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« "To My Sweet Sunny South, Take Me Home": Happy Thanksgiving from Spartanburg SC | Main | Christmas Eve Radio Reading: Frederick Forsyth's "The Shepherd" »

December 14, 2013


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Maureen Lang

I was able to find links for all the short stories in my section of the Yuletide Omnibus save for the two by Langston Hughes & Lincoln Steffens [addendum: links now provided as of 12/14/13]. If anyone comes across sites where these can be read, please post in the comments. Also, the link for "Christmas with Queen Bess" (a delightful story set in the Elizabethan court during winter performance season) is for Bennett's novel, "Master Skylark," in its entirety. Omnibus story can be found starting on page 105.


A happy season's greetings to you too, Maureen. Damon Runyon wrote a Xmas story called Dancing Dan's Christmas that belongs on that list.

Anna W.

Hello, Maureen and Merry Christmas! Dave likes Runyon, I like Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost for an inclusion in your list.

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;

When blood is nipt and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tuwhoo! Tuwhit! Tuwhoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw;

When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tuwhoo! Tuwhit! Tuwhoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

from Anna

Maureen Lang

Thanks for commenting, Dave & Anna.

"Dancing Dan's Christmas" is a welcome addition to this holiday omnibus- I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the cadence of Runyon's coloratura prose until I read the first sentence.

As a teenager, I memorized reams of Shakespearean ditties, including your contribution from LLL, Anna. Did always wonder when reciting this one what made Joan so greasy...lack of opportunity for a proper bath, or hours standing at the kitchen fire "keeling" that pot?

Happy Christmas to you both.


Maureen, where do you find these stories? I read Master Skylark as a kid and had forgotten it in favor of Popular Mechanics. A great memory rereading it, thanks for the memories.

Maureen Lang


You're welcome.

Assuming your question wasn't rhetorical, many of the stories in both parts of the omnibus above are childhood favorites of mine also. "Christmas with Queen Bess" was in a series of 12 volumes called The Young Folks Shelf of Books that came with an encyclopedia set my parents bought in 1959. Other than reading some sonnets in one of Pat's text books he brought home from freshman year at VMI, I knew little of Shakespeare or his times, so the story was a revelation at age 9. Later found a copy of "Master Skylark" at a library book sale, read & re-read it until the binding cracked, eventually passed it on to my daughter.


a favorite -

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and
And running away, and wanting their
liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the
lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns
And the villages dirty and charging high
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears,
That this was all folly.


Maureen Lang


Thank you for your addition of Eliot's "Journey of the Magi" to this Yuletide list. Always was struck in particular by the final lines- the kings long since returned to their kingdoms, still working through the ramifications of the journey that so altered their lives.

Maureen Lang

Having included one of Louis May Alcott's Christmas stories in the omnibus, i would like to highly recommend watching tonight's (12/28/09) segment of "American Masters" on PBS. Should be an interesting show, particularly for those TA readers unfamiliar with Alcott's long stint as a pseudonymous writer of lurid pulp fiction:

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women


Thanks for the tv tip, Mom. Now I know why you gave me Little Women to read, adding fuel to that nascent feminism. When are you going to do another post about Hollywood history? Minta Durfee or meeting Gloria Swanson? Or Stage 28 at Universal?

Maureen Lang

I'm glad you liked the PBS show on Alcott, Nat. A much more complex woman than is generally known, to be sure.

As for more tales from Hollywood history, I'm planning to do a post soon on early Hollywood cinematography featuring Elgin Lessley, James Wong Howe, & several others.


I read most of the stories not sitting by the inglenook but in the Florida sun.

Happy New Year to you and your brother.

Charles I

Every year the CBC radio show As It Happens broadcasts a reading of Frederick Forsyth's novella "The Sheperd" read by one of their old stalwarts Alan Maitland.

Its an account of a post war RAF pilot ferrying a plane from Germany to England on Christmas eve who gets lost in the fog just as all his electrics go out. Nobody's home, on duty or sober to help him, but out of the fog comes a ghostly Sheperd to see him to his old old unused unlit RAF Base Minton. Where our man learns of course, from old photos that his guardian angel could only have been that, having perished in the war.

I'll try to find a link, its a great bit of audio. One of the few recurrent trite thing doesn't make me want to flee at this time of year.

Maureen Lang

Charles I,

Sounds like an audio worthy of a listen at Yuletide- please do post a link for it if you can locate one. I could incorporate the link into the Omnibus post. Might be nice to have some audio up there.

Of the stories above, the majority are, happily, not filled with holiday "treacle"- for someone fleeing from the triteness that can imbue this particular time of year I'd recommend the Bret Harte, Damon Runyon, Saki, & Capote stories. Happy Holidays to you & yours.

Maureen Lang

Charles l,

Ask & you shall receive (also posted link in the "New Athenaeum Post" comment thread on SST):

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