Now that the New York Times has brought it up, BBC Four has a designated place for author audio. You can find Kingsley Amis, Agatha Christie, Robert Graves, Vladimir Nabakov, George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf. (And, yes, Woolf does sound like a schoolmarm.)
And here’s China Miéville, offering a reading, an interview, and the correct pronunciation of his name.
The New York Times (user: dr_mabuse, pw: mabse): “When A. A. Milne reads from ‘Winnie-the-Pooh,’ his creations sound like Victorian gents ? soothing, paternal Victorian gents reading a bedtime story, it’s true, but rather Victorian nonetheless…..Virginia Woolf is startling for a different reason. The voice that is so graceful and elegant on the page sounds deep and distressingly like that of an effete schoolmarm…..Arthur Conan Doyle is as crisp and straightforward as you’d expect Sherlock Holmes’s creator to be, explaining how he decided to write a story in which, he says, ‘science would take the place of chance.’….And although there is a crackling sound behind the 1890 recording of Tennyson reading ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade,’ it captures how well his sonorous reading suits the heroic attitude of the poem.”
Incredibly, you can listen to a few samples of these recordings online. Doyle is, yes indeedy, beautifully crisp with a charming Scottish lilt. Florence Nightingale, who was recorded at age 70, is edgy and feisty, offering us a hint of the grand reformer she was early in life. And Edith Sitwell reads William Walton’s “Man from a far countree” along with an orchestra, but she doesn’t seem to know whether she should sing or read. And Edgar Wallace, who was the UK king of the mysteries during the 1920s, is more formal than you might expect for a man describing horrific behavior.