I am busy outlining my new novel. I’m reading lots of books: serindipitous findings have increased my bookshelves to overflowing.
One book I found this way is: H V Morton’s London. Its end pages and the edges of the pages are foxed with age. My volume is the sixteenth edition being: The Heart of London, The Spell of London and The Nights of London in one volume with fifteen illustrations. From the introduction:
An acquisitive young reporter, with an immense appetite for London, was once allowed to wander out at will into the highways and the byways, as long as he returned in the evening with something to write about. So far as my recollection goes, he never came back empty-handed, and it is on record that he kept up the story of his explorations day by day for many a month. He was upheld in his quest by the conviction that, in such a wonderful and mysterious place as London, it was impossible for him to stand anywhere for half an hour and see nothing of interest. And, in this, I think he was right.
I now regard these snapshots of London and London life, gathered here for the first time into one book, with some respect, not for anything that is said in them, but because of the amount of vitality and enthusiasm that went to their making. Nothing was too much trouble, and no appointment to be neglected, no matter how seemingly ridiculous, if it appeared to promise yet another glimpse into the life of the capital.
H V Morton, August, 1940.
Henry Canova Vollam Morton FRSL (known as H. V. Morton), (26 July 1892 – 18 June 1979) was a journalist and pioneering travel writer from Lancashire, England. He was best known for his prolific and popular books on London, Great Britain and the Holy Land. He first achieved fame in 1923 when, while working for the Daily Express, he scooped the official Times correspondent during the coverage of the opening of the Tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in Egypt.
H V Morton
The same author wrote many books on an eclectic mix of subjects a few of which are: Women of the Bible, In the Steps of the Master, Blue Days at Sea, Ghosts of London. If you are writing about the wonderful capital of England search out H V Morton’s books on London and you will find in there much there to bring your story to life.
However all is not as it seems with H V Morton and a biography from 2004 ends with a passage which the author judges to have been not reportage, but pure fiction:
“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 afraid, is all we have’.
‘You have England’, I said.”
When I found this review by chance while researching this article I wondered if I should mention it but came to the conclusion that a biography is only one writer’s perception of another person.
H V Morton was a man with flaws and shortcomings as well as being an accomplished journalist which made his writings so accessible to readers of his work. He was a man of his time and it is important we recognise this when reading his books or the many internet articles about him. I’m glad we have the legacy of his books.
Reference: Max Hastings 09 May 2004 The Telegraph reviews In Search of H. V. Morton by Michael Bartholomew.
Reference: Wikipedia for the bio of H V Morton
Have a good writing week
2 responses to “What Elise Wrote: H V Morton”
Thanks for your essay on H.V.Morton; I have read and re-read several of his books over the years, particularly those of his travels in England, as many parts of my own country are known to me. His familiar way with words and ‘chatty’ approach have great appeal and the reader isn’t made to feel that Morton is imparting information to the ignorant, nor talking down to them.
I recently added a letter of his, dated 1927, to my autograph collection, in reply to a lady who enjoyed ‘In Search of England’, which was first published that year. He was in his mid-30s at that time, and I had pictured a rather dashing young man travelling around the country; however, I was rather disappointed when searching for a photograph to accompany the signed letter, to find that he looked like a middle-aged businessman – not quite the image I had of him. However, his books make up for his looks, and whilst we are in lockdown during this covid19 pandemic, they are deputising for the real holidays we would have taken, both at home or abroad.
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Hello David, Many thanks for your comment that I have just found. How lovely to have a letter of his and I too pictured
a dashing young man. I must do some more research on him. It’s wonderful to accompany him on his rambles!