Hannah Thurston

He was a man of shallow faculties, but profound conceit of himself, and would have preferred, at any time, to be abused rather than ignored. His naturally fluent speech had been cultivated by the practice of years, but as he was neither an earnest thinker nor a close reasoner, and, moreover, known to be unscrupulous in the statement of facts, the consideration which he enjoyed as a speaker would soon have become exhausted, but for the boldness and indecency of his personal attacks, whereby he replenished that element of hot water in which he rejoiced.

Bayard Taylor was most popular during his life as a travel writer*; although he also wrote poetry and fiction, as well as a critically acclaimed translation of Goethe's Faust. Hannah Thurston was his first attempt at a novel, and though it received mixed reviews, it sold well enough for him to write others. Many of his works are available at Project Gutenberg, yet this one is notably absent.

[*He contributed "A Day at St. Helena" to The Knickerbocker Gallery.]

Suffused with the author's characteristic dry wit, this novel is still a product of its time. The eponymous character is "strong-minded," intelligent, and idealistic, while her loyal opposition is a chivalric, world-wise gentleman. Various "Reformers"—members of Temperance, Anti-Slavery, Non-Resistance, and Women's Rights movements—are typically portrayed as manipulative, fraudulent, shallow, or weak-minded. The unabashedly Victorian prose may roll the eyes at times; nonetheless, I found the work sufficiently fascinating and entertaining that I decided it was worthy of restoration. Call it a guilty pleasure.

My principal source was this scan of the 1864 edition, with this scan as a backup. While I have corrected any obvious typographical errors, I have left certain spellings alone. Most notably, Mr. Merryfield uses "spere" for "sphere" not just one, but twice, and thus am I convinced that the usage as represented (reinforced in another example by Bute) is conventional in the regional dialect.

So here it is: the master HTML version, the home-brew Kindle version, and the actual Amazon publication.

As Mr. Woodbury says: "...will you please get a bottle of Sherry. The gentlemen, I see, have nothing but lemonade."

December 14, 2020

ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures