Enthusiasms by Mark Girouard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Girouard's earlier books should be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in The Stately Homes of England. He is the last word in aristocratic deeds, ancient piles, English architecture and archaic drains. His style, might perhaps best described as country-house-guest-criticism. He's always quick to notice a rare old commode or mention his last visit to the dower-house.
Makes for an unusual perspective in a slim book of occasional essays and literary criticism. So, for example, a quick speculative squib on the (remote) possibility that Edward Lear's description of a character in a nonsense verse might not be so uncanny in his resemblance to Oscar Wilde, despite the difference in their ages and the lack of any evidence that they ever met. Mr. Girouard offers a theory about this, based on addresses in common. And then there is his longer, critical piece explaining the failure of Waugh's Brideshead Revisted, and the comparative success of Nancy Mitford's comedies, with much of muchness provided as to their respective lineages and the ownership of various grand ol' houses in which either may have lived or visited. Unique perspective, perfectly supported by Girouard's own acquaintance with the structures and the persons in question. Most interesting, I must say, in it's remarkably eccentric way.
There are a lot of bricks in even such small book, to be honest. I can't say I would necessarily recommend this book as much of guide to anything other than the author's own distinctly specialized focus. As such, however, Girouard is a pleasant enough companion, in the way of an afternoon with a rather chatty Don. Think of this then as a not unhappy visit in clever old gent's rather grand library.
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