Oscar Wilde – “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1890)

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a philosophical novel by the writer Oscar Wilde, first published complete in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. The magazine’s editor feared the story was indecent, and without Wilde’s knowledge, deleted roughly five hundred words before publication. Despite that censorship, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers, some of whom said that Oscar Wilde merited prosecution for violating the laws guarding the public morality. In response, Wilde aggressively defended his novel and art in correspondence with the British press, although he personally made excisions of some of the most controversial material when revising and lengthening the story for book publication the following year.

“It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done,” said Lord Henry languidly. “You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. Whenever I have gone there, there have been either so many people that I have not been able to see the pictures, which was dreadful, or so many pictures that I have not been able to see the people, which was worse. The Grosvenor is really the only place.”

“I don’t think I shall send it anywhere,” he answered, tossing his head back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at Oxford. “No, I won’t send it anywhere.”

Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy, opium-tainted cigarette. “Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion.”

“I know you will laugh at me,” he replied, “but I really can’t exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it.”

Lord Henry stretched himself out on the divan and laughed.

“Yes, I knew you would; but it is quite true, all the same.”

 

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Walt Whitman – “Leaves of Grass”

Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Though the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent most of his professional life writing and re-writing Leaves of Grass, revising it multiple times until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades—the first a small book of twelve poems and the last a compilation of over 400 poems.

The poems of Leaves of Grass are loosely connected and each represents Whitman’s celebration of his philosophy of life and humanity. … Influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalist movement, itself an offshoot of Romanticism, Whitman’s poetry praises nature and the individual human’s role in it. (Wikipedia)

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!

Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!

On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,

And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

 

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Arthur Conan Doyle – “Two From the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes”

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is the last of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story collections. Most of the book is still under copyright, but two of the stories have already passed into the public domain.

“I think that you will find all the main ones in the press reports. I don’t know that I can add anything which will help you. But if there is anything you would wish more light upon—well, I am here to give it.”

“Well, there is just one point.”

“What is it?”

“What were the exact relations between you and Miss Dunbar?”

The Gold King gave a violent start and half rose from his chair. Then his massive calm came back to him.

“I suppose you are within your rights—and maybe doing your duty—in asking such a question, Mr. Holmes.”

“We will agree to suppose so,” said Holmes.

“Then I can assure you that our relations were entirely and always those of an employer towards a young lady whom he never conversed with, or ever saw, save when she was in the company of his children.”

Holmes rose from his chair.

“I am a rather busy man, Mr. Gibson,” said he, “and I have no time or taste for aimless conversations. I wish you good morning.”

 

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Jerome K. Jerome – “Three Men in a Boat” (1889)

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), published in 1889, is a humorous account by English writer Jerome K. Jerome of a two-week boating holiday on the Thames from Kingston upon Thames to Oxford and back to Kingston. The book was initially intended to be a serious travel guide, with accounts of local history along the route, but the humorous elements took over to the point where the serious and somewhat sentimental passages seem a distraction to the comic novel. … Since its publication, Three Men in a Boat has never been out of print. It continues to be popular to the present day, with The Guardian ranking it No. 33 of The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time. (Wikipedia)

For myself, I have discovered an excellent preventive against sea-sickness, in balancing myself.  You stand in the centre of the deck, and, as the ship heaves and pitches, you move your body about, so as to keep it always straight.  When the front of the ship rises, you lean forward, till the deck almost touches your nose; and when its back end gets up, you lean backwards.  This is all very well for an hour or two; but you can’t balance yourself for a week.

George said:

“Let’s go up the river.”

He said we should have fresh air, exercise and quiet; the constant change of scene would occupy our minds (including what there was of Harris’s); and the hard work would give us a good appetite, and make us sleep well.

Harris said he didn’t think George ought to do anything that would have a tendency to make him sleepier than he always was, as it might be dangerous.  He said he didn’t very well understand how George was going to sleep any more than he did now, seeing that there were only twenty-four hours in each day, summer and winter alike; but thought that if he did sleep any more, he might just as well be dead, and so save his board and lodging.

 

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John D. MacDonald – “A Bullet For Cinderella” (1955)

John Dann MacDonald (July 24, 1916 – December 28, 1986) was an American writer of novels and short stories, known for his thrillers.

MacDonald was a prolific author of crime and suspense novels, many of them set in his adopted home of Florida. His best-known works include the popular and critically acclaimed Travis McGee series, and his novel The Executioners, which was filmed twice as Cape Fear. (Wikipedia)

Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. (Project Gutenberg)

He told me how he did it. A lot of the gimmicks didn’t make much sense to me. He did all the ordering, handled the bank accounts and deposits. It was a big and profitable operation. He took a little bit here, a little bit there, always in cash. All the time he was doing it he was carrying on the affair with Eloise. He said it took nearly two years to squirrel away almost sixty thousand dollars. The auditors didn’t catch it.

“I couldn’t open a bank account with the money, and I knew better than to put it in a safety-deposit box. I put the money in those old-fashioned jars. The kind with the red rubber washer and the wire that clamps the top on. I’d fill them and bury them. George kept worrying about why we weren’t making more money. I kept lying to him. Eloise was getting more restless all the time and more careless. I was afraid George would find out, and I didn’t know what he’d do. She had me sort of hypnotized. We finally set the date when we were going to run away. Everything was planned. And then they called me up. I was reserve. There wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I told Eloise that when I got out we’d go through with it the way we planned. But now I’m stuck here. And now I don’t want to go through with it. I want to get back there and give the money back to George and tell him the whole thing. I’ve had too much chance to think it over.”

“How do you know she hasn’t taken the money and left?”

“I didn’t tell her where I put it. It’s still there. Nobody can find it.”

 

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H. G. Wells – “The Invisible Man” (1897)

The Invisible Man is a science fiction novella by H. G. Wells. Originally serialized in Pearson’s Weekly in 1897, it was published as a novel the same year. The Invisible Man of the title is Griffin, a scientist who has devoted himself to research into optics and invents a way to change a body’s refractive index to that of air so that it absorbs and reflects no light and thus becomes invisible. He successfully carries out this procedure on himself, but fails in his attempt to reverse it. (Wikipedia)

“He had been given a prescription, most valuable prescription—what for he wouldn’t say. Was it medical? ‘Damn you! What are you fishing after?’ I apologised. Dignified sniff and cough. He resumed. He’d read it. Five ingredients. Put it down; turned his head. Draught of air from window lifted the paper. Swish, rustle. He was working in a room with an open fireplace, he said. Saw a flicker, and there was the prescription burning and lifting chimneyward. Rushed towards it just as it whisked up the chimney. So! Just at that point, to illustrate his story, out came his arm.”

“Well?”

“No hand—just an empty sleeve. Lord! I thought, that’s a deformity! Got a cork arm, I suppose, and has taken it off. Then, I thought, there’s something odd in that. What the devil keeps that sleeve up and open, if there’s nothing in it? There was nothing in it, I tell you. Nothing down it, right down to the joint. I could see right down it to the elbow, and there was a glimmer of light shining through a tear of the cloth. ‘Good God!’ I said. Then he stopped. Stared at me with those black goggles of his, and then at his sleeve.”

“Well?”

“That’s all. He never said a word; just glared, and put his sleeve back in his pocket quickly.”

 

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Washington Irving – “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820)

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a short story of speculative fiction by American author Washington Irving, contained in his collection of 34 essays and short stories entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. Written while Irving was living abroad in Birmingham, England, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was first published in 1820. Along with Irving’s companion piece “Rip Van Winkle”, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is among the earliest examples of American fiction with enduring popularity, especially during the Halloween season. (Wikipedia)

A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.

The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind. His haunts are not confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance. Indeed, certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body of the trooper having been buried in the churchyard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head, and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated, and in a hurry to get back to the churchyard before daybreak.

 

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H. G. Wells – “The Time Machine” (1895)

The Time Machine is a science fiction novella by H. G. Wells, published in 1895. Wells is generally credited with the popularization of the concept of time travel by using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively. The term “time machine”, coined by Wells, is now almost universally used to refer to such a vehicle.

The Time Machine has since been adapted into two feature films of the same name, as well as two television versions, and a large number of comic book adaptations. It has also indirectly inspired many more works of fiction in many media. (Wikipedia)

‘Already I saw other vast shapes–huge buildings with intricate parapets and tall columns, with a wooded hill-side dimly creeping in upon me through the lessening storm. I was seized with a panic fear. I turned frantically to the Time Machine, and strove hard to readjust it. As I did so the shafts of the sun smote through the thunderstorm. The grey downpour was swept aside and vanished like the trailing garments of a ghost. Above me, in the intense blue of the summer sky, some faint brown shreds of cloud whirled into nothingness. The great buildings about me stood out clear and distinct, shining with the wet of the thunderstorm, and picked out in white by the unmelted hailstones piled along their courses. I felt naked in a strange world. I felt as perhaps a bird may feel in the clear air, knowing the hawk wings above and will swoop. My fear grew to frenzy. I took a breathing space, set my teeth, and again grappled fiercely, wrist and knee, with the machine. It gave under my desperate onset and turned over. It struck my chin violently. One hand on the saddle, the other on the lever, I stood panting heavily in attitude to mount again.

‘But with this recovery of a prompt retreat my courage recovered. I looked more curiously and less fearfully at this world of the remote future. In a circular opening, high up in the wall of the nearer house, I saw a group of figures clad in rich soft robes. They had seen me, and their faces were directed towards me.

 

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H. P. Lovecraft – “The Dunwich Horror” (1929)

“The Dunwich Horror” is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. Written in 1928, it was first published in the April 1929 issue of Weird Tales (pp. 481–508). It takes place in Dunwich, a fictional town in Massachusetts. It is considered one of the core stories of the Cthulhu Mythos. (Wikipedia)

Dr. Armitage, associating what he was reading with what he had heard of Dunwich and its brooding presences, and of Wilbur Whateley and his dim, hideous aura that stretched from a dubious birth to a cloud of probable matricide, felt a wave of fright as tangible as a draught of the tomb’s cold clamminess. The bent, goatish giant before him seemed like the spawn of another planet or dimension; like something only partly of mankind, and linked to black gulfs of essence and entity that stretch like titan phantasms beyond all spheres of force and matter, space and time. Presently Wilbur raised his head and began speaking in that strange, resonant fashion which hinted at sound-producing organs unlike the run of mankind’s.

 

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G. K. Chesterton – “The Wisdom of Father Brown” (1914)

Father Brown is a fictional character, an amateur sleuth created in the early 1900s by English novelist G. K. Chesterton.

Chesterton based the character on Father John O’Connor (1870–1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism in 1922.

Unlike the more famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown’s methods tend to be intuitive rather than deductive. He explains his method in “The Secret of Father Brown”: “You see, I had murdered them all myself… I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.” (Wikipedia)

“My name is Brown. Pray excuse me. I’ve come about that business of the MacNabs. I have heard, you often help people out of such troubles. Pray excuse me if I am wrong.”

By this time he had sprawlingly recovered the hat, and made an odd little bobbing bow over it, as if setting everything quite right.

“I hardly understand you,” replied the scientist, with a cold intensity of manner. “I fear you have mistaken the chambers. I am Dr Hood, and my work is almost entirely literary and educational. It is true that I have sometimes been consulted by the police in cases of peculiar difficulty and importance, but—”

“Oh, this is of the greatest importance,” broke in the little man called Brown. “Why, her mother won’t let them get engaged.” And he leaned back in his chair in radiant rationality.

 

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