The Water-Babies

Since getting on the subject of what makes a good library, I’ve decided to evaluate each book in my collection and weed out any that are unworthy. Naturally, I must have read a book in order to evaluate it, but you’d be surprised at the number of unread books on my shelves. One I just read, The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley, belonged to an aunt who died when I was young. Disposing of it is not an option, given the name on the bookplate, but I was hoping to further justify my ownership by liking it immensely.

Grade: D

I understand now how I could have owned The Water-Babies since childhood without ever having read it. My guess is that child-me got about five pages in, yawned, and put it right back on the shelf. While charming at times, it was more often preachy and tedious. It was also occasionally insulting to females, Americans, the Irish, Jews, and others. If it had nothing to recommend itself, it would get an F, but there were just enough sweet moments to earn it a D. It is also a virtual goldmine of interesting bits, such as never-ending sentences, obscure words, dated ideas, and odd lists. I want to remember them, since they come to me from my aunt, so I will share them here on my blog.

For your enjoyment, an excerpt from pages four and five, one of the longest sentences I have ever seen. Take note of the first two words.

In short, Harthover was a grand place, and sir John a grand old man, whom even Mr. Grimes respected, for not only could he send Mr. Grimes to prison when he deserved it, as he did once or twice a week; not only did he own all the land about for miles; not only was he a jolly, honest, sensible squire as ever kept a pack of hounds, who would do what he thought right by his neighbors, as well as get what he thought right for himself, but, what was more, he weighed full fifteen stone, was nobody knew how many inches round the chest, and could have thrashed Mr. Grimes himself in fair fight, which very few folks round there could do, and which, my dear little boy, would not have been right for him to do, as a great many things are not which one both can do, and would like very much to do.

More tidbits from The Water-Babies to come in future posts.

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