Do any of our actions make any difference to anything? What makes us happy? What makes us laugh? What about the power of memory?
This week’s quotations look at all these issues. The scandalous Alan Clark, whose remarkable and disturbing diaries I have reviewed, clearly thought that sexual activity was keeping him young. Evelyn Waugh, in his elegiac Brideshead Revisited, blows us away with his reminiscences. P G Wodehouse, on whom I blog frequently, is the one of the best comic writers on earth. Lawrence Durrell, meanwhile, is sceptical that any of our lives achieve anything. I disagree!
Personally, I am a strong believer that our lives can make a difference
Why am I still, in the main, so zestful?
I know, but I don’t like to say
In case the gods take it away.
Alan Clark, The Diaries (more…)
Trollope is, perhaps, my favourite novelist (although PG Wodehouse is up there).
I have described before 11 life-changing reasons you should read Trollope, including his views on religion, sexual politics, and the media (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).
But not everyone is convinced.
So I thought I would give an example of the brilliance of Trollope by quoting an entire chapter from his 1869 novel He Knew He Was Right.
He Knew He Was Right deals with the breakdown of the marriage between Louis Trevelyan, a wealthy young Englishman, and his wife Emily. As a description of how jealousy and stubbornness can destroy a relationship, it could have been written yesterday.
My Trollope Society edition of “He Knew He Was Right” has 823 pages
Emily’s father is Sir Marmaduke Rowley, Governor of the fictional Mandarin Islands, a distant British colony. An old friend, Colonel Osborne, who is also Emily’s godfather, arranges for Sir Marmaduke to be summoned back to London, ostensibly to appear before a parliamentary committee, but in fact in order that he can return to London at the taxpayer’s expense to see Emily. Sir Marmaduke acquiesces in this subterfuge; yet is dismayed when he is summoned before the committee of Members of Parliament, which is chaired by one Major Magruder: “a certain ancient pundit of the constitution, who had been for many years a member, and who had been known as a stern critic of our colonial modes of government”.
I have reproduced here Chapter 68 of He Knew He Was Right, giving an account of Sir Marmaduke’s appearance before the Major Magruder’s committee. I often counsel people who want to understand politics, and British parliamentary procedure, to read Trollope. Chapter 68 (out of 99 in the book) illustrates why. The procedures described; the emotions of the elderly Sir Marmaduke as he is questioned; the chairmanship and motivation of Major Magruder; and the outcome of the hearing, including the way Sir Marmaduke is treated compared with the incomparably more competent “Governor from one of the greater colonies” who has also been questioned by the committee, could describe the proceedings of a British parliamentary committee in 2019.
Read, and relish. I hope you enjoy it.
Major Magruder’s Committee
Sir Marmaduke could not go out to Willesden on the morning after Lady Rowley’s return from River’s Cottage, because on that day he was summoned to attend at twelve o’clock before a Committee of the House of Commons, to give his evidence and, the fruit of his experience as to the government of British colonies generally; and as he went down to the House in a cab from Manchester Street he thoroughly wished that his friend Colonel Osborne had not been so efficacious in bringing him home. The task before him was one which he thoroughly disliked, and of which he was afraid. (more…)
My recent blog Reading Wodehouse: a plea for help recorded that I had finished the main body of Jeeves and Wooster stories. I sought advice on what other Wodehouse was out there, and what I should read next. I received a host of helpful comments (at the link: feel free to take a look). Thanks, everyone.
In the light of this advice I have started reading the Folio Society “Plums of Wodehouse” collection, which opens with the magnificent short story Uncle Fred Flits By. I have also read Summer Lightning, the first of six novels set at the inimitable Blandings Castle, in Shropshire.
My Folio Society edition of “Summer Lightning”
To read these works is like discovering a delicious new wine from a much-trusted region: a whole new fountain of pleasure which recalls the original, sublime experience. I look forward to getting to know Uncle Fred, and Blandings, better.
What struck me about Summer Lightning, (more…)
An excellent guide to reading the Jeeves and Wooster stories of P G Wodehouse. I should point out that, as noted in my post “How to read P G Wodehouse: a new prescription, which reviews “Ring for Jeeves”, although Bertie Wooster does not appear in the book, his doppelgänger, Bill Rowcester, does. There is of course no city called Rowcester but there is a city called Worcester – pronounced Wooster.
This piece follows my reading suggestions for new Wodehouse readers with a reading list for the Jeeves and Wooster stories.
Jeeves and Wooster Reading List
- The Inimitable Jeeves (1923)*
- Carry On, Jeeves (1925)*
- Very Good Jeeves (1930)*
- Right Ho, Jeeves (1934; US title Brinkley Manor)
- The Code of the Woosters (1938)
- Joy in the Morning (1946)
- The Mating Season(1949)
- Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1955; US title Bertie Wooster Sees it Through)
- Jeeves in the Offing (1960; US title How Right You Are, Jeeves)
- Thank You, Jeeves (1934)
- Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963)
- Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971; US title Jeeves and the Ties that Bind)
- Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen (1974; US title The Cat-Nappers)
*The World of Jeeves is currently available in print for around £8, and includes the short stories contained in Inimitable Jeeves, Carry On, Jeeves, and Very Good Jeeves
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Who is the toughest woman you have ever met?
A woman who, although she takes no nonsense from men who break her rules, keeps her femininity and beauty?
Meet Ms N, the world’s most brilliant, unpredictable and occasionally homicidal hotel manager, and her beautiful but naive ally, Tatiana. Ms N is one of the toughest women in fiction
Ms N is modest – she does not want anyone to know her real name. But the Seven Hotel Stories in which she stars are a “how-to” guide for how women dealing with awkward, or dangerous, men.
If you don’t want to pay for a story, contact me via the form below and I’ll send you a Word copy of one of the stories. We try to please!
P.S. The Seven Hotel Stories are not intended for children. “The White Blouse”, in particular, contains some very evil men indeed, who get what they deserve.
P.P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button). Check out the range of writing on this site via the sitemap and guide.
What are your all-time favourite songs?
If you are over 25, did you first hear those songs recently or – as I suspect – did you hear them in your teen years or early ’20s?
I am intrigued that the usual lists of things that make people happy, such as family, friends, work, wealth, health, freedom, personal values, and beautiful environments, do not include music or the arts (bold italics are links to other posts on this site).
To hear music is a profound human need; the impact on your wellbeing can be sublime.
So I was fascinated when writing my recent blog How to stay sane: never take yourself too seriously, featuring the wit and wisdom of Deep Purple, to explore my old collection of singles. What were the first I ever acquired?
To be honest, I am not certain. My singles were once mixed up with the larger collection of my elder brother (who I believe I remember bringing home “She Loves You” by the Beatles in 1963); and have been culled over the years, including by my giving some to my daughter for her new-fangled vinyl record player.
Leaving aside these quibbles, the oldest singles now in my collection, in reverse order of antiquity, are:
6. Paranoid, by Black Sabbath (1970) (more…)