The greatest poems by Louis MacNeice
The Irish poet Louis MacNeice (1907-63) is often associated with the Thirties Poets, along with W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender. Yet unlike Auden, who left us ‘Stop All the Clocks’, MacNeice can be more difficult to pin down to one or two ‘best poems’ or ‘best-known poems’. ‘Prayer Before Birth’? Perhaps. That classic poem, and nine others, are included below in our pick of Louis MacNeice’s finest poems.
‘Meeting Point’. Although it’s been criticised as an unsuccessful poem, ‘Meeting Point’ is an ambitious and, to our mind, very interesting attempt to capture the experience of being with somebody you love and feeling yourselves to be outside of space and time.
‘Snow’. One of Louis MacNeice’s most popular and best-known poems, ‘Snow’ is a description of the snow falling outside the window. The poem is worth reading for the astonishing language-use in the fourth line alone: ‘World is suddener than we fancy it.’ Read the rest of this entry
Fun facts about the Victorian novelist
1. A novel written by Victorian author Wilkie Collins when he was 20, titled Iolani and set in Tahiti, was eventually published in 1999. Written in 1844 but not published until 110 years after his death, Iolani: Or, Tahiti as It Was was Collins’s first ever attempt at writing a novel. Collins knew next to nothing about Tahiti, but that didn’t stop him from having a go at writing about it.
2. Wilkie Collins’s 1860 novel The Woman in White was so popular it spawned stage-plays, perfumes, hats, cloaks, and even a waltz. The Woman in White was the novel that made Collins a famous name and helped to establish the vogue for sensation fiction, a genre that would enjoy its heyday in the 1860s. Collins would be able to demand substantial sums for his subsequent novels as he became hot literary property: he received £5,000 for his novel Armadale in 1866, a huge sum for the time. Read the rest of this entry
A reading of a classic horror story
‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ is a Gothic novel in miniature. All of the elements of the Gothic novel are here: the subterranean secret, the Gothic space (scaled down from a full-blown castle to a single room), the gruesome crime – even the hovering between the supernatural and the psychological. In just five pages, it’s as if Edgar Allan Poe has scaled down the eighteenth-century Gothic novel into a story of just a few thousand words. But what makes this story so unsettling? Closer analysis reveals that ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ centres on that most troubling of things: the motiveless murder. You can read the story here.
First, a brief summary of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’. An unnamed narrator confesses that he has murdered an old man, apparently because of the old man’s ‘Evil Eye’ which drove the narrator to kill him. He then describes how he crept into the old man’s bedroom while he slept and stabbed him, dragging the corpse away and dismembering it, so as to conceal his crime. He goes to some lengths to cover up all trace of the murder – he even caught his victim’s blood in a tub, so that none was spilt anywhere – and then he takes up three of the floorboards of the chamber, and conceals his victim’s body underneath. But no sooner has he concealed the body than there’s a knock at the door: it’s the police, having been called out by a neighbour who heard a shriek during the night. Read the rest of this entry