Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Curious Case of the Leech Vender

The Leech Vender
Among my father's books I found a very curious book. It's called The Leech Vender, published in 1845 in Boston by the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society. It's hard to tell if this is a sincere tale of Anna, a young leech vender, and her humble, Christian family, or a crazy satire. I suppose it's real considering the religious publisher, the themes of leading a good Christian life, and the events in the final pages which embrace an upbeat, all-is-right-with-god's-world ending.

But the book's preface is very odd indeed, asking the reader, "Aren't you tired of reading novels, those lying, fake stories of people who don't exist? This story is indeed real!" It's the beginning of a story which, if published today, would be taken as a parody. Or, would have no more esthetic value than a Chick Tract. And the story may have really happened, but it's written in the prose style of an overheated, didactic soap opera.

I've included here the first few pages of this oddity from another time for your reading pleasure. (The Unreliable Narrator is a time machine and you are welcome!)