He was hardly fit to figure in the great review of life. A boy of ten or twelve, in tattered clothes, with an accordion in a case swung over one shoulder like a sack, and under the other arm a wooden cage containing a grey squirrel. It was a December night in London, and the Southern lad had nothing to shelter his little body from the Northern ...Read MoreHe was hardly fit to figure in the great review of life. A boy of ten or twelve, in tattered clothes, with an accordion in a case swung over one shoulder like a sack, and under the other arm a wooden cage containing a grey squirrel. It was a December night in London, and the Southern lad had nothing to shelter his little body from the Northern cold but his short velveteen jacket, red waistcoat, and knickerbockers. He was going home after a long day in Chelsea, and, conscious of something fantastic in his appearance, and of doubtful legality in his calling, he was dipping into side streets in order to escape the laughter of the London boys and the attentions of policemen. Coming to the Italian quarter in Soho, he stopped at the door of a shop to see the time. It was eight o'clock. There was an hour to wait before he would be allowed to go indoors. The shop was a baker's, and the window was full of cakes and confectionery. From an iron grid on the pavement there came the warm breath of the oven underground, the red glow of the fire, and the scythe-like swish of the long shovels. The boy blocked the squirrel under his armpit, dived into his pocket, and brought out some copper coins and counted them. There was ninepence. Ninepence was the sum he had to take home every night, and there was not a halfpenny to spare. He knew that perfectly before he began to count, but his appetite had tempted him to try again if his arithmetic was not at fault. The air grew warmer, and it began to snow. At first it was a fine sprinkle that made a snow-mist, and adhered wherever it fell. The traffic speedily became less, and things looked big in the thick air. The boy was wandering aimlessly through the streets, waiting for nine o'clock. When he thought the hour was near, he realised that he had lost his way. He screwed up his eyes to see if he knew the houses and shops and signs, but everything seemed strange.Read Less
Fair. HB, D. Appleton and Company, 1902, frontis of Viola Allen as the Roma of the play with 7 other B&W photos. Brown cloth on boards with dark brown lettering and embossed scene is showing 2 soil spots near backstrip, some light rubbing and very light soil, slightly rounded corners, slightly slanted spine, back hinge cracked, owner signed inside front cover, page 91 closed tear by backstrip, small bookstore label on bep, contents pretty clean. Fair.
This is Hall Caine's most ambitious novel. The story spans seven decades and reminds one of the 'Godfather' films. The Eternal City is set in Rome and incorporates almost everything that affects our lives: religion, politics, bigotry, corruption, romance, love, betrayal, bereavement, loneliness, old age and nostalgia.
Hall Caine's writing style has been described by some critics as tedious, melodramatic, mundane, sensational, pretentious, moralising and even dull. This is, arguably, being unfair to him.. How do they account for the fact that The Eternal City was the first ever novel which sold over a million copies.in England! In his time, Hall Caine was tremendously popular with the reading public and a bestselling author at a time when books did matter, in the absence of radio and television.
If one is an unbiased reader and ignores what so-called literary critics have said or say, after about a hundred pages it becomes difficult to put this book down and another 400 pages follow. Suffice it to say that the novel follows the careers and aspirations of its two main characters, Rossi and Roma, the political and the spiritual, with a huge supporting cast. Indeed the novel had its fans in the cinema and theatre world as well. Again, if one has enjoyed watching the 'Godfather' trilogy, one should enjoy reading this novel, without paying attention to the adverse comments of some critics about Hall Caine's literary style.
Hall Caine was talking about a Europe without national barriers as early as 1901, when The Eternal City was published. For some years, he was also a correspondent for the New York Times. He spent most of his life on the Isle of Man where he died in 1931. Today, he is, sadly, virtually forgotten, if not unknown, but the earlier editions of his books have become collectors' items and reprints have started appearing again. The time may have come to revisit Hall Caine's novels and reassess his work. The Eternal City is considered by many readers to be his magnum opus.
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