Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells" Blog Hop

Are you ready to hop?  Take this tour of 12 blogs -- some you may already know and some new ones.  It's easy.  It's fun.  It's a good Friday diversion.


‘Tis the season, you know, for giving and receiving – mostly for giving, though, right?  But, what is the nature of true giving?  How does one define generosity?  Philanthropy?

As is often the case, my idol, Fanny Fern, has already written the perfect seasonal column about this very topic.  Who is Fanny Fern?  Fanny Fern (the pen name of Sara Payson Willis), was one of the most successful, influential, and popular writers of the nineteenth century. A novelist, journalist, and feminist, Fern (1811-1872) outsold Harriet Beecher Stowe, won the respect of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and served as literary mentor to Walt Whitman. Scrabbling in the depths of poverty before her meteoric rise to fame and fortune, she was widowed, escaped an abusive second marriage, penned one of the country's first prenuptial agreements, married a man eleven years her junior, and served as a nineteenth-century Oprah to her hundreds of thousands of fans. Her weekly editorials in the pages of the New York Ledger and other periodicals over a period of about twenty years chronicled the myriad controversies of her era and demonstrated her firm belief in the motto, "Speak the truth, and shame the devil."  

As part of the “Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells” Blog Hop, my blog will introduce you to the real-life writing of the heroine of my historical novel Shame the Devil.  Her typically-sarcastic June 5, 1852 article, published in Boston’s The Olive Branch, follows:

Mistaken Philanthropy

“Don’t moralize to a man who is on his back;—help him up, set him firmly on his feet, and then give him advice and means.”

There’s an old-fashioned, verdant, piece of wisdom, altogether unsuited for the enlightened age we live in; fished up, probably, from some musty old newspaper, edited by some eccentric man troubled with than inconvenient appendage called a heart!  Don’t pay any attention to it.  If a poor wretch—male or female—comes to you for charity, whether allied to you by your own mother, or mother Eve, put on the most stoical, “get thee behind me,” expression you can muster.  Listen to him with the air of a man who “thanks God he is not as other men are.”  If the story carry conviction with it, and truth and sorrow go hand in hand, button your coat up tighter over your pocket book, and give him a piece of—good advice!  If you know anything about him, try to rake up some imprudence or mistake he may have made in the course of his life, and bring that up as a reason why you can’t give him anything more substantial, and tell him that his present condition is probably a salutary discipline for those same peccadilloes!  Ask him more questions than there are in the Assembly’s Catechism, about his private history, and when you’ve pumped him high and dry, try to teach him—on an empty stomach—the “duty of submission.”  If a tear of the wounded sensibility begins to flood the eye, and a hopeless look of discouragement settles down upon the face, “wish him well,” and turn your back upon him as quick as possible.

Should you at any time be seized with an unexpected spasm of generosity, and make up your mind to bestow some worn-out old garment, that will hardly hold together till the recipient gets it home, you’ve bought him, body and soul; of course, you are entitled to gratitude of a life-time!  If he ever presumes to think differently from you after that, he is an “ungrateful wretch,” and “ought to suffer.”  As to the “golden rule,” that was made in old times; everything is changed now; it is not suited to our meridian.

People shouldn’t get poor; if they do, you don’t want to be bothered with it.  It is disagreeable; it hinders your digestion.  You would rather see Dives than Lazarus; and, it is my opinion, your taste will be gratified in that particular,—in the other world, if not in this!

--Fanny Fern

Ha!  You said it Fanny!  To learn more about Fanny Fern and my historical novel about her, click here: Shame the Devil.

To continue onto the next “Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells” blogger, the amazing Malcolm R. Campbell, click here: Malcolm’s Round Table.  From Malcolm’s site, you’ll be directed to hop to the next blog until you finish the whole short, wonderful tour of twelve blogs.  Enjoy! 

“Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells” blog hop participants are authors of small press/university press books that are eliciting discussion and notice.  Blog hoppers include:

Smoky Zeidel @ Smoky Talks

Patricia Damery @ Patricia Damery

Debra Brenegan @ Debra Brenegan, author

Malcolm R. Campbell @ Malcolm’s Round Table

T.K. Thorne @ T.K.’s Tales

Anne K. Albert @ Anne K. Albert

Elizabeth Clark-Stern @ Elizabeth Clark-Stern’s Blog

Collin Kelley @ Modern Confessional

Sharon Heath @ Sharon Heath

Melinda Clayton @ Author Melinda Clayton

Leah Shelleda @ After the Jug was Broken


  1. What a nice excerpt from her writing. It's too bad she has been overshadowed by all the people she outsold during her era. "Spasm of generosity" -- a nice phrase!


  2. Great post. Thank you for featuring Fanny on the Sleigh Bells and Ink Well hop!

  3. Thank you, Debra, for this post. I look forward to reading Shame the Devil! Seems there are some pithy quotes that are quite appropriate for our current political discourse!

  4. I adore Fanny. I suspect if I had lived at the same time as she, we would have been great friends. Thanks for participating in Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells, and see you on the tour, Debra!

  5. Patricia, you're right -- Fanny was a spitfire then, and her writing would still find a spot on editorial pages today!

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Malcolm and Anne. And, Smoky, your insights are always welcome! :)

  7. What a great post - thank you so much for the introduction to Fanny!

  8. Thanks, Melinda -- I love how sarcastic she is. Sometimes it helps to rock the boat a little in order to affect real change.

  9. Debra,
    I love blogs that teach me new things, and thank you for the introduction to what sounds like the indomitable Fanny Fern!

  10. Fanny Fern, Debra? Who knew? A mentor to Walt Whitman?!!! Your reverence for this irreverent woman brings to mind something I wrote recently for Just the Right Book about my gratitude for being introduced, at fifteen, to the likewise irreverent Walt: "Whitman’s poems alerted me to a world beyond my constant quarrel with my parents and a body sprouting unwelcome curves, strange smells, and unmentionable desires. Instead, he celebrated such things, poking his protean imagination into the glories of sex, our kinship with the natural world, and death as the enigmatic frame for life’s rich palette. Reading 'Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,' I hardly knew what to do with myself. What kind of a magician was this Whitman, looking like a cross between a hobo and God, with his dented hat and curling white beard? How could the cry of a mockingbird for its missing mate stir such a hunger in me?" I'm ordering your book RIGHT NOW, Debra, and cannot wait to read it!

  11. A fellow journalist and novelist. Glad to see there are more of us out there and I look forward to reading "Shame The Devil."

  12. Thanks for introducing me to a strong, opinionated woman! She definitely has a tongue on her! :-) and in a time when women were thought better to be quiet and submissive. Love it.

  13. Sharon, Collin and T.K. -- Thanks for stopping by! This hop was an amazing way to introduce me to new books and new writers -- I look forward to checking out your works!

    Sharon -- When you read the book, be sure to let me know what you think of Fanny Fern's ideas of Walt Whitman! He certainly was an amazing poet and visionary, but sometimes wasn't the best "friend," at least not according to her. :)