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Archive for the 'England' Category

January 25th, 2015 • Posted in Hull

Here is Philip Larkin´s Hull

Just finished reading Andrew Motion´s revealing biography of Philip Larkin. Here´s how Motion intros Larkin´s poem ´Here´:

´Sweeping like a camera in a heicopter over the ´widinening river´s slow presence´towards the ´surprise of a large town´, he lingers over the clutter of civic detail before veering on again to the country between Hull and the coast, where he plunges into the solitude of one of the least visited, least known-about places in England. If Larkin wrote anything which gave the lie to his statement (made before leaving Belfast, in ´Places, Loved Ones´) that Í have never found/The place where I could say/This is my proper ground/Here I shall stay´, ´Here´is it:


by Philip Larkin

Swerving east, from rich industrial shadows
And traffic all night north; swerving through fields
Too thin and thistled to be called meadows,
And now and then a harsh-named halt, that shields
Workmen at dawn; swerving to solitude
Of skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants,
And the widening river’s slow presence,
The piled gold clouds, the shining gull-marked mud,

Gathers to the surprise of a large town:
Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster
Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water,
And residents from raw estates, brought down
The dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys,
Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires -
Cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, iced lollies,
Electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers –

A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwelling
Where only salesmen and relations come
Within a terminate and fishy-smelling
Pastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum,
Tattoo-shops, consulates, grim head-scarfed wives;
And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges
Fast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges,
Isolate villages, where removed lives

Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
And past the poppies bluish neutral distance
Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach
Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.

Larkin, Philip. Collected Poems. 1988

Here´s a visual adaptation of the poem


September 9th, 2014 • Posted in England

Following Tom Jones

Here’s William Hazlitt on Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones:

Fielding has “brought together a greater variety of characters in common life, marked with more distinct peculiarities and without an atom of caricature than any other novel writer whatever. The extreme subtlety of observation on the springs of human conduct in ordinary characters, is only equalled by the ingenuity of contrivance in bringing those springs into play, in such a manner as to lay open their smallest irregularity. The detection is always complete, and made with the certainty and skill of a philosophical experiment, and the obviousness and familiarity of a casual observation. The truth of the imitation is indeed so great, that it has been argued that Fielding must have had his materials ready-made to his hands, and was merely a transcriber of local manners and individual habits. For this conjecture there is no foundation. His representations, it is true, are local and individual; but they are not the less profound and conclusive. The feeling of the general principles of human nature, operating in particular circumstances, is always intense, and uppermost in his mind; and he makes use of incident and situation only to bring out character…

The moral of this book has been objected to without much reason; but a more serious objection has been made to the want of refinement and elegance in two principal characters We never feel this objection, indeed while we are reading the book: but at other times, we have something like a lurking suspicion that Jones was but an awkward fellow, and Sophia a pretty simpleton. I do not know how to account for this effect, unless it is that Fielding’s constantly assuring us of the beauty of his hero, and the good sense of his heroine, at last produces a distrust of both. The story of ‘Tom Jones’ is allowed to be unrivalled: and it is this circumstance, together with the vast variety of characters that has given the ‘History of a Foundling’ so decided a preference over Fielding’s other novels.”

And what you may ask, does this have to do with literary tourism? Nothing really, other than giving me the opportunity 1) to quote one of my favourite critics, 2) provide you with this great link, should you ever decide to read the book and trace Tom’s steps in real life; and 3) to post one of the best scenes from the wonderful 1963 film adaptation of the novel.

October 13th, 2013 • Posted in England

National Trust’s Best Places to Read

 Here’s the National Trust’s pick of some of the best places to read across England, Wales and Northern Ireland…

1. Gibside, Newcastle upon Tyne

If you believe reading is best enjoyed with a good view and plenty of tea and cake to hand, then Gibside’s 400 acre ‘forest garden’ could be just the place for you. Designed in the 18th century, Gibside combines woodland and open spaces with atmospheric buildings, making it the ideal place…

2. Boscastle, North Cornwall

It’s not hard to see how the landscape surrounding Boscastle provided inspiration for one of Thomas Hardy’s early books, ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’…

3. Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire

With broad lawns and spectacular views over parkland, the garden at Kedleston is full of fascinating ornaments and buildings; the perfect distraction should you encounter difficult chapters…

4. Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire

Settle yourself on a bench and take a moment to savour the views over Stroud and the Severn Vale before absorbing yourself in your favourite book…

5. Lyme Park, Cheshire

A must for Austen fans, Lyme played a starring role as Jane Austen’s ‘Pemberley’ in the BBC’s adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’…

6. Stourhead, Wiltshire

Celebrated for its beauty across the world, Stourhead near Bath is a haven of tranquillity. Hidden away in a secluded valley the 18th-century landscape garden is the perfect location…

7. Buttermere in the Lake District

Alfred Wainwright, the well-known author of the ‘Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells’, made this area famous with his hand-written and hand-drawn guides to the Lakes…

8. The Quantocks, Somerset

The Quantock Hills were loved by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth in the late 18th century and provided inspiration for the first edition of their revolutionary ‘Lyrical Ballads’…

January 22nd, 2013 • Posted in England

Literary Travel: Some great British literary walking tours

Jane Austen’s house in Chawton.

Hampshire County with its rolling hills, rich agricultural vistas, wooded landscapes, and picturesque villages has over the centuries inspired all sorts of great British authors.  Austen, Dickens, Trollope, Keats and Conan Doyle, among many others, were enamored with the place. Today you can follow in their footsteps along a series of self-guided walks, including:

November 29th, 2012 • Posted in England, Norwich

Why spend Valentine’s 2013 in Norwich England

Victorian Valentine’s Card – The Bridewell Museum. Image: Norfolk County Council

The Bridewell Museum, now newly vibrant, light, airy and inviting with its beautifully restored courtyard and stunning galleries, will be open for the first time in three years for Valentine’s in 2013, making it and the city of Norwich a great romantic destination for all literary lovers.

As it happens, St Valentine’s Eve was an exciting thrilling Victorian tradition particular to Norwich ( England’s first UNESCO City of Literature). Visitors to the city were often surprised to find local shop windows crammed with gifts in early February.  Norwich had its own special celebrations, its ‘one brilliant institution’ on 13th February, St. Valentine’s Eve.  For weeks beforehand newspapers were full of advertisements for ‘Useful and Ornamental Articles Suitable for the Season’ available from local retailers.

Shops took on extra staff and London Street bustled with people making secret purchases.  Clocks, umbrellas and workboxes, vases, tea caddies and albums, shawls, jigsaw puzzles and writing desks were all bought as Valentine gifts.  Just as at Christmas time, young and old were included in the festivities.

As soon as it got dark, people began knocking on doors and leaving presents on doorsteps.  Gifts were presented anonymously, labelled only ‘Good Morrow Valentine’.  Practical jokers rang doorbells and ran off, or left mock parcels which were whisked away by invisible strings when someone tried to pick them up.  Indoors there were excited shrieks, flushed faces and much laughter as parcels were examined for clues to the giver’s identity.  Valentine’s Eve really was ‘a glorious time in Norwich.’

As Hannah Henderson, Curator of Community History at The Bridewell puts it “We are delighted to offer the unique story of St Valentine’s Eve here at the museum, both for new visitors to Norwich and its residents. The beautiful displayed cards are works of art and it is rare to get a glimpse into the celebration of Valentine’s at a time when it was a little more sincere and tasteful.

To help spread the love, The Bridewell will be offer St Valentine’s Eve themed children’s activities during February half term, shops in the Norwich Lanes and The Norwich Cathedral Quarter will decorate their windows and the ever popular 2nd Air Division Memorial Library located at The Forum will offer an exhibition of photographs, letters and other documents from their archive relating to the war time romantic relationships between Norfolk residents and American Air Force personnel during WW2.” The library also wants to hear from visitors about their wartime romantic memories of the American GIs in Norfolk.

Speaking of The Bridwell, Nick Bond, Head of Tourism at VisitNorwich encouraged visitors to the region to check out it’s treasure trove of collections and stories about Norwich and to learn about the city’s fascinating people and past. “We always recommend a trip to The Bridewell to really get to know what we are all about!”

Watch for details on upcoming St. Valentine’s Eve special accommodation offers, themed menus, events and activities scheduled for 1 – 24 February 2013 here