This week, we have contributed another eBook to Project Gutenberg: A Mock Idyl, by Percy Ross. This light story of the friendship and loves of a self-styled school teacher and a sailor was originally serialized in two parts in Longman’s Magazine in 1886. It was later used as filler material in the back of the Favorite Library edition of Little Golden’s Daughter by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.
You can read the entire story online at Project Gutenberg, where it can also be downloaded in a variety of popular eBook formats.
A few months ago, we helped produce an eBook of The Brighton Boys in the Trenches, an interesting example of the fiction marketed to boys during the first World War. Our latest release, The Liberty Girl by Rena I. Halsey, complements this as a specimen of Great War fiction intended for reading by girls.
Released in 1919, it seems likely that this was written during the war under the assumption that the conflict would still be raging upon its publication. The book continues the narrative of Nathalie Page, a character introduced in the non-war-themed Blue Robin, the Girl Pioneer. Nathalie begins the book with mixed feelings about the war, and several other characters are also critical of the conflict — offering slightly more moral shading than one might expect here — but the story is clearly designed to convince the reader of the justice of the cause, and everyone finds significant patriotic fervor by the end of the tale.
Obviously, a key distinction between Brighton Boys and Liberty Girl is that the boys were able to enlist and fight the battle directly, while Nathalie can only offer support from the home front. In spite of that limitation, the book is not solely about domestic activities; there are discussions of girls going overseas to support the troops, and some gruesome battlefield narratives are offered by way of a character returned from the front.
Of interest to dime novel readers is the fact that author Rena I. Halsey is the daughter Harlan P. Halsey, also known as “Old Sleuth,” a prolific dime novelist. The use of coincidence and disguise in the narrative here betrays at least traces of the Halsey family’s dime novel roots.
If you wish to read the book for yourself, it can be found at Project Gutenberg, where you can view the text online or download it in a variety of popular electronic formats.
It has been a good week for proofreading projects, with another one completing today: Wild Margaret, by Geraldine Fleming, which is actually a misattributed reprint of His Guardian Angel; or, Wild Margaret by once-famous British novelist, Charles Garvice.
Wild Margaret effectively demonstrates both why Garvice was so popular in his day and also why he has since been forgotten. The book has a certain charm to it, both through a distinctly British tone to its narration and through dialogue that displays at least slightly more wit and playfulness than is found in many other romances of the same period. Unfortunately, these favorable features do not overcome the limitations of the novel. The titular heroine, though given some self-sufficiency and periodically described as having a history of being “wild” or “madcap,” generally displays all the wildness of a house plant. The hero, though superficially appealing, is hard to sympathize with due to his all-around foolishness. The fairly simple plot doesn’t hold a candle to the more outrageous works of Mrs. Miller; it’s a very familiar “lovers meet, are separated, suffer, and are reunited” affair with relatively few surprises.
If you want to see all this for yourself, you can read the entire book online (or download it in a variety of popular formats) at Project Gutenberg.
Hot on the heels of Little Golden’s Daughter comes another Mrs. Miller novel, Kathleen’s Diamonds; or, She Loved a Handsome Actor, which proved to be the most challenging of our eBook projects thus far.
The challenge of this project came from the fact that, like many of Mrs. Miller’s works, this novel was first serialized in a story paper (in this case, the Fireside Companion), and later reprinted as a paper-covered book (in this case, from publisher Arthur Westbrook). Normally, it is easier to use the book as the source for creating an eBook, since all of the text can be found in a single volume. However, Westbrook was not always the most careful of publishers, and in the case of Kathleen’s Diamonds, the text contains errors that could not be resolved without consulting the story paper originals. Upon resolving those errors it was discovered that the reprint also omitted large amounts of poetry found in the original appearance of the story. For the sake of completeness, we determined to track down and restore all of the missing text.
Finding the original poetry was quite a challenge, given the fragility of the story papers in our own collection and the scarcity of other copies. Fortunately, with the help of two private collectors and one other university library, we were able to obtain all of the lost verse and release what is likely the most complete version of the novel ever distributed.
Was it worth the effort? Read the book and judge for yourself — if you enjoyed The Bride of the Tomb, you probably won’t be disappointed. It is available at Project Gutenberg for online reading or download in a variety of popular formats.
Another of our Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller proofreading projects has been completed, and Little Golden’s Daughter is now available as an eBook.
Many of Mrs. Miller’s works feature recurring themes, and this particular title uses a number of ideas that were subsequently recycled in the later, but rather similar, Dainty’s Cruel Rivals: a crumbling and allegedly haunted estate, a Cinderella theme, and (to the likely chagrin of modern-day readers) a stereotypical “black mammy” character in a prominent role. Neither Little Golden’s Daughter or Dainty’s Cruel Rivals can be counted among Mrs. Miller’s better works — newcomers are advised to sample The Bride of the Tomb first — but they still hold some interest for completists.
The book may be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular formats at Project Gutenberg.
Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections is fortunate enough to hold a copy of Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter by Mrs. Ann S. Stephens, the very first of Beadle’s Dime Novels. As this important title has not yet been published in Project Gutenberg, it was a natural choice for a proofreading project.
The novel is now available at the Distributed Proofreaders site, so you can help create a new electronic edition and find out what all the fuss was about back in 1860. To join the fun, first read more about our proofreading project and then visit the project page for Malaeska.
Reading in the Graveyard
Another proofreading project has reached completion: History of Orrin Pierce, a Sunday School reader from 1847. Filled with simple illustrations (some hand-colored by a former owner), the book tells of a life of religious devotion in simple language. While the brief narrative probably won’t do much to capture your imagination, it offers a glimpse of the sort of fiction that many parents encouraged their children to read in the 19th century.
The entire book can be read online at Project Gutenberg, where it may also be downloaded for offline reading in a variety of popular formats.
Another of publisher Frank Tousey’s Ten Cent Hand Books has been fully run through our proofreading process. The latest title is How to Become an Engineer, a guide to running real trains and building model versions at home, compiled by prolific dime novelist Francis W. Doughty under the pseudonym “an old engineer on the New York Central Railroad.”
Like other titles in this series, it is questionable how helpful this book actually was for aspiring engineers. The primary advice repeatedly offered by the book boils down to “work hard, pay attention, and you’ll learn what you need on the job.” The instructions for building model trains are complex, hard to follow, and at least a little bit dangerous (the steam-powered engines could explode if improperly built). In spite of these significant limitations, though, the book is more readable than some of its series-mates, with an enjoyable history chapter at the beginning and a conversational tone throughout.
Certain characteristics of past Tousey titles (tonal inconsistencies, references to sections that do not exist, etc.) have suggested that the publisher “borrowed” text from other sources. Further evidence was found during the production of this eBook, as it was discovered that some of the images here were lifted from the British publication Locomotive Engine Driving: A Practical Manual for Engineers in Charge of Locomotive Engines. If the graphics in this edition are difficult to read, going back to the earlier source offers clearer images.
The entire book can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.
One of our recent proofreading projects has been turned into a finished eBook in record time thanks to the enthusiasm of Distributed Proofreaders volunteers.
The latest completed title is The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific, part of a series of adventures involving teenaged radio operators. This particular story, the fifth in the series, has the Ocean Wireless Boys helping their millionaire employer find his lost brother, a famous explorer who disappeared in search of a fabulous pearl. The quest leads them into exotic settings where they encounter dangerous flora and fauna, unusual people, and a few old enemies from prior stories.
Like our earlier project, The Brighton Boys in the Trenches, this book is a time capsule of attitudes from nearly a century ago, showing what publishers thought boys wanted to read at the time of the Great War. It demonstrates the increasing commercialization of fiction through some very heavy-handed attempts to sell prior volumes from within the text of the story, and it also shows the pervasive casual racism of the era even while it sometimes seems to be attempting positive portrayals of people from other cultures.
Dime novel enthusiasts might also be interested to know that this is one of the few boys’ series books to also be published in dime novel “thickbook” format, as part of the Circling the Globe Library.
The full text, along with a couple of other Ocean Wireless Boys adventures, can be found at Project Gutenberg, where it can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular formats.
Our latest proofreading project is Rena Halsey’s The Liberty Girl, a sequel to the earlier Blue Robin, the Girl Pioneer. This 1919 novel deals with, among other things, the Great War, making it an interesting feminine complement to the overtly masculine Brighton Boys in the Trenches. The project also ties in to our dime novel efforts, as Rena Halsey was the daughter of Harlan P. Halsey, better known as Old Sleuth, author of (among countless other titles), The Twin Ventriloquists. Truly, everything around here is connected in one way or another!
The book is now available at the Distributed Proofreaders site. To help us create a new electronic edition, you can read more about our proofreading efforts and then visit the project page.