Magazine article The Spectator

MIN D Y O U R L A N G U A G E Encaustic

Magazine article The Spectator

MIN D Y O U R L A N G U A G E Encaustic

Article excerpt

62 ' I hope you're not having a go at P.D. James, ' said my husband, looking up from Devices and Desires (1989), which I had just finished.

I am certainly not, for I admire and enjoy the author. My article last year about mistakes in Death Comes to Pemberley was intended to raise the question of the responsibility of the publisher of such a successful author. Does F aber not have a duty to correct literal and verbal errors?

Thus, in The Lighthouse (2005), we read of a house with 'a ponderous central tower, so like a battlement that the absence of turrets seemed an architectural aberration'. Obviously, it should be 'so like a turret that the absence of battlements'.

I n Devices and Desires there is a characterisation of a Victorian church as the 'ugly repository of polished pine, acoustic tiles'.


I t should be encaustic.

There are such things as acoustic tiles, but encaustic tiles go with Victorianism. Lady James might even have had in mind Betjeman's poem 'The Church's Restoration'. Betjeman ends two successive stanzas with the the spectator words 'varnished pitch-pine' and 'encaustic tile'.

Encaustic means, etymologically, 'burnt in', as with enamelled or glazed work fired with the clay. …

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