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Showing posts from October, 2015

Four Creepy Classics for Halloween.

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☠☠☠ The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe. "To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality." ☠☠☠
The first creepy classic for today: The Premature Burial by Poe, first published in 1844 in The Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. The theme, as the title suggests, is being buried alive, something Poe has written about several times before (for example Berenice, 1835; The Fall of the House of Usher, 1839; The Black Cat, 1843). The story begins, There are certain themes of which the interest is all-absorbing, but which are too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate fiction. These the mere romanticist must eschew, if he do not wish to offend or to disgust. They are with propriety handled only when the severity and majesty of Truth sanctify and sustain them. We thrill, for example, with the most intense of "pleasurable pain" over the accounts of the Passage of the Beresina, of the Eart…

Exemplary Stories by Miguel de Cervantes.

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This week for the Deal Me In Challenge I drew The Dialogue of Dogs by Miguel de Cervantes, but, as with Carmen and Other Stories by Prosper Mérimée, I did want to finish Exemplary Stories and write a review of the entire book when I drew this final Cervantes title, so here it is! 
Exemplary Stories (Novelas ejemplares) is a collection of twelve short stories and novellas by Miguel de Cervantes (unfortunately I've only just learned that I had an abridged version with only eight of the tales!) and was most likely composed in the 1590s, but not published until 1613, just three years before his death. They are:
'The Little Gypsy Girl' (La Gitanilla)'Rinconete and Cortadillo' (Rinconete y Cortadillo)'The Glass Graduate' (El licenciado Vidriera)'The Power of Blood' (La fuerza de la sangre)'The Jealous Old Man from Extremadura' (El celoso extremeño)'The Illustrious Kitchen Maid' (La ilustre fregona)'The Deceitful Marriage' (El casamie…

Leonard Woolf: A Life by Victoria Glendinning.

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I've had for many years this awful habit of imagining that Leonard Woolf was invented in around 1912 when he married Virginia Woolf, and then, following her suicide in 1941 he stayed only to sort her papers before ultimately disappearing into obscurity. It's too easy to see him as the man who married, nurtured and cared for Virginia Woolf, and who ensured that we would have her novels, biographies, essays, letters, and diaries. But as Victoria Glendinning shows in her biography of Woolf, Leonard Woolf: A Life (2006), Leonard Woolf was so much more than just "Virginia Woolf's husband".

He was born on 25th November 1880 to Sidney and Marie Woolf, the third of ten children, and they lived in Kensington, London. They were a Jewish family, and Leonard's mother and father had previously lived in Spitalfields in London's East End where many poor Jewish families resided. His father studied at the University College School in London and qualified as a solicitor, an…

The Parson's Prologue and Tale & Chaucer's Retraction from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

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Well, here we are: the final fragment of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - Fragment X - which is The Parson's Prologue and Tale and Chaucer's Retraction. The Parson's Tale is a long one and it is pretty brutal in terms of a difficulty rating! It's in prose (which I find very hard in Middle English), and it isn't even a tale - it is more of a treatise on penance. Interesting, yes, but it does rather mean The Canterbury Tales, taking also into account Chaucer's Retraction, ends on a bit of a low note. Fortunately this isn't my final post - I have a very happy and positive conclusion to write on the whole book next week. Until then - let me get on with The Parson. 
The Parson's prologue begins with the observation that it is now early evening and almost everyone has told a tale. The Host: Seyde in this wise: "Lordynges everichoon,
Fulfilled is my sentence and my decree;
I trowe that we han herd of ech degree;
Almoost fulfild is al myn ordinaunce.W…

Philoctetes by Sophocles.

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Philoctetes (Φιλοκτήτης) is a play by Sophocles, first performed at the Festival of Dionysus in 409 B.C. (there it won first prize). In it Sophocles tells the story of Philoctetes, a soldier who had accompanied Odysseus, Neoptolemus (son of Achilles), and others on the Grecian expedition to Troy. but, when he visited the temple of the goddess Chryse he had been bitten by a venomous snake, and so repulsed were his fellow soldiers he was banished to the island of Lemnos where during the Trojan War he suffered in pain. However a prophecy is revealed - in order for the Greeks to win the Trojan War the invincible bow and arrows of Heracles are needed, and they are in possession of Philoctetes: in an earlier play, Women of Trachis, when Heracles was near death he wished to be burned on a pyre. Philoctetes was the one who lit this fire, and as a reward Heracles gave him his bow.

The play begins on the coast of Lemnos:
Oᴅʏssᴇᴜs: This is the coast of Lemnos, a desolate island
In the midst of the …

The Plays of William Shakespeare by Samuel Johnson.

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In 1765 (150 years or so after the death of William Shakespeare) a collection of Shakespeare's works were published: The Plays of William Shakespeare, in Eight Volumes, with the Corrections and Illustrations of Various Commentators; to which are added Notes by Sam. Johnson. This week for the Deal Me In Challenge I have read the Preface to works by Johnson in which Johnson of course writes about Shakespeare's plays, but also adds his thoughts to literary criticism in general.
The Oxford University Press edition of The Major Works (edited by Donald Greene) suggests that the Preface may be divided into four parts: Shakespeare's virtues.Shakespeare's faults.A defence of Shakespeare.A history of the editing of Shakespeare and a statement of Johnson's own editorial principles.The Preface begins, That praises are without reason lavished on the dead, and that the honours due only to excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be always continued by those, who, …