Saturday 25 June 2022

Carr's Tennyson

What will be the lasting legacy of that extraordinary one-off J.L. Carr, novelist, publisher, teacher, map-maker and eccentric (about whom I have written frequently on this blog)? Certainly his haunting short novel A Month in the Country (another extraordinary one-off) will last, having rightly achieved classic status. His other novels, each one so different from all the others, are excellent in their way(s), but lack the special magic of A Month in the Country.  Byron Rogers' biography of Carr, The Last Englishman, surely deserves to rank among the classics of the form, and will keep the memory of the man alive. And there is another Carr legacy: the long series of Carr's Pocket Books which he published, edited, illustrated and printed at his Quince Tree Press in Kettering. These very small, genuinely pocket-size books – ideal 'for reading in cold bedrooms and/or the bath' – are always a joy to find. The choice of subjects – poetry and prose selections, pocket dictionaries of cricketers, parsons, eponymists, etc. – reflect Carr's own range of interests, and the books are lovingly made, often surprising and highly individual. Yesterday I came across one I hadn't seen before, so naturally I snapped it up. Titled Alfred Tennyson: A Lincolnshire Landscape, it is a small collection of well chosen short poems and excerpts, all of them imbued with the feel of the landscapes of Tennyson's Lincolnshire childhood and early manhood. Beginning with 'The Owl' ('Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits'), it arrives at its last entry, 'A Farewell' ('Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea...'), by way of excerpts from 'Maud' and 'Mariana', 'In Memoriam', 'The Miller's Daughter' and 'The Lady of Shallot', with the dialect poem 'The Northern Farmer: Old Style'  (heavy going) underlining the Lincolnshire theme. The pages are decorated with images from Bewick's wood engravings, and it's a lovely little thing. Long may Carr's Pocket Books prosper.
(This is Bewick's disgruntled owl, who looks too fed up to warm his five wits.)

No comments:

Post a Comment