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Arthur Newberry Choyce: Leicestershire’s Forgotten War Poet

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle heads to Leicestershire in search of that county’s finest poet of the Great War

Arthur Newberry Choyce (1893-1937) is not a famous name, even among readers of WWI poetry. The Wikipedia page for his birthplace says nothing about him. His poetry is not widely known or read. Yet Choyce is perhaps Charnwood’s great forgotten poet of the First World War – maybe, even, Leicestershire’s greatest poet of WWI.

Choyce was born in Hugglescote, a small village near Coalville and located some ten miles to the west of Loughborough, in 1893, the same year as Wilfred Owen. As a young man he joined the Leicestershire Regiment (known as ‘The Tigers’), and became a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion. At the outbreak of war, the regiment appointed Choyce their official war poet. In 1917, he published the first of several volumes of poetry, Crimson Stains, which carried the subtitle Poems of War and Love.

Crimson Stains shuttles between life in the trenches and the world back home for which Choyce was fighting. Several of the poems mention Read the rest of this entry

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H. Rider Haggard’s She: A Bestselling Fantasy

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle sings the praises of one of the most popular novels of all time

This column, Dispatches from The Secret Library, is named after my first book aimed at a general (rather than narrowly academic) readership, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History, the idea being to examine lesser-known books which were once much more popular than they are now. This week’s book is slightly different in that it’s still in print and enjoyed by a fairly large group of people (to judge from the fact that there are still quite a few good editions in print), but I think it qualifies as a ‘secret library’ book because its present popularity is nothing compared with its past success. I’m talking of H. Rider Haggard’s She, subtitled A History of Adventure, but as much an adventure through history, into the deep past of early civilisation, told with Rider Haggard’s trademark flair for addictive storytelling.

H. Rider Haggard’s She (Oxford World’s Classics) (1887) is reckoned to be one of the bestselling novels ever published: by 1965 it had sold some Read the rest of this entry

Samuel Butler’s Erewhon: Dystopia before Dystopia

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle explores the looking-glass world of Samuel Butler’s pioneering anti-utopian novel

When I was an undergraduate English student at Loughborough fifteen years ago, I took an optional second-year module called ‘Other Victorians’. As this title implies, the module was intended as a sort of companion-piece to the core module ‘Victorian Literature’, which covered the canon of Victorian writing. On the one hand, you had George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son, and Tennyson’s In Memoriam. On the other, you had Florence Nightingale’s essays, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books, and Arthur Hugh Clough’s Amours de Voyage.

Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872) would stand firmly in the latter camp containing those ‘other Victorians’. His anti-utopian novel is part science-fiction, part social commentary, part adventure fantasy, part comic satire. Like many experimental Victorian works of literature, it resists easy categorisation. Is it even a dystopian work, a forerunner to Brave New World, We, and Nineteen Eighty-Four? Read the rest of this entry