1903’s Best Novels None Too Good

Although the bestsellers of 1903 include some good stories and some intriguing detail, none of the novels is literature. Most are not even novels you’d seek out for a second reading. With the exception of Owen Wister’s The Virginian, each seems to be very much a novel of its era. It’s hard to imagine any […]

The Little Shepherd Wins the War, Loses Readers

The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come is an improbable tale of an orphan boy genetically predisposed to become a paragon of virtue. As the novel opens, the family with whom Chad lived has died. Chad and his dog, Jack, take off across the mountains. They land in Kingdom Come, Kentucky, where Jack wins a dog […]

The One Woman Is Too Ridiculous

The early 1900s saw a spate of novels about clergymen who came under bad influences in big cities. Thomas Dixon Jr.’s The One Woman: A Story of Modern Utopia is one of the more ridiculous examples of group. The One Woman contains some interesting insights into what today are sneeringly called traditional values, but the […]

Letters of a Self-Made Merchant to His Son: A Businessman’s Home Companion

If Garrison Keillor had been CEO of a pork-packing business in the 1890s, he might have written Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son. Since he was not, George Horace Lorimer undertook the task, producing a bestselling novel brimming with funny stories, shrewd advice, and love. Each of the 17 chapters of the novel […]

The Mettle of the Pasture Probes Ethics of Truthfulness

The Mettle of the Pasture by James Lane Allen combines two of life’s most essential themes—  love and ethical behavior — into an incredibly forgettable novel. The plot pivots on the question of whether it is ethically necessary for a couple about to marry to reveal their moral lapses to their intended partner. When he […]

Lovey Mary gets help from Mrs. Wiggs

In Lovey Mary, Alice Hegan Rice returns to the Cabbage Patch with a cheerful novel that redeploys Mrs. Wiggs from her 1902 bestseller. Orphaned Lovey Mary, 13, is acutely aware that she’s not loved. When Mary’s former tormentor, Kate Rider, drops her infant at the orphan asylum, Mary becomes his foster mother. Two years later, […]