Five Fascinating Facts about Henry Fielding

Trivia about a pioneering English comic novelist

1. Fielding was largely responsible for the Licensing Act being passed, which would exercise huge control over British theatres for over two centuries. Fielding wasn’t in favour of the Act – which decreed that all plays being performed in public theatres in the UK must be read and passed by the Lord Chamberlain – but nevertheless played a key role in the formation of it. A series of stage satires penned by Fielding, mocking King George II and Robert Walpole, first de facto Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, led Walpole to push for theatre censorship. He was successful, and the Licensing Act came into force. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Shelley’s ‘The Flower That Smiles Today’

A critical reading of Percy Shelley’s poem

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) was, along with Lord Byron and John Keats, one of the second-generation Romantic poets who followed Wordsworth and Coleridge – and, to an extent, diverged from them, having slightly different ideas of Romanticism. ‘The Flower That Smiles Today’, sometimes titled ‘Mutability’ (though Shelley, confusingly, wrote another poem called ‘Mutability’) is one of Shelley’s most widely anthologised poems, so we thought we’d share it here, along with a brief analysis of its language and meaning.

The flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow dies;
All that we wish to stay
Tempts and then flies.
What is this world’s delight?
Lightning that mocks the night,
Brief even as bright. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Fire Sermon’

A reading of the third part of The Waste Land

‘The Fire Sermon’ is the third section of T. S. Eliot’s ground-breaking 1922 poem The Waste Land. Its title is chiefly a reference to the Buddhist Fire Sermon, which encourages the individual to liberate himself (or herself) from suffering through detachment from the five senses and the conscious mind. You can read ‘The Fire Sermon’ here; below we offer a short summary of this section of Eliot’s poem, along with an analysis of its meaning.

‘The Fire Sermon’ opens with the River Thames, and a description of the litter that was strewn across its surface until recently: during the summer, the Thames was full of empty bottles, cigarette ends, and even, it is hinted, contraceptives (that ‘other testimony of summer nights’). The ‘nymphs’, we are told, ‘are departed’. The meaning of this is ambiguous: on the one hand, Eliot is saying that the modern world (with its litter-strewn Thames) has lost its magic and spiritualism (where the rivers of the ancient world were populated by nymphs, the modern Thames just has rubbish); but on the other hand, ‘nymphs’ can be read as a euphemism for ‘prostitutes’. Read the rest of this entry