In previous posts, I wrote about my absolute joy in reading Extracts from Adam’s Diary and Eve’s Diary. Reading (and even re-reading) some parts of these made me laugh almost to exhaustion. Other parts were serious and surprisingly tender compared to the other books I’ve read by Mark Twain.
At Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) I also found Diary of Anna Green Winslow, a Boston School Girl of 1771. It was written by a 12-year-old girl, and published in 1894. The editor, Alice Morse Earle, included an in-depth family history.
Miniature of Colonial Diarist Anna Green Winslow
Quite the Lineage!
Anna was born in 1759 in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her family did not feel that Halifax could provide the society or the schooling that would “finish” their daughter. So they sent 10-year-old Anna to America to live with Judge Winslow’s older sister, Aunt Sarah Deming, and her husband, in Boston.
Miss Winslow traveled in high social circles and had quite the lineage! On her mother’s side, she was descended from a Puritan, Percival Green, who sailed from London, England, in 1635. On her father’s side, Anna’s great-great-great grandfather was the older brother of Pilgrim Edward Winslow, who arrived on the Mayflower as did Anna’s great-great-great grandmother, Mary Chilton.
Anna’s interests and daily life
Anna is clearly fascinated with people, and details visits and conversations with the many people she interacts with. She writes about fashions, the weather (waist-high snow!), her sewing skills and various domestic duties, and her attempts to improve her writing skills. She records the many visits she makes to help and encourage friends and relatives who are ill. Anna mentions her spiritual progress in strengthening her relationship with God, and writes many notes about Biblical scriptures she reads and sermons she hears.
1771 not so different from 2016?
I find it fascinating to compare people from different eras, and noticed an obvious contrast in Anna’s memoirs between the orderliness and apparent serenity of their lives, and our disjointed, hurried lives of today.
Parents and society required children and teens to work more in 1771. A sense of duty and responsibility to family and society was more internalized and self-motivated in children then, compared to now. Family members seemed more engaged with each other then–especially the females and children who spent so much time in the home together. Yet I am surprised that there was so much emphasis on proper etiquette and connections that families would actually send a 12-year-old girl away to be trained and refined!
Twelve-year-old Anna rarely talks about her friends. By contrast, for many youth in 2016, friends seem to have taken the place—or a higher priority—over family relationships. I think our children today devote more time on physical fitness, entertainment, pleasure, and buying “toys” than in Anna’s time, partly because our automated society gives us more free time and money. But it’s also partly because we as adults encourage children to have fun.
However, having said all that, I don’t think that pre-teens are that different now than they were then in 1770’s Boston, when it comes to what is truly important to them. Children value that family closeness no matter what century they live in. And they all have hopes and dreams to be a valuable member of society, be accepted by their peers, enjoy particular hobbies, be healthy, and many still reach for a connection with the divine.
“Mom, there’s no way I’m wearing that!”
Anna Green Winslow’s diary entry in handwriting
In this handwritten letter, Anna seems annoyed that her mother doesn’t let her wear the latest fashions, something that annoys plenty of Anna’s 2016 counterparts as well! She says that her hat makes her look like a “street seller”:
“Dear mamma, you don’t know the fation [fashion] here—I beg to look like other folk…”
She closes this journal entry (which is also a letter to her mother) affectionately:
“…with duty, love and compliments as due, particularly to my dear little brother (I long to see him)…Your ever dutiful daughter…”
Any thoughts? Do leave a comment!
Up next is a diary reluctantly written by a boy in rural America in the 1860’s.
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.
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.
I 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
* * * * * * * * * * *
[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.]
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….
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.
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…
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.
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!
“And it came to pass nigh upon nineteen hundred and sixteen years ago”
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.
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.
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.
Although 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!”
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 SecretGarden, 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.
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.)
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…
(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!
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.
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.
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!
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…
…to songs, and what the farmer (or fireman, teacher, milkman, cowboy, policeman, secretary) does…
…to finger plays, Smokey the Bear, aboriginal symbols, parties, math, games, escalators, and even a “futuristic” space ship.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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?
In a recent post I began describing this 1887 book written by Edward Bellamy. Here is more about the author.
The 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.”
“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.”
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]
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. 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. 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, the 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!]
How do you decide what to read? Do you scan the latest bestseller lists? Do you have a library of unread books where you just close your eyes and reach for one? Does a friend inspire you to read the great book they just finished?
I had a lot of time to ponder this question when I was supervising a test at school. I realized, after having moved among the students with nothing to occupy my mind for several hours, that I don’t have a very good way of choosing my next book.
I love to browse physical shelves of books, touch the books, open the covers and flip through them. So, sitting on my book shelves I have a load of random books that are a result of “impulse buying”: they caught my eye and ignited my curiosity (and were too good of a deal to pass up!). I also love to browse online bookstores and making wish lists. It’s exciting to me how many different kinds of texts exist, and I want to read so many of them. And that’s how I’ve been choosing what to read next.
But I just ran across my very old list of books that includes classics, award-winners and recommendations by friends, the media, the church, the library or websites I visit. I forgot about my Books to Read List because I stopped carrying it in my wallet. It got too long (to get all the titles typed on both sides of a single sheet of paper, which could fold to fit in my wallet, it had to be a 9-point font), and I didn’t seem to have much time to read anyway. Even though the books I look at every day at home look like excellent books, I resolved that I was going to return to my list, as it is far less impulsive.
I generally try to read books that will have eternal value, and change me for the better. I think fiction affects me more than non-fiction, but it has to be well-written fiction. Classic novels seem trustworthy choices for quality fiction, and when I run across references to classic novels that I haven’t read, it bothers me to be missing so many stories that have stood the test of time for hundreds of years. So a section of my Books to Read List developed by browsing lists of the best books, such as the ones I found in the Appendix of James Wood’s book How Fiction Works, or an online list, such as Open Culture’s list of “The 10 Greatest Books Ever, According to 125 Top Authors”. I take great pleasure in the rare times I can tick off another one from this list of distinguished, admired books from authors around the world.
So what to read this summer? One fiction book from my Books to Read List is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I have planned to read it ever since my son read and discussed it with me when he was in junior high school (about fifteen years ago). Not only that, the movie is out, and I don’t want to watch the movie until I’ve read the book, so the pressure’s on. Les Miserables is on the top of my fiction list. I have recently started reading it on my Kindle, and with my larger font preference, I seem to be making slow progress! I get a bit overwhelmed when reading a huge book, but am staying interested.
For my next non-fiction book, I’m reading a book recommended to me by a friend, What are You Afraid Of? by David Jeremiah, with the hope of taking a frank look at my fears, and my faith. I’ve checked it out of the library and am about a fifth the way through it. So far, it is practical and straightforward yet empathetic.
What are at the top of your lists? What is the best book you’ve ever read? I’d love to read your comments.