Thursday, December 2, 2010


Often, in times of (hmm) pococurantistic whimsical internet jaunts, I will aimlessly click around
websites I am visiting, one I frequent, abebooks, lists their top sales of rare books each month:(

[Last month’s most expensive sale, a rare Islamic book about the work and words of the prophet Muhammad, was our sixth most expensive sale in the history of AbeBooks and our biggest sale for five years. The $45,000 book is around 800 years old and details Hadith methodology. Hadith are collections of narrations dedicated to explaining the prophet’s actions and words. They are important tools in understanding the Qu'ran and Islamic law, and have existed for more than 1,200 years. They are a cornerstone of Islamic life. Muhammad died in 632 A.D and his traditions were passed on orally for several centuries before the Hadith were formally recorded. By the 9th century, there were many different versions of the Hadith and today the Shia and Sunni denominations have different ones.]

This led me to pondering what the most expensive manuscript floating about would be...I remember seeing a rare, good condition first ed. of The Hobbit, Tolkein had written a note inside the book to the woman who had been his assistant (?) and signed it, it had been described as the single most sought after edition of this most popular novel. But then what about Anne Frank's diary...the original manuscript, perhaps invaluable and surely not ever for sale? Or an ancient religious text...dead sea scrolls, book of Kells...

But then I found it. In 1994 an individual named Bill Gates dropped a record breaking $30.8 million on Leonardo da Vinci's scientific doodlings the Codex Leicester. Infact it was Gates who renamed the manuscript so, as it had since 1980 been called the Codex Hammer after the industrialist, Armand Hammer, the previous owner. The Codex provides a rare insight into the inquiring mind of the definitive Renaissance artist, scientist and thinker as well as an exceptional illustration of the link between art and science and the creativity of the scientific process. The manuscript does not take the form of a single linear script, but is rather a mixture of Da Vinci's observations and theories on astronomy; the properties of water, rocks, and fossils; air, and celestial light.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

ANZAAB: Melbourne Antiquarian Book fair Malvern Town hall

ANZAAB (...or the Australian and New Zealand Association of Antiquarian Booksellers) had there 37th annual book fair this week, (Tues - Thurs) 23rd-25th November. Held in the beautiful Victorian two storey Malvern town hall, with its original vaulted ceiling and pendant lighting, the entrance to the fair was impressive, welcomed in by suave clad ushers and in the thick of it from the first step. Possibly being over thirty years younger then the average guest it is easy to get the feeling of an exposed knave at a masquerade   ball. However, part of the appeal of these events for me has always been the throb of the masses, the oscillations of the bookish introverts. Together we float around the great Malvern banquet hall, undulating throes of particular desire and whim. For him the 1875 Wisden, for her the personally signed Wodehouse first edition. We all have our vice and price. Not too many stalls down I bump into an old acquaintance, Stephen, a man of dry wit and solid advice he reminds me of the sentiment I entered the hall with as he tells me he is 'merely viewing with his hands buried deep in his pockets'. I sigh and agree, looking back to the cabinet with the $150,000 first ed. copy of Darwin's 'Origins of the Species', I remember how serious these events can be.

I amble along but there is a deep seeded knowledge that there will be certain bits and bobs on the forthcoming shelves that will appeal to me. Surely someone has brought along a collection of hardcover Blyton's Famous Five, and what about a lesser seen titled Verne, or UK first edition Tintins, surely someone has Eric Blair's signature...

These Famous Fives were presented by Hobart's Kookaburra Books (03) 62233251

The above map of the world was a 1936 (pre war) issue from a Japanese news company. It contains many interesting details from a blown up section detailing the ports at Hawaii and a precise number of Japanese in each country at the time of issue. It had been displayed by ACT booksellers Asia Bookroom.

 Allen Lane's ever popular and always familiar orange and white stripped Penguins.

...and Beatrix

Tintin, UK 1st Editions.

Tolkein and C.S.Lewis

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sewing Seeds...Farming at Eton College

Virgil - The Georgics

Amongst the pomp and ceremony at top English boys school, Eton College, one can be made to, for more serious offences, chalk out the Georgics (more than 500 hexameters) by their House Masters or the Head Master. The giving of a Georgic is now extremely rare, but still occasionally occurs. Also on the theme of farming, suspension was known as 'rustication', derived from the latin 'rus' or countryside as the boys would be sent home.

The Georgics is a poem in four books, likely published in 29 BC.[1] It is the second major work by the Latin poet Virgil, following his Eclogues and preceding the Aeneid. It is a poem that draws on many prior sources and influenced many later authors from antiquity to the present. Scholars have often been at odds over how to read the work as a whole, and puzzled over such phrases as labor omnia vincit / improbus (1.145-146), which is not simply the platitude, "work conquers all," but "shameful work conquers all." As its name suggests (Georgica, from the Greek word georgein, 'to farm') the subject of the poem is agriculture; but far from being an example of peaceful rural poetry, it is a work characterized by tensions in both theme and purpose.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Screaming at walls : The intriguing appeal of Futuristic and Dystopian literature.

I would never say I was a fan of fantasy novels, but then there is Tolkein and Ursula Le Guin's novels. I do not get the fascination with sci/fi, but what about Jules Verne and HG Wells, arguably the fathers of the genre. It is easy to like the science fiction of these men, as we as a society, are catching up with moon rockets and submarines, computers, robots and lasers. It is not as hard to fathom such technologies, as I imagine it was, reading about these things at the dawn of the twentieth century. Remember that on Tuesday, 3 June 1952 Tintin walked on the moon, whereas NASA did not get Armstrong on it until July 20, 1969. So those reading the book before 'one small step' were reading 'fantasy', a man on the moon indeed! But underneath all of the gadgetry and one piece silver suits of the genre a desire to attatch a parable arose.

When Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World he claimed he was inspired by the H. G. Wells' utopian novel Men Like Gods, where a parallel world refers to earthlike days as 'days of confusion'. Wells' story an optimistic vision of the future gave Huxley the idea to write a parody . Contrary to the most popular optimist utopian novels of the time, Huxley sought to provide a frightening vision of the future. Interestingly enough, Wells had already put out, 'The Sleeper Awakes' (1899) some thirty three years earlier.

One name that springs to mind is George Orwell. The quintessential novels of dystopia 1984(1949) and Animal Farm(1945) were penned in the 1940's and warned of oligarchial collectivist societies and Stalinism. Much of the inspiration behind Orwell's ideas came from his experiences with governmental Myopia (short sightedness) internationally and his commitment to his democratic socialist ideals.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a "dystopia" is: "An imaginary place or condition in which everything is as bad as possible; opp. UTOPIA (cf. CACOTOPIA). So dystopian n., one who advocates or describes a dystopia; dystopian a., of or pertaining to a dystopia; dystopianism, dystopian quality or characteristics." The example of first usage given in the OED (1989 ed.), cites "1868" writing by John Stuart Mill: "1868 J. S. MILL in Hansard Commons 12 Mar. 1517/1 (the first known use of dystopian) is a speech given before the British House of Commons by Mill in 1868, in which Mill denounced the government's Irish land policy It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable."

For a list of further literature:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kidnapped and the Psalm (35) of James of the Glens

Robert Louis Stevenson, amongst other things, was a brilliant purveyor of the Scottish aesthetic. No suprises he weaves a fact(ional) story into one of his best loved stories kidnapped. The novel deals with the ordeal of protagonist, David Balfour, who is accused of being an accomplice (in the post Jacobite uprising) Appin Murder, a real life murder. The characters in the novel of Alan Breck Stewart, Colin Roy Campbell, James Stewart, Cluny Macpherson and Robin Oig Macgregor are all real.

On 14 May 1752 Colin Roy Campbell of Glenure, known as "The Red Fox," the Government-appointed Factor to the forfeited estates of the Stewart Clan in North Argyll, Scotland, was shot in the back by a sniper in the wood of Lettermore. The search for the killer targeted the local Clan, the Jacobite Stewarts of Appin, who had recently suffered evictions on Campbell's orders. The chief suspect, Allan Stewart (or Alan Breck Stewart) having fled, James Stewart (also known as Seumas a' Ghlinne (James of the Glen) and brother of Ardsheil'), one of the last leaders of Stewarts, was arrested for the crime and tried for the murder. Although, it was clear at the trial that James was not directly involved in the assassination, he was found guilty "in airts and pairts" (as an accessory; an aider and abetter) by a jury consisting of a people from the locality where the crime occurred, including a number of jurors related to Clan Campbell. The presiding judge was Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell. James was hanged on 8 November 1752 on a specially commissioned gibbet above the narrows at Ballachulish, now near the south entrance to the Ballachulish Bridge. He died protesting his innocence and recited the 35th Psalm before mounting the scaffold. To this day in the Highlands, it remains known as "The Psalm of James of the Glens."

Pslam 35, Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, "I am your salvation." May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay…Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn… Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions…They do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land.

As part of the events to celebrate Edinburgh being named the first UNESCO City of Literature, three versions (tradition, children's version and graphic novel) of Stevenson's novel were made freely available, including being left on buses and in other public places, throughout February 2007. I highly recommend visiting the RL Stevenson museum in Edinburgh, it is located just off the Royal Mile, or if approaching from the 'new town' it is behind the National Gallery on Princess st.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


A little whilst back I was doing some research into the Oxford Universities literatti and the strange links that
held this bastion of creative fellowship together. On fellowship, the example of 'The Inklings' comes to mind; Tolkein, Lewis and chums clashing tankards and tapping the dottle from their pipes in the Eagle and Child whilst whiling away the day with discourse on orcs and talking lions. But one of the strangest ties comes with JM Barrie (of Peter Pan fame) and his cricket team, the mighty Allahakbarries. About two weeks after reading a little bit about a sports team made up of the creators of Sherlock Holmes, Winnie the Pooh, Jeeves and Peter Pan I stumbled across a copy of Kevin Tefler's book Peter Pan's First XI (The Extraordinary Story of JM Barrie's Cricket Team). A chance occurance if ever there was.

From the book : The creator of Peter Pan, JM Barrie, was a hugely enthusiatic cricketer of very little talent. That didn't stop him from leading perhaps the most extraordinary and comical amateur cricket team ever to take the field. Some of the twentieth centuries most famous writers including arthur Conan Doyle, AA Milne, PG Wodehouse and Jerome K Jerome turned out for Barrie's team, the Allahakbarries. I have not yet read the book, but by all account, albeit far from a paragon tome of historical significance it provides a colouful glimpse of golden Edwardian summers and humerous annecdotes of a keen, cricket loving Scotsman.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

York Book Fair September 10 - 11 2010

The York Book Fair


From modest beginning with just 20 exhibitors at the White Swan Inn in York in 1974, the York Book Fair has grown into the largest, and many say friendliest, rare, antiquarian and out-of-print book fair in the UK. Held over two days, 200 of the UK's leading booksellers offer for sale a breathtaking diversity of books, as well as maps & prints, ranging in price from just a few pounds up to tens of thousands of pounds.

I attended the book fair for the first time in 2009 and was amazed by the quantity and quality of the books, a large ammount of signed copies, 1st editions, rare and out of print stock. There were stalls from all over the UK and some from Europe. I found one particular German stall that was selling 1936 'Hitler-Games' Olympic programs signed by Leni Riefenstahl and beautiful journals from the 30's of a young girl with dress designs, photos, pressed flowers, ticket stubs and other paste - able habiliments.

Other highlights of the fair included beautiful children's book first editions, such as Tintin, The Hobbit and the Narnia Chronicles and many signed letters... also watching the OAP's getting ailse rage through the antiquarian tomes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A book about nothing...

The Diary of a Nobody, an English comic novel written by George Grossmith and his brother Weedon Grossmith with illustrations by Weedon, first appeared in the magazine Punch in 1888 – 89, and was printed in book form in 1892. It is considered a classic work of humour.

The diary is that of Mr. Charles Pooter, a city clerk of lower middle-class status but significant social aspirations, living in Upper Holloway. Other characters include his wife Carrie (Caroline), his son Lupin, his friends Mr Cummings and Mr Gowing, and Lupin's unsuitable fiancée, Daisy Mutlar. The humour derives from Pooter's unconscious gaffes and self-importance, as well as the snubs he receives from those he considers socially inferior, such as tradesmen. The book has spawned the word "Pooterish" to describe a tendency to take oneself excessively seriously.[1]

Pooter is mentioned in John Betjeman's poem about Wembley.

The book is quite easy to read for two reasons, one it deals with simplistic events in short bursts and secondly it is written as diary entries, dealing with the mundane existence of an Edwardian couple.

Clive Staples...Champion

C.S.Lewis (Clive Staples, if you were wondering) is a hero to a lot of people, his Chronicles of Narnia stories are priceless building blocks in a childhood appreciation of literature. Many people, perhaps, do not read further past this, as the fact that he is a lay theologian and Christian apologist is far from subtle and not everybodies cup of tea.

Lewis was born on 29 November 1898 in Ireland. As well as novels he was an acedemic, medievalist,essayist and literary critic. Along with Narnia he is also known for his fictions, The Screwtape Letters and The Space Trilogy.

Lewis was a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, and both authors were leading figures in the English faculty at Oxford University and in the informal Oxford literary group known as the "Inklings". According to his Memoir, 'Suprised by Joy', Tolkein was also a contributing fact (as well as other friends at Oxford) from him slipping out of religion until he reestablished his faith at the age of 32.

Lewis was the chief member of the Inklings, an informal literary discussion group in Oxford which at various times included the writers J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Lewis's brother W. H. Lewis, and Roger Lancelyn Green. Readings and discussions of the members' unfinished works were one of the main activities of the group when they met, usually on Thursday evenings, in C. S. Lewis's college rooms at Magdalen College. Some of the Narnia stories are thought to have been read to the Inklings for their appreciation and comment.

In 1956 he married U.S. writer Joy Gresham who died four years later of cancer. Lewis died three years after his wife, as the result of renal failure.

It is interesting to note that Lewis' death, along with Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) both on 22 November 1963 were of minimal consequence in the press and sadly went by without to much attention as on that same day in the U.S. President Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald.

The Chronicles of Narnia present the adventures of children who play central roles in the unfolding history of the fictional realm of Narnia, a place where animals talk, magic is common, and good battles evil. Each of the books (with the exception of The Horse and His Boy) features as its protagonists children from our world who are magically transported to Narnia, where they are called upon to help the Lion Aslan save Narnia.

Publication order:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magician's Nephew
The Last Battle

Chronological order:

The Magician's Nephew
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle

Written order:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Horse and His Boy
The Silver Chair
The Magician's Nephew
The Last Battle

Final Completion order:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Horse and His Boy
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle
The Magician's Nephew

Sunday, May 9, 2010

...And now for something completely different, a first reading of H.E.Bates

After finishing Darkness at Noon I was keen to take on something a little less bleak, although knowing nothing of H.E.Bates more than the name, 'The Darling Buds of May', I picked up a collection of short Stories. One included was The Golden Oriole. It seems most of Bates' work was set describing the rural midlands of his upbringing especially his county, Northamptonshire. This setting also led to his knowledge of gardening, a field i which he was also published. He and his wife lived their lives out in a granary which they converted into a house and the surrounding gardens in Kent. Appointed CBE in 1973 and dying the following year aged 68 he wrote over 100 novels and short stories. His wife, a childhood sweetheart, survived him to the ripe old age of 95, and died in 2004. This information all came as a suprise as all of the shorts I read in the paperback dealt with lust, indescretions, affairs and painted a character of its rural dwellers as stiffled, repressed, practitioners of extracurricular liaisons.

Very readable however.

A Short Trip to Ruritania

Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, better known as Anthony Hope (9 February 1863 – 8 July 1933), was an English novelist and playwright. Although he was a prolific writer, especially of adventure novels, he is remembered best for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau (1898). These works, "minor classics" of English literature, are set in the contemporaneous fictional country of Ruritania. He was a Balliol college graduate and cousin of Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows. He also wrote (1896) a prequel entitled The Heart of Princess Osra, a collection of short stories set about 150 years before Zenda. His stories of Zenda won much critical praise from many including Robert Louis Stevenson, who was a source of inspiation. "Since its publication in 1883, Treasure Island has provided an enduring literary model for such eminent writers as Anthony Hope, Graham Greene, and Jorge Luis Borges."

Darkness at Noon

Arthur Koestler was born in Budapest on the 5th of September 1905. Koesler was a prolific author of essays, novels and autobiographies. Educated in Austria he began his career in Journalism. In 1931 he joined the Communist Party of Germany but, disillusioned, he resigned from it in 1938 and in 1940 published a devastating anti-totalitarian novel, Darkness at Noon, which tells the tale of Rubashov, a Bolshevik old guard and 1917 revolutionary who is first cast out and then imprisoned and tried for treason by the Soviet government he once helped create.

According to George Orwell, "Rubashov might be called Trotsky, Bukharin, Rakovsky or some other relatively civilised figure among the Old Bolsheviks". (Athur Koestler Essay, George Orwell, 1944)

The novel is set in 1938 during the Stalinist purges and Moscow show trials. It reflects the author's personal disillusionment with Communism; Koestler knew some of the defendants at the Moscow trials. Although the characters have Russian names, neither Russia nor the Soviet Union are actually mentioned by name as the location of the book. Joseph Stalin is described as "Number One", a barely-seen and menacing totalitarian leader.

"Koestler’s published work really centres about the Moscow trials. His main theme is the decadence of revolutions owing to the corrupting effects of power, but the special nature of the Stalin dictatorship has driven him back into a position not far removed from pessimistic Conservatism. I do not know how many books he has written in all. He is a Hungarian whose earlier books were written in German, and five books have been published in England: SPANISH TESTAMENT, THE GLADIATORS, DARKNESS AT NOON, SCUM. OF THE EARTH, and ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE. The subject-matter of all of them is similar, and none of them ever escapes for more than a few pages from the atmosphere of nightmare. Of the five books, the action of three takes place entirely or almost entirely in prison...DARKNESS AT NOON describes the imprisonment and death of an Old Bolshevik, Rubashov, who first denies and ultimately confesses to crimes which he is well aware he has not committed. The grown-upness, the lack of surprise or denunciation, the pity and irony with which the story is told, show the advantage, when one is handling a theme of this kind, of being a European. The book reaches the stature of tragedy, whereas an English or American writer could at most have made it into a polemical tract. Koestler has digested his material and can treat it on the aesthetic level. At the same time his handling of it has a political implication, not important in this case but likely to be damaging in later books.

Naturally the whole book centres round one question: Why did Rubashov confess? He is not guilty — that is, not guilty of anything except the essential crime of disliking the Stalin régime. The concrete acts of treason in which he is supposed to have engaged are all imaginary. He has not even been tortured, or not very severely. He is worn down by solitude, toothache, lack of tobacco, bright lights glaring in his eyes, and continuous questioning, but these in themselves would not be enough to overcome a hardened revolutionary. The Nazis have previously done worse to him without breaking his spirit. The confessions obtained in the Russian state trials are capable of three explanations:

1. That the accused were guilty.

2. That they were tortured, and perhaps blackmailed by threats to relatives and friends.

3. That they were actuated by despair, mental bankruptcy and the habit of loyalty to the Party.

For Koestler’s purpose in DARKNESS AT NOON 1 is ruled out, and though this is not the place to discuss the Russian purges, I must add that what little verifiable evidence there is suggests that the trials of the Bolsheviks were frame-ups. If one assumes that the accused were not guilty — at any rate, not guilty of the particular things they confessed to — then 2 is the common-sense explanation. Koestler, however, plumps for 3, which is also accepted by the Trotskyist Boris Souvarine, in his pamphlet CAUCHEMAR EN URSS. Rubashov ultimately confesses because he cannot find in his own mind any reason for not doing so. Justice and objective truth have long ceased to have any meaning for him. For decades he has been simply the creature of the Party, and what the Party now demands is that he shall confess to non-existent crimes. In the end, though he had to be bullied and weakened first, he is somewhat proud of his decision to confess. He feels superior to the poor Czarist officer who inhabits the next cell and who talks to Rubashov by tapping on the wall. The Czarist officer is shocked when he learns that Rubashov intends to capitulate. As he sees it from his “bourgeois” angle, everyone ought to stick to his guns, even a Bolshevik. Honour, he says, consists in doing what you think right. “Honour is to be useful without fuss,” Rubashov taps back; and he reflects with a certain satisfaction that he is tapping with his pince-nez while the other, the relic of the past, is tapping with a monocle. Like Bukharin, Rubashov is “looking out upon black darkness”. What is there, what code, what loyalty, what notion of good and evil, for the sake of which he can defy the Party and endure further torment? He is not only alone, he is also hollow. He has himself committed worse crimes than the one that is now being perpetrated against him. For example, as a secret envoy of the Party in Nazi Germany, he has got rid of disobedient followers by betraying them to the Gestapo. Curiously enough, if he has any inner strength to draw upon, it is the memories of his boyhood when he was the son of a landowner. The last thing he remembers, when he is shot from behind, is the leaves of poplar trees on his father’s estate. Rubashov belongs to the older generation of Bolsheviks that was largely wiped out in the purges. He is aware of art and literature, and of the world outside Russia. He contrasts sharply with Gletkin, the young GPU man who conducts his interrogation, and who is the typical “good party man”, completely without scruples or curiosity, a thinking gramophone. Rubashov, unlike Gletkin, does not have the Revolution as his starting-point. His mind was not a blank sheet when the Party got hold of it. His superiority to the other is finally traceable to his bourgeois origin.

One cannot, I think, argue that DARKNESS AT NOON is simply a story dealing with the adventures of an imaginary individual. Clearly it is a political book, founded on history and offering an interpretation of disputed events. Rubashov might be called Trotsky, Bukharin Rakovsky or some other relatively civilised figure among the Old Bolsheviks. If one writes about the Moscow trials one must answer the question, “Why did the accused confess?” and which answer one makes is a political decision. Koestler answers, in effect, “Because these people had been rotted by the Revolution which they served”, and in doing so he comes near to claiming that revolutions are of their nature bad. If one assumes that the accused in the Moscow trials were made to confess by means of some kind of terrorism, one is only saying that one particular set of revolutionary leaders has gone astray. Individuals, and not the situation, are to blame. The implication of Koestler’s book, however, is that Rubashov in power would be no better than Gletkin: or rather, only better in that his outlook is still partly pre-revolutionary. Revolution, Koestler seems to say, is a corrupting process. Really enter into the Revolution and you must end up as either Rubashov or Gletkin. It is not merely that “power corrupts”: so also do the ways of attaining power. Therefore, all efforts to regenerate society BY VIOLENT MEANS lead to the cellars of the OGPU, Lenin leads to Stalin, and would have come to resemble Stalin if he had happened to survive." (Arthur Koestler Essay, George Orwell, 1944).

Wells: Martians, Socialism and Tasmanian Genocide

The War of the Worlds (1898) is a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells. It describes the experiences of an unnamed narrator who travels through the suburbs of London as the Earth is invaded by Martians. Wells is considered by many (along with Jules Verne)as the father os the Science Fiction genre and the novel is one of the earliest stories that details a conflict between mankind and aliens.

Wells had a remarkable life, born into an impoverished lower middle class family in Kent, his parents were chalk and cheese. His mother a protestant cleaning lady and his father shopkeeper come gardener with a penchant for cricket. A broken leg in 1874led young Herbert, due to a bed ridden state, to adopt a taste for literture. After his parents went their seperate ways Wells drifted in an out of careers spending the downtime with his mother at Uppark country house in Sussex (her dwelling as a lady's maid)where he immersed himself in the expansive library, reading many classic works, such as Plato's Republic, and More's Utopia.

Soon after he studied Biology under Thomas Huxley, grandfather of Brave New World's Aldous Huxley, in London and fell into socialism, debate, Fabian society etc. One reference in this novel that stood out to me (being born in Tasmania) was the questioning of evil over ignorance in the aliens deeds. Wells draws a comparison to the invasion in his Sci Fi classic to the invasion, occupation and genocide of the indigenous population of Tasmania. Pointing out humanities own history of evil and the aftermath of cultural differences and waging war on 'the unknown'.

"We must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals such as the vanished bison and dodo, but also upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years."

Although the observation is dated and sounds as if to come from a colonialist heart of lead. The point is addressed.

Sir Gawain and The Green Knight...written by a Manc!?!

Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is an English masterpiece of medieval alliterative poetry. The author although unknown is thought to be of North Midland origin, arguably, due to studies in the dialect of Cheshire or South Lancashire birth. One theory made by Mr Ormerod Greenwood (and a serious contender, according to this editions translator, Brian Stone) is that the author may have been a Hugh Mascy, or Hugo de Masci an old Cheshire family. The writting, a contemporary of the likes of Chaucer, exists a vellum manuscript in the Cotton Collection of the British Museum.

"He was a man of serious and devout mind, though not without humour; he had an interest in theology, and some knowledge of it, though an amateur knowledge perhaps, rather than a professional; he had Latin and French and was well enough read in French books, both romantic and instructive; but his home was in the West Midlands of England; so much his language shows, and his metre, and his scenery." (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Edited J.R.R. Tolkien and E.V. Gordon, 1925.)

The Alliterative Revival is a term adopted by academics to refer to the resurgence of poetry using the alliterative verse form - the traditional versification of Old English poetry - in Middle English during the period c. 1350 - c. 1500. The last alliterative poem known before this period is Lawman's Brut, which dates from around 1190. Opinion is divided as to whether the reappearance of such poems represents a conscious revival of an old artistic tradition, or merely signifies that despite the tradition continuing in some form between 1200 and 1350, no poems have survived in written form. (