Thursday, January 29, 2009

Charles Dickens

By Arielle Potter, 11/14/07

Charles Dickens, one of the best-known and best-loved British authors, at first supported his family while his father was in debtor’s prison by working in a shoe polish factory. He was only ten years old at the time. He did not work at the factory long and attended school off and on until he was fourteen. When he was nineteen he became a reporter in Parliament which gave him some experience in writing. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was published when he was twenty-five. The book had a slow beginning but soon became very popular. This first triumph was followed by others: A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol and many, many more. These books, still well known today, were immensely popular. David Copperfield was semi-autobiographical, describing Dickens’s childhood struggles of which he had not been able to speak even to his wife.
Dickens’s private life was also remarkable. He would walk for miles through London in his spare time and was said to know the city better than anyone else. Dickens died of a stroke in 1870, but he is still remembered today for his masterful portrayal of human nature and his satires of English society. He supported many charities in his lifetime, but the greatest good he did was by his written works which urged the reforms he wished to see.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Old Mortality: Sir Walter Scott

By Arielle Potter, ?/07

Old Mortality is a tale of the religious struggles in Scotland in the 1600s. Young Henry Morton, a Presbyterian, is caught between the two factions. He cannot be false to his faith and join the bloodthirsty Catholics, and he cannot countenance the violent extremism of his own sect. Soon Henry is counted a rebel by one side and a traitor by the other! Facing capture, privations, torture, exile, cruel adversaries and radical reformers, Henry remains faithful to the Bible’s laws of mercy and forgiveness. The novel contains much insight into the violent agitations leading up to, and the bloody retribution following the Battle of Bothwell Brig.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Geoffrey Chaucer

Rachel Potter, 11/14/07

Chaucer was born in 1340 in England. It has often been said he was the greatest author of the Middle Ages. He was supposed to be the first major poet to write in Middle English. His most famous piece is "Canterbury Tales", a story of a group of pilgrims each telling his own story. One character was based on himself. The poem, "Troilus and Criseyde", is also well known. Not only a poet, Chaucer was a diplomat and even rose to Parliament in 1386. He was a friend of the nobleman John Gaunt and wrote about his wife after she died, "The Book of the Duchess". Chaucer died in 1400 at 60 years of age, no longer rich or in Parliament, but happy, for he was among the common people--the people he had written for.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Red Badge of Courage: Stephen Crane

By Samuel Potter: 10/27/07

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is the story of a young Federal soldier named Henry. The lad is excited and impatient to join in the fray but wonders how he will behave in the heat of battle. When Henry’s company finally engages the enemy he at first fights courageously, but when he realizes that the worst of the battle is yet to come, he ingloriously skedaddles. Afterwards, Henry feels guilty about his cowardice and is fearful of what his comrades might think of him when they discover that he has been a coward. As he is retreating from the battle Henry falls in with a group of wounded soldiers. Henry envies these men because their wounds are signs of the courage that he covets: the red badge of courage. “The youth” has another chance to redeem himself, a chance which will ultimately show his true colours as a coward or a hero.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oliver Twist: Charles Dickens

By Samuel Potter, ?/07

This is the story of a young pauper by the name of Oliver Twist. Oliver’s mother dies when he is an infant and he is brought up in the poor house. One day the ill-treated Oliver decides to run away to London in search of a better life. While in London he falls in with a desperate gang of criminals who are bent on poisoning his heart with hatred. Also, Oliver’s true identity remains a mystery to which only one man knows the secret. Happiness is brought to the heart of young Oliver though, when he becomes friends with some very kind people. But will his happiness last? Will the criminals succeed in with their wicked devices? Will the secret of Oliver’s identity be brought to light?
This novel is probably one of Dickens’s most famous and most popular. Filled with mystery, suspense, horror, and happiness, it exposes the villainy, vice, and subterfuge which was carried on among London’s criminal population in the mid-19th century.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

John Keats

By Jewel Potter, 10/17/07

John Keats was born in London in 1795. He attended Clarke School in Enfield, England. Later he studied medicine but never practiced, as he wanted to be a poet. His first work was Poems in 1817; in 1818 he published "Endymion", a mythological poem. Some criticised "Endymion" because they were angry with Leigh Hunt who was also a writer and John Keats’s friend. Because of their criticisms Keats could not make much money from his poems. His last and best volume was published in 1820. He died of tuberculosis in 1821.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Redguantlet: Sir Walter Scott

By Arielle Potter, 10/16/07

Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott is a book about two young men who are good friends and narrate events chiefly through letters to each other. Darsie Latimer decides to gallivant around in the north of England, mainly because he has been told not to, and gets himself into trouble. He meets a mysterious stranger who seems to take a special interest in him, and when Darsie attempts to aid a kindly Quaker he is kidnapped by the desperado. His friend Alan Fairford, who is a sober young lawyer, is warned of his friend’s danger by a fair unknown, but is unable to go to his friend because of a court case. When he hears of Darsie’s capture however, he rushes off at once to save him. After a fatiguing journey with many hardships and with some help from the Quaker, Joshua Geddes, and some other kindly people, Alan locates his friend but discovers that his fate is entangled in a dark and dangerous plot to put Charles Edward Stuart on the throne of England. Who is the mysterious stranger and will he ever release Darsie Latimer? And who will get to marry the pretty girl whom Darsie and Alan have both become enamoured with? Find out in this exciting novel!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Little Women: Louisa May Alcott

By Jewel Potter, 10/10/07

Little Women is about four sisters named Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy who have the most exciting times together. They start several clubs and help with the war effort. While their father is ministering to the soldiers he becomes ill and their mother must go look after him. The girls are left in the charge of Hannah their cook. Then Beth comes down with scarlet fever, and Amy is sent to their aunt’s until Beth gets better. When finally their mother comes back Beth gets better and soon their father comes home and they are all together again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stephen Crane

By Samuel Potter, 10/10/07

Stephen Crane, American novelist, short-story writer and poet, was born in 1871 in Newark, New Jersey. As a young man, Crane must have caused his Christian parents great sorrow, for he rebelled against his family’s Christian principles. Crane’s philosophy was that social, economic, and environmental forces were the causes of man’s sinful behaviour. Nevertheless, Crane was one of the greats of American Literature. He was exceptionally realistic in his writings. Crane’s first novel, entitled Maggie: a Girl of the Streets, depicted the realities of life in the gutters of New York City and revealed Crane’s philosophy that it is man’s circumstances that make him sinful. This book was a failure. His next novel however, The Red Badge of Courage, was a great success. This was perhaps his best and most famous work and realistically portrayed the feelings and emotions of brave men in battle. Crane’s ability to accurately describe war situations won him worldwide recognition, and he was hired to work as a war correspondent in the Greek-Turkish and Spanish-American wars. It was during the Spanish-American War that he wrote his famous short story, The Open Boat. Tragically, Crane died of tuberculosis in 1900 when he was only 28.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gilbert and Sullivan

By Jewel Potter, 10/03/07

Gilbert and Sullivan were two Englishmen who together wrote some of Great Britain’s most popular operettas. Gilbert was born in London in 1836. He was a noted journalist, humorist, and playwright. Sullivan was born in London in 1842. He was a famous composer and wrote the music for the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers". For many years they worked independently of each other until a friend convinced them to combine their skills. Their first work together was Thespis, however it did not gain as much fame as they hoped. The H.M.S. Pinafore was their first really popular work. Some other well-known operettas which they wrote are The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. They were both knighted by Queen Victoria. Sullivan died in 1900 at the age of 58. Gilbert died 11 years later at the age of 75. Their works are still played today in many theatres.