Books, books, books

Posted by Tory Historian Thursday, May 05, 2011 , , ,

Tory Historian has been reading three different books at different rates. Firstly a collection of Victorian detective stories, edited by Michael Cox, consisting of some very well known works, some not so well known and some quite obscure, which is always a joy to find. Even the least well known and the weakest of the writers (not always the same thing) display an ability to manipulate style that is seen only among the best nowadays. And, as ever, it is astonishing how many of the stories are not about murder but fraud or robbery, all too often of jewels but sometimes of money, which comes in both paper and gold.

Then there is Philip Guedalla's collection of literary essays, A Gallery, found, like the previous book in one of the remaining second hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road. Guedalla, a politician (though not terribly successful), barrister, well thought-of historian and man of letters is someone whom it is hard to imagine these days. Possibly John Julius Norwich comes close though he is not a barrister or a politician.

Tory Historian possesses a slightly battered copy of If It Had Happened Otherwise, a book of counterfactuals, published in 1931, in which the best essay is undoubtedly by Mr Guedalla who envisages European history after a Moorish victory at Granada.

And finally, Monarchy Matters by the Director of the New Culture Forum, Peter Whittle. This one has only just been started so little can be reported apart from that it is enormously interesting. TH cannot help quoting a paragraph or two, found by random leafing through, on the Royal Family and the general thirst for celebrity:

Diana had always understood the need for visibility - the need to be seen to be doing what you were doing. Even though she died before the celebrity age took proper hold, it was obvious that she had a well-developed instinct for the headline or the arresting photograph. There can be nobody left in the country who does not know of the attention she paid to Aids sufferers or the victims of landmines. Her friendship with fashion and showbiz stars epitomized by the image of her comforting Elton John at the funeral of the fashion designer Gianni Versace, added to her lustre as a sort of international celebrity. In this kind of atmosphere, those who went about their duties without the aid of stardust simply could not compete. The hundreds of public engagements carried out by Princess Anne every year, and her decades of work for theSave the Children Fund, now go largely unremarked and uncovered by the media. Even the Prince's Truyst - which, since it was first established by Prince Charles, has gone on to become one of the most important and successful public endeavours of its kind ever to be initiated by a member of the royal family - has still not been accorded the recognition it is due.
Yet, whose work will survive longer?


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