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English Language and History .com is a collection of two-minute tales drawn from history, myth and fiction. Each tale is accompanied by word games testing grammar and expression, based on textbooks used in British schools from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Viola Draws a Blank
Music: Sir Arthur Sullivan
Viola tries to tell Orsino, Duke of Illyria, that his beloved Olivia is not the only woman deserving of his attention.
By William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)

“MY father had a daughter lov’d a man,
As it might be perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.”

“And what’s her history?”

Continue reading ›
Six Posts
Kate gets a Dressing-Down
Music: Muzio Clementi
Kate Nickleby must bite her lip as she experiences snobbery for the first time.
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

SHE was awkward — her hands were cold — dirty — coarse — she could do nothing right; they wondered how Madame Mantalini could have such people about her; requested they might see some other young woman the next time they came; and so forth.

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Kindergarten Politics
Music: Charles Villiers Stanford
John Buchan didn’t think much of our ‘new manners’ in foreign policy during the 1920s.
By John Buchan
(1875-1940)

SANDY was furious about the muddle in the Near East and the mishandling of Turkey. His view was that we were doing our best to hammer a much-divided Orient into a hostile unanimity.

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No Thoroughfare
two-part story
Music: Sir William Sterndale Bennett
At twenty-five and owner of his own business, Walter Wilding thought his world was secure, but it was about to be rocked to its foundations.
Based on the novel by Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
and Wilkie Collins
(1824-1889)

WHEN a tearful mother left her baby son at London’s Foundling Hospital, she went away knowing only that they had named him ‘Walter Wilding’. He was eleven when she returned and claimed him by that name, lavishing a mother’s love on him until she died thirteen years later.

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The Insect on the Leaf
Music: John Field
Scrooge begs the Spirit of Christmas to tell him what will happen to Tiny Tim.
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

“I SEE a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

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One False Step
Music: William Crotch
Louisa Musgrove thought she had hit on a sure method of winning Captain Wentworth’s affections.
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)

THERE was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and all were contented to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth.

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The Sign from Heaven
two-part story
Music: Sir William Sterndale Bennett
Was it an over-excited imagination, or an answer to prayer?
By Charlotte Brontë
(1816-1855)

“WERE I but convinced that it is God’s will I should marry you, I could vow to marry you here and now — come afterwards what would!”

Continue reading ›
All Posts
Tagged Fiction (77 posts)
page 1
1 Viola Draws a Blank
By William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
Viola tries to tell Orsino, Duke of Illyria, that his beloved Olivia is not the only woman deserving of his attention.
2 A World of Differences
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Emma tries to reconcile her father to the unaccountable tastes of his nearest and dearest.
3 The Train of a Life
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
In Charles Dickens’s tale set around Mugby Junction, a man sees his life flash by like a ghostly train.
4 Much Ado About Nothing
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
Don Pedro’s brother John tries to ensure that the course of true love does not run smooth.
5 Wild Goose Chase
By Sir Walter Scott
(1771-1832)
Sir Walter Scott warned that schoolchildren must not expect to be entertained all the time.
6 A Curious Incident
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(1859-1930)
Sherlock Holmes has been engaged to find a missing thoroughbred, but seems more interested in some lame sheep and an idle dog.
page 2
7 The (Fairly) Honest Lawyer
By Rafael Sabatini
(1865-1947)
Andre-Louis Moreau lives for vengeance on the master swordsman who killed his friend.
8 Pure Selfishness
By H. G. Wells
(1866-1946)
The brilliant but dangerously obsessive Dr Griffin decides that ‘the end justifies the means’.
9 One False Step
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Louisa Musgrove thought she had hit on a sure method of winning Captain Wentworth’s affections.
10 The Living Past
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(1859-1930)
High above the roof of the Amazonian rainforest, Professor Challenger sees something that eerily reminds him of home.
11 Love at First Bite
By P. G. Wodehouse
(1881-1975)
Sam felt that his epic romance might have started more promisingly.
12 Happy Government
By Anthony Trollope
(1815-1882)
Lady Glencora scolds the Earl of Brentford for political inactivity, but he warns her to be careful what she wishes for.
page 3
13 Education of the Heart
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
For Jane Austen, the best education a father can give to his child is to befriend her.
14 The Blessing of Disguise
By Sir Walter Scott
(1771-1832)
A mysterious knight and an equally mysterious outlaw agree to preserve one another’s incognito.
15 Mr Ivery Gets Away
By John Buchan
(1875-1940)
Richard Hannay tracks a German spy down to a French château, but Hannay’s sense of fair play gives his enemy a chance.
16 Redeeming Time
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Pip Pirrip never misses a moment of visiting time with Abel Magwitch, the convict who made him into a gentleman, in the prison hospital.
17 The Tempest
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
A duke with a passion for the art of enchantment is stranded by his enemies on a deserted island.
18 Collateral Damage
By John Buchan
(1875-1940)
Richard Hannay reflects on the innocent lives lost, when the lust for power or the desire for revenge makes us less than human.
page 4
19 Persian Treasures
By Edith Nesbit
(1858-1924)
‘Be careful what you wish for’, they say, and there could be no more endearing example.
20 Tom and Terrier
By Jerome K. Jerome
(1859-1927)
A fox terrier spies what looks like a hapless victim – until he gets up close.
21 King Solomon’s Mines
Based on the novel by Sir Henry Rider Haggard
(1865-1936)
Allan Quartermain goes in search of a lost tourist and a legendary hoard of diamonds.
22 Well Out Of It
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Anne Elliot is mortified to hear Frederick Wentworth’s opinion of her, but manages to find comfort in his words.
23 The Knight’s Tale
Based on the story by Geoffrey Chaucer
(?1343-1400)
Two noble youths of ancient Thebes fall for the same princess.
24 Kindergarten Politics
By John Buchan
(1875-1940)
John Buchan didn’t think much of our ‘new manners’ in foreign policy during the 1920s.
page 5
25 The Peasant, the Penny and Marko the Rich
Marko adopts drastic measures to get out of repaying the loan of a penny.
26 No Thoroughfare
Based on the novel by Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
and Wilkie Collins
(1824-1889)
At twenty-five and owner of his own business, Walter Wilding thought his world was secure, but it was about to be rocked to its foundations.
27 The Duel
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Sir Mulberry Hawk’s coarse conduct towards Kate Nickleby has awoken a spark of decency in Lord Frederick Verisopht.
28 One Last Question
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
English lawyer Sydney Carton goes to the guillotine in place of a French aristocrat.
29 The White Queen’s Riddle
By Lewis Carroll
(1832-1898)
Alice was set a poetical test of wits by the kindly (but like all the other characters, utterly maddening) White Queen.
30 Swept off her Feet
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Marianne Dashwood sprains an ankle, but help is at hand.
page 6
31 A Perfect Combination of Imperfections
By Charlotte Brontë
(1816-1855)
Jane Eyre meets a not very handsome stranger, and likes him all the better for it.
32 The Sign from Heaven
By Charlotte Brontë
(1816-1855)
Was it an over-excited imagination, or an answer to prayer?
33 The Summons Comes for Mr Standfast
By John Buchan
(1875-1940)
In John Buchan’s story about the Great War, Richard Hannay must watch as his friend sacrifices his life for the Allies.
34 ‘God Tempers the Wind to the Shorn Lamb’
By Anthony Trollope
(1815-1882)
Mary Mason could not forgive herself for a past misdeed.
35 Mr Snawley Thinks Ahead
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Mr Snawley has two stepsons he would like to offload, and Mr Squeers seems just the right person to help him.
36 Kate gets a Dressing-Down
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Kate Nickleby must bite her lip as she experiences snobbery for the first time.
page 7
37 A Proper Education
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Harriet Smith’s school gave her a grounding in good sense that even Emma Woodhouse could not quite overthrow.
38 A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
Hermia and her lover Lysander elope from Athens, only to become tangled with squabbling fairies in the woods.
39 The Pimpernel Fails to Show
By Baroness Orczy
(1865-1947)
Lady Blakeney agrees to spy for the French Revolutionary government in return for her brother’s life.
40 First Impressions, Second Thoughts
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Elizabeth Bennet began to wonder if being Mr Darcy’s wife might have had its compensations.
41 A Tempting Offer
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
True moral integrity comes from within.
42 By the Toss of a Coin
By Robert Louis Stevenson
(1850-1894)
The Master and his brother Henry must decide which of them goes to fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie.
page 8
43 Two Gentlemen of Verona
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
Parted from his beloved Julia, Proteus follows his friend Valentine to Milan, where he meets the bewitching Silvia.
44 Practice Makes Perfect
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Making friends is, like playing music, not just a matter of natural talent.
45 In Good Company
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Anne Elliot resents being expected to court the society of anyone simply because of social status.
46 With the Compliments of Mr Collins
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
There is an art to making one’s compliments seem artless.
47 ‘Nothing clears up one’s ideas like explaining them’
By H. G. Wells
(1866-1946)
Muddle-headed inventor Professor Cavor needs to think aloud, and for reasons of his own Mr Bedford is anxious to listen.
48 ‘This England’
By William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
John of Gaunt watches in despair as his country is milked for its wealth and shared out among the king’s favourites.
page 9
49 ‘Not one more!’
By William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
The prospect of facing daunting odds made his cousin quail, but Henry acted like a true King.
50 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.
51 Jane Eyre
Her enemies made Jane stronger, but her lover struck a blow from which she might never recover.
52 The Tragedy of Macbeth
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
Macbeth becomes wound in spells, and finds that one murder leads to another.
53 The Tragedy of Hamlet
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
The Prince of Denmark is bound to avenge his father’s murder.
54 The Hound of the Baskervilles
Based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(1859-1930)
Is an old family legend being used as a cover for a very modern murder?
page 10
55 The Selfish Giant
Based on the short story by
Oscar Wilde
A giant gets angry when he finds children playing in his garden.
56 ‘There is a Tide in the Affairs of Men’
By William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
Brutus tells Cassius to act while everything is going his way, or be left with nothing but regrets.
57 The Peculiar Customs of Lilliput
By Jonathan Swift
(1667-1745)
The people of Lilliput are strangely small, but their ideas are bizarre in a big way.
58 ‘The marriage cannot go on!’
By Charlotte Brontë
(1816-1855)
The cup of happiness is dashed from Jane Eyre’s lips.
59 The Caucus Race
By Lewis Carroll
(1832-1898)
Alice experiences for herself the very definition of a pointless exercise.
60 Fanny Comes Home
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
Fanny Price, eight years after being adopted by her wealthy uncle and aunt, has gone back home for the first time, full of anticipation.
page 11
61 Are Women more faithful than Men?
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
A touchy subject, especially when your lover is listening in.
62 Treasure Island
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.
63 The Hobbit
Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
(1892-1973)
Tolkien’s tale of dragons, magic rings and enchanted gold is one of the masterpieces of English literature.
64 ‘Please Sir, I Want Some More!’
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Oliver was elected as the unwilling spokesman for all the hungry children.
65 The Insect on the Leaf
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Scrooge begs the Spirit of Christmas to tell him what will happen to Tiny Tim.
66 The Tide of Popularity
By Jane Austen
(1775-1817)
First impressions prove to be quite misleading in the case of handsome, disagreeable Mr Darcy.
page 12
67 A King-Sized Conspiracy
By Anthony Hope
(1863-1933)
Rudolf Rassendyll is on holiday in Ruritania when he stumbles across a plot by the King’s brother to steal the crown.
68 The Footprints at the Gate
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(1859-1930)
What Dr Mortimer saw beside the body of Sir Charles Baskerville sent him hastily to London, to consult Sherlock Holmes.
69 The Selfish Cat
Based on a story by Edith Nesbit
(1858-1924)
A tortoiseshell laments his hard life among heartless humans.
70 The Birds
Based on the play by Aristophanes
(c. 445-386 BC)
Two men fed up with Athenian politics decide to build a city in the sky.
71 Angel Cat
By Jerome K. Jerome
(1859-1927)
Cats do have a conscience: it tells them when to look innocent.
72 Typical Cat!
By P. G. Wodehouse
(1881-1975)
When a cat comes into your life, resistance is futile.
page 13
73 The Story of ‘Oliver Twist’
Based on the novel by Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Fate and a vicious professional thief named Fagin conspire to trap orphan Oliver Twist into a life of crime.
74 The Man Who Would Be King
Based on the short story by Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
Two rascally former British soldiers in India set off to become kings of Kafiristan.
75 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.
76 Mrs Bold’s Thunderclap
By Anthony Trollope
(1815-1882)
There comes a point in some relationships when words just aren’t enough.
77 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.
Authors
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
14 posts
Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
3 posts
John Buchan (1875-1940)
4 posts
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
2 posts
3 posts
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
8 posts
Anthony Hope (1863-1933)
1 post
Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927)
2 posts
Edith Nesbit (1858-1924)
1 post
Baroness Orczy (1865-1947)
1 post
Rafael Sabatini (1865-1947)
1 post
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
2 posts
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
4 posts
1 post
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
1 post
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)
3 posts
H. G. Wells (1866-1946)
2 posts
P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975)
2 posts

Word Play: Opposites

Suggest words or phrases that are opposite in meaning to the words below.

Yield. Blind. Give.
New Stories
The only truly global conflict in history began when German troops crossed into Poland in September 1939.
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
Richard Cobden questioned both the wisdom and the motives of politicians who intervene on foreign soil.
To the poor of England, the Worcestershire man gave affordable pots and pans, and to all the world he gave the industrial revolution.
After Louis XIV’s grandson Philip inherited the throne of Spain, the ‘Sun King’ began to entertain dreams of Europe-wide dominion.
New Puzzles
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.
Try writing complete sentences using these nouns as either the subject or the object of a verb.
Try writing complete sentences using these verbs in either the active or the passive voice.
Polyword ‘Wren’
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 ‘ocean’ (7), and ‘a famously incorruptible Roman senator’ (4)?
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with NOTE and finish with BOOK.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
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History (359)
Fiction (77)

letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

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

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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