Archives for category: Guest authors. Classics

It’s Friday, and guest author day. If you remember, a couple of weeks ago when writing about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, there was a reference to Robert Louis Stevenson and I took note I should invite him too. And here he is.

As fascinating as his writing is, the man is no less interesting. I will not try and give you a detailed account of his life (although I include links to a number of well-informed sites) but just a few notes. And of course, I’ll give you links to some of his works, now free to download (although I would be surprised if you haven’t read or have copies of many of them).


I liked his description of himself in a letter to J.M. Barrie (yes, he keeps appearing and is on the list too):

“Exceedingly lean, dark, rather ruddy-black eyes (drawing-book eyes, Amanuensis) crow’s footed, beginning to be grizzled, general appearance of a blasted boy or blighted youth or to borrow Carlyle on De Quincey ‘child that has been in hell'” (2/3 April 1893)

Robert Lewis (later Louis) Balfour Stevenson was born in Edinburgh on 13th November 1850. His father was an engineer (he built many of the deep-sea lighthouses in Scotland). His mother came from a family of church ministers and lawyers.

At 17 he enrolled at EdinburghUniversity, initially to study engineering but he abandoned this and as a compromise he studied law, completing his studies in 1875, although he never worked as a lawyer as he already knew he wanted to be a writer. During summer holidays he travelled to France to be with other young artists. He had essays and travel books published (An Inland Voyage and Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes).


He met his future wife in September 1876 at Grez (south-east of Paris). He was 25, she was 36 and independent American woman, separated from her husband and with two children. Two years later she went back to California and he followed in August 1879. This was the subject of his next work: The Amateur Emigrant (that some consider one of his best works). After Fanny obtained the divorce they married in 1880.

Stevenson initiated the British tradition of short story writing (“A Lodging for the Night” 1877, was later collected with 3 others in a book New Arabian Nights in 1882). He continued to write short stories all his life and they were collected in some volumes: The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables and Island Nights’ Entertainments.

In 1881 on a rainy summer day he created a map of an imaginary Treasure Island with his stepson. From this he wrote the novel that was published in 1883 and marked the beginning of his popularity. He wrote other works that would fit in within the category of children’s stories: A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885), The Black Arrow (1883), Kidnapped (1886 the same year when he wrote Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and its continuation Catriona (1893).

He wrote a number of books that would fit in within the description of novels and romances: Prince Otto (1885), The Master of Ballantree (set in historical Scotland, exploring the issue of doubles, here as two brothers, considered by Calvino and Brecht the best of his works), Weir of Hermiston that he was working on when he died (published incomplete and posthumously in 1896).

In 1888 he decided to sail the South Seas with his family, stopping here and there and collecting material for a work on the South Seas. In 1889 they stopped in the SamoanIslands (port of Apia) and decided to build a house there. He wrote essays (In the South Seas) and stories set there (The Wrecker, 1892, and The Ebb-Tide, 1894).


He died in December 1894 and was buried near his house on Samoa.

He wrote nearly everything apart from the typical long Victorian novel: plays, essays, poems, biography, romances, short stories… He also wrote a number of musical compositions. He was careful with his style but at the same time interested in popular genres. Due in part to that popularity he fell in disregard with critics and was mostly ignored by Modernists and later scholars. Critical interest has increased somewhat but is still very modest compared to other writers of the period. Maybe it’s true that you can be popular or be a critical success, but be both is really difficult. I suspect given a choice, like most of us, he’d rather have people read him than people write about him. He is still the 26th most translated author in the world. 


Biography and information:

Robert Louis Stevenson website. Fabulous resource with detailed information, photographs…:



The Literature Network:

Author page in Goodreads:

Edinburgh celebrates Robert Louis Stevenson with a series of events.

Books and other writings:

Collection of poems free online:

The Black Arrow. A Tale of the Two Roses:

Merry Men

Weir of Hermiston

Island Nights’ Entertainment



Treasure Island is not available free in Amazon but here is the link in Project Gutenberg in a variety of formats:

Also in project Gutenberg, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde:

Kidnapped (also in Project Gutenber):

Here is the link to the author in Project Gutenberg, where you can check other works and versions (including audios):

Movie and TV versions (I recently saw a musical version of Jekyll and Hyde so…)

In IMDB he is given writing credits for 245 movies and TV series…

Thank you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, don’t forget to like, comment, share and of course, CLICK! It’s FREE!

Hi all: Like all Fridays I bring you a classic author. I think she’s a new classic, although to our minds she’s a true classic and the world of crime fiction wouldn’t be the same without her.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie (born Miller) was born in Torquay, Devon, in an Upper-Middle-Class family on 15th September 1890. Her mother was an Englishwoman born in Belfast and her father an American. She was home-schooled and she loved reading from a very young age. She spent most of her childhood travelling between Devon, London (to visit her step-grandmother and aunt), and on holidays in the South of Europe. It seems her family, although nominally Christian, had an interest in paranormal phenomena and they believed their mother, Clara, was a medium. Her father died when she was 11 of a heart attack (he was in poor health and had suffered from cardiac problems for some time). She was sent to Paris for education and attended three different schools.

When she came back to England in 1910 her mother was ill and they travelled together to Egypt, Cairo. On return to England she started writing some stories and a novel, although this was rejected. She met her first husband, Archibald (‘Archie’) Christie, at a dance. He had been born in India and joined the Air Force. During WWI he was sent to fight in France. Agatha got involved in the war effort and she got married to Archie on Christmas Eve in 1914. By 1918 he had become a colonel and was posted back in London.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Her first novel was The Mysterious Affair at Styles featuring Hercules Poirot. It was rejected by several publishers but finally published by The Bodley Head when she agreed to change the ending. She entered in a contract with them (that later she would find exploitative). She had long been a fan of crime novels, like Wilkie Collins’s and also those of my guest last week, Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

She had a daughter in 1919 (Rosalynd). Her next novel was in 1922 The Secret Adversary with a new detective, Tommy and Tuppence, and alter another Poirot novel Murder on the Links (1923). To promote the British Empire Exhibition she travelled extensively with her husband leaving her daughter with her mother and sister. It seems they were amongst the first Britons to surf standing in Hawaii.

In 1926 her husband asked her for the divorce as he had fallen in love with the secretary  (yes, I know it’s like the plot of a bad romantic novel; I guess it happens in real life too). They quarrelled, she left a note for the secretary saying she was going to Yorkshire and went missing in strange circumstances. There was public outrage, she was searched everywhere (even Doyle gave her glove to a medium…). After 10 days she appeared in a spa-hotel in Harrogate (to give her her due, it’s in Yorkshire, lovely place and very popular for waters and spas, and posh). She was registered at the hotel as ‘Mrs Teresa Neele’ from Cape Town. She never explained her disappearance and there has been much speculation about it. Trying to get back at her husband? Psychogenic fugue?

They eventually divorced in 1928 and she always kept the name for her writing.

She married Max Mallowan, an archaeologist, in 1930 and their marriage lasted until her death in 1976. She travelled extensively with him.

She set most of her novels in familiar places. Middle East, that she visited with her husband, Devon, Abner-Hall, owned by her brother-in-law James Watts, she wrote Murder at the Orient Express in Istambul where they were staying, near the southern terminus of the railway.

During WWII she worked in the Pharmacy at University College London and she learned about poisons that she would put to good use in later novels. She was investigated by MI5 who suspected she might have a spy in their code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, as she names one of her characters Bletchley, but it seems that was not the case.

She was appointed Commander of the Order of British Empire in 1956, in 1976 she became Dame Commander of the same order, three years after her husband had been knighted for his archaeological work.

From 1971 to 1974 she started to become ill and signed the rights of The Mousetrap to her grandson.

She died on 12th January 1976 (she was 85) of natural causes and is buried at St Mary’s, Chorley.

Miss Marple first appeared in 1927 and it seems that she wrote the final novel of both Poirot and Marple many years in advance, keeping them in a vault and only publishing them in 1974 when she realised she could no longer write.

She became interested in archaeology in later life (probably in relation to her husband’s work) and it features prominently in many novels.



Official website:

Wikipedia (fairly comprehensive including list of adaptations to TV and film):

Her Facebook page:

Her Goodreads page:

Her holiday home, Geenway, now a National Trust property:

For links to adaptations of her work, IMDB

In Amazon:

Links to books:

In her case she’s a classic but a bit more modern than my previous guests, so I could find very cheap versions of her work, but most still in copyright. Of course you’ll find her in charity shops, libraries, second hand bookshops…I did find websites offering many of her novels in e-book format for free but as this should be pirate copies I decided not to share them.

Project Gutenberg offers only her two first novels here (that are now not on copyright any longer):

I promise I’ll go back to older classics, but couldn’t talk about Doyle and forget Christie…

Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and if you have, please, like, share, comment, and click!

Agatha Christie's Poirot

Agatha Christie’s Poirot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you know Friday is usually the day to bring you a guest author. Whilst writing a post on Elizabeth Gaskell (and talking about BBC TV series) Sherlock Holmes came to mind, and I thought, yes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (I won’t enter into the debate of Conan Doyle being a composite name or Doyle alone being the surname, and Conan a middle name, that seems to be the generalised view, but I think it sounds good nonetheless). I should have thought about him before, as we share professions (he was a doctor, and evidently a writer) but…it’s never too late.

There are very thorough biographies, but I won’t go into a lot of detail and I’ll leave you links so you can expand at your leisure.


Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was born in Edinburgh of Irish descent. Due to his father’s problems with alcohol his childhood was quite disrupted and the family separated and were spread around Edinburgh. Thanks to wealthy relatives he was educated at several Jesuit schools including in Austria. He later studied Medicine in Edinburgh, training in a variety of locations including Birmingham and Sheffield (I also work in Sheffield!). While he was studying he started writing and published some of his work in magazines. He also wrote articles for the BMJ (British Medical Journal).

When he completed medical school and was fully qualified he worked as a doctor in a Greenland whaler and later worked as ship surgeon on the SS Mayumba (travelling to West coast of Africa). He completed his Doctorate in 1885.

He initially settled as a partner with another doctor in Plymouth but the partnership didn’t work out and with little money he moved to Portsmouth (where he also played football) and settled as General Practitioner. The business was very slow and he started writing to pass the time. He wrote short stories, some inspired by his time at sea, including a version of the mystery of the Marie Celeste that he would popularise.

He had some difficulty publishing his work and the first story to be published in 1886 was A Study in Scarlet where Sherlock Holmes and Watson appear for the first time (he sold rights for £25). It got good reviews and proved popular and other works with the same characters were later commissioned. It seems that several people who knew his university professor, Joseph Bell, recognised many of his characteristics in Sherlock Holmes (including Sir Robert Louis Stevenson…I guess I should invite him too).

He published The Sign of the Four a continuation of the story in 1890, but feeling exploited by the publishing company he left them and started writing for others including the Strand magazine.

Sherlock Holmes was not his only subject and amongst other things he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on a libretto (and somebody else for the list…).

Apart from the aforementioned football he was also a keen cricketer and golfer.


He married twice (his first wife died of Tuberculosis in 1906), and had 2 children from his first marriage and three from his second marriage, 2 daughters and 3 sons.

In 1890 he studied Ophthalmology in Vienna and settled to practice in London. He again said he did not have many clients and dedicated himself to writing.

English: Sherlock and Moriarty. From the Sherl...

English: Sherlock and Moriarty. From the Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Final Problem’ by Sidney Paget. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He told his mother in 1891 that he was thinking of killing Sherlock Holmes and she told him not to. He did in 1893 (or so it seemed). Due to public outrage he brought him back in the Hound of the Baskervilles in 1901 (although it was set before the Moriarty and Sherlock plunge into ReichenbachFalls in The Final Problem). In 1903 in The Adventure of the Empty House he explained how only Moriarty had fallen, but Holmes had faked his own death to fool his enemies. Sherlock appeared in 56 short stories and 4 novels by Doyle and in many stories by others (not to mention the many movie and TV adaptations).

He was interested in politics, wrote in defence of the UK actions in the Boer War in South Africa, (and he believed those writings got him the Knighthood). He also became a supporter of the Congo Free State campaign and wrote about it. (Some characters in The Lost World were inspired by his associates in the original campaign). He also stood for Parliament twice as a Liberal Unionist, but didn’t get elected.

Doyle also took an interest in miscarriages of justice and was involved in two successful appeals against convictions, in 1906 the case of George Edalji (beautifully narrated in the novel by Julian Barnes Arthur and George, 2005, that I wholeheartedly recommend) and in 1909 Oscar Slater. It is in part because of his efforts that the Court of Appeal was established in 1907.


Following a number of tragic occurrences (death of his wife, of one of his sons in WWI, of his brother, two brothers-in-law and two nephews), he became quite depressed and found refuge in Spiritualism. He was a member of the Ghost Club were they sought to prove evidence of paranormal phenomena, and he was convinced that the photographs of the Cottingley fairies were true. He was friends with Harry Houdini who also believed in Spiritualism but spent much of his time proving many mediums were frauds.

He died of a heart attack on the 7th July 1930 in Crowborough, where he had lived for 23 years. Initially buried in a rose garden as he did not consider himself Christian he was reburied with his wife in 1940 in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire.




Official website for SirArthurConanDoyleLiteraryState (it offers an specially written biography):

BBC History:

Spartacus educational:



(I’ve already confessed how much I love the new modernised version of Sherlock Holmes from the BBC…)

Strand magazine

Free links to books:

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Lost World

The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot

The Adventure of the Dying Detective

Tales of Terror and Mystery

His Last Bow

Sir Nigel

The Great Boer War

The Sign of the Four

The Valley of Fear

There are many other works at very low prices and many stories on line also.

Thank you for reading, and as always, if you have enjoyed it, please, like, comment, share, and CLICK! It’s FREE!

Today, as most Fridays, I bring you a guest author. It is time for another classic, a female Victorian writer who became quite popular during her life time and recently, thanks to TV adaptations, has regained many followers. Elizabeth Gaskell.

Cover of "Cranford (Nonsuch Classics)"

Cover of Cranford (Nonsuch Classics)

There is plenty of information about her and I leave you some links to both her life and works, to free versions of her novels and stories, and also some links to adaptations of her work to TV. I love Cranford that I think is one of these gems that the BBC can produce every so often (many are period pieces, but not all, and I also love their adaptation/modernisation of Sherlock Holmes…that makes me think, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle should be on my list of guest for the future…). If you haven’t watched it and can get hold of it…do. And let me know what you think.

Before I’ll share a brief biographical note with you but do check the links for much more detailed information.



Elizabeth Stevenson was born in London on 29 September 1810, the daughter of a Unitarian minister. Her mother died when she was only 13 months old and her father sent her to live with her aunt, Hannah, who lived in Knutsford in Cheshire. Her father remarried but she spent little time with him and his new family. Her brother, who joined the Merchant Navy, died when she was 18 and her father died shortly after.

She spent some time in Newcastle but would usually go back to Knutsford (that was her inspiration for Cranford). In 1832, she married William Gaskell, also a Unitarian minister, and they settled in the industrial city of Manchester. She helped her husband with his welfare work and took special interest in helping the poor and destitute in the rapidly developing industrial city.

wgaskell                                                                                                    William Gaskell, her husband

Her first child, a girl, was a still born, and following the birth of her second child, marked by her loss, she started keeping a diary of the development of her children. She had a son William, but he died of scarlet fever. She was very affected by it, and her husband suggested that she could take up writing a full-length novel to try and distract herself. Her first novel, ‘Mary Barton’, was published anonymously in 1848. It was an immediate success, winning the praise of Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle. It discussed the life of the poor in Manchester and it showed a good eye for detail and local customs and dialogue. It was the first of her ‘industrial’ works.

Dickens invited her to contribute to his magazine, ‘Household Words’, where her next major work, ‘Cranford’, appeared in 1853, in installments. Although he published a number of her works, including short stories and ‘North and South’ (published in 1854), they had major disagreements, particularly due to the length of her novels, and he unwillingness to follow his editorial advice. I’ve read in several of her biographies that he said if he had been her husband he would have beaten her up. Gaskell’s work brought her many friends, including the novelist Charlotte Brontë who visited her often. When Charlotte died in 1855, her father, Patrick Brontë, asked Gaskell to write her biography. The ‘Life of Charlotte Brontë’ (1857)  made her even more popular although some critics queried the amount of personal detail included.

She spent time in the South, traveled abroad with her daughters, and had just bought a new house when she had a massive heart attack in October 1865, dying on 12 November 1865, leaving her longest work, ‘Wives and Daughters’ incomplete.

Home to Elizabeth Gaskell, novelist and biogra...

Home to Elizabeth Gaskell, novelist and biographer, this dilapidated building has fortunately been bought by the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Her house in Manchester is now a Museum, the street in Knutsford where she lived has been renamed in her honour, and Manchester University has an Elizabeth Gaskell library.

General Links:


BBC history site:

The Gaskell Society:

From the same site a detailed account of her life and works:

An article of the Daily Mail:

Spartacus Educational:


FREE links to her work:


Wives and daughters:


Mary Barton:

The Grey Woman and Other Tales:

Sylvia’s Lovers:

Cousin Phillis:

My Lady Ludlow:

And more…


And links to TV versions of her work (BBC):

Cranford (I truly love this series! It’s a must!)

Return to Cranford (Yes, I also love this one).

North and South:

Wives and Daughters:

Her page in imdb with information on other TV series (earlier versions):

Thank you for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed, and if you have, remember to like, share, comment, and CLICK! It’s FREE!

Today, Friday, I bring you one of my guest authors, this time a classic. I was recently talking to an author friend (OK, if you want to know, Mary Meddlemore/Martie Preller, my guest on Tuesday) about writers’ biography and personality and how much people might or might not take it into account when choosing books to read.

(I’ll write a note clarifying why we were talking about this for those of you who’re really curious. I don’t want to distract everybody else from the post).*

Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1841, a "prudent a...

Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1841, a “prudent and efficient” consul. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the case of Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose books (particularly for me The Scarlet Letter, although I’m quite partial to The Marble Faun and love to quote its ending) and stories I really like, I must admit to also being fascinated by his life and his ancestry. As you know I studied American Literature and you won’t find many authors from more American stock than this one. He has ancestors going back to the first Puritans landing in New England (William Hathorne arrived in New England in 1630), and although to his personal shame, his great grandfather, John Hathorne, was a presiding magistrate in the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. That’s he added a “w” to his name to avoid that connection. And, appropriately enough, Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on the 4th July 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. The family home is now a museum. (27   Hardy Street).

His father (also Nathaniel Hathorne), a ship Captain in the U.S. Navy, died when he was only 4 years old, of yellow fever. I’ve read that his mother, Elizabeth Clarke Manning, was quite protective and encouraged him to do things alone, and he grew fairly shy and bookish.

He was interested in writing from very early on and he was writing stories and publishing some in magazines whilst studying at BowdoinCollege in Brunswick (Maine). At College he had met Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and future American President Franklin Pierce (with whom he remained friends all of his life and wrote his biography in 1852). His novel Fanshawe was anonymously published in 1828 (although he later said it was ‘amateurish’). He wrote stories and sketches some included in Twice-Told Tales which was favourably reviewed by Longfellow. Unfortunately (some things don’t change) he couldn’t make a living by writing and took up working, first at the Salem Custom-House (1839). He also lived at the experimental transcendentalist community ‘Brook Farm’ for a year.

[Note: A couple of links of transcendentalism. First our friend Wikipedia:

The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy summarises it as: ‘Transcendentalism is an American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the early nineteenth century, centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson. Other important transcendentalists were Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Amos Bronson Alcott, Frederic Henry Hedge, and Theodore Parker. Stimulated by English and German Romanticism, the Biblical criticism of Herder and Schleiermacher, and the skepticism of Hume, the transcendentalists operated with the sense that a new era was at hand. They were critics of their contemporary society for its unthinking conformity, and urged that each person find, in Emerson’s words, “an original relation to the universe” (O, 3). Emerson and Thoreau sought this relation in solitude amidst nature, and in their writing. By the 1840s they, along with other transcendentalists, were engaged in the social experiments of Brook Farm, Fruitlands, and Walden; and, by the 1850s in an increasingly urgent critique of American slavery.’ To read the whole article, click here: ]

By 1842 his income from writing had picked up enough to allow him to marry Sophia Peabody (a painter and fellow transcendentalist) and moved to The Manse in Concord, where everybody who was anybody in the Transcendental movement lived (including the Alcotts, yes, Louisa May’s family, Emerson and Thoreau). They had three children, two daughters (Una and Rose) and a son (Julian). The son would later become a writer too.

English: The Wayside, Concord, Massachusetts. ...

English: The Wayside, Concord, Massachusetts. Home to Louisa May Alcott and her sisters, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Sidney, creator of the “Five Little Peppers”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hawthorne went back to Salem in 1845 and he was appointed surveyor of the Boston Custom House by President James Polk but dismissed when Zachary Taylor became president (definitely it was who you knew). He published a collection of short stories: Mosses from an old Manse (1846) and started working on his most famous novel The Scarlet Letter. This was completed in 1850 and became an instant success (it was published with ‘The Custom House’ as a preface). The success allowed him to dedicate himself to writing and moved to Lenox (in the Berkshires) where the completed The House of the Seven Gables (1851). He met Melville whilst there and they became good friends for a period. That same year Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne. In 1852 they moved back to Concord and bought the house where the Alcotts used to live. That year he also published The Blithedale Romance (that was more than a bit critical of the Transcendentalist movement). In 1853 he took his family to Liverpool where he was posted as U.S. Consul. They also took the chance to travel through Europe and lived in France and Italy for a while, meeting Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. In Italy he wrote The Marble Faun (1860). I remember when we studied it we were told Americans visiting Italy would take it with them to visit the locations of the book.

On his return living in Concord he continued to write about his travels and also an article detailing his visits to battlefields and the White House during the Civil War (“Chiefly About War Matters”).

He died in Plymouth, New Hampshire, on 19th May 1864. He was quite ill and suffering of dementia. He was buried on Author’s Ridge in the SleepyHollowCemetery in Concord. His wife continued to edit his notebooks until her death in 1871 and some of his work was published posthumously.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, with blue pen

Nathaniel Hawthorne, with blue pen (Photo credit: qwrrty)


1) Biography:


The literature network:


Eldritch press page

PSB the American Novel page

Author page in Goodreads

American (here you can also read his books free online):



2) Free links to his works:

The Scarlet Letter

Tanglewood Tales

The Blithdale Romance

Twice Told Tales

House of the Seven Gables

The Old Manse

The Marble Faun (Part 1)

The Marble Faun (Part 2)



3) Quotes:


*Martie and I were talking about biographies and author’s behaviours because it seems that Amazon has started removing reviews in Goodreads that make reference personally to the author and their beliefs, characteristics, etc, and some people are less than happy. Now you know.

Thank you for reading and if you’ve enjoyed it, remember to like, comment, share and CLICK! IT’S FREE!

As you well know I like to bring you classic authors on Fridays. This time I thought I’d bring you a mother and daughter. Although unfortunately Mary Wollstonecraft died when her daughter (also Mary) was only a few days old (I’ve read 10 or 11) the two make a very interesting combination. Both are interesting women, both broke conventions (in the case of the mother, in particular, that haunted her reputation for years, even centuries, to come) and both are examples of the will to be yourself and to discover your own gifts and create yourself.

Writing in the 18th century, Mary Wollstonecra...

Writing in the 18th century, Mary Wollstonecraft is often hailed as the founder of liberal feminism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary Wollstonecraft.

There are many detailed biographies and I won’t attempt to give you all the details of her fascinating (although short, she died of puerperal fever at 38) life. I’ve left you some links but feel free to investigate by yourself.

She was born in London, in April 27th 1759. Her father has been described as violent (there are mentions of Mary sleeping across the door of her mother’s bedroom to prevent her father from beating her up) and very poor at managing his financial affairs and that resulted in the family having to move often. Her mother died in 1780 and she decided to earn a livelihood, not easy for a woman of a certain class and education at the time (as we’ve noted before, working class women have always worked. Women in rural areas have always worked in the fields apart from work at home.). With her sister Eliza (who had left her husband and child encouraged by Mary) and fried Fanny, they established s school in Newington Green (1784). Based on her experiences there she wrote a pamphlet called Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787).

When her close friend Fanny died (in 1785), Wollstonecraft went to work as a governess in Ireland. Although the children of the family really loved her she did not enjoy the job and never got on well with lady Kingsborough, taking her as a model of the worst of aristocratic women, only interested in their appearances, vanity and status. She went back to London three years later and started working with Joseph Johnson, helping him set the Analytical Review, and becoming a regular contributor. She wrote one of her best-known works A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. She denounced the position of women in society advocating for them to have access to the same educational opportunities as men (she also advocated for women’s vote).

In the same year whilst visiting a friend in France (it was the time of the French Revolution and many English intellectuals visited) she met Captain Gilbert Imlay, an American timber merchant. They started living together although they never got married and she had a daughter to him, Fanny. The relationship was fraught with problems and she visited Scandinavia in an attempt at keeping the relationship going, although he left her. She wrote: Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark that became her most popular book of the time. She tried to commit suicide twice (once by drowning jumping into the Thames, the other one possibly by Laudanum poisoning).

Back in London she met again William Godwin, founder of philosophical anarchism. Although both were against marriage, they did get married when she got pregnant. She had a baby girl, Mary, but had a difficult labour (18 hours) and the manual removal of the placenta resulted in infection and she died a few days later (10th of September 1797).

Godwin published her unfinished work Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman, where she gave voice to a prostitute and also acknowledged female sexual desire, a scandal at the time. He also wrote a biography giving a detailed account of her life, including her suicide attempts and having had a child whilst unmarried and that gave prominence to the scandal rather than to a serious view of her work. In more recent times her work has been greatly vindicated by the interest of feminist historians and also philosophers and educationalists.  


Links to Mary Wollstonecraft:

In Wikipedia:

BBC History:

Spartacus Educational:

Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

OregonState page and link to read A Vindication of the Rights of Women on line.

Another link to  A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Free Links to her books and writings (See also above for internet links):

Vindication of the Rights of Women:

Letters on Sweden, Norway and Denmark:

Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman

English: Cropped portrait of Mary Shelley

English: Cropped portrait of Mary Shelley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Born in London on 30th August 1797 (we know all about that). Her father William Godwin looked after her and Fanny (Mary’s first child by Imlay). Although it wasn’t a very formal education, her father had plenty of connections and she had access to interesting ideas and met some of the most brilliant thinkers and writers of the time when she was still very young (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth), including her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. She liked to read and daydream and also started writing at an early age.

Her father re-married Mary Jane Clairmont in 1801 but Mary never got on well with her step-mother. She had two children from a previous marriage and had a son with Godwin. Mary got on well with one of her stepsisters, Jane.

In the summer of 1812 she went to Scotland to stay with friends of her father, William Baxter and his family.

In 1814 (still very young) she started a relationship with Percy B. Shelley who had been a student of her father and was still married at that time. They ran away together accompanied by her stepsister (Jane Clairmont) and that alienated her from her father. They got married on 1816 when Shelley’s wife died (committed suicide).

They travelled through Europe and Mary lost two children. In 1816 during a summer when they were in Switzerland with Jane Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori, on a rainy day and after reading ghost stories, famously Lord Byron suggested that each one of them should try and write their own horror story. Mary Shelley started writing Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. (I understand that Polidori wrote a vampire story…) The finished version was published in 1818. This was published anonymously. The book was a big success and as Percy Shelley had written the introduction many thought it was his.

Her relationship with Shelley was difficult, they lost two other children but she had a son, Percy Florence (1819) who lived to be an adult. Her husband drowned whilst sailing in 1822.

She had to support herself and did it by writing (that wasn’t very easy for a woman at the time). She wrote several novels, including a science-fiction book (The Last Man, a dystopian novel). She also dedicated herself to promote her husband’s work.

She died of a brain cancer on 1st February 1851. She is buried at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth alongside her father, mother and the ashes of her husband’s heart.

William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin,...

William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, St Peter’s Churchyard, Bournemouth (Photo credit: Alwyn Ladell)

Frankenstein is and will remain her most famous work; it has an enduring hold on people’s imagination, and it has seen many adaptations, to theatre, TV, film…

Links to Mary Shelley:


New World Encyclopaedia:

Links to movies based on her writings: page: 


Free Links to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s books:


Proserpine and Midas:


The Last Man:

Thanks for reading. And don’t forget if you’ve enjoyed it to comment, share and CLICK!

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, it’s Friday and I bring you another classic. Not sure one should say that there are classics that are more classics, but indeed you’d be hard pressed to find anybody who hasn’t heard of Charles Dickens, or his stories. Even if you haven’t read them, you’ll know what they are about, will have watched some of the adaptations (not only BBCs, but movies, etc), or surely watched the musical ‘Oliver!’ based on his novel Oliver Twist. Considered the Victorian writer per excellence, he’s forever popular.


There are very great and detailed biographies available, not only online, but also, of course, in printed form. I leave you a number of links to sites where you can read more about him. Only a few details:

He was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, to John and Elizabeth Dickens. He went to school briefly but as his father was imprisoned for bad debt when he was very young (around 9) this cut his formal education short and the whole family (debts and ending up in prison were quite common at the time…Some things don’t change) was sent to Marshalsea, although Charles, instead, went to work in a blacking factory and had to bear appalling conditions. After 3 years he went back to school but he was marked by these experiences and they’ve been reflected in many of his works.

He began his writing career as a journalist and he worked in a variety of journals. In 1833 he became parliamentary journalist and three years later married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of an editor who had been publishing some of his sketches. Shortly after he started publishing ‘Pickwick Papers’ and his success continued.

As we all know he wrote many novels (see links below), and quite a few of them in a serialised format, publishing them in periodicals weekly. He was a model for current authors keen on getting feedback and interacting with the public, as it is known that he would modify characters and story plots according to the public responses to his stories.

He also drew inspiration from his life and people he met along the way and there is a wealth of information on the real life basis for some of his best known and loved (or hated) characters.

He didn’t only write novels, but also an autobiography, periodicals, travel books, plays, and run charitable organisations.

Dickens became well-known and loved in the lectures circle and the travelled twice to the United States (where he did readings of his own books but also talked against slavery), to Italy (with fellow writers Augustus Egg and Wilkie Collins) and toured the UK on many occasions.

He left his wife in 1858 (they had 10 children) and maintained relationships with his mistress, actress Ellen Ternan (who was many years his junior). He died of a stroke in 1870 and he is buried in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.



BBC Biography page:

Wikipedia, of course:

The Literature Network:

The Complete Works of Charles Dickens. It has links to read his works free on-line.

Entry on Charles Dickens at the New World Encyclopaedia. Good links: (it even has videos!)

Imdb page with information on movie and TV versions. He is listed as writer of 338 titles!

Links to FREE works (see also above):

Free audiobook of A Christmas Carol

Great expectations:

A Tale of Two Cities:

Oliver Twist (not currently available…Might be soon. Versions for very little available):

Bleak House:

David Copperfield:

A Christmas Carol:

The Old Curiosity Shop:

Little Dorrit:

Nicholas Nickleby:

Martin Chuzzelwit:

And something a bit different. I normally only add free links on the post about classical authors but…I could not resist. I’ve heard this audiobook of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Alan Cooke (a.k.a. Wild Irish Poet, Emmy award winner, writer, and a true master of voices, who’s also recorded an audio for me that I hope will be available soon) and thought I’d leave you a link. I think it brings it to life and I truly love it. The webpage also offers you a sample so have a listen and see.

Thank you for reading, and if you enjoyed it, don’t forget to like it, comment, share it, and of course, CLICK!

Signature of Charles Dickens

Signature of Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Friday and I bring you another author who’s not with us any longer, at least physically, although I’m sure you’ve heard (and most likely read) him.

Anti-Stratfordian Mark Twain, wrote "Is S...

Anti-Stratfordian Mark Twain, wrote “Is Shakespeare Dead?” shortly before his death in 1910. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mark Twain or Samuel Langhorne Clemens (his real name). He was born on 30th November 1835, in a small town called Florida (Mo). He was the 6th child of his family. His father, John Marshall was a judge and they moved a few miles East to Hannibal, in the banks of the Mississippi, a stop for steam boats (travelling from St Louis and New Orleans) when he was very young. His childhood home is now his museum. His father died when he was only 12 and a year later he left school to become a printer’s apprentice. After that he spent a fair amount of time involved in the letters business and joined his brother Orion’s newspaper as printer and assistant editor. He moved to another job as a printer in St Louis, and once there he became a river pilot’s apprentice and obtained his pilot’s license in 1858. His pseudonym comes from that period. According to his official website (link below): It is a river term which means two fathoms or 12-feet when the depth of water for a boat is being sounded. “Mark twain” means that is safe to navigate. (Other explanations exist.)

Due to poor trade during the Civil War he started working as a newspaper reporter all over the country. He got married in 1870 to Olivia Langdon and although they had 4 children, only one, Clara, survived them, and she never had any children.

His first story to gain recognition was ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County’ published in New York in 1865. (You won’t be surprised to hear that in Calavaras, California, they celebrate the Jumping Frog contest.) His first novel The Innocents Abroad was published in 1869, The Adventures of Tom Swayer in 1876, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1885…He wrote many other novels, sketches, articles, short stories, letters…

The cover of the first edition of Adventures o...

The cover of the first edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was interested in science, modern gadgets and inventions and he invested heavily in some of them that resulted in him ending up heavily in debt, despite the money he obtained from selling his books and from his many speaking engagements.

He died on 21st April 1910. His childhood home is now a museum in Hannibal. His birth coincided with a visit by the Halley comet and he was convinced that his death would also be associated with it (he died the day after the next visit of the comet).


He’s renowned as a humorist and has many quotes attributed to him. Here a short selection:

On Babies:

A baby is an inestimable blessing and bother.
– Letter to Annie Webster, 1876

On Economy. So true:

It isn’t the sum you get, it’s how much you can buy with it, that’s the important thing; and it’s that that tells whether your wages are high in fact or only high in name.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

I love this one about Genius:

Geniuses are people who dash off wierd, wild, incomprehensible poems with astonishing facility, & then go & get booming drunk & sleep in the gutter. Genius elevates a man to ineffable speres [sic] far above the vulgar world, & fills his soul with a regal contempt for the gross & sordid things of earth. It is probably on account of this that people who have genius do not pay their board, as a general thing.
Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals, vol. 1, 1855-1873, p. 250.

And a few on humour:

Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom.
– quoted in Mark Twain and I, Opie Read

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations, and resentments flit away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.
– “What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us”

Humor is the good natured side of a truth.
– quoted in Mark Twain and I, Opie Read

Check the below link for more quotations…


Official website:

University of Virginia website about Mark Twain:

A page about his quotes:

More links:

Free links to his books:

How to tell a story and other Essays:

The Prince and the Pauper exits free but in 9 parts. There are cheap editions that might be a better option.

Sketches New and Old and Tales of the Mississippi are also available in several parts also.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (impressively enough between 4 and 5 stars and nearly 1000 reviews, that for a classic is pretty good. It’s one of the most accepted contenders to the title of The Great American Novel)

Roughing It

Tom Sawyer Detective

A Double-Barrelled Detective Story

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (I love many of his novels but I’ve always loved this weird mixture of modern and fantasy medieval and his characterisation in this one and there have been pretty amusing film adaptations that I’d recommend checking.)

The Tragedy of Puddn’Head Wilson

Illustration of Jim and Huckleberry Finn, by E...

Illustration of Jim and Huckleberry Finn, by EW Kemble from the original 1884 edition of the book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And many more…

Thanks for reading and if you’ve enjoyed it remember to comment, share, and as it’s FREE, click! And also, remember that all this books are free thanks to volunteer transcribers so if you have a loved classic book that’s not already available and you’d like to share…What a great contribution to book lovers everywhere!

Also, many of his books are available in German, Spanish, French in free versions also…

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Signature of Jane Austen. Taken from her 1817 ...

Signature of Jane Austen. Taken from her 1817 will. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know I’ve decided that I should bring some classic authors as guests to my blog, not only because it’s always a pleasure to remind myself of their work (and hopefully those who read my posts) but also because we have the advantage that many of their works are available for free and it always offers us an opportunity to read them again or even get to know some we’re not so familiar with.

Today I decided to visit a great favourite with many people, not only readers but also those who make film adaptations and TV series. Jane Austen. We all have our favourites novels, and also adaptations (I quite like Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility movie although on TV Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth…is still probably my favourite. I also love the novel. Yes, and Mr Darcy).

Brief biography:

Jane Austen was born on the 16th of December 1775. His father was a reverend in Steventon. She was the 6th of seven children and only the second of two daughters and she became quite close to her sister Cassandra (her mother was also called Cassandra). Henry, one of her brothers, would become her agent in later life.

At age of 8 she was sent to boarding school with her sister where she would learn what was felt to be appropriate education for a woman at the time (French, music and dancing…). At home it seems she was always interested in reading and writing and they would make their own plays that the family would perform.

In 1789 she started to write more seriously (Love and Friendship) and a bit later started writing plays. In 1795 she met Tom Lefroy (if you have watched Becoming Jane Austen you’ll remember he’s played in that movie by James MacAvoy) the nephew of a neighbouring family who was in London studying Law. Unfortunately neither of the two families being of means it appears it was felt such union would not be in their interest and he was sent away.

She worked on some stories that later would evolve into her novels. Her father retired when she was 27 and they moved to Bath, a spa town that was the epitome of class and high society (everybody who was anybody would go there to take the waters and to be seen, it seems).

In Bath she received a proposal of marriage by a childhood friend, Harris Brigg-Wither, her only one. She initially said yes, as he was to receive and inheritance who would have secured her and her family’s subsistence, but she thought better of it and the next day she refused.

In 1803 her brother sold Susan to a publisher who promised to publish it but didn’t and there were difficulties with rights afterwards.

Her father died in 1805 leaving the three women in a difficult situation. They moved frequently until her brother Frank offered them a cottage where they moved when she was 33. She dedicated herself to writing there and her brother sold Sense and Sensibility to Thomas Egerton who published it in 1811. It got good reviews and the whole edition was sold by 1813.

The same publisher seeing how well it had done in 1813 published Pride and Prejudice. It was even more successful and he published a second edition. Mansfield Park although less well received by critics was a public success and became the most commercially successful of her works during her lifetime. Jane move on to publisher John Murray who published a new edition of Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey. Her brother Henry’s bank failed and Jane made efforts to regain the rights to Susan that was then published as Catherine.

In 1816 her health began to fail but she carried on working. In January 1817 her sister Cassandra and brother Henry took her to Winchester to seek medical help and there she died on July the 18th 1817 leaving some unfinished works. Her brother published her complete works and revealed her real identity.


You can read all of her works online in the above link apart from finding plenty of information about her.

Information on the Jane Austen centre, activities and even the Jane Austen festival in Bath.

Website of her house museum.

Fan site.

BBC history website on Jane Austen

FREE Links to novels:

Title page from the first edition of the first...

Title page from the first edition of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pride and Prejudice


Mansfield Park:


Northanger Abbey:

Lady Susan:

I couldn’t find a copy of Sense and Sensibility  free although they were quite a few under $1 so…(and I suspect one must be hiding somewhere).

Thank you for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post. If you have, please comment, share and click!

1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a...

1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a year before his death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Friday and again I decided to bring you one of my favourite classic authors. If you remember when I wrote the post on Oscar Wilde I told you that one of my friends was very keen on Edgar Allan Poe when we were at school. Margarita. As a consequence I read plenty of Poe at the time, and really enjoyed it. He had a penchant for mystery and horror stories (master of Gothic style), according to some he was the inventor of the detective story, and his poems remain popular to this day. I can say that stories like his ‘The Tell-tale Heart’ will always remain with me.


He was born 19th January 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of actors but never knew his parents (father left and mother died when he was only 3). He was separated from his siblings and adopted by the Allan family (tobacco merchants) from Richmond, Virginia. It seems he never got on with John, his adoptive father.

He went to the University of Virginia but did not get enough money and turned to gambling ending up in debt.

He started publishing in 1827 (Tamerlane and Other Poems) and at same time went to West Point. Although he excelled at his studies he was not interested in the duties and was asked to leave. In 1829 he published a second collection of Poems (Al Aaraaf, Tamberlane, and Minor Poems),

He focused on his writing and moved, living in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Richmond. From 1831 to 1835 he stayed in Baltimore with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia, whom he ended up marrying in 1836 (when she was 13 or 14).

Back in Richmond he started working for a magazine: Southern Literary Messenger and became well know as a fierce critic. Due to difficulties he only worked there for two years and he only briefly worked for two other magazines. During this period he published The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

In late 1830s he published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (includingThe Fall of the House of Usher’, ‘Ligeia’ and ‘William Wilson’). The Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1841 has been described as the first story of a new genre, the detective novel. He won a literary award for The Gold Bug.

His fame reached its peak with his publication of the poem The Raven in 1845. Many consider it one of his best works.

He also wrote a series of essays, poems and The Cask of Amontillado.

His wife Virginia died in 1847 and it seems he never fully recovered. His health was poor and he had financial difficulties. His death is surrounded by mystery, and it’s still unclear what he died of on October 7th 1849 in Baltimore.

He suffered from bad press following his death and another writer, Rufus Griswold (fame has not treated him kindly, but what goes around…) spread rumours about Poe being mentally unwell, an alcoholic and womaniser.  Despite of all that, his stories are still as shocking, if not more, than at the time of their publication.

Link to free e-books: 

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Volume 1 (this is under review currently)

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Volume 2

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Volume 3

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Volume 4

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Volume 5

Edgar Allan Poe’s Complete Poetical Works

The Raven

There are also free versions in French and Spanish (and I’m sure in other languages).


The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore:


Link to a page with many of his short stories:

The Literature network site:

Edgard Allan Poe’s museum in Virginia:

If you enjoy movies I leave you with the IMDB page on Poe. There’ve been many film versions of his stories, and he’s even recently appeared as a character in his own right (I haven’t watched the movie though…). I love Roger Corman’s versions of some of his stories (actually I love Roger Corman, great filmmaker, distributor of some of the best filmmakers, great eye for talent and has discovered so many great people, from actors: Jack Nicholson, Sandra Bullock, Robert De Niro, to filmmakers: Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, James Cameron, Peter Bognadovich…And if you’re a filmmaker his 1990 biography “How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime” is highly recommended).

I leave you with this quote because it feels so…up-to-date still:

“We should bear in mind that, in general, it is the object of our newspapers rather to create a sensation – to make a point – than to further the cause of truth.”

– from “The Mystery of Marie Roget”

English: Signature of writer Edgar Allan Poe.

And of course, thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed it share and of course, CLICK!


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LIfeTech with NikitaSainju

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