The classics are classics for a reason, and while some novels hold timeless appeal, others have faded into obscurity. Earlier this week, TMN pointed us to a list highlighted in the The Times Literary Supplement, written by editor Clement K. Shorter for the Illustrated London News in 1898, who named 100 of the best novels ever written. There are some interesting observations to make from his list: almost half of the authors mentioned are women (a gender balance many contemporary journalists shockingly fail to pay attention to), living authors were excluded, and there are multiple first novels mentioned. We browsed Shorter’s picks and selected ten great books that should inspire further exploration.
Ravenshoe, by Henry Kingsley (1861)
Brother of novelist Charles Kingsley, English writer Henry Kingsley, regarded as the “black sheep” of his family, wrote what would become his most famous work, Ravenshoe. An 1894 review in a literary journal describes the tale about a hero who rides in the Charge of the Light Brigade against Russian forces (which happened in 1854):
“In Ravenshoe, Kingsley is unnecessarily tedious in the old exploded style. You live with generation after generation of Ravenshoes through chapters, where a modern writer would dispose of the ancestry in a paragraph. To be sure, it is so charmingly done we like our characters the better for having lived with them so long, but the modern mind shrinks at giving so much time to even the most fascinating personages.”
Another write-up stated that “the novel is notable for its gust, and for a plot which Kingsley himself thought too ‘intricate’ to summarize. The early narrative has some lively Oxford University scenes.”
Read the book’s humorous preface over here. Ravenshoe was later serialized in British monthly Macmillan’s Magazine.