The Sound of the Victorians

Article excerpt

If you have ever yearned to be at a gathering of Eminent Victorians, you have a vicarious treat with two superb CDs from the Sound Archive of the British Library. Both feature recordings of poets and writers born in the nineteenth century. Perhaps the most haunting selection is on The Spoken Word: Poets (NSA CD 13). At a dinner party in 1889, Robert Browning was persuaded to recite How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix. The elderly poet starts, but through the hiss we hear him say: 'I'm sorry but I can't remember me own verses, but one thing I shall remember is ... your wonderful invention.' The other guests join in a hearty 'Bravo! hip, hip, hooray!' We can also hear his even older rival Tennyson reading his immortal 'Charge of the Light Brigade' with his emphasis on 'the mouth of Hell.' Thus in a CD in the first decade of the twenty-first century we can hear a poet born in the first decade of the nineteenth. This marvellous disc has many other treasures with 32 British and American poets such as Eliot, Kipling, Masefield, Frost and Yeats (who tells us that it was 'a devil of a lot of trouble' to get his works published). …