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Showing posts from August, 2015

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.

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Mansfield Park is Jane Austen's third published novel (following Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice) and was published in 1814. Even when I couldn't get into Jane Austen I always liked this novel. It's not a typical Austen novel: Sense and Sensibility has the strong relationship of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood; everybody knows the great and wonderful Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice; whatever you may think of Emma Wodehouse of Emma (1815) she is unforgettable and not one to be trifled with; nor, for that matter is Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey (1817); and Anne Eliot of Persuasion(1817), though quiet, is steadfast and as admirable as any of them. Fanny Price of Mansfield Park, on the other hand, is remarkable precisely for being on the whole unremarkable. A very strange heroine indeed, more reminiscent of Samuel Richardson in fact, than Austen (I'll note Richardson was one of her favourite authors so there's no surprise there). But, speakin…

Essays by Francis Bacon.

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This week for the Deal Me In Challenge I drew the Jack of Spades: Of Revenge by Francis Bacon, and not only is the essay very small indeed but it's also very good indeed and so I ended up reading the whole volume: Essayes: Religious Meditations. Places of Perswasion and Disswasion. Seene and Allowed. There are 58 essays in total; the first set was published in 1597, the second set published in 1612 was revised and with more essays, and finally, the third set published in 1625 had yet more essays, revisions and enlargement of existing essays. 
The essays, which Bacon considered "but as recreation of my other studies", cover a wide range of subjects - love, death, health, and friendship; unity in religion, atheism, and superstition; goodness, and the goodness of nature, truth, cunning, wisdom (or lack of), and fortune; marriage, parenthood, and friendship; travel, health, buildings, and gardens - so much, in fact.

In many of the essays, there is a timeless wisdom and beauty,…

The Clerk's Prologue and Tale from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

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Fragment IV of The Canterbury Tales begins with The Clerk, described in the General Prologue as a student of Oxford studying theology and philosophy; very serious, very thin, and very well-read: For hym was levere have at his beddes heed Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed, Of Aristotle and his philosophie, Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.  The Prologue of the Clerk is quite short - just 56 lines. It begins with the Host noticing how quiet and serious is, and he asks the Clerk for a cheerful tale: "Tell us some merry tale, by your faith". The Clerk replies he will a tale, one he learned from Petrarch. But merry? No. No, the Clerk tells one of the most miserable stories there is from Boccaccio's Decameron(the tenth tale of the tenth day, which in my mind is the second most depressing tale of the lot). Petrarch claimed he believed he had heard this tale long before reading it in Boccaccio, and then later retold it in Latin, which is no doubt what the Clerk read.
The…

Money by Émile Zola.

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I've been reading a lot of Zola this month - Money is the fourth since the end of July, and I think for me it's one of the hardest Zolas to get through. It's not that I didn't think it a good novel, but it was a struggle. 
Money (L'Argent) was first published in 1891 and is the eighteenth of the Rougon Macquart series: only La Débâcle (1892), and Doctor Pascal (1893) follow, but though two books remain it does feel as though Zola is beginning to wrap the series up with the hints of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) that signified fall of the Second Empire that Zola had studied in his Rougon Macquart novels (hints of the war to come are also found in La Bête Humaine, 1890). In it, we see the return of Aristide Saccard, a Rougon, and central to Zola's The Kill(1872). He is the brother of the government minister Eugène (His Excellency Eugène Rougon, 1876) and the doctor Pascal Rougon (Doctor Pascal, 1893), the son of Pierre and Félicité Rougon (The Fortune of the…

Authors in Context: Geoffrey Chaucer by Peter Brown.

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'Authors in Context' is a series by Oxford University Press which examines the works of various writers related to their own time and society, and also to the present day. Earlier in the year I read Virginia Woolf by Michael Whitworth (2005) from this series and enjoyed it so much I decided to read the Geoffrey Chaucer book. This one is by Peter Brown and was first published in 2011.
Like Virginia Woolf, this book is divided into seven chapters: The Life of Geoffrey ChaucerThe Social BodyThe Literary SceneSociety and PoliticsIntellectual IdeasScience and TechnologyNew ContextsI'll start by saying this was an excellent read, but there was much to take in: this is only the second biography of Chaucer's I've read (the first was Chaucer by Peter Ackroyd, 2004) so there was a lot of new information!
It begins with the task of writing Geoffrey Chaucer's life: Brown suggests he was born around 1340 (some others think it was nearer to 1343), and he was probably born in Lo…

Lamia by John Keats.

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Lamia was written by John Keats in 1819 and published in 1820 along with Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, Hyperion, To Autumn (one of my absolute favourites) and other poems. It's about 708 lines and is divided into two parts, and it is based on the Greek myth of Lamia, the mistress of Zeus who his wife Hera detests, and she kills all of Lamia's children and turns her into a monster that hunts and kills the children of others. In the 19th Century this myth was changed somewhat and Lamia was essentially a monster who would hunt and devour men.
Part I begins, Upon a time, before the faery broods Drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods, Before King Oberon’s bright diadem, Sceptre, and mantle, clasp’d with dewy gem, Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns From rushes green, and brakes, and cowslip’d lawns, The ever-smitten Hermes empty left His golden throne, bent warm on amorous theft: From high Olympus had he stolen light, On this side of Jove’s clouds, to escape the sight Of his grea…

The Classics Club Spin.

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I am rejoicing - there's a Classics Club Spin and I love the spin! Last time I got The Life and Letters of Leslie Stephen [Virginia Woolf's father] by Frederic W. Maitland and I enjoyed that even though I thought it would be rather dull (and it was a little dull, but oddly enough I didn't mind so much). 
For this I've picked twenty books that I'm not so much dreading (though there are a few there that I am) but these just aren't on my radar at present and I might need a little encouragement to read them! So I picked them, randomized them, and now I await my number...  Sterne, Laurence - A Sentimental JourneyHugo, Victor - The Toilers of the SeaEliot, George - RomolaTolstoy, Leo - Tales of Army LifeBoswell, James - The Life of Samuel JohnsonBazán, Emilia Pardo - The House of UlloaBruyère, Jean de la - CharactersLafayette, Madame de - The Princess de ClevesSand, George - IndianaSir Gawain and the Green KnightMoore, George - Esther WatersCollins, Wilkie - No NameŠkv…

The Friar's Prologue and Tale & The Summoner's Prologue and Tale from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

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Following The Wife of Bath is The Friar, who was described in the General Prologue as "wantowne and merye". He lives by begging, and is well-liked as he gives 'an easy confession and penance' in return for money, but ignores other beggars and those who cannot further his lavish lifestyle. His prologueis short, only about 35 lines, in which he tells the Wife he enjoyed her tale but she must leave authority to the clergy and learned men. He goes on to warn the group he has a tale about a summoner, and there is no doubt at all this is designed to irritate The Summoner, whose prologue and tale follow. The Host intervenes, and says 'let the Summoner be', but the Summoner says, Nay... lat hym seye to me
What so hym list: whan it comth to my lot,
By God, I shal hym quiten every grot.And so the Friar begins his tale, which, as with the Wife's, involves meeting a dubious character in the forest.  He tells, as he promises, of a summoner who is sly, devious, and always…

La Bête Humaine by Émile Zola.

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La Bête Humaine (more commonly known in English as The Beast Within) is the seventeenth novel of Émile Zola's 'Les Rougon Macquart' series (following The Dream, 1888) and was published in 1890. I read The Beast Within translated by Leonard Tancock (published by Penguin, 1977) a year or so ago and didn't get on too well with it, but last week I read La Bête Humaine translated into English by Roger Pearson (published by Oxford World Classics, 1996) and I got so much more out of it. 
The setting for La Bête Humaine is the railway between Paris and Le Havre (north western France) and the main character is Jacques Lantier of the Macquart side of the family tree: son of Gervaise (L'Assommoir, 1877), brother of Étienne (Germinal, 1885) and Claude (The Masterpiece, 1886), and half-brother of Nana (Nana, 1880), yet this is his first appearance in the Rougon Macquart novels: it was Étienne who was to be in La Bête Humaine, but as his character developed in Germinal Zola decid…