"Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language."


"He that reads books of science, though without any fixed idea of improvement, will grow more knowing; he that entertains himself with moral or religious treatises, will imperceptibly advance in goodness."


"Some read that they may embellish their conversation, or shine in dispute; but the most prevalent reason of study is the impossibility of finding another amusement equally cheap or constant."


Dr. Samuel Johnson (creator of the English Dictionary)

 

The Living Literature Society

Dates for your Diary   January - October 2013


January

Sunday January 20th

Getting to Know Tennyson

Belgraves Hotel, Chesham Place Belgravia – just a short distance from the house where Tennyson lived at 9 Upper Belgrave Street. A Blue Plaque marks the spot.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria’s favourite poet, commanded a wider readership than any other of his time. Best known for The Lady of Shalott which became (and still is) one of the most inspiring and popular poems in the English Language’ and of course his epic war poem, The Charge of The Light Brigade. Author John Batchelor, Professor Emeritus of English at Newcastle University recognised his ‘genius’ in his highly praised and recently published biography of the poet, ‘To Strive, to Seek, to Find’

For our first event of the new year, John Batchelor will talk and illustrate his biography pinpointing, the amazing alignment of Tennyson’s verse with the mood of Victorian Britain at the same time placing Tennyson in the 21st century. The book is a useful reminder of what makes Tennyson a brilliant poet: it points the reader back in the direction of the poems.

February

Sunday February 24th

A Tribute to Vera Brittain
Acclaimed actress Rohan McCullough portrays Vera Brittain, author of Testament of Youth.

The Royal Horseguards Hotel, Whitehall.

Acclaimed actress Rohan McCullough, who gave us a brilliant performance of ‘My Darling Clemmie’ in the autumn, will tonight be portraying the wartime heroine and writer, Vera Brittain in her brilliant one woman show.

Having battled her way to Oxford University in the face of parental opposition, Vera Brittain abandoned her studies at the outbreak of World War 1 to serve as a volunteer nurse in France, where she witnessed horrors and tragedies of French warfare including the deaths of those closest to her. Brittain’s autobiography brilliantly conveys her wartime experiences.

March

Sunday March 24th

Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas – What happened next?

A unique event, not to be missed.

Last summer, biographer Franny Moyle gave us the background to Oscar Wilde’s contented married life (with two sons) prior to the scandal. But did you know that not long afterwards, Bosie tied the knot with writer Olive Custance? Did you even know that Bosie had a wife? What makes this evening special is that academic and researcher Dr. Sarah Parker who has spent over two years unearthing new material on Olive Custance, will be putting her fascinating new discoveries to poet and writer Lord Gawain Douglas, an authority on his ancestor. She will be revealing that the story of their relationship is every bit as intriguing and ultimately tragic as Douglas's romance with Wilde. We will learn about their early infatuation and passionate love letters, which culminated in their dramatic elopement in 1902.

Coincidentally, a new ground-breaking biography' The Ninth Marquess of Queensbury - Wilde's Nemesis' by Linda Stratmann on Gawain's great grandfather is being published this April, turns history on its head by showing him in a more humane light.

April

Friday April 12th

An evening with Anthony Trollope
Unique presentation and talk by Michael Williamson, Chairman of The Trollope Society

National Liberal Club London

Return to the late 19th century at London’s National Liberal Club, the plush, Victorian interior that is little changed since Trollope’s times. Indeed, Trollope was a staunch and valued member of the club and much of his writing reflects the political and social mores of the period. Drinks reception in the Smoking Room (button back chairs and crystal chandeliers), presentation and optional dinner in The David Lloyd George Room.

Anthony Trollope (1885- 1882) was one of the most admired and celebrated of 19th century British writers: among the best known of his 47 novels were The Barchester Towers and The Way We Live Now, and his writing portrayed the aristocracy and political circles of the time with great accuracy.

His novels topped the bestsellers throughout the mid Victorian period. After an unhappy childhood and an uncompromising start to his career, he went on to write his novels and rise to the top of his profession as a senior civil servant in the Post Office.

May

Sunday May 19th

Understanding Keats
A late spring evening at Keats House with John Keats biographer Nicholas Roe

Keats House Hampstead

What is interesting about Roe’s new biography A New Life is that he dispels many of our preconceptions of the celebrated romantic poet, John Keats as a delicate, sensitive, tragic figure. Instead, he reveals the real flesh-and blood poet devoured by sexual desire and frustration, a passionate man driven by ambition but prey to doubt, suspicion and jealousy, sure of his vocation while resentful of the obstacles that blighted his career. Roe who is a professor of English literature at St. Andrews University also sheds new light on his childhood and Keats’ doomed passion for Fanny Brawne, his circle of friends and hitherto unknown city relatives.

June

Sunday June 9th

Walk among the literary greats of Hampstead

A two hour tour taking in the key sights of Hampstead, followed by afternoon tea. Hampstead Village with its wealth of understated historic buildings and grand historic houses, historical pubs, and myriad restaurants. Hampstead is a district of great literary, artistic and thespian traditions and former residents include, Kinsley Amis, William Blake, John Constable, Ian Fleming, William Hogarth and of course John Keats. It was also the inspiration for many of Constable's landscapes.


Sunday June 30th from 6:30pm

A private evening at The Royal Academy of Arts Piccadilly

An opportunity to meet Charles Saumarez Smith Secretary and Chief Executive of The Academy who will give members a private presentation illustrating his latest book, The Company of Artists, an enthralling history of The Royal Academy from its inception. Founded in 1768 by George III, Dr. Saumarez Smith tells of the daunting challenges which faced The Academy during its early years. A story of competing artistic philosophies, clashing egos and divided loyalties. Drinks with canapés from 6.30pm in The Saloon. Presentation at 7.30pm in The Reynolds Room. Dinner optional.

July

July 26/28th

Thomas Hardy Weekend
In and Around Dorchester, Dorset (Hardy’s fictional town of Casterbridge).

Join us for a special literary weekend. Includes 2-night stay at 3 star Hotel. Highlights include a visit to Hardy’s birthplace cottage and Max Gate the house where he lived in later Life, tour of Hardy’s Dorchester by local Hardy expert Alistair Chisholm who will welcome us on arrival, Gala Hardy Theatrical Evening in hotel’s Casterbridge Room by The New Hardy Players – the very room featured in Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’. Drinks reception with canapés, Dinner follows the performance.


August

Sunday August 11th at 3pm

Literary Walk among the Victorians

A literary walk from Westminster to the embankment home of famous literary figures such as Dickens, Browning, Thackeray, Henry James, Trollope, Shaw and Disraeli. Meeting at the statue of Boadicea/Boudicca before walking down Milbank to enter the peaceful almost villagey streets around Smith Square. Then it's into the medieval quadrangle of Dean's Yard for a look at Westminster School and out again for the world famous view of the West Door of Westminster Abbey and an introduction to Poets' Corner. Finally it's up Whitehall and a stroll along Pall Mall taking a look at two clubs with literary association (the Reform and the Athenaeum.) We cross Trafalgar Square, look up at the beautiful church of St. Martin in the Fields to hear of its literary associations (Francis Thompson) then down the Strand to end at the Embankankment. Afternoon finishes with an early supper.


September

Sunday September 22nd

Take Desire Away

Actor Mansel David showcases the life and work of the poet A.E Housman

Housman (1859-1936) is best known for his cycle of poems: A Shropshire Lad which he self published in 1896. Even strangers to Housman's poems will be familiar with the lines from the poems which have been borrowed for titles of books and films. Bond film 'Die Another Day', Potter's 'Blue Remembered Hills' and PD James 'A Taste for Death'.

The stage is set with a lectern from which David reads Housman's poetry and a table from which he reads extracts from his letters. On the table sits a photograph of Moses Jackson with whom Housman was in love for most of his life. Mansel David's wry delivery brings Housman's acerbic wit to life and his self importance is tempered by irony and humour. He also highlights the apparent contradictions in Housman's life and work.
Venue: London (exact location to be decided)


October

Sunday October 20th

Careless People - The story behind The Great Gatsby

In her latest book, American author and historian, professor Sarah Churchwell explains what was in F. Scott Fitzgerald's mind when he wrote The Great Gatsby. In addition to assembling details from letters and memoirs, Churchwell had the idea of searching through the New York papers of 1922 in order to reconnect Fitzgerald's masterpiece with what was happening in the non-fictional world.

Gatsby, the likeable, lovelorn boot legger seems to be an amalgam of several well known crooks. Apparently, Fitzgerald acknowledged that, as he wrote the book he found himself becoming an element in Gatsby's makeup. 'I began to fill him with my own emotional life.'
Venue: London (to be decided)