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The Wainwright Letters Hardcover – 6 Oct 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln; First Edition edition (6 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711231338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711231337
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.7 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Blackburn in 1907, Alfred Wainwright left school at the age of 13. A holiday at the age of 23 kindled a life-long love affair with the Lake District. Following a move to Kendal in 1941 he began to devote every spare moment he had to researching and compiling the original seven Pictorial Guides. He described these as his 'love letters' to the Lakeland Fells and at the end of the first, The Eastern Fells, he wrote about what the mountains had come to mean to him:
"I suppose it might be said, to add impressiveness to the whole thing, that this book has been twenty years in the making, for it is so long, and more, since I first came from a smoky mill-town (forgive me, Blackburn!) and beheld, from Orrest Head, a scene of great beauty, a fascinating paradise, Lakeland's mountains and trees and water. That was the first time I had looked upon beauty, or imagined it, even."
A. Wainwright died in 1991 at the age of 84.

Product Description

Review

An ideal gift for Wainwright fans. (Grange Now!)

Always well-informed, sometimes innocent, often moving and yet tough-minded, the letters present a vivid picture of one of Cumbria's creative geniuses. (Carlisle News & Star)

Enhance our picture of a man who guarded his privacy so closely that he never even used his first name in print. (Daily Mail)

This book is a delight; there is so much of interest if you love the Lake District, but also if you are interested in the struggle of the creative process and also the complexity of human relationships. (Lakeland Walker)

Hunter Davies's editing of these letters has been masterfully reticent - just enough information and support to shape a very special human story that seems to tell itself. The Wainwright Letters offer us the multi-faceted mosaic of AW's life as he never intended to tell it. Today and forever he is simply "Wainwright". (Cumberland News)

Present and unforgetrable picture of one of the great but eccentric creative geniuses of the twentieth century. (Keswick Reminder)

Hunter Davies's editing of these letters has been masterfully reticent; just enough information and support to shape a very special human story that seems to tell itself. The Wainwirght Letters offer a multi-faceted mosaic of AW's life as he never intended to tell it. (Workington Times & Star)

Through these letters, Wainwright is shown to be far more than a writer and illustrator of guidebooks. He is a man whose pen is able to convey the real power of the written word. It will be a wonderful resource for future writers to use when assessing Alfred Wainwright's place within twentieth-century literature. (Footsteps)

His affability and friendliness shines through in his written word. (Best of British)

Feels a bit like eavesdropping on a series of private jokes and flirtations, but fascinating nonetheless. (Country Walking)

Never less than than entertaining. (Cumbria)

Reveal the character and life of a man whose passion for the hills has provided so much pleasure. (Workington Times & Star)

Hunter Davies is to be congratulated on undertaking and successfully carrying out what must have seemed a truly daunting task. (TGO: The Great Outdoors)

About the Author

Hunter Davies is the author of over 30 books, many of them with a Lake District connection, as well as biographies of Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and Eddie Stobart. His authorised biography of Wainwright appeared in 1995. He is married to the novelist and biographer Margaret Forster and they divide their time between London and their Lake District home in Loweswater.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Barry E. Arnold on 11 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book does not reveal very much we didn't already know but it does give some interesting insights into AWs personality. he had a sense of humour not readily apparent from other sources. There is one irritating thing about this book and that is the apparent lack of proof reading. Fair enough Davies says the letters contain AWs original script complete with spelling errors but there are a large number of errors in HDs accompanying notes which makes one wonder if the AW errors were there originally or not. It all struck me as rather hurriedly put together with little care.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Allank on 29 Dec. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was a joy to read. It covers a very long timespan and it is fascinating to see him change from a saucy young rascal in the Blackburn office to a mature and respected local government officer and writer, and then to an aged and very unlikely TV star, all the time deeply in love with his adopted Lakeland. All who have read his guidebooks must marvel at his patience, which he demonstrates by generously answering all who chose to contact him over such a long period of time. He obviously loved writing, and thank goodness for that.
His quirky sense of humour, of which we get a glimpse in the guidebooks, is given free rein in his letters and greatly enhances the pleasure in reading them.
I must confess to finding his letters to Betty something of a trial (think "lovesick swain") but they may be a highlight of the book for other readers and there is plenty of material to satisfy any Wainwright admirer.
Like another reviewer I found distacting the number of mistakes in Hunter Davies's text, all the more surprising when you consider that this amounts to only a tiny percentage of the book's content. I know that HD likes a bargain - maybe he got the proof reading done on the cheap!
Enough of these quibbles - this is a book to enlighten and delight any Wainwright fan.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By 80bobi on 13 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Received as a present as I love Hunter Daviehds work and anything about AW. Generally enjoyed it but felt very uneasy when reading the letters to his lawyer about the divorce and love letters to Betty. Gives a very different impression of the man that has not been portrayed before. Disappointed that only the endpieces were original reproduction. Illustrations in some letters mentioned but no examples pictured.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mercian on 19 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prepare for a big read if you buy this book. It comprises an exhaustive and exhausting selection of the many letters Wainwright wrote, revealing some astonishing intimacies: he would have horrified had he known that they would be published. The nearet parallel I can think of is Pepys' diaries, but he knew that their content would one day be public knowledge. Nevertheless, Hunter Davis modestly describing himself as editor, has revealed a man, who, while always presenting himself to his public as shy, retiring, self effacing, was, it seems, anything but. His early life was full of social networking, a boisterous sex life (if, as Hunter Davis suggests is all to be believed).

His letters, all carefully crafted, a mix of mock humility and confidence show us a man at first reluctant to show himself, then as fame overtakes him, a positive extrovert. A omplicated man indeed, and we should be grateful to Hunter Davis, for this tour de force.

But need it have been so? There is much repetition which rapidly becomes tedious reading, particularly in his letters to Betty. But what most frustrated this reader was the lack of context produced by being denied the letters to Wainwright. References are often totally obscure, and Hunter Davis's rare footnotes insufficient. This is particularly so for the correspondence between him and Betty during their courtship. Here is a man pouring his heart out at length to the woman of his dreams, laced with the intimacies he claims to be enjoying, yet we are told nothing of the feelings of his target. This comes to a head when, Wainwright having enoouraged a menage a trois, suddenly awakens to the threat that the other man is about to carry her off. Was she leading both men on? We are not told.
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By S Edmondson on 22 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fairly interesting book, I am interested in Wainwright and have read a lot of books about him, although I am not a worshipper and don't regard him as some sort of deity. I'm just intrigued by his life and relationships with other people, his unhappy marriage to Ruth (who he never mentions once in his letters), his affair with Betty (what on earth did she she in the old misery guts!?) and why he left no money in his will to his only son.

A lot of the letters are just trivia and not of much interest, in fact some of the early ones, written after his move to Kendal, become tiresome after a while as AW continually gloates to his less fortune pals about his wonderful life in 'Lakeland' and how terrible it must be for them still in Blackburn (or anwhere else that isn't Kendal, for that matter). If you start out reading this book as a Wainwright devotee you may have changed your mind about him after the first few chapters. To be fair, he does mellow with age, but then his letters to fans etc do get a bit 'samey'.

Some of the most interesting letters concern AW's correspondence with the Inland Revenue. They became suspicious that his declared earnings were so low even though his books were selling in their tens of thousands and he had done a fair bit of work for the BBC. They had the audacity to send an inspector who found that AW was asking his publishers and the BBC to donate most of his fees to charity. Suspicions were roused further when it was then discovered that one of the charities involved was Animal Rescue Cumbria, of which AW's wife, Betty was treasurer at the time. AW was incensed by any suggestion of fraud and laid into the Inland Revenue inspector in a number of letters (remember AW was once Kendal's Borough Treasurer so he knew how to deal with civil servants).
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