Lost Virtues Found in the Limberlost

About twenty years ago, William Bennett, a right-wing politician, published a collection of stories titled The Book of Virtues. It made quite a splash, especially in the liberal literary world. Outspoken pundits on the left couldn’t believe they would ever endorse such an author or introduce his work to their children. However, they prided themselves on being openminded, and they (reluctantly) voiced their approval. All but the most strident still believed in the traditional virtues of loyalty, honesty, and family.

Over a century ago, Gene Stratton-Porter filled her novels to overflowing with virtues. The public loved her work. How sad that our society has taken such giant steps backward.

Hers are books that stir the soul and make a child say, “I want to be good. Like Elnora. Like Freckles.” Even as an adult fast moving toward old age, I say the same. The characters in Porter’s books are to be admired for their goodness. How they handle adversity. How love heaps burning coals on an enemy’s head until he or she is so ashamed, repentance and love returned are the final results.

For those of you who homeschool, I can’t recommend Porter’s books highly enough. Not only do you read uplifting stories, you receive lessons in botany and ecology. Porter creates characters who are passionate naturalists as she herself was. In fact, much of what she wrote is somewhat autobiographical.



Geneva Stratton was born in 1863 and grew up in northeastern Indiana near a swamp called the Limberlost. She and her husband even built a home there. Once a treasure trove of rare flora and fauna, the Limberlost could not survive civilization. People wanted to build more houses so engineers drained the swamp. The author’s heart broke as she watched various species disappear, but she continued to write about her beloved Limberlost.

Stratton-Porter wrote thirteen novels and several nonfiction books between 1903 and 1924. I had read Keeper of the Bees years ago, and the old-fashioned language took some getting used to. However, I recently read Girl of the Limberlost, and the language didn’t snag me at all – the story is that good! Read the books aloud together. If your little ones get lost in the descriptions, skip over some of it. But please! Not all of it. The prose is too good to ignore.

As my grandchildren grow, I fully intend to add Gene Stratton-Porter’s novels to their home libraries. Teaching our children virtue has to be right behind teaching them faith in Christ. One lesson complements the other.

Thank you, Gene Stratton-Porter for providing wonderful, edifying reads, and thank you, Bill Bennett, for renewing our education in virtue.

29 thoughts on “Lost Virtues Found in the Limberlost

  1. Your posts always make me smile. Thanks for being salt and light. 🙂


  2. I have Girl of the Limberlost and both Freckles books on my shelf. Clearly, they’re due for a summer reread! : )


  3. You will see how tech-challenged I am. Very embarrassing. Let’s see if I can follow directions. This is my interpretation of pointy brackets. {(remove spaces)Keeper of the Bees(remove spaces}.


  4. I’m really glad you posted this. Stratten-Porter was very important in terms of American Literature as her work advanced literary realism and something called regionalism. Her work, along with a few others, transformed fiction in early 20th century. Then, most people wouldn’t know that outside of a literature class.


    • Your comment makes complete sense, even if the general public doesn’t realize it. The first time I picked up one of her books, I could tell it was special as it taught me the culture of late 19th and early 20th century Indiana.


    • I just read her books a couple of years ago. I grew up in Indiana. What is interesting is that “regionalism” is very specific. The Limberlost area is on the opposite side of the state and geographically very different from where I grew up. The part I found interesting was her attending high school. Something that’s in Anne of Avonlea too. It was a huge accomplishment in that time period to go beyond the eighth grade.


  5. I know I read these as a teen but the only thing I remember is that it quoted a song from the Gilbert & Sullivan opera, The Mikado. When it came to old fashioned virtue, I preferred Grace Livingston Hill. (Even if her heroines did tend to be beyond timid and the preachiness a bit over the top.)


  6. I love her books, and those of George MacDonald. I consider them to be the first Christian romance novels. Gene Stratton-Porter, on the other hand, seemed to use romance to enhance her readers’ education in nature.


  7. Linda, i love old-fashioned books. Wish I’d known about these a few years ago when my daughter was in primary school, but it’s not too late! i’m going to get my hands on them now.


  8. Your response is the main reason I chose to focus on older books in Scriblerians. There is wonderful, almost-forgotten literature still available, and I want to do my part in keeping it in the public eye.


  9. Pingback: The Scriblerians | Historical Treasures Found in the Limberlost

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