Image: By Lilly Library, Indiana University, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3775990
In Walk by Faith, Maggie’s boarding house and Eli’s print shop mysteriously burn down and arson is suspected. With Eli and Carson working as war correspondents, and Frankie’s beau Patrick McCoy and Lydia’s husband Edgar Lape enlisted in the army, Maggie’s household largely is made up of women, except for James “Grandpa” O’Reilly and carpenter Nate Johnson (Emily’s husband). The little group now is left homeless, with only the clothing on their backs.
Maggie’s brother, Samuel, graciously intervenes, though, and invites the boarding house family to live at the Oaks, which he has inherited and is the place where he and Maggie grew up. Their well-to-do father owned a carriage manufactory and had built the impressive home a few miles outside of Blaineton, where he set about raising his children to be proper, Protestant, upper-class children.
All that is a long prelude to the scene below, which takes place in the back parlor of the Oaks, where the displaced boarding house women like to gather to do mending and to talk.
One wall held bookshelves. As a child, Maggie had loved to peruse the titles and then choose one that struck her fancy. Her favorites had been James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking series, Walter Scott’s adventures, and Jane Austen’s novels. However, when caught reading such material – which happened frequently – her pious governess would cluck her tongue disapprovingly, remove the offending book from Maggie’s hands, and replace it with more edifying fare, such as John Bunyon’s Pilgrim’s Progress, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, or even a tome of Jonathan Edwards’ sermons.
Maggie smiled at the memory as she made neat, regular stitches in a pair of trousers intended for Bob, and reminded herself to read Austen’s Emma later. She said, “You know, as a child, I was told novel reading was unproductive. But isn’t the refreshment of the mind productive too? If life is to be whole and balanced, should it not contain both work and recreation?”
Maggie’s governess was not being evil, nor was she trying to repress her young charge. Instead, she raising her young charge according to the standards of the time for the family’s class.
Maggie was born 17 February 1821. Her memory probably is from age ten or twelve, which would place the somewhere around 1831-1833. Why is timing important? Because as Maggie says, at that time she was told “novel reading was unproductive.” In fact, novels and other fictional material were considered in upper- and middle-class Protestant circles to be deleterious. Now that I think about it, such an attitude may go a long way to explaining why “novel reading” was one criteria for admission to an insane asylum.
While at Theological School at Drew University, I took an upper level class called “Religion in Victorian England.” My research paper for it was called “Little Christians: An Examination of Wesleyan Children’s Magazines from Victorian England and Their Models of the Christian Child.” That work I had done for that paper has stuck with me.
Even though Maggie lives in the United States, the attitudes of and aspirations for Protestant middle- and upper-class people were much the same as in England. And yet, Maggie as an adult has no problem regarding fiction and even home-theatricals (shades of Little Women!):
Eli rejoined us once we returned home. Emily and I served a light meal, and then all turned to various activities. Some of the boarders took walks or engaged in conversation on the porch. Others read. Frankie, Lydia, and Edgar gathered around the piano and sang hymns for a while. Then the trio called us in to enjoy a dramatic presentation based on the book of Esther. Edgar took the part of the villain Haman, Lydia played the heroine, and Frankie took the roles of the King and Mordecai. I am not sure how much Mr. Madison will approve of this activity, but it is all innocent fun and on Sundays we have stories from the Bible. Dramatics, as long as they are confined to the parlor and of wholesome content, are perfectly permissible to my mind. After all, God intended the Sabbath to be a lazy and refreshing day, a change of pace. To amuse ourselves thusly is part of the process of renewal.
Has the adult Maggie rebelled against her governess’ teaching? Or has something else changed? Or is it a little bit of both?
Come back tomorrow to join a “romp,” as the "Religion in Victorian England" class’s professor Dr. Kenneth Rowe used to say, through the content of Victorian magazines for children and their message to young, well-off Protestant children.
Off course, this isn’t the “going to bat” I mean, but as an aside, they did have baseball in 1864.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Maggie’s encounter with Josiah Norton in The Good Community. I have added to my work-in-progress since then and now Josiah goes to Eli’s office to complain about the way Maggie has treated him.
I love Eli’s respect and love for his wife. He stands up for her when necessary, encourages her to follow her heart, and literally has taken a bullet or three for her.
I don’t have much time to write a full blog, as today was rather full. But I hope you enjoy this rough snippet from The Good Community.
Eli looked up. Josiah Norton was standing in his office doorway. Danny was behind him, looking anxious.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Danny stammered. “He wouldn’t wait for me to announce you.”
Eli smiled reassuringly at the boy. “It’s fine. You may return to the reception desk, Danny.”
With a nod, the boy left.
Still smiling, Eli folded his hands and rested them on the desk. “Well, Mr. Norton, to what do I owe the pleasure? Or did you come over just to upset my receptionist?”
Josiah glowered at him. “Mr. Smith…”
His voice was booming. and Eli was sure it could be heard through most of the building. Not an accident, he decided.
“I understand that you have a somewhat unconventional family.”
“I do, indeed.”
“But have you no control over your wife?”
As he continued to smile, Eli stood, took his cane, walked to the door, and shut it. When he turned, his smile had vanished. “Mr. Norton, I understand that you enjoy charging about like a bull moose, but I need to educate you about something.” His voice dropped to a low, controlled tone. “This is my newspaper. You are in my office. You will never come in here again and throw your weight around as if I am your inferior and this is one of your buildings.”
“Point taken.” Josiah’s posture was stiff. He seemed to expect a fight.
“Secondly…” Eli took a step toward the other man, knowing full well that Josiah could take him down. And yet he let his voice drop lower, so it rumbled in his chest. “You do not tell me how to treat my wife. She is not my employee, nor is she my servant. She is an intelligent, compassionate human being, and she is my partner through life. My partner. Do you understand?”
When Josiah opened his mouth to speak, Eli held up a hand.
“I know how I appear, Mr. Norton. I’m portly. I wear spectacles. I was shot three times almost three and a half years ago. One bullet struck my leg and left me dependent upon this cane.” He chuckled softly. “You know, I’m starting to feel a bit like Saint Paul.”
“I have been given a thorn in the flesh. But don’t be deceived by my apparent weakness. I am learning to live with my infirmity. Perhaps someday I will glory in it. As Saint Paul said, ‘when I am weak, then I am strong.’ And just maybe I will learn, as my dear wife hopes, that God’s grace is sufficient.”
“I don’t understand.”
Eli took a breath. “In short, don’t test me, sir. I am not what I appear. And I have a pen. Do you take my meaning?”
Josiah’s eyes narrowed as he nodded.
“Fine.” Eli indicated the sofa. "Please sit." He returned to his desk, and sat down. “Now, why don’t we discuss your issue like the rational men we are?”
Hmmm.... I wonder how that turns out! More later.
 2 Corinthians 12:6-10
Obviously, I enjoy music – and I’m not afraid to cross genre and style. I like old hymns, but I also enjoy rock. And when it came time to write Heart Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll, I created a soundtrack to listen to while I wrote, which grew over time. I’m not going to reveal that list here, because I have a few gnarly songs on it. However, some of the material from my “soundtrack” made it into the manuscript.
So… to quote Dewey Finn in The School of Rock: “Let’s get rockin’!”
As I did with the hymns, click on the name of the song to hear it (provided I linked everything correctly). P.S. Sorry for the ads. Life in the 21st century. Nothing is free, right? Except, apparently, this blog!
Here’s to Us ("clean"version)
This is a total rock anthem about a love that has been tested by life. The first time I heard “Here’s to Us” on the radio, it stuck with me and, while I was working on Heart Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll, it became the story’s theme song. It is, as the love of my life Dan says, a “really honest song.”
Let’s be honest, Lzzy Hale can and does use profanity and sings about sexual matters that almost embarrass me, but I don’t freak out over that when the music is good, the band is tight, and the singer is talented. And yet, I enjoy the non-explicit version of “Here’s to Us” more than the other. You don’t need all the cuss words, although they do give the piece a certain toughness.
Anyway, Halestorm is a fine band, and dang, I wish I could sing like Lzzy!
In Heart Soul, Patti drags Lins off to the Shore for a break. On their first night in Point Pleasant Beach, she cons Lins into singing at the Flying Fish Club’s Karaoke night. The song Patti chooses is “Here’s to Us.” I believe Patti chose the song to show off Lins’ voice and to help her have fun. As Patti tells Lins, they sing the song while in the car, why not do it on stage?
Here is the “clean version.”
Life Is a Highway
Covered by Rascal Flatts, written by Tom Cochrane
The song, written and originally recorded by Tom Cochrane, was a hit in the early 1990s. I remembered it while writing my novel and went looking for the song on ITunes. What I found was the version by Rascal Flatts and added it my little soundtrack. Recently, when I was searching out videos on YouTube, I finally found the video I remembered of the “guy with the hair over his eyes” (Cochrane). The original version is very close to Rascal Flatts’ cover. You will see Cochrane’s video up here.
In the scene at the Flying Fish Club’s Karaoke Night, Neil is so impressed with Lins’ voice that he nervously asks her to sing a karaoke song with him. But when they get up on stage and perform “Life Is a Highway,” chemistry breaks loose. It also gives the couple a chance to strut their stuff to each other and to the audience. Lins thinks Neil is trying to hit on her. Yeah, he is – but he’s also auditioning her for his band – and maybe his life.
If life is a highway, then it looks as if Lins and Neil are driving up the on-ramp together.
Twist and Shout - Top Notes
Twist and Shout - Isley Brothers
Twist and Shout - The Beatles (We see them playing and singing the song, but the original recorded version is dubbed in.)
Song written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns (Bert Russell)
Originally recorded by the Top Notes in 1961. The producer for the record was a pre-Wall of Sound Phil Spector.
In 1962, the Isley Brothers covered the song, which made it into the Top 20. The Isley Brothers’ first hit was “Shout” (covered memorably by Otis Day and Knights in the movie Animal House).
The Beatles covered the song in 1963. It probably was part of their repertoire while playing clubs in Liverpool, England and Hamburg, Germany. The Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool was a seaport, which meant imports of records from the USA got there even before they reached London. From what I understand, the Beatles and other Liverpool bands were heavily influenced by U.S. music, particularly records from Detroit (Motown). “Twist and Shout” seems to have been one of the covers they performed live, and it was included on their first album, which was issued in the UK as “Please Please Me.” I’m sticking with the recording, rather than a live performance for a reason. John Lennon, who did the lead vocals, had a bad cold, the song came at the end of the session, and his voice is raw. All of which made for an amazing rock recording.
How does all this tie in with Heart Soul? Lins and Neil establish that they both think the Beatles are the best band ever. I think their creator – me –influenced that attitude! When Neil invites Lins up on stage at the Flying Fish Club to sing a number with the Grim Reapers, it is only natural that he would choose a song they both know and love.
I’m offering all three versions of the song, so you can see how it was performed by each group. You’ll notice how much the Beatles were influenced by the Isley Brothers’ version.
The next selection of songs comes near the end of the book, after a tragic death. The band decides to perform a memorial concert and begin choosing songs that the recently-departed enjoyed singing. It also shows that the Grim Reapers, like most bar bands, had a large cover repertoire. Well, they should, after decades of playing live!
Hmm… maybe that’s the way I’d like to go out: surrounded by my favorite music. I’m thinking how to make the jump between the Wesleyan hymn “And Can It Be” and Halestorm’s “Here’s to Us” (“clean” version, of course, as we’ll probably be in a church).
Come as You Are - Nirvana
The song illustrates the Grim Reapers’ grunge cred. The band is in their early 40s in 2014 (around the year I was writing the book) and would have been influenced by Nirvana in the 1990s.
Oh, come on, who doesn’t love this song? Heart slays it, and at the memorial service I imagine Lins does, too.
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Guns & Roses
I chose this because it says something about the way the band, especially Neil, feels about the dearly departed. There’s a touching tenderness to it.
Stairway to Heaven
Because who doesn’t love them some Zep? Enjoy them performing live.
Edge of a Revolution
I know this band is much-maligned, but I understand that the departed person in Heart Soul, being a rabble-rouser, loved the song. Plus, rock and politics have been friends for a long time. I like the song. It’s tough, grab you by the neck stuff.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door
During the memorial concert, the Grim Reapers’ bassist, Ben Roma, sings this song with Lins doing harmony. It is set in the early western US and constitutes the last words of a sheriff. A poignant piece. Classic Dylan. And it fits beautifully into the memorial service in my novel.
I enjoyed writing Heart Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll and having a “soundtrack” helped me envision the characters and their environment. I hope you enjoyed hearing the music behind the book.
Welcome the second part of a walk-through hymns found in the Saint Maggie Series. Note that all the hymns’ music comes from anonymous sources. Also note that none of them are Wesleyan hymns, yet in the 1860s they still would have been familiar to Maggie and her family.
Walk by Faith
What Wondrous Love Is This
There is a scene in which Frankie is leading a service of remembrance in the old Smith house in Gettysburg. It is in early May, before battle comes to the town. The family has suffered a loss and because there is no body to bury, they decide upon a service in the home.
Most funerals, in fact, were conducted in the home, the same place where marriages were celebrated, and the same place where most people – except in times of war – died.
Due to the absence of a body, the family elects Frankie, who is auditing classes at the theological school in town, to conduct a service to honor and remember their loved one. Frankie breaks with tradition and has the members of the family to participate.
The young woman stood before them, taking in the faces of the people she loved so dearly. After a deep breath, she said, “Papa – Eli – says that sometimes we need to sit in silence until we are moved to speak or act. So I am going to ask us to sit quietly and meditate on the verses I will read. If the Spirit moves you to say something as a word of encouragement from the Bible or about [our loved one], please do so.”
And so, they do. Maggie offers up words of comfort after Frankie’s readings. She is followed by Emily, who stands and begins to sing “What Wondrous Love Is This,” a song that was often heard at camp meetings (religious gatherings that met in the countryside for a week or two in the summer).
The singer in the video is indie musician Deborah Liv Johnson. I thought she has a beautiful voice and communicated the feeling of the hymn. She omits the third verse, and changes the third line of the fourth verse somewhat, but there are small variations in the hymn, since it comes from the people rather than one individual.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great ‘I AM’;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.
A Time to Heal
Words: John Newton; Music: 19th century USA melody
You don’t have to be a church-goer to have heard “Amazing Grace.” The words were written by John Newton, a British man who had a troubled and difficult childhood, who eventually ended up in the slave trade. During a storm at sea, he had an experience of God. His conversion was not the “two-by-four upside the head” kind. It took years for him to quite the slave trade. But quit, he did and a few years later was ordained as a clergyman in the Church of England. In 1864 he took a parish church in Olney. Three years later, poet William Cowper moved into the town. By 1869, Newton had started a Thursday evening Bible study, for which he or Cowper wrote a new hymn every week. When Cowper died, Newton compiled some of their work in a book called Olney Hymns. Amazing Grace” was included in it.
In A Time to Heal, Frankie once again is asked to preside over a home worship service. This time the churches have not reopened after the battle of Gettysburg because they are full of wounded soldiers. Frankie hesitates, but Matilda, a self-emancipated woman who has joined Maggie’s household, quickly puts her straight.
“But I don’t have a sermon.”
“You don’t need to preach ‘less the Holy Ghost tell you to.” Matilda put the remainder of the food on the table and took a seat. “You just testify, read scripture, and pray. The Lord don’t care. He only care about us praising his holy name and praying for each other.”
So, Frankie sets a time, and wounded soldiers and family gather in the back parlor. After a prayer, a reading from the Bible, and some comments (preach it, girl), Frankie says:
“I know you’re in pain. I’m in pain, too. This whole town is suffering. So is everyone in our countries, both North and South. My prayer this morning is that God will help us learn to live with our losses and with our pain and that our living will be used for the greater glory of our God, a God whom both North and South worship.” She took a breath. “What would you like to sing?”
“Amazing Grace,” a voice croaked up from near the door.
Frankie nodded. “Chloe, would you lead us?”
Smiling Chloe [Matilda's daughter] stood and in a sweet soprano voice began, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”
The others joined in. And that Sunday the people in the Smith house had church.
“Amazing Grace” is a story of Newton’s journey and his relationship with a grace, a love, that will not let him go, and a hope that extends into eternity. That hope is echoed in the experience of the people in the Smith house on that Sunday.
I chose one of Judy Collins’ version of the song. All I can say is what a voice! Collins does the first three verses of the hymn and then repeats the first verse. I have not written the lyrics out, as she sings them so clearly.
Seeing the Elephant
How Firm a Foundation
Words “K” in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787; Music: Early USA Melody
The hymn appears in John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns (1787). Rippon attributes the hymn to someone he named “K-.” No one is quite sure who “K-” is, although likely candidates are George Keith and Robert Keene. The music is Early USA melody.
Finally, in Seeing the Elephant, we find ourselves in a riot at the hospital for the insane. Eli has been injured. Frankie has been taken prisoner along with patient Martha Stroud (who has a seemingly tenuous hold on reality). When her stepfather is dragged into the building, Frankie cares for him and to comfort him, begins to sing “How Firm a Foundation.” We all know that Frankie is not a stellar singer, and yet…:
The sound of his stepdaughter’s imperfect singing voice relaxed Eli. She never could carry a tune, something he loved about her. But when Martha joined in, the song took wing. The madwoman has a good voice, he thought. As they got to the last verse, the words caught his attention.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no never forsake!
One of the things that Eli does throughout the series is seek the holy, even when he doesn’t want to do it. Furthermore, it seems that the Holy is seeking him. I don’t know if he ever will be as firmly rooted as Maggie, but he is a man on a journey.
The video is of Jennifer Grassman singing “How Firm a Foundation.” The lyrics she sings are updated for modern language and there is a verse in there that does not appear in the United Methodist Hymnal, but as I said, there are slightly differing versions of many hymns.
I love that Grassman sings and plays the piano with her baby daughter strapped to her chest, and still sings beautifully. That’s one multi-tasking mama. I also love the white cat who casually wanders through the living room while Grassman is singing.
"How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
for I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
"When through deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
"When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
my grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
“The soul that on Jesus still leans for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”
And that ends our tour of hymns in the Saint Maggie series. If I have the energy, we’ll rock out with Lins and Neil from Heart Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll tomorrow. It’ll be different, that’s for sure!