Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is one of the most beloved works of literature and largely considered the author’s best work, closely followed by Anna Karenina.
The 19th century Russian novel explores the French invasion of Russia during the napoleonic wars and its subsequent spiritual, emotional, and physical effects on the various classes of Russian society during the time. Tolstoy’s historical perspective, memorable characters, and powerful language has cemented War and Peace as one of the most memorable and important literary works. Long after readers have put the novel down, the story has stayed with them, largely due to Tolstoy’s powerful and memorable lines. Here are 8 lines in War and Peace that took our breath away:
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The opening sentence of a book can determine a lot of things (including whether or not you decide to keep going with said book). It’s the author’s first invitation into a world of their own creation. They can be long, descriptive, run-on sentences that prepare you for everything you’re about to see; laying it all out on the table. Or, they can be short, concise, small, quiet yet poetic sentences; not revealing much, but urging you to read more. Opening sentences stick with you in a way unlike any other quotes because they are forever the first words you associate with reading that specific work. They’re the first things you see when you open the pages to chapter one. (Bonus points: they’re also the sentences you’ve read more than any other sentences if you’re at all like me and like to start re-reading books you love a lot, but never quite get around to finishing your re-reads because there are too many books and so little time.)
A good opener embeds itself in your memory; arising to your conscious at the most obscure times. They are the lines we scribble in our journals, slur to strangers when we’re tipsy at the bar, recite to ourselves when we’re sleepy on our long commutes home, quote in our poems and wedding vows, tattoo onto our bodies to prove our love of literature, and share with those closest to us in the middle of the night while we bare our souls.
And, personally, if there’s one thing I love (almost) as much as some good quotes, it’s lists of good quotes. Yay, words! Yay, opening sentences! Yay, lists!
Earlier this year, the world reached the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. On January 1st, 1818, the world was introduced to one of the greatest novels ever bestowed upon us. Mary Shelley, the wife of Percy Shelley, published the novel that deals with science, humanity, and what it means to be alive. Recently, scientists and literary geeks came together to completely dissect Shelley’s 1831 novel, and investigate some of the history behind the author’s work.
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As history would suggest, Mary Shelley penned the original Frankenstein novel alongside her husband, Sir Percy Shelley, amongst other greats at the lake house of Lord Byron at Lake Geneva. According to legend, the group of friends banded together to create various horror stories of their choosing. Mary Shelley penned Frankenstein in this event’s honor.
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The version of Shelley’s novel we know and love today is a heavily revised version of the one she originally created. The initial drafts drew upon revisions given to her by her husband and other like-minded individuals. The edition that is being released this month is a facsimile based upon versions of the story she had kept locked away in notebooks with notes from her and her husband. Such notes indicate a heavy editing process.
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On March 15th, readers will be able to purchase up to 1,000 copies of the facsimile of the original copy, and it’s very exciting to think of what we might be able to expect from such an edition!
Although Charles Dickens died almost 150 years ago, he was also born 206 years ago on this day! We celebrate his special day by continuing to value and appreciate his masterpieces all of these years later. A Dickens novel is typically fraught with poverty, destitution, and misery, but they highlight a world and a London that very much existed during the 19th century. A very important characteristic of a Dickensian novel is his tendency to obsessively include orphaned children throughout. Again, these children help to showcase a dark and seedy land where children run amuck without a parental figure to help guide them along. These children grow up fast, but they learn invaluable lessons along their path to early adulthood. Here’s seven of the most invaluable Dickensian waifs.
1. Pip, Great Expectations
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In his 1861 novel, Great Expectations, Dickens introduces us to the protagonist and narrator, Pip. Pip is, of course, an orphan, raised by his cold sister and her kind-hearted, simple-minded husband. Pip becomes the playmate of Estella, a girl raised by the agoraphobic and depressive Miss Havisham who never recovered from being left at the alter by her fiance many years ago. Pip falls in love with Estella, but due to her upbringing and Miss Havisham’s negative influence concerning the male sex, she jilts the poor kid every chance she has. Pip eventually helps save a fugitive on the run, lives a life of glamour, and returns home to visit his beloved brother-in-law, but he never quite does recover from his love for Estella.
2. David Copperfield, David Copperfield
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Published in 1850, David Copperfield tells the story of the titular character and narrator, David Copperfield. Born six months after the death of his father, he is raised by his young, widowed mother and their housekeeper, Peggotty. Between the two women, David is given a relatively beautiful childhood up until his seventh year. It is at this stage in his life when his mother decides to marry a tyrannical and wicked man named Edward Murdstone. The newlyweds give birth to another baby boy and, eventually, Murdstone has David sent to boarding school after a particularly nasty fight the two have together. It is at this boarding school that David learns of the deaths of both his mother and baby brother. Young David’s world becomes even more topsy-turvy after this point, and he spends the rest of the novel attempting to find a place for himself in the world.
3. Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities
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Despite the fact that Sydney Carton is, in every sense of the word, an adult throughout Dickens’s 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities, the fact remains that he is a character whose childhood was characterized by not having a family to call his own. A Tale of Two Cities is a piece of historical fiction that Dickens wrote recounting the French Revolution, and spans the course of decades; constantly skipping between events taking place in London and ones taking place in Paris. Carton is a drunkard and a lawyer, and while his brain is first-rate, his ability to prove his worth to people constantly falls short. Carton works alongside a man named Mr. Stryver who takes credit for his partner’s work, and thus Dickens terms the duo as The Jackal and The Lion, as in nature it is always the jackal who hunts the prey, while the lion finds the carcass and saves it for itself. In the end, Carton finds redemption through love and a surrogate family that he would, and inevitably does, do anything for.
4. Martin Chuzzlewit, Martin Chuzzlewit
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The title character, Martin, of the 1844 novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a boy raised by his wealthy grandfather and namesake. Years earlier Martin Chuzzlewit Sr. had also taken in a young girl to take care of him saying that she would be well-provided for as long as he remained healthy and well. The girl, Mary, does everything in her power to keep her benefactor in good health, but the younger Martin goes against his grandfather’s wishes and falls in love with her. Refusing to let his infatuation go, the elder Martin Chuzzlewit disinherits his young grandson, and he is soon left to his own devices. Upon leaving his grandfather’s supervision, Martin takes up an architecture job under a very greedy and malicious man named Pecksniff. Pecksniff is using young Martin in an effort to cozy up to his grandfather and be included in his will. The story continues in this fashion for some time: Martin Chuzzlewit Jr. befriends people, both good and bad, and the rest of the greedy Chuzzlewit family continue backstabbing each other at every turn for the sake of wealth.
5. Nell Trent, The Old Curiosity Shop
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In The Old Curiosity Shopwhich was published in 1841, we meet the fourteen-year-old Nell Trent who lives with her unnamed grandfather in a shop where doodads and thingamabobs are the products he primarily sells. She’s a beautiful and sweet girl, but she is also quite lonely. Her grandfather is desperate that his sweet granddaughter does not die as her parents did: in poverty, but he becomes so desperate that he develops a nighttime gambling habit. He keeps his habit a secret, but inevitably must borrow money from the dastardly moneylender, Daniel Quilp. Eventually, Nell’s grandfather gambles away all of their money, and this causes him to have a terrible breakdown which leaves his mind in shambles. Nell whisks her grandfather away to another part of England where the two are to live as beggars. Funnily enough, many credit the character of Little Nell as being the first Harry Potter whose life and story mattered so much to American readers that they stormed the harbors, shouting, “Is Little Nell alive?” when British ships pulled in, bearing the latest edition of the story.
6. Esther Summerson, Bleak House
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Charles Dickens published Bleak Housein 1853, and it’s his only novel that uses a dual-narrative throughout the extensive piece of literature. Esther is one of the two key narrators in this novel, and it is surmised that Dickens may have been influenced by the idea of a female narrator after the publication of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, published in 1847. Esther was left as an orphaned baby to the care of a woman named Miss Barbary who she believes to be her godmother, but is really the sister of Esther’s unmarried mother. Esther’s aunt eventually dies, but she is entrusted to the care of a man named John Jarndyce who attempts to help the girl, and find her a suitable situation as a governess. Her life, like all children in Dickens novels, is not what one might call ideal, but throughout it all she remains affectionate, kind, loving, and open-minded to all new characters she encounters. Without a doubt, however, she is also very capable of standing up for herself and for what she believes is right and what is wrong.
7. Oliver Twist, Oliver Twist
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I bet you thought I would never get to this one. That I might not even end up touching upon 1839’s Oliver Twist, but how could I possibly omit he who is probably the single best-known Dickens orphan? They made a musical out of this one for goodness sake! Oliver is an orphaned child who finds himself wandering the crowded London streets after escaping his employment at a factory. He is attempting to scrape by in a world so utterly not suited for a young boy to no avail. Eventually, Oliver meets the Artful Dodger, another destitute young boy who has found a home with the criminal, Fagin. Fagin exploits his team of children and uses them as pickpockets and thieves, unbeknownst to young Oliver. In the end, Oliver discovers proper accommodations and love with a lost set of kin he happened upon by chance. While other characters (such as the criminal, Fagin) find their lives ending in pain and sorrow, the orphan Oliver is finally given his chance at a real home filled with real love.
Irish writer James Joyce may best be remembered as a literary icon whose written work, Ulysses, cemented his image as a wise and intelligent mind hiding behind a soft and innocent-looking face.
Don’t be fooled, however. Yes, he is in fact intelligent, but he’s certainty not soft (in more ways than one). Behind those puppy dog eyes, thick mustache, and posh bowtie happens to be a dirty old man. Seriously dirty, dirty man.
The same passion and experimental attitude this linguistic mastermind brought to his stories and poetry he also translated to other avenues of his personal life. For those unfamiliar with Joyce, he had a passionate relationship with Nora Barnacle, whom he met in 1904 (the same date he later chose as the setting of Ulysses).
Their enduring love was filled with children, a marriage, and a great deal of passion. The sensual bond between the pair was evident throughout their public relationship. However, it became much more evident following their deaths when, in 1975, a book containing Joyce’s side of their written correspondence was published. The book, appropriately titled, Selected Letters of James Joyce (which you can buy here), brought to light their very personal and steamy love affair that rivaled anything E. L. James ever wrote.
Don’t believe it? Take a peek for yourself. Just a warning, however, they are absolutely NSFW! You’ve been warned.
My love for you allows me to pray to the spirit of eternal beauty and tenderness mirrored in your eyes or fling you down under me on that softy belly of yours and fuck you up behind, like a hog riding a sow, glorying in the very stink and sweat that rises from your arse, glorying in the open shape of your upturned dress and white girlish drawers and in the confusion of your flushed cheeks and tangled hair. It allows me to burst into tears of pity and love at some slight word, to tremble with love for you at the sounding of some chord or cadence of music or to lie heads and tails with you feeling your fingers fondling and tickling my ballocks or stuck up in me behind and your hot lips sucking off my cock while my head is wedged in between your fat thighs, my hands clutching the round cushions of your bum and my tongue licking ravenously up your rank red cunt. I have taught you almost to swoon at the hearing of my voice singing or murmuring to your soul the passion and sorrow and mystery of life and at the same time have taught you to make filthy signs to me with your lips and tongue, to provoke me by obscene touches and noises, and even to do in my presence the most shameful and filthy act of the body. You remember the day you pulled up your clothes and let me lie under you looking up at you while you did it? Then you were ashamed even to meet my eyes.
You are mine, darling, mine! I love you. All I have written above is only a moment or two of brutal madness. The last drop of seed has hardly been squirted up your cunt before it is over and my true love for you, the love of my verses, the love of my eyes for your strange luring eyes, comes blowing over my soul like a wind of spices. My prick is still hot and stiff and quivering from the last brutal drive it has given you when a faint hymn is heard rising in tender pitiful worship of you from the dim cloisters of my heart.
Nora, my faithful darling, my seet-eyed blackguard schoolgirl, be my whore, my mistress, as much as you like (my little frigging mistress! My little fucking whore!) you are always my beautiful wild flower of the hedges, my dark-blue rain-drenched flower.
As you know, dearest, I never use obscene phrases in speaking. You have never heard me, have you, utter an unfit word before others. When men tell in my presence here filthy or lecherous stories I hardly smile. Yet you seem to turn me into a beast. It was you yourself, you naughty shameless girl who first led the way. It was not I who first touched you long ago down at Ringsend. It was you who slid your hand down inside my trousers and pulled my shirt softly aside and touched my prick with your long tickling fingers, and gradually took it all, fat and stiff as it was, into your hand and frigged me slowly until I came off through your fingers, all the time bending over me and gazing at me out of your quiet saintlike eyes. It was your lips too which first uttered an obscene word. I remember well that night in bed in Pola. Tired of lying under a man one night you tore off your chemise violently and began to ride me up and down. Perhaps the horn I had was not big enough for you for I remember that you bent down to my face and murmured tenderly ‘Fuck up, love! fuck up, love!’
I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck up in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue come bursting out through your lips and if I gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.
You say when I go back you will suck me off and you want me to lick your cunt, you little depraved blackguard. I hope you will surprise me some time when I am asleep dressed, steal over me with a whore’s glow in your slumbrous eyes, gently undo button after button in the fly of my trousers and gently take out your lover’s fat mickey, lap it up in your moist mouth and suck away at it till it gets fatter and stiffer and comes off in your mouth. Sometime too I shall surprise you asleep, lift up your skirts and open your hot drawers gently, then lie down gently by you and begin to lick lazily round your bush. You will begin to stir uneasily then I will lick the lips of my darling’s cunt. You will begin to groan and grunt and sigh and fart with lust in your sleep. Then I will lick up faster and faster like a ravenous dog until your cunt is a mass of slime and your body wriggling wildly.
Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty little fuckbird! There is one lovely word, darling, you have underlined to make me pull myself off better. Write me more about that and yourself, sweetly, dirtier, dirtier.
If you can’t get enough, the great news is, there’s more. You can read more of James Joyce’s letters by clicking on the link here.
Feature Image Courtesy of The Irish Times and Her Campus