Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Post In the Honor of the Royal Wedding-Three Very English Short Stories-

"Quality" by John Galsworthy (1912, 7 pages)
"Leaf by Niggle" by J. R. R. Tolkien (written 1938-published 1945-12 pages)
"The Innocence of Father Brown" by C. K. Chesterson (1911, 22 pages)

Three Classic English Short Stories
in Honor of the Royal Wedding

Today in honor of the Royal Wedding I am going to post on short stories by three very English writers.   Two of them are new to me authors and one I have not read in many years.   

John Galsworthy 

"Quality" by John Galsworthy (1867 to 1933-Surrey England) is a wonderful story about the relationship of an English gentleman of wealth and leisure and  his German boot maker.   
Galsworthy is most famous for his Forsythe Trilogy set among the English gentility.   It has become quite famous through movies and TV shows based on it.    Galsworthy was born into a wealthy family and educated as a barrister (he never practiced) .   He worked as  hospital orderly in France during WWI (he attempted to serve in the military but was considered to old-47).    He received the Nobel Prize in 1932.    I really loved "Quality".   As it begins we are in a boot makers shop.    The shop is run by two elderly German  brothers.   To them making boots is not just a job or a craft, it is an art.   Their boots are made from the finest Russian leather (remember in 1912 there is no one more royal than a Russian nobleman!).   The first thing the brothers do is bring out a piece of leather they feel will be right for you.    One of the problems of the  brothers  is that they make their boots so well they last years longer than the boots of their competitors so their customers do not have to come back to buy new ones very often.   They are the boot makers  to the Royal family but they do not have a plaque in their shop window announcing this as any other shop would.   All they have in their window is a sign giving their family name and a pair of their boots.   There is a definite really well done story line in "Quality" which I will let you discover if you wish.   It is beautifully written.    The character of the narrator is very well done and I felt I knew the German brothers a little.   The ending is a bit sad as something will be lost that cannot be replaced.   I will for sure read more of his stories (I will post a link where you can read or download this -and much more from the author-at the end of my post).   "Quality" is old fashioned story that for sure lives up to its name.   I can see why Galsworthy is so loved.

J. R. R. Tolkien
"Leaves by Niggle" by J. R. R. Tolkien (1892 to 1973-born in the Orange Free State to British parents) is another story of a man dedicated to his art and little concerned with the profit he can make from it.    Like most people I have read and really enjoyed his Lord of the Rings.  It has been a long time since I read this trilogy but I still recall a lot of it.   (There is a good article on him in Wikipedia if you want to read about the basics of his life and work.    He might have been born in Africa but he was as English as he could be!   He served as  junior officer in WWI with the British Army in France.)    Niggle is an older man, never married, living way out in the country in a  small cottage.   He has only one  real neighbor.   His life work and his passion is painting.   He has never really been much of a success and never made more than just enough to live on.   For a very long time he has been working on a painting of a tree.   

    The story is a bit slow getting going but it is really well done.   ( I  will include a link to it at the end of the post).   If you read and loved his big work, you owe it to yourself to try this short story.   

C. K. Chesterson

C. K. Chesterton (1874 to 1936-London, England) wrote 80 books, 200 short stories and 1000s of essays.  ( You can read about his very interesting life and career HERE).    Chesterson is now most remembered and loved for his fifty of so short stories about Father Brown, a parish priest in Branford, England.  

"The Innocence of Father Brown" (22 pages, 1911) begins with a famous detective in search of a master criminal.    The criminal has escaped capture for a long time by his high intelligence, his brashness and his willing to commit one crime to escape from another.   The two men are engaged in a long term battle of wits.   So far the criminal normally wins.     The story takes a while to get going and Father Brown does not show up until it more than half over.   I will not relay the plot as it is fun and clever.    I really like the theological conversation about the nature of reason that Father Brown has with the criminal (who is pretending to  be a priest).    Father Brown has learned a lot about how crime is done in England.    I think you will like his explanation of how he learned so much about the dark side of human nature.  "The Innocence of Father Brown" is very English in its understated display of  the intelligence of Father Brown and in his simple modesty.    

"Quality" by John Galsworthy can be read HERE.   A great deal of his work, including his famous trilogy, can be read online.

"The Leaf of Niggle" can be read HERE

"The Innocence of Father Brown" (and much more of Chesterton's writings) can be read HERE

What are your favorite pre-WWII English short stories?

Mel  u


James Coe said...

Thank you for that post, it was very informative :). I have never heard of John Galsworthy but he seems like a very interesting character indeed.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've heard the name but actually did not know about the history of this individual.

BTW...I woke up early to enjoy the Royal Wedding --everything was beautiful.

Have a great weekend.

Sayeth said...

I don't find Chesterton's mysteries to be as exciting as Conan Doyle's, but Chesterton is a more cerebral writer. Father Brown's character is one that grew on me after reading several stories of his.