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A Short Introduction to Woolf’s ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’

A short summary of Woolf’s 1924 essay

Virginia Woolf reacted against the style and attitude of much Victorian fiction, much as many of her fellow modernists did, and her 1924 essay ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’ almost acts like a manifesto for her view of this new way of writing. But she is not railing against the fiction that had been written by Charles Dickens and George Eliot, but was instead taking on a ‘foe’ closer to home: the Edwardians – that is, writers of the Edwardian era in British history (1901-1910, the reign of Edward VII). The problem with this era of British fiction, for Woolf, is that it was dominated by novelists like H. G. Wells, John Galsworthy, and Arnold Bennett (who is the only novelist we know to have a famous omelette named after him). Bennett is the ‘Mr Bennett’ referred to in Woolf’s title. Read the rest of this entry

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T. E. Hulme’s War Poem: ‘Trenches: St Eloi’

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle celebrates the poet and thinker who died 100 years ago this week

On 28 September 1917, T. E. Hulme was killed in action in Oostduinkerke in Flanders. Hulme’s death, as Robert Ferguson records in his biography, The Short Sharp Life of T. E. Hulme, was particularly brutal: he suffered a direct hit from a large shell which literally blew him to pieces. What was left of him was buried in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium where he is described in the war graves records as simply ‘one of the war poets’.

In some ways, this is a decidedly inapt description of Hulme. His entire poetic output was slim – including verse fragments it stretches to no more than 20 pages – and he wrote all of his poetry in the years preceding the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. But the poems he did write helped to forge a new form and style for English poetry.

T. E. Hulme was a larger-than-life figure in virtually every way. Standing at over six feet tall, with a ruddy complexion, a willingness to argue with anyone (or, indeed, Read the rest of this entry

The Best Ezra Pound Poems Everyone Should Read

Five of Ezra Pound’s best poems

Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was a controversial but central figure in the history of modernist literature. He helped to publish both T. S. Eliot and James Joyce, was friends with a number of leading modernist writers including W. B. Yeats and Ford Madox Ford, and his slogan, ‘Make It New’, encapsulates much of what modernist literature sought to do. But as well as all this, we should remember that Ezra Pound was a major modernist poet himself, albeit a very difficult one. Here’s our pick of five of Pound’s best poems or poetic works.

In a Station of the Metro’. This is probably the most famous Imagist poem ever written: in just two lines, Pound seeks to capture the fleeting impression of seeing a crowd of people at the Paris Metro. After the poem’s publication in 1913, Pound’s interest in Imagism dwindled, and he moved away from the Image and towards the ‘Vortex’, founding the short-lived artistic movement Vorticism with his friend Wyndham Lewis.

The Return’. The old gods have gone, but are not quite forgotten; and now, Pound announces, ‘they return’. This is the subject of this short poem, which remains one of Pound’s most popular shorter works. Read the rest of this entry