Neil Rathmell – writer

100+ essays on literary topics

Aimez-vous Tremblay?

Among the many things monolingual Britain is unable to appreciate is the work of one of Canada’s best playwrights. Unlike the Canadian writers whose work we do know, Michel Tremblay … Continue reading

July 20, 2016 · Leave a comment

Was Shakespeare a Catholic?

Whether Shakespeare was a Catholic is and will always be a moot point. The only thing we can say with any certainty is that his grandfather was. The only way … Continue reading

July 6, 2016 · Leave a comment

We just don’t say that sort of thing

Philip Hensher begins his introduction to the Penguin Book of the British Short Story with the assertion that ‘the British short story is probably the richest, most varied and most … Continue reading

June 22, 2016 · Leave a comment

A short story by Giovanni Verga

A young Sicilian woman called Nedda declares, at the end of a short story by Giovanni Verga, that it is better to be dead than alive and thanks the Holy … Continue reading

June 8, 2016 · 2 Comments


By coincidence, I finished reading Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel, Soumission, just a few days before Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, was elected Mayor of London. In the novel, another Muslim, Mohammed … Continue reading

May 25, 2016 · Leave a comment

Tottel’s Miscellany

In 1557 Richard Tottel published the first anthology of English verse, the forerunner of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury and the Penguin Book of English verse. Tottel’s book, which came to be … Continue reading

May 11, 2016 · Leave a comment

The literary case for Britain to stay in the EU

There is nothing in the founding documents of the European Union about ever closer literary union. But if there were, even if that were the only kind of union proposed, … Continue reading

April 27, 2016 · 3 Comments

Based on a story by…

If Shakespeare were alive now he would have been obliged to advertise his new play as being based on a story by Robert Greene. He would also have needed Greene’s … Continue reading

April 13, 2016 · Leave a comment

Listening to Samuel Beckett

All That Fall was the first of the six short plays that Samuel Beckett wrote for radio. It was commissioned by the BBC and was first broadcast on the Third … Continue reading

March 30, 2016 · Leave a comment

How Walt Whitman invented the movies

The model for Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself is Solomon’s Song of Songs. 1 I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. 2 As the lily … Continue reading

March 16, 2016 · 1 Comment