On Completing Volume 5

I hated Volume 5. There you have it…lets just get that out of the way! After leading a book study and pulling my bootstraps up every month, trying to enjoy it for their sakes- I hated it.

Evidentially I’m in good company; and company that I esteem. Henrietta Franklin seems to have a distaste for Volume 5 as well.  I have a quote from her that reads, “It is not to the glory of Miss Mason that we should once again emphasise this volume… with the exception of ‘He has a Temper’ all of it should be buried—in my opinion—in oblivion.” Henrietta is my hero, for other reasons than this, but I couldn’t agree more.

Several years ago, after first reading those words from Henrietta, I found them so puzzling. How could someone this close to Charlotte say such things?!  I’d read Volume 5 before, but it was back in my fog days; when I read the series all the way through and got very, very little out of it because I couldn’t understand what Charlotte was saying-literally. I had placed Volume 5 in the category of ‘English-that’s-over-my-head’ and moved on. But now I get what Charlotte is saying, and can comprehend her English, however, Volume 5 didn’t become nearer or dearer to my heart.

I wonder, however, if Henrietta and I share our underlying complaint.

It is the privilege of a reader, that while reading, if a passage (or book) rambles, the reader can speed up, skim or skip the slow parts as necessary. The reader can also slow down for the more palatable parts if preferred. That’s all well and good when reading, but when typing, it is a far different story. (You may remember that I’m typing up the Volumes keeping in time with the Book Study.) When typing, unlike a reader, one cannot speed up. Believe me, I’m maxed out on my typing speed. To slow down is counter-productive. I think is was the typing of this volume which led to my great frustration. As I typed, I would turn a page thinking surely I would be near the end. But peeking ahead, I would see that I had 4,5,6 pages left to go with no real thought process turning in my mind as I typed. It was just letters on a page and a keyboard. Reading a story, of Goethe, for example, in typing speed is v…e…r…r…y… slow. Possibly something like slow motion reading. At some point in the process of slowing the reading down due to typing the brain short–circuits, moving from thought into mechanics. If there are thoughts to engage the brain while putting up with the slowness of typing, the brain stays entertained. But in a narrative that is on the dull side, (such as the stories in Volume 5 were) (pardon my frankness), it is terribly hard to stay engaged. One becomes a robot plucking at the keyboard. Going back to proof read the chapters at a little faster rate (hence the type-os there probably are) proved more thought provoking. But by the time I was done typing those long chapters…a very, tired mom was ready to be done with it.

On the flip side, I have found people who love Volume 5. One woman in our book study said she found it fascinating and intriguing. I’m so glad my bad attitude didn’t rub off on her! One woman in our study, even read a separate (extensive) book which explained some of the how and why behind Volume 5. What tenacity! Thankfully my bad attitude didn’t rub off on her either!

Now don’t give up on me. I found some great one-liners in Volume 5:

“For it is only in doing, that we learn to do; through service, that we learn to serve…” p261.

“the boy who has not formed the habit of getting nourishment out of his books in school-days does not, afterwards, see the good of reading.” p 291.

“It is in the force of all-mighty gentleness that parents are supreme; not feebleness, not inertness—there is no strength in these; but purposeful, determined gentleness, which carries its point, only “for it is right.” p.201.

“Make occasions for services, efforts, offerings—let the children feel that their kindness is a power in the lives of their parents.” p.202.

I also found great thoughts, like:

a daily schedule for a girl,

the emphasis on things that formed a Living Education for Ruskin and Goethe,

how to deal with a temper tantrum,

what to do with an older girl,

how to encourage and love your older teens,

how to watchfully keep habits from forming,

oral stories are good for a child,

draw the line wisely with older girl,

liberty and responsibilities…. and others.

Did I gain nothing from Volume 5? I gained plenty.

Of all the volumes, in Volume 5 I found thoughts for life, real life, for today’s world. I found chapters which gave me deep thoughts affecting marriage and divorce. I found a hope for approaching eating disorders, rebellion in teens, mental stress, and mother burnout. All these are found for the taking in the pages of Volume 5.

So where does that leave Henrietta and I? I mentioned earlier that I thought we had the same problem with Volume 5. I wonder, and WONDER it is- speculation, imagination….. I wonder if the rambling nature of Volume 5 got to Henrietta as it did to me. As our Book Study neared the last part of Volume 5, frustration continually bubbled in the back of my mind because I could not see a cohesive picture to the volume. To me, the volume is all over the place, with tidbits here and there, topics inserted without sequence, format and layout changes at random. Surely, an author’s privilege, but possibly at some  readers’ angst – and maybe it is trivial, those readers who are overly organized or have a tendency to need a sorted outline and list. Ok, fine, guilty. Maybe Henrietta likes neat, symmetrical lists too.

I imagine further. Henrietta gave an awfully strong opinion. A strong opinion is what I have after this bout with Volume 5. Being as close to Charlotte as she was, I wonder if Henrietta served as an editor, proof reader, or perhaps even a typist for the volume. I have no basis for this thought- only conjecture. But Henrietta’s strong reaction to Volume 5 mimics my sentiment after slogging through it. The tedious, straining process of typing this volume, made me, too, want to send it into oblivion…

…but, only after I copy down my favourite quotes.