Speed Reads

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The British Library puts treasure trove of 20th century literature online for your browsing pleasure

If you want to read Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway or George Orwell's Animal Farm, you can head down to your local public library. If you want to read Woolf's original draft manuscript and notes, or a letter from T.S. Eliot explaining why he wouldn't publish Animal Farm, the British Library just made your day. The UK's national library just posted more than 300 treasures of 20th century English literature online for the world to peruse, plus articles exploring "the extraordinary innovation demonstrated by key writers of the 20th century," according to digital programs manager Anna Lobbenberg.

"Until now these treasures could only be viewed in the British Library Reading Rooms or on display in exhibitions," Lobbenberg said. Now, anyone with an internet connection can learn more about, and read source material from, writers like Woolf, Orwell, Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, James Joyce, Angela Carter, J G. Ballard, and other "rebels and risk-takers" who "were determined to find new forms to reflect the fast changing world around them." It's a rabbit hole that literature and culture lovers could easily get lost in for a weekend or longer, and then you can dive into the British Library's digital Discovering Literature collections on Shakespeare, the Victorian Era, and the Romantics. If that sounds too intimidating, here's a short master class on Orwell's 1949 dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, from the British Library and John Bowen, a professor at the University of York. Peter Weber