A guide to the apothecary’s garden

On 23 May 1804, two months before his daughter’s wedding, John Coakley Lettsom threw open his estate in Camberwell. Some 800 guests made their way to Grove Hill, with its panoramic views across the Thames to London. A leading doctor and noted philanthropist, a prolific author on matters medical, social and moral, Lettsom was famously convivial. But if any of his guests had been expecting music, dancing and cards, they were in for a disappointment. Lettsom was a Quaker — though not of the strictest variety — and the evening’s entertainment centred on ‘rational pleasure’. Guests were invited to view the shells, corals and minerals on display in his museum,

Studies in vulnerability: A Shock, by Keith Ridgway, reviewed

Keith Ridgway’s seventh book is a sultry, steamy shock of a novel, not least because nine years ago, despite the critical success of Hawthorn & Child, he retired from writing, telling his publishers he was done with making up stories. He also stopped reading — although only for a year, lured back by the likes of Muriel Spark and Georges Simenon’s Maigret series. Reading made him want to write again. The result is A Shock, a provocative collection of nine interlinked stories, jostled together like neighbours on a London street or regulars in a pub, which is where most of his characters cross paths. The composite form, popular with the