Category Archives: Education

What has gone wrong with education especially in the UK and how to fix it.

The Indian Independence Movement




British India and the Princely States

By the end of the 19th century the whole of India was either directly or indirectly under British control. Back then India consisted of what we now call Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as what is now the Republic of India.

About two-thirds of India was British India. This meant provinces under direct British control. The British Army was there and so were British officials.

Around a third of India was made up of princely states which were under indirect British control. There were over 600 princely states. The princely states were ruled by Indian rulers.  There were many different titles for the ‘princes’. They had titles such as rajah, maharajah, gaekwar, khan and nizam. Therefore they were known as ‘princes’ to simplify it. Some princely states were very small: just a couple of square miles. The largest of them was Hyderabad which was the size of France. Most princely states were in between in terms of size. A prince would rule his state. The state would pass from father to son. A prince could do as he wanted within his state so long as he did not cause problems for British India. The prince had to agree to only have foreign relations via the United Kingdom. That means that a princely state could not set up an embassy in China or invite an ambassador from Italy. No, the British would conduct foreign relations on behalf of all the princely states. Princely states were allowed to have their own armies.

At that time India was over 60% Hindu. The Muslims comprised 30% of the population. There were small numbers of Sikhs and Christians. The Muslims were concentrated in the very west of the country (today’s Pakistan) and the very east (today’s Bangladesh).


  1. 19th century India is which three modern countries?
  2. What is a princely state?
  3. What proportion of India was British India in the 19th century?
  4. What was the second largest religion in India?
  5. What is the main religion of India?

Poverty and progress

Although India was British ruled of the 200 000 000 people in India at the time only about 200 000 were British. The majority of government were workers were India. But the top ranks were filled by Britons.

There was also an Indian Army. But all the officers were white British. The ordinary soldiers were Indians. Many Indians felt it was unfair that Indians could not even be officers in the Indian Army. Back then British meant ‘white’. These days there are many British citizens of Indian ancestry. There was no British citizenship as such back then. Anyone from anywhere in the British Empire was a British subject. A white Briton, a Nigerian, a Jamaican, an Indian or a New Zealander were all British subjects. Likewise in the Indian Police the ordinary policemen were Indians. The top ranks were reserved for whites. Indians resented this racial discrimination.

By the end of the 19th century the British Empire had reached its zenith. A third of all the land in the world was under British rule. It was said that Britannia ruled the waves because the Royal Navy was bigger than the second largest navy plus the third largest navy put together. The UK was a mighty manufacturing country but it had already been overtaken by the United States and Germany. They were manufacturing more than the UK.

India was very much an agricultural country at the time. There were only a few factories at the time. Most people were farmers. Many people dwelt in grinding poverty. At the time India was growing economically. But little wealth trickled down to the majority of the people.

In the 19th century most people around the world never went to school. Most people were illiterate. Only about 20% of people in India were literate at the time. The UK had only just brought in compulsory schooling in 1870 and the UK had still not achieved full literacy. This compulsory schooling law did not apply to India.

The British Government sent a viceroy to India. The viceroy ruled on behalf of Queen Victoria because she was so far away. The viceroy lived at Kolkata which was then the capital of India. The viceroy was a British aristocrat sent out from the UK to India. He served for a few years and was then replaced. Every few years a new viceroy came out.

In the British Cabinet there was a man who was the Secretary of State for India. He was answerable to the British Parliament for Indian affairs. But India had no representation in the UK Parliament. The Government of the UK could appoint and sack the viceroy of India. The people of India had no say over this.

  1. What did many Indians find objectionable about the rank structure in the Indian Army?
  2. Was the British Empire powerful at that time? (Five sentences)
  3. What was the most common job in 19th century India?
  4. Why were most people unable to read at the time?
  5. What was the title of the British official sent to govern India?
  6. What was the capital of India then?

Conceit and conciliation

Many Indians were impressed by the British who were the world superpower at the time. This did not mean that all Indians liked British rule by any means. It is difficult for the mighty not to be haughty. Some Britishers were arrogant and looked down on Indians. Indians tended to complain about heavy taxation and say the Britons were growing rich due to these taxes.

Indians looking into their own history saw that long before India had been far ahead of Europe in Mathematics and astronomy. Emperor Ashoka had introduced human rights and abolished slavery. But India had fallen behind and been overtaken.

There were famines in India. The British authorities in India said they were trying to improve farming. They set up an Agricultural Department. It was supposed to encourage more modern methods of farming with better use of fertiliser and smarter animal husbandry.  Irrigation canals were dug. Stores of grain were set up for distribution in times of failed crops. Famine relief was a responsibility of the British Government of India. But the government was failing in its duty when so many starved. The British authorities urged people to grow non-comestible crops such as cotton and opium. Opium is a very dangerous drug. Under British rule it was legally sold in India, in the UK, China and other places.

In 1885 the viceroy made the fateful decision to establish Congress. Congress was an organisation for Indians to examine how the British authorities were governing India and to provide constructive criticism. At first Congress and the viceroy got along well. Congress was simply giving advice about where it felt the British authorities could do better. The principle of British rule was hardly ever questioned.

Since the 1830s education in India had shifted to the British model. Persian was abandoned as the major language of education and the courts. Instead English was adopted. Many Indians learnt to read and write their vernacular languages such as Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali and so forth. But after learning their mother tongue they started to learn English.

Newspapers were published in India in various languages. A system of telegraph poles transmitted news and personal messages. The mail system established by the British authorities helped to forge a sense of national identity by allowing people to correspond and send gifts. India had been united millennia before. But sometimes a centralised Indian state had fallen apart. It had been reunited and disunited several times. The railways built after 1840 had speeded up travel around the country.

By the 1880s there was a small Indian elite that was fluent in English. Oxford University and Cambridge University admitted non-Christians from the 1870s. A tiny number of Indians attended these universities. Only the super wealthy could afford to sail to the UK and pay the huge fees for these tip top universities. The Indian elite was exposed to British notions of parliamentary government. The UK boasted that its institutions were the envy of the world. By the 1880s most men in Britain had the right to vote. Parliament discussed the problems facing the nation and voted on solutions. Some Indian elitists were attracted by this and wanted to introduce similar institutions in India. The British authorities did not like that idea one bit. Indians looked back in their history and saw that at time India too had had representative institutions. By this time there was a miniscule Indian community in the United Kingdom. They started to enter UK politics.

In 1893 an Indian named Dadabhai Naoroji was elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom as a Liberal. He was hailed in India for his achievement. A few years later another Indian named Mr Bhownagree was elected to the UK Parliament. He was a Conservative. Bhownagree was so enthusiastic for British rule in India that some Indians scornfully called him ‘bow and agree.’

By the 1890s Congress was pressing the viceroy for further reforms. Many Indians were living in poverty and the British authorities were not doing enough about it. Britishers who served as civil servants and soldiers in India invariably retired to the UK. Their pensions were paid by India. This money left India and was spent in the UK. Congress called it ‘the drain’. India’s wealth was being drained away.


  1. What was ‘the drain’ according to Congress?
  2. When was Congress founded?
  3. Why is Dadabhai Naoroj so famous?
  4. Why did many dislike Bhownagree?
  5. How was India more advanced that Europe in the ancient times?
  6. What were the failings of British agricultural policy in India? Five marks. 
  7. What effect did exposure to British institutions like Parliament have on the Indian elite? 

Moderation and militancy

In the 19th century Indians emigrated to other British colonies such as South Africa, Uganda, Kenya and Malaysia. One of those who went to South Africa was Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi was a London educated lawyer. Gandhi objected to racist discrimination against Indian in South Africa. His protests got him imprisoned in South Africa. His brave campaigning was reported in Indian newspapers.

By 1900 Congress was becoming an irritant for the viceroy. It was no longer a genteel organisation of a few thousand highly educated rich men. It had several thousand members and was growing rapidly. In 1900 a new viceroy arrived from Great Britain. He was Lord Curzon. Lord Curzon disliked Congress . He saw it as a trouble making organisation and wanted it to dissolve. He dared not ban it because he knew it was popular. It was an important way of allowing Indians to let off steam about their grievances.

The early 20th century saw the rise of militancy. Some Indians rejected British rule totally. They had no time for the polite discussions that Congress had with British officials. Some Indians did not want reform. They wanted revolution. A handful of radicals decided that the British Raj could not be redeemed. It could only be destroyed! These radicals accused the British of killing millions of people through famines.

In Bengal some Indians killed British officials and police officers. Only a very small number of Britishers were killed. But the news was extensively reported. British rule was not seriously threatened by these attacks. Congress said it deplored this use of force against the British. The British authorities denounced those who killed their men as ‘terrorists.’ The aim of killing these British policemen and officials was to drive the British out of India. The radicals believed that British rule was totally bad. Congress still believed that British rule was mostly good but partly bad.

Congress welcomed Indians of all religions and all languages. Some Muslims in Congress said that Muslims were a special community that had particular concerns not shared by other Indians whether Hindu, Sikh or Christian. The Muslims asked whether they could set up a special section of Congress called ‘the Muslim League.’ Congress agreed. The Muslim League was established as an organisation inside Congress.

Bengal was a province which had about equal numbers of Hindus and Muslims. Some of the Muslims wanted the province to be divided into East Bengal  with a Muslim majority and West Bengal with a Hindu majority. The British authorities considered the request.

Eventually Lord Curzon agreed that Bengal would be split into two provinces. Most Bengali Hindus were aghast. They considered Bengal to be a nation. They did not want it broken up. Not all Bengali Muslims wanted it divided either. There was a furious row in Congress over whether Bengal should be divided or not. The majority of Congress was against it. However, the Muslim League was in favour. The disagreement was so fierce that the Muslim League broke away from Congress. From that time on Congress and the Muslim League were two rival parties. Congress became an overwhelmingly Hindu organisation. However, Muslims were welcome in Congress and a few remained in Congress. The Muslim League was only for Muslims.

Congress agitated so strenuously against the partition of Bengal that the British authorities changed their mind. They decided that Bengal would not be divided into two provinces after all. The Muslim League was then angry that they had been let down by the British Government of India.  It foreshadowed later controversies.


  1. Who became viceroy in 1900?
  2. Why did Curzon dislike Congress?
  3. Why did he not outlaw Congress?
  4. Why did some Indian radicals shoot British officials and police officers in Bengal? Five marks. 
  5. What was the special section of Congress for Muslims called?
  6. What happened with the idea of dividing Bengal

The First World War

In 1914 the First World War broke out. The British Empire was a single entity in international law at the time. When the UK declared war that instantly meant that the whole empire was at war.

Up until that time the UK had won all of its wars for decades. The British had not sustained serious casualties in a war for a century. But the First World War was different. The United Kingdom was fighting a country even more industrialised than the UK. The Germans had better military technology. The British were being given a run for their money. The UK was suffering high casualties. Germany had other countries on its side such as Turkey and Austria-Hungary.

Indians had fought in Britain’s overseas war for over a century by 1914. Indians fought alongside the British Army in France, Iraq, Turkey and Palestine.

Some Indians donated money to the British war effort. The princely states usually sent their armies to help the British.

Congress urged Indians to do their bit for the war effort. Gandhi was one of those who called upon his countrymen to support the British war effort. Congress was dissatisfied with the British Raj. Nevertheless they perceived some benefits to being part of the empire. They believed that one good turn deserves another. By helping the British they believed that the the British authorities would agree to major reforms after the war.

Congress looked at the dominions of the British Empire. Canada, Australia and other countries were dominions. A dominion elected a parliament and had a prime minister. A dominion was internally self-governing. It still had diplomatic relations via the United Kingdom. It was part of a military alliance with the rest of the empire and had free trade with the empire. Congress was India to become a dominion. But the British authorities would not say yes to this. Some in Congress muttered that the British were racist. Australians and New Zealanders were allowed to be dominions because most of them were white. Were Indians being denied dominion status because of their colour?

The war dragged on. Over 100 000 Indians were killed. Congress pressed the viceroy to announce serious reforms to be introduced immediately after the war. The British authorities gave non-committal answers. Why would London make clear statements on reform after the war? Congress began to fear that the UK had no intention of introducing proper reforms.

Some people in India grumbled about fighting the First World War. Why should Indians fight Germans? The Germans had done nothing bad to India? Indians were being used as cannon fodder for the good of Britain. Indian Muslims objected to fighting the Turks because the Turks were Muslims too. Taxes were increased to fund the war. Some Indians worked with German agents on a plan to cause an uprising in India and bring about independence. In fact the plan never achieved any success. The Germans did not care about Indian independence. They just wanted to cause problems for the British.

During the First World War Indians were finally allowed to become officers in the Indian Army. Military colleges were opened for them.


  1. When the UK declared war what effect did this have on India? 
  2. Why was Germany so difficult for Britain and her allies to defeat?
  3. Why did Congress ask Indians to support the war effort?
  4. Did the British agree to serious reforms in India during the war? 
  5. Why did some Indians think that they should not support the war effort? Five marks. 
  6. What was a dominion? Five marks.





Richard III





One of the most reviled kings of England is Richard III. He has come to symbolise treachery and cruelty. But is he unfairly maligned? Some say that this king has had a very unfair press.

Richard III was born in Fotheringhay Castle in the year 1452. This castle lies in Northamptonshire. The castle is also the place where Mary Queen of Scots was executed in 1587. It subsequently fell into disrepair. If you visit it now you will see that scarcely stone stands upon stone.

The Duke of York was the father of Richard III. The duke’s name was also Richard like his son. Richard III had an elder brother Edward IV and a younger brother George. He also had a younger  sister named Elizabeth.

The Plantagenet dynasty ruled England at the time. Richard III was one of that family. When he was born a mentally ill monarch was on the throne. He was Henry VI.

The Hundred Years War was drawing to a close. The King of England Henry VI was supposed to be King of France as well. His maternal grandfather was Charles VI of France. However, most French people did not accept Henry VI as the rightful King of France. His uncle Charles VII fought against him. The deranged Henry VI was incapable of ruling one kingdom let alone two. The English were being defeated. Heavy taxes had been levied to pay for the war. As Henry VI was so raving made that he could not rule the country his unpopular wife Margaret of Anjou sometimes had to take control. In 1453 the English finally admitted defeat. They gave back all of France save for the town of Calais. The king’s stock was very low.


Looking back to the mid 14th century there was a king named Edward III. He had five sons. One of these sons died without having children. But the remaining four all had children. The descendants of these four sons divided themselves into two hostile camps: the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. This is because the Duke of Lancaster was the leader of the Lancastrians. The Duke of York was the leader of the Yorkists. If there were four sons how come there were only two sides and not four? This is because sometimes cousins got married. The Duke of York had that title because he own lots of farmland around York. Likewise the Duke of Lancaster owned lots of farms near Lancaster. Most people were farmers back then because there was very little technology.

Richard III was the great-great-grandson of Edward III. That was why he had a claim to the crown.

The Duke of York wanted to control the government. His idea was that he would let Henry VI retain the title king but that the Duke of York would be effectively in charge. When Henry VI died his son Edward of Westminster would not become king. Instead the kingship would pass to the Duke of York. The Duke of York was distantly related to Henry VI. Both were direct descendants of Edward III who died in 1377.

The Lancastrians were those who did not want Henry VI’s to be effectively the plaything of the Duke of York. They also insisted that when the king died the crown pass to his son.  The Yorkists wanted Henry VI to be controlled by the Duke of York.

One of the key figures at the time was Richard Neville. He had the title the Earl of Warwick. He was known as ‘kingmaker Warwick’. Whichever side he joined won.

In 1455 fighting broke out between Yorkists and Lancastrians. The fighting continued on and off until 1485. In 1455 Richard III and his family fled to the Netherlands.

Richard, the Duke of York died. His eldest son Edward V became Duke of York and leader of the Yorkists. In 1460 Edward IV returned to England with his younger brother Richard III and the rest of the family. They, the Yorkists, defeated Henry VI who fled to Scotland. Edward IV was then proclaimed King of England. He was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey.

Edward IV gave his brother Richard III the title Duke of Gloucester. Duke is a high noble title not far below king. There were only a dozen dukes in the whole of England. Richard III suffered from scoliosis. This caused a slight curvature of the spine. Some people said this was a sign of his wickedness. People were very prejudiced against the disabled back then.

Richard III married kingmaker Warwick’s daughter Anne Neville and they had children. Anne Neville was also his second cousin.

Edward IV’s other brother George was granted the title Duke of Clarence. Edward IV later found out that his brother George had begun a secret correspondence with the Yorkists. George was planning to join their side. When Edward V discovered this treachery he was executed on the order of Edward V.

In 1470 Henry VI’s supporters gathered a mighty army. They beat the Yorkists. Henry VI came back from abroad and was made king once more.

The Yorkists then regrouped and defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The 17 year old Edward of Westminster was slain in the battle. Henry VI was taken prisoner. He was held at the Tower of London. Henry VI was killed there.

Edward IV was king again. He was married and had two sons Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury.



On 9 April 1483 Edward IV died of an illness. His son Edward V was declared to be king. The king was only 12 at the time and his younger brother was 10. Richard III was made Lord Protector of the Realm. It was his duty to rule on behalf of his nephew. Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury lived in the Tower of London. The coronation of Edward V was planned for 22 June.

Two months after Edward V became king he and his brother vanished. How on earth could this king disappear? Hundreds of servants and soldiers lived in the Tower of London. It was the most closely guarded building in the realm.

Richard III then announced that Edward IV had not been properly married to Elizabeth Woodville. She was the mother of Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury. Therefore these boys had no right to inherit any title from their father. Richard III further announced that the coronation would be going ahead only four days behind schedule and he would be the one who was crowned.

On 26 June 1483 Richard III was duly crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He seemed strangely unperturbed about the whereabouts of his nephews. If your uncle was looking after you would you expect him to be concerned about your welfare? The king made no attempt to find his nephews. The two boys were known as The Princes in the Tower.

Richard III traveled around the country. He donated to Cambridge University. He also founded the College of Arms.

Richard III’s son then died of an illness. A rumour went around that the Princes in the Tower had escaped to Ireland. Some say there were murdered and buried in the Tower of London. Years later an investigation concluded that the two boys were smothered on the order of their uncle Richard III. In the 17th century two skeletons of boys aged about 11 were found buried under a staircase in the Tower of London.

The Lancastrians were stirring. There was a Lancastrian claimant named Henry VII. He was living in Brittany at the time. This is a French peninsula. Henry VII gathered an army. The King of France lent Henry VII some troops. He was in touch with some people in England and Wales who were discontent with Richard III.

In July 1485 Henry VII set sail. He landed in Wales. He was partly Welsh and received a cordial welcome. Many Welshmen rallied to his banner. He marched into England. More men joined en route.

Richard III was informed of the invasion. He mustered his army. He marched towards the threat.

The Stanleys were a powerful noble family in the English midlands. They had many soldiers. Richard III ordered them to bring their men to join his royal army. The Stanleys mustered their men but they did not unite with the royal army.

Henry VII drew up his men a few miles west of Market Bosworth. This is in Leicestershire. Richard III approached from the east. The Stanleys had men to the north and to the south.

The Yorkists took George Lord Strange as a hostage. He was the 9 year old son of Lord William Stanley. Richard III warned that Stanleys that if they did not come over to his side then Lord Strange would be killed. The Stanleys did not come over to Richard III. The king ordered the boy to be put to death. However, his order was disobeyed.

On 22 August the Battle of Bosworth commenced.  The Stanleys came in on Henry VII’s side. If they had not done so the outcome would have been different. Richard III was killed and his army routed. He was the last Plantagenet king. His body was stripped and carried on a horse into Leicester. It was displayed for three days. People saw his corpse. Henry VII wanted people to see the carcass. They would recognise Richard III. Then people would be sure that he was dead. Henry VII did not want a rumour getting around that his mortal enemy had survived. Richard III was then buried in a monastery called Greyfriars. There he lay for over 500 years.


Richard III’s reputation has been fought over for centuries. A hundred years after his death the playwright William Shakespeare wrote a play entitled Richard III. In this play Richard III is the villain of the piece. He is depicted as two-faced, wicked, vain and cruel. Richard III has gone down in history as the archetypal bad guy. In the play he is called ‘Gloucester’ for much of the story. That is before he became king he had the title the Duke of Gloucester. The Shakespeare play is highly fictionalised. When Shakespeare wrote the play Elizabeth I was on the throne. She was descended from Henry VII who was a Lancastrian. Therefore Shakespeare curried favour with the queen by demonising Richard III.

In the play Richard III the title character says ‘A bard of Ireland told me once I should not live long when I saw Richmond.’ In this case ‘Richmond’ does not mean the place. Henry VII was known as the Earl of Richmond before he became king. In the Battle of Bosworth Henry VII (i.e. Richmond) came close to Richard III and then Richard III was killed a minute later. There are other factual inaccuracies in the play. It says that George Duke of Clarence was drowned in a barrel of malmsy wine on the order of Richard III. This is totally false. Richard III’s physical disability was much exaggerated by the play.

At the opening of the play Richard III the title character says this soliloquy


Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up,
About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes.

Some people have tried to rehabilitate Richard III’s reputation. The Society of the White Boar was founded in the early 20th century. It was aimed at improving the image of the king. The name of the society is because the symbol of Richard III was a white boar. The society renamed itself the Society of Richard III.

In 2013 his remains were unearthed in Leicester. DNA proved it was him. He was reburied with pomp in Leicester Cathedral. The current Duke of Gloucester was present. Serendipitously, the current Duke of Gloucester is also named Richard!


  1. In which castle was Richard III born?
  2. What was his year of birth?
  3. Which dynasty was he part of?
  4. What was his relationship did he have to Edward III?
  5. What was Richard III’s title before he became king?
  6. What was the title of his father?
  7. Who was Richard III’s elder brother?
  8. Which country did Richard III flee to?
  9. Who was he married to?
  10.  Did he have a child?
  11. In which year did Edward IV die?
  12. What were Edward IV’s sons called?
  13. What was the collective name for Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury?
  14. Where was the last place that the Princes in the Tower were seen?
  15. Which powerful family joined Henry VII at Bosworth?
  16.  What was the exact date of the battle?
  17. What happened to Richard III at Bosworth?
  18. Where was he buried at first?
  19. What is the evidence that Richard III had the princes in the Tower murdered? Five marks
  20. How good a king was Richard III? Five marks.





Anglophone surnames


Anglophone surnames

English languages surnames are numerous and multifarious. Why do surnames exist? They exist to tell people apart. People used to live in small villages of a few hundred people. If there was more than one James they had to be distinguished. How would one do this? They had to be assigned surnames. These surnames were invented in various ways.


These are names based on the father’s Christian name. These are examples such as Johnson, Jameson, Robson, Wilson, Williamson, Robertson, Jephson, Jefferson, Robinson, Henderson, Saunderson, Tomlinson, Tompkinson, Charleson, Thompson, Thomson and so on. Notice how the Christian name Thomas is changed a little in its patronymic forms Thomson and Thompson.

Sometimes the father’s Christian name is used as a surname but without the suffix ‘son’. Examples are George, Henry, Edward, Thomas, Stephen, Jeffrey, Charles, Lucas, Upjohn and John.

Sometimes the Christian name simply had an ‘s’ appended to it. This is the Saxon genitive. Examples are Stephens, Hopkins, Hawkins Jeffries, Robbins, Edwards, and Williams.

Some surnames are about whom one is related to not who the father is. Peterkin is one of these. There are others such as Watkins, Jenkins, Jorkins, Dawkins and Wilkins.  Notice that ‘kin’ means ‘relative’.


Plant, Tree, Bush, Berry, Thorne, Wortshorne, Oates, Broom, Oakes

Body parts

Legge (i.e. leg) , Head, Hair, Tooth, Hands, Blood, Armstrong, Wombwell, Beard and Goodhand.

Physical Descriptions

Bigg, Biggs, Large, Slim, Thin, Little, Small, Short, Shortt, Long (i.e. tall), Lang, Laing, Broad and Longfellow.


Trade names

Carpenter, Butcher, Mercer, Sergeant, Smith, Forester, Archer, Arrowsmith, Sheather, Farmer, Merchant, Clark, Clarke, Tradescant, Walker, Mason, Baker, Chandler, Seawright, Wright, Wainwright, Gardener, Gardiner, Messenger, Goldsmith, Shearer, Cooper, Shoesmith, Cook, Kitchener, Cole, Tyler, Ball, Falconer, Faulkner, Paxman, Forge, Saddler, Oastler, Reeve, Buckmaster, Squires, Sheard, Judge, Chamberlain, Builder, Fisher, Hunter, Hunt, Piper, Harper,

They are sometimes anglicisations of foreign trade names. Chaucer is derived from chausseur i.e. shoemaker in French.

Who he works for

Duke, King, Earl, Knight, Archdeacon, Bishop, Lord, Prince, Dean, Thane, Abbot, Monk, Monkhouse, Nunn, Sirr, Pope

Personality traits

Priestley, Courage, Coward, Braverman, Friend, Good, Goody, Goodman, Goode, Best, Superfine, Perfect, Worthy,


Redmayne, Black, White, Gray, Green, Brown, Browne, Orange, Fair, Fairchild, Dark, Bright

Geographical Features

Wood, A Wood, Woode, Woodleigh, Woods, Woodham, Thistlewood, Underwood, Ridgeway, Ridge, Peak

Lee, Lea, Leigh, Legh,  Buckley, Hurst, Buckhurst, Hill, Mount, Forest, Woods, Rivers, Banks (i.e. riverbank), Dale, Tree, Heath, Smallwoods, Lake, Marsh, Shore, Ford, Stone, Rock, Farley, Warfield, Holt, Hawthorne, Thorn, Thornton, Becket (i.e. a small stream), Beck, Brook, Brooke Brooksbank, Oakley, Oatley,

Note that ‘lea’ is the old English word for field. There are several forms of this as a surname: Lee, Leigh, Legh, Lea and others. They are all pronounced ‘lee’. Often it is a suffix as in Woodly or Woodleigh.

The Anglo-Saxon word ‘Ham’ meant farm or village. It is in names such as Woodham.

Points of the Compass

North, South, East, West, Eastwood, Eastman, Southern,


Halfpenny, Pound, Horn, Irons, Ironside, Clay, Pipes


Catt, Hound, Bull, Lamb, Wolf, Crow, Crowe, Bird, Byrd, Woodcock, Swan, Fox, Foxworthy, Stagg, Buck, Hawk, Roe, Blackadder, Oliphant, Fish, Salmon, Seagull,


Wiltshire, Derbyshire, Dorsett, Kent, Cornwell, Cornwallis, Norfolk, Somersett, Westmoreland, Lonsdale, Galloway. Notice that some of these are not the same spelling as the county they allude to.

Towns and cities

London, Lancaster, York, Manchester, Scarborough, Washington, Redding, Winchester, Cambridge, Durham, Bolton, Boulton, Lincoln, Southgate, Merton, Sutton, Richmond, Barnes, Sheringham, Kingston, Langley, Hatton, Hamilton, Churchill, Ailesbury, Buckingham, Douglas, Hamilton, Caithness, Dunbar, Carlyle, Bermingham (i.e. Birmingham), Middleton, Midleton, Newton, Mortimer, Cadbury, Sowerby, Hornby, Langston, Alington, Lyttleton, Wotton, Norwich, Huntingdon, Galway,


Young, Younger, Old, Elder, Younghusband

Family relations

Brothers, Brotherton, Couzens, Foster

Buildings and structures

Gates, Gately, House, Houseman, Castle, Walls, Wells, Bridges, Street, Overstreet, Church, Close, Kirk, Undercroft, Croft, Lofthouse, Cross, Roof, Chambers, Kitchen

Other places

Townend, Field, Townsend, Fielding, Town, Thorpe, Dell, Land, Drysdale, Dryden, Overend, Street, Lane, Akers, Whitefield, Wensley,

Countries and nationalities

Ireland, Scott, Wales, Welsh, Walsh, England, English, France, French, Flanders, Fleming, Holland, Jermyn, Parris, Chartres, Sacks (i.e. Saxony), Norman


advanced course lesson 16 John Milton


advanced course lesson 16 Milton

John Milton was born in 1608 at London.  The Milton family was an Anglican one. John Milton was the namesake of his father. His father was a successful scrivener.

The young John Milton. He was extraordinarily academically gifted.  John studied at St Paul’s School. He studied at Cambridge University. He eventually achieved perfect correctitude in ten languages.

Milton found gainful governmental employment.

The mid 17th century was a time of enormous upheaval. There were contentious political and religious issues to be settled. Milton was a critic of the king. He was also eager to make the Church of England more strongly Protestant. He wrote many pamphlets. Milton inveighed against the notion of pre-publication censorship. John acquired a reputation as something of a political philosopher.

Milton considered his poetic talent to be a gift from God. It behoved him to honour the Almighty by composing as many magnificent verses as he could.

The English Civil War broke out. Milton backed the Parliamentarians. They won. He was made secretary in foreign tongues. That meant he had to translate documents.

In the 1650s he went blind.

He wrote a poem entitled On His Blindness:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.

In 1660 the Parliamentary regime was over. The king came back. It was called the Restoration. Milton fell into disfavour because of his political views.

In 1674 he died in London. He is buried St Giles without Cripplegate. This means the Church of St Giles which is outside Cripplegate.

Milton composed poems on religious themes. One of them is about the Fall of Man. It is called Paradise Lost.


Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples th’ upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know’st; thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the height of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first–for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of Hell–say first what cause
Moved our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the World besides.
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host
Of rebel Angels, by whose aid, aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equalled the Most High,
If he opposed, and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud,
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he, with his horrid crew,
Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded, though immortal. But his doom
Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him: round he throws his baleful eyes,
That witnessed huge affliction and dismay,
Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate.
At once, as far as Angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild.
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.
Such place Eternal Justice has prepared
For those rebellious; here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set,
As far removed from God and light of Heaven
As from the centre thrice to th’ utmost pole.
Oh how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o’erwhelmed
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns; and, weltering by his side,
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named
Beelzebub. To whom th’ Arch-Enemy,
And thence in Heaven called Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:–
“If thou beest he–but O how fallen! how changed
From him who, in the happy realms of light
Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads, though bright!–if he whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
And hazard in the glorious enterprise
Joined with me once, now misery hath joined
In equal ruin; into what pit thou seest
From what height fallen: so much the stronger proved
He with his thunder; and till then who knew
The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those,
Nor what the potent Victor in his rage
Can else inflict, do I repent, or change,
Though changed in outward lustre, that fixed mind,
And high disdain from sense of injured merit,
That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
And to the fierce contentions brought along
Innumerable force of Spirits armed,
That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?

He later wrote Paradise Regained. Here is an excerpt from Paradise Regained


Perplexed and troubled at his bad success
The Tempter stood, nor had what to reply,
Discovered in his fraud, thrown from his hope
So oft, and the persuasive rhetoric
That sleeked his tongue, and won so much on Eve,
So little here, nay lost. But Eve was Eve;
This far his over-match, who, self-deceived
And rash, beforehand had no better weighed
The strength he was to cope with, or his own.
But—as a man who had been matchless held
In cunning, over-reached where least he thought,
To salve his credit, and for very spite,
Still will be tempting him who foils him still,
And never cease, though to his shame the more;
Or as a swarm of flies in vintage-time,
About the wine-press where sweet must is poured,
Beat off, returns as oft with humming sound;
Or surging waves against a solid rock,
Though all to shivers dashed, the assault renew,
(Vain battery!) and in froth or bubbles end—
So Satan, whom repulse upon repulse
Met ever, and to shameful silence brought,
Yet gives not o’er, though desperate of success,
And his vain importunity pursues.
He brought our Saviour to the western side
Of that high mountain, whence he might behold
Another plain, long, but in breadth not wide,
Washed by the southern sea, and on the north
To equal length backed with a ridge of hills
That screened the fruits of the earth and seats of men
From cold Septentrion blasts; thence in the midst
Divided by a river, off whose banks
On each side an Imperial City stood,
With towers and temples proudly elevate
On seven small hills, with palaces adorned,
Porches and theatres, baths, aqueducts,
Statues and trophies, and triumphal arcs,
Gardens and groves, presented to his eyes
Above the highth of mountains interposed—
By what strange parallax, or optic skill
Of vision, multiplied through air, or glass
Of telescope, were curious to enquire.
And now the Tempter thus his silence broke:—
“The city which thou seest no other deem
Than great and glorious Rome, Queen of the Earth
So far renowned, and with the spoils enriched
Of nations. There the Capitol thou seest,
Above the rest lifting his stately head
On the Tarpeian rock, her citadel
Impregnable; and there Mount Palatine,
The imperial palace, compass huge, and high
The structure, skill of noblest architects,
With gilded battlements, conspicuous far,
Turrets, and terraces, and glittering spires.

One of his poems tells the tale of a journey to hell in the centre of the earth. The capital of all the devils is called Pandaemonium.


Some of his vocabulary has now fallen into desuetude.


  1. When was Milton born?
  2.  In which country was he born?
  3. What was his government job?
  4. What medical problem did he have?
  5. Why did he lose his job?
  6. Which university did he go to?
  7. Quote a line by him?
  8.  Why is he respected?


advanced course lesson 15 Tennyson


advanced course lesson 15 Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson was born in 1809. His birthplace was Lincolnshire which is a county of the United Kingdom. His father was a well paid clergyman. The family were members of the Church of England. Alfred has several siblings.

When he grew up Alfred went to Trinity College, Cambridge. Trinity was perhaps the most renowned of Cambridge colleges. He soon made friends with an Old Etonian named Arthur Henry Hallam. At Trinity Alfred was invited to join the Apostles. The Apostles was a shadowy society for the most brilliant undergraduates. Existing apostles asked the most accomplished freshers to join. The Apostles met once a week and a member of the society would read an essay. It would then be discussed. They were urged to express themselves with absolute candour. Any opinion no matter how tendentious would be listened to politely.

Whilst an undergraduate he composed a poem and entered it for the Chancellor’s Medal. This was a prize awarded for the best piece of English poetry. Tennyson won the prize.

Shortly after graduation Hallam died. Alfred was very deeply impacted by his friend’s death at the age of 21. He penned a threnody to Hallam entitled In Memoriam.


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Alfred was later made Poet Laureate. This means he was the official poet of the UK. It is the highest accolade that can be bestowed on a British poet. The title was held for life. He was also ennobled. Lord Tennyson was the first person to be raised to the peerage on account of his poesy.

In 1853 the Crimean War broke out. The United Kingdom took the side of the Ottoman Empire against Russia. At the Battle of Balaclava an order was sent to a British unit: the light brigade. They were ordered to attack down a valley. The order did not say which valley. There were two valleys near the unit. The officer who received the order was unsure which valley he was supposed to attack. He could have sent the messenger back for clarification but he believed that there was not enough time. The officer decided to guess which valley he was supposed to attack.

The light brigade attacked a Russian position at the end of the valley. It was a heavily defended position. The light brigade sustained very heavy losses. They were easily repulsed. It was ignominious. Lord Tennyson composed a poem about it

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!
In the 19th century there was a fashion for all things medieval. It was a reaction against industrialisation. People idealised King Arthur. The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood rhapsodised about the pre-industrial age. Tennyson was also attracted to this. He composed a poem about the death of the mythic King Arthur:
So all day long the noise of battle roll’d
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur’s table, man by man,
Had fallen in Lyonnesse about their Lord,
King Arthur: then, because his wound was deep,
The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him,
Sir Bedivere, the last of all his knights,
And bore him to a chapel nigh the field,
A broken chancel with a broken cross,
That stood on a dark strait of barren land.
On one side lay the ocean, and on one
Lay a great water, and the moon was full.
         Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
“The sequel of to-day unsolders all
The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep
They sleep—the men I loved. I think that we
Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
Walking about the gardens and the halls
Of Camelot, as in the days that were.
I perish by this people which I made,—
Tho’ Merlin sware that I should come again
To rule once more—but let what will be, be,
I am so deeply smitten thro’ the helm
That without help I cannot last till morn.
Thou therefore take my brand Excalibur,
Which was my pride: for thou rememberest how
In those old days, one summer noon, an arm
Rose up from out the bosom of the lake,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
Holding the sword—and how I row’d across
And took it, and have worn it, like a king:
And, wheresoever I am sung or told
In aftertime, this also shall be known:
But now delay not: take Excalibur,
And fling him far into the middle mere:
Watch what thou seëst, and lightly bring me word.”
         To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere:
“It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus,
Aidless, alone, and smitten thro’ the helm.
A little thing may harm a wounded man.
Yet I thy hest will all perform at full,
Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee word.”

Alfred married and had two children. His son became Governor-General of Australia.


  1. In which year was Alfred Lord Tennyson born?
  2. What was his dad’s job?
  3. In which county was Alfred born?
  4.  Which country?
  5. Which university did he go to?
  6.  Which college?
  7.  What society did he join?
  8. What is the Apostles about?
  9. Who was Alfred’s friend?
  10.  What poem did he compose for Hallam?
  11. Which mythic king did he write about?
  12. Which British unit was beaten in Crimea?
  13.  What do you think of Tennyson?


advanced course lesson 14 Oscar Wilde


advanced course lesson 14


Wilde was born at Dublin in 1854. Dublin is the capital of Ireland. Wilde’s father was Sir William Wilde. Sir William was a surgeon. He was one of the most distinguished doctors in the United Kingdom. He had been knighted for services to medicine. Sir William was the Royal Physician. That means he was the doctor of any members of the royal family when they were in Ireland. Sir William and his wife were very learned. Sir William was a polymath

Oscar grew up on Merrion Square. There were thousands of books in the house. He became fluent in French and German. He had one younger brother named William. There was a sister but she died in infancy.

The schooling of Oscar and his sibling was conducted at Portora Royal School. This lies in County Fermanagh which is far from Dublin. He excelled in classics in particular. Oscar was very tell and well built but not especially gifted at sports.

At the age of 17 Oscar finished school. He then matriculated at Trinity College Dublin.  There he studied classics. He made a name for himself as a scholar and as a man who cut a dash. He debated with panache. Oscar was soon the talk of the town. One of his friends was Edward Carson.

Upon graduation from Trinity Oscar felt his education was not yet complete. Substantive master’s degrees hardly existed at the time. He won a place at Magdalen College, Oxford. Magdalen is pronounced ‘maudlin’. Magdalen is one of the most magnificent colleges in Oxford University.

Oscar made a name for himself at Magdalen. He hit Oxford as few had done before or since. Aged 21 and with a degree already under his belt he was older than most undergraduates. He had hair down to his shoulders. Oscar’s father was a wealthy man and gave his firstborn a handsome allowance. Oscar was reading classics as he had before. What else was there for a man of his ilk to read? He dipped into modern languages just a little. He composed verses and won the Newdigate Prize which was the most coveted prize for English verse at the university.

Whilst Oscar was up at Oxford his father died. His allowance was cut considerably. His mother still lived in comfort but her finances would not run to anything in the way of dash.

Upon graduation Oscar had to decide what to do next. Half of Oxonians became clergy. He was not the sort who would wish to be ordained. Since the 1870s Oxford University had allowed men who were not clergy to become dons. A don is a lecturer at Oxford or Cambridge. Oscar’s reputation preceded him. He was too colourful and controversial. To be a don a man had to be not just learned but also staid and safe.

Wilde went down to London. He established himself as a professor of aesthetics as he cheekily called himself. He held tea parties every afternoon. He dressed punctiliously and elegantly.

The name on everyone’s lips was Oscar Wilde. It was said that he minced down Piccadilly caressing a lily.  Gilbert and Sullivan wrote a musical comedy entitled Patience. It was a send up of the contrivance of Oscar and his circle. They saw him as a poseur. Their play featured affected characters who wore capes and let their hair grown long. They were neo mediaeval knights errant always claiming to cherish courtly love.

Several plays were written by Wilde and performed in the United Kingdom. These were drawing room dramas. His comedies of manners were written with scripts full of rapier like lines. Dramatis personae of these plays are upper middle class and upper class personages.

In time Oscar Wilde visited the United States. His name had gone before him because Gilbert and Sullivan’s play had already been performed in the US. Wilde travelled around America and gave readings. A mine had already been named in his honour.  He returned a wealthy man.

Oscar married Constance Lloyd. She was the daughter of a prominent barrister. They had two sons.

Several stories were penned by Wilde. Among them were The Happy Prince and the Selfish Giant.

Only one novel was written by Wilde. This is the Picture of Dorian Gray. This is about a louche and wealthy young man. The gilded youth leads a charmed life of ease. There is a portrait of Dorian. At first he looks like Adonish. But this dissipated man behaves immorally. He is self-centred and dishonest. His wrongful conduct leads the portrait to gradually turn uglier and uglier. The locale is London. Many real locations are mentioned such as Grosvenor Square.

Wilde was a Ganymede. This got him into some trouble. When he was 38 he became more than good friends with Lord Alfred Douglas. Lord Alfred Douglas was known as Bowsie. Bowsie was the younger son of the Marquess of Queensberry. Lord Queensberry is the man who drew up the rules of boxing.

Bowsie was 21 when be began his close relationship with Wilde. At the time Bowsie was an undergraduate at Oscar’s old college.

In 1894 Lord Queensberry wrote a note about Wilde and posted it on the noticeboard of Wilde’s London club. It contained an imputation of criminal conduct by Mr Wilde. Oscar unwisely took out a libel action.

The suit was defended by Edward Carson. E H Carson was Wilde’s old chum from Trinity days. Wilde was eventually outfoxed by the barrister. The libel action collapsed. Oscar was advised to flee to France. He had time to do so. He rashly refused to do so.

The police arrested Oscar Wilde. He was charged with a crime of immorality. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years hard labour. He was conveyed to prison. He was transferred via Clapham Junction Station. As he stood on the platform in prison uniform and shackles he was recognised by the crowd. They roundly abused him for his disgusting misconduct. He wept bitterly every day in remembrance at this public humiliation.

The sentence was mostly spent in Reading Gaol. There he wrote De Profundis which means ‘from the depths’ in English. It is based on the name of a prayer. He also composed a poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Whilst he was there another prisoner was hanged for the murder of his wife.  Oscar was deeply affected by knowing this. He was moved to pity for the condition of the other inmates. One child was malnourished. A compassionate guard gave the boy extra food. When this act of charity was discovered the guard lost his job.

Constance did not want her boys to be exposed to opprobrium because of who their father was. She changed their name to Holland – an old family name on her side. She would not allow Oscar to have any contact with his children again.

Oscar had spent his money on legal fees. When has in prison his mother died. It is said her ghost appeared to him at the hour of his mother’s dissolution. There was not much money to pay for her funeral. Oscar’s brother William was a journalist. William had fallen on hard times. People did not want to hire him because of his scandal struck brother.

Wilde was released after two years. He sailed to France. He was in such disgrace in the British Isles that he never set foot there again. In France Napoleonic laws prevailed. He met Bowsie again who had been waiting for him. Their amity resumed. They passed some time in Italy.

In 1900 Oscar moved to Paris. Prison had taken a toll on his constitution. He fell gravely ill. He loathed the wallpaper in his bedroom. He declared ‘I am fighting a duel against that wall paper. One of us must go.’ Then he died. He is laid to rest in Pere Lachaise Cemetery.



  1. In which city was Oscar born?
  2. In which land is that?
  3.  What year was he born?
  4. What was his father’s occupation?
  5. Which school did he attend?
  6.  Which Irish university did he go to?
  7.  Which English one?
  8. How many siblings did he have?
  9.  Name a play by him?
  10.  Name a poem by him?
  11.  When did he die?
  12. Did he go to prison?
  13.  What do you think of him? Five marks.


advanced course lesson 13 keats


advanced course lesson 13 John Keats

Keats was born in London. His exact date of birth is uncertain. John was the eldest of five children. He had two brothers and one sister who lived to adulthood. His mother and sister were both named Fanny.

The Keats family owned an inn. This is the old name for a hotel. The family was comfortably middle class. John was sent to a school in Enfield, London. He was taught Latin and Greek. However, his education was principally in English. He was intrigued by poesy. At the age of 18 he published a volume entitled ‘Poems by John Keats’.

When Keats turn 18 he decided to study to be an apothecary. An ‘apothecary’ is the old name for a pharmacist. He enrolled at Guy’s Hospital for this course. Guy’s Hospital has that name because it was founded by Thomas Guy. Some people wrong imagine that it is a hospital for men only. John Keats qualified as an apothecary. This qualified him to practice medicine even though he was not a doctor. Regulations were very lax in those days. It was possible for him to continue his studies and become a doctor but he chose not to. He was becoming intrigued by poetry.

Money was always a problem for Keats. He borrowed and had difficulty repaying his debts. He did not know that he had inherited a large sum of money. The solicitor who was supposed to inform him never did so.

John Keats became part of the Romantic Movement. He got to know the leading figures in the movement. He was friends with Lord Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge and other luminaries. They liked to compose poems eulogising nature. Here is one of Keats’ poems in praise of autumn


Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cell.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.



After Keats decided not to become a physician he went on a walking tour of Great Britain and Ireland. This inspired him to compose more verses. He was beginning to establish a reputation for himself. He craved immortality and wrote ‘I think I shall be remembered among the English poets after my death.’


poet John Keats

One of Keats most widely enjoyed poems is Endymion
Here is its opening:

Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

The Napoleonic Wars were often. For the first substantial period in over 20 years it was safe for a Briton to visit mainland Europe. Keats took advantage of this. He sailed to France. From there he travelled to France. Thence he made his way to Italy. He stayed in Florence for months in a house named Casa Guidi. Eton owns the house.

Fanny Brown was a girlfriend of Keats. However, he never married.

In Italy Keats spent much time with Shelley and Byron. He composed a sonnet to his friend George Gordon Byron

Sonnet to Byron

Byron! how sweetly sad thy melody!
Attuning still the soul to tenderness,
As if soft Pity, with unusual stress,
Had touch’d her plaintive lute, and thou, being by,
Hadst caught the tones, nor suffer’d them to die.
O’ershadowing sorrow doth not make thee less
Delightful: thou thy griefs dost dress
With a bright halo, shining beamily,
As when a cloud the golden moon doth veil,
Its sides are ting’d with a resplendent glow,
Through the dark robe oft amber rays prevail,
And like fair veins in sable marble flow;
Still warble, dying swan! still tell the tale,
The enchanting tale, the tale of pleasing woe

In time Keats travelled to Rome. There he fell ill. He had contracted consumption. This meant he was coughing up blood. John felt death creeping up on his. There he composed a final poem which he did not give a title too. It has since been named

His Last Sonnet

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art! –
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors –
No -yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever -or else swoon to death.


John died at the age of 25. He remains one of the most celebrated poets in any language.

On Keat’s headstone there is an epitaph that he wrote himself ‘Here lies one whose name is writ on water.’ Some have taken it a suggestion of  his belief in the mere ephemeral nature of his fame.


  1. In which year was he born?
  2.  What was his father’s job?
  3.  Did he have siblings?
  4. What was John’s profession?
  5.  Did he marry?
  6. Name a poem by him.
  7. Quote a line?
  8. Where did he die?
  9.  How old was he?
  10. What is his epitaph?
  11. Why is he remembered?