I got a mobile phone. Woe. But I don't intend to ever use it or to take it anywhere with me, and I'm not giving anybody the number. What with the phone and Facebook, which is not really doing it for me either (hi ThirdCat) all the gadgettyness is a bit overpowering. Better linger instead upon some books I have acquired recently which are all comfortably down at heel, cul-de-sacky, and behind the times.
Selected English essays chosen and arranged by W. Peacock. Oxford, 1923.
This is one of those pocket-sized OUP school readers. W. Peacock had what seems to me a rather eccentric idea of good models to put in front of the future leaders of the Empire, or perhaps not: the three or four essays I read are beautifully and interestingly composed but the subject matter is strange. Charles Lamb, with little thought for his personal safety, gives us "A dissertation upon Roast Pig"; there is de Quincey's essay on Murder considered as one of the Fine Arts, and eight or nine of Leigh Hunt's most wafty specimens. What's made it really enjoyable for me though is the fact that when I Googled the previous owner's name practically the only result I got was this photograph. I am as certain as certain can be that my book used to belong to the racehorse-owning gentleman on the left. The effect of studying Selected English Essays upon the posture is unmistakable.
Our Nation's heritage edited by J. B. Priestley. London: Dent, 1939.
This also is a schoolbook and also an anthology of short bits of English nonfiction, mostly what we would now call travel writing, or from another perspective, agitprop; the best way of giving you an idea of its contents might be to list the topics, thus: Farming, Trees, Roads, Places, Village Sketches ("A Yeoman", "The Blacksmith"), The Vandals (with a section headed "The Curse of Litter"), Nostalgia, and Epilogue: Britain Is In Danger. The book is about England as a pastoral island quietly going on, under the harmonious and traditional stewardship of the hereditary owners, gentry and peasants, despite the assault of the towns and the dark satanic mills, and latterly, foreign wars. It has full page black and white photographs of avenues, yokels, tudor inns, Clydesdales pulling ploughs, and motorways, litter, and proto- Brutalist architecture. It is quite fantastic and I hope the third-formers who borrowed it from the Bolton County Technical School between 1958 and 1966 thought the same.
Twilight of the Gods: The Beatles in retrospect by Wilfrid Mellers. London: Faber, 1973.
This book looks magnificently excellent also. The cover art is magnificent and the text is divided into Joseph Campbellian sections with magnificent names like "Rebirth and Return of the Initiate." I haven't had much time to check it out properly, though, and remarks like "Whatever one thinks of the film [Magical Mystery Tour], the songs are splendid" might indicate a fatal unwillingness to call a spade a spade (or a heap of crap a heap of crap), and also on the evidence of a brief skim, Mellers doesn't seem to realise that if Paul had had his way everything The Beatles did would have been exactly like Magical Mystery Tour, only much, much more so. Still, it would be a mistake to be hard on him for this error of judgment since he is an academic writing about popular culture in that fabulous excited and serious-minded way which flowered briefly in the 1960s then instantly died and will never return again.
The World of the Children by Stuart Miall. 4 vols. London: Caxton Press, 1949.
I'm very excited about this purchase. Thanks ebay. The volumes haven't even arrived yet, but I know them very well indeed as there was a set in my paternal grandparents' house and when I was young I pored over them. I'll post more about this book when I've had a chance to re-acquaint myself with its beauties.