For learning. For inspiration. For plain speaking.
A MAN that looks on glass
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass
And then the heaven espy.
George Herbert (1593-1633)
‘The Elixir’
Welcome
to English Language and History .com
Stories
Two-minute tales and grammar games
Puzzles
Games with words and numbers
2 two-part story
Felix Mendelssohn and Anthony Collins
Extracts from Literature
The Caucus Race
Alice experiences for herself the very definition of a pointless exercise.
By Lewis Carroll
(1832-1898)

FIRST it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (‘the exact shape doesn’t matter,’ it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there.

There was no ‘One, two, three, and away,’ but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over.

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No. 1
Franz Schubert
Music and Musicians
Chopsticks
Ethel Smyth puts on a show for a self-declared music enthusiast.
By Ethel Smyth
(1858-1944)

WHILE travelling with my mother I had been told about a charming newcomer in our neighbourhood whom she had as yet seen little of, but who was said to be very musical and looking forward to meeting the Leipzig daughter.

Knowing what ‘very musical’ amounts to in England expectation did not run high, but on the day she had been asked to lunch I sat down at the piano, just for fun, as her dogcart drew up at the door.

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No. 2
2 two-part story
Johann Baptist Cramer
Extracts from Literature
Experience Does It
Wilkins Micawber had little to give David Copperfield at their parting, save two words of advice.
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

‘MY dear young friend,’ said Mr Micawber, ‘I am older than you; a man of some experience in life, and—and of some experience, in short, in difficulties, generally speaking. At present, and until something turns up (which I am, I may say, hourly expecting), I have nothing to bestow but advice. Still my advice is so far worth taking, that—in short, that I have never taken it myself.’

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No. 3
John Playford
Discovery and Invention
Queen Victoria (1837-1901)
A Bit of Luck for his Lordship
George Stephenson was only too pleased to save the former Prime Minister from himself.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

GEORGE was standing with his back to the fire, when Lord Howick called to see Robert. George began, “Now, my Lord, I know very well what you have come about: it’s that atmospheric line in the north; I will show you in less than five minutes that it can never answer.”

“If Mr Robert Stephenson is not at liberty, I can call again,” said his Lordship.

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No. 4
2 two-part story
Richard Jones
Lives of the Saints
The Vision of St Fursey
Fursey was a 7th-century Irish monk whose visions of the afterlife made a great impression on St Bede.

AN elder in the monastery of St Paul in Jarrow, so Bede tells us, once met a man who knew St Fursey, the Irishman who established a monastery in East Anglia in the 630s, and was famous for his visions.

Bede learnt how back in Ireland, Fursey had fallen ill and had a near-death experience in which he was led as if to heaven’s gate.

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No. 5
Muzio Clementi
Liberty and Prosperity
King George III (1760-1820)
Free Trade, Free Peoples
Oldham’s firebrand MP William Cobbett rips into the the City of London for blocking economic and political progress in India.
By William Cobbett
(1762-1835)

SIR William Curtis, during this debate, expressed his fears that a free trade to India might cause the introduction of political freedom. “If a free trade to India were once allowed, among other exports, they would probably soon have a variety of politicians, who would use their best endeavours to give the Hindus a conception of the Rights of Man.” A most alarming thought, to be sure!

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No. 6
Sir Arthur Sullivan
Character and Conduct
Queen Victoria (1837-1901)
All that Glisters is not Gold
Henry Mayhew, co-founder of ‘Punch’, tells two anecdotes about the Victorian cabbie.
By Henry Mayhew
(1812-1887)

IMPRANSUS Jones did a neat thing the other day. He got into a cab, when, after a bit, he recollected that he had no money, or chance of borrowing any. He suddenly checked the driver in a great hurry, and said he had dropped a sovereign in the straw. He told the cabman that he would go to a friend’s a few doors off and get a light.

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No. 7
3 three-part story
Gustav Holst
Cat Stories
The Mischief-Maker
A stranger warns the people of Shorapur that they will come to regret their hospitality.
Based on a story by Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

ONCE upon a time, a traveller was received most hospitably in Shorapur, and with unusual curiosity: for he declared that the townsfolk would turn him out if they knew what he was. They assured him they were quite unprejudiced, so he said: I am a Mischief-Maker.

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No. 8
2 two-part story
Ernest Tomlinson and Ralph Vaughan Williams
Sport History
Queen Victoria (1837-1901)
Sunderland Albion
A fierce Victorian rivalry sprang up between two football teams from the industrial heartlands of the North East.

IN 1892, Sunderland AFC won the Football League title, but not everyone in the town was pleased. Sunderland Albion marked the occasion by disbanding.

Four years earlier, Sunderland AFC had been disqualified from the FA Cup for fielding ineligible players, and founder James Allan was so ashamed of his club that he established Albion as a rival, taking seven players with him. And the rivalry was fierce.

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No. 9
Gustav Holst
Classical History
A Test of Loyalty
A Roman general asks his officers to decide where their priorities lie.
Based on an account by Eusebius of Caesarea
(?260s-?340)

IN the days of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, the order went out that Christians serving in the Army were to offer sacrifice to the gods of Rome, or be dishonourably discharged.

So Constantius, commander of the Imperial forces in Gaul and Britain, gathered his officers around, told them that those who would not worship the gods of Rome would be stripped of their rank, and sat back to see what would happen.

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No. 10
Polywords (185)
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Latest: Grey
Added on Thursday February 15th, 2018
Doublets (34)
Turn one word into another, changing just one letter each time.
Latest: Stardust
Quickwords (46)
A mini-crossword of everyday vocabulary and general knowledge.
Triplets (23)
Find one common letter that will turn three words into three new ones.
Latest: Triplet No. 23
Guess these words letter by letter – before the cats are gone!
See how ingenious you can be in combining three randomly chosen words in one sentence.
Compose sentences showing the difference in meaning, grammar or usage between these words.
Practise your basic arithmetic, from multiplation tables to percentages.
Latest: Target Number
Take command of English grammar and composition with these traditional exercises.
Latest: Letters Game
A word search game with a dash of strategy.

About our calendars

From our Archive
Nicodemus did not allow intellectual doubts to get in the way of what he knew in his heart.
Zeus employs a little psychology to effect a reunion with his offended wife.
Based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
(1850-1894)
An excited English gentleman hires a ship for a treasure-hunt, but doesn’t check his crew’s credentials.
James, brother of John the Evangelist, was executed for his faith by a close friend of the Emperor Caligula.
By Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
A professional journalist and author recognises that he has met his match

A to Z Index

Top Topics
History (414)
Polywords (185)
Georgian Era (113)
Fiction (85)
Quickwords (46)
Doublets (34)
Railways (24)
Triplets (23)
Stuart Era (17)
India (14)
Tudor Era (11)
Adam Smith (10)
Polyword ‘Nest’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

More Word Games
A word search game with a dash of strategy.
Guess these words letter by letter – before the cats are gone!
Do you know ‘stout’ (6 letters), and ‘gloat’ (4 letters)?
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with LESS and finish with MORE.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.