Like many other books in this series, the text seems to have been borrowed from other sources without a lot of thought to context — particularly in cases where illustrations are referred to but not included. While the reader of the book would certainly learn how to achieve some interesting (and frequently quite dangerous) effects, the text doesn’t devote much space to theory, or any at all to the scientific method. If it created any young scientists, it did so by sparking curiosity rather than providing much instruction.
The book does acknowledge the hazardous nature of some of its proposed experiments, and justifies them in this way:
We know full well the intense delight taken by boys in risking their limbs or their lives, especially when such risk is accompanied with noise. Boys always have done so, and always will do so in spite of the very best of advice or precautions. As, therefore, it is impossible to keep them from making noises, and endangering themselves, we have, in this article, endeavored to show them how to make as much noise as possible, with as little danger as possible.
If you want to learn more about how science was presented to young readers at the dawn of the 20th century, you can read the full book online (or download it in popular eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg… but please don’t try these experiments at home!
First serialized in The New York Fireside Companion in 1896, the novel is another of its author’s melodramatic tales of love and jealousy. The story revolves around Daisie Bell, a poor school-teacher whose beauty attracts two suitors: the wealthy Royall Sherwood and the mysterious Dallas Bain. In typical Mrs. Miller fashion, the romance is accompanied by plot twists and dramatic incidents, including attempted murders and various life-threatening disasters.
If you’d like to learn more about the trials and tribulations of Daisie, Royall and Dallas, you can read the entire book online, or download it in popular eBook formats, through Project Gutenberg.
As the title suggests, this little book contains general advice on making money by selling goods through the mail. Given the limited scope of the text, most of its advice is very broad and high-level, and rather curiously, the book switches from mail order advice to random jokes and anecdotes near the end. Needless to say, this is unlikely to provide a whole lot of value for a 21st century business person, but it is an interesting relic of the past.
You can read the full text of the book (or download it in popular eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.
The novel tells the tale of Fairfax Fielding, a young sewing girl whose mother desires that she should marry a rich man and restore the family’s fortunes. This pressure, assisted by the malicious actions of a jealous coworker, leads Fair into an unhappy marriage, allowing Mrs. Miller’s usual style of plot twists and catastrophes to ensue.
As always, the full text of the book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats via Project Gutenberg.
Being a Mrs. Miller novel, there are a few subplots to supplement the surface-level romance. The most interesting of these involves a murder near the Chicago World’s Fair which bears at least a superficial resemblance to the story of conman and murderer H. H. Holmes, who received sensational newspaper coverage around the same time that this novel was published. However, given that Holmes’ crimes didn’t begin appear in the national news until about two months after the serial ended, this seems to be coincidence rather than a case of the author taking inspiration from the headlines.
If you want to read the book for yourself, the full text can be found online (or downloaded in popular eBook formats) at Project Gutenberg.
The latest such book to be released as a free eBook is Olivia; or, It Was for Her Sake, a fairly typical example of Garvice’s output. The titular heroine is the daughter of a country squire, and the story focuses on her interaction with two neighbors who both grow to love her: a disgraced but self-sacrificing noble who has retired to the country to escape scandal, and a wealthy but ruthless and uncultured “self-made man.” As the setup implies, this is yet another Garvice novel built almost entirely upon its author’s class prejudices. The story is not without its sensational moments, but compared to the twist-packed work of some of Garvice’s contemporaries (like Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller), it seems rather slow-moving and conventional. Still, in spite of its flaws, its author’s style occasionally makes it distinctive, as demonstrated by the dry, ironic humor of its opening paragraph:
It was in the “merry month” of May, the “beautiful harbinger of summer,” as the poets call it; and one of those charming east winds which render England such a delightful place of residence for the delicate and consumptive, and are truly a boon and a blessing to the doctors and undertakers, was blowing gaily through one of the lovely villages of Devonshire, and insidiously stealing through the half opened French windows of the drawing-room of Hawkwood Grange.
If you want to read any further, you can find the entire book available for free online reading (or for download in popular eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.
In this book, Hawley is sent on a mission by the president of the United States to investigate rumors that a former president of a South American country has been illegally imprisoned by his successor. His mission is made more complicated by government spies, a growing revolution, and the appearance of an old rival. Fortunately, he also finds aid from a variety of allies….
As always, if you’d like to learn more, you can find the entire book available for free online reading, or for download in popular eBook formats, through the Project Gutenberg website.
My case in “Poetic License: Seven Curators’ Poetry Selections from Distinctive Collections” highlights an unexpected interconnection between two different parts of Falvey Library’s Special Collections by featuring a poet whose work appears in both our Popular Literature and Irish Literature collections.
Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt (1836-1919)
Sarah M. B. Piatt was an American poet whose long career began in the mid-19th century and lasted into the early 20th century. She gained prominence in her late teens, with her early work appearing in widely circulated newspapers and story papers under the name Sallie M. Bryan. After her marriage in 1861 to fellow poet John James Piatt, she published more than a dozen volumes of poetry in book form. Although she was well-known during her own lifetime, she sank into obscurity for most of the 20th century as poetic tastes changed, only resurfacing in the 1990’s when she was rediscovered as part of the growing movement to reassess the scope of the literary canon and recover forgotten women writers.
Piatt demonstrated great flexibility as a poet, writing poems that could appeal equally to multiple audiences, including children as well as adults. Her lasting success during her lifetime demonstrates her accessibility to casual readers of popular periodicals, but her work also rewards re-reading and careful analysis. Her poems, which often incorporate multiple voices and perspectives, comment directly or indirectly on social and poetic conventions. Her use of irony to contrast surface meanings with deeper intentions makes many of her poems particularly appealing to modern readers, who may be more attuned to this mode of expression than her 19th century contemporaries were. For one particularly striking example from Piatt’s work, take a look at “Giving Back the Flower.”
The New York Ledger
Story papers were one of the leading forms of home entertainment for much of the 19th century. Resembling a newspaper but containing a mix of serial installments of novels, short stories, poems, household advice, humor, and sometimes even games or puzzles, these publications provided weekly or monthly doses of entertainment for millions of American readers. One of the most successful and influential story papers was Robert Bonner’s New York Ledger, which began publication in 1855 and ran for almost fifty years.
The New York Ledger relied heavily on recurring contributors to fill its pages every week, and these writers gained celebrity as a result of their frequent appearances in the widely-circulated paper. Sallie M. Bryan was one such celebrity poet, contributing works frequently during the early years of the Ledger. Several issues containing her work can be found in Villanova’s collection of New York Ledger issues, available online.
The Sarah Piatt Recovery Project at Ohio State University has collected many of Piatt’s New York Ledger poems in an online archive. The process of preparing this exhibit led to the rediscovery of a Piatt poem, “The Dove and the Angel,” in the March 30, 1861 issue, which had not been previously identified by OSU’s project.
An Irish Garland
Long after she had moved on from story paper contributions, Sarah Piatt and her family lived in Ireland for well over a decade (1882-1893) as a consequence of her husband’s appointment as a United States consul. During this time, she had opportunities for travel and to become part of the local literary community. Piatt’s Irish years produced a significant number of new poems. Most of her published volumes saw first printings published abroad. One such volume was An Irish Garland, first published by David Douglas in Edinburgh in 1884, then reprinted for American audiences in an edition found in Falvey Library’s Joseph McGarrity Collection of works about and associated with Ireland. The full book has been digitized and can be read online in its entirety.
If you would like to take a deeper dive into the life and work of Sarah Piatt, you might enjoy the Discovering Sarah Piatt: America’s Lost Great Writer podcast, hosted by Ohio State University’s Elizabeth Renker, to whom this exhibit and blog post owe a debt of gratitude for valuable input provided.
Like our earlier Collins release, Her Dark Inheritance, much of the plot revolves around a buried secret from the past. In this case, the titular heroine’s mother is a victim of blackmail by a villain who wishes to marry her (or her daughter) in order to gain access to the family’s considerable wealth. This setup leads to many of the familiar story paper tropes: jealousy and misunderstandings between lovers, apparent deaths and subsequent resurrections, abuse of insane asylums, a clever detective hot on the trail, etc., etc.
If you’d like to check it out for yourself, the entire book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.
The Safety First Club Fights Fire follows the continuing adventures of high school student Sam Parker, his mentor Lon Gates, and his friends in the “Safety First Club.” The book’s title rather gives away its finale, but along the way, the boys also find themselves on the wrong end of school politics, and take some time to work on a rather ambitious project involving a high-powered motor. Readers who enjoyed the first two books will find more of the same here, though some parts of this book feel a bit more episodic and disjointed than the previous volumes.
The full text can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.