March 4, 2024

English Journey

English Journey
J. B. Priestly


(March 4, 2024)

Anne Louise Avery wrote:

Quinquagesima Sunday, 1934. It was a gentle, warm afternoon of pale blue skies with wool-torn clouds & a lovely breeze from the West. In the drawing room, Pine Marten was sketching a vase of catkins, Babcia and Wolf were writing letters, and Old Fox was reading his book. It was a proof copy by a friend of his from London, a Bradford man whom they all liked very much. It was a story of a journey through modern England, from Southampton to Newcastle, a book of great humanity and compassion.

Old Fox is not wrong. That book was this book. English Journey describes J. B. Priestly’s trek from Southampton to Durham and back to London in 1932. He has no time for Merry Olde England, but he has a knack for striking up conversation with interesting people, and finds that he has sympathy for nearly all of them. He likes castles and cathedrals as well as the next fellow, but heartily dislikes dirty, disused industrial sites.

And the right course of conduct, I reflected, was not, unless you happen to be a professional custodian, to go and brood and dream over these almost heart-breaking pieces of natural or architectural loveliness, doing it all at the expense of a lot of poor devils toiling in the muck, but to have an occasional peep at them, thus to steel your determination that sooner or later the rest of English life, even where the muck is now, shall have as good a quality as those things.