A reading of a chilling short story
Saki, real name Hector Hugh Munro (1870-1916), was a master of the very short story, and as well as penning dozens of witty Edwardian short stories consisting of just a few pages, he also left us several short horror fiction masterpieces, of which ‘Gabriel-Ernest’ (1909) is probably the most famous and widely studied. The story, about a teenage boy who transforms into a werewolf and preys on small children, manages to appal and unsettle in just five pages of masterly storytelling. You can read ‘Gabriel-Ernest’ here.
As we revealed in our analysis of Saki’s ‘The Lumber-Room’, much of Saki’s fiction reads like a direct challenge to the Victorian notion that children are paragons of innocence. ‘Gabriel-Ernest’ is worthy of closer analysis because it explores a similar idea, but using Gothic horror fiction as its vehicle. But the story is still shot through with Saki’s characteristic wit and irony. It’s as if Oscar Wilde had been crossed with M. R. James or Bram Stoker. Indeed, Van Cheele, the owner of the woods in which Gabriel-Ernest hunts for his prey, is like a protagonist of an M. R. James ghost story in his refusal to believe the youth when he openly admits he feeds on children’s flesh. More of the wittiness of the story later. Read the rest of this entry
The best poems by Keats
John Keats (1795-1821) died when he was just twenty-five years old, but he left behind a substantial body of work, considering he died so young. Nevertheless, a number of his poems immediately suggest themselves as being among the ‘best’ of his work. In this post, we’ve selected what we think are the top ten best Keats poems.
‘Ode to Psyche’. The earliest of Keats’s 1819 odes, ‘Ode to Psyche’ is about the Greek embodiment of the soul and mind, Psyche. Keats declares that he will be Psyche’s ‘priest’ and build a temple to her in his mind. Although this is probably the least-admired of Keats’s classic odes (though ‘Ode on Indolence’ would rival it), it’s a fine paean to poetic creativity and the power of the imagination. Read the rest of this entry
The best school poems
Whether it’s Wordsworth recalling his schooldays in The Prelude, or Shakespeare’s Jaques describing the schoolboy ‘creeping like snail / Unwillingly to school’, poets have often written about school, whether fondly or critically, from the teacher’s or the pupil’s perspective. Here are ten of the finest poems about school and schooldays, teachers and pupils, classrooms and chalkboards.
Oliver Goldsmith, ‘The Village Schoolmaster’. Goldsmith’s depiction of a genial village schoolteacher, who is viewed by the locals as a kind of demigod, is not one that has lasted, alas, into the modern age. But when Goldsmith was writing, learning and literacy were looked up to, and the man who possessed their gifts was revered: ‘And still they gaz’d and still the wonder grew, / That one small head could carry all he knew.’ Read the rest of this entry