Books I Read During the First Half of 2017


Phineas Finn, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — Phineas Finn was not so bad in the book as in the TV series. He is not so whiny and is more upright. I did not like Lady Laura, who purposely antagonized her husband and tried to make him feel guilty when he was concerned about her.

Lady in Waiting, by Rosemary Sutcliff — A historical novel about Bess Throckmorton and Sir Walter Ralegh. The title describes both Bess’s position in Queen Elizabeth’s court and her life as Ralegh’s wife.

Central Park, by Debra White Smith — I read this because it is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. For a “Christian” novel whose main characters are committed to sexual purity, this books is oddly obsessed with physical attraction. You’d think they could find something else with which to occupy their minds. It is largely occupied with details about the exact length of the skirts, how much make-up the characters wear, what size their hips are, their brand of perfume, what their jackets are made out of, their favorite candle scents, &c.


The Eustace Diamonds, by Anthony Trollope, read by Simon Vance — Lizzie Eustace is an entertaining antiheroine. She is not a bright woman, who spends her time lying and conniving. Her shenanigans receive an amusingly fitting reward. I did not much like her cousin Frank. I am of the opinion that a man shouldn’t ask a poor woman to marry him until he has decided which means most to him — love or money.

Shakespeare’s Daughters, by Sharon Hamilton — This is not a book about Shakespeare’s biological daughters, Susanna and Judith Shakespeare, but a study of father-daughter relationships in several of Shakespeare’s plays. It is divided into various categories, such as obedient daughters, rebellious daughters, &c. The author’s perspective on a number of the women in Shakespeare’s plays was interesting. For example, she opined the idea that one of the reasons Desdemona (one of the rebellious daughters) ended up dead was her father’s rejection of her and her subsequent isolation.


Phineas Redux, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — More about Phineas Finn. In here, he is accused of murder. Lizzie Eustace is again a character and, in the end, it is rumoured that she is about to marry Lord George de Bruce Carruthers, who thought about marrying her in The Eustace Diamonds, but ultimately decided she was too hot to handle.

Sam the Sudden, by P. G. Wodehouse — One of my favorite Wodehouse novels. I read it aloud to a couple of my younger siblings (aged twelve and fifteen), fellow Wodehouse enthusiasts. Naturally, they enjoyed it immensely.


The Prime Minister, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — The Duke, Plantagenet Palliser, becomes Prime Minister, much more to his wife’s delight than his own. Unfortunately, when he most needs her comfort, she prefers to vex him. I liked her better in Can You Forgive Her? The slimy Ferdinand Lopez is introduced and poor Emily Wharton learns that you shouldn’t marry a man whose profession you don’t even know.

A Month in the Country: A Comedy in Five Acts, by Ivan Turgenev, translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett — I had this on my computer and read it to pass an idle hour or two. Everyone is in love with the wrong person, but I’m not sure I would categorize it as a comedy anyway.


The Duke’s Children, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — The last of Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels. I made it through the entire series! As the title suggests, the novel is largely about the Duke’s dealings with his children. Poor Plantagenet, nothing goes the way he wants. The American Isabel Boncassen was fun. I liked Lady Mabel Grex for a while, but ended by disliking her. I don’t approve of anyone trying to marry someone while in love with someone else. And then she tried to make Silverbridge feel guilty for not marrying her. Not nice.

Autobiography of Anthony Trollope, by Anthony Trollope, read by Jessica Louise for — Anthony Trollope covered quite a variety of topics in his autobiography: an overview of his life and circumstances that shaped it, a defense of the novel, the art of novel-writing, his opinions of his own novels, his opinions of various contemporary novelists, a sprinkling of his political views, &c. He seemed to be a hardworking, good-humoured, sensible sort of man. I particularly enjoyed reading his views on Charles Dickens. I must partly disagree, however, with his assessment of the merits of George Eliot’s novels — while he seems to favor the character Tito in Romola, that particular novel and its characters are among my least favorite of her works.

One interesting tidbit that was included in a chapter about his family is this: “Then my brother Tom and I were left to [my mother],—with the destiny before us three of writing more books than were probably ever before produced by a single family. My married sister added to the number by one little anonymous high church story, called Chollerton.” (Ch. 2) Further on in the chapter, Anthony Trollope records the number of volumes his mother produced: 114 (“of which the first was not written till she was fifty”!). Counting from a bibliography of his works, Anthony Trollope wrote 47 novels, 12 collections of short stories, 17 works of non-fiction (including his autobiography), and 2 plays, for a total of 76 volumes, if you don’t count the plays and irrespective of his various articles and his letters. According to one source, his brother, Thomas A. Trollope, wrote 60 volumes, in addition to his periodic and journalistic work. Those, combined with the sister’s novel, make for a total of 251 volumes. That is, indeed, a sizable contribution to literature from the Trollope family!


The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, The Purgatoria, & The Paradiso), by Dante Alighieri, translated by Charles Eliot Norton, read by Pam Ward — I think I would have gotten more out of this if I had been reading an annotated edition explaining who all the mentioned historical people were. It wouldn’t have flowed as well, however. I found Hell and Purgatory more interesting than Heaven, largely because I could understand what was going on better.

“O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?” — Purgatorio, Canto XII, lines 95-96.

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, read by Michael York; Once Upon a Fairy Tale, produced by Karen Kushell of the STARBRIGHT Foundation, told and performed by various artists; and Lord Emsworth and Others, by P. G. Wodehouse, read by Nigel Lambert — I went on a very long car ride with five children. We whiled away the time with cookies, muffins, and audiobooks. Alice in Wonderland is a favorite in my home. Once Upon a Fairy Tale was new to the kids. It isn’t very long, but is very well done. It consists of four fairy tales retold by various artists. For example, “Little Red Riding Hood” features Glenn Close as Red’s mother, Robin Williams as Wolf von Big Baden, Bruce Willis as the Woodcutter, Oprah Winfrey as Red’s grandmother, and Lisa Kudrow as Hannah Milner Primrose Red Brown. All four tales are delightfully funny. Some of the “nine glorious episodes” in Lord Emsworth and Others, by P. G. Wodehouse were new to me. The first story, where the Efficient Baxter gets shot numerous times with an air-gun, was the general favorite. Nigel Lambert did a remarkably good job rendering Wodehouse’s genius.

Cheaper by the Dozen, by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey — I read this aloud to my youngest siblings. They enjoyed it and are begging me to read the sequel to them. Even one of them who won’t usually sit through the books I read to them, stuck around for almost all of it.


Paintings: At a book by Marie Bashkirtseff, circa 1882, and Reading a Story by James Jacques Joseph Tissot.

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“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.”

“I had a little tea party,
This afternoon at three;
’Twas very small,
Three guests in all,
Just I, myself, and me.

“Myself ate up the sandwiches,





While I drank up the tea,

’Twas also I Who ate the pie





And passed the cake to me.” — Jessica Nelson North





A couple of months ago, I was visiting my sister and cousins, and they gave me a tea party. We had cucumber sandwiches (because, what is a tea party without cucumber sandwiches?), lemon berry scones, tarts, and, of course, tea.

The cucumber sandwiches were on freshly made bread. The lemon scones were filled with a mix of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, turning them pretty, marbled pink and purple colors. The crusts for the tarts were cut with a flower-shaped cutter, giving them adorable scalloped edges. Half of them were mint chocolate custard with whipped cream, the others were savory onion. I don’t know what the name of the tea was, but I believe it contained lavender. It was accompanied by creamer and sugar bowl. We partook from my aunt’s lovely tea service.

Quotations: Poem “Three Guests” by Jessica Nelson North, first published 1912 in St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks. Title (“nothing but tea”) from Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, chapter 19. “The solemn procession” quotation from the same novel, chapter 34.

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Books I Read in November & December 2016

In November I read:

The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan — I read this one aloud to some of my siblings, who enjoyed it immensely. It is funny and exciting. It is something of a mystery story, too, and we entertained ourselves coming up with possible outcomes. We also ended much more familiar with Greek gods and goddesses, &c. than we began.

One thing I didn’t like was the occasional attempt to twist reality into the alternate world the author created. For example, in the underworld, a sham preacher is punished and one of the characters wonders how the preacher feels faced with something so different from what he claimed to believe. The answer is that, since “he believes in a different hell”, he probably isn’t “seeing this place the way we’re seeing it [meaning, the way it is] … Humans see what they want to see.” There were only a very few scattered instances of this, so it wasn’t really a problem, just an annoyance.

young-woman-reading-alfred-stevensCan You Forgive Her?, by Anthony Trollope, read by Simon Vance — This is the first of Anthony Trollope’s six “Palliser” novels. I decided to read it before finishing the “Barsetshire” series because it was published before the last of those. The Palliser novels shift from the clerical scene (of the Barsetshire novels) to the political scene. I already knew the storyline of Can You Forgive Her? from having watched the series The Pallisers. From the movie, I made the assumption that the book would be about Lady Glencora and was surprised to find that the “Her” of the title is actually Alice Vavasor. Besides Alice, the story is largely about the marriage of Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Glencora (their wedding is briefly mentioned towards the end of The Small House at Allington).

Plantagenet and Glencora were realistic people, both with their admirable and likable points, but neither in any way perfect. Glencora’s struggles and Plantagenet’s obliviousness were sympathetically portrayed. Glencora had been in love with a rake, but was prevented from marrying him. “Alas, she had loved him! It is possible that her love and her wealth might have turned him from evil to good. But who would have ventured to risk her,—I will not say her and her vast inheritances,—on such a chance? That evil, however, had been prevented, and those about her had managed to marry her to a young man, very steady by nature, with worldly prospects as brilliant as her own …” (chapter 24) I was reminded of Doctor Thorne and the title character’s desire that Sir Louis Scatcherd find a wife. In Can You Forgive Her?, however, Anthony Trollope came down more solidly against the idea of marriage as a means to reform a dissolute man.

Anthony Trollope liked to have more than one storyline going at a time and he managed to keep them all interesting. When he switched from one set of characters to another, though I sometimes wished I could stay with the one set, it wouldn’t be long before the current storyline had me interested again.

— — —

In December I read:

The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — As the title suggests, this is the last of Anthony Trollope’s six Barsetshire novels. It is peopled with many of the characters of the previous novels. Lily Dale and Johnny Eames (from The Small House at Allington) were back, just as annoying as they were before. With them, in fact, it was largely a replay of the last novel, with Lily unable to make up her mind to accept Johnny, and Johnny getting himself involved with another woman, despite being warned against it. I wouldn’t blame Lily for being sick of the name Johnny, though, as every one, whether they’ve met her before or not, seems to make it their business to talk of him to her.

lady-in-blue-alfred-stevensMark Robarts and his wife, Lady Ludlow, and all that set (from Framley Parsonage) made their appearance. Mrs. Thorne (Miss Dunstable from Doctor Thorne) marries off a cousin. Dr. Grantly (from The Warden and Barchester Towers) is back in full force. Even Mr. Harding makes a few appearances. The main couple of the story, Grace Crawley and Henry Grantly, were both introduced as children in the previous books. I wasn’t sure whether I would approve of Henry Grantly, but I ended up liking him.

The story could be looked at as a mystery. Mr. Crawley (Grace’s father, a character from Framley Parsonage) is accused of stealing a check for twenty-pounds. He himself doesn’t know how it came into his possession. It was not difficult to guess what happened, however, and the interest of the story comes from the people, not the plot.

I liked Grace Crawley. However, I reject the idea that, with a father accused of theft, she is no longer fit for marriage to a decent man and must, as far as any of them could tell, remain a spinster in consequence. I can see how she might want to wait to engage herself until things had been settled one way or the other. Such a cloud over her family would certainly lessen her joy in making plans for her own future.


Paintings: Young Woman Reading and Lady in Blue by Alfred Stevens (1823 – 1906).

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Birds of a Feather


“Birds of a feather flock together.” My family has quite a variety of chicken breeds, but these Silver Laced Wyandottes do like to stick together.

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Books I Read in September & October 2016

In September I read:

rubens-pieter-paul-1577-1640-simon-the-zealot-copyDoctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope, read by Nicholas Clifford for LibriVox.orgDoctor Thorne is the third of Anthony Trollope’s “Barsetshire” novels. Subsequent to these novels, Anthony Trollope wrote his six political “Palliser” novels. There is some overlap, however, and Doctor Thorne introduces the Duke of Omnium, Gatherum Castle, and Silverbridge, all of which go on to play greater roles in the “Palliser” novels.

Unlike Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope didn’t find it necessary to make his heroines meek plasterboard saints. He created them to be feminine, spirited, and active, and although his writing isn’t perfect, I much prefer his characters to those of Dickens. I’m thinking now of the episode in Mary Thorne’s childhood in which she insists (rightly) that the Greshams’ French governess, and not their servant-girl, was guilty of a theft. Again, although Mary Thorne thought too much of rank, she still stuck to her promise to Frank, despite having been almost convinced by his mother’s arguments against their engagement.

I do think that Frank, having decided to marry a poor girl, and therefore necessitating his earning a living, should have started preparing for a profession, instead of going abroad as his parents desired. Also, I disapprove of Sir Roger Scatcherd and Doctor Thorne’s desire to have Louis married. It might have been the making of him, the saving of him, but they didn’t have the right to sacrifice any woman to that chance. The Doctor’s hypocrisy in this matter is shown by his unwillingness to even consider his own niece’s being married to Louis.

My favorite characters were Miss Dunstable and Doctor Thorne. I also like Frank and Mary. Miss Dunstable had good sense, honesty, and a sense of humor, making her likable and entertaining. I was amused by the way she handles one of her suitors, as she tells Frank: “Mr Moffat has turned up again. We all thought you had finally extinguished him. He left a card the other day, and I have told the servant always to say that I am at home, and that you are with me.” (Frank was supposed to also be a suitor of Miss Dunstable’s and had beaten Mr. Moffet for jilting his sister, which I disapprove, but which Miss Dunstable turned it to good account.)

I enjoyed Doctor Thorne. Nicholas Clifford’s reading of it was excellent, as well. It was clear and pleasant. Not all LibriVox recordings are equal, but I can recommend this one.

Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake  — This is an odd book. It has much more description than it should, but it definitely succeeds in creating its own atmosphere. The characters are interesting, and, overall, I enjoyed the book, though I wouldn’t want to read it over again. I liked the poems Mervyn Peake included.

A freckled and frivolous cake there was
     That sailed on a pointless sea,
Or any lugubrious lake there was
     In a manner emphatic and free.
How jointlessly, and how jointlessly
     The frivolous cake sailed by
On the waves of the ocean that pointlessly
     Threw fish to the lilac sky.

Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — The fourth of Anthony Trollope’s “Barsetshire” novels. I liked Mark and Fanny Robarts, especially the latter. She was my favorite character. Those two make the story worthwhile. At first I also liked Mark’s sister Lucy a great deal, but, despite starting out well, her romance fell a bit flat by the end, greatly through her own fault. Also, although I was gratified by my two favorite characters from Doctor Thorne being united in matrimony, I felt a bit cheated by the manner in which this was accomplished. It was too prosaic. Given the characters, I felt like there should have been more humor and open, decided affection in their courtship.

— — —

In October I read:

Although I started two or three other books in October, I have only finished one so far.

rubens-pieter-paul-1577-1640-saint-thomas-copyThe Small House at Allington, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for  — The fifth of Anthony Trollope’s “Barsetshire” novels and my least favorite so far. Belle Dale and Doctor Crofts were about the only characters I liked. (Earl De Guest and his sister weren’t bad, but they were minor characters.) Johnny bugged me by his flirtations with Amelia, the Squire was mean (his hidden inner feelings don’t excuse the way he treated people), Lucy’s attitude toward Crosbie after he left her rather disgusted me, and Crosbie didn’t make enough effort to make his wife happy.

I agree with Fanny Price: “I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman’s feelings” (Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen). Johnny Eames didn’t have the right to kiss Amelia and tell her that he loved her when he knew full well that he didn’t and that he, in fact, loved another woman. Anthony Trollope makes the best excuse he can for him:

“O ye mothers who from year to year see your sons launched forth upon the perils of the world, and who are so careful with your good advice, with under flannel shirting, with books of devotion and tooth-powder, does it never occur to you that provision should be made for amusement, for dancing, for parties, for the excitement and comfort of women’s society? That excitement your sons will have, and if it be not provided by you of one kind, will certainly be provided by themselves of another kind.” (ch. 51)

Although I agree with Trollope’s statement here, I do not find in it sufficient excuse for Johnny’s behaviour. I also don’t think Johnny should have beaten Mr. Crosbie. Yes, Mr. Crosbie had treated Lily very badly, but I believe in a man’s right to walk down a street (or train platform) unmolested by assault.

And on that subject, I think Crosbie was right to break off his engagement with Lily, painful to her as it was. A man should not marry a woman unless he thinks he will be happy with her and that he couldn’t do better. Lily was made very unhappy by losing him, but I think she would have been even more unhappy when she found out, as she would have, that Crosbie hankered after his lost comforts and felt he had done himself an injury and come down in the world by marrying her.

Lily Dale reminded me a bit of Marianne Dashwood, especially in the way she gave herself so wholly to the man she loved. In one respect she was stronger than Marianne. She determined to not let her grief get the better of her. On the other hand, Marianne admitted the truth, that Willoughby had jilted her because of his own selfishness, and didn’t continue to fill her heart with him. Lily, in contrast, continued to think Mr. Crosbie worthy of her affection. Although I don’t think she should have engaged herself to John Eames (he was right, it was too soon), I was repulsed by the reasons she gave him and her mother, declaring that she could never marry another man:

“I still love [Mr. Crosbie] better than all the world. … I should be disgraced in my own eyes if I admitted the love of another man …. It is to me almost as though I had married him.” (ch. 53) “If [his wife] died, and he came to me in five years time, I would still take him. I should think myself constrained to take him. … In my heart I am married to that other man. I gave myself to him, and loved him, and rejoiced in his love. … There are things that will not have themselves buried and put out of sight, as though they had never been. I am as you are, mamma,—widowed.” (ch. 57)

Considering that Mr. Crosbie is, at this point, a married man, Lily’s attitude towards him is not right. Of course, she could not just suddenly change her feelings towards him, but she didn’t even determine to overcome them, but, rather, considered herself bound to him. Though she called herself a widow, a widow can remarry, and Lily felt that it would be a sin for her to marry another man.

Aside from the story, I have one complaint about Anthony Trollope’s style in general. I don’t like how he addresses his readers as if they were, by and large, delicate young ladies. It tends to come across as condescending. This is a minor complaint, however, and doesn’t affect his books much overall.


Paintings: Simon the Zealot and Saint Thomas, by Pieter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640).

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Books I Read in August 2016

The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carlson, pictures by Garth Williams — I picked this up at the library because I recognized the illustrator. I read it to a few of my younger siblings and we enjoyed it, though the ending, as they observed, was a bit abrupt. Set in Paris, it is about an independent old hobo who claims he can’t abide children, or “starlings”, as he calls them — “witless, twittering, little pests”. Really, he is afraid of losing his heart and his independence — and, of course, he loses both. It is a cute story, quaintly told, though not one I’ll be rushing to add to my own collection. My favorite quotation from the book:

“When will he return?” persisted the man. “Tomorrow?”

“Who knows?” said Mireli vaguely. “Today is today and tomorrow may come late this year.” (ch. 8)

Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope, read by Timothy West — An entertaining book. Apparently the argument over “sabbath” keeping and what it means is nothing new. Although I disagree with the slimy Mr. Slope on this subject, I must side against his adversary, Mr. Arabin, on a subject of much dispute between them — the latter holding the opinion that a clergyman “was not consecrated at all, had, indeed, no single attribute of a clergyman, unless he became so through the imposition of some bishop’s hands, who had become a bishop through the imposition of other hands, and so on in a direct line to one of the apostles” (ch. 14). The book is by no means all (or even largely) theology, however, and, as I said, I found it quite entertaining.

santerre-jean-baptiste-1651-1717-jeune-fille-lisant-une-lettre-a-la-bougieFrom Shakespeare — With Love: The Best of the Sonnets, by William Shakespeare, read by David Tennant, Juliet Stevenson, Anton Lesser, Maxine Peake, Stella Gonet, et al., devised and directed by David Timson — This collection includes 75 of Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was fun recognizing the voices of various of the actors reading them.

Timon of Athens, by William Shakespeare, read by a full cast (Arkangel, 2003) — A play about a man who thinks it is generous to give away other people’s (i.e. borrowed) money. He comes to a bitter end. It is thought to have been written in collaboration with another author. One character, Apemantus (who, by the bye, is not Timon’s biggest fan), does not have a very high opinion of Athenians:

Timon: Whither art going?
Apemantus: To knock out an honest Athenian’s brains.
Timon: That’s a deed thou’lt die for.
Apemantus: Right, if doing nothing be death by the law. — Act 1, Scene 1


Painting: Jeune Fille lisant une lettre à la bougie (Girl reading a letter by candlelight), by Jean-Baptiste Santerre (1658-1717).

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Books I Read in July 2016

Conceived in Liberty, Volume 4 — The Revolutionary War, 1775-1784, by Murray Rothbard, read by Dr. Floy Lilley. — The last book of the series. It was very interesting to see how English politics affected the process and outcome of the war. Mr. Rothbard presents a perspective on George Washington which I don’t think is often heard. This series left me wanting more. I wish there was a volume on the writing and ratification of the Constitution and George Washington’s presidency. Indeed, I would have liked to continue through the presidents and had his perspective on the Civil War, an issue which was briefly addressed in this volume, but that must have comprised many more volumes.

John Arthur Lomax - A Favourite Author - smallSimplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, with Lisa M. Ross — The introduction and first two chapters of this book were very slow going. The language was flowery (rather at odds with the subject matter of the book!) and extremely repetitive. It eventually picked up about chapter 3, though, where the author started actually saying something — fortunately, as I think he had much of value to say.

The Warden, by Anthony Trollope, read by David Shaw-Parker — A short novel, the first of Anthony Trollope’s six Barsetshire novels. It is an amusing little book, full of church politics of the period.

Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, by Whit Stillman — From the clips I’ve seen of Whit Stillman’s new movie Love & Friendship (based on Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan), I’d say this book is basically the screenplay, with elaborations by a character not in the movie. This new character, Rufus Martin-Colonna de Cesari-Rocca, is amusing, however. After his piece is said in attempting to defend his aunt (he is supposedly the nephew of Sir James Martin), the original text of Lady Susan is included in the back, accompanied by further observations (or protests) from the said Rufus Martin-Colonna de Cesari-Rocca.

The Complete Shakespeare Sonnets, by William Shakespeare, read by Kathleen Turner and others (Airplay, 1999) — I listened to these to fill up the gap between finishing The Warden and getting ahold of an audiobook of Barchester Towers. Having the 154 sonnets read by a variety of narrators kept them from running into each other. Shakespeare’s sonnets are beautiful, romantic, and often humorous. Many of the themes are familiar from his plays: love, acting, and so on.

“To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I ey’d,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold,
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d,
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv’d;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv’d:
++For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred:
++Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.” — Sonnet 104


Painting: A Favourite Author, by John Arthur Lomax (1857-1923).

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