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The Spoken Word

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The British Library bookshop is offering two superb CDs: “The Spoken Word – Poets” and “The Spoken Word – Writers.” Each features historic recordings from the British Library Sound Archives of poets and writers born in the 19th Century reading from their work.

Among those on the Poets CD: Alfred, Lord Tennyson reads from “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Robert Browning, W.B. Yeats and “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” Rudyard Kipling, Hillaire Belloc, Gertrude Stein, Robert Frost and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” John Masefield and “Sea Fever,” Rose Macauley, William Carlos Williams and “Queen-Anne’s-Lace,” Ezra Pound, Siegfried Sassoon, Robinson Jeffers and “To the Stone Cutters,” Edith Sitwell, T.S. Eliot and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” e e cummings, and Robert Graves.
Eliot’s reading is mesmerizing.

On the Writers CD: George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Conan Doyle, Kipling, H.G. Wells, Max Beerbohm, G.K. Chesterton, W. Somerset Maugham, Edgar Wallace, John Buchan, E.M. Forster, P.G. Wodehouse, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Hugh Walpole, Agatha Christie, Vita Sackville-West, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rebecca West, Aldous Huxley, J.B. Priestly, and Noel Coward.

Joyce, in his eight minute excerpt from Finnegans Wake, is riveting. What a superb reader. To listen to Rebecca West is to understand why H.G. Wells fell in love with her.

That each CD costs only 8.46 British Pounds is unbelievable to me. I never dreamed recordings of most of these people existed, much less, that I would ever be able to hear them.

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