From the Guardian Review

Edward Lear

Jenny Uglow has written a book about Edward Lear – Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense. I enjoyed reading the review of it here in Saturday’s Guardian Review section, if you’re interested in Edward Lear’s work you’ll probably like it too.

Short story collections by Ruth Rendell and P.D. James have been published, ideal reading for long autumn evenings according to this article by Sarah Perry.

ruth rendell p d james

Ian Jack has written an article about a book on islands and the people who live on them. Islander: A Journey Around our Archipelago by Patrick Barkham. He visited 11 islands out of the 6,300 which comprise of Great Britain, although only 132 are inhabited all year round.

Patrick Barkham

If you want to know what it’s like to run a bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland’s secondhand book capital – have a read at this article by Shaun Bythell.

Ian Jack Protests Too Much

For some reason I found myself reading Ian Jack’s column in the Guardian on Saturday which you can read here if you’re interested. It’s a bit of a long ramble about Anglophilia/phobia and Scottish independence amongst other things.

I have to say that I do like England and have lots of English friends and family, but I really can’t stand the sort of Scots who go down to England and have the attitude that they have somehow got one up on the rest of us who weren’t successful enough to get ourselves to the south. We tried it and didnae like it – so we took oorselves aff hame again.

Not for the first time I wondered to myself why Ian Jack is given space in the Guardian at all but this article seemed to be even more silly than usual. I think he feels guilty for being a Scot living in England, I can’t see why else he would write about famous Scots who found themselves living/dying in England. You don’t have to be brilliant to realise that lots of Scots have had to go to England at some point for work or career reasons. Most of us do want to get back home as soon as we can, especially if we’ve had the misfortune to pitch up in the very over-crowded south-east.

Poor R.L. Stevenson was in Bournemouth at one point apparently and Lewis Grassic Gibbon died in Welwyn Garden City (I managed to survive it – just!) It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Ian Jack that doctors routinely told their patients to move to a warmer climate when they had poor health, generally TB/consumption. The doctors knew that there was nothing they could do for them. If they were wealthy they took themselves off to Italy and died a wee bit slower than they would have in Scotland’s colder climate. Otherwise they went to the south of England where the weather was marginally better in the summer. However the worst two winters which I have lived through were way down south in Essex.

R.L. Stevenson who had been sickly even as a child, went all over the place trying to prolong his life in hot climates, but to no avail. John Buchan lived in Oxfordshire (shock horror) he had graduated from Oxford University but as a career diplomat he spent most of his life in Canada and became the Governor General there, he was steeped in all things Scottish as far as I can see.

But it was when Ian Jack mentions that Kenneth Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows and describes it as “one of greatest Anglophile novels” – I thought to myself Ian Jack has lost it completely!

Kenneth Grahame had an idyllic childhood with his siblings in rural Perthshire, until the death of their mother. It wasn’t long after that shock that they were all moved down to England, where Kenneth was badly bullied at school because of his Scottish accent. I know that people who should know better point to a stretch of river and say that it is where Kenneth Grahame set the book. In reality the setting was his childhood, the characters his siblings and yes THE WEASELS were the English. They were the people who had pushed him around as a child – and he was getting his own back. It suited him at that very class conscious time to see the good guys – Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger as English gentlemen and the weasels as common riff-raff, and no doubt for commercial reasons that was the right thing to do because the book wouldn’t have been published otherwise. Perhaps Ian Jack should read some books on children’s literature of the early 20th century.

By the way – the people I know who are the most ardent supporters
of Scottish independence just happen to come from Surrey and Oregon, but they live in Scotland so they’ll be voting, which is just as it should be. I have no idea what’s going on in the minds of the ex-pat Scots many of whom apparently want a vote when the time comes. Whoever heard of people having a vote in a country they don’t live in!