Books on Hertfordshire

The Private
 Lives of
Hertfordshire Authors

by Pamela Shields

Published by Tempus Publishing, 2007

Paperback, 160 pages with b/w pictures

ISBN   9 780752 443720


This new book by Pamela Shields explores the connections many writers have or have had with Hertfordshire. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ken Follett, Frederick Forsyth, Victoria Glendinning, Graham Greene, John le Carré, Claire Tomalin, George Orwell and Anthony Trollope are all included.

Charles Lamb called the county, 'Hearty, homely, loving Hertfordshire' and judging by the number of literary giants who choose, or once chose, to call it home he was not alone in his sentiment. Falling more into the populist history as opposed to literature genre this book is intended as a general introduction for readers who know very little about the authors.

from the back cover

If you want some light entertainment the Christmas. and want to know how Hertfordshire has affected the lives of well-known literary figures this book could well be the answer. This kind of biographical dictionary is not meant to be read from cover to cover - but open it at random and you will discover some interesting facts about how contact with Hertfordshire affected the lives of familiar authors. For instance Beatrix Potter spent many happy hours as a child at her grandparents home at Camfield Place while the account of Samuel Pepys' visits to the county make interesting reading. I learnt that Professor Stephen Hawkins grew up in St Albans and that Anthony Trollope lived at Waltham Cross. I was delighted to see that the Medieval monk, Matthew Paris, is mentioned - as is Reginald Hine, the prolific author of books on Hitchin. On the other hand I was a little disappointed that none of the three great Hertfordshire historians Chauncy, Clutterbuck and Cussans are included. However it would be churlish to put too much emphasis on this omission - as whoever the author of such a book includes there will be some reviewer who would have made a different selection.

From the point of view of the local historians who visit this web site the book has one major shortcoming, which would have been easy for the publisher to address. As the biographies are arranged in alphabetical order it is easy to find who is included. The trouble is that many people might want to know which writers were associated with which parts of Hertfordshire. Modern word processing would have made it cheap and easy to provide such an index - which would increase sales to those who are looking for something more that just an attractive read.


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Page created November 2007