Mary Mapes Dodge, Robert Louis Stevenson, and thoughts on forgiveness: newsletter, September 11, 2020

September 13, 2020 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, September 11, 2020.


Nearly two decades after the infamous 9/11, I am struck by how far it feels from that awful event. For those of us who lived through it, the day was one of those we will always remember. Yet, young people entering college this fall have no memory of it at all. They will remember something far different. And two decades from now, they will be amazed that college freshmen will have no memory of our current pandemic.

Such is the way of things, I suppose. There are, undoubtedly, many lessons here, and you can draw your own. For me, one of those lessons is that I should be doing whatever I can to make the world around me a better place. Disasters will occur and recede, only to be replaced by other disasters. Kindness, gratitude, empathy, forgiveness — those are things that should not fade away under any circumstances.

With any or all of that in mind, I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing, and contented weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,531 subscribers and had a 23.5 percent open rate; 3 persons unsubscribed.

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Mary Mapes Dodge, the Silver Skates, and St. Nicholas magazine (part 1)

Mary Mapes Dodge, suffering from the disappearance and then death of her husband in 1857 and facing the need to support herself and her two sons, wrote one of the most beloved children’s novels of all time — Hans Brinkler or The Silver Skates. For that, she will always be remembered.

But what she did beyond the publication of that novel affected children and their reading habits in a far different and more profound way.

Dodge was born in 1831 in New York City. Her father was a professor who advocated the application of scientific discoveries to farming. She married William Dodge in 1851, and they had two children, but by 1857 the family was facing huge financial difficulties. Dodge disappeared and a month later his body was found after he had apparently drowned.

Dodge and her sons retreated to the family farm near Newark, New Jersey, and she began helping her father publish two magazines, the Working Farmer and the United States Journal. This editing experience would prove important for her later career.

During that time as an editor, she continued with her writing, selling short stories and articles to various magazines, and she brought out a book of stories for juveniles titled The Irvington Stories. She also wrote a book titled A Few Friends, about life at home, which got her noticed by the magazine editors at Hearth and Home, who offered her a job as editor of the home and juvenile departments.

But Dodge’s major literary accomplishment during these years was the publication of Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates in 1865. The story was a wonderful one for children, and the book was an immediate best-seller. (How that book came to be will be chronicled in a subsequent entry in this newsletter.)

Magazine editing turned out to be Dodge’s forté. Under her direction, Hearth and Home became widely popular and greatly increased its circulation. That, in turn, brought her to the attention of J.G. Holland and Roswell Smith, the directors of the company that published The Century Magazine, one of the leading and most profitable journals of the time. The publishers had become convinced that juvenile readers were an untapped and growing market, and they wanted some of the action. Dodge, they believed, would be just the right person to help them get it.

They were right. They also made the right decision in granting her a free hand with the publication. She had definite ideas about producing a publication that children would want to read — something that would not only engage them but also that they could feel a part of. She didn’t want it to be full of lessons and rules; rather, she wanted her young readers to enjoy it. She even chose the name: St. Nicholas: Scribner’s Illustrated Magazine for Girls and Boys.

Dodge proved to be extraordinarily gifted in bringing her ideas to fruition. She took her time in thinking through the magazine, and the first edition did not appear until November 1873, six months after she had first been hired. The magazine was 48 pages and beautifully illustrated, and its press run was an impressive 40,000 copies.

Next week, part 2: Mary Mapes Dodge’s extraordinary editorship

Week after next, part 3: The writing of Hans Brinker and more about Mary Mapes Dodge as author


Like losing a double-header: the passing of Tom Seaver and Lou Brock

Baseball, in the last two weeks, has lost two of its greatest players and gentlemen: Tom Seaver and Lou Brock.
Seaver was a power pitcher who was a key part of the Miracle Mets in their 1969 championship run. Seaver ended his career with 311 wins and 3,640 strikeouts, but even those numbers do not do full justice to his dominance on the mound.
Brock was most famous for his base-stealing prowess, but he was as complete an offensive player as you could find. Brock made speed an important part of the game during his era with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had 938 career steals and batted .300 right times in his career, ending with a .293 career average.
Both of these men have well-deserved places in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Here are a couple of quick watercolor sketches that are my tribute to both.

Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable, Monday, Sept. 14: Join us

The Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable is a monthly online meeting of those interested in what happened in Vietnam. Each month we hear from someone who served in Vietnam and through the good offices of Zoom we are able to ask questions and talk with each other about it. The meeting are always on the second Monday of each month, and we have been recording those meetings and putting them on YouTube.

Our next meeting will be this Monday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. ET. Our featured speaker will be William Edward “Chip” Clayton, who flew more than — missions as a helicopter pilot in South Vietnam for the U.S. Army.

The Zoom link for the meeting is:

Please join us if you are interested.

Here’s a list of featured speakers and YouTube videos that we have produced so far:

Billy Minser, an artillery officer who was a forward observer for a combat unit in Vietnam and Cambodia: and

Bill Beaty, an attack pilot for the U.S. Navy who flew more than 150 missions in Vietnam: and

Aubrey Moncrief, a medic attached to a Green Beret unit during the Tet offensive in 1968:

I hope that you can take the time to watch one of these videos, give it a thumbs-up, and make a comment. That helps our visibility on YouTube.

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”

Treasure Island and what it meant for young readers

Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson’s great novel for young readers, sprang from a single sheet drawing he made while spending an afternoon with his stepson Lloyd in the summer of 1881. They were living in Scotland at the time, and a summer rain had confined Lloyd to the house. He spent that time in his room drawing pictures, and Stevenson joined him for the afternoon.

As he later wrote: “I made the map of an island; it was elaborately and (I thought) beautifully coloured; the shape of it took my fancy beyond expression; it contained harbours that pleased me like sonnets; and with the unconsciousness of the predestined, I ticketed my performance `Treasure Island.’ “

Stevenson began to name various locations on the island and began to see characters. He let his imagination go, and soon drew up a list of chapters for a book. By the next morning, he had written a draft of the first chapter.

When it was completed, the book was serialized under the pen name Captain George North. As such, it drew little attention, but when the chapters were put together and published as a book in 1882, it became a bestseller. It was Stevenson’s first big breakthrough as a writer. More importantly, the book was the first to break free of the didacticism of children’s literature at the time, and it set books for young readers on a different course. It wasn’t preachy, and it didn’t try to teach any lessons. It was sheer entertainment, and the kids loved it.

Note: Two poems by Stevenson are the recitation for the video I produced last year: In the Highlands and Consolation by Robert Louis Stevenson

The power of forgiveness

Anyone who is human and social has experienced the pain of being offended or hurt deeply and the inevitable sequence of anger or even hatred toward the person responsible.

It seems that the best we can do in those situations is to turn it aside and cut off contact by “unfriending” that person or cutting off all contact.

But what about forgiveness? Is that an option?

Nathaniel Wade, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, examines the concept of forgiveness in a long essay for  Aeon magazine. He is interested in the psychology of forgiveness and religion, particularly as they are applied in counseling and therapy settings, and he writes:

Early work by Worthington and myself, and by others, identified what forgiveness was not. Robert Enright at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the other pioneer in the psychology of forgiveness, was instrumental in this work. For example, he and his colleagues distinguished between forgiveness and condoning, excusing or overlooking an offence. Source: Forgiveness therapy can free you from the hurts of the past | Aeon Essays

Wade delves deeply into forgiveness, what it is and what it isn’t, and how to achieve it through what he and his colleagues call “forgiveness therapy.”

This is an interesting and informative essay, particularly because forgiveness does not seem to be a popular or approved response in our civic society. Maybe we should think a little more about using it.

Maryville 1920: exceptional local history

The Roylston Hotel (above) in 1920 was located on Main Street (now Broadway) and was operated by Thomas Roylston, who lived there with his wife and three children. This is a pen and ink drawing of the hotel I did for Brennan Cooney LeQuire’s recently published book, Maryville 1920: From Pistol Creek to the Palace Theater.

The book is available on Amazon (HTTP://, and the Blount County Public Library has copies for sale, and all of the proceeds from the sale of the book go to the Blount County Friends of the Library. 

I helped edit the book and contributed several original pen and ink drawings, including the one above. Her book is a sterling piece of local history and a model of good research and interesting stories. I urge you to take a look.


Vince V.: Regarding your short essay on gentleness, there’s nothing like a hip replacement to infuse a little careful consideration in one’s life. A trip to the compost pile was once a march, stomp and slog. Now it’s more of a tip-toeing of the light fantastic. 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor (with graphite): Bend in the river

Best quote of the week:

At the end of each day rather than count the harvest you reaped, you should count the number of seeds you planted. Robert Louis Stevenson, author and poet (1850-1894)

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: Gordon Parks’ “Atmosphere of Crime” photos, the war in Iraq, a look back at William Manchester, and reader reactions: newsletter, Sept. 4, 2020



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