Black Beauty Sold Millions, the Author Got Just PS20; LITERARY TRIVIA BRITAIN BY THE BOOK: A CURIOUS TOUR OF OUR LITERARY LANDSCAPE by Oliver Tearle (John Murray PS12.99)

Daily Mail (London), May 4, 2018 | Go to article overview

Black Beauty Sold Millions, the Author Got Just PS20; LITERARY TRIVIA BRITAIN BY THE BOOK: A CURIOUS TOUR OF OUR LITERARY LANDSCAPE by Oliver Tearle (John Murray PS12.99)


Byline: NICK RENNISON

JR.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord Of The Rings, and C.S. Lewis, creator of Narnia, once attended a New Year's Eve party dressed as polar bears. It wasn't even a fancy dress party.

Gilbert White, the 18th-century author of The Natural History Of Selborne, was the first person known to use an 'x' to represent a kiss. He did so in a letter of 1763. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, begetter of Sherlock Holmes, was a very fine cricketer. He once clean bowled the legendary W.G. Grace.

Oliver Tearle's book of literary trivia is full of such inconsequential but delightful facts. Starting at John O'Groats and meandering his way down the country to Lands' End, he unearths a variety of intriguing stories. In Scotland, we hear of the 19th-century poet A.H. Clough, who was looking for a Gaelic-sounding title for a long narrative poem he had written. He consulted some locals. They suggested he call it The Bothie of Toper-na-Fuosich. Unfortunately, he did.

When it was published, one reviewer pointed out that Toper-na-Fuosich was not a place name. It was part of 'an ancient Highland toast to the female genital organs'. The Highlanders had been pulling Clough's leg. The poet was mortified and the title of his poem had to be changed in future editions. If Tearle's compilation has any recurring theme, it's the fleeting nature of literary fame.

Who today reads Marie Corelli? Yet she was the most popular novelist of her day. Her books sold in their millions. She lived in Stratford, where she was the town's second most important literary attraction. Tourists gathered to watch her on the Avon, in her gondola. She had shipped one over from Venice in the early 1900s, complete with handsome gondolier.

Many writers praised in their lifetimes are no longer read. Some were attacked but are now hailed as geniuses. Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights received scathing reviews on first publication. …

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Black Beauty Sold Millions, the Author Got Just PS20; LITERARY TRIVIA BRITAIN BY THE BOOK: A CURIOUS TOUR OF OUR LITERARY LANDSCAPE by Oliver Tearle (John Murray PS12.99)
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