Books Mentioned in The Secret History by Donna Tartt

In my first article on The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I mentioned how the book not only cultivates a love of learning, but is also full of intertextuality; in other words, mentions of other books and authors. 
Some of my favourite books are in fact ‘books about books’ – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Goldfinch, The Silver Linings Playbookand I thought it could be interesting to explore the books mentioned in a bit more detail. 

“When I could no longer concentrate on Greek and the alphabet began to transmute itself into incoherent triangles and pitchforks, I read The Great Gatsby. It is one of my favourite books and I had taken it out of the library in hopes that it would cheer me up; of course, it only made me feel worse, since in my own humorless state I failed to see anything except what I construed as certain tragic similarities between Gatsby and myself.”

– Richard on insomnia and The Great Gatsby


Books Mentioned in The Secret History

  • Poetics by Aristotle
  • Agamemnon by Aeschylus
  • Inferno by Dante
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • The Bacchae by Euripedes
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
  • The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • The Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (alongside other mentions of Sherlock Holmes)
  • Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante
  • The Greeks and the Irrational by E.R. Dodds
  • The Republic by Plato
  • The Aeneid by Virgil
  • The Superman comic
  • The Upanishads
  • “With Rue My Heart is Laden” by A.E. Housman
  • “Lycidas” by John Milton
  • “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Lord Alfred Tennyson
  • “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
  • The New Testament
  • Anthony Janson’s History of Art
  • “Why so pale and wan fond lover?” by Sir John Suckling
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson
  • The Revenger’s Tragedy by Cyril Tourneur (now attributed to Thomas Middleton)
  • Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  • Terence – Andria (“Hinc illae lacrimae, hence those tears)
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

“It was I killed the old pawnbroker woman and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them.”

– A random quotation from Crime and Punishment, without citation, in The Secret History


Other Authors Mentioned

John Donne
John Ford
Marcel Proust
Christopher Marlowe
George Orwell
P.G. Wodehouse 
Philip K. Dick
Raymond Chandler
Charles Dickens
Leo Tolstoy

“He was pleased, however obscurely, with the aesthetics of the thing…”Like something from Tolstoy, isn’t it?” he remarked.”

– Henry making a strange, perhaps not entirely accurate, comparison to Tolstoy

Have you read and enjoyed The Secret History by Donna Tartt? Alternatively, what other ‘books about books’ are favourites of yours?


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