More Fairies: Shakespeare

My choice of Shakespeare today is in honour of the Trinity Dublin Shakespeare Festival which is being held this week from 3-8 June. I have been to a couple of events so far and hope do more by the end of the week. My original plan for today was to select a sonnet, but I decided to pursue the theme of summer instead. Here, therefore is a short magical snatch from the action in

A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Act II (Scene I)  – A wood near Athens     

Puck and the fairy by a tree

Puck and the fairy



Enter from opposite sides, a fairy and Puck

PuckHow now, spirit, whither wander you?  

FairyOver hill, over dale
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
 Swifter than the moony sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see,
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I’ll be gone:
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.

I have had this illustrated edition for many years but sadly can’t remember where it came from, other than that I think it was probably from a book fair in the Birmingham area. That would put it around fifteen or more years ago, which is a scary thought.

The illustrations are all by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) and the text was written by calligrapher Graily Hewitt (1864-1952). The work was originally done in 1929 at the invitation of the Spencer Collection (New York Public Library)  This particular edition was published in 1977 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd and reproduced from the 1929 manuscript. I love Arthur Rackham’s work and maybe one day I might get to see his original drawings and watercolours. There is an Arthur Rackham Society if you want to discover more information about his work.

I hadn’t heard of Graily Hewitt before I owned this book but I have discovered that the Victoria and Albert Museum have holdings of his work. He was a very important figure in the world of calligraphy and typography and wrote The Pen and Type Design (1928) and Lettering (1930). The latter was last re-printed by Dover Publications in 1993 though it looks as if it is out of print now. This reminds me that Dover are a brilliant publisher for classic reprints and that perhaps I should do a post on their work sometime.

Apologies if the images don’t look as good as they might. I had problems scanning due to the size of the book.

Almost a week of poetry and poets so far….let me know your favourites so far!

Titania's fairies

Front of jacket



Some Literary Facts in Honour of World Book Night

I’ve borrowed this from the brilliant blog ‘Interesting Literature’ as it will serve as a reminder to me that I really must get around to reading The Swerve. It has sat patiently on my bed-side table (does this now make it part of the TBR Pile?) since its purchase a few months ago.

Anyway, here’s wishing you all a happy World Book Day (Night)…

Interesting Literature

Today, 23 April, is World Book Night (sometimes known, confusingly, as World Book Day). It is also the birthday (according to convention; nobody knows for sure) of William Shakespeare, and also the date on which he died, in 1616. On different calendars, Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) and William Wordsworth also died on this day, in 1616 and 1850 respectively. In honour of this literary event, we thought we’d compile 23 literary facts about the world of books, poetry, plays, novels, and other bookish delights for you to revel in and share today. We hope you enjoy them!


The first detective novel in English is often said to be The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868). However, The Notting Hill Mystery (which, sadly, doesn’t feature Hugh Grant in Victorian gaiters going around on a killing spree) got there first, in 1862-3. The author of this – the bona fide

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A Centuries Old Mystery: Josephine Tey and Richard III

Cast your minds back to the post with the selection of the TBR Pile featured. I did say that I would be tackling them ‘in no particular order’ but the one I have been reading for the past few days was indeed at the top of the list. See photograph below for proof. The book in question is The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (real name Elizabeth Mackintosh) about Richard III and the Princes in the Tower mystery.

This was I think always going to be my first choice (it was the first one that I picked out as well as being the first listed). The reason being as I am sure you have guessed by now that this is a re-read of an old favourite of mine. The book was originally published in 1951 (the last book to be published in Tey’s lifetime as she died in 1952) and issued by Penguin Books in 1954. My edition is a 1969 reprint bought second-hand and it certainly shows: foxed is not the word for it I am afraid. The pages are heavily discoloured and threatening to fall out; both the front and back covers are damaged. Maybe one day I’ll treat myself to a new edition (I am not sure if the title is still in print) or a fine second-hand copy.

pile of classic novels

Working from the top down…

Two things make this book an old favourite: my affection for Josephine Tey’s crime novels and my long fascination with Richard III and the mystery of the princes in the tower. This fascination was in fact inspired by reading Tey’s book as I am sure was the case with many other readers. Indeed the Richard III Society credit her with helping to rehabilitate the king’s reputation and restore him to his rightful place in history. Shakespeare has much to answer for in his creation of the wicked hunchbacked uncle with a rather long crime sheet.

Tey’s novel features her regular detective character Inspector Alan Grant who is laid up in hospital after an accident and is terribly, mind numbingly, bored and frustrated. When his fascination with faces (from the bench or the cells?) causes him to become interested in the mystery surrounding Richard Plantagenet, the scene is set for a modern-day investigation into a historical crime. With the help of an amiable American student as his able-bodied research assistant, Grant delves into the murky doings of the fifteenth century. He is surprised by what he comes up with during his quest and is by no means impressed with your average historian’s powers of reasoning.

On the strength of reading this investigation into the Yorkist monarch several years ago, I did some further digging around and discovered more novels and academic studies on the subject. I then read as much as I could find on Richard and the Wars of the Roses and his eventual demise fighting at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. I was keen enough on the topic to become a member of the Richard III Society though I eventually let my membership lapse. Having looked at the website recently I am tempted once more to become a Ricardian.

Meanwhile, back to the novel to follow-up a few leads! Are there any more Richard III enthusiasts out there? If so, let me know what you have been reading lately, I would love to know.

Just to finish with, here is a link to a fascinating site on Josephine Tey which is well worth a look if you are a fan of her writing.