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The Removal of Donald Trump from the White House (with apologies to John Betjeman, and Oscar Wilde)

He swallowed an Ambien capsule,And gazed at the Washington skies.He pouted, characteristically,And narrowed his gimlet eyes, For the Resolute Desk had been cleared now,Melania’s photo, and all;And “The Bronco Buster” by RemingtonLeft a reproachful gap on the wall. “I got to remember my Cestrol.Kayleigh, just see it’s in hand —How could they have been so […]

Grammar is ‘Racist’?

Here is an interesting (albeit utterly depressing) post about the new grammar policy at Rutgers. What craven nonsense it is, what woolly thinking. Liberals don’t think minorities can learn real stuff. Please! Stop sending kids to Rutgers! They won’t learn anything, and they’ll be “taught” a bunch of crap. The latest: Standard English grammar is […]

From ‘Death in the Classroom’ and other poems

I Death in the Classroom First, children, let us sing the Names of Death.Sacred Death, and Holy Death,Most Holy Death, Most Saintly Death,Skinny Lady, Bony Lady, Black Lady, White Lady,White Sister, Pretty Girl,Powerful Lady, Lady of the Shadows,Holy Girl, Girl Skeleton, Saint SkeletonAnd Godmother.And Lord of Death,And Lord of the Good Death, Lord of the […]

Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern)

… is a fascinating 1919 German film produced during the Weimar Republic, starring Conrad Veidt and Reinhold Schünzel, directed by Richard Oswald and shot by Max Fassbender. It is generally considered to be the first gay film – its blackmail plot was later recycled for Victim (1961), starring Dirk Bogarde. Anders als die Andern was […]

Death from laughter

You have to hand it to Wikipedia. Their content becomes more agreeably bizarre by the minute, as in the excerpts from Death from laughter below. I’ve added a few notes here and there. Here is an excerpt from the comedy sketch that finished off Alex Mitchell of Kings Lynn. make funny GIFs like this at […]

The LibriVox Question

LibriVox is a rapidly expanding online platform where volunteers make recordings of literary classics, anything from short poems to major novels. Its laudable aim is the “acoustical liberation of books into the public domain”, making it a sort of vocal version of Project Gutenberg. The problem is that a great many of the volunteers, though […]

Advice for aspiring authors –from William Plomer.

William Plomer (1903 – 1973) was a South African and British author, poet and literary editor. The extract below is from ‘The Typewritten Word’, a chapter in his Autobiography. It should be required reading for anyone who has the merest atom of a wish to put pen to paper. Here Plomer recalls his time at […]

Prufrock revisited

The illustration is from Julian Peters’ comic-book version of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Julian Peters Comics is well worth a visit – he has illustrated poems by Wilde, Kipling, Poe, Rimbaud and many more. There is even a Manga-style edition of Yeats’ When You Are Old. Turning to Eliot, I love Prufrock, […]

Jair Bolsonaro

I hope readers will forgive a fairly lengthy digression before we proceed to the vexed question of the President of Brazil. One of the most interesting books I’ve ever looked at – I do not exaggerate – is National Anthems of the World (Orion: 10th Revised edition, 2002). This 624-page masterpiece, first published in 1960, […]

The Tulsaloser Shuffle: Donald Trump’s Walk of Shame

From: The Walk of Shame, by Mira Moshe, Nicoleta Corbu, Nova Science Publishers, 2015“The term “walk of shame” is deeply rooted in the idea that shame is a difficult emotion stemming from a feeling of inferiority or social discomfort, which causes a person to wish to disappear, become invisible, be “swallowed up by the earth”. […]

Boris Johnson: a classical commentary

I never really saw the point of Brexit, hard as I tried. Our position in Europe was, for me, a classic case of having one’s cake and eating it. Despite the greatly exaggerated bureaucratic and legislative tyrannies of Brussels, we always maintained a more than sufficient measure of national identity. We have the Queen, the […]

Making America Misogynistic Again

Saint Hoax is a pseudonymous Syrian artist who replaces the slogans on vintage ads with real-life utterances by the President of the United States. Here are two representative examples. To see the rest, click on Roisin Lanigan’s excellent piece about the Saint Hoax project, Making America Misogynistic again. Leaving aside the Trump issues, I’m also […]

Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book

Here are some excerpts, some amusing, others downright inflammatory, from The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners; or Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book (Philadelphia: Petersen, 1864). On Champagne… On no consideration let any lady be persuaded to take two glasses of champagne. It is more than the head of an American female can bear. […]

Johnson versus Gibbon

The dramatist and theatre owner, George Colman the Elder, recalls meeting Johnson and Gibbon: “The learned Gibbon was a curious counter-balance to the learned (may I not say the less learned) Johnson. Their manners and tastes, both in writing and conversation, were as different as their habiliments. On the day I first sat down with Johnson […]

“…but what were they actually like?” 2. David Hume

From Eminent Scotsmen: “Lord Charlemont, who at this period met with Mr. Hume at Turin, has given the following account of his habits and appearance, penned apparently with a greater aim at effect than at truth, yet somewhat characteristic of the philosopher: ‘Nature, I believe, never formed any man more unlike his real character than […]

“…but what were they actually like?” 1. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“She is little, hard featured, with long dark ringlets, a pale face, and plaintive voice, something very impressive in her dark eyes and her brow. Her general aspect puts me in mind of Mignon,—what Mignon might be in maturity and maternity.”—Sara Coleridge, Letters, 1851. “Dined at home, and at eight dressed to go to Kenyon. […]

Wilhelmine, Margravine of Baireuth

Oscar Wilde reviews the Memoirs of Wilhelmine, Margravine of Baireuth. He quotes extensively from the book, highlighting some rather alarming episodes featuring Wilhelmine’s father, Frederick I of Prussia. The Princess Christian’s translation of the Memoirs of Wilhelmine, Margravine of Baireuth, is a most fascinating and delightful book.  The Margravine and her brother, Frederick the Great, were, as the […]

William Lyon Phelps on Russian literature

Here is an illuminating excerpt from an essay on Russian literature by William Lyon Phelps (1865 – 1943). Given the somewhat disparaging remark he makes about early American literature, it should be remembered that Phelps was himself an American. Indeed, he has the distinction of being the first professor at an American university to teach […]

Oscar Wilde on Common-Sense in Art

Oscar Wilde’s journalism is tremendously entertaining and deserves to be more widely read than it currently is. Here is his review, in the Pall Mall Gazette of January 1887, of John Collier’s A Manual of Oil Painting. I have inserted a reasonably indicative example of Collier’s painting (he was a leading artist of the day) […]

Evelyn March Phillipps on Giorgione

Here is an excellent meditation on Giorgione, from The Venetian School of Painting by Evelyn March Phillipps (New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1912). The excerpt seems to me to be an excellent example of how to write about art; direct, passionate and utterly free from jargon or pretension. March Phillipps is little read today, […]