Published in 1849, this book is a beautiful Sunday school allegory. The tale is beautifully written and has a soft, lyrical quality to it. Each sentence is delicately imbibed with descriptions of flowers, gems that sparkle, or raiments that glow. Light fills each sentence; the colours rainbow from silver to crimson as they wash over each page. The many adjectives which impress grace and form are entwined within the narrative. Fruit fills certain pages, and reminds one of Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ (which was composed in April 1859 but not published until 1862). Interestingly Adams also uses terms such as ‘enchantment’.
The illustrations, by John Chapman, are appropriately beautiful and tender, albeit somewhat dated in look.
The main premise of this story is the journey of ‘Wayward’, a male child who crosses a beautiful stream from the ‘land of darkness’ into what ‘might well be called a garden’ in ‘the land of light’. The garden, which is called the Garden of the Shadow of the Cross, is described as being full of orange trees (the reference to brides of Christ is not lost upon the reader). Adams uses a child friendly narrative device in his adoption of the physical tangible wooden cross each child is given to keep in their hands in this enchanting land. As each child moves within the garden, they are to follow the shadow of the cross, trusting that the path shown to them will keep them safe. Using the cross as their moral compass will ensure their raiments remain a bright white. Departure from the ‘true’ path will tarnish and muddy the children’s clothes, and the true King will not recognise the children as his own. This trial is not easy for the garden acts in the same vein as Eden did, offering pure unadulterated delights as well as being fraught with temptations and nightmarish visions from serpents eyes which glow to dark woods which growl. The trial may be wearying and may dim the children’s eyes, but the ‘Father himself [is] ever present with them’ and the talisman of the cross will enable them to live here in security, and even to enjoy the fruits and flowers until it is His good pleasure to call them to Himself’. The Father never allows the children to tire whilst they remain anxious and attentive to the cross.
The crosses are all the same in appearance, but the shadows they cast vary between each child. Some cast a gloom, some cast a bright silvery light. Some children raise the cross high, some barely grasp it. Some children kept twisting the crosses trying to see a shadow form, whilst Wayward finds the cross so troublesome to carry that he keeps it in his clothes.
As Wayward journey’s onward, it is apparent why there are these differences. Wayward is caught up with other children, such as ‘Self Deceit’ who has the power to rub a chalk like substance over her robe so that she appears to be unstained. However, in doing so she appears spectral and ghoulish.
‘Innocence’ on the other hand glowed white, and seemed most content to look upon the beauty the shadow of the cross illuminated for her. Innocence disappears and the story suggests she has served her time in the garden, and has been called unto Himself. She does not appear again.
As Wayward continues his raiment becomes grubby, and he starts to overlook and dismiss the shadow. A group of cleanly dressed children refuse to allow him to play with them, and eventually Wayward finds solace with boys who accept him, even though their crosses are no longer with them.
Self-Deceit disappears in a flame, and Wayward is saved by a lion who lurks in the woods. Charity manages to save Wayward, but he realises he has lost his cross. Charity cannot help him pick it up, but her cross points toward where it lays.
The blood of the lion attack has cancelled out the ghoulish chalk from Self-Deceit, but his robes are far from white. Wayward becomes sorrowful as he realises what he has done. Charity does not despair, instead reminding him, that as long as he holds the cross tightly and follows its shadow, ‘there was One who might wash them for him with the water of Life’ until the robes becomes ‘white like wool’.
The 1849 copy of the book can be found here.
Reverend W. Adams, The Shadow of the Cross An Allegory (New York: General Prot Episcopal SS Union, 1849)