Posts Tagged ‘1880s’

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The Miz Maze : or, the Winkworth puzzle ; a story in letters

November 24, 2013

So, I think The Miz Maze might be the best collaborative novel I’ve read. It was published in 1883, but seems to take place circa 1859, and the authors are as follows:

Frances Awdry
Mary Bramston
Christabel Rose Coleridge
Mary Susanna Lee
A.E. Mary Anderson Morshead
Frances Mary Peard
Eleanor C. Price
Florence Wilford
Charlotte Mary Yonge

Nine authors is a lot, and I want to know more about them and about the dynamic between them. But all I’ve got is the obvious textual evidence that they weren’t as acrimonious as The Whole Family‘s lot. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing but a page of signatures, a few Wikipedia pages, and a random selection of facts about Charlotte Yonge. And that’s okay. It’s a pretty self-sufficient book, I think, and the authors seem to agree.

The information they do and don’t choose to give is so interesting. First, the authors’ names appear only as facsimile signatures, and they don’t specify who wrote what. Second, they provide a list of characters, and it’s crazy. See, for example, “Sir Walter Winkworth, Baronet of the Miz Maze, Stokeworthy, Wilts, age about 64, residing, when the book opens, at High Scale, a small property in Westmoreland, which was his in right of his second wife, Sophia Ratclyffe, recently deceased.”

I mean, all else aside, that’s a hell of a lot of commas. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Mystery of a Turkish Bath

September 4, 2013

So, has anyone read anything by Rita, AKA E.M. Gollan, AKA Eliza Humphreys, etc.? Because I read The Mystery of a Turkish Bath over the weekend, and it’s super weird. It’s not actually a mystery story, really — the subject of the title is a woman — so much as a tangle of spa society and occultism. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Wired Love

July 30, 2013

A friend linked me yesterday to a blog post about Wired Love, an 1880 novel by Ella Cheever Thayer that seems to have been making the rounds of the tech blogs lately. And yes, its telegraph romance evokes internet romances of today, and yeah, if I had a tech blog I’d probably write about it too. But I have a blog on public domain popular fiction, and I’m writing about it for an entirely different reason: it’s delightful. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Short Story Series #1: The super obvious

June 14, 2012

Of all the English classes I ever had, my 7th grade one was the best. And part of it was that my teacher was great, and part of it was that I realized that grammar is equal parts fun and fascinating — although I realize I may be alone on that one — but probably the single biggest factor was that we had to write an essay on a short story each week. And I could talk a lot about how helpful it was to have to churn out essays and learn to construct an argument and stuff, but what I’m here to talk about today is how much I hated the short stories.

Middle School and High School English classes do a lot to instill in kids the idea that serious literature is super depressing, and short stories, which tend to be sort of single-minded in pursuit of an idea, make it worse — at least with novels, there’s usually time and space to put in a few scenes that will make you laugh, or, you know, offer sidelights on a character that give you hope that they have inner resources to draw on and won’t spend the rest of their lives completely miserable. If they live to the end of the story, that is.

I mean, there were bright spots: “The Speckled Band.” Dorothy Parker. Vocabulary lessons. But I came out of Middle School English with the conviction that all short stories were terrible and that I would hate them forever, with a grudging exception for detective stories.

Anyway, the point of this is that for a long time I really believed I hated short stories — until a couple of years ago when I realized that I was reading short stories all the time, and loving them. It was just that they were short story series, character-driven and funny instead of literary and depressing. These days I get really excited when an author I’ve been enjoying turns out to have a series of short stories or two. So this is the first in what I expect to be a extremely rambling series of posts about those, and how much fun they are — starting with the super obvious. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: Christmas Stories

December 14, 2011

It’s not as if I needed another reason to like Mary Jane Holmes, but I’m grateful to her for creating the need for this subject line, which may be my favorite ever.

I wish she had a better grasp of her subject matter, though.  I’m not talking about stories like “Adam Floyd,” a straightforward but tense religious romance, or “John Logan,” a fairly cute story of a young couple renovating their house that could do with some more hijinks. I don’t know that I’m even talking about “Red-Bird,” the story of a Floridian bird who, after being captured and caged for a year, returns home to find that her family and friends have moved on with their lives. There was a bit of Christmas in that one, but I don’t know if it’s meant to  be a Christmas story — and that’s kind of the problem with the ones that are meant to be Christmas stories. It seems a little bit as if Holmes, when she said “Christmas stories,” meant “stories with Christmas in them,” which isn’t the same thing at all. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: The Birds’ Christmas Carol

December 9, 2010

It’s Christmas story time again! I started, as has become my tradition, with The Romance of a Christmas Card, by Kate Douglas Wiggin. It continues to be wonderful.

I thought I’d continue on with Wiggin for a bit, so the next thing I read was an earlier Christmas story of hers, The Birds’ Christmas Carol, which is a delightful combination of making fun of poor people and glorifying childhood illness. And by “delightful”, I mean “unpleasant and a little bit disturbing.” Read the rest of this entry ?

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He Fell in Love with His Wife

April 26, 2010

For some reason I’ve always had a thing for stories where people get married for practical reasons and end up falling in love with each other. So when I came across Edward Payson Roe’s He Fell in Love with His Wife, I had to read it. It’s a pretty silly title, though, and I expected the book to be just like that: melodramatic and silly. But it wasn’t. Actually, I think it might be pretty good. Read the rest of this entry ?

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