Old novel perspectives

The pages below are extracts from old novels (and occasionally film scripts) which appear to resonate with current events or which reflect the human condition.

Some have been “re-versed” for comedic effect but others are offered in their original form, just because they seem to speak to us across the years ….
Click on the links below to see each full extract.


  •  Charlie Chaplin’s speech from the 1940 film, the Great Dictator.
    “Let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will! 
    Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.”
  • So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams – on limited election choices, and how lizards get elected:
    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course. (…) Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard, the wrong lizard might get in.”
  • Mary Barton – Elizabeth Gaskell. I ponder what may be fuelling Donald Trump’s campaign, and wonder if it has anything to do with the sense of injustice described here (written in 1848).  “The indigence and sufferings of the operatives induced a suspicion in the minds of many of them, that their legislators, their magistrates, their employers, and even the ministers of religion, were, in general, their oppressors and enemies; and were in league for their prostration and enthralment.”
  • Emma by Jane Austen, reworked. A changing view of  Brexit:
    “The best possible outcome for England – a return to sovereignty – no more migrants claiming benefits. – Now there’ll be jobs for British workers. – As soon as possible would be best – no reason to delay triggering Article 50 – every opportunity to strike good trade deals –  perhaps close European neighbours preferred – reciprocal arrangements for health care useful when on holiday abroad – sure the pound will bounce back – wish we’d bought our euros back in June – understand that no definite plans could have been made until outcome of referendum known – looking forward to seeing how NHS improved by the £350m a week  – not a promise as such – possibility of low Marmite stocks –  problems ahead glaringly obvious – could bear it no longer – must go and turn off the news.”
  • The Warden, by Antony Trollope (reworked) In 1855, Trollope criticises The Times newspaper (parodied in his book as The Jupiter) for its dominance, its undue influence in society, and its lack of accountability in its reporting and its editorials.
    Why, oh why, ye earthly ministers, why have ye not followed more closely this heaven-sent messenger that is among us? Should we not delegate all decision-making to The Daily Times? Would it not be wise to abandon useless talking, idle thinking, and profitless labour? Away with majorities in the House of Commons, away with verdicts from the judiciary given after much consideration, with doubtful laws, and the fallible attempts of humanity! Does not The Daily Times, coming forth daily with fifty thousand impressions full of unerring decision on every mortal subject, set all matters sufficiently at rest?
  • See also my poems and songs that are tagged “politics


  • Three Men on the Bummel – Jerome K Jerome’s observations on the character of German people, as written in 1900.
    Hitherto, the German has had the blessed fortune to be exceptionally well governed; if this continues, it will go well with him. When his troubles will begin will be when by any chance something goes wrong with the governing machine.
  • The Screwtape Letters, written by CS Lewis in 1942. On the subject of unselfishness:
    “A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others. As a result, a woman who is quite far gone in the Enemy’s service will make a nuisance of herself on a larger scale than any man except those whom Our Father has dominated completely; and, conversely, a man will live long in the Enemy’s camp before he undertakes as much spontaneous work to please others as a quite ordinary woman may do every day. Thus while the woman thinks of doing good offices and the man of respecting other people’s rights, each sex, without any obvious unreason, can and does regard the other as radically selfish.”
  • Trump Book Reports on Twitter – a series of mock book reviews by the twitterati.  Started in October 2016, following @AntonioFrench’s comment on Trump’s foreign policy answers. He said they sounded like a book report from a teenager who hadn’t read the book. “Oh, the grapes! They had so much wrath!” This spawned hundreds of other suggestions. eg: “Wuthering Heights? Edward Linton, great guy. Lots of money. Crooked Catherine had too many secrets. Disgusting woman.”   and   “The Odyssey. Supposed to be a poem. Didn’t even rhyme. Worst thing Homer Simpson has ever written.”

School Governance and the World of Education

  • Pride and Prejudice reworked as a tribute to professional clerks to governors.
    “All this they must possess,” added Mr Darcy, “and to all this, he or she must yet add something more substantial, in the continued improvement of their understanding of governance by extensive use of the internet and social media, and by attending training and conferences.”
    “I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six professional clerks. I rather wonder now at your knowing any,” said Elizabeth.
  • See also my songs and poems that are tagged “education