We only attended one event at Dartington Lit Fest this year and to be honest were a little underwhelmed by it so no write up here, but as always the setting and the grounds were immaculate, and the weather was glorious. There was also a display in the second-hand book sale room of black and white photos of writer's houses with copies for sale.
The pictures were taken for a book now out of print, Writers and Their Houses - A Guide to the Writer's Houses of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, Essays by Modern Writers edited by Kate Marsh and published in 1993 by Hamish Hamilton at a cost of £20. They emphasised how beautiful monochrome can be. It's easy to forget, and I frequently do, that without the distraction of colour the eye sees other things that may have been missed, and Bookhound and I looked at them for ages whilst making a mental note of the book's title having been told we would have to buy it second-hand.
Home and searching for a copy on You-Know-Where, I found one for 1p....
I was speechless.
Even with the £2.80 postage I would have to pay, it was a heavy 500 page book laden with illustrations, someone somewhere is making a big loss on their book sales, and somehow the whole demise of a book like this, reduced down to the negligible value of 1p, virtually paying me to take it off someone's hands, saddens me greatly.
Books don't deserve that.
I soon got over it though, and not being one to look a gift-book in the mouth I ordered it, even while remembering my recent 1p Gertrude Jekyll book experience... just to remind you all...
I wondered what might arrive and was pleasantly overwhelmed to open an almost new copy, inscribed and signed by editor Kate Marsh, intact and no pages cut out to and in which to hide the reddies, and have had my nose in it ever since. It is most certainly a book to be treasured and to be read, not just looked at.
I adore a good literary house excursion but they are a bit thin on the ground around us here, so to be able to visit at will through the pages of this book, in the company of some of our most distinguished writers, and without having to leave the Shire, seems like the next best option. The essays are written by a legion of respected names. P.D. James (Jane Austen) Frances Spalding (Charleston) Ronald Blythe (Thomas Hardy) Jenny Uglow ( Elizabeth Gaskell) Penelope Fitzgerald ( William Morris) Seamus Heaney (W.B.Yeats) Melvyn Bragg (Wordsworth) to name but a few of the forty-eight. In his foreword Melvyn Bragg puts his finger on the book's essence and its lasting appeal...
'The book ripples with the energy of love and knowledge felt by contemporary writers for their precursors. There is a deep sense of association and even of camaraderie. Here the addresses are given; the rooms are prepared; the keys are handed over. They are all yours, these homes, as useful a part of our heritage as palaces and manor houses, and often more interesting because of the presence of someone you already know.'
and with relevance to my current reading, U.A. Fanthorpe writes about Vita Sackville-West.
I have had a lovely summer of VS-W reading, not only her fiction with All Passion Spent, but I have been browsing several of her gardening books, a book of letters, and a biography, much more of Vita to come.
But what of writer's houses... do they inspire you as much as they do me??
Between us I am wondering just how many of the forty-eight we might have visited...
Fire away and I'll tell you if they are in the book, and who has written the essay, and I'll cheat and nab Charleston for starters.