Friday, October 3, 2014

The "Elsie" Books: Mixed Feelings

I'm about to start re-reading Martha Finley's "Elsie Dinsmore"
series, and I must admit that I have mixed feelings about
the books.
Many of the incidents are really interesting; some would even
fit into a non-religious book, if the religious elements were omitted.
I like the fact that Elsie loves her Bible.  Of course, in those days many books written for a Protestant audience depicted
characters reading the Bible, a hymn book, and Pilgrim's Progress.
 Now for the things I find annoying about the books.
Of course, I have to mention the anti-Catholic element.
  This is from the second book, "Elsie's Holidays at Roselands."
 "Poor darling!" murmured Adelaide, clasping the little form more closely,
and pressing her lips to the fair brow; "I wish I could save you from it.
He says that if you continue obdurate, he has quite determined to send
you to a convent to be educated."

As Adelaide made this announcement, she pitied the child from the bottom
of her heart; for she knew that much of Elsie's reading had been on the
subject of Popery and Papal institutions; that she had pored over
histories of the terrible tortures of the Inquisition and stories of
martyrs and captive nuns, until she had imbibed an intense horror and
dread of everything connected with that form of error and superstition."

I wonder if one of the books Elsie read was 
Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, or, The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed
I'm almost sure that Martha Finley, the author of the "Elsie" books, read it!
I thought for a long time that "Maria Monk" was a pseudonym, chosen to
mock Catholic beliefs; it certainly sounds like one! However, I've recently found out that it was her real name.
Maria Monk
A fictionalized engraving of Maria Monk, in anun’s habit, holding a baby
BornJune 27, 1816
Roosevelt Island
Partner(s)Graham Monk
ParentsWilliam Monk
Isabella Mills 

In "Elsie's Children," one of Elsie's young cousins becomes a Catholic.  Her conversion is referred to as her perversion.

[In the revised, modernized version of the "Elsie" series, "Elsie Dinsmore: A Life of Faith," the anti-Catholicism is removed.  The revision, however, is a bit anachronistic, because although it is set at the same time as the original series,
the Bible Elsie uses is the "New International Version", which was first published in the 1970s!  I had the updated books, but I lost them when I moved.] 

There are other things in the "Elsie" books that I find annoying, but they'll have to wait for another post.

So, how do I feel about the books, all in all?  Well, as I said when I started this post, I must admit that I have mixed feelings about
the books.  There are some things I really dislike, and some
things I really enjoy.