May 6, 2010
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Today was the day of the general election, but though the headline of The Times was portentous and the lead of the Guardian was despairing, we saw only one polling place (St. Giles, Cripplegate) and no other political activity at all.

Stacey Mason and I took a break from Tinderbox Weekend preparations to spend the afternoon in Kensington with Adam of London Walks, walking from garden to garden — from the roof gardens of a vanished department store to the 17th-century gardens of a residential square, a Victorian churchyard, and the palace gardens of William of Orange. On the way, we passed plenty of notable houses. Here was Ezra Pound’s little house, and Burne-Jones’s much grander place. We had lunch at a bakery near some white-columned houses where Wendy might once have waited for Peter Pan – I have no network and cannot check but surely Becky lived in Kensington? And on the way, Adam pointed out a residence of “England’s second-greatest 19th century novelist – William Makepeace Thackeray”.

“I’m surprised,” I told him, “that you aren’t intimidated by Austen’s fierce supporters.”

“They do sometimes claim second place, or first. And people often say ‘Sir Walter Scott’, though fewer now than twenty years ago. ”

I marveled at twenty. I’d have thought fifty, or perhaps eighty, and Adam was hardly old enough for that. But before I could find a tactful way to pose the question, he let me off the hook. “Of course, he was Scottish, not English!”

“But what about Trollope? Or Hardy?”

“Hardy is really a twentieth century writer, in his sensibility.”

“If I give you Hardy, then, will you give me Galsworthy?”

“No better guide for foreigners to our class system.”

The hotel has a hotel cat, and places real books in each room. One of mine, alas, is a Reader’s Digest Condensed Edition, doubtless chosen for its binding. But there’s also a charmingly-written Old Inns of England by A. E. Richardson, a fellow who can write a bit and who found is possible, in 1934, to get his publisher to allow a chapter on “The Inn in Literature ” to occupy the final third of the volume. The publisher was Batsford, of whom I know nothing, but the printers were Unwin, who (I presume — the hotel internet is down) would later be Tolkien’s publisher. )