James Ball Naylor
2nd in our Tribute Series to James Ball Naylor
Ohio State Journal – Columbus Ohio
January 13, 1901
A Romantic Story Just Published
Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky have been vieing with each other in the production of popular writers of fiction. Indiana boasts of Charles Major and Maurice Thompson; Kentucky of James Lane Allen, and Ohio of Dr. C. F. Goss, John Uri Lloyd and James Ball Naylor. All have stood very prominently before the public eye for the past few years. The State Journal has repeatedly claimed that the Central West has as excellent literary talent as any other section of the country, and it has steadfastly encouraged all literary effort in Ohio which has shown genuine merit. Among the many writers who have contributed to the columns of The State Journal, no one has taken higher rank in the scale of literary endeavor
Dr. James Ball Naylor (S. Q. Lapius), whose novels, “In the Days of St. Clair,” and “Under Mad Anthony’s Banner,” have appeared serially in The State Journal¸ and whose “The Sign of the Prophet,” is now running serially in this newspaper.
Dr. Naylor’s latest novel, which the Saalfield Publishing company of Akron has just brought out, bears the title, “Ralph Marlowe,” an Ohio story.
The story is laid in the hill country of southeastern Ohio. The plot is romantic, complicated and intensely interesting; and best of all, out of the ordinary. The characters are drawn from life; and so well drawn that on finishing the book, one looks upon them as actualities—acquaintenances. The author’s style is vigorous, crisp and clear; no pictures of persons or places are needed to help out the reader’s imagination. “Ralph Marlowe” is like—and yet totally unlike—“David Harum,” “Eben Holden,” and other books of that class.
Most books of that kind depend upon the eccentricities and individuality of one character to make them popular. Dr. Naylor, has been prodigal in this respect. No less than five or six eccentries, all distinct, all worthy of consideration, figure on the pages of his novel: Dr. Barwood, a raw-edged, gruff old village physician—an honest, honorable, lovable old chap: Jep Tucker, a loquacious and incorrigible yarnspinner; Tom Nutt, a stuttering oddity; Lon Crider, a volatile drummer, and his ever-present buttonhole bouquet; Sam Clark, the telegrapher. The story should be dramatized; it would be irresistible.
But the work is not all froth by any means. There is a deep undercurrent of moral philosophy. Questions are raised and left open, that set the reader to thinking. But the author does no preaching.
It is an even, well-balanced work. Dr. Naylor had a story to tell, and has told it well. The book appears in the best dress of the book-maker’s art.
RALPH MARLOWE, by Dr. James Ball Naylor, 12mo. Cloth, $1.50. Akron: The Saalfield Publishing Co.
Bookworm – Birmingham, Alabama
Boston Home Journal
May 18, 1901
Sometimes the most interesting thing about a book is the way it came to be written. Sometimes the interest comes round by the other way. Once in a while everything connected with a book is of interest. Likewise the book. Ralph Marlowe is of these. James Ball Naylor, the author, tells something of himself in telling something of his book. “I was born in a log cabin. My parents were desperately poor. My father was killed at Missionary Ridge. I counted that day lost on which I did not get a trouncing for some misdemeanor. When I was ten we moved to Babylon.” (Babylon is the scene of “Ralph Marlowe.”) He goes on: “I looked upon a black eye as a badge of courage. I attended school when I could not get out of it. I was without aim or ambition. I was looked upon as a lazy incorrigible. At sixteen a change came over me. A tall lank school teacher aroused my desire to learn. I set out on a quest for books to read.” He is now Dr. Naylor. He has been a drug clerk (like “Ralph Marlowe”). He is a doctor (like “Ralph Marlowe”). He lives in Babylon (as does “Ralph Marlowe”). Being afflicted with “the ink fever” he wrote Ralph Marlowe. And a splendid book it is. He wrote it with the hope big in his heart that it would make him famous and wealthy. The Saalfield Publishing Company announce the seventh edition. And it only came out March 1. Really, Dr. Naylor seems nearing his desired goal. So much for the author. What of his book? I like every bit of it. I was immensely interested in the opening chapter, when Ralph Marlowe arrives at Babylon. I like Dr. Naylor’s style of description. He has just enough to give you an idea of the hour and day. And he does not have too much. I liked the breezy “travelling man for the Baldy Drug Company.” A better “drummer” seldom gets between covers. I wanted to know about Babylon “first off.” Who wouldn’t want to know about a town that “covers half a township and has about six hundred population”? I have known some old codgers like Jep Tucker. So he seems a friend. His similes ought to be in literature. “Slicker’n a peeled sapling,” is good. So is “hangs onto a bargain like a burr to a cowds tail.” Better yet is “slower than thick molasses,” in describing the town. In New England we would say “cold molasses.” Who hasn’t been like Jep, and “felt like a rooster in a millpon’, neither ridin’ n’r a-walkin’’’? And Jep is not the only “character” in Dr. Naylor’s book. He himself says “ol’ Tomp’s funnier’n a funeral.” Old Tomp appears ever and anon. Readers learn that he kept a store. When a customer asked for bull tongues Jep said, “Hain’t got none, b-but I’ve g-g-got some in m-mighty good b-b-bolony sausage.” The unagricultural need to learn that bull-tongues are part of a cultivator. Ralph Marlowe is supposedly a drug clerk in Babylon. He meets these quaint characters. They tell him stories. He also meets with a peculiar man known as “old doc.” Incidentally he falls in love. The course does not run smooth. There’s another love story in the volume. Its “come-out” is problematical. Its preliminary course is interesting. A capital feature of Dr. Naylor’s book is that he never lets his characters get away from Babylon. The annals of towns arc what genre word painters should produce. “The scene changes”—seldom to advantage. Oh, “Ralph Marlowe” is unique. A last quotation—again from the immortal Jep. It’s anent “the high strikes. It’s a cross between the popsylals an’ the fantods; an’ it’s that trouble where there ain’t nothin’ the matter, rel’y, but the patient makes b’lieve ther’ is. It’s a disease pecooliar to women; men don’t know how to have it.” Lots more just as quaint in Dr. Naylor’s most readable novel. And with the quaintness a capital story, capitally told.