ng sobs, came in to see if I could be of any assistance. You look very much distressed; will you not tell me the cause of your sorrow?"
Elsie answered only by a fresh burst of tears.
"They have all gone to the fair and left you at home alone; perhaps to learn a lesson you have failed in reciting?" said the lady, inquiringly.
"Yes, ma'am," said the child; "but that is not the worst;" and her tears fell faster, as she laid the little Bible on the desk, and pointed with her finger to the words she had been reading. "Oh!" she sobbed, "I--I did not do it; I did not bear it patiently. I was treated unjustly, and punished when I was not to blame, and I grew angry. Oh! I'm afraid I shall never be like Jesus! never, never."
The child's distress seemed very great, and Miss Allison was extremely surprised. She was a visitor who had been in the house only a few days, and, herself a devoted Christian, had been greatly pained by the utter disregard of the family in which she was sojourning for the teachings of
Elsie was a child I could relate to when I was young. Sincere and serious and spiritual with innate principles. How thrilled I was to find someone like me! I often struggled with issues like the boy at school I liked intensely cursed. What angst this caused me.I forgot the name of the little girl and the books but her effort at perfection remained with me always.I stumbled upon the books in my fifties and loved them again. Hard to believe the harsh and hateful reviews on this blog. Hating attempts at goodness? Thanks for this book.
Growing up, I'd occasionally hear (spoken derisively), "Don't be such an Elsie Dinsmore!" You can substitute Elsie's name with that of Polyanna (again spoken derisively). But the Elsie and Polyanna books remain among my favorites, so THERE! And thank you, ManyBooks for helping introduce new generations of readers to these characters so many of us just seem to love to hate.
My daughter, Abby, has always loved to read and has devoured the Elsie Series we have. But being diagnosed with a multitude of learning disabilities she could not write, not even copy words off the board at school. We got her very extensive Cognitive Retraining Therapy which worked wonders. Abby can now write very well and the Elsie Series has influenced her style, fluency, grammer and vocabulary in many ways. I thank God and Martha Finley for creating the Elsie Dinsmore Collection. It literally has changed my Abby's life.
She has always been a very spiritually sensative girl but now she has a greater understanding of how Godliness is applied in the life of a child. She has even written her own stories as "A Day in the Life of Elsie" in which she has taken the characters and settings and expounded on situations and circumstances that she imsgines could have happened. I am deeply indebted to the wonderful, late Martha Finley for her writings. How could she have known that more than 150 years later she would have such an impact?
I've read quite a few of the Elsie books at this point--it's my site that's linked for more info above--and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. Elsie Dinsmore is the antithesis of what we hope to see in the heroines of children's books now, but I don't think she should be forgotten. This book and the ones that followed were tremendously influential.
That said, I wouldn't ever give one of these books to a small child.
I read the Elsie Dinsmore series when I was a girl. I loved the language as I thought it was so rich. Yes, Elsie is slightly sickly-sweet, but her attitude challenged the way I thought about life and reacted to various situations.
I loved the books and immensely annoyed my family by reading loudly and dramatically whenever possible.
I would highly recommend them.
It is often too bad when a work has a 20th and 20th century mind imposed on it. Read Elsie as an example of important Victorian literature. Read it as an example of the world as it was in the 1860s and on for many many years. Stop trying to turn it into a cause, or impose modern morality values onto it. Accept it as it is, and then go read Huck Finn.
I also read this book as a child, and though some may find it Elsie too "perfect", I enjoyed reading it very much, and will be keeping the series on my reader!
The Elsie Dinsmore series is a treasure! Thanks so much for including it on your site.
I have long been familiar with Elsie Dinsmore, having read these books at my grandmother's home as a child in the 1960s. They were old then, and I think most young girls of spirit who read them in their time were as disgusted with the pious, sanctimonious, silly Elsie as the first reviewer. The Elsie series would have been one of those awful books that well-meaning parents would have given their daughters in hopes that the girls would have been inspired to become dormats. Frankly, Elsie's author should have read her Bible a little more and given her heroine a little more spirit of real Biblical heroines like Deborah-leader of Israel's army, Jael-who murdered an enemy general, Esther-who used her charms to save her people, and Ruth-who schemed to get the man she wanted. Elsie is simply put, a drip.
My grandmother preferred Peck's A story of a bad boy!
"Elsie Dinsmore" is just the beginning of a series of books about Elsie, and it sets the pattern for all those to come. It's not an attractive pattern, either.
Elsie, in this book, is a very young girl whose mother is dead and whose absent father has come over time to despise his all-but-orphaned daughter. Elsie lives with her grandfather; the other children in the home are her aunts and uncles.
Elsie's extreme, priggish Christian piety, the casual racism that surrounds her (at one point, her devoted slave mammy, Aunt Chloe, comments that Jesus loves her just the same as if she was white) and the straw men that the author sets up as Elsie's tormentors, make this book simultaneously treacly and offensive, although I don't doubt that the racism of the time is accurately portrayed.
The climax of the book comes when Elsie's father, having returned to his home, attempts to force Elsie to play on the piano a song that she considers improper for the Sabbath.
Her father orders her to remain seated on the piano bench until she is ready to accede to his wishes, but poor, devout little Elsie remains so long that she faints and falls from the bench, hitting her head and, we are told, nearly losing her life.
Here's an excerpt:
"Elsie, do you know that you were very near being killed last night?"
"No, papa, was I?" she asked with an awe-struck countenance.
"Yes, the doctor says if that wound had been made half an inch nearer your eye--I should have been childless."
Elsie's strongest reaction is to tell her father that she was quite ready to go to Heaven.
The best reason to read "Elsie Dinsmore" is that it makes reading the works of Louisa May Alcott all the more pleasant. Think of Jo March's struggles with her temper and compare them to Elsie's whimpering about how she failed to bear unearned punishments quietly. Elsie is presented as the ideal child; Jo's charm is her utter humanity, her flawed but lovable -- and instantly recognizable -- personality.
For an equally interesting comparison, try Alcott's "Eight Cousins" and "Rose in Bloom" in contrast to the Elsie series.
Alcott was a moving force in an entirely new form of children's literature, and one for which all book lovers should be eternally grateful.
Leave Elsie to the ages.
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