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Entering the world of books

Stephen Mangan & Helen Monks explore attitudes to reading from Roald Dahl's Matilda to Flaubert's Madame Bovary, with music including the Beatles,Haydn and Thomas Adès.

Stephen Mangan & Helen Monks explore attitudes to reading from Roald Dahl's Matilda to Flaubert's Madame Bovary to “The Reading of Young Ladies” (from the American Magazine of Useful Knowledge, December 1836) “Every-one must rejoice that the education of females is considered more important than formerly … But….too much time is spent on novels, few of which are calculated to instruct or to improve”. As part of the BBC's year-long focus on literature, Words and Music takes you into the world of books.

The birth of the novel in the early 18th century and their growing popularity with female readers lead to many a male moralist worrying about what these romantic literary adventures were doing to women's expectations. Some of Emma's struggles with marriage in Flaubert's Madame Bovary are traced back to the books she reads and Jane Austen satirised the prim James Fordyce, whose Sermons for Young Women we'll hear from. Fordyce warns about books which commit: 'rank treason against the royalty of Virtue'. There's also a passage from Jilly Cooper's Riders.

Musically we'll journey from Haydn at the fortepiano, a combination Jane Austen would likely have been familiar with, to Thomas Adès' haunting take on Shakespeare's The Tempest and Dire Straits' tribute to a Lady Writer. There's also hymns to reading and writers by the 16th century composer Robert Jones and The Beatles.

'I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books' said Dylan Thomas in his Notes on the Art of Poetry.

Producer Georgia Mann

19 days left to listen

1 hour, 14 minutes

Last on

Sun 1 Dec 2019 17:30

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    Philip Glass

    Etude No.14 for piano

    Performer: Víkingur Ólafsson.
    • DG 479 6918.
  • Emily Dickinson

    There is no Frigate like a Book, read by Helen Monks

  • Roald Dahl

    Extract from Matilda read by Stephen Mangan

  • 00:01

    Philip Glass

    Etude no.14

    Performer: Víkingur Ólafsson.
  • 00:03

    Lorenz Hart

    I could Write a Book

    Performer: Dinah Washington (vocals), Clark Terry, (trumpet), Paul Quinichette (tenor saxophone), Cecil Payne (baritone saxophone), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Barry Galbraith (guitar), Keter Betts (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums).
    • EmArcy Records, 7717622.
  • 00:05

    Richard Rodgers

    I could write a book

    Performer: Dinah Washington. Ensemble: Ensemble.
  • Mimi Khalvati

    Extract from Childhood Books, read by Helen Monks

  • 00:08

    Debussy arr. Bella Fleck

    Dr Gradus ad Parnassum [from Children's Corner], arr. for banjo, cello & violin

    Performer: Bella Fleck (banj), Gary Hoffman (cello), Joshua Bell (violin).
    • SONY, SK89610.
  • 00:10

    Claude Debussy

    Dr Gradus ad Parnassum (Children's Corner)

    Performer: Béla Fleck. Performer: Gary Hoffman. Performer: Joshua Bell. Music Arranger: Béla Fleck.
  • 00:11

    Charles Mingus

    Boogie, Stop, Shuffle

    Performer: John Handy (a lot saxophone), Shafi Hadi (alto saxophone), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Willie Dennis (trombone), Horace Parlan (piano), Dannie Richmond (drums), Charles Mingus (double bass).
    • COLUMBIA, CK 65512.
  • C.K Williams

    Extract from Prose, read by Stephen Mangan

  • 00:12

    Charles Mingus

    Boogie, Stop, Shuffle

    Ensemble: Charles Mingus Band.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson

    The Land of Story-books, read by Helen Monks

  • 00:14


    Toy soldier's march arr. for trumpet and piano [orig. for violin and piano]

    Performer: Tine Thing Helseth (trumpet), Kathryn Stott (piano).
    • EMI, 416471 2.
  • James Fordyce

    Sermons to Young Women, extract From Sermon IV: On Female Virtue, read by Stephen Mangan

  • 00:16

    Fritz Kreisler

    Toy Soldier's March

    Performer: Tine Thing Helseth. Performer: Kathryn Stott.
  • 00:17

    Tom Waits

    Christmas Card from a Hooker in Menneapolis

    Performer: Tom Waits.
    • Asylum Records, P-10604Y.
  • 00:19

    Tom Waits

    Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

    Performer: Tom Waits.
  • 00:22


    Fantaisie for flute and orchestra (Op.79) orch. Albert

    Performer: Edward Beckett (flute), London Festival Orchestra, Ross Pople (conductor).
    • BLACKBOX, BBM1049.
  • Flaubert

    Extract from Madame Bovary, read by Helen Monks

  • 00:23

    Gabriel Fauré

    Fantaisie, Op.79

    Performer: Edward Beckett. Orchestra: London Festival Orchestra. Conductor: Ross Pople.
  • 00:26

    Robert Jones

    When I sit reading [1609]

    Performer: Emma Kirkby (soprano), Anthoiny Rooley (lute).
    • VIRGIN, VC7 91212-2.
  • 00:28

    Robert Jones

    When I sit reading

    Performer: Anthony Rooley. Singer: Emma Kirkby.
  • 00:30

    Joseph Haydn

    Sonata for piano (H.16.24) in D major, 1st movement; Allegro

    Performer: Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano).
    • BIS, BISCD1163.
  • Jane Austen

    Extract from Pride and Prejudice, read by Stephen Mangan

  • 00:32

    Joseph Haydn

    Piano Sonata in D major, H.16.24 (1st mvt: Allegro)

    Performer: Ronald Brautigam.
  • George Eliot

    Extract from Silly Novels by Silly Lady Novelists, read by Helen Monks

  • 00:38

    Dire Straits

    Lady Writer

    Performer: Dire Straits.
    • Vertigo Records, 6360170.
  • 00:40

    Dire Straits

    Lady Writer

    Ensemble: Dire Straits.
  • 00:42

    Leroy Anderson

    The Typewriter for orchestra and typewriter

    Performer: BBC Concert Orchestra, Alasdair Malloy, Leonard Slatkin (conductor).
    • NAXOS, 8559357.
  • Jilly Cooper

    Extract from Riders, read by Stephen Mangan

  • 00:44

    Leroy Anderson

    The Typewriter

    Performer: Alasdair Malloy. Orchestra: BBC Concert Orchestra. Conductor: Leonard Slatkin.
  • 00:45

    The Beatles

    Paperback Writer

    Performer: The Beatles.
    • Parlophone, PCS 7016.
  • 00:47

    Lennon & McCartney

    Paperback Writer

    Ensemble: The Beatles.
  • 00:47


    The Tempest: Prelude, Op.109,No.1

    Performer: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi (conductor).
    • BIS, BIS-CD-448.
  • Shakespeare

    Extract from The Tempest, read by Stephen Mangan

  • 00:49

    Thomas Adès

    Miranda You are my Care from The Tempest

    Performer: Simon Keenlyside (baritone), The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Thomas Ades (conductor).
    • EMI, 6952342.
  • 00:49

    Jean Sibelius

    Prelude: The Tempest, Op.109 no.1

    Orchestra: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Neeme Järvi.
  • 00:51

    Thomas Adès

    Miranda, you are my care (The Tempest)

    Singer: Simon Keenlyside. Orchestra: Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Conductor: Thomas Adès.
  • 00:52


    Trio sonata for 2 violins and continuo no. 4 in B flat major; 1st mvt; Andante

    Performer: Aura Musicale, Balazs Mate (director).
    • Hungaroton Classic, HCD32158.
  • Author Unknown

    Extract from “Devouring Books,” from the American Annals of Education, January 1835, read by Helen Monks

  • 00:54

    Christoph Willibald Gluck

    Trio Sonata no.4 in B flat major (1st mvt: Andante)

    Ensemble: Aura Musicale.
  • Robert William Service

    Extract from Bookshelf, read by Stephen Mangan

  • 00:56


    6 Songs from 'A Shropshire lad'..., no.6; Is my team ploughing?

    Performer: Roderick Williams (baritone), Iain Burnside (piano).
    • NAXOS, 8572426.
  • 00:58

    George Butterworth

    Is my team ploughing? (A Shropshire Lad)

    Performer: Iain Burnside. Singer: Roderick Williams.
  • Andrea Levy

    Extract from The Long Song, read by Stephen Mangan

  • 01:00

    Traditional, arr. Moses Hogan

    Wade in the Water

    Performer: Derek Lee Ragin (countertenor), Bridget Bazile (vocals), Moses Hogan (piano), Moses Hogan Singers.
    • ERATO, 3633052.
  • 01:02


    Wade in the Water

    Performer: Moses Hogan Chorale. Singer: Derek Lee Ragin.
  • 01:03

    John Dowland

    La Mia Barbara

    Performer: Paul O’Dette.
    • Harmonia Mundi, HMU907515.
  • Katie Ward

    Extract from Girl Reading, read by Helen Monks

  • 01:04

    Ildebrando Pizzetti

    De Profundis

    Performer: East Carolina University Chamber Singers, Daniel Bara (conductor).
    • GOTHIC, G49272.
  • 01:05

    John Dowland

    La Mia Barbara

    Performer: Paul O’Dette.
  • 01:06

    Ildebrando Pizzetti

    De Profundis

    Choir: East Carolina University Chamber Singers. Conductor: Daniel Bara.
  • 01:10

    David Lang

    Light Moving

    Performer: Hilary Hahn (violin), Cory Smythe (piano).
    • DG, 4791725.
  • Dylan Thomas

    Extract from Notes on the Art of Poetry, read by Helen Monks

  • 01:12

    David Lang

    Light Moving

    Performer: Hilary Hahn. Performer: Cory Smythe.


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