Burdened by poverty and spiritually dulled by a loveless marriage to an older woman. Frome is emotionally stirred by the arrival of a youthful cousin who is employed as household help. Mattie’s presence not only brightens a gloomy house but stirs long-dormant feelings in Ethan. Their growing love for one another, discovered by an embittered wife, presages an ending to this grim tale that is both shocking and savagely ironic.
Regarded as the preeminent prose satirist in the English language, Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) intended this masterpiece, as he once wrote Alexander Pope, to “vex the world rather than divert it.” Savagely ironic, it portrays man as foolish at best, and at worst, not much more than an ape.
The direct and unadorned narrative describes four remarkable journies of ship’s surgeon Lemuel Gulliver, among them, one to the land of Lilliput, where six-inch-high inhabitants bicker over trivialities; and another to Brobdingnag, a land where giants reduce man to insignificance.
Written with disarming simplicity and careful attention to detail, this classic is diverse in its appeal: for children, it remains an enchanting fantasy. For adults, it is a witty parody of political life in Swift’s time and a scathing send-up of manners and morals in 18th-century England.
House of the Seven Gables
A gloomy New England mansion provides the setting for this classic exploration of ancestral guilt and its expiation through the love and goodwill of succeeding generations.
Nathaniel Hawthorne drew inspiration for this story of an immorally obtained property from the role his forebears played in the 17th-century Salem witch trials. Built over an unquiet grave, the House of the Seven Gables carries a dying man’s curse that blights the lives of its residents for over two centuries. Now Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, an iron-hearted hypocrite and intellectual heir to the mansion’s unscrupulous founder, is attempting to railroad a pair of his elderly relatives out of the house. Only two young people stand in his way — a visiting country cousin and an enigmatic boarder skilled in mesmerism.
Hawthorne envisioned this family drama of evil, revenge, and resolution as a microcosm of Salem’s own history as in idealistic society corrupted by greed and pride. His enduring view of the darkness at the heart of the national soul has made The House of the Seven Gables a landmark of American literature.
First published in 1897, The Invisible Man ranks as one of the most famous scientific fantasies ever written. Part of a series of pseudoscientific romances written by H. G. Wells (1866–1946) early in his career, the novel helped establish the British author as one of the first and best writers of science fiction.
Wells’ years as a science student undoubtedly inspired a number of his early works, including this strikingly original novel. Set in turn-of-the-century England, the story focuses on Griffin, a scientist who has discovered the means to make himself invisible. His initial, almost comedic, adventures are soon overshadowed by the bizarre streak of terror he unleashes upon the inhabitants of a small village.
Notable for its sheer invention, suspense, and psychological nuance, The Invisible Man continues to enthrall science-fiction fans today as it did the reading public nearly 100 years ago.
Determined to make her heroine “as poor and plain as myself,” Charlotte Brontë made a daring choice for her 1847 novel. Jane Eyre possesses neither the great beauty nor entrancing charm that her fictional predecessors used to make their way in the world. Instead, Jane relies upon her powers of diligence and perception, conducting herself with dignity animated by passion.
The instant and lasting success of Jane Eyre proved Brontë’s instincts correct. Readers of her era and ever after have taken the impoverished orphan girl into their hearts, following her from the custody of cruel relatives to a dangerously oppressive boarding school and onward through a troubled career as a governess. Jane’s first assignment at Thorn field, where the proud and cynical master of the house harbors a scandalous secret, draws readers ever deeper into a compelling exploration of the mysteries of the human heart.
A banquet of food for thought, this many-faceted tale invites a splendid variety of interpretations. The heroine’s insistence upon emotional equality with her lover suggests a feminist viewpoint, while her solitary status invokes a consideration of the problems of growing up as a social outsider. Some regard Jane’s attempts to reconcile her need for love with her search for moral rectitude as the story’s primary message, and lovers of gothic romance find the tale’s social and religious aspects secondary to its gripping elements of mystery and horror. This classic of English literature truly features something for every reader.
Literary-minded tomboy Jo develops a fast friendship with the boy next door, and pretty Meg, the eldest, finds romance; frail and affectionate Beth fills the house with music, and Amy, the youngest, seeks beauty with all the longing of an artist's soul. Although poor in material wealth, the family possesses an abundance of love, friendship, and imaginative gifts that captivate readers time and again.
First written in 1789-99, when Austen was in her early twenties, this novel, like Persuasion, did not see publication till 1818, in the winter after the author’s death. Distinguished by its satirical wit, brilliant comedy, and complex but subtle views of human nature and morality, the book also presents a fine background picture of middle-class life in nineteenth-century England, with particularly good scenes in Bath, the fashionable watering place to which Austen’s father, a clergyman himself, had retired. Northanger Abbey is a must-read for all Austen fans and students of English literature.
Prince and the Pauper
The Prince, dressed in rags, wanders about the city’s boisterous neighborhoods among the lower classes and endures a series of hardships; poor Tom, now living with the royals, is constantly filled with the dread of being discovered for who and what he really is.
Brimming with gentle humor and discerning social scrutiny, this timeless tale of transposed identities remains one of Twain’s most popular and best-loved novels.
Romeo and Juliet
One of Shakespeare’s most popular and accessible plays, Romeo and Juliet tells the story of two star-crossed lovers and the unhappy fate that befell them as a result of a long and bitter feud between their families. The play contains some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful and lyrical love poetry and is perhaps the finest celebration of the joys of young love ever written. This inexpensive edition includes the complete, unabridged text with explanatory footnotes. Ideal for classroom use, it is a wonderful addition to the home library of anyone wanting to savor one of literature’s most sublime paeans to love.
Story of My Life
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
In September of 1884, Robert Louis Stevenson, then in his mid-thirties, moved with his family to Bournemouth, a resort on the southern coast of England, where in the brief span of 23 months he revised A Child’s Garden of Verses and wrote the novels Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
An intriguing combination of fantast thriller and moral allegory, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depicts the gripping struggle of two opposing personalities — one essentially good, the other evil — for the soul of one man. Its tingling suspense and intelligent and sensitive portrayal of man’s dual nature reveals Stevenson as a writer of great skill and originality, whose power to terrify and move us remains, over a century later, undiminished.
Taming of the Shrew
The freebooter Petruchio arrives in Padua to hear of Katharina, a beautiful heiress whose waspish rants and caustic personality have repelled all attempts at courtship. Professing to admire a woman of spirit, Petruchio immediately sets about his wooing. The initial encounter between “Kate” and her wily suitor is spiked with impassioned exchanges of blows as well as jests. After a madcap wedding ceremony, the still-protesting Kate is whisked away to be “killed with kindness” and reborn as a loving wife.
One of the Bard’s earliest and most popular plays, The Taming of the Shrew is rife with subplots involving his customary devices of disguise and mistaken identity. The vivid language, studded with elaborate puns, is an engaging complement to the play’s slapstick humor. Reprinted complete and unabridged in this inexpensive edition, The Taming of the Shrew will delight any reader with its wonderful wordplay and rollicking good spirits.