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The Reader, by Alexander Ver Huell, c. 1880

About Us

The Ex-Classics project was founded in 2000 to fill an unmet need.  When reading the blurb etc. to a book by Charles Dickens or Charlotte Bronte, say, we would often come across sentences like "Favourite reading included . . ."  If  it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us. So off we go to the library or bookshop, to be met first with blank stares and then with the information that the book has been out of print for decades. Our first two books were Gil Blas and Hudibras, which are prime examples of this This web site is dedicated to rescuing these works from obscurity and making them available online, both for reading directly, and for downloading.

Book of the Month -- September 2021

 Knocknagow, by Charles Kickham 

Mat the Thresher's cottage

Knocknagow was published in 1879, and rapidly became the most popular of all Irish novels. With its cast of exploited tenants and labourers, it attacks the evils of the landlord system in Ireland, and indirectly the English rule which supported that system. Kickham himself was a leading nationalist, and was imprisoned for his opinions.

For many years Knocknagow was the book - along with a prayerbook and Old Moore's Almanac -- most likely to be found in any Irish home. Most Irish writers born between 1870 and 1950 would have read it as children. Yeats described it as "The most honest of Irish novels" and Con Houlihan as "The greatest Irish novel." It is one of the very few 19th-Century Irish novels which was written by one of the ordinary people. Almost all the other writers who dealt with the rural poor were either of the landlord class themselves (Lady Gregory, J.M. Synge, Somerville and Ross, Emily Lawless, Maria Edgeworth) or urban Protestant middle-class (George A. Birmingham, Charles Lever, Dion Boucicault, Samuel Lover). However sympathetic and well-writen their accounts, they were written from the outside looking in. Knockangow was written from the inside.

 

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