Do you write in your books? I like to underline phrases that jump out an me – quotes I want to remember. I also love to find other people’s notes and underlinings in second hand books. What I especially love though are the inscriptions at the front of the books. Books showing my own history are wonderful – I was too young to remember my first visit to Tintagel but I have an excellent set of books to remind me of the trip. Or there is the book of Wordsworth’s poems which my Grandmother won in a potato race in 1924. We never got such good prizes at my sports days!
The inscriptions in second hand books are just as lovely. Presumably Mrs John High had a fondness for Walter Scott – two different friends gave her matching copies of his books in memory of holidays they shared. The questions about these former owners of my books can be endless. Did she collect Walter Scott or just the binding to make her shelf look beautiful? Did all these people go on a trip together or were the books reminders of two separate holidays? What about Walter H Whitehead? Was he a soldier when he bought this copy of Galsworthy’s The Dark Flower in Germany? The books give a fascinating glimpse into past lives.
Even the history of the books themselves can be interesting. When I bought this copy of Byron from a book sale at university I clearly had to write my details in the front – you can trace at least part of its history from the endpapers.
That’s why I am definitely in favour of writing in books. It gives them a life of their own which is fascinating to read in later years.
The lockdown is certainly creating a great deal of creativity when it comes to meeting up. I have recorded music with my choir and have regular orchestra and ballet rehearsals over Zoom. It has been fun to see everyone and to have a bit of structure in the week.
My favourite discovery so far though has been the rise of online literary festivals. I love book festivals but I can’t usually get to many of them so the idea of having them come to me is just wonderful. Obviously it’s not the same as getting to go to them but it is far better than nothing.
The online Hay Festival is coming up at the end of this week and I have booked my place at a whole load of the talks. I am going to be in front of a screen for an awful lot of time next week!
First though, Chawton House had their own lockdown festival this past weekend. Apparently they’ve been wanting to do a festival for a while and the lockdown pushed them into putting something together. I have to say that if they do manage to have an actual in person festival I will be doing my very best to get there. Even if they don’t, I have realised that I need to visit – the only time I’ve been to the house was for the AGM of the Jane Austen Society so I didn’t get to see very much of it (I have made a proper visit to Jane Austen’s House Museum but I would love to see that again as well).
I have had a lovely weekend watching the talks and feeling very intellectual for doing so. It was so interesting to see a bit of behind the scenes of the house and to learn more not just about the people who lived there but also about some related books – like The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner which is out next week and sounds great. I also had a brilliant time playing with some found poetry using lines from poems in the house.
I have come away with a renewed enthusiasm for 18th and 19th century writers and a list of new to me authors to try. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of George Sand but not Jane West or Jane Porter and I certainly haven’t read any of them. They are firmly on my list now though and I am very keen to read them soon. It is such a great feeling!
The festival is obviously over now but some of the talks are still available on the Chawton House youtube channel. If you can I would highly recommend you have a watch!
At first glance this does not seem to be a bookish post but it is about a beautiful building and we did buy books!
While I was in Dartmouth I went on a tour of the Britannia Royal Naval College and it was a wonderful experience. The historic part of the building is stunning – both inside and out – and the history behind it is fascinating.
Our tour covered the historic building and lasted two hours but I could easily have spent at least the whole day there exploring. There were lots of tempting little staircases which I wanted to run up – obviously, it is a working Naval college and that just isn’t possible!
The longest uninterrupted corridor in Europe!
I had such a good time and I would thoroughly recommend the tour to anyone in the Dartmouth area. Of course – as I promised – we couldn’t escape without books!
Last week I got to go and see Lucy Worsley talking about Queen Victoria. I was lucky enough to get to see her Jane Austen talk last year and she was brilliant so I was very excited about seeing her again.
It was blowing an absolute gale on the way over but I had such a good time. Lucy Worsley is a great speaker and of course the subject matter is so interesting.
Naturally, I couldn’t leave without buying a book. I loved the Jane Austen at Home book which went with last year’s talk and so I really wanted all of the books on offer. In the end though I stuck with the book about Queen Victoria which actually related to the talk. I am so looking forward to reading it!
We broke our journey home from Scotland at Berwick-Upon-Tweed. It is one of those places through which we have passed many times on the train and we thought it was about time we actually had a look around.
We stayed at the King’s Arms which for me was primarily notable for the fact that Charles Dickens had stayed there and had even given a reading in the ballroom. I was delighted by the Dickens coffee lounge but sadly disapppointed to find that it was not open when we wanted it. That didn’t stop me having a quick read though!
We spent pretty much the entire day walking around the old town walls which were so interesting. I love exploring historical sites and there is so much history there. I was just a bit sad that we could not get to more of the castle.
The museum at the barracks was also very good. I particularly liked the rooms set aside for the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regimental Museum. I found it incredibly moving and actually ended up feeling rather overwhelmed – which wasn’t helped by the fact that I am scared of mannequins. It was a fantastic museum though and I would highly recommend a visit.
I had a great time discovering the history of Berwick and I could easily have spent more time there. We did however manage to squeeze in a short boat trip which rounded the day off nicely.