Filed under British literature

Art and History Uniting Communities

Art and History Uniting Communities

In the midst of despair at the divisiveness and hostility between many Britons, I offer some thoughts from our Georgian past. This is one of my favourite quotes, so apologies to anyone who has read it before. It comes from Highways & Byways in Somerset by Edward Hutton, on the importance of the city of … Continue reading

Food and Language

Food and Language

Indian food has become hugely popular in Britain, but it was not always so. when the first immigrants from the huge sub-continent arrived, their food was too spicy for local palates. Here’s a great story from Stuart Maconie on how he discovered this cuisine, from his book Pies and Prejudice, In Search of the North: … Continue reading

Messing with Hogarth

The Royal Society for Public Health has commissioned an update of Hogarth’s famous cartoon ‘Gin Lane’ to publicise the problems of public health. This is from the I paper: Hogarth’s satirical cartoon, published in 1751, blamed excessive consumption of gin for child neglect, disease, prostitution and debauchery. Thomas Moore’s Gin Lane 2016, commissioned by the … Continue reading

Harvest Home, Monmouthshire, 1796

This is from a wonderful book I’ve just discovered, The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797 account of a single year written by Anne Hughes who lived in the remote countryside near Chepstow, Monmouthshire. It’s wonderful as it is written in her dialect, which is sending my spellchecker into meltdown, but you can hear the speech … Continue reading

Strawberry Hill House

Strawberry Hill House

This country house at Twickenham is often mentioned in literature of 18th century England, but I thought it had been lost long ago. Incredibly, it has been rescued and is now open to the public. This gem was built by Horace Walpole, youngest son of Britain’s first Prime Minister. It was the first modern gothic … Continue reading

Offa’s Dyke

This is a wall – or monument, barrier, that is generally believed to have been built by the Mercian king Offa to separate Wales from England, and that, like Hadrian’s Wall, to have run from sea to sea. But the story is far less clear or straightforward. This is from an article by Chris Catling … Continue reading

Turkish Archery in London

This is from Sports and Pastimes of England, with a rare personal anecdote on a sport which had apparently all but died out by then: I remember about 4 or 5 years back [ie since 1800] at a meeting of the society of archers, in their ground near Bedford Square, the Turkish ambassador paid them … Continue reading

Fairy Travel

This is another piece from Hobgoblin & Sweet Puck Fairy Names & Natures by Gillian Edwards. It seems to explain the origin of riding a broomstick. The fairies did occasionally ride horses, either their own or those they stole from mortals, or make themselves mounts out of straws from the fields, but chiefly as a pastime … Continue reading

Animals, Cinema & Supernatural

Animals, Cinema & Supernatural

This is an intriguing piece from  Why Look at Animals by the brilliant art historian, John Berger. HIs mention of the supernatural seems out of character, but he writes a lot about crossing boundaries in art, which gives him an edge on most of us. We live our daily lives in a constant exchange with the … Continue reading

Naming Supernatural Beasts

This is a fine selection of strange beasts, from 1584. How many names can you recognise? Odd they are called ‘bugs’. This is from Hobgoblin & Sweet Puck Fairy Names & Natures by Gillian Edwards Our mother’s maids have so frayed us with Bull-beggars, Spirits, Witches, Urchins, Elves, Hags, Faeries, Satyrs, Pans, Faunes, Sylens, Kit-wi-the-Canstick, Tritons, … Continue reading