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Peasant (Deepest England)
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The Life of Thomas More
The Life of Thomas More
by Peter Ackroyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book spoiled by one silly flaw, 3 Mar 2014
Thorough, sensitive and with a sure touch in conveying to the modern reader the colour and mood of the time, this book is just what we would expect of Ackroyd on top form. So one is left bemused by one stupid and pointless editorial decision. Thomas More wrote obsessively all his life, and we thus have a huge resource of original material to call upon, which Ackroyd quotes very frequently, often at length.

Sixteenth century spelling is not as modern spelling. More was used to Latin, in which 'U' and 'V' were once written both as 'V'. The letter 'J' was commonly written as an 'i', and other spelling variations were common. I can understand that Ackroyd wishes to give the flavour of the original, but it is utterly perverse to transcribe each U as a V, and each V as a U, as he does here. There is no reason moreover why J should not appear as J. The 'y' of 'ye' is not a Y, it is a letter representing the sound 'TH', and was used for abbreviation.

The net result of Ackroyd's perverse transcriptions is that we are unable to read More's words, and instead have to decode the likes of 'conivnccyon' for 'conjunction', 'uiciovs' for 'vicious', 'yt' for 'that', and so on. In a few anomalous cases the original text is written simply with modern spelling, make it vibrate with sense and cogency. The decision not to do this throughout is inexplicable and very much to be regretted.


The Lays of the Pharisee - Being a Volume of Verses Together with Poems in Blank Verse, Telling of the Things That Are in the Modern Life of Today; Critical, Satirical and Political
The Lays of the Pharisee - Being a Volume of Verses Together with Poems in Blank Verse, Telling of the Things That Are in the Modern Life of Today; Critical, Satirical and Political
by Edith Watson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The world a hundred years ago, 1 Dec 2013
The poetry is, lets face it, dire. The illustrations are distinctly tedious. The interest lies in the content - what was thought a suitable subject for biting satire in 1913. Many of the poems are aimed at religious hypocrisy - hardly surprising. The more interesting ones are those highlighting vice in high society and political attitudes. One poem is anti-Home Rule. Another sheds fascinating light on the atrocities in the Belgian Congo which form the inspiration for Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and which were reported on by Roger Casement, earning him public acclaim and a knighthood before his actions in the cause of Irish republicanism brought about a downfall even more shocking than that of Oscar Wilde a generation before.

As literature this book is a mere curiosity. As a document of social attitudes the year before the First World War it is valuable and entertaining.

My copy is unlike any others I've seen offered, with marbled outer boards and a vellum spine.


SOME MILESTONES IN AVIATION
SOME MILESTONES IN AVIATION
by W. E. JOHNS
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Written for twelve-year old boys, 29 Nov 2013
The creator of Biggles has produced a clearly written survey of flight from the development of balloons to the most modern aircraft, with a passing study of unsuccessful ornithopters and the earliest parachutes. As the book ends with an exciting account of "The Great Australian Race 1934", we can date it quite precisely.

In addition to illustrations of early craft taken from engravings, there are a number of photographs, the frontispiece being "A D.H.Comet in flight". Plate 26 shows crew and support team of the first flight from England to Australia in 1919, standing in front of their Vickers "Vimy". Plate 31 shows Scott and Black's Comet being refuelled at Baghdad during the 1934 Australia race. The text is written with great verve and even to a non-enthusiast is a very jolly read.


The Bulb Expert: The world's best-selling book on bulbs (Expert Books)
The Bulb Expert: The world's best-selling book on bulbs (Expert Books)
by Dr D G Hessayon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.27

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good buy for beginners, 19 Sep 2013
This book is the latest incarnation of 'The Bulb Expert'; you'll find older copies knocking about and they will, if less up-to-date-looking, do the job just as well. All the basics are here, and if you are new to gardening it will save time, money and heart-ache. Read it carefully; vital bits of information are buried in the small print, for example the importance of not planting tulip bulbs until November at the latest (most bulbs go in as early as possible). The bulbs you'll find on your garden centre shelves are all covered although with large groups such as tulips or daffodils, don't rely on finding every variety you're offered (no bulb book, reasonably, could do that).

If you are a keen gardener you'll soon want something more. Sadly, there are no wonderful, beautifully illustrated rivals which are easily available, so this rather dull, stodgy guide may still worth a place on your shelves. If you want excitement, an insight into the way bulbs grow in their wild habitat, and really good photos, then get Bulbs (The Pan garden plants series). It's a five-star, "I love it" book but it requires a bit more concentration to use than 'The Bulb Expert'


A Changed Man, The Waiting Supper and Other Tales (The Wessex Novels, Vol. XVIII), (Macmillan's Pocket Hardy)
A Changed Man, The Waiting Supper and Other Tales (The Wessex Novels, Vol. XVIII), (Macmillan's Pocket Hardy)
by Thomas HARDY
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the author at the height of his powers, 19 Sep 2013
These stories were written between 1881 and 1900, a long spell of time for a fairly prolific writer, and all share a geographical theme. They were collected together when Macmillan published a "complete works" in 1913. A 'preparatory note' from the author makes it clear that the texts of the stories had to be reclaimed rom the publishers of the various periodicals in which they originally appeared - in other words, Hardy did not reatin copies of all of them. From this it would seem that even the author didn't consider them to be of importance.

If this is your first contact with Hardy, do not judge him by it. These tales are pleasant enough and will keep you turning the pages, but the short story does not really seem to be Hardy's strong point. Top short-story writers have the knack of compressing tension, characterisation and dramatic force into a small space. Hardy works better when he has the full length of a novel in which to develop his spell over the reader.

Compared with, say, the short stories of D H Lawrence, these are rather milk-and-water affairs. Which is surprising when you consider the emotional force of Hardy's novels. These read like something produced for a magazine readership; tales to while away the time on a railway journey. They vary in length - 'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid' is a novella - and in quality. It is interesting to look at 'A Committee Man of the Terror', in which an aristocratic Fench refugee finds herself both repelled by, and drawn to, a man who has been responsible for signing the death warrant on her guillotined parents, and who now finds himself fallen on hard times in the same seaside town where she is now a governess. Neither character is really believable, the man's actions incomprehensible and the woman's emotions unconvincing. In 'Alicia's Diary', the text is scarcely convincing as diary entries, and the melodramatic plot faintly ridiculous. The plight of the protagonists is never really moving. When we consider the power and drama of novels like 'Jude the Obscure' and 'Tess of the D'urbervilles', it is hard to believe we are dealing with the same author. The motifs and generally gloomy tenor are there, but only in the second story, 'The Waiting Supper', did I feel we were seeing the mature Hardy.

Thirty quid (the price quoted at the time of reviewing) is a lot to pay. This is, however, a very attractive little volume with a pretty Art Nouveau-style binding in gold on maroon. If you can get it for less than one of the many reprints, do.


A Changed Man, The Waiting Supper and Other Tales: Concluding With the Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid (Classic Reprint)
A Changed Man, The Waiting Supper and Other Tales: Concluding With the Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid (Classic Reprint)
by Thomas Hardy
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.16

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the author at the height of his powers, 19 Sep 2013
These stories were written between 1881 and 1900, a long spell of time for a fairly prolific writer, and all share a geographical theme. They were collected together when Macmillan published a "complete works" in 1913. A 'preparatory note' from the author makes it clear that the texts of the stories had to be reclaimed rom the publishers of the various periodicals in which they originally appeared - in other words, Hardy did not reatin copies of all of them. From this it would seem that even the author didn't consider them to be of importance.

If this is your first contact with Hardy, do not judge him by it. These tales are pleasant enough and will keep you turning the pages, but the short story does not really seem to be Hardy's strong point. Top short-story writers have the knack of compressing tension, characterisation and dramatic force into a small space. Hardy works better when he has the full length of a novel in which to develop his spell over the reader.

Compared with, say, the short stories of D H Lawrence, these are rather milk-and-water affairs. Which is surprising when you consider the emotional force of Hardy's novels. These read like something produced for a magazine readership; tales to while away the time on a railway journey. They vary in length - 'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid' is a novella - and in quality. It is interesting to look at 'A Committee Man of the Terror', in which an aristocratic Fench refugee finds herself both repelled by, and drawn to, a man who has been responsible for signing the death warrant on her guillotined parents, and who now finds himself fallen on hard times in the same seaside town where she is now a governess. Neither character is really believable, the man's actions incomprehensible and the woman's emotions unconvincing. In 'Alicia's Diary', the text is scarcely convincing as diary entries, and the melodramatic plot faintly ridiculous. The plight of the protagonists is never really moving. When we consider the power and drama of novels like 'Jude the Obscure' and 'Tess of the D'urbervilles', it is hard to believe we are dealing with the same author. The motifs and generally gloomy tenor are there, but only in the second story, 'The Waiting Supper', did I feel we were seeing the mature Hardy.

This is a rather fuzzy photo-reproduction of the original Macmillan book produced for the 'Wessex Novels' series. If you can get a nice vintage copy it will be a good deal more enjoyable to read.


A Changed Man and Other Tales (Pocket classics)
A Changed Man and Other Tales (Pocket classics)
by Thomas Hardy
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the author at the height of his powers, 19 Sep 2013
These stories were written between 1881 and 1900, a long spell of time for a fairly prolific writer, and all share a geographical theme. They were collected together when Macmillan published a "complete works" in 1913. A 'preparatory note' from the author makes it clear that the texts of the stories had to be reclaimed rom the publishers of the various periodicals in which they originally appeared - in other words, Hardy did not reatin copies of all of them. From this it would seem that even the author didn't consider them to be of importance.

If this is your first contact with Hardy, do not judge him by it. These tales are pleasant enough and will keep you turning the pages, but the short story does not really seem to be Hardy's strong point. Top short-story writers have the knack of compressing tension, characterisation and dramatic force into a small space. Hardy works better when he has the full length of a novel in which to develop his spell over the reader.

Compared with, say, the short stories of D H Lawrence, these are rather milk-and-water affairs. Which is surprising when you consider the emotional force of Hardy's novels. These read like something produced for a magazine readership; tales to while away the time on a railway journey. They vary in length - 'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid' is a novella - and in quality. It is interesting to look at 'A Committee Man of the Terror', in which an aristocratic Fench refugee finds herself both repelled by, and drawn to, a man who has been responsible for signing the death warrant on her guillotined parents, and who now finds himself fallen on hard times in the same seaside town where she is now a governess. Neither character is really believable, the man's actions incomprehensible and the woman's emotions unconvincing. In 'Alicia's Diary', the text is scarcely convincing as diary entries, and the melodramatic plot faintly ridiculous. The plight of the protagonists is never really moving. When we consider the power and drama of novels like 'Jude the Obscure' and 'Tess of the D'urbervilles', it is hard to believe we are dealing with the same author. The motifs and generally gloomy tenor are there, but only in the second story, 'The Waiting Supper', did I feel we were seeing the mature Hardy.


A Changed Man and Other Tales
A Changed Man and Other Tales
Price: 1.02

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the author at the height of his powers, 19 Sep 2013
These stories were written between 1881 and 1900, a long spell of time for a fairly prolific writer, and all share a geographical theme. They were collected together when Macmillan published a "complete works" in 1913. A 'preparatory note' from the author makes it clear that the texts of the stories had to be reclaimed rom the publishers of the various periodicals in which they originally appeared - in other words, Hardy did not reatin copies of all of them. From this it would seem that even the author didn't consider them to be of importance.

If this is your first contact with Hardy, do not judge him by it. These tales are pleasant enough and will keep you turning the pages, but the short story does not really seem to be Hardy's strong point. Top short-story writers have the knack of compressing tension, characterisation and dramatic force into a small space. Hardy works better when he has the full length of a novel in which to develop his spell over the reader.

Compared with, say, the short stories of D H Lawrence, these are rather milk-and-water affairs. Which is surprising when you consider the emotional force of Hardy's novels. These read like something produced for a magazine readership; tales to while away the time on a railway journey. They vary in length - 'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid' is a novella - and in quality. It is interesting to look at 'A Committee Man of the Terror', in which an aristocratic Fench refugee finds herself both repelled by, and drawn to, a man who has been responsible for signing the death warrant on her guillotined parents, and who now finds himself fallen on hard times in the same seaside town where she is now a governess. Neither character is really believable, the man's actions incomprehensible and the woman's emotions unconvincing. In 'Alicia's Diary', the text is scarcely convincing as diary entries, and the melodramatic plot faintly ridiculous. The plight of the protagonists is never really moving. When we consider the power and drama of novels like 'Jude the Obscure' and 'Tess of the D'urbervilles', it is hard to believe we are dealing with the same author. The motifs and generally gloomy tenor are there, but only in the second story, 'The Waiting Supper', did I feel we were seeing the mature Hardy.


A Changed Man; and other tales
A Changed Man; and other tales
Price: 0.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the author at the height of his powers., 19 Sep 2013
These stories were written between 1881 and 1900, a long spell of time for a fairly prolific writer, and all share a geographical theme. They were collected together when Macmillan published a "complete works" in 1913. A 'preparatory note' from the author makes it clear that the texts of the stories had to be reclaimed rom the publishers of the various periodicals in which they originally appeared - in other words, Hardy did not reatin copies of all of them. From this it would seem that even the author didn't consider them to be of importance.

If this is your first contact with Hardy, do not judge him by it. These tales are pleasant enough and will keep you turning the pages, but the short story does not really seem to be Hardy's strong point. Top short-story writers have the knack of compressing tension, characterisation and dramatic force into a small space. Hardy works better when he has the full length of a novel in which to develop his spell over the reader.

Compared with, say, the short stories of D H Lawrence, these are rather milk-and-water affairs. Which is surprising when you consider the emotional force of Hardy's novels. These read like something produced for a magazine readership; tales to while away the time on a railway journey. They vary in length - 'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid' is a novella - and in quality. It is interesting to look at 'A Committee Man of the Terror', in which an aristocratic Fench refugee finds herself both repelled by, and drawn to, a man who has been responsible for signing the death warrant on her guillotined parents, and who now finds himself fallen on hard times in the same seaside town where she is now a governess. Neither character is really believable, the man's actions incomprehensible and the woman's emotions unconvincing. In 'Alicia's Diary', the text is scarcely convincing as diary entries, and the melodramatic plot faintly ridiculous. The plight of the protagonists is never really moving. When we consider the power and drama of novels like 'Jude the Obscure' and 'Tess of the D'urbervilles', it is hard to believe we are dealing with the same author. The motifs and generally gloomy tenor are there, but only in the second story, 'The Waiting Supper', did I feel we were seeing the mature Hardy.


Nature in downland Volume 20
Nature in downland Volume 20
by William Henry Hudson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.45

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A three-and-a-half star book, 17 Sep 2013
'Nature in Downland' was first published in 1923, but was written in the 1890s. It shows; it could never have been written after the First World War. Hudson is a keen admirer of Richard Jeffries; he voices a plaintive lament for his early death, just as (as Hudson saw it) he was reaching the height of his powers. Now, Jeffries work was very mixed; his Nature Near London is superb, but some of his fiction is cringe-making. Despite the obvious inspiration betrayed by the title, 'Nature in Downland' is nowhere near as vivid and gripping as 'Nature Near London'; it does, however, partake of some of Jefferies' worst whimsical airy-fairiness.

Hudson writes in the style of his time, and one would be readier to forgive him if the effects weren't sometimes so very embarassing. Chapter four, "A Fairy Fauna", is difficult to read with a straight face, and the florid sentimentality of his description of catching a downland mole distracts the reader from his proper naturalist observation about the habits of the animal and the differences between lowland and upland populations.

It is, anyhow, tricky to know how much weight to give to Hudson's opinions. His scientific views are often enough to make the reader gasp and stretch their eyes. A shepherd tells him, as proof of the presence of long-eared owls in the area, that a lamb has been born deformed, with a flat ('owl-like') head, because the ewe was frightened by a long-eared owl while pregnant. Hudson, instead of exibiting this (as we anticipate) as an example of the charmingly primitive beliefs of country folk, trots it forth as evidence of the extreme sagacity of the shepherd, who has, all untutored, hit on the exact truth about deformed births. Later, Hudson regales the reader with his eye-boggling views on the racial purity of Sussex shepherds, both physical and moral - a subject he clearly feels strongly about as he refers to it repeatedly and at length.

If this was all, the book would barely merit two stars. But there is gold amongst the dross, albeit not the gold Hudson thinks he has found. It is clear that by the time he is writing, the wildlife of the area is already sorely depleted. He reveals most of the reasons; destruction of habitat combined with a shockingly trigger-happy attitude among all classes of society. While shepherds are gleefully killing unusual snakes and their sons robbing birds nests, the local gentry are busily shooting anything rare or endangered simply ON THE PRINCIPLE that it is rare or endangered. (Look dear, I just shot an osprey. Aren't I clever! Haven't seen one of those for years.)

But, in addition to quoting from older writers, Hudson records the memories of those old at the time he wrote, and the stories they were told by their fathers and grandfathers. These speak of the wildlife of the Downs before Queen Victoria, when the habitats were less damaged and species long-extinct even by Hudson's time were still an everyday sight. This is what the first reviewer has missed; the changes between then and 1900 are far, far greater than the changes between 1900 and today.

The social life and patterns of work which Hudson records have, of course, vanished utterly. What he regards as 'local colour' is for us the record of a vanished age. Though Hudson's attitudes vary from the patronising to the downright offensive, the detail of what he observes is fascinating. This, as well as some of the wildlife material, is worth ploughing through the whimsy for.

What 'volume 20' refers to I cannot imagine. 'Nature in Downland' is a self-contained book which in my edition runs to 243 pages including the index - a modest paperback.


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