Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bookmark Links

I have discovered that the bookmark links don't work - pdf documents uploaded to Google documents are not accessible to all, for some reason I don't understand. Clicking on the image of the bookmark in the post will take you to a larger version of the image, but I'm not sure it's an appropriate size. I had been sizing the bookmarks to be 2 inchs by 6 inches. If you would like to have the pdf page for any bookmark published here emailed to you, just email me at

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bookmark - Bronte Waterfall

The Bronte Waterfall
Visited by Charlotte and Arthur Nicholls on November 29, 1854.

Clicking on this link will take you to a page with a bookmark-sized image which you can print

The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

I'm reading The House Next Door by Anne River Siddons, copyright 1978. This is not a ghost story, and I would not call it a haunted house story. Rather it seems to be the land that the house is built on is haunted or soaked in evil of some sort.

A new house is built on a lot that had been vacant for years, labeled unbuildable by architects. A brilliant young architect designs a beautiful house that is built on this lot in an Atlanta suburb. The trouble begins with the groundbreaking.

I'm still reading, and I don't want to give away the plot. I will say, however, that this is a compelling read.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lilly and the Thorn

I'm reading "Lily and the Thorn" by Margaret Oliphant on my Sony PRS-505 ebook reader. Lily is one of the stories in a volume titled The Widow's Tale, a free download to the reader through Sony's ebook store. It is also available at in PDF format. The version downloaded through the Sony store is the text version created by OCR.

First published in 1880 in Fraser's Magazine, the action is set in a village called Overbeck. Elizabeth Murray is a widowed mother of three: Abel, Lily and Dick. Elizabeth finds a way to send Abel off for a fine education and then doesn't hear from him for years. Dick is a solid, hard working boy who helps his mother with her chickens and crops. Lily is apprenticed to the village seamstress.

Living away from her mother, the beautiful Lily attracts the attention of two young men of good family in the area, Roger Ridley and Sir Richard Featherstonhaugh. Sir Richard is betrothed to Roger's sister, Mary, and Roger takes umbrage at Sir Richard's attentions to Lily both out of jealousy born of his feelings for Lily and outrage of Sir Richard's treatment of Mary.

Elizabeth Murray, the mother, is the most interesting character in the story to the point I have reached. She is proud, hard working, sacrificing her own needs for those of her children, making excuses for Abel's neglect of his family. Her past is a mystery, and there is a suggestion that she has gypsy blood.

The Lily of the title is clearly Lily Murray. I'm not sure yet who the thorn is. Abel would seem to be a good candidate. He has returned to Overbeck without letting his mother and siblings know. He has been gone from home so long that they don't recognize him when they see him in the street. Another candidate for the thorn of the title is, of course, Sir Richard. He is betrothed to the charming Mary, an alliance of the two major families; but he lets his attention wander to the beautiful Lily.

Trouble is brewing, I can tell. Lily is accepting the attentions of both Roger and Sir Richard, despite warnings from her mother of the danger in so doing. Roger wants to marry Lily, but the practical Elizabeth understands such an alliance will never be sanctioned by his father. There are hints that Elizabeth had a similar experience in her past.

I find Mrs. Oliphant's work entertaining. I rejoice in the availability of her work through Google books. So much of her work is out of print that it has in the past been difficult to read broadly through her productions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Little Stranger - Review link

The Little Stranger was reviewed in The Washington Post by Ron Charles. Charles mentions Henry James' Turn of the Screw in his review. I'm still waiting for some reviewer to delve into an explanation of the title, which intrigued me when I first heard about the book. I knew the term "little stranger" to have been used in Victorian times to refer to an unborn child, and I was curious to see if the book's title was related to that usage. In an earlier post I reported the page on which the title is explained in the American edition. I am puzzled that I have not seen any discussion of the title of this wonderful book.

Bookmark - Edinburgh - St. Giles

St. Giles from the Lawn Market

Clicking on this link will take you to a page with a bookmark-sized image which you can print.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bookmark - Margaret Oliphant

Margaret Oliphant

Clicking on this link will take you to a page with a bookmark-sized image which you can print.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bookmark - Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray

Clicking on this link will take you to a page with a bookmark-sized image which you can print.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hannah's House

Hannah's House
By Joyce Allen
Wolf's Pond Press, 2008
ISBN 978-0-9702249-5-8

Hannah's House is a story of parallel lives, a tale in which the life experiences of Hannah Davis in the past resonate in the life of Iris Layton. "I see now, as I did not when I was younger, how lives may be joined to each other by place and by hope as well as by blood," Hannah had written in her recounting of her life, which occupies a large portion of the book, and this is the theme that comes through in the telling of these two life stories.

This is not a ghost story. It is a story of two women, separated by more than a century, whose face life's trials and tribulations with a courage born of internal strength arising from a solitude of spirit. They are joined by place in that Iris's new house is built on the land where Hannah's house had stood. Iris uncovers the site of Hannah's house, clearing away foliage and debris covering the stone foundation, all that is left after Hannah's house was destroyed by fire on Halloween night 1892. Iris knows Hannah's name from a carving in one of the foundation stones, and she hears bits and pieces about Hannah's life from an elderly neighbor who had heard stories about Hannah when he was growing up. Iris feels a very strong connection to Hannah through touching the foundation stones and in the bits and pieces, such as a daguerreotype and a piece of broken pottery she discovers.

In telling the life stories of Hannah and Iris, women whose external lives were very different, the author explores themes of marriage and romantic relationships, the special strengths of women, and the challenges only women face in their lives.

This book will appeal to readers who feel drawn to old houses and the memories that are embedded in them.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dare's Gift

Dare's Gift is a powerful work of haunting and betrayal, a haunted house story by Virginia author Ellen Glasgow first published in 1917. Steeped in the history of the James River area of Virginia, the Civil War and the Confederacy, this story focuses on a haunted house and betrayal. It is available for Kindle at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy

Please note: The links to the etext version of Family Happiness in this blog entry will no longer work once Geocities is shut down.

Family Happiness was first published in 1859, and it marks one of the first of Tolstoy's fictional explorations of the theme of family happiness. It is autobiographical to a large extent and was written after his engagement to his ward was broken off. It explores what might have happened had the marriage taken place.

Tolstoy searched for family happiness his entire life. He did not know it in its complete form as a child as his mother died when he was about 18 months old and his father when he was nine. After his father's death, little Leo and his three brothers and sister were shifted around among other relatives. First his paternal grandmother had guardianship of the children, but she too died 11 months after his father's death. Guardianship then passed to a paternal aunt, who also died. There was then a custody battle between another paternal aunt and a paternal cousin (the model for Sonya in War and Peace) with the paternal aunt winning.

None of the five children ever found family happiness in their adult lives.

Tolstoy was obsessed with trying to understand what family happiness consists of and how to achieve it. This obsession is evident in the fictional marriages he portrayed in War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Kreutzer Sonata, and The Devil. Some believe that Tolstoy did achieve family happiness in the early years of his marriage, but I would argue that the relationship between husband and wife was volatile from the beginning, disintegrating over the years until his celebrated flight from home ending in his death from pneumonia in 1910.

So I offer up this uncorrected version of Family Happiness for all to read. It is with sadness that I report that Geocities will soon cease to exist, meaning the end of my efforts to make Tolstoy's work available to all at no cost.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Little Stranger - The End

I have finished reading Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger. It is an excellent book on many levels, and I give it 5 of 5 stars.

Now back to Hannah's House.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Little Stranger - Title Explained

For an understanding of the title of The Little Stranger, see page 353, the bottom of the page, of the American edition.

Frederic Myers Mentioned in The Little Stranger

Frederic Myers was a 19th century psychologist and author of Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death. Myers and his work are mentioned at least twice in Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger. For those who are interested, has several editions of this work available for download in pdf format, and I have included a link to one here. A quick search of the name Frederic Myers at Google books showed that William James wrote about him, although I did not look yet to see what James had to say.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sarah Waters on The Franchise Affair

The following is from a Reading Guide to the Little Stranger at The interview with Sarah Waters also addresses where the name of Hundreds Hall comes from.

Q. Were there any particular works of literature that influenced you as you wrote this book?

I read lots of post-war British novels as part of my research, and I was struck by how many of them are preoccupied with the social changes of the day, even if on the surface they are quite other sorts of books - crime novels or romances or stories of family life. Two writers who had a particular influence on me are Angela Thirkell and Josephine Tey. Thirkell wrote a long series of novels based in the fictional county of Barsetshire: they’re effectively mild social comedies, a sort of super-light Jane Austen, insanely readable and engaging – but also ferociously snobbish. With The Little Stranger, I wanted to take on that cosy, bigoted British landscape and, by injecting something dark and dangerous into it, sort of watch it self-destruct… Jospehine Tey was a crime writer – again, amazingly readable and a great story-teller, but thoroughly conservative. My starting-point for The Little Stranger was her 1948 novel The Franchise Affair, in which a working-class teenage girl accuses a reclusive middle-class mother and daughter of having abducted and imprisoned her. It’s a brilliant novel in a way, but it’s marred by Tey’s inability to shake off the prejudices of her day. I tried to address some of the issues it raises by telling a different sort of story in a similar setting – and so The Little Stranger itself is a kind of haunted house, with faint echoes of Tey’s book in the text, alongside the echoes of more obviously gothic writers like Dickens, du Maurier, and Edgar Allan Poe.

The Little Stranger and The Franchise Affair

I just read a post at that suggests that inspiration for Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger came from a 1948 book called The Franchise Affair by Elizabeth Mackintosh writing as Jospehine Tey. I must look into this. As I am transcribing Dare's Gift by Ellen Glasgow I am struck by similarities between it and The Little Stranger.

The Little Stranger - halfway through

In between all the chores of the weekend, I have managed to read about half of Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger, wishing I had time to just read it straight through without interruption. I'm wondering about the title - why is it called The Little Stranger? In Victorian times that phrase was used to refer, I think, to an unborn baby. I'm also wondering about the origin of the name of the manor house, Hundreds Hall. How did it come by that name?

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Little Stranger

My copy of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters arrived from yesterday, and I immediately began reading it. It is a compelling read. This is just a brief entry to note that mention is made on page 65 of a house I've seen in Richmond, Virginia. In the book, a family has just bought an old manor house called Standish, and Caroline Ayres says, ". . . or maybe they'll sell the house to the Americans. They'll ship it over and have it rebuilt like they did with Warwick Priory."

Warwick Priory was disassembled, shipped over to the U.S. and rebuilt in Richmond. I have visited it and photographed it and will now post one of those photos. It is now known as Virginia House. To read about its history, click here.