“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote to her husband Robert. While she counted a few ways of loving in her poem, her list was far from exhaustive.
Writers have examined so many different ways of falling in, and out of, love, and literature is full of memorable love stories. In this course Susannah Fullerton looks at a selection of great works to highlight different sorts of love – maternal, fraternal, adulterous, patriotic, distorted or damaging love, homosexual love, love that breaks class barriers, erotic love and spiritual love.
Why not refamialarise yourself with these authors prior to attending the lectures? Susannah suggests these sites where you can download ebook or audio book versions of these great works. With just a few exceptions all these works are in the public domain and are free to download. (All these sites are third party websites freely available online and Susannah does not endorse or accept any responsibility for anything found at these websites.)
For more information and to book for the lecture series, please click here to visit the Art Gallery of NSW site.
1. Fraternal Love: George Eliot and The Mill on the Floss
Mary Ann Evans, who became George Eliot, adored her brother Isaac, but when she began to live with a man who was not her husband, Isaac cut her off. In The Mill on the Floss, Maggie Tulliver is cleverer, stronger and far more attractive than her brother Tom, but he disdains her faithful sisterly love. We examine this rich novel to see how the author’s own experience shaped this portrayal of family life in 19th-century England.
Project Gutenberg: The Mill on the Floss
Feedbooks: The Mill on the Floss
Project Gutenberg: The Mill on the Floss
2. Maternal Love: D.H. Lawrence and Sons and Lovers
Motherly love can be a comfort, but can also be selfish and stifling. Lawrence’s own mother hated being the wife of a coal miner and was determined to save her sons from ‘the pit’, but she also made it hard for her sons to bring girls home and to move into adult life. Lawrence drew heavily on his own childhood when he wrote this novel, one of his finest.
Project Gutenberg: Sons and Lovers
Loyal Books: Sons and Lovers
3. Secret Love: L.P. Hartley and The Go-Between
Marian Maudsley is the daughter of a wealthy family, but she falls in love with Ted Burgess, a tenant farmer. To get messages to her lover, Marian gets young Leo Colston, a guest in the house, to be a go-between. Set in 1900, this novel examines the social taboos in the English class system and the damage caused when an upper-class female and a lower-class male seek romantic happiness.
PURCHASE on Google Play: The Go-Between
PURCHASE on Amazon Kindle: The Go-Between
YouTube: Michael Crawford performs in The Go Between London Theatre trailer for current season
4. Spiritual Love: John Donne and his poems
‘Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,’ John Donne wrote. The great poet knew all about love. As a young man he wrote ardent poems to the women he loved. Then he grew older and took high positions in the church, and his poetry became as ardent in its spirituality as it had once been in its eroticism. Donne battled to be a good Christian, and his struggles inspired superb poems.
Project Gutenberg: The Poems of John Donne V. I
Project Gutenberg: The Poems of John Donne V. II
Librivox: John Donne
5. Adulterous Love: Leo Tolstoy and Anna Karenina
Poor, doomed Anna is probably the most famous adulteress in all literature. After falling in love with Vronsky, she loses her home, her child and her position in society. He, on the other hand, suffers little social punishment. How does Tolstoy so brilliantly depict her dilemma and keep reader sympathy for Anna, even while she commits adultery?
Feedbooks: Anna Karenina
PURCHASE on YouTube: Anna Karenina (movie 2013)
6. Distorted Love: Robert Browning and Porphyria’s Lover
The love affair between two poets, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, is the stuff of legend. Together they fled from her draconian father and eloped to Italy, where they enjoyed many happy years of married life. Elizabeth wrote Sonnets from the Portuguese showing her love for her husband, but Robert wrote strange and memorable poems, such as Porphyria’s Lover, about distorted, lethal love, and poems about self-love and love of money.
Poetry Foundation: Porphyria’s Lover
YouTube: Porphyria’s Lover read by Tom O’Bedlam
Poetry Foundation: My Last Duchess
YouTube: The Last Duchess read by Stephen Fry
7. Unequal Love: William Hazlitt and Liber Amoris
In 1820 Hazlitt took rooms in London. His landlady had a pretty daughter who brought him his breakfast each day. She was 19 and he was 22 years older, but Hazlitt was soon totally infatuated with Sarah Walker. Married already, he could not offer marriage, but was wildly jealous when she flirted with another lodger. He poured his frustrations into Liber Amoris and thought of suicide. His love was a strange and one-sided obsession.
Project Gutenberg: Liber Amoris, Or, The New Pygmalion
Loyal Books: Liber Amoris
8. Doomed Love: Thomas Hardy and Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Hardy’s great novel examines the unfairness of Victorian morality. Angel Clare casts off Tess when he learns of her past, but he too has a past and doesn’t think that matters. Tess’s faithful love story is set against the backdrop of Dorset country life. We see her love for her family in spite of their failings, her love for her illegitimate child, her passion for Angel, and her hatred of Alec d’Urberville who ruins her. Poor Tess never really has a chance of happiness in this tale of doomed love.
Project Gutenberg: Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Feedbooks: Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Loyal Books: Tess of the d’Urbervilles
9. Patriotic Love: R.L. Stevenson and Kidnapped
There is no conventional ‘romance’ in Kidnapped – it is love of one’s country that drives the action and gives the story its passion. Highlander Alan Breck Stewart returns secretly to Scotland to further the Jacobite cause, and meets Lowlander David Balfour – together they endure peril and adventure. Stevenson died far from his homeland, but his true inspiration came from his love of Bonnie Scotland, its history and its patriotism.
Project Gutenberg: Kidnapped
Loyal Books: Kidnapped
10. Homosexual Love: Oscar Wilde and The Happy Prince
Wilde went to prison because of ‘the love that dare not speak its name’, and faced public disgrace and humiliation for loving men. He could not be overt about this in his writings, but homosexual love is there in coded form in many of his works. In the exquisite story The Happy Prince the bird who falls for the statue of a prince is male. Wilde shows the unselfishness and pathos of the sparrow’s love.
Project Gutenberg: The Happy Prince and Other Tales
Feedbooks: The Happy Prince and Other Tales
YouTube: The Happy Prince read by Stephen Fry
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts as we travel through this lecture series.
Comments are moderated, and will not appear until approved.