Gimme Some Oven

Discover: First Lines #8

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Discover First Lines #8 (M) |

#8: M

We are officially halfway through the alphabet! And, in case you missed it, you can win a sweet First Lines mug as part of A Literary Education Giveaway.

First Lines mug

This week I pulled four M books from my shelves. As I’ve only read one of the four, I was especially curious which first line would grab me.

Four First Lines

1. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (originally published in 1868)

I address these lines — written in India — to my relatives in England.

In the first part of Robinson Crusoe, at page one hundred and twenty-nine, you will find it thus written: “Now I saw, though too late, the Folly of beginning a Work before we count the Cost, and before we judge rightly of our own Strength to go through with it.”
[Chapter 1]

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins |

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins | © 1958 Pyramid Books // © circa 1900 A.L. Burt Company

This is the one I’ve read; and yes, have multiple copies of — but the paperback is abridged. And though they look to be about the same thickness, don’t be fooled (as I was) — apparently the real deal has super thin pages because it’s 512 pages, while the abridged version is only 286 pages.

I was first introduced to Collins’s The Woman in White, which is noted as one of the first mystery novels; and later read The Moonstone which is considered to be the first detective novel in the English language. Who know if Sherlock Holmes would’ve been born in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s imagination without the creative genius of Wilkie Collins’s trailblazing books? Can you imagine?

The mystery isn’t the most complex or suspenseful you’ve ever read, but knowing that it’s the first of its kind definitely adds to its fascination. I found it to be an easy and interesting read. There’s also a decent film version, starring Greg Wise and Keeley Hawes.

acclaim for The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins |

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins | © 1958 Pyramid Books // © circa 1900 A.L. Burt Company

When I opened the paperback to find a flyleaf full of praise from the likes of Charles Dickens, Dorothy L. Sayers, and T.S. Eliot, I almost squealed. Can you imagine having T.S. Eliot and Charles Dickens of all people singing your praises?


2. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (originally published in 1851)

Call me Ishmael.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville |

Moby Dick by Herman Melville | © 1930 R.R. Donnelly and Sons Company

I’ve heard this first line numerous times, but I’ve always been daunted by this book. Probably because it’s over 800 pages and I’d never heard anyone say they enjoyed reading it. But recently I’ve been told it’s worth reading, and that plus the fact that it is a classic after all, and maybe a teensy bit because the Cozy Classics version made me smile, have made me consider moving this up the never-ending reading list.

By the way, does anyone else ever feel like your reading list is similar to your Netflix queue — 100s of titles and you don’t know how you’ll ever get through them all…especially when you keep going back to the ones you’ve already read/watched? *sigh*


3. Mirage by the Author of Kismet (originally published in 1878)

Her name was Constance — Constance Varley.

Mirage | #NoNameSeries

Mirage from the No Name Series | © 1884 Roberts Brothers

Did anyone else immediately think: Bond — James Bond?

This book was purchased purely for its looks. Plus, I was intrigued by the “No Name Series.” Of course, no one can leave anonymity alone and so apparently this book was written by Julia Constance Fletcher who went under the pseudonym of George Fleming. She traveled with Oscar Wilde in Italy when they were both younger and supposedly her main characters in this book are based on Wilde and herself. Interesting.


4. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens (originally published 1844)

As no lady or gentleman, with any claims to polite breeding, can possibly sympathise with the Chuzzlewit family without being first assured of the extreme antiquity of the race, it is a great satisfaction to know that it undoubtedly descended in a direct line from Adam and Eve; and was, in the very earliest times, closely connected with the agricultural interest.

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens |

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens | © 1953

Apparently I need to get cracking on reading more Dickens. This guy is funny. Even his character names are great — Chuzzlewit?


My Favourite

So, though I liked The Moonstone as a story, and even think the first line of Chapter 1 is pretty intriguing; and though the first line of Martin Chuzzlewit definitely made me smile; I was surprised to find that the one that drew me to keep reading was Moby Dick.

Part of it was this great copy I have, which looks totally plain from the outside, but has these wonderful illustrations before each chapter. I’m a sucker for black and white illustrations.

Plus, Melville’s humble dedication to a fellow writer of his time, endeared him to me — somehow made him seem more human:

In token
of my admiration for his genius
this book is inscribed
Nathaniel Hawthorne

And, as I learned from the second American Literary Timeline poster (also part of A Literary Education Giveaway!), they often both published books in the same year. But while Hawthorne was already well known, Melville was up-and-coming. Apparently it was while he was working on Moby Dick that he actually met Hawthorne — and was inspired to finish his whale story.

American Literary Timeline poster

But for all that, when I read the first line, I simply didn’t stop at the period. And before I knew it, I had read the first page and found myself smiling. There’s even a hint of Dickens-esque sarcasm in the opening lines.

First Page of Moby Dick by Herman Melville |

First Page of Moby Dick by Herman Melville | © 1930 R.R. Donnelly and Sons Company

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.

Whether because of the “damp, drizzly November in my soul” line or the thought of someone “methodically knocking people’s hats off” in the street — I might just end up reading this sooner than I think.


» Next week: four books whose titles begin with L.
» Don’t miss last week’s: four books whose titles began with N.
» Don’t miss your chance to win: A Literary Education Giveaway!

What was your favourite first line
among your own four M books?
Any thoughts on Moby Dick?

Kindle-editions available here: The MoonstoneMoby Dick, and Martin Chuzzlewit.

This post contains affiliate links.
more by bet »

bet mercer

Bet Mercer is a poet-photographer who writes at Gimme Some Reads and Everyday Poetry. She loves quotes, reading her favourite books over again, great conversation, laughter, trees, films, and travelling the world. Follow along with Bet on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, Etsy and Google+.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 comments on “Discover: First Lines #8”

  1. For the record, if you’re going to read Moby Dick, make sure it’s the abridged version. The man seriously needed a better editor. Sheesh, enough with the gruesome whale-slaying details for a whole chapter, dude! Even I (who loves sailing stories, as you know) couldn’t get through the full version. And the abridged version was the first “real” book I remember my dad reading to me and my bro.

  2. Ah, Moby Dick…the one that got away for me. Never did read the whole thing and it is on my also never-ending “gotta read that one of these days” pile.

  3. THIS IS GREAT STUFF! I really enjoyed your post, and am reading your website for the first time, which I discovered through a sideline post from Gimme Some Oven, which I discovered through Pinterest. I’ll be back (and thanks for including the Nathanail Hawthorne dedication; I have a particular fondness for those.)

    • Thanks, Sarah! Glad to have you here. I took a quick peek at your blog and it’s lovely — both the design and the idea behind it.

      And yes, I too love such dedications in books. Now, I want to find more! :)

  4. My books for M’s:
    Mimosa by Amy Carmichael; The Maiden’s Bequest and The Marquis’ Secret by George Macdonald; The Man of Sorrows by Albert T W Steinhaesuser; and Markings by Dag Hammarskjold.

    Mimosa, a true story of a child of India saved from becoming a temple girl:
    “She was standing out in the sunshine when I first saw her, a radiant thing in a crimson and orange sari, and many bright bangles.”

    I’ll be reading this one next. After reading biographies of Amy Carmichael, I’m interested to hear this one about one of those she was able to save and hear her story; plus it is very short! Something Amy always insisted upon to make them more accessible to readers.

    The Maiden’s Bequest:
    “The farmyard was full of the light of a summer noonday.”
    The Marquis Secret:
    “It was one of those exquisite days that come in every winter and seem like the beautiful ghost of summer.”

    Of these sentences I’d have to pick the second, but Maiden’s Bequest was one of our family favorites as a whole story. I know I will have to re-read some of my MacDonald books this year! It’s been way too long.

    Man of Sorrows, a Lenten Devotional I picked up at Eighth Day Books when we went together:
    Preface: “The meditations and prayers which here follow, since they are published in order to arouse the reader thereof to the love or fear of God or to self-examination, are not to be read in the midst of turmoil, but in stillness, not quickly but slowly, with close and serious consideration.”

    Flyleaf: “From pain to pain, from woe to woe, with loving hearts and footsteps slow, to Calvary with Christ we go.”

    “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Who for our redemption willedst to be rejected by the Jews, betrayed with a kiss by Judas, seized, bound, and led in bonds to Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate, and before them to be mocked, smitten with palm and fist, with the scourge and reed; to have Thy face covered and defiled with spitting, to be crowned with thorns, accused by false witnesses, condemned, and led as an innocent Lamb to the slaughter, bearing Thine own Cross; to be pierced through with nails, to have vinegar and gall given Thee to drink, on the Cross to die the most shameful of deaths, and to be wounded with a spear: Do Thou by these Thy most sacred pains deliver us from all sins and penalties, and by Thy holy Cross bring us, miserable sinners, to that place whither Thou didst bring with Thee the penitent robber on his late repentance; Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. “

    Markings, [it was one of my Mom’s books. Forward is 23 pages, first entry in poetic form]:
    “I am being driven forward into an unknown land.”

    Which to choose?
    They each have their own pull for the story they will tell. Man of Sorrows definitely leads you into what this book will be, almost a synopsis of all that will be detailed through the Lenten period in the daily readings. I have read it the past 2 years during Lent and have gotten much from it both times.

    Markings is the personal journal of the first General Director of the UN; many entries are very brief, some are poems, some longer thoughts. Not one to just sit and read as a novel with many quotable quotes. I actually read and finished it in the car to and from Colorado last week. Some interesting perspectives and a view of a man wrestling with doing such an intense job in light of his Christian faith, his views of man and his own struggles with self, pride, desires, etc.

    Since I did go ahead and read Markings since I first began this post, I guess that answers which one won but I’m looking forward to Mimosa before I pull out my L’s!