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10 of the Best Louis MacNeice Poems Everyone Should Read

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

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Five Fascinating Facts about Wilkie Collins

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

10 Classic Gothic Novels Everyone Should Read

The best Gothic novels

The following list is not supposed to represent the ten most definitive Gothic novels ever published – it’s a list to inspire debate and discussion as much as it is a list of recommendations of classic Gothic works of fiction. Nevertheless, we reckon the reader of Gothic fiction could do worse than seek out these ten important Gothic novels. We’ve included some of our favourite interesting trivia about each novel as we go.

William Baldwin, Beware the Cat. What’s this? Surely any list of the best Gothic novels in English has to begin with The Castle of Otranto? But no: that book comes second on our list. Instead, we begin with this obscure short novel written during the early 1550s, during the reign of the boy-king, Edward VI (1547-53). Contrary to what many scholars of the novel claim, the English novel didn’t begin in 1719 with Robinson Crusoe – and nor, we would contend, did the Gothic novel begin with The Castle of Otranto. Instead, the first recognisably ‘Gothic’ novel in English is this wonderfully inventive comic skit that features werewolves, talking cats, jokes about poo, jibes at Catholicism, and even – anticipating Terry Pratchett by some four-and-a-half centuries – jokey footnotes and marginal glosses to the text. We discuss Beware the Cat in more detail in our book, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History. You can read Baldwin’s novel online here. Read the rest of this entry