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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.

and …

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.





About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Your comments regarding Latin sum up exactly my own experience! However, when studying the origins of The English language at uni I became quite interested in Latin and enjoyed working out how certain phrases might translate. One of my Christmas presents a couple of years ago was a Latin dictionary. How times change! I would certainly draw a line at vacuum cleaners.
    I’m sure I have said before – I love the view from the Berry Head Hotel and the air up there feels so fresh.
    I can’t remember where but I read that very quote about describing elephants recently. I thought to myself that an elephant is surely not at all difficult to describe!
    By the way, lovely photo of you.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      If I enjoy Amo, Amas, Amat … And All That by Harry Mount, perhaps a Latin dictionary will be on my Christmas present list, too, Eloise! It’s strange, how our ideas of what constitutes a lovely present as we grow older, isn’t it? But a good dictionary is a lovely present, whether in English or Latin.
      I think it might’ve been me who mentioned the elephants, Eloise, when I was writing about architecture books a few blog posts ago. I’ve not checked, but even when I was writing it yesterday, I thought, “I think I might’ve quoted this before!” but didn’t stop and check.
      Thank you for your kind comments re my photo. And, surprisingly, this one isn’t in soft focus ha ha!

  2. What a very interesting array of books. Lots of new to me authors and books to look out for. I’m enjoying reading “A Writer’s Diary'”, excerpts from Virginia Woolf’s diary edited by her husband Leonard. It was first published in 1953 with a wonderfully snazzy orange and black book jacket design by Vanessa Bell, but my edition was published by Persephone a few years ago and uses Vanessa’s jacket design as end papers. So good to see your blog up and running again. I have such a tussle with WordPress every time I post I’ve more or less given up. I must add that “The Apple Orchard – The Story of our most English Fruit” by Pete Brown and Joan Morgan’s fabulous encyclopaedic book of apples are two of my favourite apple books.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I haven’t read Virginia Woolf’s A Writers’ Diary and now lovely that Persephone Books have re-issued it. I’ve also heard that people sometimes have problems with WordPress, but this is the program (if that is what it’s called) that my computer man set up for me when I started my blog last August. Yes, my new selection of books is an interesting (well, to me) and diverse one. I have another apple book on order and I will be writing more about these books in due course, so won’t say more now – watch this space, as they say.

  3. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Your header is lovely , what a fantastic view.
    It is nice when you read a book if you can relate to the place.
    I know you are passionate about books, a question for you do you know how many you own 🙂

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you for approving my new header, Marlene. I think it looks especially attractive because the sea really was this vivid, deep blue on the day I took the photograph, and the slight glimpse of pink of the curtain in our sitting room, behind where I am standing for my photo to be taken, and the pink of the hydrangea on the left are like book-ends of pink and these enhance the blue of the sea. More luck than judgment I assure you!
      I have no idea how many books I had. I could start a book-count but I never know whether to include the guide books and slender books like that which I buy when we visit historic houses and gardens, and there are a great many of those. I think my Shire Books collection alone is approaching 300.

      • simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

        Wow – If I need to research something I will give you a shout 🙂

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          I have always loved books, Marlene, not just as ‘something to read’ but as beautiful objects in themselves. I love all kinds of books, and as perhaps demonstrated in this post, my reading is reasonably diverse.
          For a number of years – perhaps a decade – I would help out in a friends’ antiquarian/2nd hand bookshop when they went on holiday. I absolutely loved this, and it brought to my attention writers who were once well known, even only 30 or 40 years previously, but who few people seem to have heard of today, writer such as Richard Church and Cecil Roberts. I am now enjoying learning about Robert Hooke and, through fiction, about a period in the life of Princess Caroline of Bruswick. It is possible to learn history through fiction. Sadly, there are still some people who say, “I never read fiction,” as if it’s a complete waste of time, but there is much truth in quality, well-researched fiction and it should not be dismissed.

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