Miscellany – Literary Readings: Rowan Suart

Miscellany – Literary Readings: Rowan Suart

At our Aug 3rd  meeting Rowan entertained us with a variety of literary readings, some familiar and others less well known. Her presentation began with a recitation of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem followed by an amusing explanation of the meanings of the ‘nonsense’ words in a conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty.  A poem by Edward Thomas and Rossetti’s Remember followed. An Austen poem on enduring a headache was followed by a reading from Jane Austen’s History of England (written at the age of fifteen) with her frank aside ‘very few dates in this history.’ This reading revealed her opinions on the veracity of Richard 111’s reputation as the murderer of his nephews and wife. Austen seemed to have a very forthright and amusing take on historical figures. The poem I shall not Wear Purple (Worrall) followed, being a rather scandalous recollection of youthful behaviour. Charles Dickens was represented by an excerpt from David Copperfield about Betsy Trotwood (portrayed by Maggie Smith on TV) and her absolute conviction that David was to be a girl and her dismay when this proved not to be the case.

Some drama was introduced with a reading from Sheridan’s The Rivals in which Rowan had played the part of Mrs Malaprop, from an era when women’s education was frowned upon and the ‘circulating library’ was considered to “be a tree of diabolical knowledge” and a source of learning about “contagious countries”.

A humorous poem Ode to an Egg reminded us of the leaner times of rationing after WW11 when an egg was a rarity on a menu and worthy of extravagant comment. The poem High Flight, by a Spitfire pilot, sadly killed during the war, exalted the joy of flying. This one reminded me of Yeats’s poem An Irish Airman Foresees his Death. The mood was lifted by a reading from Three Men in a Boat (1889) concerning a visit to the British Museum to research  an ailment only to be led on to reading about all kinds of diseases from A-Z. Jerome K. Jerome convinced himself he had symptoms of them all!  The only disease he was not suffering from was Housemaids’ Knee! This made us all want to read Three Men in a Boat again! An amusing anonymous poem about a visit to a Shakespeare play by unsophisticated patrons followed and the presentation concluded with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (Shall I Compare Thee) which Rowan dedicated to our Queen Elizabeth on her platinum jubilee.

This was a very enjoyable presentation enlivened by humour and Rowan’s dramatic skills.

Lois Coulthart


Miscellany (in the order in which they were presented)

Carroll, Lewis. Through the Looking Glass

Thomas, Edward. The Lane

Rossetti, Christina. Remember

Austen, Jane. When Stretch’d on One’s Bed

Austen, Jane. The History of England

Worrall, Madeline Blakeney. I shall Not Wear Purple

Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield

Sheridan, R. B. The Rivals

Anon. Ode to an Egg

Magee, John Gillespie Jnr. High Flight

Jerome, Jerome K. Three Men in a Boat

Anon. Joe and Me at the Play

Shakespeare, W. Sonnet 18 (Shall I Compare Thee…)