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.
Micah Clarke
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930)
Micah Clarke, by A. Conan Doyle (1888), presents in the form of a novel a graphic and vivid picture of the political condition in England during the Western rebellion, when James, Duke of Monmouth, aspired to the throne, and when Englishmen were in arms against Englishmen. The story tells of the adventures of the young man whose name the book bears, of the many perils which he encountered on his journey from Havant to Taunton to join the standard of Monmouth, and of the valiant part he played in the final struggle, when the King’s troops were victorious and hundreds of Protestants, who had escaped death on the field, were hanged for treason.  1
  Through this melancholy but thrilling narrative runs a pretty vein of love-making. The gentle and innocent Puritan maid, Mistress Ruth Timewell, who had never heard of Cowley or Waller or Dryden, and who was accustomed to derive enjoyment from such books as the ‘Alarm to the Unconverted,’ ‘Faithful Contendings,’ or ‘Bull’s Spirit Cordial,’ finds love more potent than theology, and prefers Reuben Lockarby, a tavern-keeper’s son, to Master John Derrick, a man of her own faith.  2
  But the climax of ‘Micah Clarke’ is reached in the description of the battle on the plain in the early morning, in which one learns what religion meant in England toward the close of the sixteenth century. Against the disciplined and well-equipped regiments of the King are opposed Monmouth’s untrained and ragged forces,—peasants, armed only with scythes, pikes, and clubs, but with the unfaltering courage of fanaticism in their hearts and with psalms on their lips.  3
  Again and again they stand firm while the serried ranks of the royal troops are hurled against them. They meet death with a song, and flinch not. But as the day advances, out of the fog break the long lines of the King’s cavalry, “wave after wave, rich in scarlet and blue and gold,” and the scythe-men and pikemen of Monmouth are cut to pieces. The duke himself, preferring life with disgrace to honor and death, is seen galloping in terror from the field. But even as the leader flies, one of his peasant soldiers, whose arm had been partially severed by a ball, sits behind a clump of alder bushes freeing himself from the useless limb with a broad-bladed knife, “and giving forth the Lord’s Prayer the while, without a pause or a quiver in his tone.”  4
  ‘Micah Clarke’ is a book for old and young; a book which instructs, while it quickens the imagination and stirs the blood.  5

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