The Ladies’ Garland was published by John S. Gallaher in Harper’s Ferry, WV every Saturday evening at the Office of the Harpers-Ferry Free Press. This excerpt is an account of how the Waverly Novels written by Sir Walter Scott changed a farmer’s household.
“I have been compelled, almost in self-defence, to read the novels of Sir Walter Scott. They cost me some ‘days in harvest,’ and I may find the balance against me in the spring ; but it is not the mere loss of my own time that I regret. I brought the novels into the house, and something was directly at loose ends. – The butter did not come – the soap did not come-the wheel stood still – the fire went out-there was neither sewing, spinning, nor knitting – the cows were not milked – the cattle were not foddered – the hogs were not fed. It was catching weather, and I had ten tons of hay down. Some of my hands had gone off – more were wanted-one cart had broke down, and it began to rain. The news was told to me in as quick succession as it was to Job. My wife insisted I must go, but I told her I would wait to see how Jenny Deans came out with the Duke of Argyle, if there was’nt a lock of sweet hay made in the country this season. – But I soon found there was no stopping-place in the book-so I put it down, but was not fairly out of the room before my wife had taken it up, and turned back to a place marked with thread.
I contrived to read it through, and on Saturday night about sundown, I found my wife advanced a little way in the second volume. She is usually a strict observer of Saturday night, but she read till after candlelight. The girls got the tea and cleared it off. My wife put by the book but after musing some time, asked me when it was, on Saturday night, that holy time commenced. ‘Sun-down,’ said I; ‘It seems to me,’ said she, ‘that I have heard some people say it did not begin till midnight.’ ‘The evening and the morning,’ said I, ‘was the first day.’ ‘Ay, but which evening?’ ‘Why,’ said I, ‘if it was the first day, it must have been the first evening.’ ‘That’s true,’ said she, ‘I wonder there ever could have been a question about it.’
By this time one of the girls was peeping into the book. ‘Shut it up and sit down – it’s Saturday night.’
Holy time, however it might begin, ended the next day pretty punctually at sunset, when the reading again commenced, and continued till I know not what time in thei night, for I had been abed and asleep.
The next day our worthy parson paid us a visit, and surprised my wife with the novel in her hand. She hastily laid it down, but not till she was caught by the parson’s question ‘what book it was?’ which she was obliged to answer not quite so glib as I have sometimes known her. The parson took so fair an occasion to warn against the corrupting influence of novel reading. It consumed time, destroyed seriousness, gave false notions of things, and endangered morals.
I was about trying to help my help-mate out of the scrape, when she did it much better herself, by telling the parson that there was no magic in names, and there was a great difference in novels, as he might be convinced if he would read the book, the first volume of which she offered him. He sent it home, however, the next day, with a civil request for the loan of the second.
I directly perceived that the perusal of the book must go through my family as strait as the small pox : so I determined they should all have a fair chance my laborers and my folks in the kitchen, not forgetting the dogs. I then placed my three boys in a row, and made them read by turns, as they do at school; determined that the audience should have enough of it, and sit patiently till they were cured of novel reading. The youngest boy answered my purpose admirably. He made such work of the Scotch, and the poetry, and the pauses, and the sense, that if the Author himself had been by, I would not have desired to put him in greater pain. And the eldest did pretty well for some time, till he caught the run of the story, when I found myself taken in by my own contrivance. He vaired his tones, noticed the pauses, and came very near the style of an actor. It was with me a moment of weakness, and my unluck y wife suggested the propriety of sending him to college. To make short of a long story, my family have turned heroes, and heroines, and speak Scotch quite broght. The youthful reader is to go to College and be made a master of – Ravenswood – with a small chance of a little learning, and a pretty sure inheritance of poverty.”
The original newspaper, Vol. 1, No. 36, is available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry. The newspaper is comprised of pages 141-144 of the volume and has several poems and articles.