It's the getting there is dicey.
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The Woolfonts are reeling, from floods, council politics and skulduggery, a tragedy in the duke's family, the duke's own illness, the Rector's collapse, and the prospect of a social housing new build. The Bishop faces a problem in Beechbourne; Edmond Huskisson, a personal crisis. Can the villages Keep Buggering On?
In this, the first part of the second Village Tales novel, changes come to the Woolfonts, floods vex the District, a retirement at the Free School is announced, there's dirty work on council, the Rector is under strain, and a family tragedy befalls the duke. The villagers must rally 'round: and of course do, with blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Words: 14, Published: October 28, by Bapton Books. Prepare to leave the lamps on when you try to go to sleep.
Words: 40, Published: April 28, by Bapton Books. Free speech, free minds The partners in Bapton Books have a few words on that, and a Classical Liberal perspective on fighting back. Published: November 12, by Bapton Books.
The Woolfonts are the prettiest and most placid villages in England. There's the duke, who's more than the comedian he likes to play at being; retired celebrities; real ale; and an all-conquering local XI. All they want is a new Rector. And they get him. No one anticipates that crime, love, and sacrifice shall play out, between the sun of the Summer fete and the poppies of Remembrance Sunday. Words: 85, Published: July 7, by Bapton Books.
Prefatory essays and over three hundred and fifty footnotes accompany the text, delving into history, geography, ethnology, Imperial politics, and much else beside. Words: 69, Published: July 5, by Bapton Books. An annotated edition of Kenneth Grahame's classic tale of the middle Thames, the Wild Wood and River Bank, and the incorrigible Mr Toad; made richer yet by historical and literary cross-references by two historians who have loved the book all their lives long. Contains almost footnotes and critical insights. Elsmere was to be the exponent of a freer faith; Catharine had been suggested by an old friend of my youth; while Langham was the fruit of my long communing with the philosophic charm and the tragic impotence of Amiel.
I began the book in the early summer of , and thenceforward it absorbed me until its appearance in The year , indeed, was one of expanding horizons, of many new friends, of quickened pulses generally. The vastness of London and its myriad interests seemed to be invading our life more and more. I can recall one summer afternoon, in particular, when, as I was in a hansom driving idly westward toward Hyde Park Gate, thinking of a hundred things at once, this consciousness of intensification , of a heightened meaning in everything--the broad street, the crowd of moving figures and carriages, the houses looking down upon it--seized upon me with a rush.
And meanwhile the same intensity of pleasure from nature that I had always been capable of flowed in upon me from new scenes; above all, from solitary moments at Borough Farm, in the heart of the Surrey commons, when the September heather blazed about me; or the first signs of spring were on the gorse and the budding trees; or beside some lonely pool; and always heightened now by the company of my children. It was a stage--a normal stage, in normal life. But I might have missed it so easily!
The Fates were kind to us in those days. As to the social scene, let me gather from it first a recollection of pure romance. One night at a London dinner-party I found myself sent down with a very stout gentleman, an American Colonel, who proclaimed himself an "esoteric Buddhist," and provoked in me a rapid and vehement dislike. I turned my back upon him and examined the table.
Suddenly I became aware of a figure opposite to me, the figure of a young girl who seemed to me one of the most ravishing creatures I had ever seen.
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She was very small, and exquisitely made. Her beautiful head, with its mass of light-brown hair; the small features and delicate neck; the clear, pale skin, the lovely eyes with rather heavy lids, which gave a slight look of melancholy to the face; the grace and fire of every movement when she talked; the dreamy silence into which she sometimes fell, without a trace of awkwardness or shyness.
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But how vain is any mere catalogue to convey the charm of Laura Tennant--the first Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton--to those who never saw her! I asked to be introduced to her as soon as we left the dining-room, and we spent the evening in a corner together. I fell in love with her there and then.
The rare glimpses of her that her busy life and mine allowed made one of my chief joys thenceforward, and her early death was to me--as to so many, many others! Balfour's latest Cabinet--skilfully and beautifully done by his second wife, has conveyed to the public of thirty years later some idea of Laura's imperishable charm. And I greatly hope that it may be followed some day by a collection of her letters, for there are many in existence, and, young as she was, they would, I believe, throw much light upon a crowded moment in our national life. Laura was the fourth daughter of Sir Charles Tennant, a rich Glasgow manufacturer, and the elder sister of Mrs.
My generation knew them as "The Souls. They had their follies--why not? They were young, and it was their golden day. Their dislike of convention and routine had the effect on many--and those not fools--of making convention and routine seem particularly desirable. But there was not, I think, a young man or woman admitted to their inner ranks who did not possess in some measure a certain quality very difficult to isolate and define.
Perhaps, to call it "disinterestedness" comes nearest. For they were certainly no seekers after wealth, or courters of the great. It might be said, of course, that they had no occasion; they had as much birth and wealth as any one need want, among themselves. But that does not explain it.
For push and greed are among the commonest faults of an aristocracy. The immortal pages of Saint Simon are there to show it. Now the "treasure" among The Souls was, ultimately--or at least tended to be--something spiritual.
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The typical expression of it, at its best, is to be found in those exquisite last words left by Laura Lyttelton for her husband, which the second Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton has, as I think, so rightly published. That unique "will," which for thirty years before it appeared in print was known to a wide circle of persons, many of whom had never seen the living Laura, was the supreme expression of a quality which, in greater or lesser degree, The Souls seemed to demand of one another, and of those who wished to join their band.
Yet, combined with this passion, this poetry, this religious feeling, was first the maddest delight in simple things--in open air and physical exercise; then, a headlong joy in literature, art, music, acting; a perpetual spring of fun; and a hatred of all the solemn pretenses that too often make English society a weariness. No doubt there is something--perhaps much--to be said on the other side. But I do not intend to say it. I was never a Soul, nor could have been. I came from too different a world.
But there were a certain number of persons--of whom I was one--who were their "harborers" and spectators. I found delight in watching them. They were quite a new experience to me; and I saw them dramatically, like a scene in a play, full of fresh implications and suggestions. I find in an old letter to my mother an account of an evening at 40 Grosvenor Square, where the Tennants lived. Balfour was there, with whom we had made friends, as fellow-guests, on a week-end visit to Oxford, not long before; Alfred Lyttelton, then in the zenith of his magnificent youth; Lord Curzon, then plain Mr.
Curzon, and in the Foreign Office; Mr.
Harry Gust; Mr. Rennell Rodd, now the British Ambassador in Rome, and many others--a goodly company of young men in their prime. And among the women there was a very high proportion of beauty, but especially of grace. For, after all, it was English, through and through.
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A little after this evening, Laura Tennant came down to spend a day at Borough Farm with the children and me. Another setting! Our principal drawing-room there in summer was a sand-pit, shaded by an old ash-tree and haunted by innumerable sand-martins. It was Ascension Day, and the commons were a dream of beauty. Our guest, I find, was to have come down "with Mr.
Balfour and Mr. She wrote to me the same evening after her return to London:. But there was another lover than the west wind waiting for this most lovable of mortals.