FIRST LINES FRIDAY: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Hello, Friday! First Lines Friday is a feature on my blog in which I post the first lines from a book I am interested in reading, either a new release or a backlist title! For the next several Fridays, I will be featuring titles I am going to hopefully read as part of my 12 Decades/12 Months/12 Books challenge (#12decades12books). I read The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde when I was sixteen and found an old beat-up copy in a local used bookstore, and I remember being so entranced with it that I still haven’t stopped thinking about it. When I found it in a little free library, I grabbed it and have been waiting for the right moment to read it again. Now that it’s been half my life ago, I want to revisit it and see how I think about it now.

Mr Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable. At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life. He was austere with himself; drank gin when he was alone, to mortify a taste for vintages; and though he enjoyed the theatre, had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years. But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove. ‘I incline to Cain’s heresy,’ he used to say quaintly; ‘I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.’ In this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the last reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of down-going men. And to such as these, so long as they came about his chambers, he never marked a shade of change in his demeanour.

What books have you read a decade ago that you still think about today? Why do you think they’ve stuck with you?

FIRST LINES FRIDAY: The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hello, Friday! First Lines Friday is a feature on my blog in which I post the first lines from a book I am interested in reading, either a new release or a backlist title! For the next several Fridays, I will be featuring titles I am going to hopefully read as part of my 12 Decades/12 Months/12 Books challenge (#12decades12books). The Scarlet Letter is one of my favorite classics, and I first fell in love with it when I was like thirteen when I had to read it for a co-op Literature class. This is the other more well known Hawthorne title, and I had it on my shelf already!

Half-way down a by-street of one of our New England towns, stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. The street is Pyncheon-street; the house is the old Pyncheon-house; and an elm-tree of wide circumference, rooted before the door, is familiar to every town-born child by the title of the Pyncheon-elm. On my occasional visits to the town aforesaid, I seldom fail to turn down Pyncheon-street, for the sake of passing through the shadow of these two antiquities; the great elm-tree, and the weather-beaten edifice.

The aspect of the venerable mansion has always affected me like a human countenance, bearing the races not merely of outward storm and sunshine, but expressive also of the long lapse of mortal life, and accompanying vicissitudes, that have passed within. Were these to be worthily recounted, they would form a narrative of no small interest and instruction, and possessing, moreover, a certain remarkable unity, which might almost seem the result of artistic arrangement. But the story would include a chain of events, extending over the better part of two centuries, and, written out with reasonable amplitude, would fill a bigger folio volume, or a longer series of duodecimos, than could prudently be appropriated to the annals of all New England, during a similar period.

How to you feel about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work? Do you enjoy it or is it something you’ve passed on?

FIRST LINES FRIDAY: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories, by Washington Irving

Hello, Friday! First Lines Friday is a feature on my blog in which I post the first lines from a book I am interested in reading, either a new release or a backlist title! For the next several Fridays, I will be featuring titles I am going to hopefully read as part of my 12 Decades/12 Months/12 Books challenge (#12decades12books). I was looking for a book to fit the 1840s decade, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories caught my eye. I’ve been in the mood for more ‘spooky’ reads, and this seemed perfect. This selection is from ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’

In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappaan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail, and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley, or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose, and the occasional whistle of quail, or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon uniform tranquility.

What have you read by Washington Irving? How often do you pick seasonal/mood reads?

FIRST LINES FRIDAY: The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford

Hello, Friday! First Lines Friday is a feature on my blog in which I post the first lines from a book I am interested in reading, either a new release or a backlist title! For the next several Fridays, I will be featuring titles I am going to hopefully read as part of my 12 Decades/12 Months/12 Books challenge (#12decades12books). After watching the adaptation of Parade’s End and reading one of the books in the quartet, I’ve been slowly acquiring Ford Madox Ford’s works. The Good Soldier caught my eye with a phrase on the back: ‘This is the saddest story I have ever heard.’

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. We had known the Ashburnhams for nine seasons of town of Nauheim with an extreme intimacy — or, rather, with an acquaintanceship as loose and easy and yet as close as a good glove’s with your hand. My wife and I knew Captain and Mrs. Ashburnham as well as it was possible to know anybody, and yet, in another sense, we knew nothing at all about them. This is, I believe, a state of things only possible with English people of whom, till today, when I sit down to puzzle out what I know of this sad affair, I knew nothing whatever. Six months ago I had never been to England, and, certainly, I had never sounded the depths of an English heart. I had known the shallows.

I don’t mean to say that we were not acquainted with many English people. Living, as we perforce lived, in Europe, and being, as we perforce were, leisured Americans, which is as much as to say that we were un-American, we were thrown very much into the society of the nicer English. Paris, you see, was our home. Somewhere between Nice and Bordighera provided yearly winter quarters for us, and Nauheim always received us from July to September. You will gather from this statement that one of us had, as the saying is, a ‘heart’, and, from the statement that my wife is dead, that she was the sufferer.

What do you think? What have you read of Ford Madox Ford?

FIRST LINES FRIDAY: Shirley, by Charlotte Bronte

Hello, Friday! First Lines Friday is a feature on my blog in which I post the first lines from a book I am interested in reading, either a new release or a backlist title! For the next several Fridays, I will be featuring titles I am going to hopefully read as part of my 12 Decades/12 Months/12 Books challenge (#12decades12books). I have been slowly making my way through reading all of the works by the Bronte sisters, and Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley is the one I’ve chosen for this year. It’s something I would also like to read in conjunction with Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, due to the similar subject matter of northern England’s mills in the early 19th century.

Of late years, an abundant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England: they lie very thick on the hills; every parish has one or more of them; they are young enough to be very active, and ought to be doing a great deal of good. But not of late years are we about to speak; we are going back to the beginning of this century: late years — present years are dusty, sun-burnt, hot, arid; we will evade the noon, forget it in siesta, pass the mid-day in slumber, and dream of dawn.

If you think, from this prelude, that anything like a romance is preparing for you, reader, you were never more mistaken. Do you anticipate sentiment, and poetry, and reverie? Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama? Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard. Something real, cool, and solid, lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning, when all who have work wake with the consciousness that they must rise and betake themselves thereto. It is not positively affirmed that you shall not have a taste of the exciting, perhaps toward the middle and close of the meal, but it is resolved that the first dish set upon the table shall be one that a Catholic — ay, even an Anglo-Catholic — might eat on Good Friday in Passion Week: it shall be cold lentils and vinegar without oil; it shall be unleavened bread with bitter herbs, and no roast lamb.

Which is your favorite book by the Bronte sisters?