with Stephen Reid
With my colleague Helen’s departure, I take up her reviewing column with both profound thanks to her for her valued monthly contribution—and a hope that I may be able to select an equally tempting & eclectic variety of second hand titles to entice our large following of Gleaner readers.
The Scarlet Pimpernel Omnibus by Baroness Orczy—contains The Scarlet Pimpernel, I Will Repay, El Dorado, Sir Percy Hits Back. Hodder & Stoughton, London. 1957 Reprint of 1930 Edition. Hardcover. 1279 pp. No dustjacket. Slightly worn and soiled green cloth boards. Titled in red on spine and front cover. Browned and slightly stained edges and spotted endpapers with remains of book sticker. Good condition. $35.00.
We seek him here, we seek him there, those Frenchies seek him Everywhere. Is he in Heaven ?—Is he in Hell? That demmed elusive Pimpernel! The image of the incomparable Leslie Howard portraying the Scarlet Pimpernel—from the 1934 Hollywood film—is before me as I write. The film has been a favourite for years, but I had never read the novel. Until now. And what a treat! Set in 1792, in Revolutionary France—where Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety is unleashing their reign of terror—it recounts the adventures of the foppish Baronet Sir Percy Blakeney who lives a double life as the intrepid Scarlet Pimpernel. Aided by a League of nineteen loyal, young aristocrat companions, he serves as a rescuer of French nobles and their families from Madame Guillotine. The novel, first published in 1905, was an astonishing success. The prolific Baroness Emma Orczy (1865–1947) followed it with ten sequels. This collection contains four of the best.
So... put down that overheated and over-hyped current bestseller (Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone?), and immerse yourself in a lost world of mannered chivalry, hair breadth escapes, cunning disguises and deadly duels. Where noblemen utter such phrases such as: ‘Gadzooks’, ‘Zounds’ and ‘Odd’s Fish!’, and intrepid women prove their equal in courage and daring. In the words of our hero: ‘I love the game ... for this is the finest sport I have yet encountered ... the Devil’s own risks—Tally ho!—and away we go!’
Rovering to Success—A Guide for Young Manhood, Religion, Sex, Gambling, etc. by Lord Baden-Powell. Herbert Jenkins, London.1963 Reprint of 1922 Edition. Hardcover. 247pp. 60 illustrations by the author. Browned and stained edges otherwise Very Good Condition in a slightly chipped and torn dustjacket. $25.00.
‘Akela! We’ll do our best! Dyb, Dyb Dyb! Dob, Dob, Dob!’ I was a Cub Scout over four decades ago. Part of the First Balcombe Wolf Pack—near Mornington, Victoria. I ‘hunted’ with them for two years in Green Six and attained my First Eye, my Second Stripe and both my Gardening and Reader’s Badge. What I’ve just written may make sense only to any other middle-aged male readers of this column. When my family moved interstate to NSW, I lost interest and didn’t join the Scouts. If I had, I’m sure I would have read this book at some stage of my training since it was written by the author ‘to help all young men from seventeen upwards’.
When I picked it up I expected it to be filled with hilariously outdated information and British Imperialist preaching. Well, quite a bit of it is (see the section entitled ‘Save Yourself and Help to Preserve the Race’—pp. 113–115), yet in amongst all that are numerous sound and commonsense suggestions for exercise, health, diet and building self esteem—‘at the difficult time of his life when the older boy is just entering manhood’. Baden Powell equates the voyage of life to that of a canoe trip—‘paddle your way through it with Head, Heart and Sinew.’
His book lists a number of ‘Rocks You Are Likely to Run Into’. Among these are ‘Wine, Women and Irreligion.’ More smiles. Yet the final chapter, entitled Rovering, lists the aims and achievements of Scouting as follows: ‘... to enable young men to develop as happy, useful Citizens ... to give each his chance of making a useful career for himself.’
It looks like that hard won Reader’s Badge came in very useful after all, for this (now greying) Cub Scout. Stephen Reid