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Walter Harland Or, Memories of the Past   By: (1834-)

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In Harriet S. Caswell's novel, “Walter Harland Or, Memories of the Past,” readers are transported to a bygone era filled with love, loss, and redemption. Set in the mid-19th century, this epic tale captures the essence of Victorian society, weaving a captivating narrative that delves deep into the human experience.

The story revolves around Walter Harland, an ambitious young man with a troubled past. As we follow Walter's journey through both his personal and professional life, Caswell masterfully intertwines themes of love, sacrifice, and self-discovery. With each page, readers become more entangled in the intricate web of relationships and secrets that shape Walter's destiny.

Caswell's prose is nothing short of captivating, flaunting a remarkable ability to paint vivid scenes and evoke emotional responses. Her attention to historical detail is commendable, transporting readers effortlessly into the splendorous Victorian era. From lavish ballrooms to sprawling English countryside estates, every setting is impeccably described, immersing readers in a world of opulence, grandeur, and strict societal norms.

One of the novel's greatest strengths lies in its well-developed cast of characters. Walter, the enigmatic and deeply flawed protagonist, undergoes a profound transformation throughout the narrative. His internal struggles, turbulent relationships, and ultimate redemption make him a compelling figure that readers can both sympathize with and root for. Secondary characters, such as the cunning Isabella and the steadfast Sarah, add depth and complexity to the story, their own individual arcs further enriching the overall reading experience.

While the novel predominantly explores themes of love and passion, it also confronts societal issues of the time, such as class divisions and gender expectations. Caswell deftly incorporates these topics, effortlessly weaving them into the fabric of the story without detracting from the narrative's flow.

However, it is important to note that at times, the pacing of the novel feels uneven, with certain sections dragging on while others seem rushed. Some readers may find themselves longing for a more balanced narrative rhythm, as well as a deeper exploration of certain plotlines. Nevertheless, these minor flaws do not detract significantly from the overall enjoyment of the story.

In conclusion, Harriet S. Caswell's “Walter Harland Or, Memories of the Past” is a sweeping historical novel that poses timeless questions about love, identity, and the weight of our past. Despite a few pacing issues, Caswell's vivid prose and well-crafted characters create an immersive reading experience that fans of historical fiction will undoubtedly relish. This novel stands as a testament to Caswell's undeniable talent for capturing the essence of an era and compelling readers to reflect on their own lives and choices.

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Note: Images of the original pages are available through Early Canadiana Online. See


Or, Memories of the Past



Author of Clara Boscom; Earnest Harwood, etc.



Left entirely alone on a quiet afternoon, the unbroken stillness which surrounded me, as well as the soft haze which floats upon the atmosphere, in that most delightful of all seasons, the glorious "Indian Summer" of Eastern Canada, caused my thoughts to wander far away into the dreamy regions of the past, and many scenes long past, and almost forgotten, passed in review before my mind's eye on that quiet afternoon. While thus musing the idea occurred to me that there are few individuals, however humble or obscure, whose life history (if noted down) would prove wholly without interest to others, in the form of a book; and this thought caused me to form the idea of noting down some passages from my own life as they were on that day recalled to my mind. Like the boy who dreamed a most remarkable dream and, when asked to relate it, "didn't know where to begin," so was I puzzled as to how I should make a beginning for my story. But the incidents of one particular day when I was about thirteen years old were so vividly brought back to my mind, that I have decided upon that day as a starting point; and now to my story... Continue reading book >>

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