Friday, 12 June 2015

A refuge

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

W. Somerset Maugham

Those words would have rung true for Henry Wilkinson in the prisoner of war camp at Stralsund.

Silas finds a child, from George Eliot's Silas Marner, image published by The Jenson Society, NY ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Silas finds a child, from George Eliot's Silas Marner, image published by The Jenson Society, NY ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The following are the next seven books on Wilkinson's reading list.  Whilst I had only heard of one of the books, with George Eliot and Mark Twain, there seems to be an increase in the quality of reading available.  

The Devil and the Deep Sea, Rhoda Broughton, published 1910, read 19 June 1918
The story of Miss Susan Field who falls for a man whom she had discovered to be a liar and a swindler.  The story focuses on the chance meeting of two people at a Riviera hotel and the slow growth of feelings between them.  It also features another three characters in Mrs. Pattison, her son, and his fiancée Miss Jessica Bodger.  (Summarised from a review in The Bookman, December 1910,
Rhoda Broughton was the niece of the Irish gothic writer Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu. 

Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain, published 1894, read 19 June 1918
In Missouri, Roxy is a slave who fears for her life and that of her infant son.  She also has the charge of her master’s son who is about the same age.  As her son is very light skinned, she swaps the boys so that her son will grow up with privilege and freedom.  After the boys have grown up, the book takes a turn after a murder is committed.  There is an investigation and court room drama in which the swapped identities are revealed.  The book is said to be funny and through this denounces racial prejudice and slavery.  (Summarised from Good Reads and Wikipedia

The Pit, Frank Norris, published 1903, read 20 June 1918
A story of love and speculation in turn of the century Chicago.  Laura Dearborn has three suitors and after a period of time eventually decides to marry Curtis Jadwin.  They are happy for a few years until Jadwin begins speculating on wheat stock in the Pit at the Chicago Board of Trade.  (Summarised from Wikipedia

The book was made into a film in 1917.

The Card, Arnold Bennett, published 1911, read 21 June 1918
This novel tells the the life of Edward Henry Machin, known as Denry, and the ventures that repeatedly earn him the reputation of being a ‘card’ (as in character). (

During the First World War, Arnold Bennett was appointed the Director of Propaganda for France at the British Government’s Ministry of Information.  In 1952, The Card was made into a film starring Alec Guinness and Petula Clark

Title page for the Tauchnitz edition of Percival Keene, it is possible that his was the version read by Wilkinson, image from Google books
Title page for the Tauchnitz edition of Percival Keene, it is possible that his was the version read by Wilkinson, image from Google books
Percival Keene, Captain Frederick Marryat, published 1842, read 23 June 1918
Percival Keene grows up with his mother and aunt whilst his father is at sea.  A prankster who nearly burns down his school, Percival is offered a position on the HMS Calliope by Captain Delmar who is close to the family.  At this point, Percival learns of scandalous circumstance surrounding his birth.  His time with the Navy is the making of him, especially the time spent as a kidnapped cabin boy of a group of pirates.  (Summarised from

Frederick Marryat is also known for his developing a system of maritime signalling.

The Motor Maniacs, Lloyd Osbourne, published 1906, read 23 June 1918
This is a book of little stories on exchanges founded on the mania for motorcars. Motorists will feel a certain pleasure in seeing the language of sentiment translated into the language of petrol. The book is full of humour and energy.  (Summarised from The Spectator, October 1906

At 12 years old, Lloyd Osbourne became the stepson of Robert Louis Stevenson, the family travelled together.  Between 1889 and 1894 Osbourne and Stevenson collaborated on three books.

Silas Marner, George Eliot, published 1861, read 24 June 1918
Silas Marner is a weaver living in a small community in a big city.  When he is (falsely) accused of of theft from the church, he leaves the area and settles near the village of Raveloe.  He only works to save his money but it is stolen by the younger son of the town’s leading land owner.  The son disappears.  His older brother has a secret and estranged wife because of her opium use.  She makes her way to the village but dies from the cold, her young daughter finding her way into Silas’ house.  Silas decided to look after her naming her Eppie.  The girl’s true father helps out financially but does not admit to his relationship with the girl.  The story continues with Silas’ newfound purpose in life of raising Eppie.  (Summarised from

All these books are available on Project Gutenberg.

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