Archive for authors

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

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 – her 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!

Book Review ‘London Belongs to Me’ by Norman Collins

Posted in Dear Reader I read it! Book reviews with tags , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by echostains

Just finished ‘London belongs to me’ by Norman Collins, and it’s took me quite a while to read it (just saving it for bedtime reading).  I enjoyed it very much.  On the face of it looked like it may have mirrored Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square’, but apart from it being set in a shared house in Wartime London, there ends the comparison.

There are some interesting characters in the story of the house in Dulcimer Street, Kennington and all of them are brought vividly alive by Collins. The Josser family are more or less at the hub of the story.  It starts with Mr Josser’s retirement farewell, and ends with his re instatement.  In the middle, adjustments are made to all the residents lives and their life styles.  The lonely widowed land lady, her suitor and  lodger the enigmatic Mr Squales are amongst the characters that also share this house in London.

The Boons, consisting of mother and son Percy, a mechanic deals with the way the legal system works and how respectability can be lost very quickly.  Other characters include Connie, an old-time showgirl, a rather sad character, but a survivor (well for most of the book).  She is ‘old’, though we don’t find out how ancient she actually is.  Connie always seems to be there, in the wrong or right place when something exciting is happening – most of it, profitable in some way to the old girl.

There’s also a character who’d whole life revolves around making meals – a Mr Puddy.  He must have aneroid trouble, given the way he speaks – but the  writing makes it easy to  understand what he’s saying.  Meanwhile while all the large and small dramas are being played out: black out curtains are dutifully drawn and life goes on regardless.  A highly enjoyable and diverting read,  a jolly good book and very well written. I was very sorry to have finished it.

Note:  This post  has been transferred from my art blog Echostains.  I shall be transferring my book, DVD and film reviews to this space.

London in the Blitz HERE

Authors I’ve read: Daphne Du Maurier ‘Rebecca

Posted in Authors I've read with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by echostains

 

rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I’ve read such a lot of Daphne Du Maurier books – some good and some better,  If I had to rate them, number one would surely be Rebecca.  The  first line sets the mood  of the book, as we are whisked away back in time to the mysterious Manderley and the equally mysterious Max De Winter.  The story reads like Cinderella, where poor servant (well, rich woman’s companion) wins wealthy prince (De Winter) and goes to live happily ever after in his palace (Manderley).  However, the ‘Happy ever after’ is a long time coming –  something keeps getting in the way. 

 

Manderley

 There’s another fairytale in here, if you think about it.  The handsome Prince kisses the beautiful princess who turns into a frog (Rebecca).  Max’s second wife (we never do learn her name?) is also awakened by her prince but not to a life of pleasure (like her predecessor) she inherits a nightmare – the ruin and devastation that Rebecca has left her.  I have only just thought about the fairytale aspect of Rebecca.  When  the poor woman (encouraged by evil Danvers) dresses  unknowingly in a fancy dress costume that Rebecca wore and confronts her portrait, it is so ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall’ (Snow White) with Rebecca winning again by being the fairest of them all.  In the end though, all that glisters is not gold and the real beauty shines through –  not the supercilious veneer that is Rebecca – the beautiful frog triumphs and  marries the prince.

 

Beauty is only skin deep

I shall go through these books separately in other posts.  The list below is not in particular order of preference.

Jamaica Inn

Frenchman’s Creek

My Cousin Rachael

House on the Strand

The infernal world of Branwell Bronte

Don’t look now

The Birds