I picked up my books, sat down at my desk, and opened the first volume--whereupon I was confronted with "Death!" "It's too early in the morning for this," I sighed, only to remember that I had read about the moral dangers of procrastination just yesterday. Other than that, today was Anglicans, one Catholic, and somebody trying to do something resembling humor.
- Rev. William Gray, God's Work and How to Do It: A Tale Illustrating the Happy Results of Confirmation (Nisbet, 1874). Anglican novel (er, "novel"). The primary content is ten chapters of the heroine preparing her class for Confirmation, which the novelist only tangentially connects to the plot. Said plot includes parents being converted to Christianity after going bankrupt and then being rewarded with more money, and Jane rejecting an Anglo-Catholic clergyman in favor of a more appropriately Protestant suitor (whose affections are not delineated with anything resembling conviction). Besides the lectures, the novel is notable for making Jane the arbiter of Anglican orthodoxy, running roughshod over our Anglo-Catholic clergyman (clearly roaming to Rome). BODY COUNT: Zero.
- Rev. Arthur Brown, The Redeemed Captive: A Tale of Ingham Priory (Simpkin, Marshall, 1875). Another Anglican novel, set in the aftermath of the Crusades. Young Cicely (of mysterious parentage) is convinced that the Saracens ought to be converted instead of murdered, a conviction that she doesn't appear to share with anyone. That includes her father, the "redeemed captive" of the title, who returns home to discover that his brother has absconded with his property. Alas, Dad never forgives his captors, which may make his afterlife less comfortable than he anticipates. Brown appears to have written this novel in support of missions to Islamic countries; the novel's attitudes (pro-conversion, anti-physical oppression) overlap with contemporary philosemitic arguments. BODY COUNT: One.
- A Nice Young Curate's Doings (John Heywood, n.d.). A quasi-Hogarthian satire of the effects of poverty on the clerical profession (hint: they aren't good). Our somewhat odd-looking hero, Binstead, suffers a veritable surfeit of comic mishaps, ranging from missing his train to falling into the river, on his way to preferment. Despite some occasional success as a curate, his finances implode under the stress of five children (he's one of thirteen, himself), and he ultimately winds up taking a series of bizarre jobs, failing at all of them, before sinking down into the position of clerk. The novel pokes fun at self-interested conversion narratives along the way. The cover features a pullquote from Gladstone praising the novel, which we will have to take on faith. BODY COUNT: One (Binstead's wife).
- C. M. Home, The Thanes of Kent (Catholic Truth Society, n.d.). Catholic historical novel about a perennial sore spot for evangelicals--St. Augustine's (this one, not that one) mission to Canterbury in 597. For evangelicals, Augustine's mission frequently symbolized Romish interference in a home-grown, uniquely British form of Christianity; for High(er) churchmen and Catholics, Augustine was responsible for both jump-starting and stabilizing the Church in England. Needless to say, this novel is all "yay, Augustine!" When it's not cheering Augustine, the novel relates how Siegfrid, a grumpy Saxon, converts to Christianity and wins the hand of Lady Eanswythe, despite being framed for the murder of his rival, Athelstan. Unfortunately, Baldred the eeeeevil pagan priest is plotting to Destroy Christianity and Return England to the Old Gods, which obviously doesn't happen. BODY COUNT: Four (all the bad guys).