Today's somewhat unexpected theme was "LP vs. the Blitz," as one book after another came back "item is destroyed." As a result, I spent rather more time than usual calling up book after book on my list in hopes of getting something still extant upon the planet. In any event, I did manage to read a few shorter texts and start a slightly longer novel; tomorrow, I've got a triple-decker on my plate.
- William Carus Wilson, Child's First Tales: Chiefly in Words of One Syllable, for the Use of Infant Schools and Little Children in General (Kirby Lonsdale, c. 1829). It's Charlotte Bronte's Mr. Brocklehurst! And in print, he's almost as bad as Bronte represents him! (She leaves out the abolitionism, though, which is a point in his favor.) Most of these stories are monitory texts that warn you not to disobey your parents and/or God, lest YOU DIE. (Throw a tantrum? YOU DIE. Steal a pony cart? YOU DIE. Tease prophets? YOU DIE. Etc.) Wilson apparently had a bee in his bonnet about drowning in ponds and tormenting flies, as they both make two appearances. (To be fair, there are also some perfectly upbeat tales about enjoying nature, playing with kites, and so on.) The tales are organized as part of an argument, so that, for example, we shift from "the church" (yay) to "the gaol" (boo), from good children to bad, and so on; there's also an entire cluster of stories devoted to encouraging missionary work, and the final text is a call to prayer, which makes sense. You can see part of the volume I was reading here.
- Rev. J. Johns, Good Out of Evil: A Tale of a Cellar (Christian Tract Society, 1838). Dissenting tract about a Methodist family who, balked in their plans to emigrate to the USA, wind up in Liverpool, where they live in (yes) a cellar. After they run out of money and Dad becomes a drunk, they are finally given a helping hand by a nice Dissenting minister and his wife, who teach them proper economy--and, of course, the virtues of temperance. Eventually, they get a nice business going, although not before the virtuous daughter dies (at length) and is translated upstairs.
- Mrs. Bowles, John Harding: A Tale of a Churchgoing Christian. From Real Life (Rivington, 1833). From Dissent to Anglicanism. An upright working-class Christian demonstrates the values of thrift (and with fourteen kids, he'd better...) and trust in divine providence, even when sneaky lawyers steal your capital. Fortunately, the benevolent squire helps him out. Rather a lot of "aren't the rich awesome?!" going on here. Concludes by cocking a snook at dishonest Dissenters, who steal Anglican congregations by lying about the health of their clergymen. (This last bit has nothing to do with the plot, and makes one think that Mrs. Bowles was, perhaps, settling some kind of score.) Except for the dishonest Dissenter, the main characters remain alive, which is pretty astonishing when you think about it.
- The Hall and the Hovel; Or, the Unequal Yoke (American Sunday-School Union, n.d.). Also known in the UK with the subtitle Christian Marriage, although I wasn't able to see that volume. A wealthy skeptic marries a devout Christian woman; fortunately the devout woman dies (at length; again), along with their child, which leads to his salvation. In turn, this enables him to convert a woman unable to reconcile herself to God's will, which involved the deaths of all her children and her own disabling disease. The moral of the story is DON'T MARRY UNBELIEVERS, BECAUSE YOU CAN ONLY SAVE THEM BY DYING.
- Samuel George Cotton, Ellen Dalton; Or, the Sunday School (Samuel B. Oldham, 1851). An Irish Protestant tale. Until her late teens, Ellen is an ideal Sunday School student. But then she becomes interested in clothes! And boys! Catholic boys! And runs off with one, who marries her--but not really! Before her abandons her once she becomes pregnant! Fortunately, just when she's about to commit suicide, she runs into her former Sunday School teacher, who brings her back home and enables her to reconcile with her angry father. Then, after giving birth she--wait for it--dies (at length; once more). It's a female version of the parable of the Prodigal Son, stripped of the social critique that Elizabeth Gaskell brought to the same theme in "Lizzie Leigh."