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Showing posts from May, 2016

The Trojan Women by Euripides.

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Since April of this year I've been focusing on the plays of Euripides and I've now reached the tenth (out of nineteen) - The Trojan Women (Τρῳάδες) which was first performed in 415 B.C. This is now one of my favourites.
It's set in the aftermath of the Trojan War and focuses on three women - Cassandra, Hecuba, and Andromache, all of whom are familiar characters for me: Cassandra was the enslaved lover of Agamemnon, both of whom were killed by Agamemnon's wife Clytaemnestra (as told in Aeschylus' Agamemnon, 458 B.C.), Hecuba was the wife of Priam whose sons were all killed in the Trojan War, and too the mother of Polyxena, her daughter who was sacrificed (told in Hecuba by Euripides, 424 B.C.) and Cassandra, and finally Andromache, the wife of Hector (killed by Achilles) who was enslaved by Neoptolemus (told in Andromache by Euripides, 428 - 425 B.C. and also Racine's Andromaque, 1667, which I'm planning on reading very soon). In Euripides' The Trojan Wom…

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge written in 1797 - 1798 and first published in 1798 in Lyrical Ballads by Coleridge and William Wordsworth. It's actually the first Coleridge poem I've read - I have somewhat of an aversion to the Romantic poets, not because I don't like them but because I can never seem to quite get to grips with them!
The poem, divided into seven parts, begins at a wedding reception. A young man is stopped by an old sailor, the ancient mariner, who begins to tell a young man his story, and in the beginning the young man doesn't actually want to hear it: He holds him with his skinny hand,
'There was a ship,' quoth he.
'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'
Eftsoons his hand dropt he. He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years' child:
The Mariner hath his will. The Mariner continues and tells him of how he sailed to the Antarctic, the journey initial…

Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson.

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Lark Rise to Candleford is a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels by Flora Thompson: Lark Rise was first published in 1939, Over the Candleford in 1941, and Candleford Green in 1943, and then the complete / combined edition in 1945. I liked it a lot, but I must admit it was a rather curious reading experience.
It begins with a portrait of rural life in the late 19th Century in the hamlet of Lark Rise, based upon Juniper Hill on  the Oxfordshire / Buckinghamshire border where Thompson grew up. Here she writes about rural poverty in the Home Counties but it is far from bleak - it's from a child's perspective, a child who knows no better or worse circumstances and who accepts the life and had learned to find the beauty and pleasure when and where it is available. It's a peaceful community and a time when life was in keeping with the changes of the season, a time which has now died out and, even in Thompson's day was on the decline (for this there's an air of Thomas …

La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret by Émile Zola.

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La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret, known also as The Sin of Abbé Mouret and Abbé Mouret's Transgression, is the fifth novel in Émile Zola's 'Rougon Macquart' series (following The Conquest of Plassans) and was first published in 1875.
Zola's two main intentions for each of the Rougon Macquart novels was to write about each of the Rougon Macquart family and to write about that character in the context of the Second French Empire (1852 - 1870). In La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret Zola writes about Serge Mouret, whose family tree is a little complicated: he is the son of François and Marthe Mouret (cousins who married - François is the son of Ursule Mouret, daughter of Macquart and Adélaïde Rougon, and Marthe is the daughter of Pierre and Félicité Rougon; Pierre is the son of Rougon and Adélaïde Rougon). Serge was first introduced in The Conquest of Plassans as a minor character and he is the brother of Octave Mouret (the main character of Pot Luck, 1882, and The Ladies' …

A New Way to Pay Old Debts by Philip Massinger (and a note on Betsy Baker).

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It's a long-term goal of mine to read more English Renaissance plays. So far I've read The Shoemaker's Holiday by Thomas Dekker (1599), A Woman Killed With Kindnessby Thomas Heywood (1603), two Christopher Marlowe plays, Dido, Queen of Carthage (1586) and Edward II (1592), Kynge Johan by John Bale (1561) and now A New Way to Pay Old Debts by Philip Massinger (1625).
Philip Massinger was an English dramatist born in Wiltshire in 1583-84 and eventually making his way to London in around 1606 having left Oxford University without a degree (presumably because his father died in 1603 and he was without financial assistance). Little is known about these early days, but it's thought he was in prison in 1613 for debt and bailed out by Philip Henslowe, who he later described as "a true, loving friend". Massinger's first play was a collaboration with John Fletcher - Sir John van Olden Barnavelt (1619) and his first solo play was The Maid of Honour (1621). A New Way …

Heracles by Euripides.

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I've been looking forward to reading Euripides' Heracles ever since I read Sophocles' play Women of Trachis(early 400s B.C.) about the death of Heracles, killed inadvertently by his wife Deianeira. In Euripides' play Heracles (Ἡρακλῆς μαινόμενος), first performed around 416 B.C.) he tells the story of Heracles and his first wife Megara. 
It begins with a monologue by Amphitryon, the mortal father of Heracles, who tells the audience of Heracles' genealogical history and that he, Amphitryon, is the son of Alcaeus, and Alcmene, his wife, is the mother of Heracles. Heracles' true father is Zeus. He goes on to tell the audience about Lycus, the unlawful King of Thebes, who is planning to kill Amphitryon and Heracles' wife Megara, the daughter of Creon (the lawful king of Thebes; Creon is the dreaded king of Thebes in Sophocles' Theban Plays and Euripides' earlier play The Suppliants), and their children.
Heracles, however, cannot save them. Before the acti…

The Profitable Reading of Fiction by Thomas Hardy.

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For this week's Deal Me In I drew 'The Profitable Reading of Fiction' by Thomas Hardy. As it happens I am very much behind on my Hardy essays (I had aimed to have read six by now: I've only read two), and the reason why I've been resisting Hardy's essays is that Hardy, in my mind, was no essay writer. I find them excruciating reads. They lack the beautiful flow seen in Woolf's essays and the confidence and assertion of Samuel Johnson in his essays, and Hardy's sentences, to use his very own words (albeit on a different matter): "put he it never so awkwardly". An unfortunate sentence, an unfortunate arrangement of words, that sum-up the Hardy essay reading experience.
On, then, to 'The Profitable Reading of Fiction' which was first published in the Forum in March 1888 (the same year as Hardy's Wessex Tales which I plan on reading in the next week or so). In this Hardy considers what he views as the "timeless theme" of the b…

Chapters VI - VIII of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.

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In May 1836 the third instalment of The Pickwick Papers came out, and, following the death of Robert Seymour in April 1836 this instalment was illustrated by Robert William Buss. I've found six of his illustrations (included in this post), however only two were used by the publisher. Furthermore, Charles Dickens didn't like Buss' etchings (it must be said Buss was not trained in etching on steel), so the poor chap was dropped. Adding insult to a humiliating injury, when the instalments were reissued after a sudden surge in readership, Buss' illustrations were dropped entirely and replaced by George Hablot Browne's (a.k.a. Phiz), to which poor Buss remarked,
I am, after all, sometimes amused to think how in time to come futile bibliomaniacs will rave over a scarce copy of Pickwick having in it my two unfortunate etchings.I'll say a little more on Buss later, but for now I will use for this post his two illustrations and include the rest at the end of the post. No…

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

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Gulliver's Travels, or, as it was first published, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, is a novel by Jonathan Swift and was first published in 1726. It's a book I loved reading, but, of all the people I know who have read it, I always seem to be the one to take the least out of it! It is, shall we say, deceptively simple. 
The book is, as the original title suggests, in four parts: Part I: A Voyage to Lilliput.
Part II: A Voyage to Brobdingnag.
Part III: A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan.
Part IV: A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms.It is a satire, firstly, on travel literature, something the 17th and Century was not short on: Samuel Purchas' books of the 17th Century, Edward Terry's A Voyage to East-India (1655), Daniel Defoe's A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain (1724-1727), then later Fielding's Journal of a V…