The English Past: Evocations of Persons and Places

By A. L. Rowse | Go to book overview

NOTTINGHAM: A MIDLANDS CAPITAL

I

IN these years when it has been impossible to travel abroad -- at least if one is an ordinary civilian -- I have found it a good idea to take the opportunity to discover one's own country. And for someone whose life is lived wholly between Oxford and Cornwall, with an occasional excursion to London, it is very much a matter of discovery. Though at Oxford I am on the threshold of the Midlands, to venture into them is a venture indeed. Armed with a guide-book, fortified by railway and bus time-tables, accompanied by a companion to keep me on the rails, moving into the Midlands with as much trepidation as if I were going into a foreign country, I arrive at Nottingham to discover a magnificent town, full of improbable splendours.

Why had no-one told me about it? Why had I never heard of it before, I felt -- like George Moore when someone first drew his attention, in late middle-age, to Lycidas. On my return to Oxford I realise the answer. I find that I am not alone in my ignorance: of half a dozen friends I meet -- all of them historians too -- only one of them has ever been there, or has any idea of what an astonishing town it is. Like myself, they had all passed by a dimly-realised, smokeclouded landscape in the train on their way to York, Durham, Edinburgh. They had never got out and looked. They would have been very much surprised if they had -- as surprised, and impressed, as I was myself.

It was no mere archaeological quirk that led me to pay my visit. I am content to remain unsure what the original name -- apparently Snottingaham -- means or who the Snottings were; nor do I wish to follow up the fantasies of

-196-

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The English Past: Evocations of Persons and Places
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • All Souls (1945) 1
  • Bisham and the Hobys 15
  • Hillesden in Buckinghamshire 46
  • Dear Dr. Denton - An English Gentleman of The Seventeenth Century 66
  • The Milton Country 85
  • Swift at Letcombe 113
  • Afternoon at Haworth Parsonage 143
  • Thomas Hardy and Max Gate 165
  • John Buchan at Elsfield 184
  • Nottingham: A Midlands Capital 196
  • D. H. Lawrence at Eastwood 217
  • Alun Lewis: A Foreword 238
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