Nothing Like It

"Oh! it is a splendid grinding-machine, the present structure of society; and the poor must not only turn the crank, but hold their own noses to the grindstone."


"It is the system that I am showing up. It is the system which causes men and women to make fools of themselves and one another; hardening their hearts, and blinding their eyes, by continually presenting to them false issues, false hopes."


It is folly for us to think that our sons and daughters can be saved from the evils which threaten, by keeping them in ignorance of what exists; for ignorance is the poorest of all safeguards.


"Fall, if there is no other way to get out; even if the whole fabric tumbles in consequence."

That last quote could very well have come from Atlas Shrugged, but it comes from an 1875 novel by Lois Waisbrooker. It is the story of Eben Rockman, a Methodist minister who abandons the pulpit to become a firebrand for social justice, and as a result is treated as a "queer character." He assists Minnie Morris, whose former life is ruined by a philanderer, and who enacts a plan to bring self-respect and financial independence to women who have similarly been treated—drawing them away from the desperate resort of prostitution—which results in public accusations of promoting sin and degeneracy. The unnamed narrator of the story is a skeptic, who nonetheless suffers from friendship with those characters, yet draws the love of Arthur Berrian, a minister who proves willing to stand up to scandal and gossip.

Sound soapy? Well, perhaps, but I find it a fun and thought-provoking work, all the more so because in many ways it is still fresh and applicable to the prejudice and oppression of today. The characters are taken more from real life than those of previous works: as a result, the novel is more vivid and compelling (not to mention quotable!) than the earlier Alice Vale. This work is also notable as an early depiction of what would come to be known as the Social Gospel, and as such you may well find the various theological conversations between the characters to be intriguing.

I took the initial text from this scan of the 1875 edition, and checked it against this scan of the 1885 edition. References to page numbers are omitted, and obvious typographical errors are corrected. Note that when I transcribed Alice Vale, I encountered a verbless use of the phrase "in order to:" I thought it must be an error, and supplied [in brackets] what I thought to be the unintentionally missing verb. In this novel, I encountered the usage twice more, have decided that it was normal for the times (or at least for the author), and thus have left it alone.

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

As the narrator says: Alas, my sister! unconscious, stupefied by the liquid fire of man's invention, thou hast for the time forgotten thy thirst, but only to awake with keener gnawings.

May 15, 2021

ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures