Turn of the Century Salon: An Introduction


This was to be my year of not joining things, but an invitation to the Turn of the Century Salon was simply too lovely to resist.

“I love it when I find out authors I’ve read or know of were friends/acquaintances with each other, perhaps they wrote letters, were friends since childhood, or formed a literary group. Oh, to be a guest at one of those gatherings. Imagining it becomes terribly exciting! But the next best things is to group up and share our thoughts, impressions, and enthusiasm with each-other on the works of these inspiring Classic authors.

It’s lovely to be at the start of a year long event focusing on novels written during the late 1880s and early 1930s.

And it’s only polite to start with introductions, with answers to a few questions put forward by our hostess …

What draws you to read the Classics?

There are many reasons, but for me at this point in my life the most important one is this:

The Classics are a bridge linking me with my past. My mother is frail now, but she still loves talking about the classic novels she read when she was at college, and she still loves to hear about what I’m reading.  We often wonder if her mother read some of the books I’ve read from the first half of the twentieth century. We know what my grandfather read, because we still have books of his by Dickens, Thackery, and Scott; and so, even though he died when my mother was seven years-old, those books tie us together.

What era have you mainly read? Georgian? Victorian? Which authors?

I began with the Victorians, and though I have neglected them a little in recent years, I think they will probably always have first claim on my heart. I began with Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, the Bronte sisters. I have come to love Charles Dickens, Emile Zola, Elizabeth Gaskell. And I hope that this might be my year to build a relationship with Anthony Trollope.

I’m less fond of the Regency: the only author I’ve fallen in love with there has been Jane Austen.

And I feel at home in the early years of the twentieth century. Especially with books by Edith Wharton and Willa Cather.

 •What Classics have you read from the 1880s-1930s? What did you think of them?

I’ll just mention half a dozen books that I love, and could happily read over and over again:

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (1886)
Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim (1898)
Miss Cayley’s Adventures by Grant Allen (1899)
A Room With a View by E M Forster (1908)
The City of Beautiful Nonsense by E Temple Thurston (1910)
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West (1918)

Name some books you’re looking forward to read for the salon.

My plans aren’t fixed, and I hope to be inspired along the way, but here are half a dozen books from my own shelves that I’d love to read:

The Odd Women by George Gissing (1893)
Liza of Lambeth by W Somerset Maugham (1897)
Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley (1899)
The Book of Months by E F Benson (1903)
The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson-Burnett (1907)
Fidelity by Susan Glaspell (1915)

Which authors do you hope to learn more about?

There are so many, but I’d particularly like to re-read Colette, and to read more about her.

Which literary characters are you most akin to?

The Dormouse from Alice in Wonderland …..

Is your preference prose? poetry? both?


3 responses

  1. To me, some of the most exciting and fulfilling literature was written during the years this challenge is focusing on. I love, especially, the Edwardian era. If I wasn’t such a horrible and uninspired blogger right now I would probably join this myself.

  2. I have George Gissing and E F Benson on my list too. It’s going to be very hard deciding what to read and other lists are only adding to the dilemma.

  3. So glad to have you joining Fleur! What a beautiful personal link between you and the Classics. I remember you mentioned before that it was your mother that inspired you to read Gaskell, she’s one of her favorites I think you said? Off to Google Cholmondeley’s Red Pottage.

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