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PREFACE: ON FLUCTUATIONS OF TASTE When Voltaire sat down to write a book on Epic Poetry, he dedicated his first chapter to "Differences of Taste in Nations." A critic of to-day might well find it necessary, on the threshold of a general inquiry, to expatiate on "Differences of Taste in Generations." Changes of standard in the arts are always taking place, but it is only with advancing... more...

CHAPTER I. LOVE AT A SCHOOL A procession of schoolboys having to meet a procession of schoolgirls on the Sunday's dead march, called a walk, round the park, could hardly go by without dropping to a hum in its chatter, and the shot of incurious half-eyes the petticoated creatures—all so much of a swarm unless you stare at them like lanterns. The boys cast glance because it relieved their... more...

CHAPTER I On the station platform at Dudley Port, in the dusk of a February afternoon, half-a-dozen people waited for the train to Birmingham. A south-west wind had loaded the air with moisture, which dripped at moments, thinly and sluggishly, from a featureless sky. The lamps, just lighted, cast upon wet wood and metal a pale yellow shimmer; voices sounded with peculiar clearness; so did the rumble of... more...

CHAPTER I.—An Adventure and an Escape. Spirit of George Prince Regent James, Esq., forgive me this commencement! * * I mean no offence whatsoever to this distinguished andmultitudinous writer; but the commencement of this novel reallyresembled that of so many of his that I was anxious to avoid thecharge of imitating him. It was one evening at the close of a September month and a September day that... more...

CHAPTER I AN ISLAND LANDFALL For nearly ten years my health had been declining; and for some while before I set forth upon my voyage, I believed I was come to the afterpiece of life, and had only the nurse and undertaker to expect. It was suggested that I should try the South Seas; and I was not unwilling to visit like a ghost, and be carried like a bale, among scenes that had attracted me in youth and... more...

THE IDES OF MARCH It was half-past twelve when I returned to the Albany as a last desperate resort. The scene of my disaster was much as I had left it. The baccarat-counters still strewed the table, with the empty glasses and the loaded ash-trays. A window had been opened to let the smoke out, and was letting in the fog instead. Raffles himself had merely discarded his dining jacket for one of his... more...

CHAPTER I. THE CHAMPION OF HIS COUNTRY When young Nevil Beauchamp was throwing off his midshipman's jacket for a holiday in the garb of peace, we had across Channel a host of dreadful military officers flashing swords at us for some critical observations of ours upon their sovereign, threatening Afric's fires and savagery. The case occurred in old days now and again, sometimes, upon imagined... more...

HOW WILL NOGGIN WAS FOOLED, AND BERRY RODE FORTH AGAINST HIS WILL. "Who's going to church?" said Daphne, consulting her wrist-watch. There was a profound silence. My sister turned to Jill. "Are you coming?" she said. "Berry and I are." "I beg your pardon," said her husband. "Of course you're coming," said Daphne. "Not in these trousers. This is the... more...

CHAPTER I: ADVENTURES AMONG BOOKS I In an age of reminiscences, is there room for the confessions of a veteran, who remembers a great deal about books and very little about people?  I have often wondered that a Biographia Literaria has so seldom been attempted—a biography or autobiography of a man in his relations with other minds.  Coleridge, to be sure, gave this name to a work of his, but he... more...

CHAPTER I IN WHICH JOHN SOWS THE WIND John Varey Nicholson was stupid; yet stupider men than he are now sprawling in Parliament, and lauding themselves as the authors of their own distinction. He was of a fat habit, even from boyhood, and inclined to a cheerful and cursory reading of the face of life; and possibly this attitude of mind was the original cause of his misfortunes. Beyond this hint... more...