§ An American, Chad Newcome, the son of a rich woman, is
living the high life in Paris. His mother would like him back and sends
her "ambassador" (the other ambassador is Chad's sister) to talk Chad into
coming back home to Woolett, Massachusetts. This ambassador is Lambert
Strether, a suitor of the rich mother. He is converted to Chad's way of
thinking, and finally ends up giving Chad some parting advise, " Live all
you can; it's a mistake not to."
§ Written by Theodore Dreiser. My edition contains a 6 page introduction by H. L. Mencken. Dreiser tells the story of Clyde's struggle with the forces of justice, or injustice, and how he is found guilty in a trial (it takes up a quarter of the book) of the killing of Roberta. He is found guilty and executed, not because he did what he set out to do, but rather what he did not do. Clyde is the victim of a political ambitious prosecutor; and, as well, the "capitalists," the system which "runs" the United States.
§ The Charterhouse of Parma is a historical
novel which brings us from the Battle of Waterloo, and through the
post-Napoleonic era; an analysis of Romanticism. My copy (London:
Chatto & Windus, 1951) includes, as a preface, a study (65 pp.) written
by Balzac and Stendhal's eight page reply.
§ Written by Louis Auchincloss about contemporary Manhattan and the countryside where "the rich repair for weekends and holidays." Auchincloss writes of, "What happens to people when their loyalties are put under unexpected acute pressure, particularly to the man who loves everyone the same."
§ Written by Charles Dickens, David Copperfield is semi-autobiographical. The hero is distressed by his experiences of early childhood; his time at a London factory; and his time as an attorney's clerk. Finally, Copperfield turns to writing.
§ Written by Samuel Butler. Erewhon (nowhere, backwards) is an utopian satire where many of the conventional practices and customs are reversed, for example, crime is treated as an illness and illness a crime. In 1901, Butler wrote Erewhon Revisited, the dominant theme of which is the origin of religious belief.
§ This Dickensian, story is narrated in the first person by Philip Pirrip ("Pip). The story opens on the Kentish marshes where we see the orphaned Pip helping a run away convict, Abel Magwitch. It then advances through the various stages of the great expectations of Pip's life. Pip is soon sent to the home of a Miss Havisham to live. In the household is another charge, Miss Havisham, is Estella, who treats Pip's developing love with coolness. Into the picture arrives a lawyer, Jaggers, who advises that Pip shall be the recipient of a generous monthly allowance, due to an anonymous benefactor. This allowance allows Pip to lead the life of a gentlemen. The story continues to unfold and the various characters play out there roles in a "melodramatic plotting and its richly stocked gallery of cosmic minor characters ..." (Cambridge's Guide.)
§ Jane Eyre is a story based on the author's
unhappy days at the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, run by
people who believed that physical discomfort was spiritually edifying
(Bronteë's two oldest sisters died there in 1825).
§ This is a massive work consisting of a number of volumes. The hero in Jean-Christophe is Jean-Christophe Kraft. Jean-Christophe is a German born musician who travels throughout France and Germany where he observes and critiques the society that he finds. The work deals with a familiar literary theme: the artist, alone in his world. Rolland speaking through his musician hero concludes that the purpose of art is to "express moral truth" and in so doing to "combat the disintegration of values."
§ Written by D. H. Lawrence. Because of its sexual explicitness this work was first privately printed in Florence. The first unexpurgated English edition did not appear until 1960. Penguin Books were prosecuted in England under the Obscene Publications Act. It was to be a very major test case, R. v. Penguin Books Limited. The courts found in favour of the publisher.
§ The story of Fanny Price who comes from an improvident family to live with her aunt and uncle, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. Fanny is patronized by three of her cousins (two girls and a boy); but the forth, Edmund, befriends her.
§ Written by Charles Dickens. "There is no more plot in Pickwick than there is in an omelette; yet, allowing for exaggeration and caricature, the book is really important because it contains a vivid and interesting picture of life, especially low or middle class life, in England, in the Thirties, for which 'histories may be searched in vain.'" [John Marshall Gest, The Lawyers in Literature (Boston: The Boston Book Co., 1913)]; The Pickwick Club was a takeoff on a British association known as the Advancement of Science, organized by Sir David Brewster and others in 1831.
§ Pride and Prejudice is a story which concerns
itself with the middle class household of the Bennets. It is Mrs Bennet's
aim in life to find a good match for each of her five daughters. Mr. Bennet
refuses to take this project seriously. Elizabeth, one of the daughters,
is to be matched to Darcy. She is prejudiced against him (it dissolves);
He is proud of his station in life (it is false). There is a most
impressive page on the net that is devoted to Austin's Pride and
§ In this most celebrated work (the red stands
for the red of the military, the black stands for the clergy) in which the
hero (Julien Sorel), living in the aftermath of the Napoleonic dreams of
glory, chooses the clergy as the only route for social advancement, a
satiric analysis of the French social order under the Bourbon restoration.
§ Written by Daniel Defoe. This work of Defoe's "contains (not for boys but for men) more religion, more philosophy, more political economy, more anthropology, than are found in many elaborate treatises on these special subjects."
§ Written by Theodore Dreiser. The two main characters, Carrie and Hurstswood switch roles; she starts in the dreary streets of Chicago; he ends up in the dreary streets of New York. The one loses riches and luxuries, and the other gains. Given the age, the subject matter, a woman who sold herself to become successful, was considered a shocking matter. The characters, really, are simply people caught up in the business of survival, and the reader is left to judge. Are we to judge them by a code of morality drawn by those who are safe from danger?
§ Written by D. H. Lawrence. Sons and Lovers is largely autobiographical. The woman is a schoolteacher who falls for a miner and marries him and finds herself in a life quite different then the Puritan atmosphere in which she was brought up. If the problem of being married to a drunk and a liar is one of interest to you, then Sons and Lovers is a book to read.
§ Written by Louis Auchincloss. These are three tales about Manhattan Island, a borough of New York City that contains the stock market, the great banks and law offices, the art galleries, the theaters, the luxury hotels, and the best clubs. One of the stories is about the distinguished law firm of "Arnold & Degener, One Chase Manhattan Plaza," and its members.