Percy Bysshe Shelley: Separating the Art from the Artist

Posthumous Portrait of Percy Shelley by Joseph Severn, 1845.
Posthumous Portrait of Percy Shelley by Joseph Severn, 1845.

The scandalous life of 19th century Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley rivals that of the most shocking celebrities of our modern age.  For him, art was all – even if the pursuit of that art meant the sacrifice of his wife, his children, and his reputation.[…]Continue Reading

Grimalkins, Gothics, & Beware the Cat

“I knewe these things wil seem mervelous to many men, that Cats should understand and speak, have a governour among themselves, and be obedient to their Lawes…” (Beware the Cat by William Baldwin, 1570.)

A Naturalistic Cat by Louis Wain, (1860 – 1939).
A Naturalistic Cat by Louis Wain, (1860–1939).

In the year 1553, during the reign of Edward VI, printer’s assistant William Baldwin penned the first English novel ever written: Beware the Cat.  Before this time, all works of fiction in English of short-story length or longer were not original texts.  They were translations or adaptations from other languages, such as French or Latin.[…]Continue Reading

Keats, Endymion, and Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine

Portrait of John Keats by William Hilton, 1822..
Portrait of John Keats
by William Hilton, 1822..

Nearly 195 years after John Keats’ death, even the most non-poetic amongst us can still quote the first line of Endymion: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever…”  Yet, upon its release in 1818, Endymion was so harshly reviewed by Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine that Lord Byron was prompted to write that the sensitive Keats had been “snuffed out by an article.”

And what an article!  Between referencing the “imperturbable driveling idiocy of Endymion” and snidely referring to Keats as “Johnny” and “Mr. John,” John Gibson Lockhart (writing for Blackwood’s) took jabs at Keats’ education, his middle-class upbringing, and even his former career as a licensed apothecary.  […]Continue Reading

Literary Fathers: As Depicted in the Works of Austen, Dickens, and Heyer

The Bridges Family by John Constable, 1805. (© Tate Museum, London, 2015)
The Bridges Family by John Constable, 1805.
(© Tate Museum, London, 2015)

It’s Father’s Day and, in celebration, I thought it would be a perfect time to take a brief look at a few of the many and varied fathers depicted in some of our favorite literary classics from the 19th century and beyond.[…]Continue Reading

Chaucer, Robert Burns, and Lassie: The Collie in Literature and History

No Walk Today by Wright Barker, (1864–1941).
No Walk Today by Wright Barker, (1864–1941).

The Rough Collie is one of the most recognizable dog breeds in the world.  This is largely due to English author Eric Knight who, in a 1938 short story, created what is arguably the greatest literary heroine of all time – Lassie.[…]Continue Reading

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