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.

The Inheritance

It had been ever so long since I read a lovely story complete with pure hearts and with villains who need only be shown the love of a kind soul to turn them from their wicked ways.
Does the above sentence sound a trifle old-fashioned? Such was the prose of the 19th century. While I wouldn’t want to limit my reading to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and their contemporaries, I admit I weary of our more direct, slangy style of language in most modern novels.


The Inheritance
Recently, I read The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott. I believe it was never published until 1997, nor was it discovered until 1988 in a collection of her personal writings. She inscribed it (with a smile and much fluttering of heart I would wager) with the words, “My First Novel Written at Seventeen.”
The prose is Victorian in nature, and I could easily picture a young Louisa – talented, idealistic, romantic – penning a tale of selfless love, kindness to the poor, and including an evil rival who still had the benefit of a guilty conscience. The settings are described in flowery language, yet even at seventeen, Louisa May Alcott could create word pictures with such clarity that you picture yourself standing beside the heroine, perhaps one of the house servants observing the goings-on of the aristocratic family whom you serve.
Introducing modern generations to the literature of Louisa May Alcott may take some doing. Our children (and we ourselves) may complain that “not much happens” in her stories. Yes, it’s rare to find anyone in a pitched battle of blood and guts, but life happens in her novels and many others of that era.


Louisa May Alcott courtesy of books4linda.blogspot.com

Louisa May Alcott courtesy of books4linda.blogspot.com

If you’ve never read books by Louisa May Alcott, or you would like to introduce them to your children, The Inheritance may be a good place to start. Like learning to swim, start in shallow water. The novel is relatively short (under 200 pages) and contains plenty of relationship conflicts. From there move on to the deeper water of her famous works.
I believe she is best known for Little Women because it portrays the life and the quiet courage of those who soldier on at home while their men are off to war. She teaches us that by God’s grace the human spirit triumphs over adversity.
Louisa May Alcott knew that God doesn’t always ask us to strive mightily and publicly to be icons of virtue in His eyes. And it takes more courage to be faithful in daily struggles than to make one heroic gesture in the heat of battle. Such are the qualities I want to groom in my own children and grandchildren.


Dear readers, you are welcome to share your thoughts on other classic stories that you find uplifting to the soul.