"Let, for example, the body, material and solid, be represented fairly enough by x^3, and the spirit, higher and possessing an unknown power, by x^4."Let, for example, the body, material and solid, be represented fairly enough by x^3, and the spirit, higher and possessing an unknown power, by x^4. Then (x^3+x^4) represents the man in life, while (x^3+x^4)–x^4 represents the departure of the spirit (x^4) at death, which returns to its own dimension, while the body (x^3), which is left, returns to the earth to which a belongs."
An awful lot of this book is an unapologetic crib of Abbott's Flatland, published only a few years earlier, but the climax, where Scofield uses math to explain the translation of Enoch, etc., is worth the repetition....more
Second in a series of pacifistic texts for children designed to inculcate a horror of war by exposing the misdeeds of great conquerors—the previous boSecond in a series of pacifistic texts for children designed to inculcate a horror of war by exposing the misdeeds of great conquerors—the previous book features Alexander the Great, this one Tamerlane, and there are allusions in the text to two more volumes, although I don't know if they were ever produced.
Neither accurate as history nor riveting as an account of the quelling of the red blood of fictional young warmonger Charley Wood, but interesting as a snapshot of a rather tepid and polite nineteenth-century pacifism. ...more
One of the pleasures of an Alger book is the way its fetishistic attention to detail casts light on the minutiae of nineteenth-century life. The readeOne of the pleasures of an Alger book is the way its fetishistic attention to detail casts light on the minutiae of nineteenth-century life. The reader of The Cash Boy, for example, will learn how transactions were conducted in a department store in the days before cash registers and price tags -- not something I had ever even known I didn't know before.
Unfortunately, Alger knows nothing about, and cares nothing about the circus. Whereas the sleeping quarters of various homeless bootblacks have in other, similar books been painted in detail, Robert Rudd's circus life, let alone his amazing routine, remain indistinct and unspecified. When Rudd starts juggling, which appears to primarily mean that he performed magic tricks, Alger can only say: "It is unnecessary to enumerate his tricks, or to describe the interest which the young company manifested." Compare this lack of specificity with the detail Alger lavishes on a circus-free scene:
Robert Rudd had been in New York more than once, and be therefore had no difficulty in finding out the fine hotel on Broadway known as the St. Nicholas.
He entered it, and, walking up to the desk, inquired, "Is Mr. John Fitzgerald staying here?"
"Yes," answered the clerk. "Do you wish to see him ?"
"If you please."
"Then write your name on a card and I will send it up."
Robert did so.
"See if No. 135 is in," said the clerk, calling a hall boy, and handing him the card.
In five minutes the hall boy came back, saying : "Mr. Fitzgerald wants the young gentleman to come up."
Robert followed him to a room on the third floor and knocked at the door.
This agonizing slowness is worse than usual ("Robert did so" gets its own paragraph???) but much more characteristic of Alger. Had that level of detail crept into the circus tent, the book would have been much more interesting.
Also, Rudd's inheritance plot, complete with multiple layers of implausible coincidence and unearned escapes, is unforgivably creaky even for Alger....more
This volume is, in some ways, the perfect encapsulation of Alger: The Phenomenon, even though it leaves out the middle book of a trilogy. It successfuThis volume is, in some ways, the perfect encapsulation of Alger: The Phenomenon, even though it leaves out the middle book of a trilogy. It successfully bridges the early Alger's obsession with hard work with the later Alger's obsession with melodramatic inheritance. That is to say, Dick is a waif who though "pluck and luck," through industry and honesty, bootstraps himself out of the gutter; Mark is a secret-tycoon orphan biding his time until the inevitable denouement of inheritance. Dick earns his money; Mark has only to reclaim what was once his.
(Fosdick, the bridge character, is the rightful heir to a small amount of capital. His arc is introduced in the first book or the trilogy and resolved in the third.)
Bear in mind that although I call these books early and late Alger, there is only a year between them. Alger would have many hardworking paupers, and many disenfranchised heirs, in the years to come, and only the ratio of emphasis shifts as the twentieth century looms closer. If for a Platonist all learning is remembering, for a late-Alger hero all success is remembering you were rich all along, or at least reminding the authorities of that fact as you trap the fiend who stole your railroad shares in any number of implausible traps.
Ragged Dick, or respectable Richard Hunter, remains the best Alger hero, by which I mean the least cloying. He could never be a secret blueblood because (Alger's closeted and most thoroughly unconscious classism here) he is, no matter how refined he becomes, too coarse. He maintains the "vigor" and irony of the underclass, always joking about his background and his station, always smirking at the airs of a society he will only plunder for its virtue and knowledge. If he found out his parents were plutocrats it would kill him. His entire character is based on absorbing and never denying his humble origins. Mark, in contrast, is a conventionally priggish Victorian hero, scarcely deserving of his wealth except through his propensity to suffer.
Dick, perhaps alone among Alger heroes, is almost a human. ...more