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!