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on 18 May 2004
Ever since I bought a battered copy of "In Search of England" from a second hand book shop on the Isle of Wight a decade ago, I've had a deep affection for the work of H.V. Morton.How I envied the freedom he had to clamber aboard a motor car to go exploring the country lanes of 1920s England... and how often I've dreamed about re-tracing his route, comparing his descriptions of the various locations to the realities of today.
Prior to the publication of this biography the most detailed resume of Morton's life and career I'd read was in an issue of "Book and Magazine Collector" so I was itching to get my hands on "In Search of H.V. Morton".
Of course there's always a danger that biographies will alter one's perspective on the character of the subject, and that's certainly the case with this book. I wanted H.V. Morton to be an old fashioned English gentleman, upholding the virtues of gallantry, decency and fair play for all that seem to be as difficult to find as Morton's own vision of a solid, unchanging rural England. Of course, the truth was somewhat different. Bartholomew's research amongst Morton's own diaries and unpublished memoirs produced evidence that Morton's character was quite deeply flawed and difficult to sympathise with. He was, apparently, a serial adulterer past the point of seediness. He seemed to have little genuine, selfless feeling for his wives or even for his children. His political views, such as they were, included sympathy for Nazism, anti-democratic feeling, white supremacy, racism and a decided dislike of the lower classes. Not the most pleasant of chaps, you might think. There is another view of the man though, and Bartholomew does a reasonable job of balancing Morton's profile. His political views were mostly confined to the private musings of his diaries and I suspect that its fair to say that his apparent bigotry was probably not too far removed from the general attitude of men from his background, born in the 1890s. His writing on Ireland and Turkey revealed a more liberal side to his nature and he is generally willing to acknowledge that Scotland, Ireland and Wales haven't always had the best of deals from his apparently beloved England. He was quite prepared to fight to the death with his Home Guard unit if necessary, despite apparent German sympathies and he suffered guilt attacks for his repeated infidelities ( and so he should !).
Michael Bartholomew has produced a determinedly truthful, informative and eminently readable account of a man who left behind a leagacy of truly excellent travel writing. That Morton's character doesn't meet the expectations of his readers shouldn't Bartholomew points out, it's the narrator who takes us out in a little motor car, not Morton himself. The tours may not have been as solitary and seamless as they often appear...they may have been written primarily for financial gain ... they almost certainly weren't as random in route as was claimed but they'll be remembered for as long as someone loves their subjects - that's the true measure of the man.
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on 28 July 2008
I've bought,read and enjoyed many of H.V.Morton's travel books so I was naturally interested in buying and reading this biography. I have to say I enjoyed this book and Michael Bartholomew has done a good job in bringing the man back to life so we can understand what sort of man H V Morton was. The problem is he was absolutely not a nice man at all. It would appear this biography was written with the full support of Morton's family who gave Michael Bartholomew full access to Morton's unpublished papers. Why did the family do this ? - it's a mystery to me.Morton turns out to have been anti-semitic,a rascist of the worst kind,defeatist,hypocritical,and a serial adulterer with an addiction to bought sex. Did I really want to know all this? I don't think so.The reality is that the narrator of Morton's travel books is a fictional character with none of these faults so I think in retrospect it's better to leave this biography and stick to Morton's excellent travel books.I keep coming back to my central question - why on earth would the Morton family (who must have been well aware of the man's many and varied faults) have authorised this book? Very strange
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on 26 April 2013
One of Bartholomew's interests behind the writing of this book was to examine the widespread and powerful belief that the real England, the soul of Englishness, was encapsulated in the architecture, moral values and disappearing working practices of Ye Olde English country village. H V Morton's `In Search of England', that went through 29 Editions between 1927- 43, interested Bartholomew as both an encapsulation of that myth and possibly one of the means by which it was actually shaped for a readership traumatised by WW1 and increasingly living in industrial cities. Unfortunately this argument has got rather lost in examining the methods of Morton's book production and the marked discrepancy between the portrayed character of the narrator of Morton's journeys and that shown in his personal life and private writings. Which is not to say that these are not interesting topics, well, but not exhaustively examined.

People do not want to know whether their idols have feet of clay should beware biography.

Personally, this book has sent me back to re-reading Morton's travel books on the Middle East; `In the Steps of the Master',' In the Steps of St Paul' and `Through the Lands of the Bible', which are still a vivid picture of an area now changed almost beyond recognition.
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on 25 May 2009
So now I know: the HVM of the books is not the HVM of real life. I have been reading HVM's books since I was a boy and never thought to question how autobiographical (or otherwise) his books were. "In Search of HV Morton" sheds a whole new (and in places unpleasant) light on his life. But the abiding impression is that HVM was a surprisingly clever journalist who wrote exactly the sort of slightly nostalgic literature his post-WW1 readers wanted to read, did so in smooth-as-oil-on-silk English, did his homework (mainly historical) thoroughly (journalistic training under Beaverbrook!), and - quite deliberately - hid his real self almost completely.
HVM-lovers might hate this new book because it destroys "HVM" myth and reveals him as an egocentric and male chauvinist adulterer, but are also just as likely to gain new respect for HVM's other talents.
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on 29 October 2012
I enjoyed this book very much. I too was intrigued by the contrast between the suave friend we encounter in the great books and the `flawed` reality. We are all flawed and Morton lived through a time when it was particularly difficult to know what values could be trusted. It doesn`t diminish his great charm as a writer for me at all, but it is a fascinating portrait.
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on 14 August 2014
Superb biography of a not especially admirable man but fine writer and traveller. A man to be judged by the mores of his time
and not those of today
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on 3 July 2013
Having read 'In Search of England' I was expecting H V Morton to be an entirely different person than this book shows him to have been, so I haven't kept it in my library
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on 20 September 2014
Excellent book.
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on 16 April 2010
Even the author did not like Morton! My experience in tracking Morton's journeys' conversations with people he met show that they were made up. Did he actually go anywhere?
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