Mr. World and Miss Church Member: Katherine Sommer’s edition

A sub-set of my interest in RM bibliography is propaganda novels.  I admit it is down the list of my interests, but the whole genre is terrifically obscure…therefore the attraction.  Speaking of obscure, should any double-major in English and Theology feel up for the task, I think there is a thesis or dissertation here somewhere.  The basic plot line follows the honest truth-seeker who eventually finds enlightenment and along with it…if not coterminous to it…the essence of the ‘Restoration Plea’ (or some sort of moral lesson).  Clad in novel form, such documents advance Restoration principles before the reading public in a manner distinct from, but in content similar to, formal debates, doctrinal monographs or theological treatises.  The argument comes through the agonist’s experience: as the character finds her way, so too can the reader.  I’m working on a short list of RM propaganda novels, to be posted to this site on the 27th.

Mr. World and Miss Church Member is an interesting variation on this theme.  One, it is an allegory, and two, W. S. Harris has no Stone-Campbell ties.  William Shuler Harris appears to have been quite the character, and modestly prolific at that, as this entry on TomFolio details.  Henry Hain, the entry’s author, knows of three editions of Mr. World and Miss Church Member; this one, published by Katherine Way Sommer, is a new one for the list (hers is a printing of the 1902 Holzaphel 3rd edition).  If you’d like your own copy, go here to archive.org.   So why all this for an allegory whose author appears to have no Stone-Campbell connection?  The Sommer family published an edition of it.  Katherine Way Sommer, known to her readers as K. W. Sommer, published a major periodical voice among Churches of Christ in its day, Octographic Review, edited by her husband Daniel Sommer.  The Sommer family not only published but authored a propaganda novel or two themselves.  K. C. Ice more often than not inscribed his books with a signature and date of acquisition.  Alas, in this one he did not follow custom.  Included is a fly-away clipping from the 19 May 1903 Octographic Review containing praise for Mr. World by one John Harris from Indian Territory.

Mr. World and Miss Church-member front cover

Mr. World and Miss Church Member, K. W. Sommer edition title page

Mr. World and Miss Church Member, OR May 19, 1903 clipping 1

Mr. World and Miss Church Member, OR May 19, 1903 clipping 2

Mr. World and Miss Church Member, OR May 19, 1903 clipping 2 reverse

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