Showing posts with label UK Literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UK Literature. Show all posts

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

   All woods must fail

O! Wanderers in the shadowed land
Despair not! For though dark they stand,
All woods there be must end at last,
And see the open sun go past:
The setting sun, the rising sun,
The day's end, or the day begun.
For east or west all woods must fail.

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born of British parents in Bloemfontein, South Africa in January of 1892, but moved with his mother, Mabel Tolkien, to England, at the age of  three. Tolkien lost his father when he was very young. In 1904 Tolkien's mother died, and the young John Ronald Reuel moved with his brother Hilary to his aunt's home in England (the West Midlands).

Then they moved to the Birmingham suburb of Edgbaston. Mabel and her children became estranged from both sides of the family in 1900 when she was received into the Roman Catholic Church. From then on, both Ronald and Hilary were brought up in the faith of Pio Nono, and remained devout Catholics throughout their lives. The parish priest who visited the family regularly was the half-Spanish half-Welsh Father Francis Morgan.  In 1904 Mabel Tolkien was diagnosed as having diabetes, incurable at that time. She died on 15 October of that year leaving the two orphaned boys effectively destitute. At this point Father Francis took over, and made sure of the boys' material as well as spiritual welfare, although in the short term they were boarded with an unsympathetic aunt-by-marriage, Beatrice Suffield, and then with a Mrs Faulkner.

In 1908 Tolkien attended Oxford. In 1915 he was awarded First Class Honours degree in English Language and Literature. Next year Tolkien married Edith Bratt, whom he had met in 1908. During WW I Tolkien served in the army and saw action on the Somme. He returned home suffering from shell shock, and while convalescing he started to study early forms of language and work on Silmarillion (published 1977). For the rest of his life, Tolkien expanded the mythology of his fantasy worlds. 

In 1918 Tolkien joined the staff of New English Dictionary and in 1919 he became a freelance tutor in Oxford. Tolkien then worked as a teacher and professor at the University of Leeds. In 1925 he became Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. He was appointed Merton Professor of English at Oxford in 1945, retiring in 1959. His scholarly works included studies on Chaucher (1934) and an edition of Beowulf (1937). He was also interested in the Finnish national epos Kalevala, from which he found ideas for his imaginary language Quenya and which influenced several of his stories. Most of the inhabitants of Tolkien's imaginary Middle-Earth are derived from English folklore and mythology, or from an idealized Anglo-Saxon past. 

With C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and other friends, Tolkien formed an informal literary group called The Inklings, which took shape in the 1930s. They all had an interest in storytelling and their Tuesday lunchtime sessions in the Bird and Baby public house became  a well known part of Oxford social life. At their meetings the Inklings read aloud drafts of fiction and other work. Williams died in 1945 and the meetings faded out in 1949. - Other members of the club included Christopher Tolkien, JRR's son. 

In the mid-1960s American paperback editions of The Lord of the Rings started to gain cult fame. The Tolkiens moved in 1968 to Poole near Bournemouth but after the death of his wife in 1971, Tolkien returned to Oxford. In 1972 he received CBE from the Queen. Tolkien died on September 2, 1973. 

The Hobbit was published when the author was 45 years old (1937). He developed further the history of Middle-Earth in The Lord of the Rings. It was published when Tolkien was over 60. His motivation for creating a new mythical world arose from his fascination in myths and folklore. Another motivation was his rejection of modern England. He rarely watched a film, busied himself with the early English dialects of the West Midlands, and enjoyed the company of other professors. 

Tolkien's epic world is populated by elves, dwarves, magicians, and evil monsters. He saw himself as a Hobbit: "I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food...." Tolkien made up languages for the races that inhabit his Middle-earth. for the background of his stories he created a complex history, geography, and society. But he also wished, that the stories leave scope for other minds to develop his ideas further. Since the publication of The Lord of the Rings, a whole industry of fantasy literature, computer games, and other by-products, have been created by a worldwide community of Tolkien's fans to continue his work.

Published works: 
A Middle English Vocabulary, 1922 
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 1925 
Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, 1936 
Songs for the Philologist, 1936 (collection, with E.V. Gordon and others) 
The Hobbit 1937 
Farmer Gill of Ham, 1949 
The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son, 1954 (radio play) 
The Fellowship of the Ring 1954
The Two Towers(1954) 
The Adventures of Tom Bombardil and Other Verses from the Red Book, 1962 
Ancrene Wisse, 1962 (ed.) 
Tree and Leaf, 1964 
The Tolkien Reader, 1966 
The Road Goes Ever On, 1967 
Smith of Wootton Major, 1967 
Bilbo's Last Song, 1974 
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 1975 (translator, ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
Tree and Leaf, Smith of Wootton Major, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son, 1975 
The Father Christmas Letters, 1976 
Bilbo's Last Song, 1977 
Silmarillion, 1977  
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1979 
Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, 1980 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
Poems and Stories, 1980 
The Letters of J.R.R. Tokien: A Selection, 1981 
The Old English Exodus, 1981 (translator) 
Mr Bliss, 1982 
Finn and Hengest, 1983 
The History of Middle-Earth, 1983 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien - publication of posthumous works continues) 
The Book of Lost Tales 1-2, 1983-84 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
The Monster and the Critics and Other Essays, 1984 
Lays of Beleriand, 1985 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
The Shaping of Middle-Earth, 1986 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
The Lost Road and Other Writings, 1987 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
The Return of the Shadow, 1988 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
The Treason of Isengard, 1989 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
The War of the Ring, 1990 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
Sauron Defeated, 1991 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
Morgoth's Ring: The Later Silmarillion Part 1, 1993 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien) 
The War of the Jewels: The Later Silmarillion Part 2, 1994 (ed. by Christopher Tolkien)\

William Blake

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British poet, painter, visionary mystic, and engraver, who illustrated and printed his own books. Blake proclaimed the supremacy of the imagination over the rationalism and materialism of the 18th-century. He joined for a time the Swedenborgian Church of the New Jerusalem in London and considered Newtonian science to be superstitious nonsense. Mocking criticism and misunderstanding shadowed Blake's career as a writer and artist and it was left to later generations to recognize his importance.

To see a world in a grain of sand

And heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

(from 'Auguries of Innocence')
William Blake was born in Soho, London, where he spent most of his life. The house of his parents, on the corner of Broad Street and Marshall Street, was erected upon an old burial ground. His father, James Blake, was a successful London hosier, who was attracted by the doctrines of Emmanuel Swedenborg and deeply opposed to the Court. Blake was first educated at home, chiefly by his mother, Catherine Wright Armitage; her first husband, also a hosier, had died in 1751. When she married James in 1752, she was thirty. Blake's first biographer, Frederick Tatham, wrote that Blake "depised restraints & rules, so much that his Father dare not send him to School." From his early years, Blake had experienced visions of angels and ghostly monks, he saw and conversed with the angel Gabriel, the Virgin Mary, and various historical figures. Blake's parents encouraged him to collect prints of the Italian masters, and his father gave him engravings and plaster casts. Gothic art and architecture influenced him, and the work of Adam Ghisi and Albert Dürer.
In 1767 Blake was sent to Henry Pars' drawing school, at No. 101 the Strand. At the age of 14, he was apprenticed for seven years to the engraver James Basire, working for him twelve hours a day, six days a week. Only on Sundays Blake returned to his family home. After studies at the Royal Academy School, where he did not have much respect for Sir Joshua Reynolds, the president of the Academy, Blake started to produce watercolors and engrave illustrations for magazines. In 1783 he married Catherine Boucher, the daughter of a market gardener; the marriage was childless – none of Blake's siblings had children. Blake taught Catherine to draw and paint and how to use a printing press. She assisted him devoutly. Just before his death Blake drew a portrait of her, saying, "you have ever been an angel to me".
Blake's important cultural and social contacts included Henry Fuseli, who was a Member of the Royal Academy, Reverend A.S. Mathew and his wife, John Flaxman (1755-1826), a sculptor and draftsman, Tom Paine, William Godwin, and Mrs Elizabeth Montagu (1720-1800), married to the wealthy grandson of the earl of Sandwich. Blake never met the Swedish philosopher and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, who died in London in 1772, but he read widely Swedenborg's writings in his search for ancient truths, before turning to the writings of Paracelsus and Jacob Boehme.
His early poems Blake wrote at the age of 12. However, being early apprenticed to a manual occupation, journalistic-social career was not open to him. His first book of poems, POETICAL SKETCHES, appeared in 1783 and was followed by SONGS OF INNOCENCE (1789), and SONGS OF EXPERIENCE (1794). Each copy of Songs of Innocence was unique and the poems were never in the same order. The book was not a commercial or critical success. Blake's most famous poem, 'The Tyger', was part of his Songs of Experience. Typical for Blake's poems were long, flowing lines and violent energy, combined with aphoristic clarity and moments of lyric tenderness. Blake was not blinded by conventions, but approached his subjects sincerely with a mind unclouded by current opinions. On the other hand this made him also an outsider. He approved of free love, and sympathized with the actions of the French revolutionaries but the Reign of Terror sickened him. In 1790 Blake engraved THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL, his principal prose work, in which he expressed his revolt against the established values of his time: "Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion." Radically Blake sided with the Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost and attacked the conventional religious views in a series of paradoxical aphorisms. But the poet's life in the realms of images did not please his wife who once remarked: "I have very little of Mr. Blake's company. He is always in Paradise." Some of Blake's contemporaries called him a harmless lunatic.
Henry Fuseli, who was sixteen years Blake's senior, recognized also a debt to him, and Fuseli was the only contemporary artist, whose 'superiority' Blake seems to have acknowledged. Blake's writings did not interest Fuseli, but when he required a good draughtsman to prepare a frontispiece to his translation of Lavater's Aphorisms on Man, which Joseph Johnson was about to publish, he asked Blake to do the engraving. However, Blake was not an easy person to get along with, especially in a subordinate role, and although they worked together on a number of designs, by 1803 their paths had separated. Fuseli is said to have admitted that "Blake is d—good to steal from."
In 1774 Blake opened with his wife and younger brother Robert a print shop at 27 Broad Street, but the venture failed after the death of Robert in 1787, probably of consumption. Immediately upon his death Blake slept for three days and nights. The Blakes moved south of the Thames to Lambeth in 1790, where they had more room. During this time Blake began to work on his 'prophetic books', where he recorded his lifelong concern with the struggle of the soul to free its natural energies from reason and organized religion. Although Blake first accepted Swedenborg's ideas, he eventually rejected him. His mythical and visionary world he recorded in THE VISIONS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF ALBION (1793), in which the motto is, "The Eye sees more than the Heart knows", AMERICA: A PROPHECY (1793), about the rebellion of American colonies and the British response, THE BOOK OF URIZEN (1794), an introduction to his cosmogony, THE SONG OF LOS (1795), and EUROPE (1794), which contains one of his most extraordinary images, God measuring the abyss below him with a pair of compasses. Blake hated the effects of the Industrial Revolution in England and looked forward to the establishment of a New Jerusalem "in England's green and pleasant land." Between 1804 and 1818 he produced an edition of his own poem JERUSALEM with 100 engravings.
"Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire."

(from 'Jerusalem' in Milton, 1804-1808)
In 1800 Blake was taken up by the wealthy William Hayley, poet and patron of poets, who had a house in Felpham, Sussex, and whose writings he began to illustrate, executing also other commissions. The Blakes rented a cottage at Felpham, staying there for three years. In a letter to a friend he wrote: "Meat is cheaper than in London, but the sweet air&the voices of winds, trees&birds, &the odours of the happy ground, makes it a dwelling for immortals."
In this period, his attention was again drawn to Milton, perhaps after discussions with Hayley. MILTON: A POEM IN TWO BOOKS, TO JUSTIFY THE WAYS OF GOD TO MEN was finished and engraved between 1803 and 1808. After exchanging some heated words in argument with Private John Scofield, Blake was charged in 1803 at Chichester with high treason for having uttered such expressions as "D-n the King, d-n all his subjects..." Blake was acquitted, and as the Sussex Advertiser later reported, the verdict "so gratified the auditory that the court was, in defiance of all decency, thrown into an uproar by their noisy exultations". Blake's exhibition in 1809 at the shop once owned by his brother was commercially unsuccessful. However, economic problems did not diminish his creativity, but he continued to produce energetically poems, aphorisms, and engravings. "The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction," he wrote. While working on his own version of the Canterbury Pilgrims, Blake produced THE FOUR ZOAS, first called VALA. The long epic poems was rediscovered in 1889, and published in The Writings of William Blake (1893). Many of its drawings are erotic; the central motif is the erect penis.
In his old age, Blake enjoyed the admiration of a group of young artist, known as 'The Ancients'. One of them called him "divine Blake", who "had seen God, sir, and had talked with angels". Moreover, he was many times helped by John Linnell, an younger artist. Blake's last years were passed in obscurity, quarreling even with some of the circle of friends who supported him. Among Blake's later works are drawings and engravings for Dante's Divine Comedy and the 21 illustrations to the book of Job, which was completed when he was almost 70 years old. Blake never managed to get out of poverty, in large part due to his inability to compete with fast engravers and his expensive invention that enabled him to design illustrations and print words at the same time.
Independent through his life, Blake left no debts at his death on August 12, 1827. He was buried in a common grave at the Dissenter's burial ground in Bunhill Fields, where his parents lie. Over the years, four bodies were placed above him. Catherine's final resting place was also at Bunhill Fields, but her grave was not near her husband. Wordsworth's verdict after Blake's death reflected many opinions of the time: "There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott." Blake's influence grew through Pre-Raphealites and W.B. Yeats especially in Britain. His interest in legend was revived with the Romantics' rediscovery of the past, especially the Gothic and medieval. In the 1960s Blake's work was acclaimed by the Underground movement. The American rock group The Doors took its name from Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception, which refers to a line in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." T.S. Eliot wrote in his essay on Blake that "the concentration resulting from a framework of mythology and theology and philosophy is one of the reasons why Dante is a classic and Blake only a poet of genius." (from Selected Essays, 1960)

The Tyger

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine -

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

Holy Thursday                                                                                
'Twas on a holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two and two in red and blue and green:
Grey-headed beadles walked before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul's they like Thames waters flow.

O what a multitude they seemed, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit, with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among:
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor.
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

Infant Sorrow
My mother groaned, my father wept;
Into the dangerous world I leapt,
Helpless, naked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

Struggling in my father's hands,
Striving against my swaddling bands,
Bound and weary, I thought best
To sulk upon my mother's breast.


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    •       LIFE IS BUT A DREAM
         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?



  • Born on 27 January 1832 at Daresbury, Cheshire.
  • Eldest son and third child of the Rev. Charles Dodgson and his wife, Frances Jane née Lutwidge.
  • Seven sisters (Frances, Elizabeth, Caroline, Mary, Margaret, Louisa, and Henrietta) and three brothers (Skeffington, Wilfred, and Edwin).
  • Educated at home by his parents – showed ability in mathematics.
  • Family moved to Croft–on–Tees, Yorkshire in 1843 when his father became rector there.
  • Went to school at Richmond, Yorkshire, when he was 12 years old.
  • Transferred to Rugby School in 1846 and studied there for four years.
  • Gained a place at Oxford University in 1850.
  • Took up his place in January 1851 as an undergraduate at Christ Church.
  • His mother died suddenly within a few days of his arrival at Christ Church.
  • Graduated with a BA degree in 1854; 1st class in Mathematics, 3rd in Classics.
  • Became a tutor in mathematics at Christ Church; appointed Sub–Librarian in 1855.
  • Appointed Mathematical Lecturer at Christ Church in 1855, but takes up the post at the beginning on 1856.
  • Took the pen–name "Lewis Carroll" (based on a Latinate form of his first names) in February 1856.
  • Became a keen amateur photographer in 1856.
  • Ordained deacon in the Church of England in December 1861.
  • The story of Alice's Adventures first told on a river trip with Alice Liddell and her sisters on 4 July 1862.
  • The manuscript of Alice's Adventures given to Alice Liddell as a Christmas gift in 1864.
  • The book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, first published in 1865.
  • Took a trip across Europe to Russia in 1867; his only trip abroad.
  • His father died in 1868; he assumed the role of "head of the family" as the eldest son.
  • Leased a home at Guildford for his brothers and sisters.
  • Published his first book of poems, Phantasmagoria, in 1869.
  • Through the Looking–Glass published in 1871.
  • Continued to write mathematical works for the undergraduates at Oxford University.
  • Published an epic nonsense poem, The Hunting of the Snark, in 1876.
  • Rented accommodation at Eastbourne for the summer holidays in 1877, and continued this practice for the rest of his life.
  • Invented many word games and mathematical puzzles.
  • Published the drama, Euclid and His Modern Rivals, in 1879, but it was never performed as a play in his lifetime.
  • He gave up his photographic hobby in July 1880 and took no more photographs.
  • Resigned the Mathematical Lectureship at Christ Church in 1881, but remained in residence as a senior member of the college.
  • Elected Curator of the Common Room in 1882 by his colleagues.
  • Further poetry published under the title Rhyme? and Reason? in 1883.
  • A series of mathematical problems woven around a story published at A Tangled Tale in 1885.
  • The original manuscript of Alice's Adventures published in facsimile in 1886, all proceeds going to hospitals and children's homes.
  • The Game of Logic published in 1887 to support his teaching of the subject in schools and colleges.
  • The first part of a new story book, Sylvie and Bruno, published in 1889.
  • A special version of Alice for very young children, called The Nursery "Alice", was written in 1889.
  • The second part of the new story, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, published in 1893.
  • His major work on logic, Symbolic Logic, Part 1: Elementary, was published in 1896; two further volumes were planned but not published in his lifetime.
  • He died at Guildford on 14 January 1898 and is buried there.
  • The copyright of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ended in 1907 and many editions have been published since them, the book never going out of print. It has also been translated into many different languages.

Virginia Woolf

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Virginia Woolf by Gisele Freund, 1939

Woolf’s Letter to a Young Poet

Virginia Woolf, who had no children of her own, famously directed much of her maternal energy to the offspring of Vanessa Bell, her sole full sister and long-standing dust-jacket designer. Vanessa’s oldest son Julian was Woolf’s particular favorite. He was named for Virginia’s brother Julian Thoby Stephen, who died of typhoid at the age of twenty-six on a trip to Greece. Thoby, as he was called, inspired Woolf to write Jacob’s Room, in which she rendered the protagonist chiefly through others’ memories; the pain of his loss was such that, even in fiction, she strained against summoning him by direct account.
When the younger Julian decided to pursue poetry, his aunt Virginia offered the blend of succor and static seen in this previously unpublished letter. Composed in Woolf’s signature purple ink, and dated simply “Thursday,” the letter reads in full: “Thursday. My dear Julian. I like the poem very much. It still wants CURRENCY I think. When did you write it? It shall be the cornerstone of my new library at Rodmell. But this is to say—please be here 7:30 sharp tomorrow (Friday) as we want you to drive Rachel & us to a restaurant.” 
The letter likely dates to November 1929. Woolf refers in her diary on November 30 to a dinner party at the Red Lion with “Julian & Rachel.” (Rachel was Rachel MacCarthy, daughter of writer Molly and editor Desmond MacCarthy.) Rodmell is the location of the Woolfs’ cottage, Monk’s House, which the couple inhabited from 1919 until Virginia’s death in 1941. The poem she refers to is probably Julian’s “Chaffinches,” published in the Songs for Sixpence series of a small Cambridge publisher, a copy of which is indeed in the Woolfs’ library at Washington State University in Pullman.
Woolf’s blunt criticism of Julian’s poem, her dig that it might be mere youthful experiment, the leavening (yet peremptory) dollop of praise, and the call to chores all typify the complexity of their relationship. The following year, after Julian’s first book of poems came out, Virginia declared, “He is no poet.” She once described her relationship to him as “half sister, half mother, and half (but arithmetic denies this) the mocking stirring contemporary friend.” Though she frequently expressed criticism of his writing, she ultimately published one of his books at the Hogarth Press.
But Julian’s career would be short-lived. Like his namesake Thoby, he did not see his thirtieth birthday. In his late twenties he took up the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War, enlisting as an ambulance driver, and was killed at the Battle of Brunete in 1937. Virginia committed suicide in 1941; this year marks the seventieth anniversary of her death.
Letter reproduced by permission of the Society of Authors, as the literary representative of the Estate. The letter is part of a Virginia Woolf collection currently held by Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc.
Sarah Funke Butler is a literary archivist and agent at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller. In 2009 she cocurated the exhibition This Perpetual Fight: Love and Loss in Virginia Woolf’s Intimate Circleat the Grolier Club in New York.