Wednesday, February 09, 2011

J.B Priestley's 'English Journey': A rather smoke-addled 1934 copy bought from Amazon is a joy to read, despite smelling like an ash tray whilst doing so.
In 1933, Priestley was commissioned by his publisher to travel the length and breadth of England to write a travelogue of what he saw, and experienced, mainly by road.
His writing and descriptions are quite something, and it is easy to see why he was, and still is, regarded as one of England's literary masters.
An excerpt: The next morning I went from one entrance of the Cotswalds to another, from the Eastern gate to the Northern, for my destination was Chipping Campden, where these Wolds narrow to a fine edge. The day was just right. There was shifting and broken mists below, and somewhere above, a strong sun, which meant that the country was never seen in one blank light. It was one of those autumn mornings when every bush glitters with dewy gossamer. One moved mysteriously through a world of wet gold. Nothing had boundaries or real continuity. Roads climbed and vanished into dripping space. A beech copse was the near end of an impenetrable forest. The little valleys were as remote as Avallon. The villages arrived like news from another planet. As we went, we would startle and scatter hosts of little birds, linnets and finches and even goldfinches, which flashed marvellously about us for a second and then were gone before we could really believe they were there. The trees, especially the great elms, still had indigo night tangled in their branches, but they would jump suddenly into sunlight and show us their patches of dead yellow leaves. And sometimes the mist would retreat dramatically from one bit of ground, perhaps an orchard, and we would see a bough bright with apples. We have been journeying through the England of the poets, a countryside made out of men's visions. At the end of the road was Chipping Campden, with not a wisp of mist about it, full and fair in the sunlight.