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Book Reviews Literature Poetry

The Poems of Tishani Doshi

I came across my volume of Doshi’s poems, Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, in the Oxfam shop and retired to the Cinema’s attatched bar to peruse it. leaving aside the huge question of how we should finance our poets- surely another test of our degree of civilization- I was delighted to acquaint myself with a new poet whose website may be found at http://www.tishanidoshi.com/

Monsoon Poem

Because this is a monsoon poem

expect to find the words jasmine,

palmyra, Kuruntokai, red; mangoes

in reference to trees or breasts; paddy

fields, peacocks, Kurinji flowers,

flutes; lotus buds guarding love’s

furtive routes. Expect to hear a lot

about erotic consummation inferred

by laburnum gyrations and bamboo

syncopations. Listen to the racket

of wide-mouthed frogs and bent-

legged prawns going about their

business of mating while rain falls

and falls on tiled roofs and verandas,

courtyards, pagodas.

Best places in Munnar to visit to watch Neelakurinji flowers bloom after 12  years | Lifestyle News,The Indian Express

The flood of insistent images together with their sounds strikes the reader as with heavy persistent rain. This type of rainfall seems charged too with eroticism from pendulous mangoes to rutting frogs. Throughout this poem this type of rain is held in contrast to the earth itself. It indicates how in one experience and its associated feeling, another mode of being may be temporarily forgotten. It does this with beauty and subtlety.

It ends by speaking of dreams and old poems we forget that –

led us to believe that men were mountains,

that the beautiful could never remain

heartbroken, that the rains arrive

we should be delighted to be taken

in drowning, in devotion.

Old Vintage Postcard With Seascape And Space For Text Stock Photo, Picture  And Royalty Free Image. Image 20607974.

Here is the start of another Doshi poem which is engaging:-

Jungian Postcard

Dear Carl, the days here are impossible:

all silence, and the sea. Yesterday we saw

the horizon unstitch itself from the sky

so delicately, and further down the beach,

two stray dogs materialised like lost souls

from a genie’s lamp. I just had to cry.

Our anima and animus! My love cried,

being philosophically inclined and impossible

to argue with. But the way those bony animal souls

took ownership of us – one black, one gold, and saw

fit to flex their paws on that deserted beach,

unmoved by the disentangled sky

that had banished all its birds. The sky

that slumped so languidly into the sea. I had to cry

for all my complexes.

The poem sets up an intuition of homelessness and alienation which only can be overcome by an inner resolution with the poet’s lover.

Categories
Book Reviews Classics Literature

Two somewhat neglected 18th Cent Philosophers

The most accessible introduction to great philosophers, for me anyway, are the You-Tube programmes made by Bryan Magee maybe some 30 years ago. Particularly interesting was Iris Murdoch talking about Philosophy and Literature. Then there was the lucid conversation with Anthony Quinton on Spinoza and Leibnitz. The clearest philosophy book I managed to grasp however, was Language, Truth and Logic by A.J.Ayer. Freddie Ayer used to appear on the Brains Trust on Sunday afternoons -such excellent stimulating elevating television as we seem to see but rarely nowadays. True conversation seemingly in short supply.

However, skimming through Herman’s delightful book on The Scottish Enlightenment, I came across the intriguing philosopher, Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746). Here is how Herman concludes upon him…”He challenged other forms of oppression, which Locke and even Shaftesbury had ignored…….One was the legal subjection of women. Hutcheson defined rights as universal, and did not recognise any distinction based on gender. The other, even more important was slavery. ‘Nothing’, he said, ‘can change a rational creature into a piece of goods void of all rights.’ In fact Hutcheson’s lectures, published after his death under the title A System of Moral Philosophy, were ‘an attack on all forms of slavery as well as denial of any right to govern solely on superior abilities or riches.’ They would inspire anti-slavery abolitionists, not only in Scotland but from London to Philadelphia.

The second philosopher who had a more psychological interest and lived a little later and for the same number of years was David Hartley (1705-1757). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hartley_(philosopher)

His thoughts on what he terms variolation are certainly pertinent to our contemporary discussions on vaccination. However, his interest in an early study of the philosophy interface with psychology also makes for a certain claim to fame on behalf of this doctor from Yorkshire. According to the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Hartley wrote a significant treatise. “The Observations gained dedicated advocates in Britain, America, and Continental Europe, who appreciated it both for its science and its spirituality. As science, the work grounds consciousness in neuro-physiology, mind in brain. On this basis, the central concept of “association,” much discussed by other British philosophers and psychologists, receives distinctive treatment: the term first  names the physiological process that generates “ideas,” and then the psychological processes by which perceptions, thoughts, and emotions either link and fuse or break apart. In keeping with this physiological approach, Hartley offers a conceptually novel account of how we learn and perform skilled actions, a dimension of human nature often left unexplored in works of philosophy. Such actions include those involved in speech—and, by extension, the conduct of scientific inquiry.”

Although difficult perhaps to penetrate his writings in detail it seems to me that in relation to certain aspects of volition, memory, sensation and associations are a significant forerunner of Freud and psychoanalysis. It is often stated that Nietzsche’s thought have such an influence but Hartley should be recognised for his insights at much earlier period.

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Uncategorized

British Journals investigate China

I think that it was Gavin Ewart who said that well informed persons “Take their clues from the Weekly Reviews”. In the past few weeks I have been interested in the latest viewpoints on China in the World today. I grew up knowing very well a Methodist Minister who had been part of the Chinese Inland Mission and well remember seeing a journal amongst the sermons and stamp albums on his desk entitled China Reconstructs. Even at that time China was able to grant 4.7 million dollars to Egypt at a time when Britain, France and Israel were attacking during the Suez Crisis.

The TLS has recently been looking at how the climate emergency and it’s relation to superpower rivalry. In an interesting review of two books, China goes Green and The New Map, Kate Brown looks at what might be termed green colonialism. The first book, by Li and Shapiro she finds reminiscent of Cold War reportage. Kate Brown mentions how China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) mimics the Marshall plan and costs some 60 Billion dollars. She also mentions that in the past 40 years some 400 million Chinese people have planted some 70.5 Billion trees. “Many of these trees were planted on grass savannahs. Drinking up scarce water, they have caused erosion, and the majority of the poplars and evergreens have died” she writes. In reviewing the second book by Yergin she concludes….”….the big winners in the first decades of the twenty first century have been the oil and gas interests. In 2020, just as 30 years ago, 80 per cent of the world’s energy derives from these two resources.” This TLS article from No 6152 February 26 th 2021 is well worth study.

Pinsk Marshes - Wikipedia

The TLS article mentions that the Pripyat Marshes situated in Poland, Ukraine and Belarus appears to be in the BRI plan – sustainainability? Or the search for global markets?

Oliver Wainwright in the Guardian in the Guardian 24th March has written a fascinating article on China’s rural revolution. He quotes the architectural acupuncture strategy of Xu Tiantian of DnA in Songyang in Zhejang province:-

“We have tried to make something to restore the villagers’ pride in their local identity, as well as bringing visitors and creating a local economic network” Wainwright writes that new facilities will include; a brown sugar factory, a camellia oil workshop, a rice wine distillery and a pottery. This well illustrated article goes on to mention community centres and museums all to be discovered in The Songyang Story published by Park Books.

The Spectator has endeavoured to engage in a thoroughgoing and persistent manner with Chineese issues. The tone is often right wing but nevertheless well written and informative. Overall I find it more engaging to read than the New Statesman, which otherwise accords with my sympathises. On 16th Jan Chris Patten writes about “Lessons from Hong Kong” He speaks out strongly and sensibly about the genocidal policies against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and concludes saying “It is also absurd to think China will implement international labour standards, as French and German governments claim. Our European leaders might also notice how many heads of the Jewish community have drawn attention to the similarities between the Holocaust and ethnic genocide against the Uyghurs”.

In the Spectator on the 24th January 2021 Harald Maass raised the question as to who profits from Uyghur labour camps. He quotes one source as mentioning that some half a million Uyghurs are being forced under very harsh conditions to pick cotton in Xinjiang province mostly by hand. He mentions too, the fashion industry:-

“Brands including Hugo Boss, Adidas, Muji, Uniqlo, Costco, Caterpillar, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger have been named in reports tying them to Xinjiang factories or materials. One in five cotton products world wide is made with Xinjiang cotton, though Marks &Spencer last week signed a call to action regarding Xinjiang and pledged to stop using any cotton from the region” According to the BBC just today images of clothes and trainers are being deliberately obscured for domestic viewing. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-56658455

Frnces Pike https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Pike again in The Spectator 20th February raises the question of how the China’s containment of India-it sees it as a long-term geopolitical rival- should be countered by Biden, Blinken and the D10. Besides the Chinese influence in Burma and Bangladesh, Pike mentions the lease of 99 years for the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka protest over Chinese investment turns ugly - BBC News

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D10_club_of_countries

So the coverage of by The Spectator of China has been intensive and is perhaps summarised by James Forsyth in last week’s copy (3rd April}. Forsyth is, one assumes, fairly close to Downing Street. He mentions that in the previous week, “..the U.S., the E.U., the U.K. and Canada imposed sanctions on China over human rights abuses in Xinjiang” China’s response which included sanctioning five M.E.Ps may lead to the European Parliament failing to ratify the E.U.-China investment Agreement. Forsyth mentions the need for solidarity and refers to this:-

” When Bejing turned on Australia for suggesting there should be an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus, there was a shocking lack of solidarity from New Zealand.”

Forsyth appears to support the proposal being made to the American China Research Group to develop a kind of Nato for trade. He concludes by advocating that such collective economic defence be on the agenda for the G7 in Carbis Bay.

To conclude with two interesting items –

I knew nothing about bitcoins or their importance. This link not only gives an indication of their production but it also explains their considerable contribution in China of producing Carbon Dioxide-

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/apr/07/china-bitcoin-mining-climate-targets-nature-study?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

Secondly, a useful book on this topic has been written by Jonathan E Hillman published by Yale The Emperor’s New Road:China and the Project of the Century. There is an excellent review and tour d’horizon by Laleh Khali in The London Review of Books 18th March 2021

https://www.qmul.ac.uk/politics/staff/profiles/khalililaleh.html

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Poetry

Listening to Reid

Well, perhaps I have had too much time on my hands and a surfeit of Government adverts on Classic F.M. The latter causing my blood pressure to rise despite the compensating soothing by a combination of the symphonies and the smooth and slightly manic A.A. (Alexander Armstrong). Despite the irritations of the lockdown the discovery of the variety of poetry of Christopher Reid. It is the gift that keeps on giving without the unpleasant associations of that phrase. Here is the great man talking about Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.

At the University of Huddersfield
Prose
Prose pays a call on poetry.
A seafaring tower block,
palatial, proud pristinely white
as if fresh from the drawing board
of some high minded architect,
has arrived to inspect
the tired old city.

From Reid's latest collection The Late Sun

There is something subtle and gentle about this poet that reminds me of the best headmaster that I taught under. He can be amusing, eloquent and engaging even with quite short poems like the following from his Selected Poems published in 2011.

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Poetry

Reading and Pondering Reid

Once again, magically

and without official notification,

it was the time of the year

for the pale-blue butterflies to arrive.

From Reid’s Collection “Katerina Brac

Well indeed, the weather has picked up and the magnolia is in blossom in the gardens. I have just been reading the new collection of poems by Christopher Reid entitled “The Late Sun and finding it simply excellent. My favourite poem in his collection at the moment is a collaborative translation with Renata Senktas from the Polish of Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński. It is called from A Trip to Świder

Reid’s poem begins:-

Stars like musicians.

August like a green bird.

The stars play, The wind dances.

And August sheds feathers.

The poem proceeds with such short pellucid sentences and builds in a dream-like imagist manner the vision of this extraordinarily beautiful suburb of Warsaw. The full version of this may be found at https://przekroj.pl/en/literature/a-trip-to-swider-konstanty-ildefons-galczynski





The poem ends with a literary allusion and is infused with a gentle melancholy-

Children in prams, woodpeckers,
a birch growing at a slant,
the river, and the blind man
who drank beer at the station;

and this house with its pointed roof
hidden among raspberry bushes,
and this shadow… as in Three Sisters
by Anton Chekhov.

An informative Polish Website at https://przekroj.pl/en/literature/a-playful-nostalgia-for-a-lost-world-renata-senktas-and-christop interestingly comments that, “hermetic as it sometimes appears, A Trip to Świder is carried along by its musical brio, its dream-like marriage of fantasy and truth, and its kaleidoscopic blending of dissimilar tones and images, which, to quote Czesław Miłosz, “chase one another with the speed of a hurtling train”.

The Late Summer is replete with great poetry and well worth the effort to read over and over. As a result of reading its 79 pages and not having presently been otherwise engaged by a novel- too many new webinars-I have found much to ponder over between cafetieres of coffee- the poems open up vistas of travel and return to the delights of London. Which thought reminds me of my first encounter with Reid via the wonderful poem-play “The Song of Lunch” world-wearily but delightfully intoned by Alan Rickman with Emma Thompson.

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Poetry St Ives

Histories of War as seen by two indispensible Poets-Part Two

The St Ives September Festival had a range of controversial poets come to visit. I remember there being a huge stir when D.M.Thomas came to read and the proctor’s of moral rectitude in the unlikely form of delegates from the Town Council were said to have occupied the back row to ensure that an unseemly did not take place. Then Gavin Ewart arrived one evening to give a reading in the decorative surroundings of the Penwith Gallery. I am most vague as to when I heard him -around the mid eighties I think. I remember how he was said to have been influenced by Auden and spending a very entertaining evening listening to the poet reading in an amusing and cultured voice that sounded very English some edgy and clever poems. I have been reading Martial at the moment and I have an inkling that Ewart might well have been entranced by that Latin satirist.

Gavin Ewart : London Remembers, Aiming to capture all memorials in London

Consider the poem which is entitled “The Death of W.S.Gilbert at Harrow Weald” which may be found on the net. It tells of the demise of the famous lyricist of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas:-

Imagine that flat glassy lake in 1911,

a very Victorian part of the prosperous house,

(architect: Norman Shaw),

a beautiful hot summer’s day in 1911.

It proceeds to describe how two Victorian ladies in “decorous bathing garments” enter the lake where the younger gets into difficulties and Gilbert plunges to the rescue:-

He swims to her, shouts advice: ‘Put your hands on my shoulders!’

She feels him sink under her. He doesn’t come up.

She struggles to the bank, he is dead of heart failure.

and finishes with a typical Ewart touch in the next stanza with sweet advice to older men not to fool about with ladies –

But all the same it is good to die brave 

on a beautiful hot summer’s day in 1911.

Returning to the theme of my previous posting I think this a great poem-

This sanitisation of what war means and how it can falsely be portrayed parallels my previous posting of the poem by Tom Paulin.

 

 

Categories
Book Reviews Classics Literature

You can read books or…..

You can get on and live your life. This was what I once was severely told by one lively lady. I have rather fretted about this remark ever since-more especially nowadays. More especially during lockdown. I have had a partiality for biography for quite a long time. I have always wanted to understand how others perceive life. Some of my interest in poetry came from reading a book about W.H.Auden -well illustrated with pictures that I borrowed donkey’s years ago from Dulwich Library in Lordship Lane. It was near a splendid little gramophone record shop where I spent money on what seemed expensive long-play records. Reading about W.H.A. I was attracted by the thirties political poetry in particular. It has to be said that Auden was photographically interesting from his languid youth to his craggy face in old age.

A couple of years before this following a minitrek visit to Russia I took an A-level correspondance course in History (1815-1945) and the tutor recommended an approach as expounded by the works of Lord David Cecil. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_David_Cecil Accordingly I went on to read his illustrious book on Lord Melborne. Picking quite at random:-

Tis curiously-blended life produced a curiously-blended type of character. with so many opportunities for action, its interests were predminently active. Most of the men were engaged in politics. And the women- for they lived to please the men were political too. They listened, they sympathised, they advised; through them two statesmen might make overtures to each other, or effect a reconciliation. But politics were not then the sentence to hard labour that in our iron age they have become.

Lord Melbourne | Biography & Facts | Britannica

It is not difficult to discern the power and style of Cecil’s prose style. Though in between the carefully balanced sentences, a degree of what is now termed overt sexism appears to the present day reader. On the other hand the power of women in high politics- though by high, I refer to the level of power rather than degree of integrity- emerged here in No 10 last weekend. The relation between Marlborough and the young Queen Victoria emerges as a major theme in this important work. This brings me on to that biographer par excellence Lytton Strachey.

Strachey’s Eminent Victorians as well as his other works were a pleasure to read as well as an education in aspects of political history. It did not exactly give me any particular figure that one might wish to emulate-far from it. These were eloquent and elegant pen-portraits which often showed the neuroticism underneath the surface of the Victorian work ethic. Strachey was immersed in Gibbon and turned wry phrases and ironic comments. In short his wit deeply impressed and his erudition was quite something to attempt to emulate. Then came the marvellous biography by Michael Holroyd whose final pages so portrayed the deep and strange relationship with Dora Carrington. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/16/100-best-nonfiction-books-no-50-eminent-victorians-lytton-strachey-manning-nightingale-arnold-gordon

Here is George from Ireland on Strachey

So my interest in biography has often turned towards political figures. Returning once again to the outstanding Cecil family, it is worth noting that there is a magnificent biography of Lord David Cecil’s Grandfather,Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of SalisburyKGGCVOPCFRSDL (3 February 1830 – 22 August 1903) who had been Prime MInister for over 13 years and is considered a master strategist in Foreign Affairs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Gascoyne-Cecil,_3rd_Marquess_of_Salisbury Lord Salisbury by Andrew Roberts is another fascinating biography. It shows how after a somewhat tremulous beginning at Eton, he employed his many abilities in numerous fields became perhaps to what might be called a Tory intellectual. Robert’s biography is truly engaging and shows for instance, his fascination with amateur scientific experiments, his comfortable but busy life at Hatfield House and his relatively warm relationship with his children.

Salisbury: Victorian Titan by Andrew Roberts: Near Fine Hardcover (2000)  1st Edition, Signed by Author(s) | Limestone Books

Should you have time to visit the National Portrait Gallery, you will find the painting of the !st Lord Cecil which bears the motto ‘Sero, Sed Serio’ inscribed on the portrait and translates as ‘late but in earnest‘. Cecil was subsequently appointed Viscount Cranborne in 1604, Earl of Salisbury in 1605

 

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Penwith Poetry St Ives

Museums, memories and myth making.

Written by the daughter of Guido Morris, the famous St Ives printer and illustrator. A fascinating mélange of her family and personal archive with the changing history of museums. It emphasises the importance of touch as a means of recollecting the past.

In reading about museums I discovered that Derrida had written about archives. He develops a post modern approach to how the perspectives on the past are subject to change. Witness the recent debates about racism and colonialism in relation to this.

From My Archives: Derrida’s Archive Fever

There are two moving poems by Louis MacNeice that moved me when I read them this morning. The first was an early poem called just “Museums” with a pronounced rhyme scheme. The second is more interesting and called “In the Reading Room at the British Museum”. The final line is perhaps more poignant than ever.

Museums by MacNeice

Museums offer us, running from among the buses,
A centrally heated refuge, parquet floors and sarcophaguses,
Into whose tall fake porches we hurry without a sound
Like a beetle under a brick that lies, useless, on the ground.
Warmed and cajoled by the silence the cowed cypher revives,
Mirrors himself in the cases of pots, paces himself by marble lives,
Makes believe it was he that was the glory that was Rome,
Soft on his cheek the nimbus of other people’s martyrdom,
And then returns to the street, his mind an arena where sprawls
Any number of consumptive Keatses and dying Gauls.

On Derrida this link may be of interest

https://youtu.be/uHtXeUH4gnY

 

 

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

Arthur Symons- Cornish Connections

Arthur Symons biography > My poetic side

Cornish Wind

There is a wind in Cornwall that I know
From any other wind, because it smells
Of the warm honey breath of heather-bells
And of the sea’s salt; and these meet and flow
With such sweet savour in such sharpness met
That the astonished sense in ecstasy
Tastes the ripe earth and the unvintaged sea.
Wind out of Cornwall, wind, if I forget :
Not in the tunnelled Streets where scarce men breathe
The air they live by, but wherever seas
Blossom in foam, wherever merchant bees
Volubly traffic upon any heath:
If I forget, shame me! or if I find
A wind in England like my Cornish wind.
This poem by Symons is perhaps a reminder that his parents were Cornish Methodists, his father, a preacher who once was a Minister at St Ives as well as at other parishes in the Duchy. I particularly like the line about “the ripe earth and the unvintaged sea” which by contrast brings evokes Homer’s Wine Dark Sea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine-dark_sea_(Homer). Then there is the a reference to merchant bees, perhaps because they transport pollen but then there are robust Cornish nlack bees (https://www.merchantsmanor.com/cornish-black-bees/).

There is an interesting review in the TLS of his Selected Early Poems and also his Spiritual Adventures by Kate Hext (January 12 2018) which begins with a poem which describes  the poet in sad old age at dinner. It was published by John Betjeman in 1940.


ON SEEING AN OLD POET IN THE CAFE ROYAL, by JOHN BETJEMAN

 

I saw him in the Café Royal,
Very old and very grand.
Modernistic shone the lamplight
There in London’s fairyland.
‘Devilled chicken. Devilled whitebait.
Devil if I understand.

‘Where is Oscar? Where is Bosie?
Have I seen that man before?
And the old one in the corner,
Is it really Wratislaw?’
Scent of Tutti-Frutti-Sen-Sen
And cheroots upon the floor.

There is a delightful exposition of Tutti Frutti Sen Sen and other commercial items in poetry by the late Clive James at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/69678/product-placement-in-modern-poetry

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Penwith Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

“Bronte Territories” by Melissa Hardie-an Appreciation

The Brontë sisters with their brother, Branwell, in a painting by him called the Gun Group Portrait.

Wandering down Chapel Street in Penzance, you cannot fail to recognise that you have entered that part of town where history feels close-by. The sea in the distance, the church and the chapel architecture is impressive, the Turk’s Head Tavern and the baroque wonder of the Egyptian House, the Portuguese consulate and almost opposite the house where George Eliot stayed waiting for calm weather for her voyage to the Scillies. Reading Melissa’s book is like taking a similar peregrination through lost corridors of time to recover a sense of the rich liveliness of Penwith’s past. Welcome to the psychogeography of Bronte’s Territories.

The Brontes are still much in the news. The Irish Times, just two weeks ago, were reporting on the O.U.P. computer analysis of Wuthering Heights apparently confirming it to be the work of Emily and not, as had been suggested, that of her brother Branwell. Iconoclasm may be in vogue. However, a square in Brussels – the city where two of the Bronte sisters studied French – is to be named in honour of the literary siblings. Other authors make claim to curious events in Shropshire in the early years of the 19th century drew the parents of genius together. It is to the intellectual and feminine furore of Penzance and its inspiring hinterland that Hardie’s work appropriately returns us.

In a key chapter on the literature and legend of Cornwall from 1760 much mention is made of the intriguing and taciturn figure of Joseph Carne, a geologist of great renown and an energetic banker. His personality was such that he combined a skill with numbers with a strong Methodist belief and mixed in a variety of literary circles. Nearby Falmouth was a key port for the Packet boats recorded in the poetry and memoirs of Byron and Southey. It too was the home of the Quaker family of Foxes who founded the Cornwall Polytechnic Society in 1832. Carne was a friend and shared their Non-Conformist beliefs. Hardie shows how Carne encouraged his daughter in her geological studies and mentions the doctors, engineers, vicars and scientists whose cultural sources were enriched by contacts which included Bretons, Huguenots, Hessians as well as a significant Jewish community. She reminds us that in reading Davy, for example, we encounter not just a socially beneficent scientist, a traveller and a poet. This is the endowment the Branwell sisters took to Haworth.

It is interesting to consider that within this Cornish background at this period there were a number of competing beliefs and attitudes. There were the mythical beliefs fostered from folklore- piskies and stories in the expiring Cornish language. There was the old religion of Rome not far beneath the surface. Yet there were also new discoveries especially in medicine and geology that fostered a scientific empiricism. This can be seen in figures such as Davies Gilbert to whom this book gives due prominence- a polymath, mathematician, engineer and President of the Royal Society and a wonderful diarist to boot. William Temple much later stated, “The Church exists primarily for the sake of those who are still outside it. It is a mistake to suppose that God is only, or even chiefly, concerned with religion.” It was the evangelical zeal of the Wesley brothers and their belief in education, temperance combined with stunningly beautiful hymns. It was also a challenge to superstition. It is often said it averted revolution which France and later Peterloo portended.

Melissa Hardie shows us the other supportive factors that came into this heady mixture and sustained the Branwells and flowered in the Bronte’s work. These are twofold; the societies and the family or kinship links. The Penzance Ladies Reading group who carefully studied together a stunning variety of literature from the classics of the Ancients to the contemporary travel writings. Not forgetting the subversive eloquence of Lord Byron, a gentleman with Cornish links through the Trevanions. The founding of libraries and collection of artefacts had practical even economic benefits. The Royal Cornwall Geological Society studies into metallic intrusions assisted the efficiency of mining. Local banks provided the capital for further developments in the industry as well as the magnificent Wesleyan Chapels that the Carnes, Branwells and Battens founded and fostered.

The author has researched both land and legacy extensively. Her approach is frequently imaginative and sometimes speculative. This is a strength because she is also at pains to inform the reader of the limitations of the evidence. Footnotes and suggested reading in themselves are useful but the illustrations are worthy of pondering- several works of art in themselves. They add significant detail. This patient work by Melissa supported by other members of the resplendent Hypatia Trust must be counted as filling a deep fissure, or as we might say in Cornwall, a zawn in Bronte Studies.

See also from the Guardian –

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/29/bronte-grandfather-smuggling-past-financed-books-charlotte-emily-anne