Archive for the Authors Birthdays Category

Happy Birthday Thomas Hardy!

Posted in Authors Birthdays, Authors I've read with tags , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2013 by echostains

tess_oxford220px-Thomashardy_restored

English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (2nd June 1840 – 11th January 1928) Dorset, England focused his work on the decline of rural society. He was a great fan of Charles Dickens and George Elliot. His romantic poetry was influenced by William Wordsworth. Hardy regarded himself foremost as a poet. His first poetry collection was published in 1898.   ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’  was published in 1874, – his first literary success  through his writing.

His novels, which include ‘Far from the Madding crowd ‘ (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895) were set in his semi fictional region of Wessex, based on an old medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the South West of England.

Hardy’s father Thomas was a stonemason and builder. His mother Jemima was a well read woman.  She educated young Thomas at home before he went to school aged eight years old in Bockhampton. He learned Latin and acquired academic potential at Mr Last’s Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dorchester. When his  formal education ended at age 16 when he was then apprenticed to a local architect James Hicks in Dorchester where he trained as an architect before moving to London in 1862 and enrolling as a student in Kings College London.

Hardy, aware of class divisions and his own social inferiority, was never comfortable in London society and returned to Dorset five years later.

He met his future wife Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1870 whilst engaged in the restoration of the parish church of St Juliot in Cornwall and he married her in 1874. She died in 1912, and although he became estranged in life, he revisited Cornwall after her death visiting places they went to during their courtship.   Poems 1912-13 reflect upon her death. He married Florence Emily Dugdale (his secretary, nearly 40 years his senior) in 1914.

Hardy died at Max Gate on 11th January 1928 after becoming ill with pleurisy the year before and his funeral was held at Westminster Abbey. This proved to be controversia,l as Hardy and his friends and family wished him to be buried with his first wife Emma in Stinsford Dorset. It was insisted upon by his executor Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell that he be buried in the famous Poets Corner in the abbey.  A compromise was reached:  Hardy’s heart was buried with his first wife in Dorset and his ashes in Poet’s Corner Westminster Abbey.

Hardy has many admirers, among them were Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, John Cowper Powys and Robert Graves. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1910.

Although I have not read all Hardy’s novels, I have enjoyed the ones I have read ( Under the Greenwood tree (1872) Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), Jude the Obscure (1895),- I have not enjoyed them equally. The Woodlanders, left me somewhat unsatisfied with the ending which resulted in  the heroine Grace Melbury returning to her unfaithful husband.

But a happy ending does does always result in a good story.  Jude the Obscure, in my consideration – a masterpiece, left me with such an uncomfortable feeling that I have only been able to read the novel once and watch the well acted 196 film.  The story is about humble village stonemason Jude Fawley whose dream is to be educated., He studies Latin and Greek in his spare time whilst dreaming of going to university. Jude_PosterManipulated into a loveless marriage with a coarse and nasty local girl, who soon leaves him, Jude still dreams of entering the local University. He falls in love with his cousin Sue Brideshead. But although she is in love with the married Jude, she marries his former teacher and is very unhappy. Jude and Sue eventually set up house together and have children. Their life together is dire: ostracised by the villagers for not being married and having children out of wedlock, Jude loses his job and the poor family  travel from town to town seeking employment. The end of the story is really disturbing. there are no happy ending here. It is a fantastic novel, but is really emotionally heavy going.

Hardy is considered a Victorian Realist writer and his writing reflects the social restraints and limitations which ultimately lead to unhappiness (in his novels). My favorite novel is ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ which tells the story of shepherd Gabriel Oak and Bethsheba Everdean. Fate and bad choices interweave to construct a story of pride, betrayal and tragedy. Far-From-The-Madding-Crowd-Thomas-HardyLove wins out though and there is a happy ending, but that is not arrived at until Bethsheba herself has changed her attitude and her outlook.  Oak remains as steadfast to the end as from the beginning of the novel. The dastardly character is Sergeant Francis “Frank” Troy who is a flamboyant gambling show off with a cruel streak towards his wife Bethsheba. He loves another – the hapless and sweet Fanny Robin whose death is heartbreaking. In the middle of the storyline stands middle-aged Mr Boldwood, a rich farmer whose obsession with Bethsheba also leads to tragedy. Fate plays a massive part in this novel; throwaway gestures like the sending of a valentine fire up a strait laced bachelor to behave with passion and abandonment of reason. A flattering remark and a wild display of dashing swordsmanship persuade a young vain Bethsheba that she is in love. Situations and accidents all contrive to elevate Gabriel Oak into hero of the hour and prove his quiet devotion and steadfastness.

More information on the Poet/Novelist from here and The Thomas Hardy Society Thomas Hardy portrait from here Far from the Madding Crowd image from here  Jude the Obscure image from here Tess of the d’Urbervilles image here

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The Bronte, Pooh, Poe, Briggs birthday party!

Posted in Authors Birthdays, BRONTE, Inspiring poetry, period drama with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2012 by echostains

No sooner do I begin writing about one author whose birthday it is, –  another pops up!   Over the past three days Anne Bronte, A.A. Milne, Raymond Briggs and Edgar Allen Poe have all celebrated  birthdays, or to be exact, they have had their birthdays celebrated for them – apart from Raymond Briggs who at 78, is still with us.

Anne Bronte

January 17th was  the birthday of writer and poet Anne Bronte (1820 –  1849 Thornton Yorkshire)   Anne, was the youngest of 6 children born to the Reverend Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell. She was barely one year old when her mother died. Anne wrote 2 books in her short lifetime (Agnes Grey which was published in 1847 and The Tenent of Wildfell Hall published 1848) and a  lot of poetry.  Much has been written about the Bronte family, their story is well-known.  This website is dedicated to Anne and includes all her poems and a biography.  But this beautiful poem, a tribute to the simple flower, the bluebell  could almost be a metaphor for the author’s life,  made poignant by her sad death at the age of 29.  She is buried in Scarborough – Anne’s favorite place.

Read my review about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall here

18th January saw the birthday of British children’s author Alan Alexander Milne  (1882 –  1956) the author best known for his books about Winnie the Pooh and children’s poems.

A.A. Milne

Born in Kilburn,  London, Milne  grew up at Henley House school,  a small public school ran by his father.  One of his teachers was H. G. Wells (who taught there 1889 – 1890).  The young Milne attended Westminsterschool and Trinity College Cambridge, where he studied mathematics.  Whilst at Cambridge, he edited and wrote for the student magazine Granta.  His collaborated on articles with his brother Kenneth  and caught the attention of Punch magazine.  Milne went on to be a contributor and later, assistant editor.

He married Dorothy “Daphne” de Sélincourt in 1913 and in 1920 Christopher Robin Milne was born.  Milne bought Cotchford farm in East Sussex in 1925. He joined the army in World War 1, serving as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and later, after a debilitating illness, the Royal Corps of Signals. He was discharged on February 14, 1919 .  During World War 11 Milne was Captain of the Home Guard in Hartfield Forest Row.  In 1952 he had a stroke and had to undergo brain surgery.  He retired to his farm an invalid.

Milne published 18 plays and 3 novels and in 1924 produced a collection of children’s poetry called When We Were Very Young, this was illustrated by Punch illustrator E. H. Shepherd.  Milne was also a screen writer for the British film industry (founded in 1920).  But it is the two Pooh books which Milne is most famous for.

The books feature a boy named Christopher Robin (after Milnes’ son).  The characters in the book were inspired by Christopher Robin’s stuffed toys – the most noteworthy being the bear named ‘Winnie the Pooh’.  The bear was originally called ‘Edward’ but was renamed ‘Winnie the Pooh’ after a Canadian black bear called ‘Winnie’ (after Winnipeg) used as a military mascot in World War 1 and was left to London Zoo during the war.  The ‘Pooh’ comes from a swan of the same name.’

Winnie the Pooh was published in 1926. A second collection of nursery rhymes Now we are Six was published in 1927 and was followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928 and were all illustrated by E. H. Shepherd.  For a more in-depth look at this author please look here and this website and there are lots of Pooh related information to be found here

The author Raymond Briggs also shares his birthday with A.A. Milne.  Briggs was born in 1934 Wimbledon London.  He is a graphic artist, novelist and illustrator.  though he is best known for his story The Snowman, shown every Christmas in cartoon form on television, he has illustrated many children’s books.

Briggs liked to cartoon at an early age, even though his father tried to dissuade him from what he saw as an unprofitable pursuit.  He attended the Wimbledon School of Art from 1949 – 1953 studying painting, then the Central School of Art to study typography.

In 1953 he became a conscript in the Royal Corps of Signals, based at Catterick, where he was made a draughtsman.  He returned to study painting at Slade School fo Fine Art after 2 years of National Service where he graduated in 1957.

He briefly painted before becoming a professional illustrator, and soon began working on children’s books.  He taught illustration part-time at Brighton College of Art between 1961 and 1986

His famous works include Father Christmas (1973), Father Christmas goes on Holiday (1975) which both featured a rather grumpy Father Christmas and Fungus the Bogeyman (1977).  These were in the form of comics, rather than the typical children’s book format where the text is separate to the illustrations.

Briggs has said that The Snowman (1978) was inspired by Fungus the Bogeyman;-

For two years I worked on Fungus, buried amongst muck, slime and words, so… I wanted to do something which was clean, pleasant, fresh and wordless and quick.

This work was entirely wordless and illustrated only with pencil crayons, which I feel lends it charm and spontaneity. In 1982 The Snowman was made into a Oscar nominated animated cartoon, becoming Briggs best known work and much-loved by all who see it.  It is shown every year on British television  and Christmas would not be the same without it!  For a more in-depth look at the author and his life try this and the charming Snowman website here

19th January saw the birthday of celebrated Amercian author, editor, poet and literary critic  Edgar Allan Poe (b. Boston Massachusetts) USA 1809 – 1849)  Poe is famous for his tales of the macabre and mystery.  He is considered an early pioneer of the short story and  the inventor of the detective fiction genre and a contributor to the emerging genre Science fiction.

Orphaned young, Poe was taken in by John and Frances Allan, of Richmond Virginia.  He attended the University of Virgina for only one semester as he was short of money.  He enlisted in the army but failed as an officers cadet at West Point.  He started his literary career with a collection of poems in 1827 (Tamerlane and Other Poems).  The poems were credited anonymously to ‘A Bostonian’

Poe spent worked for literary journals and periodicals for the next several years, becoming known for his literary criticism.  He lived in several cities including Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City and it was in Baltimore 1835  he married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm.

In 1945, his poem The Raven was published too much acclaim and was an instant success.  Poe died in  1849 at the age of only 40, the cause is still unknown.

Edgar Allan Poe’s short life is a very interesting one, full of adventures, triumphs and some sadness.  His fiction work is considered Gothic and of dark Romanticism.  His particular theme include death, decomposition and premature burial.  But he also wrote humourous tales, satire and hoaxes, using themes that catered to the public taste of the time.  Much more can be read about Poe’s life here and short stories and poems can be read on this excellent site.

Read my post about his poem Annabel Lee

Anne Bronte portrait from here

Read about  Anne here

Thanks to JustAudio2008 for The Bluebell video

A.A. Milne image from here  Pooh illustration  from here

Raymond Briggs image from here and Father Christmas illustration here

Edgar Allan Poe image from here

Thanks to KajiCarson for the video

Original birthday invite image from here

UPDATE:  There’s a video featuring Scottish Artists over on Echostains to celebrate Burns Night

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHARLES DICKENS!

Happy Belated Birthday Sir Walter Scott!

Posted in Authors Birthdays, Inspiring poetry, POETS BIRTHDAYS with tags , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by echostains

August 15th was  the birthday of Scottish poet, writer and playwright  (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) Scott was  a 1st Baronet who wrote poems and historical novels.  He has the distinction in being the first english language author to achieve international fame in his own lifetime. Rob Roy, Ivanhoe and the Lady of the Lake still remain classics both in English and Scottish literature.  

Sir Walter Scott by Rarburn

Privately educated, the young Scott  loved reading romantic adventure stories, history and travel books.  He began studying the Classics in 1783 at the age of 12 years old, becoming one of the youngest students to do so in Edinburgh University.   Lochinvar was a poem that my late father used to recite to me.  It is suitably romantic and Pre Raphealite like to appeal to a girl raised on fairy tales!    

The Knight Errant by Millias

Here it is read beautifully!

 Lochinvar
  O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.
He staid not for brake, and he stopp’d not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none;
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.

So boldly he enter’d the Netherby Hall,
Among bride’s-men, and kinsmen, and brothers and all:
Then spoke the bride’s father, his hand on his sword,
(For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word,)
“O come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?”

“I long woo’d your daughter, my suit you denied; —
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide —
And now I am come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.”

The bride kiss’d the goblet: the knight took it up,
He quaff’d off the wine, and he threw down the cup.
She look’d down to blush, and she look’d up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar, —
“Now tread we a measure!” said young Lochinvar.

So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a gailiard did grace;
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
And the bride-maidens whisper’d, “’twere better by far
To have match’d our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.”

One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear,
When they reach’d the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
“She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,” quoth young Lochinvar.

There was mounting ‘mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;
Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne’er did they see.
So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

.

Thanks to  for the video

Image and more about this interesting poet and novelist here

Poem from Poemhunter

The Knight Errant by Millias image from here

Happy Birthday Emily Bronte!

Posted in Authors Birthdays, Inspiring poetry, POETS BIRTHDAYS with tags , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2011 by echostains

Emily Jane Bronte

Today is the birthday of writer and poet Emily Bronte (b.1818 – 1848 Thornton Yorkshire).  She was the fifth child of Patrick Branwell and Maria  Branwell, parents of the famous Bronte’s of Haworth Yorkshire.  Emily wrote poetry and one novel ‘Wuthering Heights‘ before she died in 1848 after catching cold at her brother Branwell’s funeral, refusing all medical aid until it was too late.  Emily is always depicted as the quiet Bronte, other worldly, spiritual.  But she was also a home body too and pined for her home and the moors when she was sent away to school at Roe Head.

Wuthering Heights has inspired many films

Wuthering Heights, a tale of passion, tragedy and love beyond the grave was published in 1847 and received mixed reviews, but it was become a literary classic.  Much has been written about Emily Bronte the woman and there has been a lot of speculation about this quiet, private and almost mystical author.

Angria artifacts

As children the Bronte’s devised stories and poems about the exploits of their toy soldiers who inhabited an imaginary kingdom called Angria.  When Emily was 13, she and her sister Ann  left Angria and built Gondal – an imaginary island in the South Pacific. They wrote stories about Gondal, but only the Gondal  names and places and some diary papers survive.  Her poems are often described as spiritual and passionate.  The following comes from Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell in 1846 (Emily is of course ‘Ellis’

How clear She Shines

How clear she shines! How quietly
I lie beneath her guardian light;
While heaven and earth are whispering me,
“To morrow, wake, but dream to-night.”
Yes, Fancy, come, my Fairy love!
These throbbing temples softly kiss;
And bend my lonely couch above,
And bring me rest, and bring me bliss.

The world is going; dark world, adieu!
Grim world, conceal thee till the day;
The heart thou canst not all subdue
Must still resist, if thou delay!

Thy love I will not, will not share;
Thy hatred only wakes a smile;
Thy griefs may wound–thy wrongs may tear,
But, oh, thy lies shall ne’er beguile!
While gazing on the stars that glow
Above me, in that stormless sea,
I long to hope that all the woe
Creation knows, is held in thee!

And this shall be my dream to-night;
I’ll think the heaven of glorious spheres
Is rolling on its course of light
In endless bliss, through endless years;
I’ll think, there’s not one world above,
Far as these straining eyes can see,
Where Wisdom ever laughed at Love,
Or Virtue crouched to Infamy;

Where, writhing ‘neath the strokes of Fate,
The mangled wretch was forced to smile;
To match his patience ‘gainst her hate,
His heart rebellious all the while.
Where Pleasure still will lead to wrong,
And helpless Reason warn in vain;
And Truth is weak, and Treachery strong;
And Joy the surest path to Pain;
And Peace, the lethargy of Grief;
And Hope, a phantom of the soul;
And life, a labour, void and brief;
And Death, the despot of the whole!

The Bronte’s themselves have inspired many books, plays and songs – Wuthering Heights especially. 

Here’s two videos the first inspired by  Emily Bronte’s novel and the second by her poem above:-

More about Emily here and this wonderful site here

Emily Bronte image here and Bronte parsonage books here

Wuthering Heights still here

Bronte Parsonage Museum website

Bronte Parsonage Blog

Poem from here with thanks

Kate Bush video from  with thanks

How Clear she shines video from

There are more of my Bronte related posts in the Bronte category on the right side of the blog

Happy Birthday Lewis Carroll!

Posted in Authors Birthdays, POETS BIRTHDAYS with tags , , , , , , on January 27, 2011 by echostains

Today is the birthday of children’s author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson or Lewis Carroll as he is better known by his pen name.   Lewis Carroll was born  January 27, 1832 Daresbury Cheshire England – January 14, 1898. 

Lewis Carroll

As well as being an author, Carroll was also a poet, mathematician, (he was a mathematical lecturer at Oxford University) photographer and an Anglican Deacon. 

 One wonders how he found time for his creative writing, but I’m so glad he did, as Alice in Wonderland and Alice Adventures Through the Looking Glass are among my favorite books – still.   At the time the books were viewed as children’s literature. They are now looked upon in a different light and have long fascinated authors and musicians.

Dodgson was familiar with the Pre Raphaelites and moved in their circle.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti being one of his close friends.  Carroll was a keen photographer and photographed many subjects including Rossetti and John Everett Millais and the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Alice grows and grows by Tenniel

  A childhood illness left him deaf in one ear and he suffered from a slight stammer.  But he was very comfortable at singing and story telling and wrote poetry from an early age, from which he enjoyed modest success.

Alice by Tenniel

He first used his pen name Lewis Carroll when he published a romantic poem called ‘Solitude’ which appeared in ‘The Train’ 1856.  He came up with this pseudonym in his own original way by taking Ludovicus – Latin for  Lutwidge(of which Lewis was an anglicised form) and  Carroll which is an Irish surname very similar to Carolus (which Charles is derived from).

His most famous books are Alice in Wonderland and Alice Adventures Through the Looking Glass and.  Alice Liddell and her family were friends of the Dodgson’s.  Carroll took Alice and her two sisters on a river trip up the Thames in 1862: Alice’s Adventures was first told by Carroll to the girls on this trip.  Alice asked him to write the story down, which he did, calling it ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground  He gave the manuscript to Alice as an early Christmas present in 1864.  He published the story, on friend’s advice .   Carroll rewrote the tale, adding the Mad Hatter Tea Party and  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published in July 1865.  John Tenniel illustrated it.

Through the Looking Glass was published in 1871 and at the end of the tale is a poem which spells out Alice’s name.  Many films have been made about the Alice stories – the latest one 2010 by Tim Burton starring Johnny Depp.

Life is but a Dream by Lewis Carroll

 
A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear

Long has paled that sunny sky;
Echoes fade and memories die;
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die;

Ever drifting down the stream
Lingering in the golden gleam
Life, what is it but a dream?

This is an acrostic poem by lewis Carroll  spells out Alice’s full name. Alice Pleasance Liddell

Lewis Carroll image from here

Lots of information about Carroll here and a lovely short biography here

The Lewis Carroll Society

and a very interesting site here and lots of great Lewis Carrolls facts here

Acrostic poem from here

Thanks to the Victorian Web for Tenniel images

and last but not least – a Big Thanks to AdPaylor for the wonderful Jabberwocky video!