A Christmas Carol (full title: A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas) is A Christmas Carol is a Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of one evening.
"A Christmas Carol" has been credited with relaunching the celebration of Christmas as we know it. It relaunched Charles Dickens' literary career, that is for sure! More than that, and more importantly, it is an illustration of one "covetous old sinner" and his opportunity for redemption in the eyes of both God and man. For me the book holds a special meaning for it repeatedly shows me that no matter how I often I may make mistakes, mercy and forgiveness are there for the asking.
It is the end of the 19th century. Like thousands of others, the Rudkus family has emigrated from Lithuania to America in search of a better life. As they settle into the Packingtown neighborhood of Chicago, they find their dreams are unlikely to be realized. In fact, just the opposite is quite likely to occur. Jurgis, the main character of the novel, has brought his father Antanas, his fiancée Ona, her stepmother Teta Elzbieta, Teta Elzbieta's brother Jonas and her six children, and Ona's cousin Marija Berczynskas along. The family, naïve to the ways of Chicago, quickly falls prey to con men and makes a series of bad decisions that lead them into wretched poverty and terrible living conditions. All are forced to find jobs in dismal working conditions for their very survival. Jurgis, broken and discouraged, eventually finds solace in the American Socialist movement.
This novel was written during a period in American history when “Trusts” were formed by multiple corporations to establish monopolies that stifled competition and fixed prices. Unthinkable working conditions and unfair business practices were the norm. The Jungle’s author, Upton Sinclair, was an ardent Socialist of the time. Sinclair was commissioned by the “Appeal To Reason”, a Socialist journal of the period, to write a fictional expose on the working conditions of the immigrant laborers in the meat packing industry in Chicago. Going undercover, Sinclair spent seven weeks inside the meatpacking plants gathering details for his novel.
Inheritors, (1921) by American dramatist Susan Glaspell concerns the legacy of an idealistic farmer who wills his highly coveted midwest farmland to the establishment of a college (Act I.) Forty years later, when his granddaughter stands up for the rights of Hindu nationals to protest at the college her grandfather founded, she jeopardizes funding for the college itself and sets herself against her own uncle, president of the institution's trustees (Acts II and III.) Ultimately, she defies her family's wishes, and as a consequence is bound for prison herself (Act IV.) The play was a stirring defense of free speech and an individual's ability to stand for his or her own ideal during a time of aggressive anti-Communist politics in the US. Inheritors was first performed at Provincetown Playhouse in 1922, the last of Glaspell's plays presented there. It has been revived in New York City by Mirror Repertory in 1983 and Metropolitan Playhouse in 2005.
Wharton's classic story of an aging (by Victorian-era standards) spinster socialite who would rather marry for money than for true love.
Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the early promoters of gender equality long before other crusaders took up the cause. She is perhaps best known for her books, “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” (1792) and “A Vindication of the Rights of Men” (1790). But she also wrote widely on education and used fiction formats to promote her progressive views. This book using the genre of didactic children’s stories, was written the same year as her “Mary: A Fiction” 1788, but was first published anonymously. It relates the re-education two young girls -- Mary 15 and Caroline, 12, by Mrs. Mason who dispenses her advice on topics of character and behavior ranging from the treatment of animals to idleness and innocent amusements, without any real dialog.
In Spanish California, a troubling pattern had developed. The natives were reduced to peasants, the Franciscan friars that ministered to them were derided, and the only people who mattered were the caballeros – who styled themselves as knights of the New World. These men strutted about in elegant clothes, riding magnificent horses, and sporting rapiers at their sides that they were quick to draw if they felt their honor was affronted.
Into this world burst Zorro (Spanish for “fox”). A later-day Robin Hood, he stole from the rich and gave to the poor, but he also took it upon himself to punish men who had notably abused others. Cloaked and masked, appearing suddenly from the dark, he always stayed ahead of the manhunt launched at his heels.
The authorities called him a highwayman.
And when the doings of a corrupt governor began to affect the good people around the pueblo of early Los Angeles, Zorro responded – vigorously. Summary by Mark Smith
W. S. Gilbert
Iolanthe is a fairy banished from fairyland for the crime of marrying a mortal. Her half-fairy, half-human son Strephon is a fairy down to the waist, but his legs are human. He loves Phyllis, but she is courted by the whole House of Lords and the Lord High Chancellor himself! Strephon decides the only way to win his love is to go into Parliament, with the help of his mother and all his fairy aunts. None of them understand politics, but that doesn't matter. He will soon make some changes, starting with throwing the Peerage open to competitive examination! But how will Phyllis react when she catches Strephon with an impossibly young and very beautiful lady who he claims is his fairy mother?
This is a spoken "poetic" version of the libretto written by W. S. Gilbert, where a full cast of voices brings the sparkling wit of Gilbert to the fore, and will enhance understanding and appreciation of this comic light opera.
Wells, H. G.
Ann Veronica was a controversial book detailing the development of a naive school girl into a "New Woman". When it was published, the Spectator described it as a "poisonous book ... capable of poisoning the minds of those who read it." Although it is unlikely to offend modern listeners in this way, this novel addresses many feminist issues that are still relevant today.
Arnim, Elizabeth von
Elizabeth and Her German Garden is a novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, first published in 1898; it was very popular and frequently reprinted during the early years of the 20th century. The story is a year's diary written by the protagonist Elizabeth about her experiences learning gardening and interacting with her friends. It includes commentary on the beauty of nature and on society, but is primarily humorous due to Elizabeth's frequent mistakes and her idiosyncratic outlook on life. She looked down upon the frivolous fashions of her time writing "I believe all needlework and dressmaking is of the devil, designed to keep women from study.' The book is the first in a series about the same character. It is noteworthy for being published without a named author.
Du Bois, W.E.B.
The Quest of the Silver Fleece is a story of romance, race economics and politics set around the 1900s. Here, a traditionally educated boy and an unschooled “swamp girl” each begin a journey toward love, ambition and redemption in the “Old South.”
Wells, H. G.
Arthur Kipps, an orphaned draper’s assistant of humble means, unexpectedly inherits a large sum of money and that is when all his troubles begin. Wanting to marry above his social class, he has to learn how to lead a genteel life, but that is too much for him. You would think that his decision to revert to Ann, his boyhood love, would solve his problems and bring him back to earth and contentment. But even now the consequences of being wealthy are not easy to live with.
A poignant tale about ambition and social class in England in the early 20th century by H.G. Wells, a master of this genre, who drew on features of his own life to provide some of the material
This poem is part of the "Ecclesiastical Sonnets," writen by Wordsworth between 1821 - 22.
One of Dickens' Christmas stories, this was first published as part of the Christmas number of Household Words for 1854. The first chapter relates Dickens' visit to the ancient Richard Watts's Charity at Rochester. The second chapter is the touching story of "Richard Doubledick", which Dickens supposedly told the travellers, and Dickens' journey home on Christmas morning provides the short concluding chapter.
Katharine Berry Judson
Myths and Legends of the Great Plains is a compendium of myths and legends from the Great Plains region of the US. It includes many short stories, and also quite a few songs and poems. Each tale is tagged with what culture it is from -
H. Rider Haggard
The setting for this novel is the Boer War in South Africa in 1880. This novel is interesting and exciting on several levels: there are complicated love entanglements, evil Machiavellian treachery, political reflection having to do with the ethics of the colonialism of the day, for one subject for thought, and war in all its lurid and shocking and murderous detail.
William Drake Westervelt
Hawai'i: land of wonder and beauty and a culture rich in history and mythology. Dr. Westervelt settled in Hawai'i as a young man and collected stories and myths from his adopted home. Here we have a collection dedicated to the largest city, Honolulu.
John Greenleaf Whittier
Volunteers bring you 17 recordings of The Wishing Bridge by John Greenleaf Whittier.
This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for July 7, 2019.
John Greenleaf Whittier was an American Quaker poet and advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. Frequently listed as one of the Fireside Poets, he was influenced by the Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Murder, mystery, mayhem, romance and relationships. Our classic who-done-it takes place in olde Dublin, Ireland in the village of Chapelizod around the Royal Irish Artillery base. A mysterious skull has been uncovered in the church graveyard. Whose skull is it, and how did it get those two crushing head wounds and the large hole in it, and why? I think you will enjoy hearing as well as I loved reading all 100 chapters.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Volunteers bring you 13 recordings of The Age of the Motored Things by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for October 6, 2013.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American author and poet. Her best-known work was Poems of Passion. Her most enduring work was " Solitude", which contains the lines: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone". Her autobiography, The Worlds and I, was published in 1918, a year before her death.
A popular poet rather than a literary poet, in her poems she expresses sentiments of cheer and optimism in plainly written, rhyming verse. Her world view is expressed in the title of her poem "Whatever Is—Is Best".
None of Wilcox's works were included by F. O. Matthiessen in The Oxford Book of American Verse, but Hazel Felleman chose no fewer than fourteen of her poems for Best Loved Poems of the American People, while Martin Gardner selected "Solitude" and "The Winds of Fate" for Best Remembered Poems.
Haggard, H. Rider
Black Heart and White Heart, is a story of the courtship, trials and final union of a pair of Zulu lovers in the time of King Cetywayo.
E. Pauline Johnson
Volunteers bring you 17 recordings of Fire - Flowers by E. Pauline Johnson. This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for August 18, 2013.
Fire-Flowers is taken from the book, Flint and Feather: Collected Verse by E. Pauline Johnson.
A romance set in Prague between a Catholic and a Jew. In this short novel, Trollope moves away from his usual milieu to explore a theme which has universal resonance.
Another Jamesian look at Americans in Paris. What happens when a reporter for an American scandal sheet (The Reverberator) is looking for a good story, though one which might interfere with the marriage plans of a young American woman in the City of Light? This book has been described as "a delicious Parisian bonbon," and its generally good humor stands in contrast with some of the writer's other work.
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
This is the story of Ellen Brewster, pretty little daughter of shoe-mill workers in a Northeastern US town of the late 19th century. After the mill shuts down, her family struggles to make ends meet, but as the years pass, Ellen grows up into a prize pupil and pride of the community. The story also covers the birth of the American labor movement and the relationships between rich and poor.
The town traveller is himself a British salesman, living in a lower class part of London in the Victorian era. The story depicts his interactions with his neighbors, and thus brings us images and vocabulary of personal exchanges, street scenes and practices of that time and class. The story is generally lighthearted and the action fast paced, although the characters are not at all intricate. (Arnold Banner)
So what is the crown of life? Follow the journey of Piers and Irene as they attempt to discover. It is both a coming of age novel and love story at the same time, one which would bring delight to philosophers with many conversations for and against imperialism, romantics who would follow the long courtship in the center of the plot, and sociologists who would follow with interest the vivid way in which George Gissing describes the society in which he lived.
"Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio" (or "Strange Tales of Liaozhai") is a collection of nearly five hundred mostly supernatural tales written by Pu Songling during the early Qing Dynasty. It was written in Classical Chinese rather than Vernacular Chinese. Pu is believed to have completed the majority of the tales sometime in 1679, though he could have added entries as late as 1707. He borrows from a folk tradition of oral storytelling to put to paper a series of captivating, colorful stories, where the boundary between reality and the odd or fantastic is blurred. The cast of characters includes vixen spirits, ghosts, scholars, court officials, Taoist exorcists and beasts. Moral purposes are often inverted between humans and the supposedly degenerate ghosts or spirits, resulting in a satirical edge to some of the stories. Ghosts and spirits are often bold and trustworthy, while humans are on the other hand weak, indecisive and easily manipulated, reflecting the author's own disillusionment with his society.
Montague Glass was a lawyer who eventually abandoned the practice of law to write full time. He wrote a series of stories in the New York Post about a pair of popular characters in the predominantly Jewish garment trade. Many of the plots were derived from trade problems he saw as a lawyer. This is the first book of the collected stories; his Potash and Perlmutter stories were also made into stage plays and even movies that were very popular in their time.
Jean McKishnie Blewett
Volunteers bring you 9 recordings of Christy and The Pipers by Jean McKishnie Blewett.
This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for November 4, 2018.
This poem, set in Scotland, tells of a woman's reaction to the Pipes . ( David Lawrence)
The book which now appears before the public may be of interest in relation to a question which the late agitation of the subject of slavery has raised in many thoughtful minds, viz. — Are the race at present held as slaves capable of freedom, self-government, and progress. The author is a coloured young man, born and reared in the city of Philadelphia. This city, standing as it does on the frontier between free and slave territory, has accumulated naturally a large population of the mixed and African race. Being one of the nearest free cities of any considerable size to the slave territory, it has naturally been a resort of escaping fugitives, or of emancipated slaves. In this city they form a large class — have increased in numbers, wealth, and standing — they constitute a peculiar society of their own, presenting many social peculiarities worthy of interest and attention. The representations of their positions as to wealth and education are reliable, the incidents related are mostly true ones, woven together by a slight web of fiction. From the Preface by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews
The title of this historical fiction could as well have been "A Soldier’s Mother" or “An Unknown Soldier”. There are indeed butterflies, and there is a small boy who grows into a fine, strapping young man who goes to war. But this moving novella centers squarely on the young man's mother, her love for him and her abiding faith.
George Payne Rainsford James
Picture a tranquil English village, with an inn on the green. A lone patron enjoys his wine and teasing the landlord's pretty daughter, when suddenly they are rudely interrupted by a local aristocrat and his two henchmen. These same three reappear the following day to disrupt the May Day celebrations.Suddenly, a group of men in Lincoln green appear to save the day. But who are they? This is a different take on the tale of Robin Hood, placing him in the time of Henry III, rather than the more traditional reign of Richard I. James claims to have history on his side as he relates the story of an intelligent yeoman fighting against the tyrannical Henry and Simon de Montford of Leicester. Meanwhile, we follow the romance of Hugh and Lucy as they try to overcome the prejudices of her father and brother and the evil conniving of her cousin, Richard.
At a certain committee meeting held in the spring of 1916, it was agreed that fourteen leading American authors, known to be extremely generous as well as gifted, should be asked to write a composite novel.
Third, to have the novel finished and published serially during the autumn Campaign of 1917.
The carrying out of these requirements has not been the childish diversion it may have seemed. Splendid team work, however, has made success possible.
Every author represented, every worker on the team, has gratuitously contributed his or her services; and every dollar realized by the serial and book publication of "The Sturdy Oak" will be devoted to the Suffrage Cause. But the novel itself is first of all a very human story of American life today. It neither unduly nor unfairly emphasizes the question of equal suffrage, and it should appeal to all lovers of good fiction.
"I doubt that anyone who reads [Born Again] will ever forget it: it is quite singularly bad, with long undigestible rants against the evils of the world, an impossibly idealistic Utopian prescription for the said evils, and - as you will have gathered - a very silly plot." - oddbooks.co.uk
Alfred Lawson was a veritable Renaissance man: a professional baseball player, a luminary in the field of aviation, an outspoken advocate of vegetarianism and economic reform, and the founder of a pseudo-scientific crackpot philosophy called Lawsonomy. Born Again, his only novel, is a bizarre, delirious, and delightfully silly utopian science-fiction novel that lays the groundwork for the philosophy that would later dominate Lawson's life. It tells the story of John Convert, a wayward, seafaring soul (based loosely on Lawson, minus the conveniently symbolic initials) who is tossed overboard by his crewmen after a physical altercation. Convert awakens on an island inhabited by a race of superhuman giants -- called the Sagemen -- who slumber in their subterranean city. He then meets Arletta, a giantess who takes Convert on a journey that will change his life in ways too fantastically strange to imagine.
A major preoccupation of Hesse in writing Siddhartha was to cure his "sickness with life" (Lebenskrankheit) by immersing himself in Indian philosophy such as that expounded in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. The reason the second half of the book took so long to write was that Hesse "had not experienced that transcendental state of unity to which Siddhartha aspires. In an attempt to do so, Hesse lived as a virtual semi-recluse and became totally immersed in the sacred teachings of both Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. His intention was to attain to that 'completeness' which, in the novel, is the Buddha's badge of distinction." The novel is structured on three of the traditional stages of life for Hindu males (student (brahmacharin), householder (grihastha) and recluse/renunciate (vanaprastha)) as well as the Buddha's four noble truths (Part One) and eight-fold path (Part Two) which form twelve chapters, the number in the novel. Ralph Freedman mentions how Hesse commented in a letter "[my] Siddhartha does not, in the end, learn true wisdom from any teacher, but from a river that roars in a funny way and from a kindly old fool who always smiles and is secretly a saint." In a lecture about Siddhartha, Hesse claimed "Buddha's way to salvation has often been criticized and doubted, because it is thought to be wholly grounded in cognition. True, but it's not just intellectual cognition, not just learning and knowing, but spiritual experience that can be earned only through strict discipline in a selfless life". Freedman also points out how Siddhartha described Hesse's interior dialectic: "All of the contrasting poles of his life were sharply etched: the restless departures and the search for stillness at home; the diversity of experience and the harmony of a unifying spirit; the security of religious dogma and the anxiety of freedom." Eberhard Ostermann has shown how Hesse, while mixing the religious genre of the legend with that of the modern novel, seeks to reconcile with the double-edged effects of modernization such as individualization, pluralism or self-disciplining.
Carol Milford, a college-educated, progressive, ambitious young woman, is self-sufficient working as a librarian in St. Paul, when she meets a country doctor, Will Kennicott, who convinces her to marry him and move to the rural Minnesota town of Gopher Prairie. She arrives with dreams of beautifying the town, of establishing art and culture, of improving lives and promoting child welfare, but whose spirit is gradually and inexorably crushed by small-town attitudes, ignorance and bigotry. First published in 1920, Main Street is Sinclair Lewis' first major novel, and was a phenomenal success at the time. In 1930 Lewis would be the first American to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.
Elizabeth Gaskell's last novel was serialized in Cornhill Magazine from 1864 to 1866, and completed by her editor posthumously. It looks at English life in the 1830s through the experiences of Molly Gibson, the daughter of a widowed doctor growing up in the provincial town of Hollingford. When Mr. Gibson decides to marry again, Molly is forced to contend with a pretentious stepmother, but consoled by a close friendship with Cynthia, her new stepsister. The girls' relations with the local residents, particularly the Squire of Hamley Hall and his family, make for incidents comic, romantic, and tragic, by turns.
Edith Wharton's 1913 novel is a devastating critique of American upward mobility, told through the journey of Undine Spragg from fictional Midwestern Apex City to New York to Paris. Undine is determined to acquire money and position through marriage, even if it means multiple divorces.
These Norwegian tales of elemental mountain, forest and sea spirits, have been handed down by hinds and huntsmen, wood choppers and fisher folk. They are men who led a hard and lonely life amid primitive surroundings. The Norwegian Fairy Book has an appeal for one and all, since it is a book in which the mirror of fairy-tale reflects human yearnings and aspirations, human loves, ambitions and disillusionments, in an imaginatively glamored, yet not distorted form. [from the book's preface]
Washington Irving's Old Christmas tells of an American's travels through England during the Christmas season. Through a chance meeting with an old friend he is able to experience Christmas in a stately manor house. Through his eyes as a houseguest he glimpses the uniquely British customs and celebrations of Christmas as it would have been experienced during the Middle Ages, rather than in the early 19th century.
Robert Hugh Benson
Two wealthy families are neighbors in Elizabethan England; one is staunchly Catholic and the other is devoutly Protestant. The attractive young scions of the families are drawn to each other in friendship and love, but are kept apart by their opposing religions. Life is very difficult for Catholics during those times. They are subject to fines, imprisonment, torture and ignominious death for practicing their faith. On the other hand, for various reasons some Catholics give up their inherited faith, and even betray and persecute their fellow-religionists. As the threads of plot are woven tighter, heroes emerge, sometimes most unexpectedly, as they grapple with theological doubts and conflicts, and undergo extreme suffering and loss. The many characters we meet ring true, whether they are brilliant or superstitious, stalwart or wavering, pious or violent; and it is a great privilege to spend time with such towering historical figures as St. Edmond Campion and Queen Elizabeth herself. Love, history, theology, suspense, and an array of colorful characters are sewn inexorably together in this large and compelling story. (Intro by Carol Pelster)
A collection of folk stories and fairy tales from Southern Nigeria gathered by Elphinstone Dayrell, deputy commissioner of the region when the book was published.
Charles Waddell Chesnutt
In The Marrow of Tradition, Charles W. Chesnutt--using the 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina massacre as a backdrop--probes and exposes the raw nerves and internal machinery of racism in the post-Reconstruction-era South; explores how miscegenation, caste, gender and the idea of white supremacy informed Jim Crow laws; and unflinchingly revisits the most brutal of terror tactics, mob lynchings.
Beatrice E. Clay
"Among the stories of world-wide renown, not the least stirring are those that have gathered about the names of national heroes. The Æneid, the Nibelungenlied, the Chanson de Roland, the Morte D'Arthur,—they are not history, but they have been as National Anthems to the races, and their magic is not yet dead," is how Beatrice Clay unravels the magical journey through the most interesting adventures of King Arthur, his heirs and his companions.
Dunbar, Paul Laurence
The Sport of the Gods is a novel by Paul Laurence Dunbar, first published in 1902, centered around urban black life.
Forced to leave the South, a family falls apart amid the harsh realities of Northern inner city life in this 1902 examination of the forces that extinguish the dreams of African Americans.
The novel Maria Chapdelaine portrays life in rural Quebec at the beginning of the 20th century. Published first in French in 1913, it is a famous example of the genre known as "novels of the land" ("romans du terroir"). These stories sought to reinforce and preserve the cultural, linguistic, and religious heritage of French Canada — a heritage at risk because of French Canada's historical situation as a conquered enclave inside English North America.Maria is a young woman whose family works the farm they have cleared from the harsh Quebec forest — "a land that has no pity." As young men seek her hand in marriage, she must clarify her own identity, struggling not only with the problem of selecting from among her suitors, but also with her relationship to the land and to her heritage.The author Louis Hémon had immigrated from France just two years before writing this novel, and worked on a farm in the Lac Saint-Jean region where the story is set. Hémon died accidentally before seeing his novel in print.
Elizabeth, Princess Bibesco, was an English writer and socialite. The daughter of a British Prime Minister and the wife of a Romanian aristocrat, she drew on her experience in British high society in her work. Her talent is the compression into a few phrases of all the details of a situation, into a few pages the hopes and failures of a lifetime. These (very) short stories explore in a few precise phrases the hopes of newlyweds, the emotions of a widow, and all aspects of life between!
The water was evaporated by the ever-shining sun until there was none left for the thirsty plants. Every year more workers died in misery. A stranger from another world comes and experiences the attempts by two different cultures with different languages to understand what the other wants. Not all educated cultures are cordial or sympathetic to new arrivals. This book explores one potential outcome of the meeting of alien races.
Sara Jeannette Duncan
“The Imperialist,” a novel by Sara Jeannette Duncan, published in 1904, is a portrait of life in small-town Ontario at the beginning of the 20th century.
At that time, English Canada was torn between affectionate loyalty for the “mother country” (Britain), and, on the other side, hard-headed respect for the demands of life in the shadow of the dynamic American economy. (In a by-election, one party pushes for establishing a preferred trading relationship between Canada and Britain: this is the “imperialist” position referred to by the book’s title.)
Main characters find themselves in problematic love stories that unfold against the backdrop of a society that is working out its national identity. These national issues would continue to vex Canada for decades to come. The author is ambivalent about the larger debates, but offers richly specific, subtle, and entertaining observations of manners and morals.
In the decades since publication, “The Imperialist” has been increasingly appreciated as a landmark in Canadian fiction. Critic and scholar Peter Allen has written: “Duncan is an eloquent and important witness to the ambiguity of [Canada’s] developing national identity in the years before World War I.”
NOTE: In this novel, a brief depiction of Native Canadians uses what we today recognize as offensive stereotypes. It is LibriVox policy to record texts as their authors originally intended. *