Novel 082: Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick, Cynthia's Way

 
Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Lady

Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Lady

 

A rich Englishwoman, bored with offers of marriage, takes a job as a governess in Germany.


Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick (née Cecily Ullman) (1852-1934), born into a German-Jewish family, married an English philosophy professor and  wrote some 46 novels beginning in 1889.  This one finds humor in the cultural differences between the English protagonist and the German family for which she works.

“A pleasant story of modern life—a welcome story, for youth and happiness sparkle through its pages.” Academy, November 9, 1901

“Mrs. Sidgwick, with rare keenness of vision, has seen below the surface ugliness of German existence, and has understood many things which the prejudiced refuse to acknowledge." Bookman, December, 1901

“The charm of the book is to be found in the descriptions of German home life, and particularly in the doings and sayings of the children, who are real living youngsters.  This makes it wholesome, charming, and entertaining.” San Francisco Chronicle, February 15, 1902

Download this week’s book:

https://archive.org/details/cynthiasway00sidggoog

Crossword 081: Prepositional Profusion, Part 1

 
Edward John Poynter, Diana and Endymion

Edward John Poynter, Diana and Endymion

 

We approach another summer solstice, and so it’s time for another series.  Last year, as you may fondly recall, I gave you six puzzles called "It's Magic," six recommendations of novels by the Trollope family, and six Victorian fairy paintings.  This year (having learned moderation in the meantime), I'll give you four puzzles called "Prepositional Profusion," four novels with titles that include the name "Cynthia," and four paintings featuring the goddess of the moon, alternating with four paintings of women by Sir Francis Grant, President of the Royal Academy, 1866-1878.  Why?  Because I happen to have made four puzzles called "Prepositional Profusion," and because my beloved wife's name is Cynthia, and because I like paintings of women by Sir Francis Grant.


Novel 081: James Payn, The Canon's Ward (1884)

 
Marcus Stone, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Marcus Stone, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

 

A young lady's secret is used to her disadvantage by an unscrupulous young man.


Here is another novel by James Payn (see Post 11), with an excellent plot featuring some delightfully scoundrelly scoundrels.

“Mr. Payn has here made a capital and original study of a villain…. the construction is excellent, strong situations abounding, and ... nevertheless, the characters are developed with the utmost truthfulness.  The novel abounds with clever remark and sub-ironical reflection; but Mr. Payn, though sometimes he indulges in very smart sentences, is never really cynical or cruel:  there is a genial light shining over it all.” British Quarterly Review, April, 1884

“The actors in it are, for the most part, really pleasant and agreeable; the scenes are, with important exceptions, natural and homelike; there is a domestic tone about the book, and family affection has full play.” Spectator, April 12, 1884

It “does not amount to much as a story, although the interest does not flag; but it is full of the quiet wit which has been so enjoyable in all his other stories, and the terse characterization which gives us the man or the woman in a single sentence.” The Critic and Good Literature, May 10, 1884

Download this week’s novel:

v.1 https://archive.org/details/canonsward01payn/

v. 2 https://archive.org/details/canonsward02payn/

v.3 https://archive.org/details/canonsward03payn/

Novel 080: Mrs. Henry Chetwynd, Three Hundred a Year (1866)

 
Sir Francis Grant, Mary Isabella Grant Knitting a Shawl

Sir Francis Grant, Mary Isabella Grant Knitting a Shawl

 

A young couple, raised in luxury, tries to live on a limited income; then other things happen.


Mrs. Henry Chetwynd (née Julie Bosville Davidson) (1828–1901) wrote over a dozen novels, of which this was the first.  The title applies only to the opening situation, after which the plot takes  some weirdly abrupt turns.   Several of the characters are striking creations.

“This is a well-sustained and pleasant story, and the latter part of it abounds in humorous scenes and sketches of character”; the author “has a natural way of relating her story, and she is clever in contriving those little complications which prevent a love-tale from sinking into maudlin sentimentality.” Athenaeum, May 26, 1866.

Download this week’s novel:

v.1 https://archive.org/details/threehundredyear01chet

v.2 https://archive.org/details/threehundredyear02chet

Novel 079: Frances Milton Trollope, Petticoat Government (1850)

 
John Ballantyne, William Powell Frith Painting the Princess of Wales

John Ballantyne, William Powell Frith Painting the Princess of Wales

 

Two maiden aunts compete for the guardianship of their orphaned niece.


The title is misleading: the book has nothing to do with women’s political ambitions.  Rather, it’s another example (see Post 029), from rather late in her career, of the bright and vivid social comedy at which Frances Milton Trollope excelled.

“This is a novel rich in all the attractions” that novels provide:  “First, character skilfully painted and boldly relieved... Next...abundance of incident, much varied, and always catching attention.  In the third place, a story progressively engaging our sympathies...and at last wound up in to a very ingeniously complicated plot.” Standard, August 9, 1850

 “Mrs. Trollope appears in this novel to have recalled the most vigorous days of her genius.” Critic, August 15, 1850.

Download this week’s novel:

v.1 https://archive.org/details/petticoatgovernm01trolrich

v. 2 https://archive.org/details/petticoatgovernm02trolrich

v.3 https://archive.org/details/petticoatgovernm03trolrich

Crossword 078: Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside

 
William Holman Hunt, The Awakening Conscience

William Holman Hunt, The Awakening Conscience

 

A common motif in theater (the Pierrot of commedia dell'arte and his many literary heirs), in opera ("Vesti la giubba"), in song ("The Tears of a Clown," “I’m a Loser”), in sad clown paintings—a motif that no doubt reflects a universal and enduring human feeling—receives here a moving crossword treatment.



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A puzzle of mine will appear Thursday, May 23, in the Wall Street Journal.

Crossword 076: Hydration

 
Gustave Moreau, Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra.jpg
 

Gustave Moreau, Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra


I was planning a large puzzle based on the twelve labors of Hercules.  I was going to make the labors turn corners so that they’d seem extra laborious (crossword answers that turn corners are really hot these days). I had fit in "Nemean," "Lernaean," "Ceryneian," "Erymanthian," and "Augean," all very neatly—but "Stymphalian" defeated me. Oh well—here’s this instead.


Download this week’s crossword:

076-Hydration.puz

076-Hydration.pdf


Pointing Hand.png

A puzzle of mine will appear tomorrow, Sunday, May 5, in The Los Angeles Times (and The Chicago Tribune, The Houston Chronicle, The San Francisco Chronicle, etc.)




Novel 075: Percy White, The Grip of the Bookmaker (1901)

 
John William Waterhouse, The Flowerpicker

John William Waterhouse, The Flowerpicker

 

A retired bookie feuds with an aristocratic colonel whose daughter attracts his genteelly educated son.


Percy White (1852-1938) wrote some 30 novels between 1893 and 1914, many, like this one, clever social comedies set in London.

White’s muse “is at her best when inspiring her author with lively scenes about social London, and providing him with scalpel and knife to dissect the heart of some worldly old sinner.” This is “a very clever study of a retired racing man...both amusing and brightly written.  Perhaps on the whole the adjective ‘sparkling’ is the one that fits best.” Spectator, July 27, 1901

“Frivolous, amusing, and well written.” Academy, August 24, 1901

Download this week’s novel:

https://archive.org/details/gripbookmakerCorrected

Novel 074: Ellen Wallace, Beyminstre (1856)

 
William Powell Frith, The Fair Toxophilites

William Powell Frith, The Fair Toxophilites

 

A virtuous young lady loves a proud man.


Ellen Wallace (1816-1894) wrote seven novels beginning in 1840, of which this was the last. Its silly central plot conflict is kept mercifully in the background, allowing for a thoroughly entertaining display of its many and various settings and characters.

“The novel reminds us, in many respects, of Madame D’Arblay’s Cecilia … in the felicitous delineations of character, the accurate descriptions of varied habits of life, and the skilful management of the dialogues… The conduct of the story is excellent.” Saturday Review, April 12, 1856

The novel “is pleasant for the archness and good humour which are its predominating characters.” Examiner, April 26, 1856

“This is a book we can cordially recommend to such of our readers as may be in search of a good novel:—it is clever and interesting, the two cardinal virtues of a novel.” Athenaeum, April 26, 1856

Download this week’s novel:

v.1 https://archive.org/details/beyminstre01wall

v.2 https://archive.org/details/beyminstre02wall

v.3 https://archive.org/details/beyminstre03wall



Novel 073: Bithia Mary Croker, Pretty Miss Neville (1883)

 
George Elgar Hicks, Home From School

George Elgar Hicks, Home From School

 

An Irish girl grows up and goes to India.


This is the second of Croker’s fifty-some novels (the other of her novels I’ve recommended, 013, was approximately her thirtieth).  Its first volume, describing its narrator’s Irish childhood, is especially engaging.

“Altogether this is an attractive and brightly written story, above the average of its class not only by its conception and execution, but also, and particularly, by the graceful manner of its narration.” Athenaeum, May 12, 1883

“On the whole, we prefer the Irish scenes, to the Indian; but both are described with much liveliness, and make sufficiently good reading…. Some of her characters ... are very pleasantly drawn.” Spectator, July 23, 1883

“The story embraces a considerable range of incident; ... there is not a dull page ... from the beginning to the end.” Saturday Review, September 29, 1883

Download this week’s novel:

v.1 https://archive.org/details/prettymissnevil02crokgoog

v.2 https://archive.org/details/prettymissnevil01crokgoog

v.3 https://archive.org/details/prettymissnevil00crokgoog