Moments in my eBook Library — 16 —  more random choices

Australian readers would once have instantly known who the author is:

Henry Lawson (1867-1922).

The next one you won’t have heard of — self-published in 2012:

The Polish Experience


Nicholas Westerby

This book is dedicated to my son Alexander. Let’s hope that you cause me more problems than I cause you

© 2012, Nicholas Westerby

Nothing much to add…. I’m afraid the folk on Goodreads were not all that impressed.

I have read other works by Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) but not this one. It does look promising and is a recent addition to my eBook collection.

ANU Press has a splendid policy of allowing their latest publications FREE as eBooks. Who can resist? I now have quite a few and the random read app in my Calibre eBook Reader threw up two which I must confess I have yet to read in full. I really must as both look fascinating.

This edition © 2021 ANU Press

This edition © 2010 ANU E Press

Plenty of food in those two! Finally a period piece indeed from the USA — when enthusiasm for the Bolshevik Revolution was at a height in the West.

Of considerable historical interest still.

Moments in my eBook Library — 14 —  more random choices

Do note that thanks to the tag eBook moments you can see this series as a separate chain of posts.

The first takes us back again to World War 1 and Australia in a lavishly illustrated book that would have sold well back in 1919 I’m sure.

Indeed there is more to this book than I had realised: “Many contributors, includes a record of the ‘achievements the horsemen of Australia, and of the Flying Corps, and the Anzac Section of the Imperial Camel Corps.  These books were given as gifts by Australian Light Horse soldiers and are now quite rare and sought after. Includes 2 folding panoramas of the fields of battle for Richon le Zion, and Beersheba.”

“Australia in Palestine” should prove of great interest to the people of Australia, and especially to those whose lives have been spent outside the great cities, for it includes a record of the achievements of their “very own”—the horsemen of Australia, and of the Flying Corps and the Anzac Section of the Imperial Camel Corps, which were recruited from them, and co-operated with them in the greatest war yet known to history.

The Australian Light Horseman—and under this name I include the Field and Signal Engineers and Medical Services connected with him, who come from the same stock—is of a type peculiarly his own and has no counterpart that I know of except in his New Zealand brother. His fearlessness, initiative and endurance, and his adaptability to almost any task, are due to the adventurous life he leads in his own country, where he has been accustomed to long hours in the saddle, day and night, and to facing danger of all sorts from his earliest youth. Perhaps these qualities are inherited from his pioneer parents. His invariable good humour under the most adverse conditions comes from the good-fellowship and camaraderie which exists in the free and open life of the Australian Bush. His chivalry comes from the same source, and it is one of his strongest points. In other words, the life he has been accustomed to lead has fitted him to become, with training and discipline, second to no cavalry soldier in the world.

As far as Australia is concerned, the Palestine Campaign may be said to have commenced with the crossing of the Suez Canal by the Anzac Mounted Division at Kantara on the 23rd April, 1916, to re-occupy Romani and the western end of the Katia Oasis Area. The mounted troops of Australia and New Zealand had already proved their extraordinary adaptability to circumstances as infantrymen in the hard school of Gallipoli, but it yet remained for them to show their value as cavalry. The occupation of Romani was followed by long and trying marches in the Desert of Sinai, during the hottest summer known in Egypt for many years, after an elusive enemy who did not appear in any force until July, 1916, when he advanced on Romani preparatory to his second attack on the Suez Canal. The disastrous defeat inflicted on the Turkish arms at Romani, and the pursuit which followed, not only demonstrated the inestimable value of the horsemen of Australasia as cavalrymen, but opened the way for the advance to the Eastern Frontier of Egypt which ended the enemy’s menace to Egypt. The systematic advance of the British Force from Romani to the Egyptian Border was covered by Australian and New Zealand horsemen, British Yeomanry and the Imperial Camel Corps, ably assisted by the reconnaissance of the R.F.C. and Australian Flying Corps. The victories of Magdhaba and Rafa completely cleared the enemy from Egyptian territory and opened the way for our advance into Palestine. The operations which began with the capture of Beersheba and concluded with the capture of Damascus and Aleppo, and eventually led to the complete surrender of the Turkish Forces, are dealt with in this volume, and I will say no more of them than that the brilliant part in those operations played by the Australian and New Zealand mounted troops has more than upheld the reputation they established on the battlefield of Romani.

The splendid record of the 1st Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps speaks for itself. It was formed in Egypt and has grown with the campaign to a state of efficiency which places it second to none of the same arm.

The casualties in action in this campaign have been light compared with the results achieved. In a very large measure this was due to the dash of the troops, which saved heavy losses on many occasions; but many brave fellows have given their lives through diseases contracted in areas which the exigencies of the service required to be occupied and fought in.

Before concluding, I would like to say a word for the Medical Services, which have endured the same hardships as the combatant arms, and always performed their duties cheerfully and efficiently under the most adverse conditions.

The great re-enactment of Beersheba filmed in 1940 in the Cronulla sand hills! Directed by Charles Chauvel, the nephew of General Sir Harry Chauvel who led the Australian Light Horse Brigade.

History of other eras may be found in the next two random books.

That name intrigued me!

That Short History of Scotland is by a writer very famous in his day, Andrew Lang, whose work is still well worth looking at. There is web site devoted to him.

The next book is also by someone famous in his day — Sir Walter Besant. There is a memorial to him in St Paul’s Cathedral.

There are many magazines and journals to be found on Project Gutenberg which often publishes individual items of note. From this 1926 magazine they chose a D H Lawrence story.

by D. H. Lawrence
Author of “Women in Love”

There was a little snow on the ground, and the church clock had just struck midnight. Hampstead in the night of winter for once was looking pretty, with clean, white earth and lamps for moon, and dark sky above the lamps.

A confused little sound of voices, a gleam of hidden yellow light. And then the garden door of a tall, dark Georgian house suddenly opened, and three people confusedly emerged. A girl in a dark-blue coat and fur turban, very erect; a fellow with a little dispatch case, slouching; a thin man with a red beard, bareheaded, peering out of the gateway down the hill that swung in a curve downward toward London.

“Look at it! A new world!” cried the man in the beard ironically, as he stood on the step and peered out.

“No, Lorenzo! It’s only whitewash!” cried the young man in the overcoat. His voice was handsome, resonant, plangent, with a weary, sardonic touch.

As he turned back, his face was dark in shadow.

The girl with the erect, alert head, like a bird, turned back to the two men.

“What was that?” she asked, in her quick, quiet voice….

Finally a writer very popular in the early to mid 20th century: W Somerset Maugham.

Moments in my eBook Library — 13 —  more random choices

In the previous post in this series I told you about the “Read a Random Book” option in my eBook Library on Calibre. The “random book” I settled down to read is Henry James, The Aspern Papers (1888). One should savour Henry James. He is not suitable at all for speed reading. In fact that is one of the delights he offers. He would never write shorty choppy sentences like these. Or such tiny paragraphs. Which brings me to another feature of Calibre, which I have been using on The Aspern Papers.

Yes — read aloud. In a computer-generated female voice, but pretty good considering.

Seems there has been a movie made of The Aspern Papers, and not all that long ago!

A very different American classic popped up in the next round of random books — in the wonderful eBooks for free one used to be able to download from Adelaide University. I grabbed many a one as each monthly offering came out, but that rich source has now dried up.

One of my party tricks as an English teacher even at Cronulla High in the 1960s was to read “The Black Cat” aloud to my classes — rather well I like to think. Certainly the kids were always quiet as when I did so… It is in that collection.

Also from the Adelaide collection came an Australian classic which in fact I re-read with pleasure last year: Joseph Furphy’s idiosyncratic Such is Life.

Chapter i
Unemployed at last!

Scientifically, such a contingency can never have befallen of itself. According to one theory of the Universe, the momentum of Original Impress has been tending toward this far-off, divine event ever since a scrap of fire-mist flew from the solar centre to form our planet. Not this event alone, of course; but every occurrence, past and present, from the fall of captured Troy to the fall of a captured insect. According to another theory, I hold an independent diploma as one of the architects of our Social System, with a commission to use my own judgment, and take my own risks, like any other unit of humanity. This theory, unlike the first, entails frequent hitches and cross-purposes; and to some malign operation of these I should owe my present holiday.

Orthodoxly, we are reduced to one assumption: namely, that my indomitable old Adversary has suddenly called to mind Dr. Watts’s friendly hint respecting the easy enlistment of idle hands….

The last in this set of random books is also Australian, an interesting account of service in World War 1 published in 1918: By-ways on Service: Notes from an Australian Journal by Hector Dinning.

Hector Dinning served at Gallipoli, in France and in the Middle East during World War I. In the Fruitful Granite he describes the life he led in the four years before the war as ‘an academic life (and a very interesting life of its kind), interspersed with coaching and free-lance journalism of a sporadic sort’. His occupation was described as Teacher on his enlistment in the AIF in 1914. After the war ‘impatient with a life indoors’ he became an orchadist near Stanthorpe, Queensland. During the 1920s, Dinning held a position as a tutor at the University of Queensland. In the 1930s and 1940s Dinning was a journalist with the Telegraph in Brisbane.

Dinning’s non-fiction works include Nile to Aleppo : With the Light Horse in the Middle East (1920).

In this chapter he deals with the evacuation from Gallipoli, an amazing story less often told than the famous landing.


There will be a leavening of Egyptian in the Australian vernacular after peace has broken out. It will persist, and perhaps have a weighty etymological influence—at any rate on the colloquial vocabulary. “Baksheesh” will be a universal term, not confined to sketches of Oriental travel. “Baksheesh” is merely one of the many grafted Arabic terms, but it will be predominant. “Sae’eda” will be the street greeting (varied by the Sikh “Salaam, sahib”). “Feloose kiteer,” “mafish,” “min fadlak,” “taali hina,” “etla,” and the rest of them, will be household words. Other phrases, not remarkable for delicacy, will prevail in pot-houses and stable talk. Forcible ejection from a company and polite leave-taking will both be covered by an “imshee”; there will be “classy” “imshees” and “imshees” that are undignified.

Such an evacuation as was effected at Anzac was distinctly “classy.” When first the notion of evacuation was mooted there was misgiving. We were with our back (so to speak) to the sea, hemmed in in a narrow sector of coast, with no ground whatever to fall back upon. There was no one who did not expect disaster in evacuating a position such as that; the only debate was as to degree. What would it cost us in lives and money? And there was a greater fear unspoken—the hideous reflection that an evacuation would make almost vain the heavy losses of eight months’ fighting. Everyone hoped against a giving-up. But soon there was no mistaking the signs of the times….

Moments in my eBook Library — 11 — also read when I was 11-12: Ethel Turner

Some may recall the marvellous ABC-TV serial from the early 1970s. What quality!

I probably read it at 11-12 in an edition like this:

And yes, thanks to Project Gutenberg, I can revisit it in my eBook Library on Calibre — now standing at 3,229 books by the way!

Chiefly Descriptive

Before you fairly start this story I should like to give you just a word of warning.

If you imagine you are going to read of model children, with perhaps; a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down the book immediately and betake yourself to ‘Sandford and Merton’ or similar standard juvenile works. Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are.

In England, and America, and Africa, and Asia, the little folks may be paragons of virtue, I know little about them.

But in Australia a model child is—I say it not without thankfulness—an unknown quantity.

It may be that the miasmas of naughtiness develop best in the sunny brilliancy, of our atmosphere. It may be that the land and the people are young-hearted together, and the children’s spirits not crushed and saddened by the shadow of long years’ sorrowful history.

There is a lurking sparkle of joyousness and rebellion and mischief in nature here, and therefore in children.

Often the light grows dull and the bright colouring fades to neutral tints in the dust and heat of the day. But when it survives play-days and school-days, circumstances alone determine whether the electric sparkle shall go to play will-o’-the-wisp with the larrikin type, or warm the breasts of the spirited, single-hearted, loyal ones who alone can “advance Australia.”

Enough of such talk. Let me tell you about my seven select spirits. They are having nursery tea at the present moment with a minimum of comfort and a maximum of noise, so if you can bear a deafening babel of voices and an unmusical clitter-clatter of crockery I will take you inside the room and introduce them to you.

Nursery tea is more an English institution than an Australian one; there is a kind of bon camaraderie feeling between parents and young folks here, and an utter absence of veneration on the part of the latter. So even in the most wealthy families it seldom happens that the parents dine in solemn state alone, while the children are having a simple tea in another room: they all assemble around the same board, and the young ones partake of the same dishes, and sustain their parts in the conversation right nobly.

But, given a very particular and rather irritable father, and seven children with excellent lungs and tireless tongues, what could you do but give them separate rooms to take their meals in?

Captain Woolcot, the father, in addition to this division, had had thick felt put over the swing door upstairs, but the noise used to float down to the dining-room in cheerful, unconcerned manner despite it.

It was a nursery without a nurse, too, so that partly accounted for it. Meg, the eldest, was only sixteen, and could not be expected to be much of a disciplinarian, and the slatternly but good-natured girl, who was supposed to combine the duties of nursery-maid and housemaid, had so much to do in her second capacity that the first suffered considerably. She used to lay the nursery meals when none of the little girls could be found to help her, and bundle on the clothes of the two youngest in the morning, but beyond that the seven had to manage for themselves.

So it begins and so it continues — absolutely delightful even now.

And still available!

With ready to use teaching resources from Reading Australia too.

Note before beginning the unit:

The customs and language of the time period will be challenging for contemporary readers, so ongoing attention to the colonial context, vocabulary and archaic expressions used in the novel will be needed. The novel would be suitable for independent reading by proficient readers in Upper Primary or supported reading with less proficient students.  As well, it could be read in modelled reading sessions by the teacher. For different chapters, teachers would lead a general discussion of the events and encourage students’ responses and questions. The tasks in this teacher resource offer a study of particular chapters and excerpts (see list below) which would be taught in literature study sessions; these tasks are designed to draw attention to aspects of the author’s craft and literary techniques. Research shows that appreciation of how a text is constructed enhances personal enjoyment of that text. Other more typical and straightforward literary tasks, such as character profiles and point-of-view diaries, are not included as these are very familiar to teachers and can be included as activities where relevant.

In the novel, the children’s father, Captain Woolcot, uses harsh physical discipline on his sons, as was common at the time. Teachers need to be sensitive to their students’ personal situations and treat these scenes with thought and sensitivity.

Wikipedia includes a fact I have only just learned, thanks to them!

1894 Edition: Tettawonga’s Lost Story

There is an Aboriginal narrative of significant interest in the original edition that was omitted in all editions from its first republication in 1897 until its centenary edition in 1994.

The Woolcot children, while holidaying at the cattle station, listen to Mr Gillet telling an Aboriginal story he “got at second-hand” from Tettawonga, the station’s Aboriginal stockman.

“‘Once upon a time’ (Judy sniffed at the old-fashioned beginning), ‘once upon a time,’ said Mr. Gillet, ‘when this young land was still younger, and incomparably more beautiful, when Tettawonga’s ancestors were brave and strong and happy as careless children, when their worst nightmare had never shown them so evil a time as the white man would bring their race, when–‘ ‘Oh, get on! muttered Pip impatiently. ‘Well,’ said Mr Gillet, ‘when, in short, an early Golden Age wrapped the land in its sunshine, a young kukuburra and its mate spread their wings and set off towards the purple mountains beyond the gum trees…”

Clare Bradford suggested in her book Reading Race “The main effect of the omission of Tettawonga’s story is…to achieve a less problematic version of the Australian past than the one which prevails in the book’s first edition.” Brenda Niall has suggested that the omission may have been due to the extensive advertising in the first reprint, with the commercial editors capitalising on the book’s success by removing a digression from the narrative that was considered expendable, and replacing it with advertising space they could sell.

The book also has another scene that I read in my room with tears streaming down my face. Rather close to home in 1954 or 1955 when I was reading it, as my own beloved sister Jeanette had passed away only two or three years before in 1952.

Jeanette and I c.1947

There is a story behind the episode in the novel too.

Ethel Turner’s diary entry for 25th March 1898—small as it is–humorously and honestly captures the wiles of her capricious month-old daughter, Jean, as she learns to grapple with the novelty of motherhood alongside her husband, Herbert Curlewis. Ethel’s ability to describe children candidly is perhaps what most admire about her literary career that spanned six decades, embedding her name and her stories into Australia’s literary conscience. Born in 1873, Ethel is a much-beloved and brilliant Australian children’s author known for Seven Little Australians (1894), The Little Larrikin (1896), Three Little Maids (1900) and the wartime Cub Trilogy (1915-1919), among other works. Though much can be said of Ethel’s 34 volume oeuvre, a snapshot of her life and works—from her first and remarkably successful novel, Seven Little Australians (SLA) in 1894, to her almost forgotten novel, Mother’s Little Girl (MLG) in 1904 —reveals the various ways in which Ethel explored her ever-changing family relationships within ten years.

And in 2020 Clare Aston posted on Buzzfeed: Judy’s Death In “Seven Little Australians” Still Haunts Me To This Day.

Honestly, still can’t believe my mother let me read this as a kid. I dead set still think about it at least once a week.

And here is that scene:

Judy grew quiet, and still more quiet. She shut her eyes so she could not see the gathering shadows. Meg’s arms were round her, Meg’s cheek was on her brow, Nell was holding her hands, Baby her feet, Bunty’s lips were on her hair. Like that they went with her right to the Great Valley, where there are no lights even for stumbling, childish feet.

The shadows were cold, and smote upon their hearts; they could feel the wind from the strange waters on their brows; but only she who was about to cross heard the low lapping of the waves.

Just as her feet touched the water there was a figure in the doorway.

“Judy!” said a wild voice; and Pip brushed them aside and fell down beside her.

“Judy, Judy, JUDY!”

The light flickered back in her eyes. She kissed him with pale lips once, twice; she gave him both her hands, and her last smile.

Moments in my eBook Library — 10 — two I read when I was 11-12 years old

The first I read more than once, loved it but at that age was rather annoyed by “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” chapter. I now know it was probably the point of the whole book, but very much a thing of the early 20th century. Think Australian artist Sydney Long for example.

Painter Sydney Long’s Pan

My eBook Library has this American edition of The Wind in The Willows.

Beautifully illustrated too.

“It’s a hard life, by all accounts,” murmured the Rat

The wayfarer was lean and keen-featured, and somewhat bowed at the shoulders; his paws were thin and long, his eyes much wrinkled at the corners, and he wore small gold ear rings in his neatly-set well-shaped ears. His knitted jersey was of a faded blue, his breeches, patched and stained, were based on a blue foundation, and his small belongings that he carried were tied up in a blue cotton handkerchief.

When he had rested awhile the stranger sighed, snuffed the air, and looked about him.

“That was clover, that warm whiff on the breeze,” he remarked; “and those are cows we hear cropping the grass behind us and blowing softly between mouthfuls. There is a sound of distant reapers, and yonder rises a blue line of cottage smoke against the woodland. The river runs somewhere close by, for I hear the call of a moorhen, and I see by your build that you’re a freshwater mariner. Everything seems asleep, and yet going on all the time. It is a goodly life that you lead, friend; no doubt the best in the world, if only you are strong enough to lead it!”

“Yes, it’s the life, the only life, to live,” responded the Water Rat dreamily, and without his usual whole-hearted conviction.

“I did not say exactly that,” replied the stranger cautiously; “but no doubt it’s the best. I’ve tried it, and I know. And because I’ve just tried it—six months of it—and know it’s the best, here am I,footsore and hungry, tramping away from it, tramping southwards, following the old call, back to the old life, the life which is mine and which will not let me go.”…

“You are not one of us,” said the Water Rat, “nor yet a farmer; nor even, I should judge, of this country.”

“Right,” replied the stranger. “I’m a seafaring rat, I am, and the port I originally hail from is Constantinople, though I’m a sort of a foreigner there too, in a manner of speaking. You will have heard of Constantinople, friend? A fair city and an ancient and glorious one…”

That’s quite high-level writing really, looking at it now. But at 11 I just lapped it up!

I also read of all things James Hilton’s Goodbye Mr Chips! I recall borrowing it from the Sydney Boys High Library and reading it in my room in Vermont Street Sutherland, with tears streaming down my face towards the end! I think I visualised Mr Chips as my grandfather, Roy Christison, a great country teacher himself.

When you are getting on in years (but not ill, of course), you get very sleepy at times, and the hours seem to pass like lazy cattle moving across a landscape. It was like that for Chips as the autumn term progressed and the days shortened till it was actually dark enough to light the gas before call-over. For Chips, like some old sea captain, still measured time by the signals of the past; and well he might, for he lived at Mrs. Wickett’s, just across the road from the School. He had been there more than a decade, ever since he finally gave up his mastership; and it was Brookfield far more than Greenwich time that both he and his landlady kept. “Mrs. Wickett,” Chips would sing out, in that jerky, high-pitched voice that had still a good deal of sprightliness in it, “you might bring me a cup of tea before prep, will you?”

When you are getting on in years it is nice to sit by the fire and drink a cup of tea and listen to the school bell sounding dinner, call-over, prep, and lights-out. Chips always wound up the clock after that last bell; then he put the wire guard in front of the fire, turned out the gas, and carried a detective novel to bed. Rarely did he read more than a page of it before sleep came swiftly and peacefully, more like a mystic intensifying of perception than any changeful entrance into another world. For his days and nights were equally full of dreaming.

He was getting on in years (but not ill, of course); indeed, as Doctor Merivale said, there was really nothing the matter with him. “My dear fellow, you’re fitter than I am,” Merivale would say, sipping a glass of sherry when he called every fortnight or so. “You’re past the age when people get these horrible diseases; you’re one of the few lucky ones who’re going to die a really natural death. That is, of course, if you die at all. You’re such a remarkable old boy that one never knows.” But when Chips had a cold or when east winds roared over the fenlands, Merivale would sometimes take Mrs. Wickett aside in the lobby and whisper: “Look after him, you know. His chest . . . it puts a strain on his heart. Nothing really wrong with him — only anno domini, but that’s the most fatal complaint of all, in the end.”

Anno domini . . . by Jove, yes. Born in 1848, and taken to the Great Exhibition as a toddling child — not many people still alive could boast a thing like that. Besides, Chips could even remember Brookfield in Wetherby’s time. A phenomenon, that was. Wetherby had been an old man in those days — 1870 — easy to remember because of the Franco–Prussian War. Chips had put in for Brookfield after a year at Melbury, which he hadn’t liked, because he had been ragged there a good deal. But Brookfield he had liked, almost from the beginning. He remembered that day of his preliminary interview — sunny June, with the air full of flower scents and the plick-plock of cricket on the pitch. Brookfield was playing Barnhurst, and one of the Barnhurst boys, a chubby little fellow, made a brilliant century. Queer that a thing like that should stay in the memory so clearly. Wetherby himself was very fatherly and courteous; he must have been ill then, poor chap, for he died during the summer vacation, before Chips began his first term. But the two had seen and spoken to each other, anyway.

Chips often thought, as he sat by the fire at Mrs. Wickett’s: I am probably the only man in the world who has a vivid recollection of old Wetherby. . . . Vivid, yes; it was a frequent picture in his mind, that summer day with the sunlight filtering through the dust in Wetherby’s study. “You are a young man, Mr. Chipping, and Brookfield is an old foundation. Youth and age often combine well. Give your enthusiasm to Brookfield, and Brookfield will give you something in return. And don’t let anyone play tricks with you. I— er — gather that discipline was not always your strong point at Melbury?”

“Well, no, perhaps not, sir.”

What a thing for an 11-year-old to be reading! But I also lapped up comics, Biggles, William of course…. But Mr Chips eh! Now I find myself dreaming not of Mr Wetherby’s study, but of Cronulla High almost 60 years ago, or Dapto more than 50… Or of reading books in my room in Sutherland almost 70 years ago….

But what a movie! Starred my mother’s heart-throb Robert Donat, but I didn’t get to see it until after 1956 as not until then was there television in Australia, and it may have been very late 1957 before we had one. In Kirrawee by then.