Archive for the ‘English Literature’ Category

A Collaboration of Unlike Minds: William Blake’s and Robert Graves’ The Tyger by R J Dent

April 15, 2016



















The Tiger


Tiger tiger burning bright

In the forests of the night

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry


In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes

On what wings dared he aspire

What the hand dared seize the fire


And what shoulder and what art

Could twist the sinews of thy heart

Did he smile his work to see

Did he who made the lamb make thee


Tiger tiger burning bright

In the forests of the night

What immortal hand or eye

Dared frame thy fearful symmetry


Robert Graves


Even the most cursory glance will reveal some fundamental differences between the above two poems. Graves’ rewrite came about due to a number of flaws he felt existed in Blake’s poem. He writes of these in ‘Tyger, Tyger’, an essay collected in The Crane Bag and Other Disputed Subjects. In the essay, Graves is particularly scathing of Blake’s tendency to mix his tenses, remain ‘imprecise and ambiguous’, ‘grammatically incoherent’ and to not care about the rhetorical focus of the poem.

More importantly, however, Graves neglects at any time to mention that he has ‘made his own arrangement of The Tyger’. After interviewing Graves, Christopher Burstall claims that Graves’ ‘arrangement’ includes ‘cutting out two verses and putting the whole poem in the past tense’, so that it is grammatically correct and more structurally cohesive. Read more…



A Collaboration of Unlike Minds: Robert Graves’ and William Blake’s The Tyger

Copyright © R J Dent (2007 & 2016)


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Pauline Baynes and J.R.R. Tolkien

January 25, 2016

Pauline Diana Baynes (9 September 1922 – 1 August 2008) was an English illustrator whose work can be found in more than one hundred books, notably several by J. R. R. Tolkien.


Pauline Baynes was born in Hove, East Sussex. She spent much of her childhood in Farnham, studying at the Farnham School of Art (now the University for the Creative Arts) and eventually attended the Slade School of Fine Art.



She worked for the Ministry of Defence, where she was soon transferred to a map-making department, and where she acquired skills that she later employed when she drew maps of Middle-Earth for J. R. R. Tolkien.


In her obituary for The Daily Telegraph, Charlotte Cory described how Baynes and Tolkien came to be associated:

‘In 1948 Tolkien was visiting his publishers, George Allen & Unwin, to discuss some disappointing artwork that they had commissioned for his novella Farmer Giles of Ham, when he spotted, lying on a desk, some witty reinterpretations of medieval marginalia from the Luttrell Psalter that greatly appealed to him. These, it turned out, had been sent to the publishers ‘on spec’ by the then-unknown Pauline Baynes. Tolkien demanded that the creator of these drawings be set to work illustrating Farmer Giles of Ham and was delighted with the subsequent results, declaring that ‘Pauline Baynes has reduced my text to a commentary on her drawings’. Further collaboration between Tolkien and his Farmer Giles illustrator followed, and a lifelong friendship developed…’


Tolkien wanted Pauline Baynes to illustrate The Lord of the Rings, but the book grew into a huge project that made that particular plan impractical. Nevertheless, Baynes created immaculately drawn and exquisitely coloured versions of the author’s maps of the lands travelled by Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

me map2

Baynes’ also designed a slipcase for the three volumes of Tolkien’s epic:

lotr3 slipcase

The slipcase illustrations were later adapted for the cover for the original one-volume 1973 paperback edition – an indispensable prop of the seventies generation – with its evocative landscape of Middle-Earth viewed through a doorway of yellow, over-arching trees.

lotr1 front

lotr2 back

The same designs were used for the 1981 three volumes edition.

lotr123 1981

Eventually, a drawing by Pauline Baynes was used to illustrate Tolkien’s final hobbit piece, the poem, Bilbo’s Last Song:


which appeared as a poster in 1974:


and then as a book in 1990:


Pauline Baynes was for a long while the only Tolkien illustrator of note.


Her work was approved by Tolkien himself, but faded from view as the Tolkien industry began to expand in the late seventies and other artists quickly crowded the field, many of whom lacked Pauline Baynes’ subtlety and sympathy for the material.


Pauline Baynes and J.R.R. Tolkien

© R J Dent 2016

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Penelope Farmer

October 10, 2014


Penelope Farmer is a British writer of books for children and adults.



Penelope Farmer was born as a fraternal twin in Westerham, Kent, on 14 June 1939. Her parents and the medical staff at the hospital were not aware of her presence until some twenty-five minutes after the birth of her older twin sister, Judith. Throughout Farmer’s life, being a twin has been a defining element of her understanding of her identity. The twins have an older brother, Tim, and a younger sister, Sally.


After attending a boarding school, she read history at St Anne’s College, Oxford and did postgraduate work at Bedford College, University of London.


Penelope Farmer lives in Lanzarote on the Canary Islands.


Her first publication was The China People (1960), a collection of literary fairy tales for young people. One story written for this collection was too long to include. This was re-written as the first chapter of her first novel for children, The Summer Birds. In 1963, this received a Carnegie Medal commendation and was cited as an American Library Association Notable Book. The Summer Birds was soon followed by its sequels, Emma in Winter (1966) Charlotte Sometimes (1969), and A Castle of Bone (1972).


Penelope Farmer has also written several novels for adults. These are:


Standing in the Shadow (1984)

Away From Home (1987)

Eve: Her Story (1988)

Glasshouses (1989)

Snakes and Ladders (1993)

Goodnight Ophelia (2015)

Standing in the Shadow (1984): Penelope Farmer’s debut adult novel…

sits pf


Away From Home (1987): A novel in ten episodes describing Elinor’s experiences – her lonely adolescence, her marriage, her children and unsympathetic husband, her divorce, her lover’s inability to come to terms with his Jewishness and her fear of her cancer.

afh pf


Eve: Her Story (1988): A modern Eve tells her own story about life in the Garden of Eden as the loving but obstinate Adam, the knowing Lilith, the manlike serpent, the disdainful Archangels, and the ambivalent Jehovah each try to exploit her innocence.


ehs pf 

Glasshouses (1989): An intense novel of three characters, Grace, her husband Jas, and her young apprentice, set in the suggestive, obsessive milieu of a glassblowing workshop.


gh pf


Snakes and Ladders (1993): Set in Kenya, Ecuador and Europe, and intertwining fact and fiction, this novel uses a multitude of techniques – diary, narrative, history, information and adman copy – to explore the implications of the protagonist’s international research project into epilepsy.


 sandl pf


Goodnight Ophelia (2015): Jane Ophelia – Jo – retired publisher, lies on her deathbed. In between the attentions of her favourite nurse and visits from her not always grateful children, her fourth husband and her only female friend, she relives the story of her past from childhood to old age. As her story unfolds, the immeasurable and alienating impact of two World Wars on one woman’s life is unveiled, and with it a shocking revelation…


Penelope Farmer’s writings are widely varied: she has written books for children (including contemporary realistic fiction, historical fiction, and mythological retellings), fantasies for young adults, and, most recently, novels for adults. Farmer confesses to a lifelong love of fantasy; as a child she loved to read – in addition to fairy tales – the works of Eric Linklater, Mary Norton, C.S. Lewis, Philippa Pearce, and Lucy Boston. Farmer notes that fantasy allows the writer to “make metaphors for life… turn it into narrative – and thereby get at the essences of life and death.” Although she has written in several genres of fiction, she invariably returns to fantasy, the genre of her most significant work.



Here is a recent vulpes libris (Book Fox) interview with Penelope Farmer:


Penelope Farmer’s books are available at:    


Follow Penelope Farmer and her writing at:

Twitter: @penelopefarmer1   




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Jeremy Reed’s e-books

February 20, 2014

Several of Jeremy Reed’s novels, poetry collections, short story collections and non-fiction works are now available as e-books. 




Available e-book novels include:


  • When the Whip Comes Down – a novel about De Sade




  • Isidore – a novel about the Comte de Lautréamont



  • The Grid – a novel about Marlowe and Shakespeare in the 21st Century



  • The Pleasure Château – a sadeian/gothic/erotic trilogy




  • Here Comes the Nice – a novel about the London Mod scene




Available e-book non-fiction titles include:


  • Delirium  – An Interpretation of Arthur Rimbaud



Available e-book short story collections include:


  • Red Hot Lipstick – a collection of erotic short stories




Available poetry collection titles include:


  • Nothing But A Star




  • The Big Orange Day




  • Exploding Into Colour




Jeremy Reed’s Amazon page is:

Jeremy Reed’s website is:


William Wood’s A Little Book of Pleasures

November 26, 2013

A Little Book of Pleasures by William Wood

A review by R J Dent






One of the pleasures of reading William Wood’s A Little Book of Pleasures is the sheer delight one gets from reading his oil-smooth prose. It flows as gently as music and is itself an inducement to continue reading.


And then there are the anecdotes themselves. William Wood calls A Little Book of Pleasures, ‘my anthology of essays’, which is certainly an accurate description, but one that doesn’t explain that these are anecdotal essays and that whether they are object or incident-based, each one is gentle, humorous and warm – and well-told.


A Little Book of Pleasures is a collection of essays and is – in many ways, not least due to the narrative voice – reminiscent of the best work of Michel de Montaigne, whose fame rests on the Essais, a collection of a large number of short subjective treatments of various topics.


To take just a few examples, William Wood writes of the delights of ‘Log Fire(s)’, of ‘A Fountain Pen’, of ‘Cuddling Up’, and of ‘Flip-flops’. He speaks in an intimate, friendly, warm and personable manner. One is drawn in and invited to sit and experience the specific joys of each object. This effect is achieved by William Wood’s technically adept use of a second person narrator.


A Little Book of Pleasures is a highly-polished gem of a book that defies easy categorisation. Yes, it’s a collection of essays; yes, it’s a collection of anecdotes; but it’s also a collection of entertaining stories by a master story-teller, and for that reason alone it is well worth the price of admission.





From the back cover: ‘This delightful anecdotal collection, told with wry humour and a gentle, sometimes quirky style slightly reminiscent of a bygone era, contains a mixture of description and observation, with a smattering of autobiographical incident. William Wood has lived in many places of the world, is well travelled and well-written, with a keen sense of enjoyment of what he sees and experiences, and a talent for bringing that visually to the mind of his reader. The short, usually self-contained pieces make wonderful cameos both for those who do their reading in snatches, and those who will want to devour his stories in one sitting.’


Book details:


Paperback: 174 pages

Publisher: Sunpenny Publishing; first edition (15 Dec 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1907984070

ISBN-13: 978-1907984075

Product Dimensions: 1 x 13.1 x 20 cm


William Wood’s website:

Sunpenny Publishing Website:




Bookbuster – a great bookshop in Hastings

November 5, 2013

Bookbuster is a wonderful book shop in Hastings that is open 7 days a week.



The proprietor of Bookbuster is Tim Barton, a St. Leonards-based cultural entrepreneur with many years experience in the book trade.


Tim has opened his cheekily-named bookshop, Bookbuster, in premises formerly occupied by a gone-bust Blockbuster DVD rental store.


Tim believes in bookshops and what bookshops offer customers: “I don’t think you can beat a physical bookstore, where you are free to browse,” he says.


Bookbuster is generating a lot of interest among book-lovers. Tim says: “The fact that there has been so much interest so far is fantastic.”


Although the shelves offer many new titles, the shop has an extensive and eclectic range of books that seem to appeal to all ages and interests.


With new stock arriving daily, a calendar full of author signings, readings, poetry slams and other literary events, and an ambient soundtrack playing to ensure customers linger longer, Bookbuster is proving to be a valuable business that gives a great deal to the Hastings reading community.


There is also a significant second-hand book section that – along with a selection with some well-chosen perennial titles – offers collectors the chance to obtain copies of rare editions and signed delights from Iain Sinclair, the late Iain Banks and Tom Sharpe, amongst others.


BookBuster is an independent bookshop in Queen’s Road, Hastings. There is a huge range of stock. Bookbuster is full of literary treasures and, because of Tim Barton’s depth of knowledge regarding authors and books of every type and genre, the shop is something of a cultural oasis. It is very good news for Hastings and for book-lovers and bibliophiles.


BookBuster is at 39 Queen’s Road, Hastings. Opening hours: 9.30am-5.30pm Monday to Saturday; 11-5 Sundays.


There are author readings, author signings, lectures, poetry readings and live music at BookBuster throughout the year.




39 Queen’s Road


TN34 1RL



BookBuster facebook page:



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In R J Dent’s Library – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

October 21, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at Mary Shelley’s classic science fiction Gothic novel – Frankenstein.





In R J Dent’s Library – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein


Text © R J Dent (2013)

Film © R J Dent (2013)


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In R J Dent’s Library – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

October 20, 2013


A look in R J Dent’s library at A Clockwork Orange, a dystopian novella written in 1962 by Anthony Burgess and published in 1962.



In R J Dent’s Library – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


Text © R J Dent (2013)

Film © R J Dent (2013)


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In R J Dent’s Library – Stevie Smith

October 16, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at the works (poetry, novels, articles, letters, short stories) of award-winning poet – Stevie Smith.

Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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In R J Dent’s Library – Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene

October 13, 2013


A look in R J Dent’s library at an epic poem of chivalry, romance and knighthood – Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene






In R J Dent’s Library – Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene


Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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