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First appearing in 1882, this collection by Mrs. J.H. Riddell established her as a leading Victorian author of supernatural fiction. She achieved her effect by using commonplace settings into which the horrors crept.
Full of irony, this comedy of manners satirizes the self-deception of vanity. Emma presents a picture of mixed family and social life as did Pride and Prejudice, though mellowed by a riper humor. Emma equals Pride and Prejudice in its rich humor and vivid portraiture of character. It is a never ending delight in human absurdities, which the fascinated listener shares from chapter to chapter.
Thomas Hardy, never one to be conventional, took a very unconventional moral stance in this novel, which shocked readers of the time. In doing so, he created one of the great romantic novels of all time, the story of a striking and tragic heroine who came to life for the reader as she did for the author.
This book is often thought to be the story of Jane Austen's own lost love. In it, she seems mellowed and more philosophical, touched perhaps by the sentiment of a story in which she saw herself as the heroine but in whose happy outcome she has a premonition that she would never play a part.
Rule by head or rule by heart? Elinor Dashwood is a great believer in "sense," while her exuberant younger sister Marianne feels keenly that only "sensibility" (what today we'd call passion) serves to guide the heart. Through vicissitudes and, in the case of Marianne, outright betrayal by her lover, these two women learn the value in the other's outlook, and thereby prepare themselves for later domestic bliss that is the hallmark resolution of Jane Austen's novels.
The real Jonathan Wild, born about 1682 and executed at Tyburn in 1725, was one of the most notorious criminals of his age. His resemblance to the hero in Fielding's satire of the same name is general rather than particular. The real Jonathan (whose legitimate business was that of a buckle-maker) like Fielding, won his fame, not as a robber himself, but as an informer, and a receiver of stolen goods.
Kept in the Dark is a probing psychological portrait of the near destruction of a marriage - a novel that combines keen insights with vigorous emotional strength. Jealousy, guilt, excessive pride, and compulsion all sweep across its surface.
Thomas Hardy brings us an England that once existed but no more. It is rural, traditional, pastoral - a society of mannered conduct that flows like a deep river where powerful currents eddy and swirl. In this powerful novel of love and disillusion, Hardy's heroine is torn between the three men in her life. Passionate but capricious, her romantic involvements have fascinated generations of readers.
Eve's Ransom, written in 1895, is the story of a bizarre triangle of love. An educated but unsuccessful man, Hilliard, is trapped in grimy Birmingham until he receives a totally unexpected windfall. He goes in search of a woman whose picture he had seen in his landlady's photo album. Typical of most of Gissings books the setting is autobiographically faithful and the theme is freedom. The writing is crisp, the narrative swift in this, as H. G. Wells said, "the best and least appreciated of his novels".
Dick Whittington is a character in a British folklore, very loosely based on Richard Whittington, a medieval merchant as well as Lord Mayor of London and a Member of Parliament. In this traditional story, Dick, a boy from a poor family, sets out for London to make his fortune, accompanied by his cat. They have a number of remarkable adventures along the way.
The Well of the World's End is a Scottish fairy tale, from the Lowlands, collected by Joseph Jacobs in English Fairy Tales. In the story, a girl's mother died, and her father remarried. Her stepmother abused her, made her do all the housework, and finally decided to be rid of her. How the girl, with the help of a magic frog, outwitted the stepmother is the gist of the story.
Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 near Dorchester in that part of England he called Wessex. With stories sometimes from his own imagination and sometimes from local tradition, Hardy's work, like Dickens and Trollope, creates a strong sense of mood and location. Hardy hoped to be remembered for his poetry, but ours is not a poetic age. Thus his claim to a new generation of readers rests on his prose. There are great similarities between his era, a time of challenge, and our own.
When Lilia, an English widow, marries a penniless Italian while on vacation, her dead husband's relatives are not amused. That the marriage should fail and Lilia die tragically are to be expected. But that she should have a baby, and that the baby should be raised Italian, of all things, are matters requiring immediate correction. E.M. Forster's first novel addresses cultural collisions and English middle-class sterility.
England's Egdon Heath. Her longing for the glamour of city life leaves her dissatisfied with her traditionalist husband, Clym Yeobright, and leads her to take Damon Wildeve as her lover. In a mixing of fate, chance, and human error, Eustacia's marriage smolders and explodes in violent tragedy. Set against the looming presence of the Heath, Hardy's work vividly depicts characters cruelly manipulated by the forces around them, unable to dictate their own fates. This classic story, a forerunner to the 20th-century psychological novel, is presented in unabridged form, revealing all of its poetic compassion and universal themes.