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Writer’s Study: George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews Orwell’s early novel about the struggles of the writer

Depending on your tastes, you can blame or congratulate George Orwell for Wetherspoons. When Tim Martin founded his chain of British pubs in the late 1970s, he took as his inspiration – a sort of unofficial literary blueprint, if you will – an essay of Orwell’s, ‘The Moon under Water’, published in the London Evening Standard in 1946. To this day, a number of Wetherspoon pubs are named The Moon under Water in honour of Orwell’s think piece, including the one in my hometown, Milton Keynes.

Although principally known for his last two novels about totalitarianism, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, and for his political essays about big questions surrounding nationalism, fascism, and Communism, George Orwell also wrote well about petty poverty, the writer’s life (see his ‘Confessions of a Book Reviewer’, also from 1946), and the English obsession with money, usually with having too little of it. Read the rest of this entry

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Five of the Best Places in Britain for the Book-Lover to Explore

Literature fans should visit these British places

There are plenty of beautiful and fascinating places in Britain that are teeming with literary associations. But what are the best places to visit if you’re a book lover? We suggest that the literature fan pack their rucksack full of sandwiches, a flask of drink, and a copy of our own indispensable guide, Britain by the Book: A Curious Tour of Our Literary Landscape, and head to the following five places of outstanding literary interest.

Haworth Parsonage, Yorkshire. Despite the deleterious effect Haworth was to have on their health, the Brontë sisters treasured the wildness of the Yorkshire countryside surrounding their home at Haworth, and none more so than Emily, author of Wuthering Heights. ‘Emily loved the moors,’ Charlotte later wrote; ‘they were what she lived in and by as much as the wild birds, their tenants, or the heather, their produce … She found in the bleak solitude many and dear delights; and not the least and best loved was – liberty.’ Visit the Brontë Parsonage to learn about the landscape and upbringing that gave us Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella 82: ‘Nymph of the garden where all beauties be’

On one of Sir Philip Sidney’s great love sonnets

Sir Philip Sidney’s sonnets often shut closed neatly and satisfyingly with a snap. They build towards their conclusion, and although Sidney uses the Petrarchan sonnet form (which doesn’t usually conclude with a rhyming couplet), his last lines tend to have the ring of finality about them, ending his poem with a bang rather than a whimper. ‘Nymph of the garden where all beauties be’, which is the 82nd sonnet in his sequence Astrophil and Stella, is a fine example of how well Sidney took the relatively new sonnet form (in English) and made it his own.

Nymph of the garden where all beauties be,
Beauties which do in excellency pass
His who till death looked in a watery glass,
Or hers whom nak’d the Trojan boy did see;
Sweet garden-nymph, which keeps the cherry-tree
Whose fruit doth far the Hesperian taste surpass,
Most sweet-fair, most fair-sweet, do not, alas,
From coming near those cherries banish me.
For though, full of desire, empty of wit, Read the rest of this entry