Embarrassingly, this post has been a work in progress for a couple of years now. Usurped by one of my favorite posts, which features dead-and-gone writers captured moving on film, it's been on the back burner far too long. Today, it finally gets its place in the sun. (Or "polar vortex," if you're like me and living with wind chills between -40 and -60 degrees Fahrenheit this week.)
This is the only surviving recording of Woolf's voice and is from a 1937 BBC radio program entitled "Craftsmanship."
IAN FLEMING INTERVIEWS RAYMOND CHANDLER
Save this for when you've got a minute — it's a four-part interview between Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler, and it's an absolute gem. (No video, sadly — just dialogue.) No one knows a writer like another writer, and fact that both seem a bit sozzled only makes it better. Skip to 5:45 to pass over the introduction and get straight to the action. Fleming speaks first.
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON
Incredibly, this recording of the poet reading his epic poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" dates back to 1854. Taken via wax cylinder, the recording has some distortions, so I recommend reading along as you listen.
Also captured via wax cylinder, this recording of Whitman reciting four lines of his poem "America" was taken in 1889 or 1890, but its authenticity is still doubted by some experts. You can read more about the discovery and debate here.
J. M. BARRIE
In this short clip, the Peter Pan author speaks at the 1931 unveiling of a statue of friend and fellow literary great Thomas Hardy.
E. M. FORSTER
"I am quite sure I am not a great novelist." Sir, you may be the only one.
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
The Great Gatsby writer reads an excerpt from Othello.
C. S. LEWIS
Alas, as with Woolf, this is the sole surviving recording of Lewis's voice. It's taken from a 1944 BBC radio broadcast.
T. S. ELIOT
The poet reads "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."
J. R. R. TOLKEIN
Finally, and perhaps most timely, Tolkein reads from The Hobbit.