Filed under literature

Origin of Vampires

Origin of Vampires

Here’s a story that justifies reading outside a person’s normal area of interest. Tschiffley’s Ride is one of the great travel adventures, the sort of journey only Werner Herzog would contemplate filming. Please. Aime Tsciffley, a Swiss former teacher, footballer and boxer moved to Buenos Aires in 1920. In 1925 he set of in the … Continue reading

The Man Who Stood on the Shoulders of Giants

The Man Who Stood on the Shoulders of Giants

Roger Bacon (born 1214) is generally considered to be the father of modern science. He wrote f the values of book and experience. This is from Jean Gimpel’s  The Medieval Machine.  There are two modes of acquiring knowledge – namely by reasoning and experience. Reasoning draws a conclusion and makes us grant the conclusion but does … Continue reading

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

How Old and Ugly Were Witches?

I have always worried at the bad images we have of witches, especially those who were punished for their ‘crimes’. The image of an ugly, isolated old woman just doesn’t seem to fit many of the cases, in particular the famous Pendle witches. The old hags seem more cartoon characters. Many pamphlets and ballads were … Continue reading

A Life Discarded by Alexander Masters

This is a book that sounded intriguing – the tagline was ‘148 Diaries Found in a Skip’. Literary giant Margaret Drabble and historian Kate Sumerscale provided high praise, but I struggled to finish it. Masters discovered the mouldy and tattered diaries in 2001, full of dense handwriting and occasional drawings which began in 1952 and … Continue reading

Anne Seymour  Damer

Anne Seymour  Damer

Anne Seymour Conway was born in 1748 to a respected Whig family; her father was nephew to Robert Walpole. She married young, to the future Earl of Dorchester, but they were il matched: she was sociable and loved society, while her husband was grave, but loved spending money whilst disastrously managing it. After 7 years … Continue reading

Jack London’s London Journey Begins

Against all the advice of his friends and the authorities, Jack London purchases some dirty, frayed, working man’s clothes and sets forth on his journey, with some money seemed inside his singlet in case of emergency. He bids farewell to his friends and : No sooner was I out on the streets than I was … Continue reading

Jack London on London’s Poor

The horrors of life for the poor in London are so well documented by Charles Dickens that his surname has become synonymous with them. Together with the exhortations for change by The Times, and the work of social reformers, the Salvation Army and others, I thought things would have improved. I knew that many men … 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

A Woman Not to be Messed With

Our female ancestors are often seen as oppressed and controlled by men, but I defy anyone to try to steer this woman. This is from Addison, in his Spectator magazine, 1711: I have, very frequently the opportunity of seeing a rural Andromache, [he seems to be referring to the Amazon leader rather than Hector’s wife] … Continue reading