September is here, and I am all behind-hand with everything, and my posts have been a little erratic – but the past few weeks seem to have been a permanent holiday, and we have had a wonderful time. First we took a trip to Cumbria, where I did lots of reading, but internet connections were virtually non-existent, so blogging was difficult. Then my mother came to stay, which was lovely, and then we went down to Devon to visit our elder daughter, and my laptop ceased to function at all. The Man Of The House got it up and running again once we were back home, and it operated, in somewhat idiosyncratic fashion, for a couple of days before deciding enough was enough. And, since it will not respond to instructions (you can turn it on, but that’s as far as it goes) I cannot use it or access anything on it, including my notes on the books I’ve read!
It was actually my younger daughter’s old computer, which I have been using because the monitor on my own machine is broken, it overheats, half the keys don’t work properly unless you hit them again and again and again, and it is v-e-r-y-v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w... So now I have two laptops, neither of which is any good. Anyway, in a bid to restore something resembling normal service, I am struggling to use the one with the broken monitor, but I am so cross about modern technology I can’t think straight, so this post is a bit of a mish-mash.
Visiting places always sets me thinking about the history, the people who lived there, and any literary connections there may be. Devon was easy: EM Delafield, author of the incomparable Provincial Lady, and Joyce Dennys, who wrote the equally funny ‘Henrietta’s War’, both lived in the county (Kentisbeare and Buddleigh Salterton), and I’m hoping to go to both places on a future trip.
|Agatha Christie lived in Devon, and set |
some of her novels there.
Poet Ted Hughes (another of my favourites) hailed from Yorkshire, but lived in the Devon for many years, and the landscape inspired much of his work. And, of course, at the other end of the county is Exmoor, and the Valley of the Rocks, immortalised by RD Blackmoor in ‘Lorna Doone’, which is a fantastic read, and if you haven’t read it, you should.
‘Westward Ho!’, another tale of romance and adventure, was so popular that a village in Devon was named after it, complete with apostrophe! I just downloaded this from Project Gutenburg, for my Kindle, and realised that Charles Kingsley also wrote ‘Hereward, the Last of the English’, which I read and loved as a child, so I downloaded that too.
Finding literary connections with Cumbria sounds simple – after all, there are the Lakes, with Beatrix Potter (her home is a delight, and you can see the dolls’ house featured in Two Bad Mice) and Wordsworth (we once went to Dove Cottage, which was much smaller than I expected). Wordsworth’s friend and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (whose work I’ve always preferred) lived at Keswick for a time. Later on in the 19th century, John Ruskin - whose wife Effie ran off with Millais, the pre-Raphaelite painter - lived at Brantwood, overlooking Coniston Water, and there’s an interesting little museum about him in Coniston village. Coniston and Windermere feature in Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s stories, while Arthur Wainwright’s Guides are a joy to read, even if you are not a serious walker.
Melvyn Bragg, Broadcaster, journalist and novelist Melvyn Bragg born in Carlisle, set many of his novels in and around the Lake District. Much as I always enjoy his radio programmes, I have tried and failed to read his novels and never got beyond the first few pages.
|The end paper in Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows and Amazons'|
shows the landscape he created, based on the Lake District.
Wildcat Islan is really Peel Island, in Coniston Water.
|An illustration from The Tale of Two Bad Mice,|
showing Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca inside
he dolls' house. We once saw the original huse
inside High Top, Beatrix Potter's former home.
So there we are, a quick literary tour. I am sure there are there are authors and books I have forgotten to mention with connections to Devon or Cumbria, so if you think of something I should read, please add a comment!