Tonna, Eggleston, and Methodist Fiction

Patty, or, Beware of Meddling The Glow Worm

During the nineteenth-century, the Methodist Publishing House printed and packaged thousands of volumes dedicated to adult and children’s fiction. The Sunday School Union of the Methodist Episcopal Church published several books authored by British writer Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna. Tonna was born October 1, 1790 in Norwich, Norfolk, England. She published several dozen books and periodicals for multiple Protestant denominations under the name Charlotte Elizabeth. Her publications included edited volumes such as The Christian Lady’s Magazine and The Protestant Annual. Adult fiction included works on women’s rights such as Helen Fleetwood (1841) and The Wrongs of Woman, in Four Parts (1843-1844). The fiction of Charlotte Elizabeth included The Glow-Worm (1847) and Patty, or Beware of Meddling (1848). Life of Charlotte Elizabeth, Personal Recollections (1847), her autobiography, provides insight into her life and work as an author of fiction for evangelical readers.

The End of the World: A Love Story Image of Edward Eggleston

Edward Eggleston was a Methodist circuit rider, American historian, editor, and author of nineteenth-century Christian fiction. Eggleston was born December 10, 1837 in Vevay, Indiana. He attended rural schools and was introduced to Methodism Episcopal Church. In 1856, Eggleston entered the Methodist ministry as a circuit rider, or itinerant minister. He was appointed to churches in Minnesota and later founded his own church, the Church of Christian Endeavor in Brooklyn, New York. Eggleston edited several periodicals including The National Sunday School Teacher and Hearth and Home. He authored several books of adult fiction including The Hoosier Schoolmaster (1871), The End of the World (1872), and The Circuit Rider (1874). His novels are credited for their stark realism and his novels paint broad strokes highlighting the small villages and byways of Indiana. On September 3, 1902, Eggleston died at his home in Lake George, New York.

What Shall I Read? A Confidential Chat on Books

American Methodist ministers and authors took their stylus in hand to write a variety of short stories and fiction for children and adults. They faced several tensions regarding fiction as literature. Methodist authors such as Mrs. N. Floyd and John Heyl Vincent were concerned over the publication of scandalous books and responded with their own volumes bearing inquisitive titles such as What Shall I Read? A Confidential Chat on Books (1878). Floyd and Vincent championed the writings of Elizabeth Prentiss and Charles Dickens as “excellent” and upholding “faith and virtue” while cautioning the readers to avoid the works of Rhoda Broughton and Charles Reade. They note:

"the number of well-written, useful novels is comparatively small, and the number of bad novels annually printed and widely circulated is enormous. … First, that a book must have some purpose, moral or historical, to be a truly good book. Secondly, I would like you to notice that there are very few writers who are wholly to be relied upon. Thirdly, that I condemn all sensational stories."

Tonna, Eggleston, and Methodist Fiction