The view from the terrace of Berry Head House Hotel, across Torbay to Torquay, South Devon
I thought it would be nice to start my new-improved (as the adverts say) blog by showing you the full photograph that is now the header.
Berry Head House Hotel from the drive to the hotel
Before it became an hotel, Berry Head House was the home of Henry Francis Lyte, who (according to John R Pike’s book, Brixham) came from a distinguished Somerset family (for those unfamiliar with England, Somerset is the county to the east of Devon.)
Born in Scotland and educated in Ireland (including Trinity College, Dublin) Lyte was ordained into the Church of England where his first curacy brought him to England, to Marazion in Cornwall, a village directly opposite St Michael’s Mount.
“Lyte came to Brixham in 1824 with his Methodist wife … He did not appear to be a good choice for Brixham with its robust fishermen, he was a writer of poetry and a frail consumptive,” says Pike.
In the grounds of Berry Head House Hotel
The Lytes moved into Berry Head House around 1833 when much of it was then a military hospital, and they lived in just one wing of the building.
So where is my preamble leading? To the much-loved and well-known hymn, Abide With Me which Lyte wrote, “according to his great-grandson, on September 4th, 1847, whilst looking out over Brixham harbour on the eve of his last departure from England.” In his later years he suffered ill-health and died in Nice in 1847. The words were first published in 1850 by his daughter in his memory.
* * * * * *
From hymns to books. It would appear that books arrive almost every day, but if that isn’t the actual case, it seems like it for they have been arriving with robust regularity.
Did I mention Harry Mount? He is a journalist and writer, and is the Editor of The Oldie magazine. I happened to see a couple of his book on Amazon and thought they looked interesting …
What I enjoyed about these books is that not only are they intelligently written (and from them I have learned much) but also that they are very witty; he writes amusingly without being silly. I also learned several words I had not previously encountered, such as propylaeum, the ancient word for the entrance to a temple in A Lust for Window Sills. And an example of his humour? He is talking about “chapels and meeting houses for the nonconformists and dissenters, the Christian groups that broke away from the Church of England: the Puritans and Presbyterians of the late sixteenth century, the Congregationalists, Baptists and Quakers of the seventeenth century, the Methodists of the eighteenth.”
And he continues … “With all these strands of Christian thought, it’s difficult to nail a particular type of building to each one. Think of chapels as elephants – difficult to describe, but you know one when you see one. To make things trickier, there were many more different types of non-conformism that there are types of elephants.”
Having enjoyed these two Harry Mount books, I ordered two more …
I learned some Latin at school. No, I must re-phrase that. I attended some Latin classes, the teacher endeavoured to teach me Latin, but I much preferred to gaze out of the window. However, I can remember some of the vocabulary – Cives (city), Urbs (town, as in urban), Agricola (a farmer, as in agriculture), Naviga (a sailor, as in navigator). And so I’m going to have a go at reading this, so that I will be able to slip the occasional mea culpa or ad hoc or Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstrandum) into my conversations!
There is an inscription in Amo, Amas, Amat …
I wonder if Mary didn’t enjoy Latin at school, either, or if her Daddy was simply teasing, giving this book to Mary as a birthday present (is it the equivalent of presenting a wife with a vacuum cleaner or a husband with a chisel? Mind you, a man might just love a chisel, men being such strange creatures.)
Other books which have found their way to my bedside table are …
If you enjoy historical fiction which has been well-researched, then Charlotte Betts is your writer. I have thoroughly enjoyed her previous novels, in particular The Spice Merchant’s Wife and The House in Quill Court. This latest novel is based on the life of Princess Caroline of Brunswick, wife of the then Prince of Wales (later King George IV). Princess Caroline was the daughter of the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, and though the marriage to the king, her cousin, was purely political, it does not excuse his treatment of her – he refused her permission even to attend his coronation.
I very much enjoyed the first novel in a series by Tessa Harris, The Anatomist’s Apprentice, which introduced us to Dr Thomas Silkstone, a doctor from “the colonies ” (aka USA) in the 1780s. He was an anatomist, what today we would call a pathologist or a forensic scientist. The second in the series somehow landed on the bedside table, too …
This story is based on an actual person, the eight-foot-tall Charles Byrne, also known as the Irish Giant, and another, somewhat less scrupulous character who is Dr Silkstone’s rival, John Hunter. Again, well-researched and the book comes with a glossary of words and phrases which have, for the most part, dropped from 21st century use.
And finally, two diverse but interesting books …
This is a delight. As the title indicates, it’s all about apples. Where they originated, the varieties, orchards, recipes, apple identification, and growing your own.
I had heard of Robert Hooke, but knew next to nothing about him. A scientist in the time of Newton, why had I not heard of him? In this book, “Stephen Inwood rescues Hooke from centuries of obscurity and misjudgement. Here we have Hooke the inventor, the mechanic, the astronomer, the anatomist, the pioneer of geology, meteorology and miscroscopy, alongside Hooke the braggart, the rival, the hoarder of money and secrets,” it says on the cover. I have only just started this, but I’m finding it extremely readable.
I wonder what you are reading?
Have a lovely weekend,
Until next time.