Thomas hardy

How do authors’ gardens inspire them?

When Henry James moved to Lamb House in the Sussex coastal town of Rye, he admitted that he could hardly tell a dahlia from a mignonette: ‘I am hopeless about the garden, which I don’t know what to do with and shall never, never know – I am densely ignorant.’ He sought advice from the artist and designer Alfred Parsons and fortunately Lamb House already had a gardener, George Gammon, to do all the work. When Gammon won prizes at local horticultural shows, James was delighted: he was a vicarious gardener, more comfortable at his desk in the Garden Room than with his hands in the soil. Thomas Hardy was

The joy of wigs

I thought, or anyway hoped, that once I’d finished the chemotherapy I would spring back to vitality. Seven weeks on and I’m still creeping about like a two-toed sloth. Now and then I study my face and head in the bathroom mirror for signs of rejuvenation. The narrow skull now boasts a light covering of baby fuzz. Sprouting from my upper lip are some widely spaced bristles. But no sign yet of any eyebrows. From their pouchy sockets the eyes look back at me uncertainly. Listening to In Our Time a few weeks ago, I heard Melvyn Bragg read aloud Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘I Look into My Glass’. The three

The joy of the Great War memoir

Harley Granville-Barker, actor, director, playwright, manager and critic, was a pasha of the Edwardian London stage. As a director, his Midsummer Night’s Dream of 1914 was a theatrical landmark. His own plays were provocative and controversial. The Secret Life, for example, was an analysis of the torpor of the British ruling classes. Waste, involving a married woman’s lethal abortion, was suppressed by the Lord Chamberlain. In 1916, aged 38, at the peak of his celebrity, the great Harley Granville-Barker volunteered for a walk-on part on the Western Front as a Red Cross auxiliary. Last week I came across an account of his opening night in the trenches, as related to

It’s amazing how little insight Paul McCartney has into the Beatles’ genius

The Paul people are out in force these days. A New Yorker profile, a book and a new documentary have put the Beatles, and particularly Paul, back in the papers. Not that they, or he, ever left. I should admit a bias. I have the same first name as John, and being a man of straightforward loyalties I took him as my favourite early on. Even now I find him the most interesting of the four: vain, sardonic, nasty, boyish, thoughtful, wounded; bright-eyed and pugilistic and blessed with an undermining cleverness that left him bored by whatever he came across. The even-tempered Paul just doesn’t entrance me in quite the

Wishful drinking: pubs have always been good at bending the rules

In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy has a running skit about the alehouse in his heroine’s home village where her father, and quite often mother too, disappear for hours at a time. People aren’t allowed to drink on the premises, so are strictly limited to ‘a little board about six inches wide and two yards long, fixed to the garden palings by pieces of wire’. But as the locals don’t like drinking while standing outside, they all head into the landlady’s bedroom and perch on her bed, chest of drawers and washstand while supping ale. And if anyone comes to the door during these sessions, the landlady, as she

Andrew Marr: Scotland is slipping away from the Union

Staying in Britain for the summer has been, in many ways, entirely glorious. We have zigzagged from Shropshire through Derbyshire to the Northumberland coast, from Fife and Perthshire to Herefordshire and Devon. On the way, beautiful little towns and sweeping coastlines, not empty but not crammed either; excellent local food and plenty to keep us interested, from echoing cathedrals to buzzing bookshops. But it has also allowed me to see first hand just how desolate so many high streets are: not only the shops closed because of plague, but those shuttered, clearly from a long time back. Boarded up doors, bleached posters… If it wasn’t so wet, the tumbleweed would