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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars

on 12 May 2000
I rate this book as the best ever of its type. After many years abroad, Morton set out in his car one morning in the mid-twenties and went on a tour of his home country. The record of the trip is presented in this book. The contrast between England seventy-five years ago and the England of today is of course a huge one, but one of the themes of this book is the gulf between twenties England and the England of Morton's boyhood. Morton visits many well-known landmarks on his travels and his excellent, affectionate descriptions allow the reader to appreciate the changes that have taken place. The best recommendation I can give is that this book makes the reader want to get into their car and follow in Morton's footsteps (or perhaps tyre-tracks) and see the country in which they might live, but with which they are surprisingly unfamiliar.
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on 19 April 2015
A brilliant piece of social history, beautifully presented, with an excellent introduction by Simon Jenkins in the folio edition
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on 9 March 2016
Brought back lovely memories from " The good old days ".
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on 12 April 2017
Good clean copy
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HALL OF FAMEon 10 May 2010
"... there rose up in my mind the picture of a village street at dusk with a smell of wood smoke lying in the still air and, here and there, little red blinds shining in the dusk under the thatch. I remembered how the church bells ring at home, and how, at that time of year, the sun leaves a dull red bar low down in the west, and against it the elms grow blacker minute by minute. Then the bats start to flicker like little bits of burnt paper and you hear the slow jingle of a team coming home from the fields ... When you think like this, sitting alone in a foreign country, you know all there is to learn about heartache."
- H.V. Morton, homesick for England

First published in 1927, IN SEARCH OF ENGLAND bears testimony to Henry Morton's love affair with his homeland. For those of us that are citizens of elsewhere who are otherwise lovers of England and everything English, the volume joins Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island and the trilogy by Susan Allen Toth (My Love Affair with England,England as You Like It, and England for All Seasons) as absolutely required reading. All five books are declarations of love.

Having traveled all over England myself, as well as Wales and Scotland, during multiple visits, I could immediately relate to Morton's experiences at a number of unforgettable places: Salisbury, Winchester, St. Just-in-Roseland, Tintagel, Clovelly, Glastonbury, the Lake District, Hadrian's Wall, Durham, York, Lincoln, and Norwich. (I'm only perplexed that he apparently failed to visit so many others that I could name!)

The fact that Morton made his clockwise circuit of the kingdom eighty-three years ago is only evident by his reference to charabancs, the addition of water to his car's radiator, and an evening's entertainment with some isolated locals in the far reaches of Cornwall - listening to a broadcast from London's Savoy on the wireless. Otherwise, his experiences might just as well be contemporary.

At times, the author's prose approaches the sublime, as this entry from Shrewsbury:

"When I drew back the (hotel) bedroom's curtains, the moonlight printed itself green on the floor. It ran over the bed and lay slantwise upon a grim wardrobe that stood in the shadow of the ancient oak-beamed room. A proper Puckish night, with the green wash over hill and field, a night for elfin horns and mushroom rings and strange scurryings in thicket and copse. Somewhere near, a dog, unable to sleep and not knowing why - poor little lost wolf - whimpered restlessly."

California has been my home state for 58 years. Yet, even during my two lengthy residencies away - 12 months in Illinois and 15 months in Mississippi, I wouldn't have been able to write such an affectionate tribute to the Golden State as Morton delivers for his birthplace. The fact that I myself could perhaps pen one about Great Britain, and England in particular, is indicative of my devotion to the place. On my occasional returns to the island, my feeling on the aircraft's final approach to Heathrow or Gatwick is one of returning home. IN SEARCH OF ENGLAND is a reminder why my affection runs so deep. Sitting here at my computer in Glendale, CA, I miss that green and pleasant land so very, very much.
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on 12 May 2008
This is, simply, a wonderful book that is an utter joy to read. It must be a mark of the quality of writing that, reading over 80 years later, you still feel as if the ink hasn't yet dried, so fresh and immediate is the style.

In an engagingly witty journey through (mostly rural) England in the late 1920s, Mr Morton's writing conjures up all the sights and sounds that he encounters, from haunted gothic ruins to sunny vicarage gardens.

Throughout the writing, Mr Morton's affection and awe for the land, its people and its history come through. And it's refreshing to read a book devoid of the sort of cynicism and pessimism that marks much modern writing.
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While ill and abroad, the author found that he missed England with a passion and, on his return, set out to find his version of the rural idyll. This is the story of his travels, by motor car, around England, which was first published in 1927. The 1920's were a time when coach trips were extremely popular and had made much of the countryside open to more people - even more so than the railways. The author both extols the delights of popular travel, while bemoaning the 'vulgarization' of the country. Although delightful, this is certainly not an unbiased version of the authors travels - his thoughts are clear for all to see. If he doesn't like a place, finds fault with a tourist spot or is unhappy, then you will certainly know about it. For example, he enters Wigan, "expecting the worst" and finds Norfolk, "the most suspicious county in England." Despite his many stereotypes and personal biases though, he is generally enthusiastic and willing to be pleased, as he strikes up endless conversations and searches out people and places of interest.

As the author says himself, it is a curious characteristic of the English scenery to change in a few miles. We certainly see a range of places through his eyes, from Stonehenge, to Dartmoor, the ruins of Glastonbury, Hadrian's Wall and endless inns, cathedrals and churches. Although this was written so long ago, it is reassuring to see that the generation gap was still the same, with a cockle gatherer claiming that they were the last of their kind as, "girls today want to be ladies.... and they don't like hard work either." Whether ill and writing essays while, "under the influence of a cocaine pill and a raw egg" or being side tracked by women luring him into teashops, "I believe the Crusades could have been stopped by a Dorsetshire tea," he is wonderful company. This travel book is a delight and will show you the England between the wars with a most enthusiastic and illuminating guide.
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on 6 June 2000
Picked up a reprinted copy of In search of England (& In Search of Ireland) recently, very enjoyable, especially comparing H V Morton's impressions and experiences against Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island) & Paul Theroux (Kingdom by the Sea). England in the late 20's seems idyllic, no mention of traffic jams, noise, pollution etc. but idle conversations are still a great pleasure to the lone traveller.
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VINE VOICEon 19 September 2014
Morton may have been a lyrical writer, but he made up much of what he wrote (not in itself a crime with travel writers). But unlike the lone genial traveller he portrays himself to be, his own private papers and diaries show him to be a womanizer and fascist sympathizer - see his recent biography In Search of H. V. Morton by Michael Bartholomew http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3616573/A-very-English-hypocrite.html

The book is well-written, but it describes an England that never was.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 August 2013
After many years abroad, H.V. Morton set out one morning in the mid-1920s, in his Morris two-seater car, on a tour of his home country.

This book was published on 2nd June 1927. It is now in its 40th printing with its original publisher in the UK. One British newspaper described the book as "travel writing at its best. Bill Bryson must weep when he reads it." I agree. The book is an absolute delight. The best travel writing inspires the reader to want to go and visit the places described. I came away from this book with a list of places to visit, or revisit. I was also inspired to look up many of the places he visited online. Many still look every bit as charming as H.V. Morton's descriptions.

H.V. Morton was writing at a time when people were less mobile. Interestingly he still describes traffic jams in the Lake District, and seems to encounter American tourists wherever he goes. He also stumbles across many old customs and skills that would have been in their death throes at the time he was writing, for example he describes flint-knappers in Norfolk, a skill that was already all but extinct.

Morton's writing is frequently sublime. It is fairly obvious that the reality cannot have been quite so perfect and that he must have made up some of the account. As the trauma of World War One started to diminish I suspect many readers wanted this type of pleasing portrait of England as a place of tradition, stability, history, country lanes, village greens, outstanding beauty, quirky characters and traditional pubs serving warm ale and cheese. The book's conclusion perfectly illustrates this romanticised view:

"I went out into the churchyard where the green stones nodded together, and I took up a handful of earth and felt it crumble and run through my fingers, thinking that as long as one English field lies against another there is something left in the world for a man to love.

'Well', smiled the vicar as he walked towards me between the yew trees, 'that, I am afraid, is all we have'.

'You have England', I said."

It is interesting to consider the extent to which it is acceptable to embellish or romanticise accounts of travel. For me it matters not a jot and I have no hesitation in recommending this delightful book.
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