Laura A Barter Snow, ?1909.
Snow’s protagonists are beset by Roman Catholics, who are shown as going to any sort of deceit to get influence. Lord Wythe’s footman turns out to be a Jesuit who is trying to discover secrets about foreign affairs, and who threatens a woman who recognises him with death if she informs on him. A locum for a Church of England vicar turns out to be a Roman Catholic priest. Two children are ill-treated at a convent school to try to persuade them to convert. A “secret society for the spread of Romish doctrines” tries to lead undergraduates “’astray … They are utterly changed, and regularly go to confession, and give every promise of turning out tip-top Ritualists, if not something worse’”. A minister influenced by this takes over a church and the congregation start leaving to go to the Methodist chapel instead.
“’And can you blame the people? The ritualistic churches may attract weak, silly girls and women, especially of the upper classes, and also a few men, but the sound-headed and sturdy middle class know better. They want something satisfying; they have got to face the wear and tear of life, and demand reality. … ‘”
Laura Barter Snow makes it clear that she has no problem with non-conformists or dissenters, just RCs. One of her characters says
“’I belong to the Church of England … and I love her liturgy; but that does not hinder me loving those of other sects. I have worshipped with the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Plymouth Brethren, for are we not all one in Christ Jesus? Wherever a sectarian spirit creeps in, it is to the loss of spiritual power.’”
Apart from the Catholic hierarchy and the issue about the Pope and saints being important, one of her main anti-RC points is their lack of use of the Bible, which apparently keeps countries backward. Christine is told
“’Have you ever noticed … that all Roman Catholic countries, where the Bible is a sealed book, suffer for it? This Book is the secret of England’s greatness … Look at Holland, Prussia, the United States, and see the thriving condition of these nations in contrast to Italy, Spain, and France, where Rome is leading the people practically to infidelity. … ‘”
Confession is also terrible to her, and she presents it as a sort of sexual harassment, as in Mrs Smith’s description of confession with a high Anglican vicar:
“’ … I was shown into his study, and as soon as I got in he up and locks the door, and that scared me. … At first I answered all his questions; but presently he began to say things I didn’t like – things I’d never heard or thought of before, and it made me hot all over. I hid my face in my hands and began to cry, and the more he talked the worse I got … says he, ‘Remember, Hester White, you will commit a great sin if you ever disclose to any human being anything that has taken place in this room. Confession,’ says he, ‘is a secret between the priest and the sinner.’ … ‘”
One main character, Una, becomes a nun against her mother’s wishes, and is ill-treated, “never allowed to sit down … they always had to live without fires”. We are given to understand that she regrets her decision, but is not allowed to leave. “Why is it that these places are not open to public inspection, like other institutions in our great country?” Yes, good plan, bring in Ofsted for convents.
I was also interested in the brief treatment of the Irish. Christine’s father was Irish.
“’And so I suppose you consider yourself more than half a Paddy,’ laughed Mrs. Worthington. ‘Well, dear, you will be none the worse for that; many of our most brilliant leaders, statesmen and military men, have been Irishmen. Only don’t go in for disturbances, I pray you; I do like living in peace!’ and all joined in the merry laugh which followed this statement.”
I do like a good chapter intro of this kind: “Two years passed away.” More contemporary novels should use this temporal jumping.
I have not previously come across LBS as far as I remember, which is surprising as she was evidently extremely prolific and there are lots of copies of her books available. There is very little information about her online. Her biography, The Joyous Servant. The Life Story of Laura Anna Barter Snow … By Her Daughters indicates that her dates were 28/08/1864 to 23/06/1939. Here are some of her books, with great titles:
Marjory; or, What would Jesus do? (1893)
Mona’s Inheritance; or, “Who hath despised the day of small things?” (1896) I’m a bit baffled by this one as a copy on eBay seems to be bound with Three Girls In A Boat, which I can’t find in the BL or Bodleian catalogues.
Ruth’s roses, or, What some girls did (1903)
Honor’s quest; or, How they came home (1906)
Her Bright To-morrow; or, “All must be well” (1907)
Norah’s Victory; or, Saved through Suffering (1913)
The Sealed Packet. The stirring story of Aimée’s gold mine. (1918)
Eldwyth’s Choice (1929)
Ursula, a candidate for the Ministry (1930)
The Two Myrtles; or, “I, being in the way, the Lord led me” (1933)
Some of these have good dustjackets:
I’ve given the earliest date from either the Bodleian or BL cats, but they may not be totally reliable. Midst Many Snares is given as third impression, 1909. My copy is also 3rd impression but inscribed “All Saints Epping Upland Church Choir. Awarded to Lizzie Bailes for Regular Attendance & Good Conduct. 1919-1920. Walter A Limbrick Vicar”.
One passage from LBS is all over the internet on contemporary Christian sites: This Thing Is From Me.
Of the daughters who wrote / may have written her biography, Dorothy Snow, Marjory Snow, Eileen Snow and Kathleen Snow,
– Dorothy Snow seems also to have written The Long Pursuit (1931), Fiddlers Three (1953) and David, Tony and the Bees (1946), reprinted as Tony, David and the Bees (1947). The Bees book was evidently Christian, judging by the publishers.
– Eileen Snow seems also to have written Tales about Tails, etc (1949), Ludhiana Christian Medical College responds to the Challenge of India (1958), and contributed to Christ’s servant, India’s friend: a memoir of Dr. Aileen Pollock of Ludhiana with an epilogue by her friend and successor, Dr. Eileen Barter Snow. There is a history of Ludhiana Christian Medical College here.
I had a quick look for LBS in the census records. I can’t find her as Laura Barter, so either her DoB is wrong, her name is badly misspelt in the census, she was using a different name or she wasn’t listed. I found her in the 1901 census living at 27 Duncan Terrace, Islington, with her husband Frank, 3 year-old Dorothy, a son, also Frank, aged one, a visitor, Jessie Padden, living on her own income and born in India, a cook, Florence Pitt, and nurse, Christina Cameron. Laura is listed as having been born in India, which may be why she wasn’t on earlier censuses. By the 1911 census they have moved to The Vicarage, Broadway, Worcestershire, and have another 4 children (Eileen aged 9, Lucy Kathleen aged 7, Richard aged 4 and Marjory aged 3). They now have a servant, Blanche Ashby, a nurse, Fanny Powell, and a Private Secretary and Typist, Mabel Ashwell. I presume the typist is for Laura’s work mainly as I can’t find any books by Frank. A slightly more detailed place of birth is given for Laura – Calcutta. Frank can be traced back to the 1881 census, when he was living in Barrow-in-Furness and was a Commercial Clerk. I can’t find him in the 1891 census.
Images from the book – Visiting the poor:
Christine – same image as cover, but dress is a different colour:
Visiting Una in the convent: