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Showing posts from April, 2017

The Classics Book Tag.

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Jillian has tagged me for the The Classics Book Tag, which I thought looked rather fun, so here are my answers.... An over-hyped classic you really didn’t like: 'The Paliser Novels' by Anthony Trollope. I wouldn't go so far as to say they're "over-hyped" and I do appreciate people love them, but, aside from Can You Forgive Her? and The Eustace Diamonds I really didn't like them.
Favourite time period to read about?: I do have a particular liking for books set in pre-Victorian times, say mid-18th Century to early 1830s. This was about the time of the Industrial Revolution, but the books I like largely (not entirely) ignore that aspect. The actual effects of the Industrial Revolution, the social novels that is, tended to come in the 1840s and it's not that I don't like those, I positively do, but the mid-18th Century - early 1830s seem simpler times, a time when, though the changes were occurring, the country wasn't ravaged by industry and rampant…

Chapters XXXVIII - XL of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.

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Last month we were left with a wee cliffhanger: why has Mr. Winkle gone to Bristol of all places, and will Sam Weller find him?

Chapter XXXVIII How Mr. Winkle, When He Stepped Out Of The Frying-Pan, Walked Gently and  Comfortably Into The Fire
The chapter begins,
The ill-starred gentleman who had been the unfortunate cause of the unusual noise and disturbance which alarmed the inhabitants of the Royal Crescent in manner and form already described, after passing a night of great confusion and anxiety, left the roof beneath which his friends still slumbered, bound he knew not whither. The excellent and considerate feelings which prompted Mr. Winkle to take this step can never be too highly appreciated or too warmly extolled. ‘If,’ reasoned Mr. Winkle with himself—‘if this Dowler attempts (as I have no doubt he will) to carry into execution his threat of personal violence against myself, it will be incumbent on me to call him out. He has a wife; that wife is attached to, and dependent on him.…

The Diary of a Farmer's Wife (1796 - 1797).

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The Diary of a Farmer's Wife is an absolutely gorgeous book I've been meaning to read for about two years now. This is the diary of Anne Hughes, a married woman in her 20s at the end of the 18th Century living, it's thought, in Herefordshire (on the English border with Wales) near Chepstow (which is in Wales). Kilvert's Diary by Francis Kilvert, interestingly enough, was partly set in roughly the same area some 75 years later. The book itself is somewhat of a mystery: the story goes that a young girl, Jeanne Keyte, was sent from her home in Gloucestershire to Herefordshire to be a companion for her cousin. There she met Mary Anne Thomas née Hughes, the daughter of Anne Hughes, who would read her mother's diary to Jeanne. Jeanne, very taken by it, transcribed it and some thirty or forty years later and in 1937 published it as a serial in the Farmers Weekly
However, the Anne Hughes' Diary research team who have been unable to find any evidence of the "lonel…

The Happy Tag.

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I saw this very lovely meme at Jillian's: you write what makes you happy under the titles 'Books', 'Words', 'Movies / Television', 'Fictional Characters', 'Scents', 'Songs', and 'Miscellaneous'. This came at just the right time: I'm thoroughly fed up with the General Election (campaigning has barely even started!) and this gave me a much needed opportunity to dwell on the positives! So, here are some of the things (for I'm bound to have forgotten a few) that make me happy...
B҉ooks 


The Worm Forgives the Plough by John Stewart Collis ✯ The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame ✯ The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield ✯ Jean Santeuil by Marcel Proust ✯ The Pillow Book of Sei ShōnagonThe Warden by Anthony Trollope ✯ A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare ✯ The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates ✯ Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ✯ The Diary of a Country Parson 1758 - 1802 by James Woodforde ✯

The Parson of the Parish by Anthony Trollope.

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The Parson of the Parish is the fifth essay in Anthony Trollope's 1866 Clergymen of the Church of England, Trollope's essays on the Church of England first published anonymously and serialised in the The Pall Mall Gazette from November 1865 to January 1866. Trollope begins by defining what a parson is, and what he not: The word parson is generally supposed to be a slang term for the rector, vicar, or incumbent of a parish, and, in the present day, is not often used without some intended touch of drollery, - unless by the rustics of country parishes who still cling to the old world. But the rustics are in the right, for of all terms by which clergymen of the Church of England are known, there is none more honourable in its origin that that of parson.... Parsons were so called before rectors or vicars were known, and in ages which had heard nothing of that abominable word incumbent. A parson proper, indeed, was above a vicar, - who originally was simply the curate of an impersona…

The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon.

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The Pillow Book (枕草子) is an absolutely outstanding work by Sei Shōnagon (清少納言), a Japanese writer and court lady who served Empress Teishi during the Heian period of Japanese history (Shōnagon lived from c. 966–1017-25). The genre of the book is known as "zuihitsu" (随筆), which relates to personal essays, a perfect of example of which would be The Pillow Book. It's like a diary, but it's more a series of observations, some obviously pertinent (an event, for example, duly recorded), some less so: Sei Shōnagon simply writes a list of things she likes or dislikes.
The opening of the book is famous: 1. In Spring It Is the DawnIn spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful. As the light creeps over the hills, their outlines are dyed a faint red and wisps of purplish cloud trail over them.In summer the nights. Not only when the moon shines, but on dark nights too, as the fireflies flit to and fro, and even when it rains, how beautiful it is!In autumn the evenings, when the g…

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.

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I haven't read Steinbeck in years and that's for a fairly weak reason: I've read several Steinbeck novels, The Pearl, Of Mice and Men, and Grapes of Wrath as well as the delightful Travels with Charley, and every one of them was as close to perfect literature as I can get. As they say, even Homer nods, and so do our favourite authors, and I really was not relishing the moment I sat down to read some Steinbeck and discover that even Steinbeck nods. But, I've had enough of not reading Steinbeck and my reason for not reading him is frankly ridiculous, so I've got seven of his works on my new Classics Club list and Cannery Row (1945) is the first one, and the first Steinbeck I've read since 2013 (so long ago I had to check my old blog to find that out).
I'm happy to start by saying that John Steinbeck did not nod in Cannery Row. This is a short novel set in a waterfront street in Monterey, California, a nickname for what was once known as Ocean View Avenue (in…

The Divine Comedy Cantica III: Paradiso by Dante.

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My re-read of Dante's The Divine Comedy (1308 - 1321) has drawn to an end as I reach the third and final part of the poem, Paradiso. So far we've seen Dante travel with Virgil through the nine circles of Hell (Cantica I):
The First Circle: Limbo (Canto IV - V)The Second Circle: Lust (Canto V)The Third Circle: Greed (Canto VI)The Fourth Circle: Avarice (Canto VII)The Fifth Circle: Wrath (Cantos VII - VIII)Gate of Lower Hell, or, City of Dis (Cantos VIII - IX)The Sixth Circle: Heretics and Sceptics (Cantos IX - XI)The Seventh Circle: Violence (Cantos XII - XVII)The Abyss (Canto XVII)The Eighth Circle: Fraud (Cantos XVIII - XXX)The Pit of Cocytus (Canto XXXI)The Ninth Circle: Treachery (Cantos XXXII - XXXIV)Centre-point of the Earth (Canto XXXIV)
And then through the seven terraces of Purgatory (Cantica II):
Ante-Purgatory (Cantos I - IX)The First Terrace: Pride (Cantos X - XII)The Second Terrace: Envy (Cantos XIII - XIV)The Third Terrace: Wrath (Cantos XV - XVII)The Fourth Terrac…

Old Cantankerous by Menander.

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Old Cantankerous, also known as The Grouch, The MisanthropeDyskolos (Δύσκολος), and similar names, is a play by Menander, the 4th Century B.C. Greek playwright. His works are an example of Ancient Greek New Comedy, which influenced the likes of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and William Congreve, as well as the Roman playwrights Terence and Plautus of the 2nd Century B.C. However, of the estimated 108 comedies only one survives in its almost entirety - Old Cantankerous - and of the others, only fragments remain. Furthermore, Old Cantankerous was discovered relatively recently by Egyptian archaeologists in 1952 along with further fragments of The Girl from Samos and The Shield as well as some key Christian texts. These are known as the Bodmer Papyri, which are currently held in the Vatican library.
Old Cantankerous was first performed in about 316 B.C. at the Lenaian festival (usually held in January) where it won first prize. In the prologue, the god Pan explains the story: he has …

Vasari's Lives of the Artists Chapter I: Cimabue.

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I've been meaning for a while now to reading Giorgio Vasari's The Lives of the Artists (1550). This encyclopedia, the full title being Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times, is pretty vast but I do have an abridged version published by Oxford World Classics which I'd like to spend the next year or so reading and blogging about. If I'm able, I'd like to blog about each artist in the book, I think it'd be at the very least interesting, but also I'll be able to teach myself a little something about art history (out of the Pre-Raphaelites I don't do so well). With that in mind, on to the first chapter!
The Life of Cimabue, Florentine Painter [c. 1240 - 1320?]
The endless flood of misfortunes which swept over and drowned the wretched country of Italy had not only destroyed everything that could really be called a building but, even more importantly, had completely wiped out its population of artists, when, …