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Rudyard Kipling’s Detective Story: ‘The House Surgeon’

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews Kipling’s foray into the mystery genre with a psychic detective story

Previously, I’ve blogged about the intriguing micro-genre of the psychic detective story, a crossover short story genre which fuses the ghost story or weird tale with the mystery, or detective fiction. Arguably beginning with the Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1869 story ‘Green Tea’, the form was pioneered by the late Victorian writing team of E. and H. Heron with their Flaxman Low stories, but became really popular during the Edwardian era, with characters such as Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence and, shortly after this, William Hope Hodgson’s Thomas Carnacki and Alice and Claude Askew’s Aylmer Vance.

The genre never exactly attracted a plethora of writers, in the way that the out-and-out detective story did, following the phenomenal success of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. But it did attract the attention of some more famous and talented writers than the ones already mentioned. Perhaps the most famous of them all was Rudyard Kipling. Read the rest of this entry

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Five of the Best Poems about Sons

Previously, we’ve offered five of the best poems for daughters, so now it’s the turn of the male offspring. Below are five of the finest poems about sons – ranging from the humorous to the moving, the personal to the universal.

Ben Jonson, ‘On My First Son’. Ben Jonson’s short poem for his son Benjamin, who died aged seven, is one of the most moving short elegies in the English language. Jonson (1572-1637) was a contemporary of William Shakespeare and, like the Bard, wrote poems as well as the plays for which he is well-known. As well as being a rather moving poem, ‘On My First Son’ is one of the greatest poems about sons in all of English literature.

Rudyard Kipling, ‘The Prodigal Son’. Referring to the parable told by Jesus in the New Testament, this Kipling poem appears in one of the chapters of Kipling’s novel Kim: ‘Here come I to my own again, Read the rest of this entry

The Best Poems for March

Five of the finest poems for the month of March

This is the third entry in our poetry calendar: you can read our poetry recommendations for January and our pick of the best February poems in previous posts. Now, it’s the turn of March, which heralds the arrival, or return, of spring. What are the best March poems in the English language? Here are five of our favourites.

John Clare, ‘The Shepherd’s Calendar: March’. The underrated nature poet John Clare (1793-1864) wrote an entire sequence of poems about nature and the English countryside at particular times of the year, and in the March entry in his ‘Shepherd’s Calendar’, he salutes the way ‘March month of “many weathers” wildly comes / In hail and snow and rain and threatning hums / And floods’ and ‘love teazd maidens from their droning wheel / At the red hour of sunset sliving steal / From scolding dames to meet their swains agen / Tho water checks their visits oer the plain…’ Read the rest of this entry