The Circular Staircase – Mary Roberts Rinehart

This is the story of how a middle-aged spinster lost her mind, deserted her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house for the summer out of town, and found herself involved in one of those mysterious crimes that keep our newspapers and detective agencies happy and prosperous. For twenty years I had been…

The Heir of Redclyffe – Charlotte M. Yonge

The drawing-room of Hollywell House was one of the favoured apartments, where a peculiar air of home seems to reside, whether seen in the middle of summer, all its large windows open to the garden, or, as when our story commences, its bright fire and stands of fragrant green-house plants contrasted with the wintry fog…

Emma – Jane Austen

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her. She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father; and…

The Judge – Rebecca West

It was not because life was not good enough that Ellen Melville was crying as she sat by the window. The world, indeed, even so much of it as could be seen from her window, was extravagantly beautiful. The office of Mr. Mactavish James, Writer to the Signet, was in one of those decent grey…

At Fault – Kate Chopin

When Jérôme Lafirme died, his neighbors awaited the results of his sudden taking off with indolent watchfulness. It was a matter of unusual interest to them that a plantation of four thousand acres had been left unincumbered to the disposal of a handsome, inconsolable, childless Creole widow of thirty. A bêtise of some sort might safely be…

Minnie’s Sacrifice – Frances Harper

Miriam sat in her lowly cabin, painfully rocking her body to and fro; for a great sorrow had fallen upon her life. She had been the mother of three children, two had died in their infancy, and now her last, her loved and only child was gone, but not like the rest, who had passed…

O Pioneers! – Willa Cather

One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling and eddying about the cluster of low drab buildings huddled on the gray prairie, under a gray sky. The dwelling-houses were set about haphazard…

Our Nig – Harriet E. Wilson

    Oh, Grief beyond all other griefs, when fate     First leaves the young heart lone and desolate     In the wide world, without that only tie     For which it loved to live or feared to die;     Lorn as the hung-up lute, that ne’er hath spoken     Since the sad day its master-chord was broken!  -Moore Lonely Mag Smith!…

Belinda – Maria Edgeworth

Mrs. Stanhope, a well-bred woman, accomplished in that branch of knowledge which is called the art of rising in the world, had, with but a small fortune, contrived to live in the highest company. She prided herself upon having established half a dozen nieces most happily, that is to say, upon having married them to…

Herland – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This is written from memory, unfortunately. If I could have brought with me the material I so carefully prepared, this would be a very different story. Whole books full of notes, carefully copied records, firsthand descriptions, and the pictures—that’s the worst loss. We had some bird’s-eyes of the cities and parks; a lot of lovely…

Woman in the 19th Century – Margaret Fuller

“Frailty, thy name is WOMAN.” “The Earth waits for her Queen.” The connection between these quotations may not be obvious, but it is strict. Yet would any contradict us, if we made them applicable to the other side, and began also, Frailty, thy name is MAN. The Earth waits for its King? Yet Man, if…

“Sunshine” by Amy Lowell

The pool is edged with the blade-like leaves of irises. If I throw a stone into the placid water It suddenly stiffens Into rings and rings Of sharp gold wire.   Image by Ewa Mazur

“A Hymn to the Evening” by Phillis Wheatley

Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main The pealing thunder shook the heav’nly plain; Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr’s wing, Exhales the incense of the blooming spring. Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes, And through the air their mingled music floats. Through all the heav’ns what beauteous dies are spread! But…

Plague Ship – Andre Alice Norton

Dane Thorson, Cargo-master-apprentice of the Solar Queen, Galactic Free Trader spacer, Terra registry, stood in the middle of the ship’s cramped bather while Rip Shannon, assistant Astrogator and his senior in the Service of Trade by some four years, applied gobs of highly scented paste to the skin between Dane’s rather prominent shoulder blades. The…

“On Imagination” – Phillis Wheatley

Thy various works, imperial queen, we see,     How bright their forms! how deck’d with pomp by thee! Thy wond’rous acts in beauteous order stand, And all attest how potent is thine hand.     From Helicon’s refulgent heights attend, Ye sacred choir, and my attempts befriend: To tell her glories with a faithful tongue, Ye blooming graces,…

A Country Doctor – Sarah Orne Jewett

It had been one of the warm and almost sultry days which sometimes come in November; a maligned month, which is really an epitome of the other eleven, or a sort of index to the whole year’s changes of storm and sunshine. The afternoon was like spring, the air was soft and damp, and the…

Solitaire by Amy Lowell

“Solitaire” When night drifts along the streets of the city, And sifts down between the uneven roofs, My mind begins to peek and peer. It plays at ball in old, blue Chinese gardens, And shakes wrought dice-cups in Pagan temples, Amid the broken flutings of white pillars. It dances with purple and yellow crocuses in…

The Enchanted April – Elizabeth von Arnim

It began in a Woman’s Club in London on a February afternoon–an uncomfortable club, and a miserable afternoon–when Mrs. Wilkins, who had come down from Hampstead to shop and had lunched at her club, took up The Times from the table in the smoking-room, and running her listless eye down the Agony Column saw this:…

The Romance of the Forest – Ann Radcliffe

“I am a man, So weary with disasters, tugg’d with fortune, That I would set my life on any chance, To mend it, or be rid on’t.” “When once sordid interest seizes on the heart, it freezes up the source of every warm and liberal feeling; it is an enemy alike to virtue and to…

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – Harriet A. Jacobs

I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away. My father was a carpenter, and considered so intelligent and skilful in his trade, that, when buildings out of the common line were to be erected, he was sent for from long distances, to be head…

Suffragette: My Own Story – Emmeline Pankhurst

Those men and women are fortunate who are born at a time when a great struggle for human freedom is in progress. It is an added good fortune to have parents who take a personal part in the great movements of their time. I am glad and thankful that this was my case. One of…

A Girl of the Limberlost – Gene Stratton-Porter

WHEREIN ELNORA GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL AND LEARNS MANY LESSONS NOT FOUND IN HER BOOKS “Elnora Comstock, have you lost your senses?” demanded the angry voice of Katharine Comstock while she glared at her daughter. “Why mother!” faltered the girl. “Don’t you ‘why mother’ me!” cried Mrs. Comstock. “You know very well what I mean….

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. If you know Starkfield, Massachusetts, you know the post-office. If you know the post-office you must have seen Ethan Frome drive up to it, drop the reins on his hollow-backed bay…

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains – Isabella Lucy Bird

LAKE TAHOE, September 2. I have found a dream of beauty at which one might look all one’s life and sigh. Not lovable, like the Sandwich Islands, but beautiful in its own way! A strictly North American beauty–snow-splotched mountains, huge pines, red-woods, sugar pines, silver spruce; a crystalline atmosphere, waves of the richest color; and…

North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell

‘Edith!’ said Margaret, gently, ‘Edith!’ But, as Margaret half suspected, Edith had fallen asleep. She lay curled up on the sofa in the back drawing-room in Harley Street, looking very lovely in her white muslin and blue ribbons. If Titania had ever been dressed in white muslin and blue ribbons, and had fallen asleep on…

Mrs. Spring Fragrance – Sui Sin Far

When Mrs. Spring Fragrance first arrived in Seattle, she was unacquainted with even a word of the American language. Five years later her husband, speaking of her, said: “There are no more American words for her to learn.” And everyone who knew Mrs. Spring Fragrance agreed with Mr. Spring Fragrance. Mr. Spring Fragrance, whose business…

The Fortieth Door – Mary Hastings Bradley

He didn’t want to go. He loathed the very thought of it. Every flinching nerve in him protested. A masked ball—a masked ball at a Cairo hotel! Grimacing through peep-holes, self-conscious advances, flirtations ending in giggles! Tourists as nuns, tourists as Turks, tourists as God-knows-what, all preening and peacocking! Unhappily he gazed upon the girl…

“Amor Mundi” – Christina Rossetti

“Oh where are you going with your love-locks flowing On the west wind blowing along this valley track?” “The downhill path is easy, come with me an it please ye, We shall escape the uphill by never turning back.” So they two went together in glowing August weather, The honey-breathing heather lay to their left…

The Scarlet Pimpernel – Emma Orczy

A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, at the very spot…

Behind the Scenes – Elizabeth Keckley

I have often been asked to write my life, as those who know me know that it has been an eventful one. At last I have acceded to the importunities of my friends, and have hastily sketched some of the striking incidents that go to make up my history. My life, so full of romance,…

Jo’s Boys – Louisa May Alcott

TEN YEARS LATER ‘If anyone had told me what wonderful changes were to take place here in ten years, I wouldn’t have believed it,’ said Mrs Jo to Mrs Meg, as they sat on the piazza at Plumfield one summer day, looking about them with faces full of pride and pleasure. ‘This is the sort…

Instead of the Thorn – Clara Louise Burnham

On a June evening, Mr. and Mrs. Radcliffe were entertaining their New York friends the Lindsays at dinner at the South Shore Club. The dining-room, with its spacious semicircle of glass, is a place where Chicago may entertain New York with complacence, for the windows give upon Lake Michigan, whose billows break so close to…

The Time Traders – Andre Alice Norton

To anyone who glanced casually inside the detention room the young man sitting there did not seem very formidable. In height he might have been a little above average, but not enough to make him noticeable. His brown hair was cropped conservatively; his unlined boy’s face was not one to be remembered—unless one was observant…

The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

The Paulownia Court In a certain reign there was a lady not of the first rank whom the emperor loved more than any of the others. The grand ladies with high ambitions thought her a presumptuous upstart, and lesser ladies were still more resentful. Everything she did offended someone. Probably aware of what was happening,…

That Mainwaring Affair – Anna Maynard Barbour

The fierce sunlight of a sultry afternoon in the early part of July forced its way through every crevice and cranny of the closely drawn shutters in the luxurious private offices of Mainwaring & Co., Stock Brokers, and slender shafts of light, darting here and there, lent a rich glow of color to the otherwise…

Lyddy: A Tale of the Old South – Eugenia Bacon

Lydia’s grandparents had danced in their primitive state on Africa’s sunny shore. She, however, was born a slave, yet her faith and trust in God was pure and abiding, ensuring to her the love and devotion of all about her. In stature she was of medium height, her skin a glossy black, with broad forehead…

Villette – Charlotte Brontë

My godmother lived in a handsome house in the clean and ancient town of Bretton. Her husband’s family had been residents there for generations, and bore, indeed, the name of their birthplace—Bretton of Bretton: whether by coincidence, or because some remote ancestor had been a personage of sufficient importance to leave his name to his…

The Voyage Out – Virginia Woolf

As the streets that lead from the Strand to the Embankment are very narrow, it is better not to walk down them arm-in-arm. If you persist, lawyers’ clerks will have to make flying leaps into the mud; young lady typists will have to fidget behind you. In the streets of London where beauty goes unregarded,…

The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie

The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as “The Styles Case” has now somewhat subsided. Nevertheless, in view of the world-wide notoriety which attended it, I have been asked, both by my friend Poirot and the family themselves, to write an account of the whole story. This, we…

Black Beauty – Anna Sewall

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 plowed field, and on the other we looked over…

Charlotte on the Death of Anne

There’s little joy in life for me, And little terror in the grave; I’ve lived the parting hour to see Of one I would have died to save. Calmly to watch the failing breath, Wishing each sigh might be the last; Longing to see the shade of death O’er those belovèd features cast. The cloud,…

“Evanescence” – Angelina Weld Grimké

There is a tree, by day, That, at night, Has a shadow, A hand huge and black, With fingers long and black. All through the dark, Against the white man’s house, In the little wind, The black hand plucks and plucks At the bricks. The bricks are the color of blood and very small. Is…

Persuasion – Jane Austen

Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest…

The Return of the Soldier – Rebecca West

“Ah, don’t begin to fuss!” wailed Kitty. “If a woman began to worry in these days because her husband hadn’t written to her for a fortnight! Besides, if he’d been anywhere interesting, anywhere where the fighting was really hot, he’d have found some way of telling me instead of just leaving it as ‘Somewhere in…

The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton

Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart. It was a Monday in early September, and he was returning to his work from a hurried dip into the country; but what was Miss Bart doing in town at…

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. She had a little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because…

“River of Stars” – Akiko Yosano

Left on the beach full of water a worn out boat reflects the white sky — of early autumn. Swifter than hail lighter than a feather, a vague sorrow crossed my mind. Feeling you nearby, how could I not come to walk beneath this evening moon rising over flowering fields. It was only the thin…

American Indian Stories – Zitkála-Šá

It was summer on the western plains. Fields of golden sunflowers facing eastward, greeted the rising sun. Blue-Star Woman, with windshorn braids of white hair over each ear, sat in the shade of her log hut before an open fire. Lonely but unmolested she dwelt here like the ground squirrel that took its abode nearby,…