Monday, June 29, 2009

NY Times Review of The Builders

I have begun reading another Ellen Glasgow novel, The Builders, published in 1919. It was reviewed in the New York Times on November 2, 1919 in an article which also reviewed Jeremy by Hugh Walpole, Two Men by Alfred Ollivant, and several other novels, mostly long forgotten.

The Builders promises to be very good. Glasgow, although a relatively obscure novelist in today's world, has given the world throughout the whole of her work a fascinating social chronicle of Virginia.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bookmarks - George du Maurier Illustrations

From Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Illustrations by George du Maurier
Cornhill Magazine
Click here for printable versions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bookmark - An Old Song

From Madame de Monferrato
Cornhill Magazine, Vol X, 1864
Click here for a printable version.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bookmark - The Library

From The Book Hunter
by John Hill Burton, published in 1883
Click here for a printable version.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Elinor's Baby

One of the charms of The Marriage of Elinor by Margaret Oliphant are the scenes depicting Elinor and her baby and the reaction of John Tatham to the sight of the two together. Mrs. Oliphant has a wonderful way of letting the reader into the mind of John, who first thinks of the baby as "it". John's feelings are at first hostile to this child, but Mrs. Oliphant shows how his feelings change as he sees the beauty of the mother-child interaction in scenes that seem to me to be verbal images depicting the Madonna and child.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Voice of the People by Ellen Glasgow

The New York Times for April 21, 1900 published a review of Ellen Glasgow's novel The Voice of the people.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Literary Women

A New York Times article titled "Women and Literature: Work with Brain and Pen Does Not Unfit Them for Duty as Wives and Mothers. Mrs. Jellyby Not a Type", published on November 7, 1898 discusses several female writers of the 19th century. Among the writers included for discussion of their feminine accomplishments are Harriet Martineau, George Eliot, Margaret Oliphant, Charlotte Bronte, George Sand, Madame de Stael, Helen Hunt, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Jane Austen.

Mrs. Jellyby, a character in Dickens' Bleak House, is mentioned as having become a stereotype for literary women in the minds of the public, even though she was a philanthropist rather than a writer. Unkempt, ignoring the needs of her family, Mrs. Jellyby was not an appealing woman for the 19th century public, and her image is said to have tarnished the reputation of many a literary woman.

An article worth reading.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Best Sellers of Long Ago"

I am always interested in lists of best sellers to see if what was popular in, say, 1880 is still read today. Along that line is a New York Times article from November 1920 titled "Best Sellers of Long Ago" by Brander Matthews.

The Joys of Browsing

I am still reading The Marriage of Elinor by Margaret Oliphant. It is a very good book, one of her best. I have now read almost half. Elinor is married, and her mother is beginning to become aware that there is some discord in the marriage. This is a wonderful portrait of a mother/daughter relationship, the love and warmth they share, the concerns of both in trying to spare the other; and the wringing of the mother's heart as she watches her daughter's struggles.

In these days of economic uncertainty I have had to give up browsing in bookstores, for the temptation to spend money on books is strong. To replace this I have turned to browsing in Google books, and I have found the pleasure to be just as great, if not greater, for the books at Google are free. There is no adding up the cost of books that I want, putting some back on the shelves as too expensive. I just download what I want at will. Of course this joy of free downloads is available to me because my great literary love is for 19th century literature.

Having a Sony PRS-505 makes reading these downloads easier than reading them on the computer. I would love to have a Kindle DX, for then I could read the books as they were published, reading the pdf images. I can do that with the Sony, as well, but "turning" the pdf pages on the Sony with the current software involves an annoying lag. I have learned to time pushing the page turn button so as to avoid the lag, but doing away with the lag altogether would be best.

I count my blessings, though, grateful to have the Sony reader and all the wonderful books available at Google.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Marriage of Elinor

The Marriage of Elinor
by Margaret Oliphant
First published in 1891

A great boon to those of us who love 19th century literature is the ability to download and read books long out of print and available previously only through used book dealers at prices often out of range of my budget. The Marriage of Elinor is a case in point. One of Mrs. Oliphant's finest works, this book is available at Project Gutenberg, Munsey's and Google Books.

Elinor Dennistoun is engaged to the Honorable Phil Compton or, as her second cousin John Tatham thinks of him, the dis-Honorable Phil Compton. Elinor has been told of Compton's reputation, but in her naivete she cannot see the truth, even when he persuades her to provide him with an alibi for a time when certain financial records disappeared from a business with which he was involved.

I have read somewhere around a quarter of this book and only wish I had more time to read. I think I can anticipate the plot, but the pleasure of reading this book comes not from the plot but from the character development.

For those who enjoy the books of Anthony Trollope, I recommend The Marriage of Elinor.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Here we are, then."

I am transcribing another of Mrs. Oliphant's stories of the seen and the unseen, "The Lady's Walk". This morning I came upon the following:

'"Here we are, then." It was a curious phrase; but there are some odd idioms in the Scotch language, and I had become accustomed now to accept them without remark.'

Now this struck me as odd, because the phrase "here we are, then" doesn't seem curious to me at all. Is this word usage typical of Scotland? Is the fact that it does not sound curious to me a reflection of language patterns which came to the U.S. with Scottish immigrants?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Trial for Murder by Charles Dickens

Trial for Murder by Charles Dickens is a ghost story with an unusual twist in which the ghost of the murder victim works to influence the outcome his murderer's trial. A very good read. Available for Kindle at