Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Great Green Eyed Nellie Bly

"I want to go around the world!" – Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

I have this list of children's books I'm working through with my daughters.  It's a magical list full of time travel wardrobes and talking bears, walking forests and masked marauding French revolutionaries.  People ask me all the time, "What's a good book for my kid?"  And I say... "What do you want your children to love?"
“One never knows the capacity of an ordinary hand-satchel until dire necessity compels the exercise of all one's ingenuity to reduce everything to the smallest possible compass.” –Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

A lot of these books are old, really old.  There's one about a treasure map and a black dot that kills, another about the call of the northern wild, another of King Solomon's mines and still another about a lost world that time forgot.
“Small wonder the American girl is fearless.”  -Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

There's shipwrecks and the French Foreign Legion, kidnappings and families living in trees. Such a marvelous world these old adventure stories lay in wait for my young daughter's minds.
“The London correspondent sat next to Jules Verne. With a smile on her soft rosy lips, Mme. Verne sat nursing the cat which she stroked methodically with a dainty, white hand, while her luminous black eyes moved alternately between her husband and myself.”  -Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

Of course, not all the books have to be about adventure.  One such book I will proudly read to my young girls is Nellie Bly's Around the World in Seventy-Two Days.
“I wonder if the people of Calais ever saw the moon and stars.”  -Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

Back in 1890, Nellie Bly was an intrepid journalist in New York, muckraker, travel writer, and pioneer of women's issues.  She was fearless, full of wit, grace, and goodwill, and found admiration everywhere she went winning hearts and inspiring others with her style and sensibility.
“The balmy air, soft as a rose leaf, and just as sweet, air such as one dreams about but seldom finds; standing there alone among strange people, on strange waters, I thought how sweet life is!”  -Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days 

She is perhaps best known for taking up the Jules Verne challenge of attempting to travel around the world in less than eighty days after the fictitious record set by character Phileas Fogg, which is another of the great children's books you will ever find.
“Occasionally we would have a dance on deck to the worst music it has ever been my misfortune to hear. The members of the band also washed the dishes…”  -Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

So... Ms. Bly, the great green-eyed beauty (serious google time, her adorable nose alone will knock your socks off) sets out by steamer ship with but one handbag and a passport, all alone across the Atlantic, with nothing but her wits and the kindness of strangers to guide her.
“When we returned to the ship we found Jews there, selling ostrich eggs and plumes, shells, fruit, spears of sword-fish, and such things. In the water, on one side of the boat, were numbers of men, Somali boys, they called them, who were giving an exhibition of wonderful diving and swimming.”  -Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

During the next two and a half months she becomes one of the most famous women in the world.
“Lovers were not plentiful on the Oriental, there were so few passengers. The "Spanish minister" had an eye for beauty and a heart for romance, though he led a most quiet life on shipboard, and was the very essence of gallantry.”  -Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

But that doesn't concern me, fame is nothing, and I can't name that many "famous" people I'd wish to have more than a cup of coffee with...
“While the Oceanic was waiting for the quarantine doctor, some men came out on a tug to take me ashore. There was no time for farewells. The monkey was taken on the tug with me, …Just as the tug steamed off the quarantine doctor called to me that he had forgotten to examine my tongue… so I stuck it out…”  -Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days 

No, what truly stands out with Bly is her sheer literary grace and a writing style that simultaneously delights, informs, endears, and comforts.  She is a throwback to a different age of womanhood. The time of a "Lady."  And believe me, ladies are in short supply these days.  I pray my daughters will grow up to be such intrepid travelers as well, but with a little bit of Nellie Bly always in their blood.
(The following pictures were taken by SungJoo at Pomosa Temple in Busan, South Korea while on holiday last week.  Thanks for these great pics.  What a fun time!)

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