Monday, September 05, 2011

Learning Contentment in Home Life: Late Summer Reading

A beautiful image from Graphics Fairy

I am reading a free Google book called  "He Fell in Love With His Wife"  (just click on the book title to take you to the place where you can print out or read the book,) written in 1886, which I have printed and put in a spiral binding, making it much easier on the eyes to read than the screen.

This story is full in interesting characters and references to things I used to hear about a lot, referring to things like "protracted meetings" and the "meeting house," as well as using the word "famous" as an expression, somewhat like the word "capital!"Several of my friends have ordered the printed novel from ebay, because the cover looks so nice.

The online version has some typing errors, but it does not interfere with the beautiful language and the sweet descriptions of places and feelings.  If you are reading it and thinking it would make a good movie, well, it was made into a silent film, but I believe it would make a wonderful movie.

The story begins with a widower's problem of looking after his business while trying to save his house from decay and ruin. He hires numerous housekeepers and cooks, all with problems of their own, and some who bring in extra people who add to the destruction of the house.Eventually he marries a woman who has looked after an invalid mother until her death. 

This woman is exhausted by the work she has done, and then goes to the man's house, which has endless possibilities for work. Eventually though, through adequate rest, and small efforts, she creates a feeling of contentment for her farmer and gives him the kind of home life he needs in order to conduct his business.

Her husband wants her to feel at home in his house, so he says,

"I will let you wash a few dishes, if it will make you feel more at ease," and the wife thinks upon how that small effort gave her a feeling of belonging.

The book  brings to life the attitude of contentment and shows the sensitivity of the wife to the details of life, such as the kind of light that appears when she first awakes, or the flowers she puts in a vase for the table, which she found by the road, and of course the food she prepares and the atmosphere she creates for their home.

It is written in the wordy descriptions of the writing style of the time, requiring careful reading. If  you are an impatient reader, this is not for you, and if you have a picky attitude about some of the practices of the times (for example, the husband fierce opposition to some hooligans who come to bad-mouth his wife, or the incident where he was found smoking a pipe, or the unusual circumstances of the woman's life and the circumstances surrounding their agreement to enter into marriage, ), you will not enjoy this book. It is has a rugged man and a soft, feminine but determined woman in it, and it shows how the two combine to make a success of their marriage. If you do not like the women being in the home, you shouldn't bother to read this book.

Although the story is full of action, the story still has detailed descriptions of the thoughts and observations of both the farmer and his wife. Something as simple as the weather or the day's work can take an entire paragraph as the details are listed.  It will take a patient reader, but I think the story has enough strange characters in it that it will make you smile enough to keep reading.

Some of the phrases in this book are worth noting:

"Some men are chilled by public disapproval and waver under it, but Holcroft was thereby only the more strongly confirmed in his course."

"Every hour added to the beauty of the season without. The unplowed fields were taking on a vivid green."

"A burst of song from the lilac bush  under the parlor window drew her eyes thither, and there was the paternal redbreast pouring out the very soul of ecstasy. From  the nest beneath him rose the black head and yellow beak of his brooding mate. 'How contentented and happy he looks,' Alida murmered, 'how happy they both are! And the secret of it is, home."

"The desperate view she had taken of her misfortunes troubled him, and he had thought it possible that she might sink into despondency and something like invalidism; but that involuntary bubble of laughter re-assured him. 'Quiet, wholesome, cheerful life will restore her to health,' he thought, as he put his favorite beverage and sputtering steak on the table. 'You can pour me a cup of coffee."

"Holcroft would have been blind indeed had he not observed changes for the better in her. The old sad, troubled expression was passing away from her eyes. Every day it seemed easier for her to laugh, and her step grew more elastic. It was all so gradual that he never questioned it...there was a new atmosphere in his home---a new influence, under which his mind was awakening in spite of his weariness and absorption of the interest of the farm. "

In general I found neither of them to be critical of the other, and that was the key, in my opinion, to any difficulties that came their way. The plot may seem far-fetched and romantically impossible in today's world, but things were not so regulated in times past. If you read "Anne of Green Gables" or anything written by Jane Austen, or the book "Pollyanna," you will probably enjoy this summer reading project.  Keep in mind that people of the era in which this was written read literature like Shakespeare's plays and Washington Irving ("The Wife"), which may have colored the plots and descriptions in their own writings.

Another Free Book for High Summer Reading: Coelebs In Search of a Wife

Mrs. Y., an email friend who is quite keen on reading old books, has kindly suggested an even better book from the Gutenberg Project (free online books that have outlived their copyright), called "Coelebs In Search of a Wife."  She writes, "Hannah More's book has a spectrum of characters but they are for the purpose of teaching about Christian living, and her views on raising children are relevant today. The words "timeless truths" comes to mind concerning what she wrote."  Although "He Fell in Love With His Wife" has references to the Christian life,  "..In Search of a Wife" may be the kind of thing that you are looking for, for a pleasant read in the high summer season.


Ginger said...

I'm an avid reader and writer. Lately, I've been looking for some light evening reading to share with my hubby. Do you think this would do as a hubby/wife read aloud?

Lydia said...

Although it was apparently written by a man, I don't think a man would enjoy the tedious descriptions, and would grow impatient with the plot. It seems to be more about the woman's situation, and more focused on her, so it is a kind of light read for women. However you might read Dickens or Ivanhoe or something with more action, if you wanted to share it with your husband. Read it yourself first and make your own conclusion about it. It is not a "great" book, but is similar in nature to the book called "Mother", written in the 1940's.

Anonymous said...

Open Library has it free also and can be downloaded to a Kindle. I just know by reading the first page that I will enjoy this story a lot! Thank you for the suggestion.

Rightthinker said...

Wow, this sounds just wonderful! I will most certainly begin reading it!

God Bless!

Anonymous said...

I have started this book. It is written in an old style and has to be viewed with a great deal of humor, otherwise you will not understand it.

You also have to have an appreciation and understanding of old literature, being somewhat versed in things like Pride and Prjudice, if you want to enjoy this story. It has its quirks and it is not written to be perfect, but it shows the good and bad characters.

Beth said...

What a very sweet sounding book! I will most certainly have to look it up!
We do not currently have tv reception (not that we miss it too very much except that we can not check in on the Duggars!!) so every week or so we watch a Jane Austen movie again and again. My daughters and I have most of the lines memorized and my husband is loving the movies, too! Do you have any suggestions for wholesome movies such as those?
Thanks! Blessings! Beth

Anonymous said...

I am loving "He Fell in Love With His Wife" (in spite of all the warnings,lol!) I'm on chapter 12...I think it is a really fun read. I have a relative with similar thought processes to Mrs. cracks me up to know there's nothing new under the sun. Thanks so much for the recommendation and link!

Mrs. V. said...

Thank you for sharing the link to the online version. I find myself quite ill today and honestly not able to do much more than stay in bed. I decided to start reading the book and am finding it quite enjoyable. There is not much more than reading that I can do right now, so this came along at the perfect time. Thanks again.

HKA said...

Lady Lydia, I'm so excited to see that you liked this book! In response to Ginger, my brother read and loved this book, so you never know.
Your husband might like it as well, although, I doubt my own would enjoy it. It isn't his cup of tea.

Catherine said...

I loved the story
Your blog is wonderful!!!


Samirah said...

Thank you so much for posting a review of this wonderful book! It is one of my favorites, I even bought a hundred year old copy from Alibris for just a few dollars!
I have now read many of E P Roe's books and found them delightful as well. He was a very popular author in his time, even surpassing Mark Twain in popularity!I only wonder why I never heard of him.
Reading his books dispels many of the myths that have been foisted on us (maybe that's why).Roe shows the high regard that women (good women) were held in those times and has a wide array of believable characters.
He teaches goodness, morality and faith without being overly preachy, though he was a preacher, for those who value a more subtle approach.
Thanks again for the post!

Lydia said...

I agree with you about the quiet religious aspect. Some modern stories seem to over-do it in the religious area, making the story hard to focus on.

Lydia said...

Ladies, please read what I added in the post at the end, today, about another book.

Lydia said...

For the one asking for movie recommendations: Wives and Daughters and North and South, both by Elizabeth Gaskell, made into movies by the BBC. Do not confuse North and South with the Civil War version made in the US. It is about the north and south of England, and the conflicts that arise because of it. The main character is a minister's daughter who moves with her parents from an idyllic place in the south, to a bleak, industrial town in the north. Both Wives and Daughters and North and South make good re-runs, and my family often quotes the scripts whenever the opportunity arises at home that connects the story to every day life.

LHN said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

I've "lurked" for quite some time without commenting, simply drinking up the encouragement you give to housewives. More than once, your posts have prompted me to call my own mother and grandmother and thank them for impressing upon me the value of a wife and mother at home.

I would like to thank you, also, for the recommendation and link to this lovely and uplifting book. I found myself ordered to rest this week by my own darling and kind husband in order to recuperate from an asthma flare-up, and what a wonderful way to direct my thoughts reading this sweet book has been! During the first few days on asthma medications I often need to struggle against irritability (a side effect of the medication) and put a greater than normal effort into choosing cheerfulness and gentleness, and what better encouragement than a lovely novel about a husband and wife choosing kindness, contentment, and respectability. Thank you, again, for reminding us the value of loveliness in your posts.

Lydia said...

I thought the author of "He Fell in Love With His Wife" might have been a preacher. He referred to "protracted meetings," which is something my father used to speak of, where people got together every night for a month to hear sermons. It was also a great time for socialization for young people of like mind. Without actually saying it, the book gives the reader the impression that the aim in life for both the man and his wife is to follow a code of Christian conduct in their lives. The other book I added to the post, "In Search of a Wife" is also of the same calibre, but like books written at the time, you have to be a careful reader and not get too impatient. It is rather wordy, similar to Anne of Green Gables, but still very interesting.

Samirah said...

Lady Lydia, I just wanted you to know that I've read about five chapter's of C[oe]lebs in Search of a Wife and am thoroughly enjoying it! Ms. More is a very wise author and imparts much wisdom and a balanced understanding of the religious life through an interesting cast of characters. It does take a bit more patience to read but is well worth the effort. Similar to Jane Austen but at a much higher plane of spiritual understanding. Thank you!

Jennifer C. Valerie said...

I read it over the weekend. I enjoyed it so much. It gave me much needed inspiration in taking care of my home and family. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful read.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for the book recommendation. I really enjoyed reading it.

Lady Laura said...

Lady Lydia, I'm writing to let you know that you might enjoy a movie from 1980 called Heartland, starring Conchata Ferrell, the housekeeper from Two and a half Men.

It's a little along the same lines as this book. I don't want to give anything else away although it's easy to find a movie trailer and reviews online.

If hope you enjoy it. -Lady Laura

Lydia said...

Lady Laura.Thank you for this recommendation. I'll be sure and watch it.

Anonymous said...

For those asking about movies to watch in leisure time: try April Love, starring Pat Boone.

Anonymous said...

Another movie is one reviewed on this site: The Magic of Ordinary Days.

Anonymous said...

J. R. Miller (1840 - 1912) is another good writer. His book Home-Making has been republished recently.

His writings are online here:

Gina said...

Just finished reading "He Fell in Love With His Wife", and loved it. Thank you very much for recommending it! He seemed to me a picture of Jesus, protecting us, strong, and uncaring of people-pleasing. He was so caring of her.