In which I read one of the few triple-deckers on my list and encounter kids who narrowly avoid drowning.
- Sophia Crawford, The Story of a Nun, 3 vols. (Newby, 1855). To give you an idea of just how vapid this novel is: I read all 840 pages of it in 3 hours. Now, I read quickly--which is a useful skill for a Victorianist--but usually not quite that quickly. In any event, the novel features three marriage plots that go awry, due to parental disapproval and/or Roman Catholicism. This despite the title, which suggests that there will be only one plot. There are also many eye-popping coincidences that strain even the providential theory of Victorian narrative, not least of which is when the eponymous nun, Teresa Clifford, winds up as governess in the household of the Man She Once Loved. (The man reunited with his Long-Lost Love on his Ruined Estate is another good one, though.) Although there's an unpleasant Abbess, the novel is actually rather low-key about the Horrors of Convent Life; I was puzzled by the pleasant Jesuit Father Ignatius, who seemed awfully warm-hearted, but then he showed up in the end as a Protestant convert, which explained everything. (Nice people don't remain Catholic, y'see.) As per the usual, characters read the Bible and magically convert to Protestantism. The real shocker turns out to be the murderous nurse, to whom nothing happens, except that she dies. Everyone else lives happily ever after. BODY COUNT: Three (the nurse, a child, and an inconvenient wife).
- J. C. von Schmid, The Christian Warrior (Hislop, n.d.). English translation of an early church tale by this popular German author. Von Schmid was Catholic, but as there's little in the way of anything a Protestant might find objectionable here, aside from some miraculous visions of Christ, the book apparently passed muster. A Roman soldier, Placidus, and his wife and family convert to Christianity. In Job-like fashion, really bad stuff happens, climaxing with the wife sold into slavery and the children abducted by a lion and a leopard (as is so commonly the case). Many years later, Placidus, now Eustace, is called back into battle against the Parthians, and succeeds gloriously; better still, he is reunited with his wife! And his kids! They all compare notes about how the most mundane actions should remind us of higher Christian truths. And then, in the last few pages, Eustace ticks off the Emperor Adrian, who first throws them to the lions (which doesn't work) and then burns them alive (which does). The sudden segue from Hey It's A Happy Ending to If by Happy You Mean They're Dead and in Heaven is rather typical of Victorian Catholic fiction. BODY COUNT: Five (the whole family plus a nasty ship's captain).
- Mrs. H. B. Paull, Breaking the Rules: A Tale of School-Boy Life (Sunday School Union, n.d.). A mini Tom Brown's Schooldays, featuring cricket, Greek, Latin, saintly little kids, and a nasty bully named Turner. The main action involves Turner sneaking out on a boat with some other kids; it overturns, one kid is almost drowned, and Turner becomes seriously ill. He repents, undergoes Christian conversion, and lives happily ever after. The near-drowning suggests both the Flood (washing away all the Evil People) and baptism. BODY COUNT: Zero.
- Jas. H. Brown, Brothers at Last: A Tale of Nolnuggur School (London Mission, Berhamiore Book Depot, c. 1902). A mini Tom Brown's Schooldays, featuring cricket, saintly little kids, and a nasty bully named Keshub (no Greek or Latin, though). Amazingly, it also has a near-identical near-drowning plot: this time, Keshub is rescued by one of the boys he had been bullying, then becomes ill, undergoes conversion &c. As the title suggests, the novel is set in an Indian school modeled on an English public school; the author also moves the time ahead to 1915, after a supposed wave of Christian conversions has swept the country (I believe that counts as "wishful thinking"). BODY COUNT: Zero.