The Wry Romance of the Literary Rectory

The Wry Romance of the Literary Rectory

by Deborah Alun-Jones

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A beautifully written book that tells the stories of historic rectories across England and Wales and the writers past and present who have been associated with them

As the sons and daughters of clergy, many of Britain’s most popular writers have grown up in rectories, parsonages, and vicarages—Jane Austen, Alfred Tennyson, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Edmund de Waal among them—while other writers have been drawn to their romance and seclusion. The period that Rupert Brooke spent living out a neo-pagan fantasy in idyllic Grantchester, near Cambridge, greatly influenced his 1912 poem ”The Old Vicarage,“ a work that became a romantic touchstone for an idealized national identity at a time of war. The Old Rectory on the Berkshire Downs was the locus of John Betjeman’s campaign to revive the parochial parish life whose disappearance he deeply regretted.

The rectory has also been home to eccentrics such as Sydney Smith of Foston Rectory in remote North Yorkshire. This wit and essayist was known for his unorthodox sermons and astute contributions to the Edinburgh Review. Compelled to abandon his London life by the enforcement of the Residence Act of 1803, which required priests to live in or near their parishes, Smith bemoaned a posting that was, he wrote, “twelve miles from a lemon.” Nonetheless he threw himself into rural life—and often off his horse, Calamity, in the process.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780500771518
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Publication date: 10/21/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
File size: 47 MB
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About the Author

Deborah Alun-Jones, an art historian and writer, studied at Cambridge University and University College London.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Last Outpost of Time Past 6

Chapter 1 Irregular Regularities: Sydney Smith at Foston 22

Chapter 2 Turning Chaos into Cosmos: Alfred Tennyson at Somersby 42

Chapter 3 An Agreeable Mystery: Dorothy L. Sayers at Bluntisham 63

Chapter 4 Guardians of that Holy Land: Rupert Brooke at Grantchester 88

Chapter 5 A Dream of Beauty: John Betjeman at Farnborough 109

Chapter 6 The Deep Peace of Wild Places: R. S. Thomas at Manafon 133

Chapter 7 Rooms of Verse: George Herbert and Vikram Seth at Bemerton 156

Chapter 8 This Entertainment is Inexhaustible: The Benson and de Waal families at Lincoln 174

Bibliography 198

Acknowledgments 201

Picture Credits 202

Index 203

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