Classics Club Spin #23

 

Spinning dancer

With everything going on of late, instead of targeting specific books to read, I’ve preferred to let my reading tastes wander to what I feel like reading at a particular moment.  Which makes me wonder with great puzzlement, why I’m choosing to participate in the recent Classics Club Spin.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve hardly focussed at all on my list.  But it’s more likely peer pressure from all you other bloggers who have jumped right in.  So here I go!

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The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

“Whan that April with his shoures soote
The droughte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;….”

Twenty-nine pilgrims and the narrator meet in Southwark, in Harry Bailey’s Tabard Inn, before setting off on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, where they will behold Thomas Becket’s shrine.  On the journey each pilgrim will tell four tales, two on the way there and two on the way back.  A free dinner will be awarded to the one with the best story.  And so begins Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous poem, a medley of lively stories that gives the reader a captivating window into 14th century England.

Gateway at Canterbury
The Gateway at Canterbury (1889)
Childe Hassam
source Wikiart

 

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Classics Club Spin #20

Classics Club Spin #20

It’s been awhile since I’ve participated in a Classics Club spin.  I think the last one I participated in was #14 and it was a dismal failure which made me realize that I simply don’t have time to read the way I used to.  So I stopped.  However, with my new Classics Club list up, I really need to start to focus on some of these books before it’s too late.  So here I am again, hoping for success.

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Classics Club List #2 ~ Here I Go!

With my first Classics Club list complete, it’s time for another.  This time it was easy, as I used unfinished books from my first one.  So without further ado, here is my second Classics Club List with 50 books to read from November 30, 2018 to November 29, 2023!

 

Ancients  (5000 B.C. – A.D. 400):

The Republic (380 B.C.) – Plato

Aristotle, Ethics (330 B.C.) – Aristotle

Lives (75) – Plutarch

The Twelve Ceasars (121) – Suetonius

Meditations (170-180) – Marcus Aurelius

Address to Young Men (363) – Saint Basil

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Classics Club List #1 – Finished! ….. and not finished ….

November 18, 2018 has come and gone and I can’t believe that my five year anniversary date with the Classics Club has come around so quickly!  It seems like only a year or so ago I was compiling my list and wondering how I was going to read so many books.  So how did I do with it?  Well, here’s what I accomplished ….

First of all, I went completely overboard and instead of choosing the recommended 50 books, I chose 170 books!  Eh, not particularly my most wise decision, especially considering the content of some of them. Needless to say, I didn’t finish my list but, on a brighter note I did manage to read 66 of them, which is better than 50.  I also had a few of them (The Histories, Paradise LostMetamorphosesHamlet and History of the Peloponnesian War come quickly to mind) where I posted by chapter/book/act, so that was a big task in itself and expanded my reading time.  I’ve also started Bleak House, City of God, Crime and Punishment and Dead Souls from my original list, I just didn’t finish in time. 🙁

So here is my first Classics Club list, which I will call complete!

My list:Ancients  (5000 B.C. – A.D. 400): (9 books read)

The Odyssey – Homer (end of the 8th century B.C.)  March 23, 2014
The Histories (450 – 420 B.C.) – Herodotus (because I love my Greeks!)  April 17, 2017
The History of the Pelopponesian War (431 B.C.) – Thucydides  (a very
interesting war.  I can’t wait to get Thucydides viewpoint) June 15, 2017
Oedipus Rex (429 B.C.) – Sophocles  (Sophocles is one of my favourite
Greek playwrights)  May 25, 2014
Oedipus at Colonus (406 B.C.) – Sophocles   June 24, 2014
Antigone (441 B.C.) – Sophocles  December 28, 2014
Apology (after 399 B.C.) – Plato   December 12, 2013
Defense Speeches (80 – 63 B.C.) – Marcus Tullius Cicero  (I’ve started this
and love it!)  August 20, 2014
Metamorphoses (8) – Ovid  (I will finish this!)  March 31, 2016

 

Medieval/Early Renaissance (400 – 1600 A.D.): (6 books read)

The Rule of Saint Benedict (529)? – Saint Benedict  December 2, 2015

The Canterbury Tales (1390s??) – Geoffrey Chaucer  (groan!  It intimidates
      me but I must overcome!)  November 15, 2015
The Book of Margery Kempe (1430) – Margery Kempe   August 1, 2014
Le Morte d’Arthur (1485) – Thomas Mallory  (this read is coming up soon!)  December 6, 2014
Utopia (1516) – Thomas More  (looking forward to reading a good Utopian
      novel)  December 15, 2014
Selected Essays (1580) – Michel de Montaigne  November 30, 2015Late Renaissance/Early Modern (1600 – 1850 A.D.): (17 books read)

Romeo and Juliet (1591 – 1595) – William Shakespeare   October 13, 2014
Richard II (1595) – William Shakespeare   November 30, 2014
Henry IV Part I (1597) – William Shakespeare  December 21, 2014
Henry IV Part II (1596 – 1599) – William Shakespeare  December 24, 2014
Henry V (1599) – William Shakespeare  June 22, 2016
Othello (1603) – William Shakespeare   October 28, 2014
Hamlet (1603 – 1604) – William Shakespeare  January 27, 2015
King Lear (1603 – 1606) – William Shakespeare  December 3, 2014
Paradise Lost (1667) – John Milton (time to use my guide by C.S. Lewis)  February 27, 2014
Gulliver’s Travels (1726) – Jonathan Swift  (I wonder if I’ll like it)   January 3, 2015
Candide (1759) – Voltaire   March 21, 2014
Sense and Sensibility (1811) – Jane Austen  January 25, 2015
Persuasion (1818) – Jane Austen (I have read every other Austen novel but
        this one.  For shame!)   February 21, 2015
Eugene Onegin (1825 – 1832) – Alexander Pushkin   December 1, 2013 & February 8, 2014
The Pickwick Papers (1836 – 1837) – Charles Dickens  (a fun read!)  November 5, 2017
Wuthering Heights (1847) – Emily Brönte   February 1, 2014
David Copperfield (1850) – Charles Dickens   January 15, 2014

 

Modern (1850 – Present): (34 books read)

Villette (1853) – Charlotte Brönte  March 31, 2016
The Warden (1855) – Anthony Trollope  (looking forward to starting The
Barchestershire Chronicles)  April 8, 2014
Madam Bovary (1856) – Gustave Flaubert  (just because)   April 4, 2014
Barchester Towers (1857) – Anthony Trollope   August 7, 2014

Doctor Thorne (1858) – Anthony Trollope  September 25, 2014

Framely Parsonage (1860 – 1861) – Anthony Trollope  December 8, 2016

Fathers and Sons (1862) – Ivan Turgenev  September 19, 2014

The Small House at Allington (1864) – Anthony Trollope  March 31, 2017
The Moonstone (1868) – Wilkie Collins  (for a light read)  January 1, 2016

War and Peace (1869) – Leo Tolstoy  (going on and on and on ……)  August 3, 2014
Erewhon (1872) – Samuel Butler  May 16, 2015
La Curée (1871 – 1872) – Emile Zola (continuing the Rougon-Macquart
series)  April 23, 2014

Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) – Thomas Hardy (I dislike Hardy’s
        novels but should include one.)  June 23, 2016
Daniel Deronda (1876) – George Eliot   February 24, 2014
Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876) – Emile Zola   January 31, 2014
A Doll’s House (1879) – Henrik Ibsen  July 27, 2016

The Brothers Karamazov (1880) – Fyodor Dostoevsky (I can’t wait for this
        one!)  November 10, 2016
The Black Arrow (1888) – Robert Louis Stevenson   November 20, 2013
L’Argent (1891) – Emile Zola  August 21, 2015

The Time Machine (1895) – H.G. Wells  January 11, 2016
The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) – Oscar Wilde  September 18, 2014
The Well at the World’s End (1896) – William Morris  October 5, 2016

Dracula (1897) – Bram Stoker  (scary ….. not my favourite genre)  October 19, 2015
The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) – G.K. Chesterton  (love Chesterton!)  August 20, 2014

Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories (1904 – 1911) – M.R. James
          November 13, 2013
Ethan Fromme (1911) – Edith Wharton  May 11, 2015
 The Great Gatsby (1925) – F. Scott Fitzgerald (double groan.  Since the
          first time I read this was in high-school, I need to do a re-read to
confirm that I despise it)   January 2, 2014
Mrs. Dalloway (1925) – Virginia Woolf   January 13, 2014
The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933) – C.S. Lewis  (I think this is a more simpler
Lewis) {No – this was incredibly complex!} November 30, 2013
Out of the Silent Planet (1938) – C.S. Lewis  (love his Space Trilogy – a re-

          read)  September 19, 2014
The Great Divorce (1945) – C.S. Lewis (fascinating plot)  June 15, 2014
Seven Story Mountain (1948) – Thomas Merton  (looking forward to it)  March 15, 2014
East of Eden (1952) – John Steinbeck  (I hated Mice & Men but I will attempt
          to keep an open mind with this one)   February 17, 2015
To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) – Harper Lee  April 5, 2016

Where do I go from here …..??  I’m going to condense my original list to 66 and roll many of the ones I didn’t read into my second list.  Which I’m going to keep to 50.  See!  I do learn by experience!!  Stayed tuned for the second list which I’ll post soon!

 

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Alexey Fyodorovich Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, a landowner of our district, who became notorious in his own day (and is still remembered among us) because of his tragic and mysterious death, which occurred exactly thirteen years ago and which I shall relate in its proper place.”

What a marvellously mysterious first sentence which brings all sorts of questions to mind.  Why was the Karamazov father only remembered because of his horrific death?  What else did he do in life?  Why has the narrator waited thirteen years to tell the story?  And why does it need to be told in its “proper place”?

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The Well at the World’s End by William Morris

“Long ago there was a little land, over which ruled a regulus or kinglet, who was called King Peter, though his kingdom was but little.”

King Peter of Upmeads has four sons, Blaise, Hugh, Gregory and Ralph.  All resolve to set out to seek great adventures but the youngest, Ralph, decides to do so against his father’s wishes.  Encouraged by Dame Katherine, a newly married lady to the chapman, she gives him a beaded necklace of blue and green stones and inspires him to find the Well at the World’s End.

“Son, true it is that the water of that Well shall cause a man to thrive in all ways, and to live through many generations of men, maybe, in honour and good-liking; but it may not keep any man alive for ever; for so have the Gods given us the gift of death lest we weary of life ……

Of strife and of war also we know naught: nor do we desire aught which we may not easily attain to.  Therefore we live long, and we fear the Gods if we should strive to live longer, lest they should bring upon us war and sickness, and over-weening desire, and weariness of life.  …..

…. ye wear away your lives desiring that which ye may scarce get; and ye set your hearts on high things, desiring to be master of the very Gods.  Therefore ye know sickness and sorrow, and oft ye die before your time, so that ye must depart and leave undone things which ye deem ye were born to do; which to all men is grievous.  And because of all this ye desire healing and thriving, whether good come of it, or ill.  Therefore ye do but right to seek to the Well at the World’s End, that ye may the better accomplish that which behoveth you, and that ye may serve your fellows and deliver them from the thralldom of those that be strong and unwise and unkind, of whom we have heard strange tales.”


Ralph’s youth and inexperience are apparent at the beginning of the story, as he travels first to Bourton Abbas and then through the Wood Perilous, meeting up with various adventures and challenges on his journey.  He encounters two women, both of whom he loves, yet one whom he is not destined to keep.  Finally, with Ursula, his love, and with the help of the Sage of Sweveham, they manage to attain their quest, finding the Well and drinking of its bounty.  Their return home is also fraught with danger and intrigue, as Ralph learns the value of perseverance and the rewards of loyalty.

The Vision of the Holy Grail tapesty (1890)
Sir Edward Burne-Jones (design and figures)
William Morris (design and execution)
source Wikipedia

Born in Essex, William Morris had a number of accomplishments and careers during his life, including that of a textile designer, a poet, a novelist and a social activist.  Though classically trained at Oxford, Morris became an architect, and with his friends, the well-known artists Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and archtitect Philip Webb, they formed a decorative arts firm that became the rage of the Victoria era.  His renown as a poet followed, and he further exercised his literary talents as a novelist.    His interest in Marxism and concern for social issues developed an appetite for activism which lasted throughout his life.  He died in 1896 of tuberculosis at the age of 62.

The Merciful Knight (1863)
Edward Burne-Jones
source Wikiart

The Well at the World’s End is a very curious mix of fairy tale, adventure, and rather risque scenes and actions for the time period of Victorian England.  While it reminded me very much of Le Morte d’ArthurThe Faerie Queene, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Morris was not reluctant to reveal the physical attraction between Ralph and the women he encountered, nor did he prevaricate about their physical relationship, however, he did so in rather a romantic knightly way.  Morris was a muse for writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien who admired his pioneering work in the genre of fantasy fiction, and the names “Gandolf” and “Silverfax” which appear in The Well at the World’s End, are echoed also in The Lord of the Rings.

Danaë (The Tower of Brass) 1887-88
Edward Burne-Jones
source ArtUK

This book was a wonderfully rich and exciting read, full of heroic exploits, peril and satisfying resolutions.  Morris was indeed a talented writer and his love for the Medieval is apparent in every word of the story.  I own his book, The News From Nowhere, which I hope to read soon as a follow-up.  Being compared to Gulliver’s Travels and Erewhon, it’s a complete deviation from this story —an utopian novel of a libertarian socialist bent. In any case, his story telling abilities solidified themselves for me with this novel and I’m looking forward to exploring more works from Morris.

Lamia and the Soldier (1905)
John William Waterhouse
source Wikiart