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.

A to Z Index

Thomas Brassey
two-part story
Music: Cipriani Potter
The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.

THOMAS Brassey, son of a prosperous Cheshire farmer, began his career in road-building as an apprentice to surveyor William Lawton, on Thomas Telford’s Shrewsbury to Holyhead road. Brassey rose from apprentice to partner, and Lawton and Brassey relocated to Birkenhead to make road-building materials.

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Six Posts
The School of Difficulty
Music: Johann Baptist Cramer
It is not educational institutions and methods that advance science or the arts, but people.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

MEN who are resolved to find a way for themselves, will always find opportunities enough; and if they do not lie ready to their hand, they will make them.

It is not those who have enjoyed the advantages of colleges, museums, and public galleries, that have accomplished the most for science and art; nor have the greatest mechanics and inventors been trained in mechanics’ institutes.

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Life’s Infantry
Music: Charles Villiers Stanford
However obscure a man may apparently be, his example to others inevitably shapes the future of his country.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

THOUGH only the generals’ names may be remembered in the history of any great campaign, it has been in a great measure through the individual valour and heroism of the privates that victories have been won.

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Bear and Forbear
Music: Charles Villiers Stanford
A sympathetic understanding of the trials of other people is essential for getting along.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

NOR will the wise man expect too much from those about him. If he would live at peace with others, he will bear and forbear. And even the best have often foibles of character which have to be endured, sympathised with, and perhaps pitied.

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Honourable Mr Fox
Music: Thomas Linley the Younger
The colourful Foreign Secretary humbly accepted a lesson in manners from a local tradesman.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

THE story is told of a tradesman calling upon him one day for the payment of a promissory note which he presented. Fox was engaged at the time in counting out gold. The tradesman asked to be paid from the money before him. “No,” said Fox, “I owe this money to Sheridan; it is a debt of honour.”

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‘Better Habits, Not Greater Rights’
The extraordinary productivity and social mobility of the Victorian era is to the credit not of the governing class, but of the working man.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

IN all times men have been prone to believe that their happiness and well-being were to be secured by means of institutions rather than by their own conduct. Hence the value of legislation as an agent in human advancement has usually been much over-estimated.

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The Lessons of Nature
Music: Muzio Clementi
Samuel Smiles shows us two great achievements inspired by two tiny creatures.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

WHILE Captain (afterwards Sir Samuel) Brown was occupied in studying the construction of bridges, with the view of contriving one of a cheap description to be thrown across the Tweed, near which he lived, he was walking in his garden one dewy autumn morning, when he saw a tiny spider’s net suspended across his path.

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All Posts
Tagged Samuel Smiles (23 posts)
page 1
1 Thomas Brassey
The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
2 A Leader by Example
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
3 A Very Special Correspondent
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Pauline de Meulan’s magazine Publiciste was close to going out of business when an anonymous contributor stepped in.
4 Honourable Mr Fox
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
The colourful Foreign Secretary humbly accepted a lesson in manners from a local tradesman.
5 A Monument to Liberty
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Samuel Smiles explains why the London and Birmingham Railway was an achievement superior to the Great Pyramid of Giza.
6 Life’s Infantry
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
However obscure a man may apparently be, his example to others inevitably shapes the future of his country.
page 2
7 The School of Difficulty
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
It is not educational institutions and methods that advance science or the arts, but people.
8 On Equal Terms
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
An aristocratic statesman was choked with emotion as he reflected on Britain’s creative social mobility.
9 As Good as his Word
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Benjamin Disraeli did not make a promising start to his Parliamentary career - but he did start with a promise.
10 A True Gentleman of Verona
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
A young man from the Italian city on the Adige River demonstrates that class has nothing to do with wealth.
11 Wellington’s Secret
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
The future hero of Waterloo dealt with political ambush as comfortably as he dealt with the military kind.
12 Triumph in Adversity
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Two famous figures, one from the sciences and one from the arts, who turned suffering to advantage.
page 3
13 Bear and Forbear
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
A sympathetic understanding of the trials of other people is essential for getting along.
14 Music at Midnight
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
To do one’s duty is to peep into the mystery of life, and taste reward from another world.
15 Burning Daylight
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson argued that his steam engines were solar-powered.
16 Observation
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Great inventions come from those who notice what they see.
17 The Lessons of Nature
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Samuel Smiles shows us two great achievements inspired by two tiny creatures.
18 The Iron Horse and the Iron Cow
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Railways not only brought fresh, healthy food to the urban poor, they improved the conditions of working animals.
page 4
19 Character and Learning
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Intellectual learning is to be respected, but it should never be confused with good character.
20 The Geordie Lamp
Based on an account by Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
The engineer put his own life on the line for the safety of his fellow-workers in the coal industry.
21 ‘Better Habits, Not Greater Rights’
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
The extraordinary productivity and social mobility of the Victorian era is to the credit not of the governing class, but of the working man.
22 The Character of George Stephenson
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
A self-made man who never forgot his humble beginnings.
23 Perfection is no Trifle
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Michelangelo had a message for all serious entrepreneurs.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Subject and Object

Use each of the words below as either the subject or the object of a verb.

Order. Site. Pride.

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 ‘Sycamore’
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
Multiply two numbers together. See how quickly you can solve the sums.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with SHEEP and finish with FLOCK.
Try writing complete sentences using these adjectives in the attributive position.
Do you know ‘part of a fish’ (3 letters), and ‘heart of the matter’ (3 letters)?
Do you know ‘conscientious’ (7 letters), and ‘unreturned serve’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
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History (375)
Fiction (80)

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