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Personal Reminiscences in Book Making and Some Short Stories   By: (1825-1894)

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Personal Reminiscences of Book Making, by R.M. Ballantyne (1825 1894).

He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy, and in 1841 he became a clerk with the Hudson Bay Company, working at the Red River Settlement in Northen Canada until 1847, arriving back in Edinburgh in 1848. The letters he had written home were very amusing in their description of backwoods life, and his family publishing connections suggested that he should construct a book based on these letters. Three of his most enduring books were written over the next decade, "The Young Fur Traders", "Ungava", "The Hudson Bay Company", and were based on his experiences with the H.B.C. In this period he also wrote "The Coral island" and "Martin Rattler", both of these taking place in places never visited by Ballantyne. Having been chided for small mistakes he made in these books, he resolved always to visit the places he wrote about. With these books he became known as a great master of literature intended for teenagers. He researched the Cornish Mines, the London Fire Brigade, the Postal Service, the Railways, the laying down of submarine telegraph cables, the construction of light houses, the light ship service, the life boat service, South Africa, Norway, the North Sea fishing fleet, ballooning, deep sea diving, Algiers, and many more, experiencing the lives of the men and women in these settings by living with them for weeks and months at a time, and he lived as they lived.

He was a very true to life author, depicting the often squalid scenes he encountered with great care and attention to detail. His young readers looked forward eagerly to his next books, and through the 1860s and 1870s there was a flow of books from his pen, sometimes four in a year, all very good reading. The rate of production diminished in the last ten or fifteen years of his life, but the quality never failed.

He published over ninety books under his own name, and a few books for very young children under the pseudonym "Comus".

For today's taste his books are perhaps a little too religious, and what we would nowadays call "pi". In part that was the way people wrote in those days, but more important was the fact that in his days at the Red River Settlement, in the wilds of Canada, he had been a little dissolute, and he did not want his young readers to be unmindful of how they ought to behave, as he felt he had been.

Some of his books were quite short, little over 100 pages. These books formed a series intended for the children of poorer parents, having less pocket money. These books are particularly well written and researched, because he wanted that readership to get the very best possible for their money. They were published as six series, three books in each series.

In this book of personal reminiscences, the author, hearing in the distance the Grim Reaper, is at his most pi. The first few chapters describe the effort he had to make to gain the background information he needed to write the books, but suddenly he tells us that he doesn't feel at all well, that his time may well be near, and he fills out the book with half a dozen short stories, all very moralist, but still well up to his usual quality of output.

Re created as an e Text by Nick Hodson, August 2003.




Book making is mixed up, more or less, with difficulties. It is sometimes disappointing; often amusing; occasionally lucrative; frequently expensive, and always interesting at least to the maker.

Of course I do not refer to that sort of book making which is connected with the too prevalent and disgraceful practice of gambling, but to the making of literary books especially story books for the young.

For over eight and thirty years I have had the pleasure of making such books and of gathering the material for them in many and distant lands... Continue reading book >>

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