Writing ruins

Shadowlands: A Journey Through Lost Britain Matthew Green, London: Faber, 2022, hb, 358pps, £20 An unknown Anglo-Saxon wrote The Ruin, a poem about Roman remains, which starts: “This masonry is wondrous; fates broke it / Courtyard pavements were smashed; the work of giants is decaying…” Ethnic inheritors took up this mordant tradition, especially after the… Continue reading

Refracted future

The Mirror, Tim Bragg, Sycamore Dystopia, 2023, pb., 292pps., £10 Ever since the ancients invented automata, writers have wondered about the implications for humanity, and ruminated about the nature of consciousness. The Industrial Revolution would spawn increasing concern about subservience to machines and “Satanic mills.” The Great War and then Karel Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R…. Continue reading

The ghost coast

Adam ran his hand over his balding scalp. The dunes shimmered all around – expectant, empty of any movement except his, although he knew rare beetles trundled through rough grass, and he could hear toads, chirring contentedly somewhere amongst orchids and buckthorn. He couldn’t see the sea from here, but it would be far out… Continue reading

Fighting Irish

I have always had a weakness for the Regency period, and a dilettantish interest in dangerous exertion. In Regency Rogue (1976), Patrick Myler tells the story of Dan Donnelly (1788?-1820), one of the most renowned of the bare-knuckle boxers, a sport intimately associated with that rakish period. “No other man”, observes the author, “who ever… Continue reading

Parnassus, and patria

Sunk Island, Holderness. Image: Paul Harrop. Wikimedia Commons Sunken Island: An Anthology of British Poetry Various authors, edited by Alexander Adams, foreword by William Clouston, London: Bournbrook Press, 2022, pb, 55pps, £12.50 Bournbrook Press is an offshoot of Bournbrook Magazine, founded in 2019 to offer a “primarily British audience with traditionalist, socially conservative argument and… Continue reading

The imperial imperative

In the Shadow of the Gods: The Emperor in World History Dominic Lieven, London: Allen Lane, 2022, 500 pps. hb., illus., £35 In the battle for precedence between the ‘great man’ and more ‘inclusive’ views of history, an account of emperors across centuries and cultures feels like a defiant assertion of the older school. Cambridge… Continue reading

England in infra-red

Nightwalking – Four Journeys Into Britain After Dark John Lewis-Stempel, Doubleday, 2022, hb, 104pps, £9.99 John Lewis-Stempel is nearly as prolific as the natural world about which he writes so famously, and so well. His voice is welcomely distinctive – a traditional agriculturist of lyrical articulacy, an observant ecologist who finds mythopoeic magic in everyday… Continue reading

The goodness of King George

George III – The Life and Reign of Britain’s Most Misunderstood Monarch Andrew Roberts, London: Allen Lane, 2021, 758pps, £35 Andrew Roberts is renowned for Winston Churchill scholarship, starting with the lacerating Eminent Churchillians of 1994 and culminating in 2018 with his exemplary Churchill: Walking with Destiny. But he has always had other interests, as… Continue reading

A painter’s peregrinations

Field Notes: Walking the Territory Maxim Peter Griffin, London: Unbound, 132pps, hb., £16.99 Several years ago, when I was thinking about writing a book about Lincolnshire, I found a strikingly original Twitter account. Almost every day, the seemingly tireless Maximpetergriff posted pictures painted during or after apparently endless walks across Lincolnshire, in all weathers and… Continue reading