Book buys · Bookish Discussions

Book Buys: Little Black Classics

PMYT0349We have finally reached the third, and final, instalment of my Birthday Buys – here is part one and two. This blog post will be focused on all the Little Black Classics I have recently purchased.

I love these little books; they’re great for in-between reads and for introducing you to new authors and subjects. I’ve been meaning to get my hands on some more for a while now, and with my birthday just passing, I thought now would be as good of time as any!

Here’s what I bought:

Thomas Hardy’s ‘Woman much missed’:

This year I finally read some of Hardy’s fiction; I loved it so much I couldn’t stop reading him for months. It’s an established fact that I love his prose, but I have never read any of his poetry before. This had to change, so I picked up the Little Black Classic collection of his most “moving, elegiac verse set in rural landscapes”. After the death of his wife, Hardy penned this grief-stricken collection of poetry.

When deciding which Little Black Classics to buy, this made the cut without hesitation. I needed to fuel my desire to read Hardy’s work, and I’ve been meaning to read his verse for some time now. In addition to this, this poignant and melancholy poetry is what I most enjoy reading, so I am very excited to read this.

Dante’s ‘Circles of Hell’:

This book is a snippet of Dante’s much longer epic poem, Inferno. The ‘circles of Hell’ are probably the most known aspect of the poem, depicting the terrifying nature of sin and eternal damnation. It is said that this “medieval epic […] revolutionized the Italian language”.

I first came across the different circles of Hell in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus when each sin came to torment Faustus. Ever since then, I have been interested in this idea of sin and damnation, especially how it is constantly recycled in Renaissance or early modern literature, so I thought it was about time I read the original.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’:

This Little Black Classic is home to two Victorian gothic tales written by one of the most celebrated writers in the English language – Elizabeth Gaskell. One story is concerned with “a ghostly child [who] roams the Northumberland moors”, whilst the other is a unusual tale of “fairy-tale characters [who] gather at a strange party”.

I wanted to read Gaskell’s collection of Gothic Tales this Autumn, but it costs an arm and a leg in my poor student eyes, so I’ve settled for this instead. These sound like the perfect reads for Halloween or any other gloomy night!

Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth:

“The great First World War poet portrays first-hand the horror, devastation and futility of the trenches”. Owen uses poetry to capture the true essence and brutality of War, attacking those romanticised images that helped people cope with what was going on.

I have recently fell in love with War poetry, especially after visiting Manchester’s Imperial War Museum this summer. It’s somewhat comforting to know these people found such solace in writing verse. I feel like it’s my duty to read it. I really cannot get enough of War poetry, and Wilfred Owen is one of the most celebrated poets, so I had to pick this up.

Ovid’s ‘The Fall of Icarus’:

“Enduring myths of vengeful gods and tragically flawed mortals from ancient Rome’s greatest poet”,  Icarus is the story of a son who ignores his father’s advice, flying too close to the sun and burning his wings. This is a story heavily centred on the theme of failure.

Over the many years I’ve studied English Literature, Ovid’s tale of Icarus has been a recurring subject. Many authors I have studied – Shakespeare, Donne and Marlowe for example – use this story to enrich their own tales. I thought it was only appropriate to read and become familiar with the story myself.

The Suffragettes:

This Little Black Classic is a collection of material from newspapers articles, pamphlets, posters and legal documents published between 1867 and 1928. The blurb claims “this is the story of the woman who changed the world”.

This is probably the book I’m most looking forward to. Recently, I’ve become extremely interested in the Suffragette Movement, specifically in how it’s portrayed and shown through literature, so I have no doubt I’ll love this!

Mary Shelley’s ‘Matilda’:

This novella is concerned with a “bereaved man’s disturbing passion for his daughter”. Found in this story are the common Romantic tropes, including incest and suicide. It is said that writing this novella distracted Shelley from the grief of her one-year-old daughter and three-year-old son’s deaths. Although written between 1819-1820, the novella wasn’t published for the first time until 1959.

I’m really excited to pick this Little Black Classic up. I loved Frankenstein, and have been meaning to read more of Shelley’s writing ever since. I thought this small book could prove useful in introducing me to more of her work.

George Eliot’s ‘The Lifted Veil’:

This is a chilling novella written by one of the most celebrated 19th century authors, George Eliot. In this Victorian horror story, Eliot explores “clairvoyance, fate and the possibility of life after death”. If you’re familiar with Eliot, you’d known this is quite different from the usual Realist content she normally published, so I’m looking forward to seeing her new take on writing.

I’m particularly looking forward to reading this in the dark October/November months. I’ll make my room atmospheric, with fairy lights and candles flickering, to get the a real sense of eeriness whilst reading this spooky tale.

Charles Dickens’ ‘To Be Read at Dusk’:

This Little Black Classic is home to three ghostly tales from the one of the greatest Victorian writers of all time – Charles Dickens. The chilling stories speak of “deadly premonitions, dreams intercepted and spectres bearing silent warnings”.

As the same with Gaskell and Eliot’s novellas, I bought this to read on a gloomy day to get into that spooky and melancholy mood. I’m looking forward to seeing how ghost stories were written two centuries ago – I doubt they’ll be considered scary by today’s standards, so I want to see what terrified Victorian readers.


And, you’ve reached the end. These are all the Little Black Classics I’ve recently bought. Although there are a lot of books mentioned in my last three hauls, all the LBC are reasonably cheap (ranging from 80p to £2), so I somehow feel like I got more for my money.

I am now on a book-buying ban. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Thanks for reading, Lauren Xx

UPDATE: I wrote this blog post roughly three weeks ago. Since, I have accumulated roughly five more books. My book-buying ban didn’t last long at all. I should be ashamed of myself, but instead I’m going to bury my feelings in my newly purchased books. Goodbye!

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