A summary of a classic short story
‘The Lumber-Room’ is a classic short story about a child who is too clever for the adults. Specifically, it is about how one clever but mischievous boy, Nicholas, seeks to outwit his aunt so he can gain access to the lumber-room with its hidden treasures and curiosities. But the story might also be viewed as an analysis of the nature of obedience, and the limited adult view of the world, when contrasted with the child’s more expansive and imaginative outlook. You can read ‘The Lumber-Room’ here.
In his Biography, Saki – real name Hector Hugh Munro – recalled his childhood of the 1870s, in which ‘the flower and vegetable gardens were surrounded by high walls and a hedge, and on rainy days we were kept indoors’ where the ‘windows [were] shut and shuttered’. It may be, then, that the adult Munro – reinvented as the Edwardian fiction-writer Saki – was recalling his own upbringing in ‘The Lumber-Room’, which sees the young Nicholas being kept indoors as punishment, deprived of the ‘treat’ of a trip to Jagborough Sands and denied access to the gooseberry garden outside the house. Read the rest of this entry
Ten of Chaucer’s greatest tales
Geoffrey Chaucer left his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, unfinished when he died in 1400, having completed only one-fifth of the projected undertaking. Nevertheless, he left 20-odd tales finished, some of which are somewhat longer than others. What are the ten best Canterbury Tales? Below are what we consider the greatest of the tales told by Chaucer’s pilgrims. If you want to read Chaucer’s vast classic but don’t know the best place to start, these are our recommendations. We’ve been unsure as to whether to link to handy online translations of the Canterbury Tales into modern English, or to link to original Middle English versions. So, we’ve compromised. The interlinear translations offered by Harvard contain a line-by-line translation below the original Middle English.
The Miller’s Tale. Perhaps the most famous – and best-loved – of all of the tales in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, ‘The Miller’s Tale’ is told as a comic corrective following the sonorous seriousness of the Knight’s tale. The tale is an example of the fabliau or comic skit, and concerns a lecherous young student at the University of Oxford, Nicholas, and his adulterous relationship with Alison, the young wife of an old carpenter. Flood warnings, farting, and frantic ark-building all ensue, in one of the great jewels in the comic crown of medieval literature. Read the rest of this entry
The greatest poems by William Blake
William Blake (1757-1827) is one of the key figures of English Romanticism, and a handful of his poems are universally known thanks to their memorable phrases and opening lines. In this post we’ve chosen what we consider to be ten of the best William Blake poems, along with links to each of them.
‘Jerusalem’. The hymn called ‘Jerusalem’ is surrounded by misconceptions, legend, and half-truths. Blake wrote the words which the composer Hubert Parry later set to music, but Blake didn’t call his poem ‘Jerusalem’, and instead the famous words that form the lyrics of the hymn are merely one part of a longer poem, a poem which Blake called Milton. The poem has been read as a satire of the rampant jingoism and Christian feeling running through England during the Napoleonic Wars, and has even been described as anti-patriotic, despite the patriotic nature of the hymn it inspired. Read the rest of this entry