#SoCS Stream of Consciousness Saturday ‘Lips’ #FlashFiction

This post was written in response to Linda Hill’s weekly Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. Follow the link on the banner for more information

This weeks prompt is“lip” I’m going to write a 100 word flash fiction story, because as soon as I saw the word, an idea flashed into my mind. I’ve been thinking about it and now I’m going to write it. I won’t edit, but I will weed out words to reduce it to 100 max. Sounds like fun, but let’s see how it works out!

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Her Lips

She pursed her lips. Those soft, luscious lips that had caressed every inch of my skin. Only mine.

They sank into a hard, angry line.  Lips that had told me they loved only me.

I willed her lips to move, to show me there was still hope, but they remained rigid, while blood, as red as her lips dripped onto the floor.

I love you, I told her, and at last, those lips that made me lose my mind, twitched slightly, one last time.

She pressed her lips to mine and dug the knife further into the wound. It’s over, she whispered.

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Sorry it was a bit dark, but that’s where her lips took me!

A psychological, tense thriller in 100 words. Does it work?

#SoCS Fabulous Stream of Consciousness #Novels ‘Mrs Dallaway’ & ‘My Name is Lucy Barton’

This post was written in response to Linda Hill’s weekly Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. Follow the link on the banner for more information!

This weeks prompt is“fab.” Linda Hill says, “Use it as a word or find a word beginning with “fab.” As always, use any way you’d like. Have fun!”

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I’m going to ramble about two fabulous, stream of consciousness novels.

The first novel is Mrs Dallaway, Virginia Woolf’s unforgettable and inspiring masterpiece, which takes place in one single day in the month of June, in the early 1920s, shortly after the end of WWI.

Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf (Wordsworth Classics) (Wordsworth Collection)

Mrs Dallaway (Clarissa) is preparing an important society party while her thoughts come and go in diverse directions and timeframes in erratic flashbacks, as the reader discovers Clarissa’s unhappy marriage, the childhood sweetheart she loved but didn’t marry, her insecurities as a society wife, her bisexual tendency’s, and social issues, such as postwar depression and traumatized war veterans.

It’s a novel without a specific plot, in which nothing ‘important’ happens during the specific day, except the preparation of the party, and yet everything that’s happened in Clarissa’s life passes through her mind in that single day.

The protagonist is struggling unsuccessfully to find meaning in her life.

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Bearing in mind the carefully plotted, character driven, traditional 19th century novels, such as those written by the Bronte sisters, Mary Shelley, or even George Elliot, Mrs Dallaway, represented a significant turning point.

Photograph of Virginia Woolf in 1902; photograph by George Charles Beresford

Virginia Woolf initiated an innovative approach to the novel in the early 20th century. The novel no longer adhered to a strict timeline and tight plot, instead, the narrator could wander wherever his/her mind went.

Now I’m going to jump forward to the 21st century. It’s 2016 and we have another major and innovative Stream of Consciousness novel by Elizabeth Strout, called, My Name is Lucy Barton, which I discussed amply in my blog yesterday.

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This fabulous, stream of consciousness novel, takes Virginia Woolf’s approach even further. On this occasion, there is no plot at all, very little by way of characterisation and a disjointed timeline with erratic flashbacks and forwards, and some unsettling hospital visitors, while Lucy is in a hospital bed, recovering from an unspecfied illness.

Lucy should have read Camus or Sartre, they would have told her that her futile and obsessive search for the meaning of her life, was doomed to bring her distress, because there is none. The only solution for Clarissa and Lucy, and all of us, is to accept the fact that life is absurd, and still find reasons to be happy.

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Life isn’t always fair, random events occur, sometimes bad things happen to good people, and bad people get away with murder. We don’t choose our parents, our country or place of birth, our language or religion, and so many other things which shape our lives, and yet, there are still plenty of things we can choose and change.

I enjoyed reading both novels, but I have no sympathy for either Lucy or Clarissa. I suggest they stop blaming others, i.e. their childhood, parents, nationality, religion, politics, society, etc. for their problems.

It’s up to each one of us to decide what we’re prepared to accept and what we’re prepared to fight to change or rebel against.

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So, do you enjoy reading stream of consciousness, almost experimental, literary novels, which explore a character’s psyche intensely, but have little by means of a traditional plot or timeline?

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge: The Mourner

This post was written in response to Charli Mills’ weekly Flash Fiction Challenge.   

January 12, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that expresses a strong concern, something to give a crap about. Something that brings out the feeling to stand up. How can you use it to show tension or reveal attitudes?

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The Mourner

The undertaker pointed to the sullen lad. “He looks like a good candidate, Mr. Bumble.”

“Any job requiring silence will suit this hard-working boy, Mr. Sowerberry.”

“No speaking required,” he said, then turned to the pauper. “Just crying, preferably bawling his eyes out.”

“Indeed?”

“He’ll be working as a mourner at children’s funerals.”

“Excellent. We’ll be sorry to see him go, but it’s our duty to help destitute orphans.”

Good riddance, he thought. Nobody gives a crap about any of the blighters.

He’d paid a fiver to get rid of Oliver Twist.

Troublemaker.

How dare he ask for more!

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Oliver Twist may not be Dickens’ best novel, but it’s my favourite. It’s a novel which is very dear to my heart. I read abridged versions as a child and I’ve read and reread the complete novel many times.

Oliver Twist is Dickens at his rawest, most melodramatic, and outspoken. I can almost hear his pen scratching the paper as he writes and see his head shaking with anger at the injustices remembered and portrayed.

I watched all the film adaptations, my absolute favourite is Carol Reed’s 1968 version. I watched numerous versions as school plays, throughout my school days. Years later I took my children to see Lionel Bart’s unforgettable musical adaptation live at the London Palladium in 1994. Here’s Jonathan Pryce as Fagin.

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Oliver Twist was an orphan who spent his early years in a workhouse, until he was found a job away from the other inmates, because he was considered subversive as a result of asking for more gruel.

This is the extract from the scene in Dickens’ Oliver Twist where he asks for more gruel:

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Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

‘Please, sir, I want some more.’

The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper.

The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.

‘What!’ said the master at length, in a faint voice.

‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver, ‘I want some more.’

The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arm; and shrieked aloud for the beadle.

The board were sitting in solemn conclave, when Mr. Bumble rushed into the room in great excitement, and addressing the gentleman in the high chair, said, ‘Mr. Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver Twist has asked for more!’

There was a general start. Horror was depicted on every countenance.

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Of course they were horrified, How dare he ask for more? How dare he speak up and challenge injustice? How dare he hope to improve his lot? He was obviously an upstart and it was then that they decided to find him a job away from the workhouse, because he would be a bad influence on the rest of the inmates.

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Few people gave a crap about children in general, and even less so if they were orphans, in Victorian England.

Child abuse, including child labour, and exploitation, was rampant in Victorian England. Children who survived infancy were often put to work at an early age in textile mills, coal mines, and down chimneys, where working conditions often proved deadly. Girls from the age of five went into domestic service as nurses or maids, and rural children worked on farms, too. Workhouses and poor houses, like the ones in Oliver Twist were cruel places as Dickens himself experienced as a child.

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Fortunately, many Victorians campaigned to improve the lives of poor children. Reformers such as Lord Shaftesbury (1801-1885 in the picture above, left), were able to pass laws to protect children from exploitations, such as the 1841 Mines Act which made it illegal for children under the age of 10 to work in a coal mine. The 1847 Ten Hour Act which made it illegal for children to work more than 10 hours in a day. The 1874 Factory Act which banned the employment of children under 10 in factories. Of course if these laws were needed, it meant that children under the age of ten were working as if they were adults, and probably earning a great deal less. Lord Shaftesbury later became the president of the Ragged School Union, an evangelical organization which established hundreds of schools for the poor.

Charles Dickens’ novels revealed and condemned the exploitation of helpless children. When Dickens was twelve, his father was imprisoned for debt and he was sent to work in a blacking factory, an incident that haunted him his whole life. No wonder his novels depict plenty of neglected, exploited, or abused children and orphans.

Oliver Twist (1837) was written to expose and attack on these practices and the cruelty and injustice of workhouses and poor houses for the homeless, which subjected them to unhealthy and inhuman living conditions and hard labour.

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Orphans and their plight also featured predominantly in other Victorian novels, such as my beloved Jane Eyre. Many of the characters in The Eyre Hall Trilogy are orphans or abandoned children, too.

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall includes an account of a dramatic case of child farming, child abuse and kidnapping, which, as Dickens’ novels, is based on real events.

In the following scene from Chapter XI, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. Michael is in London, searching for a child who had been kidnapped and sold. The following is his conversation with a representative of the law, who expresses the general opinion of many people within the establishment, at the time.

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Sergeant Wilson was a round sort of man. He had a round red–veined face, a large round belly, and fat chubby fingers. I imagined he was a man who enjoyed his food and drink over any other pleasures in life. When he spoke, his slurred and jovial voice convinced me he would never be seen chasing anyone or even organising a chase. I informed him of my suspicion that a woman under an assumed name was buying and selling babies. I was appalled at his lack of interest in the topic.

“There are too many children in London, Lieutenant Kirkpatrick, far too many. They are often born in the wrong families, who cannot feed them or clothe them, so they are taken to other better–off families. It is often a question of social justice. Many of the intermediaries are religious orders. Children are left on church or convent doorsteps, others sadly fall into the hands of dubious individuals such as the one you mention, but in any case, the children who survive will have a better life, don’t you think?”

I could not disclose the real events that had occurred, but I needed to be able to threaten her with some legal action.

“Of course I agree, Sergeant Wilson, but let us suppose a criminal had robbed children and was selling them for immoral reasons, such as prostitution or unpaid labour?”

“If it could be proved in a court of law that she stole the children and sold them, she would be taken to Newgate and later hanged. Unfortunately, none of the parents would miss a hungry baby, and call the police to deal with the crime.”

I tried to convince him that the plight of the babies was important, but he was unmoved.

“Have you any idea how much crime, I mean serious crime, there is in London? Pickpockets, thieves, burglars, and debtors, they are our curse. They threaten the honest, hard–working citizens of London.”

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Fortunately, at least in Europe, we have a welfare system which caters for the underprivileged, makes education available and compulsory for children up to the age of 16 or 18, a national health service covers all citizens, and there are laws to protect children and other vulnerable citizens, such as immigrants, refugees and the unemployed. We should never forget that this hasn’t always been the case. Social care and civil rights were gained because many people fought for them, and now it’s our turn to make sure they are still guaranteed for our children and grandchildren.

More on the Victorians and child labour at the British Library

The Ideal Fictional Hero: Just for fun!

Another excuse to introduce you to some of my favorite fictional characters, authors and novels. In no particular order…

The most faithful and dashing fictional hero has to be Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth, in Persuasion. He proposed to Anne Elliot, but he was rejected because her family thought he wasn’t good enough. Wentworth returned to Bath, supposedly in search of a wife, but really he was out to impress Anne again, and impress her he did with his letter, because he’s also the greatest writer of love letters in English literature, saying things like, ‘you pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.’ and ‘Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.’ Don’t you just love him?

The most persistent (albeit tragic) hero, has to be Jay Gatsby, in Scott Firzgerald’s Great Gatsby. He’s prepared to go to any length to recover the woman he loves. He’s another self-made man thanks to his successful bootlegging business. He becomes a millionaire and buys the biggest mansion right across the bay from Daisy’s house, just to impress her. Wow!

The most patient and supportive hero has to be Thomas Hardy’s Gabriel Oak, in Far From the Madding Crowd. I first met the man who watched Bathsheba, the woman he loved, be courted by other, richer men, and marry the wrong man, at an early age. I was forced to read it for my ‘O’ levels, but the patient shepherd, who remained her friend and confidant, and was finally rewarded by marrying her, captivated me.

A hero should be fun, and the wittiest hero I can think of is Benedick, in Shakespeare’s Much ado About Nothing. His maturity and humour, match Beatrice’s, one of Shakespeare’s sharpest and most likeable female characters. I was fortunate enough to see a representation at Lancaster Castle, an unforgettable experience.

Now, a girl needs a man who will look after her and save her from anyone who would want to harm her, in short, she needs to be protected by Ian Fleming’s, James Bond, who else? In Casino Royal, for example?

The most passionate and forceful is definitely, Edward Rochester, in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. When the bigamous marriage is exposed and they return, unmarried and hapless to Thornfield Hall, Jane tells him she must leave, and she describes his incensed reaction:

‘His fury was wrought to the highest: he must yield to it for a moment, whatever followed; he crossed the floor and seized my arm and grasped my waist. He seemed to devour me with his flaming glance: physically, I felt, at the moment, powerless as stubble exposed to the draught and glow of a furnace: mentally, I still possessed my soul, and with it the certainty of ultimate safety. The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter—often an unconscious, but still a truthful interpreter—in the eye. My eye rose to his; and while I looked in his fierce face I gave an involuntary sigh; his gripe was painful, and my over-taxed strength almost exhausted. “Never,” said he, as he ground his teeth, “never was anything at once so frail and so indomitable. A mere reed she feels in my hand!” (And he shook me with the force of his hold.)

The following day, a shocked Jane, who refuses to stay and become his mistress, flees in the early hours of the morning.

Except for heroines who manage to catch a millionaire, most others need a reliable and hard-working man who’ll be a good breadwinner. I have two contenders for this post, by the same writer, Charles Dickens, but I just can’t decide who is the most hard-working, David Copperfield, or Pip, in Great Expectations, both meet the bill. They are determined and hard workers, and patient and faithful. Pip has the edge, in fact, he’s one of my favourite all round male characters… “I saw no shadow of another parting from her“. I’m so glad Pip finally gets his Estella in Dickens’ revised ending. Everyone likes a happy ending, don’t they?

Now, which heroine wouldn’t love a brave soldier like Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchel’s Gone With The Wind? A man who risks his life for his country and his men, in spite of knowing he’s on the losing side, and claiming not to be patriotic. He is referred to by his commanding officer as, “A born artilleryman, a brave soldier, and an uncompromising gentleman.” Pity Scarlett didn’t appreciate it when she should have. 😦

A bit of mystery is also quite exciting, and enigmatic Maxim de Winter in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is the most mystifying and tortured hero of all of them. Was that because he killed his wife? No wonder they changed that in the film version. rather spoils the hero, doesn’t it?

The most attractive hero is Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Grey, so beautiful that men and women were equally attracted to him. ‘He is some brainless beautiful creature who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence.’ However, he was unable to live beyond his ephemeral, and external beauty.

A man who definitely stands out due to his intelligence is the brilliant Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation is always able to solve any crime with his astuteness. No detail escapes his analytic eye. The Speckled Band is one of my favourites.

Lastly, it’s all well during the buzz of romantic love, but what happens after that? Is he someone I can grow old with? Racking my literary memory, the closest I can find to a genuine, lasting, positive and supportive relationship is Young Jolyon and Irene Forsythe in To Let, the final novel in Galsworthy’s Forsythe Saga. Although it was her second, and his third matrimony, they were still in love twenty years after their marriage, when pen in hand, the last word he scribbled before dying was ‘Irene’. Sounds lasting to me!

To sum up, the ideal fictional hero must have a combination of the aforementioned characteristics. He must be beautiful, mysterious, brave, protective, hard-working, passionate, patient and supportive, intelligent, witty and fun, persistent, genuine, and faithful. Have I missed any qualities? Or heroes? Feel free to make some more suggestions!

A Poem for the Second Day of Summer. Rereading Christina Rossetti’s Summer

I have a very soft spot for Christina Rossetti’s poetry, especially her short, intense verses, full of symbolism and feeling. Summer was published in The Prince’s Progress, and Other Poems, in 1866

Rossetti cover yes

Summer

Winter is cold-hearted,
Spring is yea and nay,
Autumn is a weathercock
Blown every way.
Summer days for me
When every leaf is on its tree;

When Robin’s not a beggar,
And Jenny Wren’s a bride,
And larks hang singing, singing, singing
Over the wheat-fields wide,
And anchored lilies ride,
And the pendulum spider
Swings from side to side;

And blue-black beetles transact business,
And gnats fly in a host,
And furry caterpillars hasten
That no time be lost
And moths grow fat and thrive,
And ladybirds arrive

Before green apples blush,
Before green nuts embrown,
Why one day in the country
Is worth a month in town;
Is worth a day and a year
Of the dusty, musty, lag-last fashion
That days drone elsewhere.

I love the way she starts by comparing summer to the other three seasons, telling us it is her favourite. In the second and third stanzas she elaborates on her reasons, which are based on the natural elements which abound: robins, wrens, larks, lilies, and insects, all ‘grow fat and thrive’. The final stanza concludes that these wonderful summer days should be enjoyed in the country, where these wonderful plants and animals can be appreciated, and not in the ‘dusty, musty, lag-last fashion’ city.

Christina_Rossetti_ by dante

Christina Rossetti was born and brought up in London in an artistic family of Italian parents. Her father was the poet Gabriele Rossetti, a Dante scholar who became professor of Italian at King’s College, London. Her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti, also a poet and a painter. The four Rossetti siblings were educated by their mother, Frances Rossetti, a former governess.

She was a precocious poet, whose poems were privately published by her grandfather in 1842, when she was twelve! At the age of twenty, she published seven poems in the Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ, founded by her brother William Michael Rossetti) under the pseudonym, Ellen Alleyne. Read more about Christina Rossetti and the pre-Raphaelites

Rossetti’s best-known work, is her long poem, Goblin Market and Other Poems, which was published in 1862, and established her as a significant voice in Victorian poetry.

 

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Christina Rossetti and her mother

 

By the 1880s, recurrent illness restricted her social life, although she continued to write poems. In 1891, Rossetti developed cancer, of which she died in London on December 29, 1894. Rossetti’s brother, William Michael, edited her collected works in 1904, however the Complete Poems were not published before 1979.

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Her poem Summer refers to her happiest childhood memories which were the summer holidays spent in her Grandfather Polidori’s home, Holmer Green, in Buckinghamshire. The Rossetti children spent their days discovering the landscape around them and the animals that lived there. It must have been a welcome change from industrial and overcrowded Victorian London, where she lived for most of her life.

Rossetti was a fervent Anglican, and she was aware of women’s underprivileged place in society. This led her to spend some years working with “fallen women” at Highgate institution, run by the Diocese of London, where they received religious education and were instructed in housework, to enable them to secure employment as maids. Her experiences at Highgate are a likely source of inspiration for “Goblin Market“, as well as a probable purpose for the poem, which she probably read to the women as a means of moral instruction.

I agree with many scholars, that she was, no doubt, a Victorian intellectual, subject to sexual, religious, and patriarchal repression. It is therefore in her poetry that we can attempt to glimpse and the power and contained feeling she kept under lock and key in her disciplined mind.

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Summer is one of her few optimistic poems, unfortunately, it has a pessimistic counterpart.

Summer is Ended

To think that this meaningless thing was ever a rose,
Scentless, colourless, this!
Will it ever be thus (who knows?)
Thus with our bliss,
If we wait till the close?

Though we care not to wait for the end, there comes the end
Sooner, later, at last,
Which nothing can mar, nothing mend:
An end locked fast,
Bent we cannot re-bend.

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A wilting rose in my garden

 

Summer is Ended was published in her 1881 volume, A Pageant and Other Poems. Its title is derived from a passage in the Old Testament book, Jeremiah:
The harvest is past,
the summer has ended,
and we are not saved.
(Jeremiah 8:20)

By this time in her life, she was overtaken by recurrent and invalidating illness. She had also refused several suitors,  wishing to remain a spinster. This poem is melancholic, and nostalgic. it reminds us that the splendid summer must end, and give way to a wilting rose, in the same way as our lives, too, will come to a close.

I didn’t intend to end on this ‘sad’ note, so let’s remember that today is the second day of summer, and we still have about ninety days of lazy, hazy, long sunny days ahead of us, and when the summer is gone, I have another delicious poem waiting for you.

I love autumn, and I’m sure it’s partly due to John Keats poem, Ode to Autumn, but that will come in September…

 

A Sonnet for the First Day of Summer. Rereading Shakespeare

This is a wonderful sonnet to celebrate the first day of summer. Enjoy!

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Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (Sonnet 18)

William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
The Sonnets are Shakespeare’s most popular works, and Sonnet 18, Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, is easily the most widely read poem in English literature.

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, probably between 1592 and 1598, between Shakespeare’s 18th and 45th birthdays. They were published in 1609 by the unscrupulous Thomas Thorpe, probably without the author’s permission.

The sonnets were dedicated to a W. H., whose identity remains a mystery, although William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, is frequently suggested because Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623) was also dedicated to him.

Loosely paraphrased

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Seen in my garden this morning, 21st June.

‘You are more beautiful than summer. When summer’s over you’ll still be beautiful, and after you are no longer here, people will still remember your beauty because they’ll be reading this poem about how much I love you and how beautiful you are.’

Sonnets were very popular form of entertainment in the 1590’s. Although it was imported from Italy, the Shakespearean sonnet took on a distinctive English style with three distinctively rhymed quatrains, building an argument, and ending with a denouement in the final rhymed couplet.

The first quatrain introduces the question of whether the loved person’s beauty is comparable to a summer’s day. Of course, the object of his love is more ‘temperate’ and lasting than the ephemeral summer. The second quatrain extends the same idea, concluding that summer is too hot and will decline. The third quatrain affirms that the addressee’s beauty will outlive the summer. Finally, he predicts that the person will live on as long as his poem is read. The poet concludes that beauty, love, and literature, will all outlive the ephemeral summer.

 

The Plagues and Prestige

There are many theories regarding his purpose in writing the sonnets, and whether they are autobiographical, or imaginative literary creations.

We have the plagues which were so frequent in London to thank for Shakespeare’s sonnets.

In the summer of 1592, an episodic outbreak of the plague swept through London, and theatres were among the public gathering places which were shut down.

Shakespeare probably wrote sonnets at this time for two reasons. Firstly, he needed finance while the theatres reopened, so writing under commission may have been a good option for a well-known playwright.

Secondly, he also wanted to be taken seriously as a writer. Playwrights of the era were considered little more than popular ‘showmen’, and Shakespeare wanted to earn both money and literary praise through noble patronage and sonnet writing.

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I love these balconies. I see them almost every day!

A narrative in Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Most scholars have identified a narrative in Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence. The first seventeen sonnets, These are the so-called “procreation sonnets“, were probably commissioned in order to urge a young nobleman, probably William Herbert, Earl of Southampton, to marry and have children. William Herbert’s mother, Mary, was one of the most important patrons of literature in the sixteenth-century, and herself a poet. She may have commissioned Shakespeare, a highly successful playwright, to write the sonnets for her son’s seventeenth birthday in 1597, to encourage him to put away youthful pursuits and get married.

Other scholars identify William Wriothesly, Earl of Pembroke, who was a generous patron of the theatre and learning in general.

Much has been discussed as to whether the sonnets have a homosexual intention. We will never know, and in any case, the gender of the addressee is irrelevant. The main theme of the poem is romantic love, and the pervalence of love over time.

Our sonnet, number 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” no longer insists on marriage and procreation. This sonnet is heavily hedonistic, the poet admits his love for and praises the addressee, trying to persuade her that he will immortalize him/her through his verses.
The following sequence of 108 sonnets may be addressed to the same Young Man with whom the poet now has an intense romantic relationship.

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Another group of the sonnets, (76-86, maybe 100-103), the poet obliquely mentions a rival poet for either the patronage or the affections of the Young Man, a situation which arouses jealousy, as this poet has “a worthier pen” and “a better spirit.” Again, much has been speculated about the ‘real’ identity of this ‘rival poet’, who may have been Christopher Marlowe or Ben Jonson.

The final group of sonnets (127-154) is devoted to the poet’s ‘dark’ mistress, promiscuous and scheming woman: the Dark Lady Sonnets. Again, there are many possible candidates, such as noblewomen, other poets’ mistresses, and Lucy, an African prostitute. The poet’s tone here is sensual, sinful, and distressed.

More information on Shakespeare’s Sonnets
They are well worth reading and rereading. Have a go! You can read them here.

“Reader, I married him.”

The Last chapter of Jane Eyre begins with these four words, “Reader, I married him.” As if with marriage the narrator wished to close the story which started when Jane was a ten year old orphan living unhappily with her cruel aunt, Mrs. Reed, and spiteful cousins; Georgina, Eliza, and John. She later went through the deprivations and severity of Brocklhurst boarding school where she trained and later worked as a teacher. When she was eighteen, she applied for a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall where she met and fell in love with Mr. Rochester, who almost dishonoured her by preparing a bigamous marriage. He was already legally married to Bertha Mason, whom he had imprisoned in his attic. Bertha committed suicide and Jane and Rochester were finally able to celebrate a lawful wedding.

It was a Victorian convention to end novels in this way, indicating that virtue led to the stability and happiness which marriage represented. The problem here is that Mr. Rochester was neither virtuous nor stable, and every reader is aware of that. Whether you believe that this was the end of the story of Jane Eyre is, of course, up to the reader. This is what the narrator, Jane Eyre, a romantic and innocent twenty-year-old, thought would happen. But how reliable a narrator is Jane, the young, naïve woman who is blindly in love with Edward Rochester?

Readers have seen Edward Rochester through Jane Eyre’s eyes. She loved him in spite of his lies, and there were many of them. Rochester always denied being Adele’s father, and he insisted that he was unmarried, even in a church, as Richard Mason accused him of being betrothed to his sister. He blames everyone else for his problems; his father, his brother, Richard Mason, his first wife, and he even accuses Jane of bewitching him into loving her. Rochester is innocent in his own eyes, and he convinces Jane of his guiltlessness; this does not mean he convinces the reader. Readers make their own decisions.

Rochester is bad-tempered, conceited and aggressive. He tries to humiliate Jane when she first arrives at Thornfield and teases her mercilessly with Blanche Ingram and his other guests. He reminds her constantly that she is not attractive, “You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are.” (Chapter XXIII) He even threatens Jane with these words, ““Jane, I am not a gentle-tempered man—you forget that: I am not long-enduring; I am not cool and dispassionate. Out of pity to me and yourself, put your finger on my pulse, feel how it throbs, and—beware!” As a result of his violence she is forced to ask for God’s help, “I did what human beings do instinctively when they are driven to utter extremity—looked for aid to one higher than man: the words “God help me!” burst involuntarily from my lips.” (Chapter XXVII) 

Jane does not finally tame him. He is rendered physically passive after the accident due to partial blindness and a stumped arm, and emotionally sunk because he has lost the two women who were sustaining his vanity and ego. When Jane finally returns, he recovers his physical and emotional strength because he is now someone’s unconditional “master” once more. The question is: how long will Jane be able to continue with the idyllic life she imagines she will lead for the rest of her days?

We can ask ourselves some questions in order to foresee how their relationship may well develop: Will Jane be content to spend the rest of her life as a recluse at Ferdean? Will Rochester be content to do the same after he recovers his sight and his health? What will happen once they have a family? Will Rochester relinquish his central role in her life in favour of a child or children? Are they really well suited? Do they have the same outlook on life? Does he have any consideration for his servants? Orphans? People in difficulty? Has he any religious beliefs as she does? Does she like hunting and inconsequential social gatherings? Their conversation was lively while they were flirting, but now the conquest has been made and mundane daily matters will take over how will “sir” react? How will the gentry of the area take to Jane? There is a large age-difference between them, what will happen when Rochester dies and she is still relatively young?

Jane is the narrator and protagonist of Jane Eyre, but the novel ends when she is still a very young woman who has a whole life ahead of her. Jane Eyre is one of the greatest characters in literary history; her life cannot end with marriage to an egotistical and dishonest member of the Victorian gentry. I wanted more. Jane Eyre, the impressionable young bride, deserves a life of her own, so I imagined Jane Rochester, the woman, and wrote her story, twenty-two years after her marriage to Edward Rochester in, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Continue reading ““Reader, I married him.””