Karla's Reviews > The Sorrows of Eliza; or, A Tale of Misfortune: Being the Authentic Memoirs of a Young Lady in the Vicinity of London

The Sorrows of Eliza; or, A Tale of Misfortune by Robert B. Bayles
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The old Dewey Decimal fiction section in the library where I work is awesome. There are all kinds of treasures in there, dating from the late 1700s to the 1960s. The old leather-bound books can be picked up and browsed through without having to go through the rigamarole of Special Collections requests, white gloves, and the whole nine yards. I guess they've been considered "disposable" and not important, which is sad in a way, but I appreciate that they're so easy to access.

There's a thrill in picking up a title like The Sorrows of Eliza and reading a vintage "cautionary tale" from 1810. Well, I felt one anyway. I love the old stuff, and these titles that are utterly forgotten are often more interesting than the ubiquitous popular classics of the time.

This very short "true story" documents the holy monogamous fidelity of young Eliza for her husband and the unshakable moral core of true womanhood that sees her through some very rough times.

When her husband William is press-ganged onto a war frigate, Eliza sets off in search of him. She walks 60 miles to her sister's house but, since William is poor and Eliza's family didn't approve of the marriage and have become hard asses about it, Eliza is sent on her way without food or even a minute's rest. She travels the next 72 miles to Deal Harbor and is accosted (but always escapes at the last minute) by a number of nasty men. Even the admiral who agrees to convey her to the French coast to meet up with her husband has nefarious designs upon her virtuous wifely flesh.

There are some infrequent happy times for the delicate thing. She does meet William and they have a short-lived reunion aboard ship. But William is destined to die on Africa's shores at the hand of some justifiably pissed-off natives who loathe the English for their nasty habit of selling them into slavery. (The author is an obvious abolitionist, going off on a couple tangents about England's hypocrisy of standing for liberty and freedom while actively engaging in the slave trade.)

It's a cheap and melodramatic little story, and one can almost see the author raising a stern finger during certain passages in chastisement of the base, unfeeling nature of some of God's creatures.

This little scene where Eliza is waiting aboard ship to be conveyed to William almost had me giving it 5 stars:
One of the lieutenants on board had conceived in his mind the project of adding the young Eliza to his numerous victims of ruined innocence. Retired and unattended, as she sat melancholy and pensive in her room, this cold murderer of female virtue, with silent step entered that cabin which had been destined to be her sanctuary, and gently opening the door, he as suddenly closed it behind him; and seizing the faithful damsel in his arms, he proceeded to exert the eloquence of seductive treachery, and trusted his success to the moment of surprize. But the energy of her virtuous soul, like the lightning from heaven, in an instant appalled the guilt of a wretch, and completely blasted the design of his villainy.

This could have soooo been made into a movie by D.W. Griffith in, say, 1910.

Good fun, and I'd rather read it than Austen.
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Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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message 1: by Kerrie (new)

Kerrie Yes! 5 stars for that passage alone! GOOD STUFF!!!

Wish I had access to those delightfully dusty old tomes here!


Karla I had to put some plastic over it as I read it, because the leather is all dusty and rubs off.

Now I must resist the urge to go back up there and grab a bunch more oldies. There were several on either side of this one on the shelf. :P


message 3: by Misfit (new)

Misfit What fun. I think I'd be terrified to read somethat that old. I had a couple of different Dumas books via ILL that were the 1910 editions and the pages were so fragile it didn't need much more than a touch and they'd tear.


message 4: by Karla (last edited Jul 23, 2011 08:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karla The leather at the curve of spine meets cover has broken completely, after only opening the book a couple times (strings still holding tight). Inside it's very clean & looks barely read, so I guess its brittle condition seems to be merely shelfwear. Until the new library addition was built and some books got moved into it, all these books were in the original library that had no AC. So they took a beating during the summer. The lower levels were like a sauna, and no windows. Yay for renovations. :D


message 5: by Misfit (last edited Jul 23, 2011 08:08AM) (new)

Misfit I'll have to come and visit you at work someday :)

King County has something they call Central Storage for the older books they've not dumped out of the catalog. I should ask if they let the public come and browse.


Karla I'm sure there's all kinds of goodies squirreled away in there!


message 7: by Misfit (new)

Misfit I'm sure they do.


message 8: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I *heart* old "trashy" books. It's tragic the way they're so unduly neglected in favor of, say, Austen (who makes me want to vomit). Really, how much more interesting would students find Zofloya as opposed to Pride and Prejudice? A helluva lot. And maybe they wouldn't be so certain old = boring. *sigh*


Karla I read P&P years before it was so hyped because of Colin Firth's pants (or whatever) and couldn't stand it. Didn't even have to read it for a class. I picked it up because I was curious about an old "classic" and had no expectations or prejudices (heh). Jane Eyre, OTOH, I had to read for a class and I loathed it and still do.

When I get to work tomorrow I've got to scan one of the engravings from "Eliza" and post it. It's awesomely prurient. :D


message 10: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Ah, I got to read the book THEN see Colin Firth in the same classroom. I wasn't wild about the show (in some company that admission will get you stoned o.O) but it was a damned sight more interesting than the book.

I loved Jane Eyre, though. I read that one of my own free will. Rochester = sex. Or something vaguely mathematical like that.

Yay for prurient penny-dreadfuls!


Karla I've got to quote this part:
There were many soldiers quartered in barracks at this town, and baseness has often been known to take up its abode in military tents. She had not wandered far on the road, when her ears caught the sound of footsteps behind; and in turning her head, she perceived two common soldiers, who, apparently, had come from the barracks, and were intending to overtake her on the way. ...These two hirelings of destruction soon came up with Eliza on a part of the road more lonely than the rest, and prefaced the commission of their intended design by asking many questions, as well impertinent as unmeaning... When they laid hold of her, and one of them said in a voice more dreadful to Eliza than the howl of a wolf, "You are a damned nice girl," a sickly paleness overspread her face, and her limbs trembled beneath her. In silence they retained their hold of her arm, and she shuddered more than she would have done in a fit of the ague, when they pointed to a wood which bordered on the road, and after having signified to each other the conveniency of the place, they proceeded to drag her by force; for they probably had at first concerted this plan, and had conceived that the dark shade of the wood was well calculated to conceal the blackness of their crime...




message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah That is ten kinds of awesome. :D


message 13: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) wrote: "I've got to quote this part:
There were many soldiers quartered in barracks at this town, and baseness has often been known to take up its abode in military tents. She had not wandered far on the r..."


WELL !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don't stop there you tease.

Please give me moreeee


Karla @ Sharon: She screams and some wandering preacher comes by and saves her. It's all rather anti-climactic! :P Boo to the author for never delivering on the goods.


message 15: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Thanks for the snippet. Interesting reading a piece IN that time period versus present writing involving the time period. I'm sure it was quite titillating to it's readers. Of course the author couldn't deliver on the goods. He probably would have been tossed into Newgate.

Cute little victorian lady in the image.

Thanks for sharing.


Karla Sharon wrote: "Thanks for the snippet. Interesting reading a piece IN that time period versus present writing involving the time period."

After reading quite a few books that were written so long ago, any recently-written romance sounds too modern in style in comparison. :P Patrick O'Brian can write the Regency period and have them sound like they're actually from that time, instead of sounding like modern people playing dress-up. FWIW, I think anyone who likes historical romances would like Post Captain.


message 17: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Excuse me.
FWIW - no comprende.

Somebody posted a list of cp shorthand and I could use that crash course. Know where it is?


message 18: by Karla (last edited Jul 26, 2011 10:29AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karla For what it's worth

No, don't know where it is. :P


message 19: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Ok, thanks. That translation makes sense.

Oh well, I'll stumble across the list again. If I can one time, there's no reason I won't again.., apparently just not when I want to.

But to stay true to all things in my life ...it all has to happen by accident.


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