Classic

Adventure Books

Jack London

1876 – 1916

John Griffith Chaney, better known as Jack London, was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist. Some of his most famous works are: The Call of the Wild, Wild Fang, and The Sea Wolf.

Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean towards each other, black and ominous, in the fading light ...

COVER Jack London - White Fang.jpg

White Fang

(1906)

 

The harsh and freezing cold nature of the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories of Canada is the setting of the novel. "White Fang" – half dog, half wolf – is forced to survive while the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush.

Somewhere deep inside the heart of this not domesticated creature are memories of love and trust. Will White Fang throw off his independence and his impetuous wildness and start a journey to domestication ...?

 

176 pages

 

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CHAPTER 1

THE TRAIL OF THE MEAT

 

Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean towards each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness – a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.

 

But there was life, abroad in the land and defiant. Down the frozen waterway toiled a string of wolfish dogs. Their bristly fur was rimed with frost. Their breath froze in the air as it left their mouths, spouting forth in spumes of vapour that settled upon the hair of their bodies and formed into crystals of frost. Leather harness was on the dogs, and leather traces attached them to a sled which dragged along behind. The sled was without runners. It was made of stout birch-bark, and its full surface rested on the snow. The front end of the sled was turned up, like a scroll, in order to force down and under the bore of soft snow that surged like a wave before it. On the sled, securely lashed, was a long and narrow oblong box. There were other things on the sled-blankets, an axe, and a coffee-pot and frying-pan; but prominent, occupying most of the space, was the long and narrow oblong box.

 

In advance of the dogs, on wide snowshoes, toiled a man. At the rear of the sled toiled a second man. On the sled, in the box, lay a third man whose toil was over, – a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again. It is not the way of the Wild to like movement. Life is an offence to it, for life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement. It freezes the water to prevent it running to the sea; it drives the sap out of the trees till they are frozen to their mighty hearts; and most ferociously and terribly of all does the Wild harry and crush into submission man – man who is the most restless of life, ever in revolt against the dictum that all movement must in the end come to the cessation of movement.

 

But at front and rear, unawed and indomitable, toiled the two men who were not yet dead. Their bodies were covered with fur and soft-tanned leather. Eyelashes and cheeks and lips were so coated with the crystals from their frozen breath that their faces were not discernible. This gave them the seeming of ghostly masques, undertakers in a spectral world at the funeral of some ghost. But under it all they were men, penetrating the land of desolation and mockery and silence, puny adventurers bent on colossal adventure, pitting themselves against the might of a world as remote and alien and pulseless as the abysses of space ...

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.

COVER Jack London - The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild

(1903)

 

Buck is a strong and proud dog living a good life at a ranch in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley in California. But the good times are over as he gets kidnapped and sold.

 

Days later he finds himself somewhere in the Yukon in Alaska. Against his will he becomes a sled dog. During the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush he is forced to survive and defend himself - against brutal men and other dogs in a harsh environment ...

 

124 pages

 

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Chapter 1

Into the Primitive

 

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation Companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.

 

Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. Judge Miller’s place, it was called. It stood back from the road, half-hidden among the trees, through which glimpses could be caught of the wide cool veranda that ran around its four sides. The house was approached by graveled driveways which wound about through wide spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the rear things were on even a more spacious scale than at the front. There were great stables, where a dozen grooms and boys held forth, rows of vine-clad servants’ cottages, an endless and orderly array of outhouses, long grape arbors, green pastures, orchards, and berry patches. Then there was the pumping plant for the artesian well, and the big cement tank where Judge Miller’s boys took their morning plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon.

 

And over this great demesne Buck ruled. Here he was born, and here he had lived the four years of his life. It was true, there were other dogs. There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place, but they did not count. They came and went, resided in the populous kennels, or lived obscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of Toots, the Japanese pug, or Ysabel, the Mexican hairless – strange creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or set foot to ground. On the other hand, there were the fox terriers, a score of them at least, who yelped fearful promises at Toots and Ysabel looking out of the windows at them and protected by a legion of housemaids armed with brooms and mops.

 

But Buck was neither house dog nor kennel dog. The whole realm was his. He plunged into the swimming tank or went hunting with the Judge’s sons; he escorted Alollie and Alice, the Judge’s daughters, on long twilight or early morning rambles; on wintry nights he lay at the Judge’s feet before the roaring library fire; he carried the Judge’s grandsons on his back, or rolled them in the grass, and guarded their footsteps through wild adventures down to the fountain in the stable yard, and even beyond, where the paddocks were, and the berry patches. Among the terriers he stalked imperiously, and Toots and Ysabel he utterly ignored, for he was king – king over all creeping, crawhng, flying things of Judge Miller’s place, humans included ...

The earth is as full of brutality as the sea is full of motion. And some men are made sick by the one, and some by the other. ...

COVER Jack London - The Sea-Wolf.jpg

The Sea-Wolf

(1904)

 

What happens, when a snooty gentleman gets shipwrecked and finds himself on board of a seal-hunting schooner ... and forced to become a crew member instead of getting back on land at the next stop?

 

Exactly that happens to Humphrey van Weyden as he gets confronted with Captain Wolf Larsen, a tyrann with his own philosophy of the value of life and society. Van Weyden is forced to find a way to survive in the small world of a ship full of brutality and inhumanity ...

 

228 pages

 

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Chapter 1

 

I scarcely know where to begin, though I sometimes facetiously place the cause of it all to Charley Furuseth's credit. He kept a summer cottage in Mill Valley, under the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, and never occupied it except when he loafed through the winter months and read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer to rest his brain. When summer came on, he elected to sweat out a hot and dusty existence in the city and to toil incessantly. Had it not been my custom to run up to see him every Saturday afternoon and to stop over till Monday morning, this particular January Monday morning would not have found me afloat on San Francisco Bay.

 

Not but that I was afloat in a safe craft, for the Martinez was a new ferry-steamer, making her fourth or fifth trip on the run between Sausalito and San Francisco. The danger lay in the heavy fog which blanketed the bay, and of which, as a landsman, I had little apprehension. In fact, I remember the placid exaltation with which I took up my position on the forward upper deck, directly beneath the pilot-house, and allowed the mystery of the fog to lay hold of my imagination. A fresh breeze was blowing, and for a time I was alone in the moist obscurity; yet not alone, for I was dimly conscious of the presence of the pilot, and of what I took to be the captain, in the glass house above my head.

 

I remember thinking how comfortable it was, this division of labor which made it unnecessary for me to study fogs, winds, tides, and navigation, in order to visit my friend who lived across an arm of the sea. It was good that men should be specialists, I mused. The peculiar knowledge of the pilot and captain sufficed for many thousands of people who knew no more of the sea and navigation than I knew. On the other hand, instead of having to devote my energy to the learning of a multitude of things, I concentrated it upon a few particular things, such as, for instance, the analysis of Poe's place in American literature, an essay of mine, by the way, in the current Atlantic. Coming aboard, as I passed through the cabin, I had noticed with greedy eyes a stout gentleman reading the Atlantic, which was open at my very essay. And there it was again, the division of labor, the special knowledge of the pilot and captain which permitted the stout gentleman to read my special knowledge on Poe while they carried him safely from Sausalito to San Francisco ...

Anna Sewell

1820 – 1878

The first place that I can well remember, was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end.

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Black Beauty

(1877)

 

Black Beauty is told by its hero: A remarkable black horse born with one white foot and a white star on his forehead. The autobiography begins with the first memories of idyllic country pastures – and ends with his work on cobblestoned streets in London. Black Beauty tells us about his experiences with cruel treatment, and how he finally finds love, peace and happiness ...

 

192 pages

 

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CHAPTER I.

My Early Home.

 

The first place that I can well remember, was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end. Over the hedge on one side we looked into a ploughed field, and on the other we looked over a gate at our master's house, which stood by the roadside; at the top of the meadow was a plantation of fir trees, and at the bottom a running brook overhung by a steep bank.

 

Whilst I was young I lived upon my mother's milk, as I could not eat grass. In the day time I ran by her side, and at night I lay down close by her. When it was hot, we used to stand by the pond in the shade of the trees, and when it was cold, we had a nice warm shed near the plantation.

 

As soon as I was old enough to eat grass, my mother used to go out to work in the day time, and came back in the evening.

 

There were six young colts in the meadow beside me, they were all older than I was; some were nearly as large as grown-up horses. I used to run with them, and had great fun; we used to gallop all together round and round the field, as hard as we could go. Sometimes we had rather rough play, for they would frequently bite and kick as well as gallop.

 

One day, when there was a good deal of kicking, my mother whinnied to me to come to her, and then she said,

 

"I wish you to pay attention to what I am going to say to you. The colts who live here are very good colts; but they are cart-horse colts, and of course, they have not learned manners. You have been well bred and well born; your father has a great name in these parts, and your grandfather won the cup two years at the Newmarket races; your grandmother had the sweetest temper of any horse I ever knew, and I think you have never seen me kick or bite. I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play."

 

I have never forgotten my mother's advice; I knew she was a wise old horse, and our master thought a great deal of her. Her name was Duchess, but he often called her Pet ...

Mark Twain

1835 – 1910

The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them. She seldom or never looked through them for so small a thing as a boy.

COVER Mark Twain - The Adventures of Tom

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

(1876)

Tom Sawyer, an impetuous and rascal lad growing up along the Mississippi River, lives with his Aunt Polly and his half-brother Sid. Throughout the novel Tom is always busy to avoid visiting school. Besides that Tom falls in love with Becky Thatcher, is thought to be dead, becomes a pirate, and together with his friend Huckleberry Finn witnesses a murder – and much, much more ...

 

184 pages

 

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Chapter 1

 

"Tom!"

No answer.

"Tom!"

No answer.

"What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You Tom!"

No answer.

The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them. She seldom or never looked through them for so small a thing as a boy; they were her state pair, the pride of her heart, and were built for "style," not service – she could have seen through a pair of stove-lids just as well. She looked perplexed for a moment, and then said, not fiercely, but still loud enough for the furniture to hear:

"Well, I lay if I get hold of you I'll –––"

She did not finish, for by this time she was bending down and punching under the bed with the broom, and so she needed breath to punctuate the punches with. She resurrected nothing but the cat.

"I never did see the beat of that boy!"

She went to the open door and stood in it and looked out among the tomato vines and "jimpson" weeds that constituted the garden. No Tom. So she lifted up her voice at an angle calculated for distance and shouted:

"Y-o-u-u Tom!"

There was a slight noise behind her and she turned just in time to seize a small boy by the slack of his roundabout and arrest his flight.

"There! I might 'a' thought of that closet. What you been doing in there?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing! Look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What is that?"

"I don't know, aunt."

"Well, I know. It's jam – that's what it is. Forty times I've said if you didn't let that jam alone I'd skin you. Hand me that switch."

The switch hovered in the air – the peril was desperate –––

"My! Look behind you, aunt!"

The old lady whirled round, and snatched her skirts out of danger. The lad fled on the instant, scrambled up the high board-fence, and disappeared over it.

His aunt Polly stood surprised a moment, and then broke into a gentle laugh.

You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.

(Huckleberry Finn)

COVER Mark Twain - Adventures of Huckleb

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

(1884)

 

"You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft ..." says Huckleberry Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer. "Huck Finn" is a impetuous and rascal lad, growing up along the Mississippi River. But he has the heart on the right place.

 

For thousands and one reasons, Huck Finn climb aboard a raft with Jim, a runaway slave. Together they drift along the Mississippi – the beginning of a voyage full of adventures, self-discovery, and a deep friendship between a boy and Jim, the slave ...

 

224 pages

 

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Chapter 1

 

You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There were things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly--Tom's Aunt Polly, she is--and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.

 

Now the way that the book winds up is this: Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars apiece--all gold. It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year round-- more than a body could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.

 

The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them,--that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.

Lewis Carroll

1832 – 1898

And then Alice follows a rabbit – and fells "down, down, down."

Cover - Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventur

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

(1865)

 

"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank ...

 

... and of having nothing to do."

 

These are the first words of the most famous children book of all times.

 

And then Alice follows a rabbit – and fells "down, down, down."

 

She fells in a fantastical place: Animals talk, Mad Hatter's throws tea partys, and the Queen plays croquet ...

 

140 pages

 

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CHAPTER I

Down the Rabbit-Hole

 

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’

So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy- chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself: ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late! (when she thought it over after­wards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

In another moment down went, Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so sud­denly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cup­boards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled ORANGE MARMELADE, but to her great disappointment it was empty; she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so man­aged to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it ...

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it ... it was the black kitten’s fault entirely.

COVER Lewis Carroll - Through the Lookin

Through the Looking Glass – and what Alice found there

(1871)

 

"One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it ... it was the black kitten’s fault entirely." These are the first words of Through the Looking Glass - and what Alice found there, the sequel of the most famous children's book of all times: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

 

Alice walks through a mirror into the Looking-Glass House. There she founds herself immediately in a mysterious game of chess. Again Alice meets a variety of characters - some of them we know very well ...

 

176 pages

 

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CHAPTER I

Looking-Glass House

 

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it; – it was the black kitten’s fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it couldn't have had any hand in the mischief.

 

The way Dinah washed her children’s faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose, and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr – no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

 

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curl­ed up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been hav­ing a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been roll­ing it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

 

‘Oh, you wicked, wicked little thing!’ cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. ‘Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You ought, Dinah, you know you ought!’ she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage – and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn’t get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the wind­ing, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help if it might.

 

‘Do you know what tomorrow is, Kitty?’ Alice began. ‘You’d have guessed if you’d been up in the window with me – only Dinah was making you tidy, so you couldn’t. I was watching the boys getting in sticks for the bonfire – and it wants plenty of sticks, Kitty! Only it got so cold, and it snowed so, they had to leave off. Never mind, Kitty, we’ll go and see the bonfire tomorrow.’ Here Alice wound two or three turns of the worsted round the kitten’s neck, just to see how it would look; this led to a scramble, in which the ball rolled down upon the floor, and yards and yards of it got unwound again ...

Lyman Frank Baum

1856 – 1919

Suddenly uncle Henry stood up: There's a cyclone coming ...

COVER L. Frank Baum - The wonderful wiza

The wonderful wizard of Oz

(1900)

 

A Cyclone, magic silver shoes, a yellow brick road, and a marvelous country called "Oz"; – Dorothy and Toto, her dog, must find their way home. But at first the girl needs to find the Emerald City, where the all-powerful "Wizard of Oz" lives.

 

During her dangerous journey, Dorothy make  friends: The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion ...

 

152 pages

 

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Chapter 1

The cyclone


Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which made one room; and this room contained a rusty looking cookstove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner. There was no garret at all, and no cellar – except a small hole dug in the ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap door in the middle of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole.

 

When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

 

When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.

 

Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke ...

Walter Scott

1771 – 1832

Come, trowl the brown bowl to me,

Bully boy, bully boy,

Come, trowl the brown bowl to me:

Ho! jolly Jenkin, I spy a knave in drinking,

Come, trowl the brown bowl to me.

COVER Walter Scott - Ivanhoe.jpg

Ivanhoe

(1820)

 

The historical adventure-romance Ivanhoe is set in England and at the close of the 12th century. The novel describes the adventures of the heroic Wilfred of Ivanhoe in winning the hand of virtuous Lady Rowena.

 

There are combats, tournaments, Kings and honorable Knights. Furthermore "Ivanhoe" is packed with a whole bunch of characters, like Wamba and Gurth, Cedric of Rotherwood, the fierce Templar knight or Sir Brian de Bois-Gilbert.

 

The legendary Robin Hood is also a character in the Middle Age action-story.

 

300 pages

 

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Chapter 1

 

In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the noble seats of Wentworth, of Warncliffe Park, and around Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous Dragon of Wantley; here were fought many of the most desperate battles during the Civil Wars of the Roses; and here also flourished in ancient times those bands of gallant outlaws, whose deeds have been rendered so popular in English song.

 

Such being our chief scene, the date of our story refers to a period towards the end of the reign of Richard I., when his return from his long captivity had become an event rather wished than hoped for by his despairing subjects, who were in the meantime subjected to every species of subordinate oppression. The nobles, whose power had become exorbitant during the reign of Stephen, and whom the prudence of Henry the Second had scarce reduced to some degree of subjection to the crown, had now resumed their ancient license in its utmost extent; despising the feeble interference of the English Council of State, fortifying their castles, increasing the number of their dependants, reducing all around them to a state of vassalage, and striving by every means in their power, to place themselves each at the head of such forces as might enable him to make a figure in the national convulsions which appeared to be impending.

 

The situation of the inferior gentry, or Franklins, as they were called, who, by the law and spirit of the English constitution, were entitled to hold themselves independent of feudal tyranny, became now unusually precarious. If, as was most generally the case, they placed themselves under the protection of any of the petty kings in their vicinity, accepted of feudal offices in his household, or bound themselves by mutual treaties of alliance and protection, to support him in his enterprises, they might indeed purchase temporary repose; but it must be with the sacrifice of that independence which was so dear to every English bosom, and at the certain hazard of being involved as a party in whatever rash expedition the ambition of their protector might lead him to undertake. On the other hand, such and so multiplied were the means of vexation and oppression possessed by the great Barons, that they never wanted the pretext, and seldom the will, to harass and pursue, even to the very edge of destruction, any of their less powerful neighbours, who attempted to separate themselves from their authority, and to trust for their protection, during the dangers of the times, to their own inoffensive conduct, and to the laws of the land.

Jonathan Swift

1667 – 1745

Whenever Gulliver steps on a ship, bad luck seems to find him: He is marooned, abandoned, mutinied, and – last but not least – shipwrecked ...

COVER Jonathan Swift - Gulliver's Travel

Gulliver's Travels

(1726)

 

Whenever Gulliver steps on a ship, bad luck seems to find him: He is marooned, abandoned, mutinied, and – last but not least – shipwrecked ... each time he lands in a strange and curious world.

 

First he discovers the kingdom of the six-inch-tall "Lilliputians". The second adventure leads him to the country of the giant "Brobdingnagians". Then he explores the island of the academic "Laputans", which floats in the sky. And finally he gets in contact with the noble realm of the horselike "Houyhnhnms" ...

 

268 pages

 

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Chapter I

 

The author gives some account of himself and family: his first inducements to travel. He is shipwrecked, and swims for his life; gets safe on shore in the country of Lilliput; is made a prisoner, and carried up the country.


My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the third of five sons. He sent me to Emanuel college in Cambridge, at fourteen years old, where I resided three years, and applied myself close to my studies; but the charge of maintaining me, although I had a very scanty allowance, being too great for a narrow fortune, I was bound apprentice to Mr. James Bates, an eminent surgeon in London, with whom I continued four years; and my father now and then sending me small sums of money, I laid them out in learning navigation, and other parts of the mathematicks, useful to those who intend to travel, as I always believed it would be, some time or other, my fortune to do. When I left Mr. Bates, I went down to my father; where, by the assistance of him and my uncle John, and some other relations, I got forty pounds, and a promise of thirty pounds a year to maintain me at Leyden; there I studied physick two years and seven months, knowing it would be useful in long voyages.

 

Soon after my return from Leyden, I was recommended by my good master, Mr. Bates, to be surgeon to the Swallow, Captain Abraham Pannell, commander; with whom I continued three years and a half, making a voyage or two into the Levant, and some other parts. When I came back, I resolved to settle in London; to which Mr. Bates, my master, encouraged me, and by him I was recommended to several patients. I took part of a small house in the Old Jewry; and being advised to alter my condition, I married Mrs. Mary Burton, second daughter to Mr. Edmund Burton, hosier, in Newgate-street, with whom I received four hundred pounds for a portion ...

Robert Louis Stevenson

1850 – 1894

Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest –

Yo-ho-ho,

and a bottle of rum!

COVER Robert Louis Stevenson - Trasure I

Treasure Island

(1883)

 

 Young Jim Hawkins and his friends set sail for Treasure Island hoping to find the buried loot of Captain Flint – fiercest of all the pirates. But, unknown to them, the crew of their own ship is made up of Flint's former crew.

 

Once on the island Jim and his friends must find the buried treasure and escape before the pirates capture them. ...

 

172 pages

 

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Chapter 1

THE OLD SEA-DOG AT THE BENBOW INN

 

Mr. Trelawney, Dr. Livesey and the rest of these gentle­men have asked me to write down the whole story of Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back. I therefore take up my pen in the year 1760, and go back to the time when my father kept the Benbow Inn, and the brown old seaman, with the sword-cut, first took up his lodging under our roof. I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came to the Inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-cart; a tall, strong, heavy, brown man; his knot of hair falling over the shoulders of his soiled blue coat; his hands hard and tom, with black, broken nails; and the sword-cut across one cheek, a dirty, blue-white mark. I remember him looking round the bay and whistling to himself as he did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song that he sang so often afterward:

 

Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest –

Yo-ho-ho

and a bottle of rum!

 

in the high, old shaking voice. Then he knocked on the door with a bit of stick, and, when my father appeared, called roughly for a glass of rum. He drank the rum slowly, dwell­ing upon the taste of it, and still looking about him at the cliffs and up at our sign-board.

“This is a nice bay,” said he at last; “and a pleasantly placed inn. Do you have much company?”

My father told him no – very little company, the more was the pity.

“Weil, then,” said he, "this is the place for me. Here you, young fellow,” he cried to the man who pushed the hand-cart, "come over here and help up my chest. I’ll stay here a bit. What may you call me? You may call me ‘captain.’ Oh, I see what you’re at – there!” And he threw down three or four gold pieces on the floor. “You can tell me when I’ve worked through that,” said he, looking very fierce.” ...

Daniel Defoe

1660 – 1731

I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull.

COVER Daniel Defoe - Robinson Crusoe.jpg

Robinson Crusoe

(1719)

 

"I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull ...", says the protagonist at the beginning of one of the most famous novels ever written.

 

Having been cast on shore by shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe is damned to live all alone in an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere for more than 20 years. During this time he has to fight against himself, harsh weather conditions – and cannibals ...

 

316 pages

 

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Chapter 1

Start in Life

 

I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull. He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but, by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called – nay we call ourselves and write our name – Crusoe; and so my companions always called me.

 

I had two elder brothers, one of whom was lieutenant-colonel to an English regiment of foot in Flanders, formerly commanded by the famous Colonel Lockhart, and was killed at the battle near Dunkirk against the Spaniards. What became of my second brother I never knew, any more than my father or mother knew what became of me.

 

Being the third son of the family and not bred to any trade, my head began to be filled very early with rambling thoughts. My father, who was very ancient, had given me a competent share of learning, as far as house-education and a country free school generally go, and designed me for the law; but I would be satisfied with nothing but going to sea; and my inclination to this led me so strongly against the will, nay, the commands of my father, and against all the entreaties and persuasions of my mother and other friends, that there seemed to be something fatal in that propensity of nature, tending directly to the life of misery which was to befall me.

 

My father, a wise and grave man, gave me serious and excellent counsel against what he foresaw was my design. He called me one morning into his chamber, where he was confined by the gout, and expostulated very warmly with me upon this subject. He asked me what reasons, more than a mere wandering inclination, I had for leaving father's house and my native country, where I might be well introduced, and had a prospect of raising my fortune by application and industry, with a life of ease and pleasure.

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