Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes – Harry Graham

I was rummaging through some old books this weekend and I came across my Grandparents’ old copy of Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes by Col. D. Streamer (Harry Graham).

Have you heard of it? If not, you’re about to. As part of my Obscure Poetry journey I thought I’d share some of my favourite rhymes with you.

Ruthless Rhymes1 (1)

But first, a little background. Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes was published in 1898 and is full of delightfully cruel little rhymes, which are to the point and completely without moral.

The book was described in an editorial by the Times as embodying a world where ‘there are no values nor standards of conduct or feeling, and where the plainest sense is the plainest nonsense.’

Now, on with the rhymes. Enjoy!

Impetuous Samuel
Sam had spirits naught could check,
And to-day, at breakfast, he
Broke his baby sister’s neck,
So he shan’t have jam for tea!

The Stern Parent
Father heard his Children scream,
So he threw them in the stream,
Saying, as he drowned the third,
“Children should be seen, not heard!”

Nb I once read this poem (The Stern Parent) as part of my primary school’s Christmas production. My choice. I don’t think the teachers approved.

Nurse’s Mistake
Nurse, who peppered baby’s face
(She mistook it for a muffin),
Held her tongue and kept her place,
“Laying low and sayin’ nuffin’”;
Mother, seeing baby blinded,
Said, “Oh, nurse, how absent-minded!”

The Fond Father
Of Baby I was very fond,
She’d won her father’s heart;
So, when she fell into the pond,
It gave me quite a start.

Misfortunes Never Come Singly
Making toast at the fireside,
Nurse fell in the grate and died;
And, what makes it ten times worse,
All the toast was burned with nurse.

I remember often reading these as a child, and pretending to find them funny to impress the adults, while all the while puzzling over why having jam taken away was a punishment.

As an adult I’m able to appreciate how bluntly hilarious and ahead of their time they are.

Oh, one more thing, the illustrations are great!


Time magazine’s All-time 100 Novels

Time_Magazine_-_first_coverI recently stumbled, not for the first time, upon Time magazine’s All-time 100 Novels list.

If you’re unfamiliar with this (unlikely I know) in 2005 Time‘s critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo picked the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923 (the beginning of TIME). If you’re wondering how they choose these books click here to find out.

Anyway, I perused the list a little, those titles in italics are ones I read before beginning Jade the Obscure, those in bold, after (you can click on there to see my reviews). I will confess to being a little embarrassed by how few I have read. Only eight out of 100!

I need to do something about this, so I’m going to head out and buy a copy of Lolita, I’ve been wanting to read it for a long time, in fact, there are several books on the list I’ve been meaning to read…

So, I’m going to make a concerted effort to try and fit this list into my pleasure reading. I’ve slipped the list into the pages at the top of my site, so you can check there to see how I’m getting on.

How many have you read?

  • The Adventures of Augie March – Saul Bellow
  • All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
  • American Pastoral – Philip Roth
  • An American Tragedy – Theodore Dreiser
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • Appointment in Samarra – John O’Hara
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret – Judy Blume
  • The Assistant – Bernard Malamud
  • At Swim-Two-Birds – Flann O’ Brien
  • Atonement – Ian McEwan
  • Beloved – by Toni Morrison
  • The Berlin Stories – Christopher Isherwood
  • The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
  • The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
  • Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
  • Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey – Thornton Wilder
  • Call it Sleep – Henry Roth
  • Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  • The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  • A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner – William Styron
  • The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
  • The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon
  • A Dance to the Music of Time – Anthony Powell
  • The Day of the Locust – Nathanael West
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather
  • A Death in the Family – James Agee
  • The Death of the Heart – Elizabeth Bowen
  • Deliverance – James Dickey
  • Dog Soldiers – Robert Stone
  • Falconer – John Cheever
  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman – John Fowles
  • The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain – James Baldwin
  • Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • A Handful of Dust – Evelyn Waugh
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
  • The Heart of the Matter – Graham Greene
  • Herzog – Saul Bellow
  • Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson
  • A House for Mr. Biswas  V.S. Naipaul
  • I, Claudius – Robert Graves
  • Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
  • Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  • Light in August – William Faulkner
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  • Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  • Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  • The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Loving – Henry Green
  • Lucky Jim – Kingsley Amis
  • The Man Who Loved Children – Christina Stead
  • Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  • Money – Martin Amis
  • The Moviegoer – Walker Percy
  • Mrs. Dalloway  Virginia Woolf
  • Naked Lunch – William Burroughs
  • Native Son – Richard Wright
  • Neuromancer – William Gibson
  • Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • On the Road – Jack Kerouac
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
  • The Painted Bird – Jerzy Kosinski
  • Pale Fire – Vladimir Nabokov
  • A Passage to India – E.M. Forster
  • Play It As It Lays – Joan Didion
  • Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
  • Possession – A.S. Byatt
  • The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
  • Rabbit, Run – John Updike
  • Ragtime – E.L. Doctorow
  • The Recognitions – William Gaddis
  • Red Harvest – Dashiell Hammett
  • Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates
  • The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
  • The Sot-Weed Factor – John Barth
  • The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
  • The Sportswriter – Richard Ford
  • The Spy Who Came In From The Cold – John Le Carre
  • The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  • Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  • To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • To The Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf
  • Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
  • Ubik – Philip K. Dick
  • Under the Net – Iris Murdoch
  • Under the Volcano – Malcolm Lowry
  • Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  • White Noise – Don DeLillo
  • White Teeth – Zadie Smith
  • Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys