Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The Hypnotic Experiment of Dr. Reeves and Other Stories by Charlotte Rosalys Jones (1894)

My apologies for posting this week's contribution to Friday's Forgotten Books a day late, but things got away from me.  The links this week -- and next -- are at Sweet Freedom, with Todd Mason filling for Patti Abbott.

     My book this week is a curious little (a mere 95 pages) collection of five stories by an author I had never read before.  I know nothing about Ms. Jones and a cursory search of the internet shed no light one her.  The title page of her book gives her name as Charlotte Rosalys Jones; Tuck gives it as Charlotte (Rosalie) Jones, but Tuck was prone to minor errors and poor proofreading; the UPenn website hints that the author may have divided herself :  Charlotte and Rosalys Jones.  I could find no reference to the author(s?) in any edition of Clute's various Encyclopedias.  Yet, what brought me to the book in the first place was its inclusion in two lists of Utopian writing by women.

     Now that I'veread the book, I'm scratching my head in confusion.

     The first (and title) story, The Hypnotic Experiment of Dr. Reeves, has the learned doctor and rheumatism expert worrying over a young patient afflicted with rheumatism of the heart.  Called to his bedside, the doctor finds the man dying and asking for his fiancee.  Realizing that without relieving the stress on the heart the man has no chance and also that the fiancee is hours away, Reeves hypnotizes the man, innoculates the patient's heart with rheumatism (or a rheumatism vaccine -- the story is a little vague with its make-believe 19th century medicine), and dresses a nurse in a coat and wig to pretend to be the fiancee.  If Reeves could keep the man calm for three or four hours, the crisis will pass and the man will live.  [Aside:  Huh?  Just WTH huh?  Now back to the plot.]  The man stays calm, the fiancee arrive to take the place of the disguised nurse, the patient survives, and Dr. Reeves will write a historic paper for the medical journals "of a patient actually getting the full benefit of a remedy while in an undisturbed, hypnotized state, despite all theories to the contrary."  I checked the story several times; no feminist Utopia here.

     An International Courtship tell of an independent American woman who meets a wealthy and handsome Englishman (who is call "The Arab" by his many friends).  The woman is disdainful of British men, just as The Arab is of American women.  Verbal sparring ensues the few times they are together.  Finally, during a fox hunt he rescues her from hitting a tree branch (or something) and they fall in love and marry.  The symbol of their marriage is an American flag knotted with a Union Jack, placed on display as "FLAGS OF TRUCE."  No feminist Utopia here that I can see.

     One Woman's History Out of Many relates the tale of "Sister Faithful," a fifty-year-old attractive woman who cared for her invalid brother and did good works throughout the town.  A distant cousin asks to stay during a recuperation from some unnamed illness.  Being of kind heart she agrees, although she knows nothing of the man.  He is charming and intelligent and they enjoy each other's company.  At the end of two month's he is back to health an announces he is going to get married; he had dared not ask the girl while his health had been so precarious.  "Sister Faithful" then realizes she is in love with her cousin, yet she wishes him the best and sends him off to his fiancee while she spends the rest of her life continuing to do good works in the town.  Utopian? Nah.

     Miss Cameron's Art Sale features a wealthy young American woman who winters in Paris.  She is well-liked and becomes a wonderful addition to Parisian society.  She meets and becomes a close friend to Miss Petterson, an artist who had only been able to live in Paris for the past two years because of a group of benefactors from her home town.  Miss Patterson has been gaining a good reputation for art, and often used likenesses of her friends incorporated into the paintings.  Alas, Miss Patterson is in love with a young workman, someone whom her benefactors back home feel is beneath her; they forbid her from marrying the young man, noting all the money they had spent on her and her career.  For a plucky young American like Miss Cameron, this is an outrage.  She arranges for Miss Patterson to hold a salon exhibiting her paintings;  Miss Cameron will invite her society friends to atttend.  Miss C. approaches one man, who happens to  be in love with her, and asks him to buy two of the paintings the day before the salon; Miss C. will naturally give him the money to do so.  She reasons that when people go to the salon and see two of the paintings already sold, it will spur rhem to buy more of Miss Patterson's paintings.  On the day of the salon, Miss Cameron is surprised to find more than two of the paintings have SOLD signs on them, including the largest -- and probably best -- painting on display, one with Miss Cameron's likeness holding the center spot.  With the money from the sales, Miss Patterson repays her backers, tells them to stuff it, and marries her beau.  Miss Cameron's friend who had bought two paintings with her money had also bought the painting with Miss Cameron in the center; this he hung up in a prominent spot in his home to stare at forever and ever.  Miss Cameron (we presume) continues on her blitheful way.  Again, no sign of Utopia here.

     Utopia's last chance in this book comes with A Complex Question, a tale of handsome sportsman Bob Travers who is spending the winter racing in Tangiers.  While there, he is betrothed to Mabel Burke, the nicest girl in the English quarter and the sister of his very good friend.  One day he arrives late to a dinner party and finds himself seated between his fiancee and an attractive (although nowhere as pretty as Mabel Burke) young woman named Miss Schuyler.  Soon he finds himself escorting the young visitor over the next few weeks, while ignoring his fiancee.  Miss Schuyler, for her part, did not realize that Bob was engaged.  When she finds out, she tells him to go back to his fiancee.  He relunctantly agrees to leave but tells her she shall soon know of his deep love for her.  He never makes it back to Mabel, but jumps (falls? slips?) into the ocean and drowns.  Just try to find an Utopia in that one!

     The stories in this book are brief, somewhat interesting, somewhat maudlin.  They display, at times, a type of feminine independence, albeit a vague and somewhat lackluster one.  If you are one who expects a strong statement, I suggest you look elsewhere.

1 comment:

  1. Well, given my experiences with fantastic-fiction-oriented academics in point-missing and setting up straw arguments rather than dealing with the ones they are supposedly taking issue with, that this has been wildly misdefined (or mistaken for another work altogether) doesn't surprise me. Did you find the text online? Some genuine scholarship here, in any case...and I'll add it to next week's roundup, as well, for those who might go through the lists only on their Friday postings.