#bookreview Slightly Foxed, Spring issue 2020, no.65 @FoxedQuarterly

Cover illustration by Kelly Louise Judd, ‘Spring Foxes’

Delighting in a pot of tea served up in a 1940s Beryl Wood’s Ware cup and saucer, I’m wistfully enjoying the spring edition under a Dorset cottage roof at a little hideaway I will most definitely be returning to. Sleeping dog at my feet, crisp blue skies and the silence of birdsong, it is so wonderful to start with an article by Felicity James on Charles and Mary Lamb. I’m immediately transported to my bookcase at home that bears their prose adaptation Tales from Shakespeare. Although the fire is a facsimile, it is perfectly cosy so I highly recommend that you toss a throw across your lap, stop scrolling on your phone and absorb yourself for an afternoon of Slightly Foxed. This edition is evocative of those daffodils, crocus’, and yellow primula lining the country lanes; the long 18th century Romanticism, Orwellian fairy tales, poems and nursery rhymes.

Felicity James’s article rather cleverly highlights the snobbery of visiting the country, the Great Outdoors, that is thrust upon us and has been since man was civilised. Of course in the 18th century being in the Great Outdoors for most people was hard toil rather than poetry but let’s think for a moment on the Wordsworth’s who without having had them, this world would be a very different place. William Wordsworth experienced his childhood in The Lakes and the affectionate word battle between him and Charles Lamb who delighted in the crowded streets, noise and spectacles of the city is a cause for much enthusiasm and “thrill of blasphemy”. I particularly enjoyed how Lamb deprecates himself in a jovial manner as a drunken dog rather than a Romanticist. Bravo Felicity, you have made him a real person.

“Fabulous Beasts” is how Alan Bradley describes the estimated million or more of Medieval Manuscripts that are likely to be hiding in plain view. This is a number plucked by Christopher De Hamel after having discovered and delighted in the twelve manuscripts in his Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts and I don’t doubt it. Having been and hope to be again, one of the ‘few scholars who are fortunate enough … to feel the texture of the page, to hold a magnifying glass over the brilliant illuminations by the mostly unknown monks …’ I am enthralled by Bradley’s reverence of such beauty and mystery hidden on book shelves in private libraries, country houses and the like. I gobbled this article up. Bradley totally gets it.

‘I’m a book annotator, not a sociopath.’ Who amongst us isn’t gratified by whole passages written on the guilty pleasure of marginalia. Andy Merrills I applaud you. You had me at the first five words. Of course the article is not really about this, it is an homage of sorts to The History of The Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe (Penguin Classic). Gregory, he describes as an ‘historian who had a thousand things to say’ and so he has been returning to it for many years as a sort of puzzle to be unravelled. Now that is most certainly something to hunt down and enjoy.

These and many more articles are to be found in the Spring 2020 edition and I can’t recommend this enough. Every time an edition drops through my letterbox it feels like Christmas.

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