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!

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

 

Faulkner’s Favorite – Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes

I regularly recommend this novel as one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the pleasure of this story!

Actually, the full title of the novel is El Ingenioso Hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Low-Born Noble Don Quixote of La Mancha). And, apparently, this was William Faulkner’s favorite book; he read it once a year, and Don Quixote was his favorite character.

I didn’t know all this, however, when I sat down unenthusiastically to read it. Because the description made it seem so dry, irrelevant and archaic, I had to “make” myself read Don Quixote, because I wanted to read more of the classics of English literature, and this one makes it to the top of many lists.

Don Quixote did not start out with a bang, as many novels do today. In fact, I felt that throughout the book there was no clear main plot or building suspense. Rather, there were little vignettes of humorous adventures as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza travel, believing they are knights, trying each others’ patience, and trying the patience of those they meet, giving and receiving blows in some cases!

Once I got used to the pace of the story, I sat back and enjoyed every minute of it. What is so endearing is how their ridiculous antics are taken very seriously, and our pair are given respect and honor, even by the royal family who ultimately has the power to bring them success or leave them a failure. I found myself rooting for them, hoping beyond hope for their success, although their quest seemed destined for defeat. By the end, I was sad to leave these two “companions” of mine, Don Quixote, knight errant, and Sancho Pansa, most loyal friend, for whom I’d grown so much affection!

Don Quixote is one of the books you can find in most any library or bookseller, and I hope you give it a try!

Would some of my previous reviews of classic novels interest you?  Here are The Bridge of San Luis Rey, My Antonia, The Inheritance and Pride and Prejudice.  And here are more books to entice you in my post last month. I trust one of these will catch your eye!

Happy summer reading!

 

[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: “Don Quixote and Sancho Panza” by Jules David]

 

Summer Reads–Don’t Miss the Greatest Books

If you’re looking for some summer reads, may I recommend this list?

The Greatest Books

If you haven’t already discovered some of these, you don’t want to miss out on some excellent literature.

Many years ago I found a similar list. With a goal of reading one or two from the list each year, I started with some books that I thought I could stomach: romances by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (only because it was very thin).

All of them were fascinating. Who knew?

Then I got brave and read some that looked endlessly boring and painfully long–The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes–only to be pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to read and how hard to put down (Don Quixote made me laugh out loud!).

It gave me a feeling of satisfaction to check them off the list one-by-one. I also noticed that a sense of camaraderie with other readers of classics as I started to understand cultural references to these stories.

Soon I discovered an online classic book club through my public library. One of them sent the first three chapters of a classic novel by email at the beginning of each month. That was do-able, and I found more authors I liked.

That was the beginning.

These led me to lesser-known old books, and the best books I’ve ever read (hence, my posts!). This is how I began collecting old books at book sales, and my experience has shown that I can trust most books written more than fifty years ago to be a quality read.

I no longer carry that list in my purse because my “list” is now on my shelves, each awaiting its turn–as time allows!

And here is a list for classic children’s books.

What are your favorites on the list? Or if you aren’t yet into the classics, how about taking the challenge?  One or two from the list each year?

Happy reading this summer!

My appreciation to the following for open source images:

http://thegreatestbooks.org/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Books.jpg

https://pixabay.com/en/book-teacup-nature-summer-reading-2388213/

What Did Lucy Read?

What literary works have had an effect on you? Who are your favorite writers, and how have they influenced your perspectives or improved your life?

Have you ever wondered what literary works influenced your favorite writers?

I recently read The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889-1899, about the woman considered Canada’s most widely read author, who wrote the Anne of Green Gables series and many other books.

I picked it up because I love to read journals in general, and also because I know that the author took great enjoyment from spending time outdoors, enjoying the natural environment on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

This photo of L.M. Montgomery’s Cavendish National Historic Site

of Canada is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

I wanted to read about her experiences there, and was curious to know what influences and lifestyle produced such a successful author. Was it the solitude of living in a remote area? Did she have siblings, or did she enjoy a quiet household? (Yes, no, and yes.)


This large book seemed daunting, and I didn’t think I’d read the whole thing, but I couldn’t put it down until I’d read the last page. Her style of writing is so engaging —even in her journals.

Throughout her journal entries, she mentions books that she is reading. I was excited to find that I have read a few of the books she read! Here is a partial list of the most well-known titles, about a third of the complete list. (And by the way, as she was born in 1874, she would have read these books between the ages of 14 and 24!)

The Aeneid

The Bible

The Ascent of Man

The Diary of Virginia Woolf

(Ralph Waldo) Emerson’s Essays,

George Eliot’s Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals

King Solomon’s Mines

Last Days of Pompeii

The Last of the Mohicans

Midshipman Easy

More Tramps Abroad (also called “Following the Equator”)

Paradise Lost

Quo Vadis

Rip Van Winkle

The Scarlet Letter

To Have and To Hold

Vanity Fair

With classics such as these under her belt as such a young age, it’s no wonder she produced such quality writing of her own.

Which ones have you read? If you are interested in reading some of these books on the list for free, electronically or online, you very well might find them at Gutenberg.org or Archives.org.

And if you like reading journals and diaries, here are some of my previous posts about some interesting ones:

Mark Twain’s Exerpts from Adam’s Diary and Eve’s Diary

The Diary of Anna Green Winslow

The Real Diary of a Real Boy

Illustration from a 1908 publication of Anne of Green Gables

 

 

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!

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?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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!

 

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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!

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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