In Search of England by H. V. Morton



Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time probably realizes that I have a bit of an obsession with England. As a natural correlation, I love books set in the U.K. When I stumbled across a description of In Search of England I knew it was a book that was just made for me. The description on the back says  "In the course of a light-hearted journey round England by motor car between the wars, the author captures the sights and sounds, and the personalities, of countryside and town." If you can resist a light-hearted journey round England by motor car then you are a stronger person than I am.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a joy and pleasure the whole way through. It was full of fascinating facts and descriptions of towns and country life. Morton does, at times, assume the reader has a knowledge of history that, in my case, is sketchy at best. We will put that down to my being an ignorant American.

As usual, instead of a real review, I will give you a few quotes I particularly enjoyed. Here is his description of the village of St Just.

There are a few cottages lost in trees, a vicarage with two old cannon balls propping open the garden gate, and a church. The church is grey and small and, as a church, not worth notice; but it stand in a churchyard which is one of the little-known glories of Cornwall. I would like to know if there is in the whole of England a churchyard more beautiful than this. There is hardly a level yard in it. You stand at the lych-gate and look down into a green cup filled with flowers and arched by great trees. In the dip is the little church, its tower level with you as you stand above. The white gravestones rise up from ferns and flowers.

Doesn't that sound lovely? Then there is his response to the city of Bath.

I have decided that when I grow old, with or without gout, sciatica, rheumatism, or lumbago, I will retire to Bath with an ebony cane and a monocle. I like Bath:  it has quality. I like Bath buns, Bath Olivers, Bath chaps, Bath brick, and Bath stone (which to my London eyes is the beatiful sister of Portland Stone), and few sights are more stimulating to relaxed nerves than to sit on the hotel terrace opposite the Pump Room and watch the Bath chairs dash past.

That paragraph alone is as if I submerged myself in every British book I have ever read. Maybe that is what I so enjoyed about this book. It brings to life an England I am happy to believe actually existed.

I went out into the churchyard where the green stones nodded together, and I took up a handful of earth and felt it crumble and run through my fingers, thinking that as long as one English field lies against another there is something left in the world for a man to love. 
'Well,' smiled the vicar, as he walked towards me between the yew trees, 'that, I am afrad, is all we have.'
'You have England,' I said. 



I mentioned that I feel that I am a bit lacking in my knowledge of England's history. I know the basics but that is about it. Morton mentioned G. M. Trevelyan's History of England. It is a happy coincidence that I just purchased two volumes of this history from Maureen who is @finepreserversbooks on Instagram.  They arrived in the mail the same day that I encountered the reference to them in In Search of England. So, now I am all ready to justify the belief of the verger Morton encountered when touring Winchester Cathedral. Morton asked " Who are your most intelligent listeners?' The verger's response?  "American women over forty!"

9 comments

  1. I love old travel narratives and have collected them for years. Of course, this means that I'd prefer to travel in the late 1800s through the early to mid 1900s! My husband and I travelled a lot in the 1980s, when there were fewer people, shorter lines, and, not having children, we always travelled in off seasons. I read H.V. Morton in London years ago and have a couple more of his books. I'll now be looking for the one you've just read.

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  2. AND, if you liked H.V. Morton, I think you'd also like the travel narratives by E.V. Lucas (A Wanderer in ....), Clara E. Laughlin (So You're Going to ....), and Eleanor Early (And This Is ...). They make you feel like you're there, all the little details. Eleanor Early wrote a couple of books about Boston and Cape Cod and I know you live in that area, so they might be of particular interest.

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    1. Thank you for the recommendations. I am going to look them up right now. I grew up going to Cape Cod for vacations so that definitely sounds interesting.

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  3. This sounds absolutely charming, and I am off to find my own copy :)

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    1. I hope you enjoy it. It is good to hear from you again. I hope you are doing well.

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  4. "If you can resist a light-hearted journey round England by motor car then you are a stronger person than I am." :) I instantly picture E. H. Shepherd's illustrations of Toad of Toad Hall, rattling around the countryside in his motor. I also love the final quote, as a fellow American woman over 40.

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    1. Yes! That is what I picture too. Or a Bertie Wooster type character with luggage hanging off the back of the motor car and Jeeves picking up the pieces.

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