Saturday, December 10, 2005

Mistress Masham's Repose - T H White

Some of us on a discussion forum recently got talking about sequels to famous books written by other authors, and one of the titles that was mentioned was T H White's Mistress Masham's Repose, the sequel to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Despite the fact that I hated the abridged version of Gulliver's Travels that I read a as child, and I didn't much enjoy the full version I read whilst doing my degree a few years ago, I had heard enough people talking positively about Mistress Masham's Repose (particularly on the Child_Lit list) that I decided to try reading it. I quite enjoyed it - the Lilliputians, without Gulliver seemed more interesting somehow, and Maria, the 10 year old orphaned protagonist of the story is definitely more interesting than Gulliver ! The one thing I did find irritating about the book was the Professor, whom I found to be too stereotypically absent-minded, poverty-stricken and book-obessed !

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Having mentioned Milton and his Paradise Lost yesterday, someone today mentioned the new OUP edition of the poem with the introduction by Philip Pullman. I looked at it when it first came out and thought it was a rather nice edition and once Deadline Day has passed, I shall think about borrowing it from the library. I've never yet managed to read it, but I'm thinking of taking the advice of my friend Jameela, who's a Milton scholar, of getting together a group of people to read it aloud with me (much as Tolkien gathered a group of people, that included Lewis, to read aloud the Norse sagas). It could be more productive than struggling to read it by myself - especially as I love reading poetry aloud !

Whilst I'm on the subject of poetry, the Writer's Alamanac email today tells me that it's the birthday of Emily Dickinson today, and shared the following poem, which it seems appropriate to share here:


He ate and drank the precious Words --
His Spirit grew robust --
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was Dust --

He danced along the dingy Days
And this Bequest of Wings
Was but a Book -- What Liberty
A loosened spirit brings --

I'm not very familiar with many of the American poets, never having found time to read much of their work, but one of the few American poets whose work has come my way quite often is Dickinson. Her poems often have a simplicity to them that disguises their profundity. I offer respectful birthday greetings, Ms Dickinson.

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