Thursday, December 31, 2009

100 Books for Summer Reading (1900)

On June 16, 1900, the New York Times published an article entitled "100 Books for Summer Reading". It is an interesting list with many titles and authors I have never heard of.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bookmark - Mary Barton

Mary Barton
by Elizabeth Gaskell

Cranford on Masterpiece Classic

The BBC production of Cranford will be rebroadcast by PBS in the US beginning on December 20th. This is a prelude to the new series, Return to Cranford, to be shown beginning January 10th. Here is a link to the schedule.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Philip and His Wife

Philip and His Wife
by Margaret Deland

I am reading Philip and His Wife by Margaret Deland. It is set in the fictional town of Old Chester, Pennsylvania, and many of the Old Chester characters I've met in Deland's stories appear, most notably the beloved Dr. Lavendar. His brother, Joseph Lavendar, also plays a role in this story, adding a new dimension to what we know about Dr. Lavendar.

This book is a full length novel, rather than a collection of Old Chester stories. It explores the question of what to do when a marriage has gone bad. Philip has come to the realization that his marriage is not good, that his wife, Cecilia, is spoiling their daughter and inculcating in her values that Philip believes are harmful. As he thinks over what he should do, he considers the idea of joint custody of the daughter. I was not aware that joint custody was ever an option in the 19th century.

By way of comparing and contrasting bad marriages, there is a subplot involving the Todd family, where the husband, Job, is an alcoholic who sometimes beats his wife, Eliza. Eliza rationalizes staying with Job, rather than leaving him, as when he is sober he makes a good living, and it is easier to put up with the beatings than to put the law on Job and have to live without his financial contribution.

The Haunted Homestead

The Haunted Homestead
by EDEN Southworth

I read The Haunted Homestead by EDEN (Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte) Southworth yesterday. Set in Virginia in an isolated location in the mountains, it begins in a very promising fashion. Southworth creates a very spooky atmosphere, one of the best I've read in a haunted house/ghost story in a very long time. I found the ending rather disappointing, however.

I've tried other books by Southworth but found them not to my taste. She was a prolific 19th century writer of romance fiction and apparently some gothic fiction as well. I'll probably try some more of her books on the strength of The Haunted Homestead.

Monday, November 30, 2009

American Best Sellers 1900-1922

There is a list at Project Gutenberg of American best sellers 1900-1922 with links for downloading the books in various formats. This is a wonderful resource.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New England Life

The following list is from an article in the New York Times for August 6, 1898 titled "New England Life: Twenty-five Books Giving Comprehensive Pictures of It":
  • Guardian Angel, O.W. Holmes
  • Elsie Venner, O.W. Holmes
  • The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table, O.W. Holmes
  • Professor at the Breakfast Table, O.W. Holmes
  • The Poet at the Breakfast Table, O.W. Holmes
  • Over the Teacups, O.W. Holmes
  • The Biglow Papers, James Russell Lowell
  • Captain Courageous, Rudyard Kipling
  • Prudence Palfrey, Thomas Bailey Adrich
  • A Singular Life, Mrs. Phelps Ward
  • A Native of Winby, Miss Jewett
  • The Country Doctor, Miss Jewett
  • The Minister's Wooing, Mrs. Stowe
  • Oldtown Folks, (no author given)
  • Odd or Even, Mrs. Whitney
  • John Ward, Preacher, Mrs. Deland
  • Somebody's Neighbors, Mrs. Cooke
  • Rowena in Boston, Miss Pool
  • Danvis Folks, Rowland E. Robinson
  • Two Coronets, M.A. Tincker
  • Malbone, T.W. Higginson
  • Dr. Breen's Practice, W.D. Howells
  • The Minister's Charge, W.D. Howells
  • Herman; or, Young Knighthood, S.H. Palfrey
  • The Pagans, Arlo Bates

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Old Chester Tales - Miss Maria

Old Chester Tales
Miss Maria - page 89
by Margaret Deland

What a delightful story! Miss Maria Welwood is a gentle soul, full of kindness and good nature. We meet more residents of Old Chester, Mrs. Barkley and her brother-in-law Mr. Ezra Barkley.

I just do not understand how these wonderful stories have been allowed to fade away from the reading public. They are every bit as wonderful as Cranford, the characters as memorable. Reading reviews in the New York Times of the books as they were published, it is clear they were enormously popular. Dr. Lavendar, the minister, was so beloved that readers wrote to Mrs. Deland asking who he was based on in real life, as they wanted to meet and consult his prototype.

What a joy to have discovered this charming series!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bookmark - Dr. Lavendar

Dr. Lavendar
Around Old Chester
by Margaret Deland

I am greatly enjoying Margaret Deland's Old Chester stories. They are not all light hearted. In fact, The Face on the Wall was a powerful portrait of a marriage destroyed by alcoholism and gambling. It is in the volume titled Mr. Tommy Dove and Other Stories and does not take place in Old Chester, although it begins in a nearby town. I sincerely hope the Murray sisters figure in subsequent Old Chester stories. They would fit right in Cranford society, making allowances for the differences in American and English village life. Dr. Lavendar is a recurring figure in the stories. I like him as a character and look forward to getting to know him better as I read.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Wonderful Discovery!

Mr. Tommy Dove and Other Stories

Old Chester Tales
by Margaret Deland

Several years ago I read John Ward, Preacher by Margaret Deland and loved it. For some reason - probably because Deland's books were not accessible to me at the time - I did not read anything else by this author. Last night, though, I downloaded Old Chester Tales and have begun reading it this morning with my breakfast. What a wonderful discovery! In the introduction to the Google Books edition available through the links here, Vida Scudder of Wellesley College compares Deland to Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell; and Deland's fictional Old Chester to Cranford.

This volume is the second of the chronicles of Old Chester, and I am anticipating a wonderful visit there. The first volume of the series is Mr. Tommy Dove and Other Stories, published in 1893.

I will say before I go that John Ward, Preacher has a somber tone, and I understand from what I have read about some of Deland's other novels that the somber tone prevails in some of them. I am expecting, however, to find an American version of Cranford in Margaret Deland's Old Chester, Pennsylvania.

Later: I have just finished reading the first story in Mr. Tommy Dove, and oh, how I loved it. It reminds me far more of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford than of Jane Austen, but of course this is just the first story of the series. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Old Lady Mary - epub download

Old Lady Mary by Margaret Oliphane is now available as an epub download via the link to the right.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Howard's End is on the Landing

Howard's End is on the Landing
by Susan Hill

This book arrived in today's mail, and I am enchanted. I have read mixed reviews, but for me this book is a delight. I too can define my life by books I have read, when and where I have read them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Through a Glass Darkly

Through the Looking Glass
by J.D. Beresford
From The Best British Short Stories of 1922, page 20.

Two Rachel Deanes, one an elderly woman and the other her much younger niece, share more than just the same name. Their mannerisms, handwriting and personalities are almost identical. The elder sees her younger self in her niece. Standing in front of a mirror, it is evident that the reflection she sees is not of herself as she is today but a reflection of her younger self, very like her niece. The younger Rachel also stands before a mirror, but what she sees is what she will become, old and decrepit like her aunt. The mirrors play a prominent role in this story, which would have made a wonderful prelude to a story of haunting.

The story can be read or downloaded from Google Books by clicking on the link in the story's title above.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Washington as a Diplomatic Post in European Eyes

A Washington Winter
by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

"…Washington is rated as at the foot of the diplomatic ladder by European governments. Goslings are sent here to learn to quack and try their wings, and crude tyros to make a beginning."

Saturday, November 14, 2009


A Washington Winter
by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

"Coming from Massachusetts, of course he wore spectacles…"

A Washington Season in 1883

A Washington Winter
by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

Page 111: "A Washington season may be said to commence on New Year's Day, and to terminate with Ash Wednesday. This interval usually includes about two months' space of time, in which a series of gayeties engage the entire attention of society people; but with the setting-in of Lent, Catholics and Episcopalians withdraw more or less from the world, and their number is large enough to exercise decided influence over society movements, if not to control them."

A Washington Winter - Reconstruction

The author places the blame for the carpetbaggers of reconstruction squarely on the shoulders of Southerners themselves: "The close of the war found the leading families of the South sullen, discontented with the inevitable new status, and mourning over the Lost Cause. They disdained politics; and, in place of trying to gain political control of the seceded States, they held aloof in stolid contempt. This was, perhaps, not to be wondered at, in view of the violent revulsion of all their cherished hopes and feelings; but it was senseless and unwise. It gave the opportunity to strangers, men who sought the South as adventurers, to get control of local interests."

I can well imagine how this paragraph would have been received by those who lived and suffered in the south, especially Virginia, during the American civil war! I can hear the outraged voices rising in protest. I wonder if Thomas Nelson Page, a Virginia writer of the same period, wrote anything about this book? Or Sara Pryor, or Constance Cary Harrison, or later, Ellen Glasgow?

Novels Set in Washington DC

In my continuing quest for Washington society novels, I have discovered a wonderful list of novels set in Washington. Many, although not all, of the 19th century novels on the list are available for download at Google Books. Meanwhile, I continue reading A Washington Winter.

Washington Society 1883 - Visiting Days

A Washington Winter
By Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

"Monday is the reception-day of the wives of the Justices of the Supreme Court. Tuesday is a day selected by many in society to receive. Wednesday is Cabinet Day. Thursday is Senators' Day. " Mrs. Wilton proposes to receive on Friday from three until six, "for on this day most of the old families of Washington receive their friends. Each Saturday evening I propose to hold a conversazione."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Washington Winter by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

I've been collecting digital books again. I began by searching for novels by Constance Cary Harrison, one of the Virginia-born novelists I enjoy. Then I got sidetracked by the idea of searching for Washington society novels. I have found several titles which sound promising, one in particular called A Washington Winter by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren. Much to my surprise, there seems to be a body of 19th century novels set in Washington. A Washington Winter was published in 1883, and I would bet that Betty Herndon Maury read it. She was living in Washington at the time. I would love to know what she thought about it. Oh, for a discovery of a collection of letters by Betty!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Once in a Blue Moon

Once in a Blue Moon
by Molly Levite Griffis

What happens when a beloved grandparent begins displaying symptoms of Alzheimer's disease? Once in a Blue Moon by Molly Levite Griffis explores this theme in a loving and compassionate manner. It is a must read for all families struggling to explain to children what is happening when this disease strikes.

Reading now - The Vows of Silence; and The Chippendales

Today I bought Susan Hill's newly released (in the US) Simon Serrailler book, The Vows of Silence. The book was released here on October 29th, and when I searched Borders online inventory, the only copy I could find was about 15 miles away. It was not available at the Borders in Fredericksburg.

I have read the three previous Simon Serrailler books and enjoyed them. Hill writes a more literary detective novel than most, and the character of Simon Serrailler appeals to me greatly in much the same manner that P.D. James's Adam Dalgliesh does. I am looking forward to reading this book, more for the new details about Simon's life than for the plot revolving around the crimes.

I have also ordered Howards End is on the Landing, also by Susan Hill. I have read mixed reviews of this book, but as I am an admirer of Susan Hill, I know I will find her views interesting.

On my Sony PRS-505 I am reading The Chippendales by Robert Grant, a story of new Boston (new in the 1880s, anyway) and old Boston, clashing values as the city grows and changes. I think it is a wonderful novel, evoking a stronger sense of place than any other novel set in Boston that I have read. Grant (1852-1940) was a probate judge from a notable Boston family, so he knows whereof he writes. The link in the title at the beginning of the paragraph will take you to the Google Books version which can be downloaded either in pdf or ebpub format. Well worth reading.

If only I had more time for reading!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Collecting

Today in browsing at Google Books I went back to a book I had previously looked at: The Book-Hunter by John Hill Burton. I had looked at it previously only in connection with my search for illustrations to use in creating bookmarks - it has a wonderful illustration of an old library. Today I started looking at it and other books which came up using the search term "book hunter". For those who love books, this search will yield a treasure trove of old books on the subject of book collecting.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bookmark - Arthur Bell Nicholls

Arthur Bell Nicholls
husband of
Charlotte Bronte

Dare's Gift by Ellen Glasgow

I have added to the epub downloads section in the right column a link for downloading Dare's Gift by Ellen Glasgow, a ghost story of haunting and betrayal in Civil War Virginia.

Epub documents can be read on ebook readers. For those who don't have dedicated ebook readers, Adobe Digital Editions also reads epub documents and can be installed on computers.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Lady's Walk by Margaret Oliphant

This is an experiment to see if an epub version of The Lady's Walk - A Story of the Seen and the Unseen by Margaret Oliphant can be accessed from this blog. I have created a Google Site called Corner of the Library as a companion to this blog. As it exists right now, it feels a little convoluted to me, so I'm guessing there must be a better way to construct it.

If you click on the words "epub version" above, you should be taken to a page with a link for downloading the epub version of The Lady's Walk. In order to read this story, you must have something that reads epub documents, such as Adobe Digital Editions which can be downloaded from a link in the right hand column of this blog.

Patience is a virtue as you wait for the story to be downloaded and opened by your epub reader.

Any comments?

Bookmark - Persuasion

Anne and Henrietta
Chapter 12
Persuasion - by Jane Austen
From an edition published in 1906

Jane Austen - by Mrs Charles Malden

Here is a link to a biography of Jane Austen by Mrs. Charles Malden published in 1889. I have not read it, so I cannot comment on its worth.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Unleavened Bread - Edith Wharton's Comments

In his memoir titled Fourscore, Robert Grant quotes a letter he received from Edith Wharton regarding his novel Unleavened Bread:

"As for Selma, I think her as good in her way as Gwendolen Grandcourt. Every stroke tells, and you never forget the inconscient quality of her selfishness; you never fall into the error of making her deliberately false or cruel. The lesser characters seem to me admirably differentiated, from Mrs. Margaret Rodney Earle to the incomparable Mr. Lyons, whose speech to the Benham Institute in the nomination of Miss Luella Bailey is a masterpiece of American rhetoric."

Unleavened Bread - The Title Explained

Author Robert Grant, in his memoirs titled Fourscore, explains the title of his novel Unleavened Bread, which I have reviewed here: "Regarding the title Unleavened Bread, it occurred to me as a suitable characterization of a personality which was without the inspiration of leaven, and hence was flat, hard and half-baked."

Bookmark - The Little Schoolroom

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Browsing - and a List of Titles

Tonight I have been browsing at using as my point of departure old issuses of Publisher's Weekly and American Literary Gazette from the early 1870s. When I saw a title that sounded promising, I would look to see if it was available at Google Books, and if it was, I put it on my list. Here is what caught my eye tonight.

The Prodigal Judge by Vaughan Kester
The Valiants of Virginia by Hallie Erminie Rives
What Can She Do? by Rev. E. P. Roe
Woven of Many Threads by Cecilia Viets Jamison
The Holcombes: A Story of Virginia Home-Life by Mary Tucker Magill
Newlyn House: The Home of the Davenports by A.E.W.
The Curate and the Rector by Elizabeth Strutt
The Pink and White Tyranny by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Old Margaret by Henry Kingsley

I am ever on the lookout for novels set in Virginia and, as can be seen, there are two on the above list. Of course I have no idea at this point whether I will enjoy reading any of the above, but it is great fun to browse and acquire books when there is no cost involved.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Best Sellers of 1862

Best Selling Books of 1862
As listed by Victorian Web

  • The Doctor's Family by Margaret Oliphant
  • The Last of the Mortimers by Margaret Oliphant
  • Ravenshoe by Henry Kingsley
  • Held in Bondage by Ouida
  • Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • A Strange Story by Bulwer-Lytton
  • The Lord Mayor of London by Harrison Ainsworth
  • Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope
  • No Name by Wilkie Collins

Victorian Web does not give the source for the best sellers lists it has put up. The reader will note that there is not a single American author on the list for 1862. This could be explained, perhaps, by the fact that the Civil War was raging in the US that year. Or does the word Victorian mean that only English authors and their books were considered for the list? I'm guessing this is the case, as there is no mention of Edith Wharton, W. D. Howells, or Henry James for any of the years (the lists range from 1862 to 1901).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book Review - Unleavened Bread

Unleavened Bread
by Robert Grant

The book overview of Robert Grant's Unleavened Bread at reports that Unleavened Bread was one of the best selling novels of 1900. Today it is all but forgotten, which is a shame, as it is very readable and captures the period well. The setting is a state in New England, city of Benham, with one part set in New York City. Selma White is a school teacher at the beginning of the book and has reached the conclusion that teaching is not how she wants to spend the rest of her life. She feels she is destined to play a larger role in life, and the book chronicles her aspirations and efforts to find and fill that larger role.

Selma uses marriage to project herself in life, riding the coattails of her husbands, one marriage ending in divorce and one in widowhood. She strives for acceptance both socially and intellectually and meets with both disappointment and success along the way.

This is one of those forgotten books that would almost certainly do well if republished today. The action begins in about the 1870s and gives a portrait of New England and New York society through the years following the Civil War from the perspective of the children of soldiers in that war. This is not a novel of Reconstruction as it is set in the north, but issues devolving from that war are a part of the atmosphere.

Unleavened Bread could be read as a northern counterpart to Ellen Glasgow's novel Virginia, set in Richmond at the same time period. The experiences of the two protagonists, Selma and Virginia, are very different, reflecting the roles of women in the north and the south in the post-Civil War years.

I'm not sure I understand the title. Unleavened bread is bread made without yeast or other leavening agents. It is flat, does not rise. Is this a reference to Selma's efforts to rise in society?

Also available at Project Gutenberg.

The Seance

I'm reading The Seance by John Harwood. By chance yesterday I stumbled across a book titled Modern Spiritualism Laid Bare by Dr. John Bourbon Wasson. Should be an interesting comparison.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bookmark - Framley Parsonage

From Framley Parsonage
by Anthony Trollope
Lord Lufton and Lucy Robarts
Click here for a printable version.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bookmark - Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope
Click here for a printable version.

Bookmark - Framley Parsonage

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
Lady Lufton and the Duke of Omnium
Click here for a printable version.

Anne of Green Gables - The Blythes Are Quoted

The Guardian Book Blog reports that the final volume in the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery is to be published by Penguin Canada in October 2009. Titled The Blythes Are Quoted, an abridged version was published in 1974, but this new edition will have the full text as LMM intended.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bookmark - 495 Broadway, New York City

495 Broadway
New York City

Grover & Baker Sewing-Machine Company

Click here for a pritable version.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009