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English Language and History

The brief stories below are taken from history, myth or fiction. Each one is accompanied by games and exercises in essential grammar and free composition, based on old school textbooks.

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As Good as his Word
Music: Alice Mary Smith
Benjamin Disraeli did not make a promising start to his Parliamentary career - but he did start with a promise.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

AS an orator too, his first appearance in the House of Commons was a failure. Though composed in a grand and ambitious strain, every sentence was hailed with “loud laughter.” But he concluded with a sentence which embodied a prophecy.

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AZ Index

See a complete A-Z List of all the stories on this website.

Featured Topic
page 1
1 A Tax on Companionship
By William Windham MP
(1750-1810)
William Windham MP was appalled at the idea of levying a tax on man’s best friend.
2 The Convert
By Harrison Weir
(1824-1906)
Victorian cat-lover Harrison Weir launches into his favourite subject, but finds his audience growing restive.
3 Love at First Bite
By P. G. Wodehouse
(1881-1975)
Sam felt that his epic romance might have started more promisingly.
4 Pangur Bán
By Anonymous (Irish Monk)
(9th century)
A 9th century Irish monk scribbled some verses about a beloved cat into his copy book.
5 The Cats of Harrison Weir
A Victorian artist and avid bird-watcher banished cats from his country cottage, but soon wished he hadn’t.
6 Persian Treasures
By Edith Nesbit
(1858-1924)
‘Be careful what you wish for’, they say, and there could be no more endearing example.
page 2
7 Tom and Terrier
By Jerome K. Jerome
(1859-1927)
A fox terrier spies what looks like a hapless victim – until he gets up close.
8 The Friendship of Cats
By Théophile Gautier
(1811-1872)
A cat’s affection is not easy to win, but the rewards make the effort worthwhile.
9 Belling the Cat
Based on a fable by
Aesop of Samos
A council of mice comes up with a plan to outsmart the Cat, but volunteers are a bit thin on the ground.
10 The Cat Who Walks by Himself
Based on a short story by Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
Part One. The sly cat hatches a plan to get all the benefits of domestic life without any of the responsibilities.
11 Macarius and the Hyena
Based on ‘The Lives of the Desert Fathers’
(4th century)
A monk of the Egyptian desert helped a desperate mother, and was richly rewarded.
12 Typical Cat!
By P. G. Wodehouse
(1881-1975)
When a cat comes into your life, resistance is futile.
page 3
13 The Kitchen Cat
Based on a short story by Amy Walton
(1845-1925)
Part One. Ruth Lorimer’s strangely comfortless life changes when she finds a scruffy little cat on the stairs, but not everyone is pleased.
14 St Nicholas of the Cats
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition
A very unusual monastery with some very unusual protectors.
15 Heads I Win, Tails You Lose!
By Charles H. Ross
(1835-1897)
(That’s cat-tails, obviously.) And who ever said cats were unpredictable?
16 Too Clever By Half
Based on a short story by Edith Nesbit
(1858-1924)
Mrs Tabby White thought she’d try some of the clever things her humans did.
17 Angel Cat
By Jerome K. Jerome
(1859-1927)
Cats do have a conscience: it tells them when to look innocent.
18 The Selfish Cat
Based on a story by Edith Nesbit
(1858-1924)
A tortoiseshell laments his hard life among heartless humans.
page 4
19 The Cat’s Wedding
Based on a fable by
Aesop of Samos
It’s easier to change how you look than to hide who you are.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Spinner

Use these words together in a single sentence:

Trouble. Will. Women.

The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Late’
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.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Do you know ‘pull along’ (3 letters), and ‘examine someone’s background and credentials’ (3 letters)?
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with LESS and finish with MORE.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with SPIT and finish with FIRE.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with LONG and finish with JUMP.
Show you know the difference between these frequently confused words.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (375)
Fiction (80)

letters game

Make words from two or more of the tiles below. What is the highest-scoring word you can make?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: ‘Scrabble’ letters game Games with Words

numbers game

Work across from the number on the left, applying each arithmetical operation to the previous answer. What’s the final total?

Tip: Click any of the four inner squares to check your running total.

More like this: Maths Steps Mental arithmetic