The Fox illustration by Chris Wormell
Light the fire and settle into your deeply inviting, old and battered armchair with a pot of tea which you are serving yourself in the good china, and breathe out. This is the wintery comfort of issue no. 60, a sort of pre-Christmas Christmassy delight no less a mouthful of Dickens’ Christmas carol than any mince pie.
It starts with Chris Wormell’s beautiful, elegant and delightful illustration ‘The Fox’ and is followed immediately by ‘Office Life’ – illustrations by Posy Simmonds of Slightly Foxed at work – don’t miss more in the back inside cover.
I immediately turned to page 68 “In search of Unicorns” a review of Elizabeth Goudge by Victoria Neumark. I found the talk of ‘loyalty, kindness, affection, the wonder of nature, the smells of good, plain English cooking, a hot bath and clean clothes’ to be overwhelmingly nostalgic and warming. The pleasure was in remembering books where ‘the ending is suffused with happiness’ and there is just the right balance of ‘mundane detail with a magical conundrum.’ I’m with Victoria when she says ~ ‘Let’s stop hating each other over pink geraniums and enjoy sharing sausages for supper.’
Moving from the cosy trappings of fairy stories and happy endings, I dived straight into “Great Expectations” a review of The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. Our reviewer Richard Platt is himself a bit of a wordsmith and I found his stylistic review particularly inspiring. The deal was sealed however on his admittance that ‘this is the only book that has ever made me hyperventilate.’ He ends his review with a conundrum readers often face and that which conjures images of a satisfying contentment rarely found in life.
The librarian in me then prompted me towards “Incorrigible and Irresistible” a review of the works of John Wilmot by Sue Gaisford. In this article, Sue guides us from her discovery of Special Collections (something very close to my collectors heart) through several rare books discoveries and a very absorbing account of the Earl of Rochester. This review is filled with words I rarely use in life but describe the Earl only too well – scatological, mercurial, uxorious ~ is it awful to say they sound delicious when they refer to a dark character? This article also tells us a tiny bit about the journeys libraries have made in censorship, availability and accessibility. For that, Sue has my upmost respect.
Finally for this afternoon I am indulging myself with “A Dickens of a Riot” a review of Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge by Daisy Hay. But first I shall warm up another mince pie and freshen the pot.