Friday, 24 July 2015

A princess, great men, and the war

"I have a tale of heroes who sailed away into a distant land, to win themselves renown for ever..."
Charles Kingsley, from the opening to The Argonauts

This run of books, as read by Henry Wilkinson in the prisoner of war camp at Stralsund, include a couple of interesting titles considering his situation. A princess fairytale for one, a book on war written by a German emigrant for another.
The Golden Fleece, drawing from Charles Kinglsey's The Heroes (from Project Gutenberg,
The Golden Fleece, drawing from Charles Kinglsey's The Heroes (from Project Gutenberg,
Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight, Elizabeth Von Arnim, published 1905, read 30 June 1918
From the description and reviews of this book, it is perhaps less of a twee fairy tale than the title suggests, and more a cautionary tale.  Princess Priscilla grows tired of her lavish lifestyle and, after receiving a marriage proposal from a respectable prince, flees the castle with her mentor and her chambermaid.  They settle in a small village to live a simple life, but the culture clash proves too much and they upset the locals.  The simple life proves to be far from it.

The War and America, Hugo Munsterberg, published 1914, read 4 July 1918
This book was written on the verge of the outbreak of the First World War by Hugo Munsterberg who was a pioneer of applied psychology.  Born in Danzig, West Prussia (now Gdansk, Poland), Munsterberg went to teach at Harvard in the 1890s.  During his time he strived to create a good relationship between Germany and America.  The description of the book reads “[He] turns his scientific eye on American culture as it was on the precipice of World War I, which he rightly foresaw as a horrific Great War. With the perspective not only of an educated and insightful social observer but also as a German immigrant with torn loyalties, Munsterberg's commentary serves as a unique viewpoint on a storied period of American history.”  These torn loyalties seem to have leaned more in favour of Germany and some people thought the author to be a German spy, to the point that he received death threats.  The stress of this is thought to have contributed to his death in 1916.

Representative Men, Ralph Waldo Emerson, published 1850, read 8 July 1918
This book sees seven lectures by Emerson published in essay form.  The first looks at the role of ‘great men’ in society with the remaining six each about a man Emerson considered great.  These men were: Plato, Emanuel Swedenborg, Michel de Montaigne, William ShakespeareNapoleon, and Goethe.  

The Heroes, Charles Kingsley, published 1856, read 9 July 1918
A version of the Greek Myths for children focusing on Perseus, The Argonauts, and Theseus.  This was Kingsley’s first foray into writing for children, before publishing one his best known books, The Water Babies, in 1862.

With Essex in Ireland, Emily Lawless, published 1890, read 10 July 1918
A historical novel written by Emily Lawless concerning the 1599 Irish Campaign of Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex.  It is written as though Lawless has edited an original diary kept by Devereux’s secretary, Henry Harvey, but is in fact a work of fiction based on historical facts.With Essex in Ireland being extracts from a diary kept in Ireland during the year 1599 by Mr. Henry Harvey, sometime secretary to Robert Devereux, earl of Essex. This book, "With Essex in Ireland," by Emily Lawless, is a replication of a book originally published before 1890. It has been restored by human beings, page by page, so that you may enjoy it in a form as close toA historical novel wirA

Ivanhoe, Sit Walter Scott, published 1820, read 11 July 1918
Ivanhoe is set in England in 1194 and tells the story of Wilfred of Ivanhoe, a member of one of the few remain Saxon noble families, and at odds with his father as Wilfred supports the Norman king, Richard I.  The book also features Richard’s brother, Prince John, and a character called Locksley who has a band of men.  It is in part from this book that we get our modern day idea of Robin Hood.

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