One of the Worst Books

I HAVE a book which for forty years has adorned the centre-table of a New England parlor. I feel sure that Dr. Crothers would accord it a prominent place among his “ hundred worst books.” His test that a book should not be readable is met by the fact that it still retains its ornamental, centre-table appearance, and though published in 1854 shows no signs of having been read.

Upon its brilliant red cover is an angel all in gold, sitting upon a scroll-like divan used only, I judge, in heavenly circles. She holds a book in her lap which rivals her wings in size. With one arm gracefully outstretched, she points with her quill pen to some significant words on the page before her while she turns her face toward you with an appealing look. This chaste design is no doubt intended to assure the reader that these “ angel whispers ” are authentic, the author evidently having received them by direct communication with this gorgeous being whose attitude certainly indicates no connection with any sphere like this.

In the preface the author avows his purpose to give comfort to the mourner. The first five chapters are devoted to these subjects: —

“ Death of a Brother.”

“ Death of a Sister.”

“ Death of a Mother.”

“ Death of a Father.”

“ Death of a Child.”

Here is a sentence from one of these comforting (?) discourses. “ When you see the hearse rolling along to the sepulchre, to deposit its burden there — when you see whole communities stricken with grief, you can say, ‘ O sin, thou hast done this.’” A few sentences like this are enough to make one doubt the author’s hearing. One ought to have unusually acute ears who essays to give us “Angel Whispers, or The Echo of Spirit Voices.”

But the gem of this series of comforting addresses is the one on “The Advantages of Consumption.” Such a timely topic ought to be interesting and possibly surprising. Few have seen its advantages. To such we submit the four points of this discourse which will no doubt be convincing.

“ First. Consumption gives time for reflection and thought.”

“ Second. Consumption is seldom, to any great extent, accompanied with pain.”

“ Third. Consumption seldom dethrones the reason.”

“ Fourth [and what a delightful climax!]. Consumption ends in death.”

These points are amply argued, and even illustrated and proved by the story of a young girl who was so fortunate as to have contracted this desirable disease, and through the benign dispensation was able in the “ time given for reflection and thought,” to prepare herself for the “fearful scenes of Eternity.”

The last essay has the cheerful title, “ The Six Deathbeds.” We submit that this book is worthy of the “ bad eminence ” accorded to the “ hundred worst books,” and ask if it is not a comment on the sentiment of a day gone by to find inscribed with many a flourish on the fly leaf this appropriate sentiment:—

“ Philopena or viel liebchen, 1854. From Nettie.”