The information highway was only a footpath, back in 1859. Still there was reading material around.

True, you couldn't curl up with The Wind in the Willows. or Sherlock Holmes, since Kenneth Grahame and Arthur Conan Doyle were born this year. You'd also have to wait for poetry by A. E. Housman, short stories by Sholem Aleichem, bucolic comic adventures by Jerome K. Jerome, or philosophy by Henri Bergson; they too were born in '59.

But you still had plenty of choices, new this year. It's hard to imagine Queen Victoria curling up at all, but she did read George Eliot's novel Adam Bede. If fiction was also your forte there was part one of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. There was also Harriet Beecher Stowe's The Minister's Wooing. Alfred Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King, William Makepeace Thackery's The Virginians, Ivan Turgenev's A Nest of Gentlefolk, and George Meredith's The Ordeal of Richard Feverel. Or Edward Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám - from the Persian.

Biography? How about Washington Irving's five-volume The Life of George Washington. Have an itch to go west? You'd want to read James Redpath and Richard Hinton's Handbook to Kansas Territory. or Canadian author Paul Kane's Wanderings of an Artist among the Indian Tribes of North America. If you were hungry for news from your government, lawyer-politician Abraham Lincoln was negotiating for publication of last year's debates with Senator Douglas, and William Tecumseh Sherman's report on U. S. railroads had already come out in the Washington National Intelligencer.

The later was a long-established newspaper. New ones sprang up this year. Out in Denver, publisher William N. Byers decided there might also be good money in western journalism, and began publication of the Rocky Mountain News. The Weekly Arizonan began publication in Tubac. North of the border, Canada's Red River district got it's first paper - the Nor'Wester. There was even a start-up publication in Nigeria, published by the Church Missionary Society.

Reading was not always beneficial however. When Apaches attacked an express wagon in Wild Rose Pass, north of Fort Davis, Texas, they killed the guard and made off with the mail pouch. They made the mistake of stopping to examine a packet of illustrated newspapers, were overtaken by pursuing soldiers, and lost 14 warriors in the ensuing skirmish.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor


© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte