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71 Works of James Runciman

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Letter-Writers

Story type: Literature

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Since old Leisure died, we have come to think ourselves altogether too fine and too busy to cultivate the delightful art of correspondence. Dickens seems to have been almost the last man among us who gave his mind to letter-writing; and his letters contain some of his very best work, for he plunged into his […]

Dandies

Story type: Essay

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Perhaps there is no individual of all our race who is quite insensible to the pleasures of what children call “dressing-up.” Even the cynic, the man who defiantly wears old and queer clothes, is merely suffering from a perversion of that animal instinct which causes the peacock to swagger in the sun and flaunt the […]

Bad Company

Story type: Essay

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There has been much talk about the insensate youth who boasted that he had squandered half-a-million on the Turf in a year. The marvellous journalists who frequent betting resorts printed hundreds of paragraphs every week explaining the wretched boy’s extravagances–how he lost ten thousand pounds in one evening at cards; how he lost five thousand […]

Good Company

Story type: Essay

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Let it be understood that I do not intend to speak very much about the excellent people who are kind enough to label themselves as “Society,” for I have had quite enough experience of them at one time and another, and my impressions are not of a peculiarly reverential kind. “Company” among the set who […]

A very lengthy biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley appeared recently, and the biographer thought it his duty to give the most minute and peculiar details concerning the poet’s private life. In consequence, the book is a deplorable one in many respects, and no plain-minded person can read it without feeling sorry that our sweet singer […]

Slang

Story type: Essay

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Has any one ever yet considered the spiritual significance of slang? The dictionaries inform us that “slang is a conversational irregularity of a more or less vulgar type;” but that is not all. The prim definition refers merely to words, but I am rather more interested in considering the mental attitude which is indicated by […]

Pets

Story type: Essay

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That enterprising savage who first domesticated the pig has a good deal to answer for. I do not say that the moral training of the pig was a distinct evil, for it undoubtedly saved many aged and respectable persons from serious inconvenience. The more practical members of the primitive tribes were wont to club the […]

During last year the register of slaughter on the ocean was worse than any ever before seen since the Royal Charter took her crew to destruction; and it seems as though matters were growing worse and worse. One dismal old story is being repeated week in, week out. In thick weather or clear weather–it does […]

There came into my life a time of strenuous effort, and I drank all the joys of labour to the lees. When the rich dark midnights of summer drooped over the earth, I could hardly bear to think of the hours of oblivion which must pass ere I felt the delight of work once more. […]

When Lord Beaconsfield called the Turf a vast engine of national demoralization, he uttered a broad general truth; but, unfortunately, he did not go into particulars, and his vague grandiloquence has inspired a large number of ferocious imitators, who know as little about the essentials of the matter as Lord Beaconsfield did. These imitators abuse […]

Lost Days

Story type: Essay

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I fully recognize the fact which the Frenchman flippantly stated–that no human beings really believe that death is inevitable until the last clasp of the stone-cold king numbs their pulses. Perhaps this insensibility is a merciful gift; at any rate, it is a fact. If belief came home with violence to our minds, we should […]

Soon, with pomp of golden days and silver nights, the dying Summer will wave the world farewell; but the precious time is still with us, and we cherish the glad moments gleefully. When the dawn swirls up in the splendid sky, it is as though one gladsome procession of hours had begun to move. The […]

Voyaging At Sea

Story type: Essay

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A philosopher has described the active life of man as a continuous effort to forget the facts of his own existence. It is vain to pin such philosophers to a definite meaning; but I think the writer meant vaguely to hint in a lofty way that the human mind incessantly longs for change. We all […]

Drink

Story type: Essay

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I have no intention of imitating those intemperate advocates of temperance who frighten people by their thunderous and extravagant denunciations; I leave high moral considerations on one side for the present, and our discussion will be purely practical, and, if possible, helpful. The duty of helpful men and women is not to rave about horrors […]

Some five years ago a mere accident gave to the world one of the most gruesome and remarkable pieces of literature that has ever perhaps been seen. A convict named Fury confessed to having committed a murder of an atrocious character. He was brought from prison, put on his trial at Durham, and condemned to […]

Quiet Old Towns

Story type: Essay

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A rather popular writer, who first came into notice by dint of naming a book of essays, “Is Life worth Living?” gave us not long ago a very sweet description of an English country town; and he worked himself up to quite a moving pitch of rapture as he described the admirable social arrangements which […]

Journalism

Story type: Essay

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When the mystic midnight passes, the bustle of Fleet Street slackens; but on each side of the thoroughfare hundreds of workers with hand and brain are toiling with eager intensity. In tall buildings here and there the lights glitter on every floor, and throw their long shafts through the gloom; not much activity is plainly […]

A great American writer has lately given a terrible account of “The Social Influence of the Saloon” in his country. The article is very grave, and every word is weighed, but the cold precision of the paper attracts the reader with a horrible fascination. The author does not so much regret the enormous waste of […]

Again and again I have talked about the delights of leisure, and I always advise worn worldlings to renew their youth and gain fresh ideas amid the blessed calm of the fields and the trees. But I lately watched an immense procession of holiday-makers travelling mile after mile in long-drawn sequence–and the study caused me […]

Fraternity

Story type: Essay

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So far as we can see it appears plain that the wish for brotherhood was on the whole reasonable, and its fulfilment easier than the wild desire for liberty and equality. No doubt Omar and Cromwell and Hoche and Dumouriez have chosen in their respective times an odd mode of spreading the blessings of fraternity. […]

All the statistics and formal statements published about drink are no doubt impressive enough to those who have the eye for that kind of thing; but, to most of us, the word “million” means nothing at all, and thus when we look at figures, and find that a terrific number of gallons are swallowed, and […]

Equality

Story type: Essay

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One of the strangest shocks which the British traveller can experience occurs to him when he makes his first acquaintance with the American servant–especially the male servant. The quiet domineering European is stung out of his impassivity by a sort of moral stab which disturbs every faculty, unless he is absolutely stunned and left gasping. […]

Those who have leisure to explore the history of the past, to peer into the dark backward and abysm of Time, must of necessity become smitten with a kind of sad and kindly cynicism. When one has travelled over a wide tract of history, and when, above all, he has mused much on the minor […]

Gamblers

Story type: Essay

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The great English carnival of gamblers is over for a month or two; the bookmakers have retired to winter quarters after having waxed fat during the year on the money risked by arrant simpletons. The bookmaker’s habits are peculiar; he cannot do without gambling, and he contrives to indulge himself all the year round in […]

Certain enterprising persons have contributed of late years to make English newspapers somewhat unpleasant reading, and mournful men are given to moaning over the growth of national corruption. So persistent have the mournful folk been, that many good simple people are in a state of grievous alarm, for they are persuaded that the nation is […]

It is really most kind on the part of certain good people to reorganise the amusements of the people; but, as each reorganiser fancies himself to be the only man who has the right notion, it follows that matters are becoming more and more complicated. For example, to begin with literature, a simple person who […]

Scoundrels

Story type: Essay

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Byron very often flung out profound truths in his easy, careless way, but the theatrical vein in his composition sometimes prompted him to say dashing things, not because he regarded them as true, but because he wanted to make people stare. Speaking of one interesting and homicidal gentleman, the poet observes– “He knew himself a […]

Behind The Veil

Story type: Essay

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“Men of all castes, if they fulfil their assigned duties, enjoy in heaven the highest imperishable bliss. Afterwards, when a man who has fulfilled his duties returns to this world, he obtains, by virtue of a remainder of merit, birth in a distinguished family, beauty of form, beauty of complexion, strength, aptitude for learning, wisdom, […]

The Fading Year

Story type: Essay

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Even in this distressed England of ours there are still districts where the simple reapers regard the harvest labour as a frolic; the dulness of their still lives is relieved by a burst of genuine but coarse merriment, and their abandoned glee is not unpleasant to look upon. Then come the harvest suppers–noble spectacles. The […]

Are We Wealthy?

Story type: Essay

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Among the working-classes shrewd men are now going about putting some very awkward questions which seem paradoxical at first sight, but which are quite understood by many intelligent men to whom they are addressed. The query “Are we wealthy?” seems easy enough to answer; and of course a rapid and superficial observer gives an affirmative […]

Only about a quarter-century ago unlearned men of ability would often sigh and say, “Ah, if I was only a scholar!” Admirers of a clever and illiterate workman often said, “Why, if he was a scholar, he would make a fortune in business for himself!” Women mourned the lack of learning in the same way, […]

The most hard-hearted of cynics must pity the poor daily journalist who is calmly requested nowadays to produce a Christmas article. For my own part I decline to meddle with holly and jollity and general goodwill, and I have again and again protested against the insane Beggars’ Carnival which breaks out yearly towards the beginning […]

By fits and starts the public wake up and own with much clamour that there is a great deal of poverty in our midst. While each new fit lasts the enthusiasm of good people is quite impressive in its intensity; all the old hackneyed signatures appear by scores in the newspapers, and “Pro Bono Publico,” […]

When I talked [1] of the hopeless poor and of degraded men, I had in my mind only the feeble or detestable adults who degrade our civilisation; but I have by no means forgotten the unhappy little souls who develop into wastrels unless they are taken away from hideous surroundings which cramp vitality, destroy all […]

Stage-Children

Story type: Essay

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The Modern Legislator is a most terrible creature. When he is not engaged in obstructing public business, he must needs be meddling with other people’s private affairs–and some of us want to know where he is going to stop. The Legislator has decreed that no children who are less than ten years of age shall […]

The singular phrase at the head of this Essay came to me from a correspondent who wrote in great perplexity. This unhappy man was quite miserable because he found that his own views of the masterpieces of literature differed from those generally expressed; his modesty prevented him from setting himself up in opposition to the […]

Sir John Lubbock once spoke to a company of working-men, and gave them some advice on the subject of reading. Sir John is the very type of the modern cultured man; he has managed to learn something of everything. Finance is of course his strong point; but he stands in the first rank of scientific […]

If any one happens to feel ashamed when he notices the far-off resemblances between the lower animals and man’s august self, he will probably feel the most acute humiliation should he take an occasional walk through a great rookery, such as that in Richmond Park. The black cloud of birds sweeps round and round, casting […]

The people who joke and talk lightly about marriage do not seem to have the faintest rational conception of the awful nature of the subject. Awful it is; and, as serious men go through life, they become more and more impressed with the momentous results which depend on the choice made by a man or […]

Happy Marriages

Story type: Essay

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Although a strong modern school of writers care only to talk of misery and gloom and frustration, I retain a taste for joy and sweetness and kindliness. Life has so many sharp crosses, so many inexplicable sorrows for us all, that I hold it good to snatch at every moment of gladness, and to keep […]

Shrews

Story type: Essay

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The greatest masters who ever made studies of the shrew in fiction or in history have never, after all, given us a strictly scientific definition of the creature. They let her exhibit herself in all her drollery or her hatefulness, but they act in somewhat lordly fashion by leaving us to frame our definition from […]

Lord Beaconsfield once compared his opponents on the Treasury Bench to a line of exhausted volcanoes. They had taken office when they were full of mighty aspirations; they had poured forth measures of all sorts with prodigal vigour; and at last they were reduced to wait, supine and helpless, for the inevitable swing of the […]

It may seem almost an impertinence to use such a word as “decline” in connection with literature at a date when every crossing-sweeper can read, when free libraries are multiplied, when a new novel is published every day all the year round, and when thousands and tens of thousands of books–scientific, historical, critical–are poured out […]

A Long Chase

Story type: Literature

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The “Halicore” ran into harbour one October morning and took up her berth at the quay. The brig had come from a nine months’ voyage and the men were regarded as heroes when they came ashore, for most of our vessels were merely coasters. When all was made snug on board, the sailors went to […]

Hob’s Tommy

Story type: Literature

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The moor was blazing in the sun. Bright gorse flamed above the pale green grass, and little pools flashed white rays up to the sky. Hob’s Tommy stepped out of doors, and took a long look round. He was not impressed by the riot of colour that spread around him; he looked over the pulsing […]

The Failure

Story type: Literature

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To the southward of the Chibburn Stream a flat space, covered with rushes and grey grass, stretches away towards the Border. On the seaward side it is walled in by low hills, whilst on the landward side a sudden rise of the ground forms another boundary which makes the waste resemble the bed of an […]

Mr. Casely

Story type: Literature

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I. Young Mr. Ellington strolled down the narrow walk that led through the woods from the Hall to the sea. The morning had lain heavy on his hands, for he was without companionship, and he was not one of the happy folk who can make resources or who find a sufficient delight in mere living. […]

The Sibyl

Story type: Literature

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An old woman lived in a one-roomed cottage among the sand hills bordering the sea. Her place was only a hut with thatched roof and stone floor, but coals were plentiful, so Mary was able to make herself very comfortable. The wind made a great noise with moaning and shrieking among the bents, but Mary […]

There is generally very heavy weather in winter time on the north-east coast. From North Sunderland the Farne Islands can hardly be seen, for the tumultuous waves in the narrow channels throw up clouds of spray. At the mouth of the Tyne the sea runs strongly, and the great piers have to meet endless charges […]

Keelmen

Story type: Literature

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The keel is a strange kind of barge which is only seen on three of our northern rivers. She is sharp at both ends, and her lines are extremely fine. When loaded her deck is flush with the water; yet, under sail, her speed is very great, and she is as handy as a skiff. […]

Blown North

Story type: Literature

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The brig “Wansbeck” sailed on a February day at about four in the afternoon. She was a fine little vessel, but very badly found in sails and running-gear. The crew had signed for a voyage to Malmo; and the owner hurried the ship away because he feared she might be “neaped” in the little river, […]

North-Country Fishermen

Story type: Literature

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The men who go away in the great smacks and remain at sea for many weeks at a time are used to call themselves fishermen; but the long-shore fisher does not consider these smacksmen as being members of his profession at all. A person who leaves his own village, and never comes home in the […]

The Suspected Man

Story type: Literature

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A tall girl used to wander about from village to village down the coast. Strangers did not know what was the matter with her, but all the people who lived round the bay knew that she was out of her mind. Her clothes were not very good, but she kept herself clean, and when she […]

The Rabbit-Catcher

Story type: Literature

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I had the fancy to walk out one winter’s morning in a very lonely place. The wind was laden with sleet, and as I walked on the top of the cliffs it struck my right cheek viciously, and then screamed away past through the furze-bushes. The light was coming up slowly over the leaden sea, […]

The Giants

Story type: Literature

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In passing along the shores of the bay, on evenings when the water was smooth, you could hear a succession of dull thuds like the sound of distant guns. Looking to eastward you saw a dark semicircular streak on the water, and inside this streak a coble glided slowly hither and thither. One man rowed […]

The Collier Skipper

Story type: Literature

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Many old-fashioned people who read of the massacres caused by steamboat collisions, think regretfully of the time when eight hundred sail of ships would make the trip between Tyne and Thames without so much as the loss of a bowsprit from one of the fleet. It was slow work, perhaps, and it might be a […]

In The Bay

Story type: Literature

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The screw steamer “Coquet” left a little port on the north coast early one October. She was bound for Genoa; and as this was a long trip, a little group of men, among whom were several who owned shares in her, waved their farewells from the end of the pier. A number of small tradesmen […]

The Cabin-Boy

Story type: Literature

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The master of a smack was lately accused of having murdered an apprentice; so the mob made desperate attempts to lynch the prisoner every time he was brought before the magistrates. They heard that the dead boy used to be beaten with ropes’-ends, kicked, dragged along the deck, drenched with cold water, and subjected to […]

The Squire

Story type: Literature

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Every afternoon when the weather was bright, an erect old man used to ride round the Fisher Row on a stout cob. If the men happened to be sitting in the sun, on the benches, he would stop and speak to them, in sharp, ringing accents, and he always had a word for the women […]

The Village Preacher

Story type: Literature

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The Methodists got a very strong hold in seaside places at the end of the last century, but during the long pressure of the great War the claims of religion were somewhat forgotten. Smuggling went on to an extraordinary extent and the consequent demoralisation was very apparent. The strict morality which the stern Methodists of […]

The Fisher’s Friend

Story type: Literature

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A square stone house decked with clambering honeysuckle stood in a lonely place about a mile to the northward of the Row. A narrow flower garden lay to the right and left of the front, and in spring-time and summer a delicate little lady used to come out and move gracefully about among the flower […]

The Coastguard

Story type: Literature

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Winter and summer, every night about six o’clock, a tall man, dressed in blue, strode over the moor. Sometimes he looked on the ground for a long time together, and seemed to be buried in deep thought. When he came to the stream he always found another man waiting for him on the far side, […]

An Old-School Pilot

Story type: Literature

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At the mouth of a north-country river a colony of pilots dwelt. The men and women of this colony looked differently and spoke a dialect different from that used by the country people only half a mile off. The names, too, of the pilot community were different from those of the surrounding population. Tully was […]

An Ugly Contrast

Story type: Literature

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The steam-tug “Alice,” laden with excursionists from several Tyneside towns, struck in the autumn of 1882 on the Bondicar Rocks, sixteen miles north of Blyth. The boat was not much damaged, and could easily have been run into the Coquet River within a very few minutes if the passengers had only kept steady. But the […]

The Fisherwoman

Story type: Literature

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On bleak mornings you might see the movements of Peggy’s stooping figureamong the glistening brown weeds that draped the low rocks; and somehowyou always noticed her most on bleak mornings. When the joy of thesummer was in the air, and the larks were singing high up in the sky, itseemed rather pleasant than otherwise to […]

Until she was nineteen years old, Dorothy lived a very uneventful life; for one week was much the same as another in the placid existence of the village. On Sunday mornings, when the church-bells began to ring, you would meet her walking over the moor with a springy step. Her shawl was gay, and her […]

The Silent Men

Story type: Literature

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Two very reckless fellows used always to go fishing together, and used also to spend their leisure together. One was known as Roughit; and the other was called Lance. Roughit was big, with heavy limbs and a rather brutal face. He wore his hair and beard very long, and his eyes looked morosely from under […]

I firmly believe in the sound manhood of the English people, and I know that in any great emergency they would rise and prove themselves true and gallant of soul; but we happen for the time to have amongst us a very large class of idlers, and these idlers are steadily introducing habits and customs […]

Going A-Walking

Story type: Essay

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One of the most pestilent of all social nuisances is the athlete who must be eternally performing “feats,” and then talking about them. He goes to the Alps, and, instead of looking at the riot of sunset colour or the immortal calm of the slumbering peaks, he attempts performances which might be amusing in a […]

"Sport"

Story type: Essay

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Simple folk fancy that “sport” must be a joyous pursuit, and that a sportsman is a jovial, light-hearted, and rather innocent person. It may be useful to many parents, and perhaps to some young people, if I let them know what “sport” really means nowadays. Those who have their imaginations filled with pictures of merry […]

Degraded Men

Story type: Essay

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The man of science derives suggestive knowledge from the study of mere putrefaction; he places an infusion of common hay-seeds or meat or fruit in his phials, and awaits events; presently a drop from one of the infusions is laid on the field of the microscope, and straightly the economy of a new and strange […]