In 1886 Arthur Conan Doyle, whilst struggling to make a success of a failing medical practice in Portsmouth, set about writing a novel in order to boost his income. He began a story about a fiercely intelligent sleuth called Sheridan Hope. A year later A Study in Scarlet was published, and one of the most successful of literary characters began to take hold of the public's affections.
This is one of Sir Walter Scott's greatest adventures, set amongst the roaring battles of the struggle between the Normans and the Saxons for control of medieval England. It deals with the rivalry between King Richard the Lion-Heart and his brother, John. We follow the adventures, skirmishes and romances of the hero, Ivanhoe, a Saxon knight loyal to King Richard, as he attempts to survive the England of King John alongside the disguised Richard and, of course, Robin Hood.
Everyone has a swipe at their parents and the way they were brought up at some point in their lives. Very few of us exact revenge to the extent that Edmund Gosse did upon his father in this superbly funny, agonising account of a very strange childhood. The subtitle of the book is A Study of Two Temperaments, and these were temperaments not destined to get on. Gosse, Sr. was an eminent naturalist and zoologist and a keen follower of the Plymouth Brethren.
"Wonderful reading of a tender and funny memoir"
There are very few children's stories that have raised as much outrage in grown-up politics as The Water Babies did when it first appeared in 1863. It was written by Charles Kingsley for his own little boy and shortly after he had been made tutor to the Prince of Wales.
The wonderful Little Voice of Jane Horrocks brings this exclusive downloadable audiobook collection of your favourite childhood nursery rhymes out of the dust covers of Mother Goose's books and into strange and merry life. The nursery rhymes that make up our collection are taken from the original Mother Goose rhymes. They are the classics from our childhood, with all the original verses and all the parts of rhymes that one usually hums over due to having forgotten the words.
"Ok, but name the chapters"
The Mill on the Floss is one of the great works of English literature. It is perhaps the most autobiographical of all Eliot's novels. The relationship between its heroine, Maggie Tulliver, and her brother, Tom, closely resembles that of George Eliot and her own brother, Isaac. The subject of sibling affection was clearly a deeply poignant one for George Eliot - she also wrote a series of beautiful and evocative sonnets entitled 'Brother and Sister'.
Riotous, sexy and groundbreaking, Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews: The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams, published in 1742, was one of the first English novels. Fielding was melding and parodying the two major forces battling for control of the fiction market at the time - the mock heroic, neoclassical tradition as practiced by Pope and Swift and the popular and populist fiction of the new novelists such as Defoe and Richardson.
Robert Louis Stevenson's lengthy short story 'The Pavilion on the Links' was considered by Arthur Conan Doyle to be 'the first short story in the world'. This unsettlingly nerve-racking tale is every bit as chilling as its much wider known follower, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and at the time of its publication was every bit as successful. Stevenson makes the choice in the story of having two fairly unpleasant characters for his main protagonists.
The Chronicles of Clovis, published in 1911, was the third in Saki (H. H. Munro)'s series of very funny and very vicious stories. As an insider, Saki was ideally poised to eviscerate the Edwardian middle class way of life, and his pitiless and magnetic sense of humour - teamed with an ability to wield that sharpest of writer's tools, the (very) short story - makes these some of the funniest and most quotable of tales. All of the running themes in Saki's work are here.
"The Joy of Saki"
The epic story of this hero's battle against dragons, monsters, and their mothers is particularly suited to being recorded as an audiobook given that for the first 300 years of its existence it was only ever spoken. The first known (and indeed the only surviving manuscript) of the poem was written in AD 1,000. It survived Henry VIII's attempts to destroy it (as a religious artifact) and a catastrophic fire that destroyed many other historical British documents.
The story of young Tom Brown's seemingly hideous years spent at rugby school and his spirited and astonishingly stalwart response to the institutionalised bullying prevalent at the 'Great' British public schools became exactly the campaigning tool its author hoped it would. The regimes at these schools had been largely unchallenged, with the assumption being that the education and training received were the best.
"Wish i had read book before seeing the film."
The three tales that make up Edgar Allan Poe's The Dupin Mysteries introduce us to the cracking character of Chevalier Auguste Dupin. As a rationalist and practitioner of brilliant deduction, he was to become the template for most of the detective fiction that followed speedily in his wake. The first tale, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", details a form of murder solving that was to become only too familiar.
"Bill Nighy is snsx"
These fairy tales are nasty. This is the land of goblins and sorceresses, with serious lines in revenge, not the land of unicorns and once upon a Barbie. The tales that the Brothers Grimm collected during their time as linguistics professors, first at the University of Göttingen and then in Berlin, at the request of the King of Prussia, were an attempt to map the folklore of the German-speaking people.
The wild adventure that David Balfour takes in Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped starts with the newly orphaned boy travelling to his uncle's terrifying House of Shaws. Having failed in an attempt to murder young David, the miserly Ebeneezer Balfour, who would rather keep the fortune to which the child is now entitled, arranges for a kidnapping aboard a ship bound for the new world.
The most personal of Oscar Wilde's works, The Picture of Dorian Grey was also one of the earliest. It was published in 1891 and caused immediate controversy and great notoriety for its writer. The story of an immensely beautiful and hedonistic boy whose conscience becomes separate from his body and housed in a portrait which slowly and hideously ages and decays in keeping with his increasing depravity whilst the boy himself remains untouched plays with all of Oscar Wilde's theories of art and life.
Written as the letters of the five members of Squire Bramble's household sent as they journey around Britain, The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker is a grouchy, very funny examination of how one story varies depending on who's doing the telling. The tale is centered around the arrival of Mr. Clinker into the otherwise uneventful household, who never speaks and does not even enter the novel until a third of the way through.
Framed for a theft he didn't commit and expelled from the church which has been his life, Silas Marner, the weaver, exiles himself to the remote rural village of Raveloe to bury himself in making money with his loom. The arrival of a golden-haired orphan toddler at his door, however, drags the recluse back into the world and away from his obsession with his hoard.
In his own inimitable style, Terry Jones leads you through Chaucer's filthy and very funny tale of adultery, the feared coming of the second flood and burnt bums. The Canterbury Tales broke the literary mould in many ways. It established English as an acceptable language for literature, where previously it had been almost exclusively Latin or Norman French. It was also one of the first books to create a link between all the pieces of work in a literary collection.
The battle between a father and a daughter is usually portrayed in literature as a struggle between a headstrong but feisty girl and a tradition-bound lead weight of a father. Henry James, of course, had to do it somewhat differently. He tells a story of an intelligent man riding the turn of the tide in mid-19th-century New York and watching what he sees as his numbingly dull and conventional daughter making the mistake of her life in her choice of husband.
This is a selection of D. H. Lawrence's short stories, mostly about women. Although much wider known for his novels and in particular for his forthright attitude to sex and its description in literature, it is for his short stories that Lawrence has most commonly gained critical acclaim. He was a beautiful creator of this most difficult of forms, giving us glimpses into the lives he describes in his stories, which often tell us more than full-length novels written by lesser hands.