July 22, 2008

Thoughts on GLH

This afternoon I picked up White Orchids thinking I might look it over again, and it brought a few things to mind that I'd wanted to say about Grace Livingston Hill's work. There's a scene in there where Jeffrey is taking Camilla out to dinner for the first time. Having been seated Jeffrey courteously asks Camilla if she would care for some wine. BAM! Camilla is struck sick at the realization that there is such a vast gulf between them -all the more impassable because it dealt with "moral standard" she had no right to break. If you read a few GLH books you'll realize this is part of her MO. Good Christians don't drink. And despite the fact that GLH absolutely rejects the idea of an effeminate clergy (most to all of her clergymen are brave, capable, and quite virile) the moral force against drinking is often displayed as feminine -it's the mothers, sisters, and sweethearts who inculcate temperance principles. Alcohol is portrayed as ruinous and very addicting. New imbibers are struck with a thirst that leads to them stumbling home and drunkenly making advances to the pure eyed maiden residing in their boarding house. There is no room in her books for wisdom, responsibility, and moderation. Its not enough to make me stop reading her books, but it is enough to make me wish that there was someone out there who wrote similarly pleasant little novels for the reformed Christian wine drinking set because they really are very pleasant books about people making the best of what they have with grace, courage, and a real reliance on God's direction and provision. Of course they're also fairy tales in which poor girls often marry rich men and poor deserving young men mostly make their fortunes. There are also kidnappings by the evil young men in which the upright young men get to rescue their best girl in the finest hero style. Like I said, fairy tales, but good ones containing some real encouragement and inspiration for Christian women -which is why I rather wish somewhere out there I could find a reformed Grace Livingston Hill whose characters drink a reasonable amount of wine, dance in a suitably modest fashion, and aren't totally dismissive of jazz.

6 comments:

Under The Mountain said...

So did Camilla eventually reform Jeffrey and steal him away from his first love (i.e., the bottle)?

Natalie_S said...

Actually, the little this book says about Jeffery's social activities hints more at a moderate social drinker instead of a rampant drunkard. But of course that only makes him sadly wrong instead of disgustingly evil. Usually the evil drunkards end up being the foiled kidnappers. No rescue for them. But yes, her simple maiden ways (combined with his younger brother's camp counselor) did win his heart to Christ.

Under The Mountain said...

So, though he was "sadly wrong", it was only in a "going along to get along" kind of way; nothing darkly intentional. In other words, it was nothing that conversion couldn't fix. It wasn't something REALLY bad, so there was still hope for him.

Ouch. I hope I'm reading way too much into your post. The book doesn't really rest on those kinds of assumptions, does it?

Natalie_S said...

Hmm, yeah, that could be misread. What I meant to say is that the girls don't usually marry former drunks. There are a fair many drunks who come to Christ -they just usually aren't the girl's boyfriends/husbands at the end. But it is also true that many of the kidnapper "I shall make you marry me" types are pretty soused. I don't think its a question of good enough to be saved. The characters in her books minister to everyone from rich, disagreeable aunts to small boys to ranch hands. However, they are romances. Being a charming heroine who would you rather marry -a charming man who once offered you wine but is now a teetotaling Christian or a drunken, domineering playboy? And somebody has to be the antagonist. Occasionally it's resolved by that party coming to Christ -often by the right and decent triumphing over the licentious and tawdry. Does that make more sense? I'll loan a few of my favorites if you're interested. I'd love to get an intelligent reformed perspective on them.

dancinghobbit said...

Yes, yes, moderation. Though I suppose some people, with a tendency to get addicted to things, should perhaps stay away from alcohol.

I got a little tipsy once (when I had some champagne), and hated it. But I still drink wine from time to time because it tastes good. What's wrong with that?

Natalie_S said...

Nothing wrong that I can think of. I think there's a big difference between drinking to get drunk and standing up after dinner only to realize that last quarter glass went to your head rather more than you realized.