Homepage 'de Luikerwaal' How Jane Conquest rang the Bell.   (A Christmas Story)
Life Model Slide sets were produced between the 1870s and the First World War. This kind of lantern slides employ costumed models posed in scenes or locations to illustrate narratives, songs and other texts. Many of the melodramatic stories were told in verse. This well-known example set tells the story of a woman who is placed in a terrible dilemma: to stay at home with her little child that is dangerously ill, or to leave her house and try to save the crew of a ship in flames. The story was based on a poem of James Milne of Newcastle.
Jane Conquest.
A set of 17 normal magic lantern slides and in addition a special effect slide with the image of an angel which had to be projected over the slides #4 and #16 with the help of a biunial.
The set has been made by York & Son, London, in two different versions. The Ivens-catalogues of magic lantern slides warns: “This set being different to the old, purchasers are requested to be particular in stating which they require, when ordering single slides to replace damaged ones. Set 17 for double. Set 18, Single Lantern.” There are also almost similar sets published by other slide producers.

In the darkness a man's voice was heard reciting the opening lines of a narrative poem called Jane Conquest, written by Mr. James Milne of Newcastle and originally published in The Methodist Family:

'Twas about the time of Christmas and many years ago,
When the sky was black with wrath and rack, and the earth was white with snow,
When loudly rang the tumult of winds and waves at strife,
In her house by the sea with her child on her knee, sat Harry Conquest's wife.'

At these words the curtain went up to disclose Jane Conquest, a strong featured, sturdy young woman in a red shawl, seated with her sick child on her lap by a cheerless grate in a cottage interior with a Gothic stone hearth and a latticed window. The tearing, whistling crescendo and diminuendo of a great storm almost drowned the voice of the narrator and a distant, bloodcurdling cry. The window was crimsoned with the flickering reflection of a fire, and the next slide, flashed on with lightning speed, showed Jane starting up to the casement.
The cottage wall dissolved to reveal a ship in flames not far from the wintry shore. Jane was sole witness of this dreadful sight, the only villager astir to hear the despairing shouts of the victims.
In the next slide she was on her knees praying for strength and inspiration to save the trapped mariners. The strains of 'Abide with me' pealed forth from the harmonium and a plump angel appeared by the cot of the dying child. Jane commended the boy to the care of this celestial being, and, rising to her feet, went out into the frozen night. She fought her way at last through blinding snow to the church on the cliff above the burning vessel (two spectacular slides in which the minute figure of the heroine is seen; first in a vast, hostile, white landscape ........
........ and then on the heights by the church where the wintry waste is unnaturally illumined by the burst of scarlet and orange flames in the mountainous seas). Unable to open the heavy door, Jane climbed through a window, reached the belfry, and grasped the rope, 'sole cord of hope'. The clamour of an actual bell deafened the Kettering audience, ringing on and on........
...... until the image of a lifeboat plunging through the breakers showed that help was near and the reciter confirmed that the rescuers
´O´ercame each check and reached the wreck and saved the hapless crew.'
But what of the ringer in the belfry? The succeeding slide revealed her motionless and cold upon the floor, the bell-rope still in her hand. Mean­while, by a strange coincidence, Harry Conquest was among those brought off the burning ship, and he was seen making his feeble way, his clothes all scorched and rent, amid overhanging crags, to his snowbound cottage. No light, no fire, no wife were there to welcome him.....
.......and poor Harry sank fainting beside the cold hearth and his dying son. The scene faded and its place was taken by the belfry interior dominated by the large figure of the sexton, his face buried in false whiskers, bending over Jane's unconscious form. He revived her and led her home, where she was astonished and overjoyed to find her husband
'sav´d in that fearful hour
By his wife's brave deed and trust in need in Heaven's all gracious power.

'And this is the Christmas story that still the children tell 
Of the fearful sight that winter night and the ringing of the bell.'

The texts accompanying the pictures are from Olive Cook (Movement in two Dimensions. London, Hutchinson, 1963.)

On the following pages you will find  the original poem by James Milne, as well as the script for a lantern show or performance on the stage (thanks to The Magic Lantern Society U.K.)
As husband and wife embrace each other the child whom Jane had left at death's door was seen to be quietly sleeping, smiling and rosy. A vision of the angel was shown once more behind the cot. The curtain fell as the narrator spoke the concluding words of the poem:

Three black and white versions of some slides from the coloured series above.


The set above was published as square slides measuring 3.25" (8.2 cm) square as well as the same set mounted in a wooden frame.
Finally some other slides from the same series, now published by W.C Hughes, London. Notice that at the two slides with the angel appearing the angel is already there and does not have to be called up by means of a second effect slide. It was rather usual at the time to produce sets of that kind in two versions: one with a separate effect slide of f.e. an angel for the use in a biunial, and another set with a 'built-in' effect, for the use in a single magic lantern. There are also differences in the numbering of the slides.

The angel-effect at the slide set of York & Son.

'And this is the Christmas story that still the children tell
Of the fearful sight that winter night and the ringing of the bell.'

More about Jane....


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Last update: 16-05-2021.
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