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Ronald Blythe, 24 January 1980

A Writer’s Britain: Landscape in Literature 
by Margaret Drabble.
Thames and Hudson, 133 pp., £10.50, October 1980, 0 500 01219 9
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... When Margaret Drabble says that, like Trollope, ‘Henry James admires the inimitable, unpurchasable gleam of time’, and describes his Poynton as ‘a Mentmore in miniature’, or when she writes of ‘the allegorical significance and sexual innuendo of the medieval garden’, or remarks that architectural irregularity, to English eyes, ‘seems to be a key, a touchstone, a mystic pledge of some indefinable authenticity’, or calls Dickens ‘the great poet of pollution’, or reminds us that, in Wordsworth’s time, ‘the love of nature seemed almost to replace the love of mankind,’ or says a thousand other such things as she wanders through the settings of our stories and poetry, it becomes obvious that we are in for a new look at this celebrated scenery ...


Ronald Blythe, 17 September 1981

The Diary of a Country Parson, 1758-1802 
by Reverend James Woodforde, edited by John Beresford.
Oxford, 364 pp., £65, June 1981, 0 19 811485 0
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The English Countrywoman: Her Life in Farmhouse and Field from Tudor Times to the Victorian Age 
by G.E. Fussell and K.R. Fussell.
Orbis, 221 pp., £10, June 1981, 0 85613 336 1
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The English Countrywoman: Her Life and Work from Tudor Times to the Victorian Age 
by G.E. Fussell and K.R. Fussell.
Orbis, 172 pp., £10, June 1981, 0 85613 335 3
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... James Woodforde’s diary retains its lumbering, unremitting interest. The obvious question is: what made him keep it? To tell us about his times, or to tell his page about himself? These are the reasons why most men keep diaries, but neither was the compulsion behind this one. This is perhaps why, with this latest edition of Parson Woodforde, we push along beside a writer who, one imagines, would not have cared to be designated social historian or confessional writer, but who nevertheless, deliberately or artlessly, reveals himself and his age with a starkness akin to the hard Norfolk light falling on a ditch ...

Jingling his spurs

P.N. Furbank, 10 October 1991

Private Words: Letters and Diaries from the Second World War 
edited by Ronald Blythe.
Viking, 310 pp., £16.99, September 1991, 0 670 83204 9
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... The Second World War, writes Ronald Blythe in the Introduction to Private Worlds, precipitated the ‘last great avalanche of private correspondence’. Thanks to the Education Act of 1918, it was greatest such avalanche there had ever been, and went with the most furious appetite for books – any kind of books, but Penguins for preference – and with the greatest impulsion to try ‘writing’ in the other sense too ...

Unreal Food Uneaten

Julian Bell: Sitting for Vanessa, 13 April 2000

The Art of Bloomsbury 
edited by Richard Shone.
Tate Gallery, 388 pp., £35, November 1999, 1 85437 296 3
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First Friends 
by Ronald Blythe.
Viking, 157 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 670 88613 0
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Bloomsbury in France 
by Mary Ann Caws and Sarah Bird Wright.
Oxford, 430 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 19 511752 2
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... the books, starting with the choice of locale. First Friends is a narrative bound together by Ronald Blythe out of a trove of letters sent between the Nashes and Carrington, and discovered in a trunk in a bread-oven after John’s death. Blythe edits deftly and writes at once intimately and with a feel for the ...


P.N. Furbank, 1 April 1982

You, You and You: The People Out of Step with World War Two 
by Pete Grafton.
Pluto, 169 pp., £2.95, February 1982, 9780861043606
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... with the informants or get drawn into their whole outlook or life as we do, say, in the books by Ronald Blythe. The main exception here is the long and disturbing narrative of a Glaswegian fusilier, and significantly, it is a pathological case-history. The fusilier’s life at that time (‘27 cases of absence, countless charges of ...

Author’s Editor

A. Alvarez, 24 January 1980

... the gratitude and affection of a host of authors as different as Edna O’Brien and Eric Ambler, Ronald Blythe and Antonia Fraser. That, perhaps, is the crucial difference between the two men. Lane was a publisher’s publisher, a man with immense commercial flair who opened up markets no one had ever dreamed existed but who had very little to say to ...


John Bayley, 29 September 1988

Something to hold onto: Autobiographical Sketches 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 168 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4587 0
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... but are simply offering something to hold onto. In his Introduction Richard Cobb pays tribute to Ronald Blythe, author of Akenfield; and it seems as if East Anglia, Essex in particular, has a special place in the re-creation of Lost Things and the rites that accompanied them. The Fleming brothers, who had a good deal in common with the phantom Bagshaw ...

Children’s Fiction and the Past

Nicholas Tucker, 17 July 1980

The Lord of Greenwich 
by Juliet Dymoke.
Dobson, 224 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 234 72165 0
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A Flight of Swans 
by Barbara Willard.
Kestrel, 185 pp., £4.50, May 1980, 0 7226 5438 3
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Fanny and the Battle of Potter’s Piece 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 45 pp., £3.50, June 1980, 9780434949373
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John Diamond 
by Leon Garfield.
Kestrel, 180 pp., £4.50, April 1980, 9780722656198
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by Hans Peter Richter.
Kestrel, 150 pp., £4.50, June 1980, 0 7226 5285 2
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I was there 
by Hans Peter Richter.
Kestrel, 187 pp., £4.50, June 1980, 0 7226 6434 6
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The Time of the Young Soldiers 
by Hans Peter Richter.
Kestrel, 128 pp., £3.95, June 1980, 0 7226 5122 8
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The Runaway Train 
by Penelope Farmer.
Heinemann, 48 pp., £3.50, June 1980, 0 434 94938 8
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... still vividly remembered and resented by the older agricultural workers who were interviewed by Ronald Blythe when he was writing Akenfield. Oral history should have much to teach contemporary historical novelists, though it may be more difficult to write a good, escapist story if every sordid truth about the past is to be borne in mind. If the ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson, 19 February 2015

Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... like Austen (and perhaps equally falsely), had to write in secret because of family disapproval. Ronald Blythe, reviewing Lark Rise to Candleford in the TLS in 1979, accused John of being ‘crushing in his attitude towards her’ and ‘embarrassed by her writing’. John is a disappointment to biographers. He wasn’t literary, cultured or sensitive ...

East Hoathly makes a night of it

Marilyn Butler, 6 December 1984

The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765 
edited by David Vaisey.
Oxford, 386 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 211782 3
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John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings 
edited by Eric Robinson.
Oxford, 185 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 19 211774 2
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John Clare: The Journals, Essays, and the Journey from Essex 
edited by Anne Tibble.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85635 344 2
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The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare 
edited by Margaret Grainger.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, January 1984, 0 19 818517 0
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John Clare and the Folk Tradition 
by George Deacon.
Sinclair Browne, 397 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 86300 008 8
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... observer derives from his vantage-point, rather than from his own innocence or disinterestedness. Ronald Blythe has paid tribute to ‘the powerful ordinariness of his daily records ... A more authentic and exciting admittance to his times does not exist.’ But a diarist isn’t ordinary: however well-placed an insider, he becomes an outsider once he ...

Decent People

D.W. Harding, 2 August 1984

The Root and the Flower 
by L.H. Myers.
Secker, 583 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 436 29810 4
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... has also been reissued, together with a perceptive and generously appreciative Introduction by Ronald Blythe.* Powys’s fantasy of God coming to earth (its whimsicality controlled enough to be tolerable) makes God not only benign but powerful, judging and in some measure rewarding good and evil in the simplicities of village life. Myers’s survey of ...

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