Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Israel Mort, Overman
John Saunders (1810–1895)
Israel Mort, Overman, by John Saunders (1876), is a strong plea for English miners. The author strenuously desires the government to enforce better sanitary conditions and precautionary measures. He traces the formation of carbon, and finds an intolerable contrast between the sunlit tropical forests of past ages, and the dark loathsome galleries where men grope for coal in constant danger from explosion, suffocation, or inundation. He pictures the life of a mining village centring at the black mouth of the pit. An atmosphere of dread hangs over everything. The mothers grieve over their baby sons at the thought of the fate awaiting them. The boys disappear from school when very young. They put on miners’ suits and fearfully accompany their fathers down the pit to work, which makes them prematurely old. The other children see their grimy figures from time to time, and shudder. The miner cannot hope for great rewards; and his life crushes out joy and spontaneity. With a gifted and exceptional man like Israel Mort, it spurs to a fierce resolution to extricate himself; and he exemplifies how easily a spirit of cupidity makes light of human life. His fiercely determined figure dominates the book as he does his gentle wife and timid imaginative son David. For the latter he plans a brilliant future; but first he will have him serve apprenticeship in all stages of mining work, and thus expel his weak fears of the mine. But David escapes to a more natural life. The long-dreaded catastrophe arrives at last, bringing death and suffering, melting and regenerating Israel’s hard nature, and resulting in a new and better state of things. The strong and gloomy tale shows mining as hard and dangerous work at best; and shows, too, the advisability of legal supervision.  1

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