Novel 085: Leslie Keith, Cynthia's Brother (1901)

 
Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of Miss Grant, the Artist’s Daughter

Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of Miss Grant, the Artist’s Daughter

 

A motherless girl adores her demanding older brother.


Grace L. Keith Johnston (1843-1929) wrote over forty works of fiction between 1878 and 1907 under the name Leslie Keith.  This novel, published by the Religious Tract Society after serialization in The Girls’ Own Paper, and therefore, one assumes, morally  and spiritually unobjectionable, is also quite good on the purely literary grounds of style, plot, and characterization.

“‘Leslie Keith’ give us some really good and subtle studies of character in this story.…  The last chapter, in particular, is an excellent bit of work.” Referring to didactic novels for the youth market, the reviewer continues, “There is a great amount of literary ability expended in the production of these books.  The good ones among them—and these are far more numerous than most people would think—are really more pleasant to read than any but the very best of the novels of the day.  They are more wholesome; they do not worry us with the insoluble problems of life; they are not bound by the convention that a good end is bad art.  But they must often fail to find their fitting audience.  We hope that Cynthia’s Brother—a title which somehow smacks of the nursery—may be more fortunate.” Spectator, November 2, 1901

Download this week’s novel:

https://archive.org/details/LeslieKeithCynthiasBrother1901Large

(I found no online version of this work, so I made one, using my own copy and my own inexpensive scanner.  It’s not as pretty as it might be, but it’s readable.)

Novel 084: Cynthia, Daughter of the Philistines (1896)

 
Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Young Lady

Sir Francis Grant, Portrait of a Young Lady

 

An aspiring novelist marries the daughter of a stock-jobber.


Leonard Merrick (1864-1939) wrote some twenty novels between 1891 and 1921.  This one has complex characters whose marital troubles arise in part from their differing backgrounds; it implies also a strong protest against the publishing industry’s poor treatment of brilliant novelists.

“There is a difficulty in writing about the ways of literature and literary men without a slight touch of cynicism.  But Mr. Merrick blends it so well with humour that no sting remains.” Morning Post, December 14, 1896

“In spite of flaws there is vigour and freshness in much of it.  The atmosphere is distinctly middle-class and is well sustained” and the characters “form an amusing gallery of portraits.” Athenaeum, January 23, 1897

“The happy phrases and brilliant ideas scattered about ought to make a name for the author... He has humour, a sense of style, and, while brimming over with things to say, he is neither diffuse nor ponderous.” Saturday Review, March 20, 1897

Download this week’s novel:

v.1 https://archive.org/details/cynthiadaughtero01merr

v.2 https://archive.org/details/cynthiadaughtero02merr

Novel 083: Emma Robinson, Cynthia Thorold (1862)

 
Sir Francis Grant, Lady Katherine Isabella Manners, Countess Jermyn

Sir Francis Grant, Lady Katherine Isabella Manners, Countess Jermyn

 

A young lady is displaced at her father’s death by a vulgar ship-chandler.


Emma Robinson (1814-1890) wrote fifteen novels between 1843 and 1867, most of them historical; this, however, is contemporary, an odd combination of farce and ghost story, written in a sometimes tortured but always lively style.

“The plot is dramatic enough, and would make an excellent farce.  As a story it is very entertaining.” Caledonian Mercury, July 26, 1862

“Unlikely scenes...described with dash and spirit.” Athenaeum, September 13, 1862

Download this week’s novel:

https://books.google.com/books?id=okBWAAAAcAAJ&dq

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

Solve this week's crossword online:

076 Hydration


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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.)