All Posts (649)
Nos 251 to 260
John Playford
Greek and Roman Myths
Heracles and the Augean Stables
Heracles shows his capacity for thinking outside the box, but spoils it by trying to be just a little bit too clever.

AUGEAS, King of Elis, had kept three thousand high-spirited cattle in an enclosure near his palace for thirty years without once mucking them out, even though they were of divine race and produced mountains of potent dung.

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No. 251
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Mediaeval History
Merchants of Muscovy
In 1553, Richard Chancellor set out on a perilous voyage to Russia in order to bypass the Hanseatic League’s single market.

ON 10th May 1553, Sir Hugh Willoughby and his pilot Richard Chancellor set out in three ships for the Arctic Ocean beyond Norway. At that time, European merchants from modern-day Holland to Poland ran a single market monopolising trade with Russia, and a competing route promised rich rewards for England’s wool industry.

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No. 252
Igor Stravinsky
Lives of the Saints
Not a Scratch!
Hapless extremists try to wipe out a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary.

IN 1898, Russian anarchists planted a bomb in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in Kursk. It was timed to go off during the evening service for maximum casualties, and designed to destroy the miraculous icon of Mary kept there in a glass case. A shared belief in the icon’s miraculous powers drew peasant and Tsar closer together, which did not suit the anarchists at all.

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No. 253
Antonio Salieri
Character and Conduct
A True Gentleman of Verona
A young man from the Italian city on the Adige River demonstrates that class has nothing to do with wealth.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

ONCE on a time, when the Adige suddenly overflowed its banks, the bridge of Verona was carried away, with the exception of the centre arch, on which stood a house, whose inhabitants supplicated help from the windows, while the foundations were visibly giving way.

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No. 254
John Marsh
History of British India
Wellington’s Secret
The future hero of Waterloo dealt with political ambush as comfortably as he dealt with the military kind.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

SHORTLY after the Battle of Assaye, one morning the Prime Minister of the Court of Hyderabad waited upon him [Sir Arthur] for the purpose of privately ascertaining what territory and what advantages had been reserved for his master in the treaty of peace between the Mahratta princes and the Nizam. To obtain this information the minister offered the general a very large sum — considerably above £100,000.

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No. 255
2 two-part story
Louise Farrenc
Extracts from Literature
One Last Question
English lawyer Sydney Carton goes to the guillotine in place of a French aristocrat.
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

“WILL you let me ask you one last question? I am very ignorant, and it troubles me — just a little.”

“Tell me what it is.”

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No. 256
George Butterworth
Poets and Poetry
Northumberland
A poem of nostalgia for the sea breezes and yellow gorse of Northumberland.
By Wilfrid Wilson Gibson
(1878-1962)

HEATHERLAND and bentland,
Black land and white,
God bring me to Northumberland,
The land of my delight.

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No. 257
George Butterworth
Poets and Poetry
‘Sussex’
A meditation on our instinctive love for the place in which we live.
By Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)

GOD gave all men all earth to love,But since our hearts are small,Ordained for each one spot should proveBelovèd over all;That, as He watched Creation’s birth,So we, in godlike mood,May of our love create our earthAnd see that it is good.

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No. 258
John Playford
Character and Conduct
Triumph in Adversity
Two famous figures, one from the sciences and one from the arts, who turned suffering to advantage.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

MUCH of the best and most useful work done by men and women has been done amidst affliction — sometimes as a relief from it, sometimes from a sense of duty overpowering personal sorrow.

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No. 259
Benjamin Britten
Liberty and Prosperity
Straightforward English
Beware those who encourage ordinary people to be content with clumsy, SMS-style English.
By
N.L. Clay

IF ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ are to be more than catchwords, clear communication must be the rule, and not the exception. In a totalitarian state it may be sufficient for the dictator and his henchmen to be able to use straightforward language. Do we want a society in which placid masses take their orders from bosses?

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No. 260
Polywords (182)
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Latest: Path
Added on Monday December 11th, 2017
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.
Today in History
1878 The death of Alfred Bird, Birmingham pharmacist and confectioner
From our Archive
Based on a fable by
Aesop of Samos
Brute force is no substitute for quick thinking.
Scotland’s association with the brother of Peter is down to an early 8th century Bishop of Hexham.
George Stephenson and his son Robert created the world’s first passenger railway.
Her enemies made Jane stronger, but her lover struck a blow from which she might never recover.
When Edward III sent the Earl of Salisbury to take her absent husband’s castle, Agnes brushed his attack aside - literally.

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Georgian Era (107)
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Adam Smith (10)
Polyword ‘Once’
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 ‘popular Asian chilled fruit drink’ (7 letters), and ‘bear witness’ (6 letters)?
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with FOAL and finish with MARE.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.