|About the Book|
In this variegated and thoroughly stimulating anthology Godfrey Smith draws on as motley a team of contributors as has ever been assembled to explore in an entertaining way the nature of Englishness. Writers of every style and persuasion, from JohnMoreIn this variegated and thoroughly stimulating anthology Godfrey Smith draws on as motley a team of contributors as has ever been assembled to explore in an entertaining way the nature of Englishness. Writers of every style and persuasion, from John Aubrey to H.V. Morton, from Charles Dickens to Noël Coward, from Milton to Larkin and from Wodehouse to Tynan, including occasional writers such as Arthur Scargill and William Rees-Mogg, to provide contrasting ideas and insights in poetry and prose.Every kind of writing is represented, and every mood: at one extreme W.H. Audens gentle appreciate of Lewis Carroll, at the other Bernard Levins devastating indictment of the North Thames Gas Board. In a section devoted to England in wartime some forgivably sentimental pieces are accompanied by their satirical comeuppance. Among the most important and distinctive voices is that of George Orwell: sane, sceptical and affectionate, it is the voice of a man who thought England was the best country in the world, but in the wrong hands.Lest there be any tendency toward chauvinism, there are several foreign contributions, including a Nigerian view of Eton, the impressions of Clive James on landing in London, and those of Simone de Beauvoir on exploring the capital by bus with the somewhat less anglophile Jean-Paul Sartre. There is also a rich vein of humour running through the anthology, surfacing most gloriously in some wonderfully funny journalism by Jilly Cooper and Keith Waterhouse, among others and the immortal conversation between Nathaniel Gubbins and his Tum. There is a particularly striking section devoted to the look and feel of the English landscape- and throughout the book there are splendid illustrations of the sheer beauty of English prose.Meandering comfortably through the fresh and the familiar, the self-satisfied and the soul-searching, the dramatic and the dotty, Dodfrey Smeiths linking narrative shows the geniality and wit to which readers of his Sunday Times column are accustomed. Overall, The English Reader is the ideal bedside book, both for the English themselves and for anyone wishing to understand them.