was said of me that I was as gallant a beau as ever bowed over a fair lady’s hand… I am more years past fifty than I like to acknowledge, and now a girl of twenty is coming to upset the habits and routine of a lifetime.

One of my treasures from this spring’s used book sales is a sentimental romance written in 1905, full of detailed background borders on every page.

As is typical of novels written at the turn of the century, the language is exquisite, the tone is thoughtful, and the plot gentle, original and full of genuine emotion. I read it in two sittings.

The dedication sets the author’s tone…

The story takes place in a small village in Kentucky. It begins with the narrator anticipating a visit from the daughter of his one true love, Drucilla.

“I knew her mother in the long ago. She herself was but twenty when last I saw her, and yet today hers is the only face that remains clear in my memory… Shortly after I saw Drucilla for the last time, she married William Dudley, the companion of my youth and friend of my  manhood. …Then when little Marcia Dudley–My Lady o’ Roses–was born, the mother died…”

“It is in the silence that follows the storm,” says the proverb, “and not the silence before it, that we should search for the budding flower.”

Many years later when she was a young lady, Marcia’s father, dying, sent a letter begging him to take his only child and guard her as his own. Marcia travels across the ocean to America. At first sight of her, the narrator (who is never named), is shocked to see what appears to be his long lost love, so similar is Marcia’s face to her mother’s. He introduces Marcia to his neighbor Louis and others in the nearby village, and she settles in.

In time, Louis tells them both how he had previously traveled to France, where he had been bewitched by a woman playing a sweet tune on a violin. They’d fallen in love, but they couldn’t be together. The woman vowed that she could never play her violin again until she reunited with her love, and he’d returned to Kentucky broken-hearted.

Marcia eventually reveals that she was the one Louis had loved in Paris, but she had not known where he’d gone when he left her. Now they are reunited, and the narrator muses,

“Then, after a while, there came to me from without the night, like unto the perfume of roses, the soft, warm tones of a lover’s violin bearing the message with which, years and years ago in a garden in Picardy, Margot o’ the Crimson Lips gave the heart of her to the Dreammaker.”

Here was a lovely discovery about halfway through…

It was not easy to find information about the author. Frank Waller Allen was an American author born in 1878 in Kentucky, United States. He was educated at Transylvania University, Kentucky, 1902, and worked as a journalist, minister, professor and lecturer.

Among the author’s other books are My Ships Aground (1900); The Golden Road (1910); The Lovers of Skye (1913); The Brothers of Bagdad (1913); Painted Windows (1918); The Great Quest (1918); My One Hundred Best Novels (1919); Wings of Beauty (1929); and Creative Living (1930).

You can read Back to Arcady online at Archive.org, or Forgotten Books, or buy it from Amazon, Abe books, eBay and other online book sellers.

Titus: A Comrade of the Cross – a classic novel for Easter

In 1894, a publisher held a writing competition to obtain the best manuscript that would inspire a child’s Christian faith. Florence Kingsley submitted her manuscript for Titus: A Comrade of the Cross and won the $1,000 award. In six weeks, 200,000 copies had been printed to meet demand.

The story is about a young boy named Titus, the son of a downtrodden mother and a poor, violent fisherman. His brother Stephen is remarkably kind, considering the fact that he was crippled from a beating by their father. Titus is cynical of what he hears about Jesus, and warns Stephen against any hope of healing.

This historical novel takes place at the time of the first Easter.

“Titus was listening with all his ears, but he said nothing, for he hoped that the man would speak further…. He could have slipped away in the dark easily enough, and was half-minded to do so.

Then he reflected that he might learn something more of his mysterious birth and parentage, if he stayed; besides, he had a strong curiosity to see the much-talked-of Barabbas; and underneath all, was an unconfessed desire to share in the exciting events which were soon to follow.”

 

Over thirty years ago, I was given a copy of this hardcover novel,. The cover was ragged, and as I skimmed the text I could tell that the language was ancient and confusing. It sat on my shelf for a long time because I had no interest in reading it, but I kept it out of affection for the person who gave it to me.

Finally, years later, I picked it up and started reading it, and couldn’t put it down. The language wasn’t a problem once I got used to it, and even though halfway through the book I found that a whole chunk of pages was missing, the suspenseful plot and true-to-life characters still mesmerized me.

I can honestly say that my faith grew tremendously from reading–and having “lived”–this story.

I was still reading it when my first son was born, and we gave him a middle name that was not the name of a relative, but of a character that touched me deeply in Titus: A Comrade of the Cross. 

 

Because Titus: Comrade of the Cross is so well-known and well-loved, this book is readily available to read online or by download, at such sites at archive.org and google books. Free audio of the book is offered at LibriVox. Hardcover copies are also easily available at various online bookstores, including Chapters-Indigo. Lamplighter.net features a great video blurb about it, and Bookworm Blessings has an excellent review and summary.

Although it was originally written for children and youth, I recommend this book for any age. Its longevity attests to its quality! The author wrote a total of 3 books in this “Comrades of the Cross” series, including Stephen: A Soldier of the Cross and The Cross Triumphant, as well as many other books.

Are you familiar with Florence M. Kingsley? Have you read any of her other books? Let me know if you have any favorites you’d like to recommend.  You can leave me a comment below. I always love hearing from you!

And I wish you a Happy Easter!