Old Books: Louisa May Alcott, Prester John, Baron Munchausen


Here are three more quite old books that I have recently read. I will put them in my space at Carousel and I hope the next person will enjoy them. A lot of people pass by old books and don’t actually read them because they are old. They look interesting on shelves and some are cut up and made into arty décor. However, some of the books I have around were hits in the day and of course some become classics, often because they were used in school. For example, this copy of Prester John was No. 54 in the Teaching of English Series.

I had heard vaguely of Prester John and then after I had read it, I saw a reference to it in Baron Munchausen. It was the grand adventure of a young Scots boy who travelled to South Africa to run a store. While in Scotland he had seen an African man preach in the church but then that night he and his buddies saw the same preacher practicing what seemed to be a tribal rite on the seaside. He meets the same man in South Africa and in fact is caught up in the tribal revolt led by Laputa. This great big black man was trying to restore the various tribes under the aegis of Prester John, a sort of Christian king of Ethiopia in the 16th century. At any rate, our protagonist, David Crawfurd, got in and out of many physical and psychological scrapes in a thrilling tale. It was written in a very readable way and I appreciated that the author, John Buchan, Lord Tweedemuir, was not condescending to the various characters. This book was first published in this series in 1927 and this current edition was the 1944 one.

IMG_3356Recently I came across Recollections of my Childhood Days by Louisa M. Alcott. I happened to also come across a PBS film about Alcott, so watched it after I had finished this book. I had no idea she was so prolific and I hadn’t known much about her family life, truthfully. She was a very strong and interesting person. At any rate, this book is mostly childhood stories, but she starts off writing about her own real childhood. The stories have morals, of course, and are a little insipid, as was the style then, but I really enjoyed her prelude. This little book was published in 1890, so I hope lots of little children have read it.

Finally, the Baron Munchausen. I had heard of the Baron, in the context of him being a liar. I can’t imagine why. This book starts off with him being threatened on either side by a lion and a crocodile. As the lion is about to pounce and the crocodile, mouth open, is about to engulf him, the Baron falls to the ground in uncharacteristic fear, so the lion jumps into the crocodile’s mouth. The book is also illustrated with the heroic Baron’s deeds, such as jumping into an attacking wolf’s mouth and pulling him inside out. I am not sure when this volume was printed, but the introduction states that the original was published in 1793 or 96. The writer of the introduction identifies the ‘real’ writer and says that he got the stories from other cultures. Regardless, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the adventures because they were so unbelievable. In the second part of the book evidently there is some satire, but since I am not very familiar with the history of the time, I didn’t really get most of it, though what the elite and the governments were doing back them were probably not so different from what they do now in their ingrown ways. It was very nice to meet Baron Munchausen after all this time and I highly recommend the book.