Friday 9 November 2018

A Very Good Haul

I don't want to give the impression that I spend all my waking hours scouring the bookshelves of charity shops, but this week, I must say, I've had a very good haul. A couple of days ago I picked up Edmund Gosse's Father and Son (Penguin Modern Classics, with extensive footnotes carefully restricted to things you already know). I'm now reading (technically rereading) this, with mingled pleasure and astonishment. An extraordinary book... And then I spotted The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century by Hugh Aldersey-Williams – hardback, good as new, £2.99 – which of course I had to have.
Then today, on the £1 table at another charity shop, the irresistible volume pictured above (oddly enough, the first American edition) turned up, demanding to be bought and taken to a good home. The illustrations alone are a delight, let alone the poems. Supposedly 'for younger people' – but this was 1962 – it's a good selection from Betjeman's poems, divided into sections, each of which begins with a related passage from Summoned by Bells and an Ardizzone frontispiece. I guess the notes at the back are aimed at the 'younger readers' of 1962, but they are well written, often useful and interesting, unlike those in the Penguin Father and Son. 'Flannel dance' anyone? It's 'a dance where people went in informal clothes such as flannel trousers and blazers'. 'Ted'? 'Spread out for drying'. Lionel Edwards? 'An artist who specialised in sporting and hunting pictures with the rainy, grey skies of the English winter'. Good to know.


  1. On flannel

    "Those woollen eyes, the things they’ve seen;
    Those flannel ears, the things they’ve heard—"

    Betjeman's teddy bear, Archibald