A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder

A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille

A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille

A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder is the most popular of James De Mille’s works. This satirical romance is the story of Adam More, a British sailor. Shipwrecked in Antarctica, he stumbles upon a tropical lost world of prehistoric animals, plants, and a cult of death-worshiping primitives. He also finds a highly developed human society which has reversed the values of Victorian society. Wealth is scorned and poverty revered; death and darkness are preferable to life and light. Rather than accumulating wealth, the natives seek to divest themselves of it as quickly as possible. At the beginning of each year, the government imposes wealth (the burden of “reverse taxation”) upon its unfortunate subjects as a form of punishment. A secondary plot about the four yachtsmen who find the manuscript forms a frame for the central narrative.

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Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor

Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore

Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R. D. Blackmore

“John Ridd is the son of a respectable farmer who was murdered in cold blood by a member of the notorious Doone clan, a once-noble family now living in the isolated Doone Valley. Battling his desire for revenge, John also grows into a respectable farmer and continues to take good care of his mother and two sisters. He falls hopelessly in love with Lorna, a girl he meets quite by accident, who turns out to be not only the granddaughter of Sir Ensor Doone (lord of the Doones), but destined to marry (against her will) the impetuous, menacing, and now jealous heir of the Doone Valley, Carver Doone. Carver will let nothing get in the way of his marriage to Lorna, which he plans to force upon her once Sir Ensor dies and he comes into his inheritance”.

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Ayala’s Angel

Ayala's Angel by Anthony Trollope

Ayala's Angel by Anthony Trollope

Lucy and Ayala Dormer are left penniless by the death of their parents. Ayala is taken in by their rich aunt Lady Tringle and Lucy by their poor uncle Mr Dosett. The girls find it hard to get used to their new surroundings. Lucy becomes engaged to one of her father’s artist friends but they are too poor to marry. Three different men fall in love with Ayala but none live up to her ideal of the perfect man. Will Lucy be able to marry her sweetheart and will Ayala find her ‘Angel of Light’?

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Les Misérables

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables is a French novel by author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. It follows the lives and interactions of several French characters over a seventeen-year period in the early nineteenth century culminating in the June Rebellion.

The novel focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. It examines the nature of law and grace, and expounds upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, anti monarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. The story is historical fiction because it contains factual and historic events.

Les Misérables is known to many through its numerous stage and screen adaptations, most notably the stage musical of the same name, sometimes abbreviated “Les Mis”

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The Black Robe

The Black Robe by Wilkie Collins

The Black Robe by Wilkie Collins

The church has lost out on a valuable piece of land through wars and transfers. Father Benwell is determined to reclaim that property by the conversion of the owner, Lewis Romayne. Enter beautiful Stella, who captures the heart of Romayne. Should Stella capture the love and devotion of Romayne, Father Benwell’s scheme would fail, and that is something that he can not allow. Complicating things is the fact that both Romayne and Stella are hiding their own terrible secrets.

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Under the Greenwood Tree

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy

This novel is subtitled The Mellstock Quire, A Rural Painting of the Dutch School. The Quire is the group of musicians who accompany the hymns at the local church and we follow the fortunes of one member, Dick Dewy, who falls in love with the new school mistress, Fancy Day. Another element of the book is the battle between the traditional musicians of the Quire and the local vicar, Parson Maybold, who installs a church organ. This battle illustrates the developing technology being introduced in the Victorian era and its threat to traditional country ways.

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The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana

The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Vatsyayana

The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Vatsyayana

The Kama Sutra, or Aphorisms on Love, has survived at least 1400 years as a dominant text on sexual relations between men and women. Vatsyayana claimed to have written the Kama Sutra while a religious student, “in contemplation of the Deity” – but references to older works, shrewd disputations by Vatsyayana of those authors’ recommendations, and careful cataloging of practices in various of the Indian states indicate much more emphasis on kama, or sensual gratification.

Part of the book discusses the 64 arts of love employed by masters of coitus. Learning each of these and when and how to practice them, Vatsyayana affirms, not only leads to the best gratification, but makes the artist a person of great desirability.

Once the means of sexual congress are discussed, the many types of male-female relationships and their proper prosecution are covered. Some of these have small relevance to the modern world, such as how to sneak into the King’s harem, but are interesting nonetheless. Others, such as how to get money from a lover, will probably remain useful as long as there are humans in the world.

The translator’s concluding remarks call the book primitive; so might also modern women who are told that if their name ends in “l” or “r” they should not be married, because they are worthless. But in tackling the subject of human sexuality, Vatsyayana nevertheless will always attract readers.

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Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen

Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen

Hedda Gabler, daughter of an aristocratic General, has just returned from her honeymoon with George Tesman, an aspiring young academic, reliable but not brilliant, who has combined research with their honeymoon. The reappearance of Tesman’s academic rival, Eilert Lovborg, throws their lives into disarray.

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The Rainbow

The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence

The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence

The Rainbow follows three generations of the Brangwen family, particularly focusing on the sexual dynamics of, and relations between, the characters.