Saturday, February 9, 2019

E. P. Roe, A Forgotten Author

E. P. Roe, A Forgotten Author 
My sachets have batting but are flat enough to mail in a padded envelope to friends.
I like this quote by Virginia Woolf.  Can you relate to her hyperbole?

Secondhand books are wild books, homeless books; they come together in vast flock of variegated feather and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.”

Have you ever found an author “in the wild?”

My 1876 copy of Near to Nature's Heart
I was visiting my married daughter, Sophia, for a week. One day we set out by ourselves to a secondhand book store. Dad was home with the children. The book store is a grand place. So grand, we didn’t have time to scour all its shelves. Instead, we sauntered a few narrow aisles, and zoned-out peacefully.

The shelves were packed to overflowing. They were dusty and a bit messy, which gave them a sad appearance. While browsing the homeless books in the sad aisles, I couldn’t resist tidying the shelves as I went. Then, my hand gingerly gasped an antique. It was handsomely bound and more than a hundred years old (here pictured.) I was surprised it was not behind glass, lock and key. I stood turning the yellowed pages in low light. The print was faded but legible, the sentences a treat.

A minute later Near to Nature’s Heart by Rev. E. P. Roe was being cradled it my arm like a newborn baby.

This was the beginning of a friendship. What was responsible for this meeting of a “complete stranger” - to use the words of Virginia Woolf? The title; it respects nature. The author; he respects God. The Christian viewpoint of Near to Nature’s Heart drew forth my deep sympathy. Rev. Edward Payson Roe (1838-1888) was an (old school) Presbyterian minister.

Near to Nature’s Heart
A main character, Saville, is an army officer in the Revolutionary War, 1776, fighting the red-coats. Published 1876, this story was a fitting resource to celebrate America’s Centennial. (George Washington and his Bible have parts to play in it.) Because the author was a chaplain in the Civil War, his skirmishes were probably written with first-hand knowledge. This gives the story a masculine-feel. But hang on.
I knit this jumper for Eloise in cotton silk.

The story has a feminine-feel, too. Vera is a young lady living with her mother, father and one servant, in a rustic log cabin in the woods of New York. Seclusion is a priority. Vera’s father is mysteriously and nervously in hiding. Vera was home taught on two books: the Bible and Shakespeare. But I will add a third book: Nature. She is a hunter/gatherer enjoying the beauty and peace of the outdoors. While sailing down the Hudson, Saville overhears Vera singing in a clear British accent. (You can read the first chapter free on Amazon.)

Saville crosses paths with the family as the cabin is not far from the military fort on the Hudson. He is concerned for their safety but keeps their whereabouts a secret. Saville is well-to-do and New-England-educated. Finishing his education in France, he was impressed with the ideas of secular humanism enough to become an atheist. If man is the center of all things than Christianity is superstition. Vera’s faith is strong. Her principles stand in contrast to Saville’s. I grew impatient as hardships intensified. But I am often impatient when a novel is compelling and conflict resolution seems uncomfortably far off. The happy ending, however, is worth the wait.

The pom-poms are an afterthought - needed to stop the scalloped hem from rolling. Eloise likes them. 
Admittedly, E. P. Roe created this novel to be lamppost for doing right. Those who strive to walk the narrow road of a Christian (serving the God of the Bible above self-gratification) will find encouragement here. Near to Nature’s Heart is quality for high school. I wish I knew about it when collecting books for my children back in the day.

(Cornwall-on-the-Hudson was his hometown.)

Over the winter I looked up other stories by E. P. Roe, putting 3 FREE on my Kindle. Near to Nature’s Heart was unavailable then. This week I see it is newly available (for a small price.) How wonderful that someone decided to preserve this “complete stranger” from obscurity.

Driven Back to Eden
This next story by E. P. Roe is easy reading. It’s darling. I gobbled it up. Originally, Driven Back to Eden was a fireside read for the whole family, I suspect, because it first appeared in the St. Nicholas Magazine, probably in serial form. (Its editor, Mary Maples Dodge, is best known for “Over the River and Through the Woods”). I live in Eden Township so this might have been why I took notice of the title.

She is rarely without a baby doll.
Why is this story darling? Why did I read it twice? Driven Back to Eden is told by the father of the story, in first person. He, his wife, and 4 children live in a crowded tenement in New York City in the 1880s (when written.) Basic bills are paid but Father finds his job dead-end. His children are no longer little ones, and the “flat” and the city street are suffocating them slowly-but-surely. The first chapter is amusing but telling. Father, just home from work, does a favor for Mother (whose complexion has become gray of late.) He looks for his children to call them in for supper. He finds 3 of the 4 in the middle of precarious situations involving peers.

Father’s eyes open. That evening he secretly and soberly appraises things. He is determined to make some sort of change for the better. But what? That very night Father’s mind is made up as Mother is willing to give her husband’s big “change” a try. Great. It’s settled then. He gets his children excited about moving to the country. Agricultural books are their Christmas presents.

Come spring the flat is sold and they inhabit an old farm house up the Hudson River. Almost immediately Mother, and the whole family, flourish in the fresh air of their new surroundings, although they certainly have their work cut out for them. The hours of farm chores the children must do would be controversial today, yet the work is light enough. (Growing raspberries is described in detail.) And the children enjoy playful afternoons and exploration in nature. When Mother’s plain country food is served, they lick the platters clean (figuratively). Color comes to cheeks. Eyes sparkle. 

Icicles over the kitchen door.
This story is joyous. (I hope you can tell.) The author had to have been magnanimous himself to write it. I like Father’s attitude, humility, courage, sense of humor, and, meticulous care for his family. Nothing is more important to him than their well-being. After most of the harvest is in, Mother bottles the surplus fruit and homeschools the children. Near the end of the story, in chapter 43, now with the hardest work behind him, Father writes: “November weather was occasionally so blustering and stormy that I turned schoolmaster, in part, to relieve my wife.” How cute is this? I find him uncommonly “with-it” and relational. (Warning: the 15 yr-old son hunts rabbits with a gun and a neighbor’s dog is put down, for those repelled by such things.)

Even if horticulture, with its fast-growing weeds, applications of manure, hoeing, haying, hewing, and plain food, isn’t normally your choice of subjects, something vibrant will touch you in Driven Back to Eden; that something will be love. 

He Fell in Love With His Wife
Also, free on Kindle is E. P. Roe’s He Fell in Love with His Wife. Although, right off the bat, the title is a give-away, the first chapters are gloomy. I thought, “This isn’t my cup of tea.” The main character is a 1880s farmer, depressed and numb. He isn’t a likable man, I thought. To add to this, conflict increases by characters who are lazy, dishonest, or given to drink. I almost closed the book in disgust. But a dawn of pity lighted the horizon, like the misty pink of a winter’s morning, so I kept reading.
Snow out our front door. 
Pity for a character (down in her luck) ushers in gentleness and gratitude. These qualities aren't static. They're alive. Pity is love in the bud. It blossoms into something bigger in the spiritual life of the soul when fed. We can sink in the mire or go numb when faced with relentless loneliness, darkness and difficulty. But we hang onto hope, carry hope on the wings of right living. Then, we trust God for the journey of flight.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13 :13)

And with these examples of realistic fiction from the 19th century Christian viewpoint, I wish you a Happy Valentine's Day.

Simply Charlotte Mason will absorb the cost of postage when 4 copies of Mother Culture are mailed to one (U.S.A.) address. A small group could take advantage of this FREE postage.

Will Mother Culture be on Amazon? Eventually, I hope. Will any of my books be on Kindle? Eventually, I hope. Business riga-ma-role is going on behind the scenes.
Near to Nature’s Heart  Kindle

Driven Back to Eden - Free on Kindle

He Fell in Love with His Wife - Free on Kindle

I withheld bits and bops about these stories so you will have some surprises. Often, I find the reviews on Amazon give all, or nearly all, the story away.  Yours, Karen Andreola