LITERARY LANDSCAPES OF THE BRITISH ISLES: A Narrative Atlas by David & John Flower Daiches


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This is really two books in one. The part of more practical use is a literary atlas and gazetteer in which you can joyously look up the haunts of literary worthies from Dorothy Wordsworth to Dorothy Sayers. It crams a staggering amount of information into some 15 maps, two biographically-organized gazetteer listings (one for London, one for the rest of the British Isles), and several indexes. The maps, the work of cartographer John Flower, accomplish small-format wonders within the limitations of black and white. Among the secondary pleasures to be found here are maps of Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, and Edinburgh. Though not without its occasional momentary puzzlements, this section can settle dozens of literary arguments at a glance and could easily be used for the preliminary stages of itinerary-planning. The bulk of the book is taken up with 13 pleasantly illustrated, leisurely essays by Daiches, on such subjects as Dickens' London and the literary charms of ""Auld Reekie"" (Edinburgh). These chapters, accompanied by more of Flower's beautiful maps, are a mixed bag. There is a painstaking reconstruction of Leopold Bloom's peregrinations, and a fascinating chapter on ""The Blackening of England"" by factory, canal, and railroad. But a chapter on the Lake Poets consists of not much more than gorgeous quotations from The Prelude, and that on Dr. Johnson's London is largely window-dressing. Undoubtedly the best way to approach these essays is as a frankly personal and unsystematic sampling of geographical and literary memories--the sort of nosegay that has you happily riffling pages and saying ""Now why did he leave out George Eliot's Warwick-shire?

Pub Date: April 9th, 1979
Publisher: Paddington--dist. by Grosset & Dunlap