John Maribel

A great heart is slow to find out its own worth; indeed, from its depths unsuspected treasures are ever welling up; and these are so naturally appropriated by others, that they seem scarcely to belong to their possessor. Selfishness is essentially absorbing. It artfully catches the impulses which emanate from a noble nature, and turns them to its own advantage


Death with ruthless hand tears the veil from before our eyes, and shows us ourselves as we are. We dare not, in the presence of his awful majesty, trick ourselves out in self-deceitful illusions; we dare not salve ourselves with the unction of our own self-importance. No; when he is there we comprehend the frail tenure of humanity. The ignoble calculations of the ambitious worldling, the evanescent pleasure of indulged passion, the soothing charm of beauty, the satisfaction of money-getting, the triumphs of science, or art, or action—all pale before the reality of this grim reminder of their short-lived triumphs.


There are those who read life as they do a book, casting away the treasures of thought—unheeding the delicate beauty of design or the cherished images of truth. They read to amuse themselves, "run over the book" to get at the story.


The victory must always be on the side of facts, provided they are hurled by a steady hand.

That last quote is worthy of Adventures of Telemachus.

I originally came upon The Miller of Silcott Mill (1875) by Maria Darrington-Deslonde (1833-1887) while browsing the digital shelves of Wright American Fiction. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to seek out her other novel, John Maribel (1877). It has proven to be an even more excellent work, though not without some flaws and inconsistencies. [For example, the cooks at Worleigh and Oaklands are confusingly both named "Sabra."]

Undeniably, there are certain passages, notable for a supposedly affectionate, racist indulgence:

The yard was brilliantly illuminated with the light of resinous pine-knots, which burned on elevated stands covered with earth, and which were replenished from piles of the wood placed ready at hand. This duty was performed by negroes, whose black faces shone with high good humor and enjoyment, for no race is more keenly alive to cheerful impression. Give the negro a fiddle or a banjo, with a modicum of meat and drink, and he is as happy as a king, if the happiness of a king is not a palpable paradox.

And again, the author is also not above a certain nostalgia for the "peculiar institution:"

Pure in thought, simple in her habits, old-fashioned in her ideas about modesty and propriety—oh, dear! what would she think of young ladyhood of to-day?—earnestly pious, and shedding a wholesome influence, not only over her own immediate family, but also upon that larger family, those dependent beings of another race, whom she considered peculiarly committed to her care, and whose comfort and welfare were very near her heart. Such was "Sister Polly," a type of a race which has well-nigh passed away.

Yet for all that, it's a smashing good read: witty, observant, insightful, and melodramatic. Replete with heroes, villains, tragic victims, and a romantic happy ending, it's truly a classic popcorn novel.

The book was not available online when I first searched for a digital copy, but WorldCat indicated a loanable microfilm version at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I obtained it via Interlibrary Loan, scanned it at the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library, and uploaded it to the Internet Archive. Unfortunately, the quality of the scan and the resulting OCR text is rather poor, and a good deal of work-up was necessary in order to publish it. Of course, I corrected any errors (OCR or typographical) that I could spot, but it's quite likely that I missed some. Any errors you may still see in the text are entirely my own fault.

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

June 19, 2024

ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures