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MY DEAR COLVIN, - As I rode down last night about six, I saw a sight I must try to tell you of. In front of me, right over the top of the forest into which I was descending was a vast cloud. The front of it accurately represented the somewhat rugged, long-nosed, and beetle-browed profile of a man, crowned by a huge Kalmuck cap; the flesh part was of a heavenly pink, the cap, the moustache, the eyebrows were of a bluish gray; to see this with its... more...

INTRODUCTION Gay's concern in his survey of The Present State of Wit is with the productions of wit which were circulating among the coffee-houses of 1711, specifically the large numbers of periodical essays which were perhaps the most distinctive kind of "wit" produced in the "four last years" of Queen Anne's reign. His little pamphlet makes no pretence at an analysis of true and false wit or a refining of critical distinctions with regard to... more...

CHARACTERISTICS OF VICTORIAN LITERATURE That which in England is conveniently described as the Victorian Age of literature has a character of its own, at once brilliant, diverse, and complex. It is an age peculiarly difficult to label in a phrase; but its copious and versatile gifts will make it memorable in the history of modern civilisation. The Victorian Age, it is true, has no Shakespeare or Milton, no Bacon or Hume, no Fielding or... more...

CHAPTER I In the days when the spinning-wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses—and even great ladies, clothed in silk and thread-lace, had their toy spinning-wheels of polished oak—there might be seen in districts far away among the lanes, or deep in the bosom of the hills, certain pallid undersized men, who, by the side of the brawny country-folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race. The shepherd's dog barked fiercely... more...

THE situation of American literature is anomalous. It has no centre, or, if it have, it is like that of the sphere of Hermes. It is, divided into many systems, each revolving round its several suns, and often presenting to the rest only the faint glimmer of a milk-and-water way. Our capital city, unlike London or Paris, is not a great central heart from which life and vigor radiate to the extremities, but resembles more an isolated umbilicus... more...


INTRODUCTION I was talking the other day to Alfred Coppard, who has steered more successfully than most English story writers away from the Scylla and Charybdis of the modern artist. He told me that he had been reading several new novels and volumes of short stories by contemporary American writers with that awakened interest in the civilization we are framing which is so noticeable among English writers during the past three years. He asked me... more...

Jonathan Swift was born in 1667, on the 30th of November.  His father was a Jonathan Swift, sixth of the ten sons of the Rev. Thomas Swift, vicar of Goodrich, near Ross, in Herefordshire, who had married Elizabeth Dryden, niece to the poet Dryden’s grandfather.  Jonathan Swift married, at Leicester, Abigail Erick, or Herrick, who was of the family that had given to England Robert Herrick, the poet.  As their eldest brother,... more...

The 18th of the Month Scheval, in the Year of the Hegira, 837. Thou Joy of ev’ry Eye! Thou Torment of every Heart! Thou Intellectual Light! I do not kiss the Dust of thy Feet; because thou seldom art seen out of the Seraglio, and when thou art, thou walkest only on the Carpets of Iran, or on Beds of Roses. I here present you with a Translation of the Work of an ancient Sage, who having the Happiness of living free from all Avocations,... more...

THE DAWN OF A GALA DAY To begin with the old rigmarole of childhood. In a country there was a shire, and in that shire there was a town, and in that town there was a house, and in that house there was a room, and in that room there was a bed, and in that bed there lay a little girl; wide awake and longing to get up, but not daring to do so for fear of the unseen power in the next room—a certain Betty, whose slumbers must not be disturbed... more...

A VENERABLE IMPOSTOR. As I glance across my table, I am somewhat distracted by the spectacle of a venerable head whose crown occasionally appears beyond, at about its level. The apparition of a very small hand—whose fingers are bunchy and have the appearance of being slightly webbed—which is frequently lifted above the table in a vain and impotent attempt to reach the inkstand, always affects me as a novelty at each recurrence of the... more...