THE BOOKS: One, II, C...
Criticism and essays here: and the Shape of Things to Come (it is a rather pudding-like shape, really, like Chesterton in silhouette...).
Essays & Criticism:
Sensible Places: Essays on place, time, & countryside
White horses in the chalk, cider, omnipresent sheep, eccentric neighbours, Lib Dems observed in the wild, parish jumbles, trout streams, village cricket, the pub, and Evensong: with wit, sympathy, and insight, the West Country’s beloved essayist, GMW Wemyss, finds all eternity in the passing moment in this collection of seasoned and seasonal essays from the countryman’s calendar. The author of The Confidence of the House: May 1940 and the acclaimed Titanic history, When That Great Ship Went Down, returns to describe the pastoral life, lived in sprung rhythm.
Parliamentary historian, chronicler of Titanic’s sinking and Churchill’s ascent, annotator of Kipling and of Kenneth Grahame: GMW Wemyss is, admittedly, these, but much more is he the West Country’s beloved essayist, the wry, fond observer of rural humour, chalk-streams, proper gardens, and real ale; village cricket, Evensong, and Lib Dems in their natural habitat.
These collected essays tell of the great themes and small doings of the Valley of the River Wylye, the twenty-st- … er, twenty-scone Baker’s Daughter and her dreams of an empire of the Higher Nosh, river and village, trout and change-ringing, funerals and fêtes.
His jewel-like essays, ‘The River’ – charting the rise of the Wylye and its course to the sea – and ‘The Village’, analysing with wit and learning the development of British settlement patterns from Downton to the Palæolithic, are pride of place in this volume. Yet trout on the dry-fly and ghostly terrors, scrumpy and silver bands, poets and pubs, rascals and Remembrance Sundays, all receive their equal due in these warm, wise, and affectionate observations. As he observes, ‘townies think Thelwell a caricaturist: we know he drew from life’; and here the England of Sir John Betjeman and Miss Read, Barbara Pym and SR Badmin, lives on, in secret corners of country lanes, beneath a skylark’s skies. White horses in the chalk, the downs and the cathedral’s spire, heritage steam trains and off-spin hit for six: here is a feast for mind and senses.
‘A beautifully written memoir of an author, and almost more importantly, of his place. Mr. Wemyss’ near encyclopædic knowledge of the history, geography, geology, demography and faith & politics of the place he calls home make for a fascinating read. The lush details and often poetic descriptions are a marvel and a true testament to not only the author’s skill, but also to the love of his subject. I really haven’t the words to express how much I enjoyed this book.’
– from a five-star review at Amazon US.
Freedom, Fascists, Fools, & Frauds: Bapton Books Position Papers and Other Critical Pieces, 2011 - 2014
Free speech, free minds ... the assault is unremitting on these liberties. The partners in Bapton Books have a few words on that, and a Classical Liberal perspective on fighting back.
Here are collected some of Bapton Books’ position papers from the past three years, and other critical writings by Mr Pyle and Mr Wemyss. Provocative – not to say, provoking – and all too often prescient, these papers detail the dirty work at the crossroads where the culture, law, politics, and policy intersect.
We live in a time in which ‘advocacy’ and indeed democratic politics are far too regularly degenerating into objective fascism; in which liberty is under assault at
home; and in which quite evident fascists and tyrants abroad are on the march. There is a remedy: the full-throated defence of freedom, by all of us, together, on all sides of all issues. You may find the prescription – the mixture as before – in these pages.
In this collection, the partners take on press freedom and its enemies; the dog-killing jacks-in-office of Belfast Council; VV Putin and other jackals; Brussels; Salafists; Cameroons and Wets; Mr Obama; censorious fascists and fascist censors; and the other symptoms and causes of The Present Disorder.
Bapton Books Position Papers aim to inform, to question, to educate, to assert, to challenge, to analyse, and, always, to spark debate. They are made available to the reading public and to all who are intelligently interested in the affairs of the day.
The Transatlantic Disputations: Essays and Meditations
These are some of the collected essays and musings of Gervase Wemyss, chronicler of the fall of Chamberlain and the ascension of Churchill in May 1940, and Markham Pyle, historian of how Congress, by one vote and mostly by accident, kept the draft in 1941 – four months before Pearl Harbor. Mr Pyle and Mr Wemyss are also the editors of the annotated editions of Kipling and Kenneth Grahame, and the partners in Bapton Books.
In this volume, they meditate on trout streams, toaster-ovens, battlefields, game birds, regional culture, regional cooking, the writing of history, and the craft of writing, dispensing wise advice as they go.
‘Let us to the rivers and get wisdom’: setters and soldiers, fly-rods and Fragonard, rivers and reflections on writing: here are ‘great riches in a little room’.
Aphorisms & Observations
The Transatlantic Disputations
MSP: For four centuries now, the American people have resigned themselves to natural disasters and acts of God: floods, prairie fires, blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes, dust bowls, epidemics, academics, lawyers, and politicians.
GMWW: Only a very few things in this world do not yield themselves to rational economic analysis: war, the vices, courage and the other virtues, music, religion, love, patriotism, and, most significantly, cricket. Naturally, these are the things that most matter: particularly cricket. It’s really quite vexing.
MSP: This side of the Kingdom of God upon Earth, it is a melancholy human fact that those who beat their swords into plowshares end up doing the plowing for those who kept their swords.
GMWW: Never trust a man whom one’s Clumbers disapprove.
The Bapton Books Sampler: a literary chrestomathy
A bumper, bonus sampler of essays and reviews, including Mr Wemyss on James Delingpole and on the two breeds of Tory (grocers and grandees), and Mr Pyle on Robert Lawson, AA Milne, Beatrix Potter, and Kenneth Grahame.
This volume also includes Mr Wemyss’ celebrated Remembrance Day ode, ‘Old Soldiers at the Cenotaph’.
We write off children’s literature; yet it is the hand that turns the page, far more than the hand that rocks the cradle, which truly rules the world. And we write off as being children’s literature some of what our own fathers recognized as the masterworks of man, from Æsop to Conrad to Homer to Robert Louis Stevenson to Dean Swift. We are in short fools, so long as we are blind to the facts that literary snobbery is a treason to the mind and soul, and that the books the child reads today midwife the adult of tomorrow.
… By the time a young man is a youth, he should be making the acquaintance of Epictetus, Socrates and Plato, Marcus Aurelius, and Aristotle, surely; but he should be prepared, he had best have been prepared, to find in the Crito or the Meditations or especially in the Nicomachæan Ethics concepts long familiar from The House At Pooh Corner, The Wind In the Willows, and The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
– Mr Pyle
The Bath chair or the Zimmer frame,
The agèd, gnarled, claw-like hand:
Was it to this that heroes came
In England’s green and pleasant land?
Do generations give just due
To those who faced the direst foe:
The Senior Service and the Few,
The BEF of long ago?
– Mr Wemyss
The Crisis: 1914
Originally to have been published in 2014, this volume has been delayed to 2015 owing to Mr Pyle’s heart attack and treble bypass surgery.
It remains all the same the centenary history of the July Crisis of 1914. With all the style, insight, special knowledge, and subtlety they brought to the political histories of 1940 and 1941, the Titanic enquiries, and that portentous year 1937, Mr Wemyss and Mr Pyle here recount, almost hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute, the world’s descent into war in That Glorious Summertide. From the 1913 treasons of Colonel Redl in Vienna to the party contributions which bound the Liberals – and trammelled Asquith and Grey – to pacifist-minded chocolate millionaires, from the Kaiser’s psychodramas to the terror cell which was the Servian ‘Deep State’, they examine all the reasons why every move calculated by statesmen and diplomats to avoid or at least to limit war, had the contrary effect: and all in lambent and epigrammatic prose which sets off, with unbearable sharpness, the last placid Summer, of strawberries and cricket, against the mud and bloody squalor to come.
Evensong: OUT NOW, OCTOBER 2015
The second volume in Mr Wemyss’ Village Tales series sees (hurrah!) the return of the duke, the Rector, The Lads, and the villagers (and the incomparable Viney, His Grace’s nominal butler and actual 2i/c and Very Present Help in Trouble).
Canon Potecary gets her innings; we discover why it is a solecism to bake bread in the Woolfonts; there are, as there must in this life ever be, births and deaths, weddings and christenings; the duke gets Teddy – the newest county councillor – out of a political trap which sets off explosions all the way to Westminster and Whitehall; Sir Bennett Salmon RA wields a masterful brush on an unlikely canvas; Sher’s imam commiserates with Fr Paddick on the slackness of their congregations … when it comes to football friendlies; the Woolfonts Combined XI remains all-conquerant; and Mr Kellow, down the Boar, does a roaring trade, dreaming all the while, as he plates the pies and pulls the pints, of his youth in the great days of Northern Soul.
The Wreck of the Lodewijk and Other Ghost Stories
Our newest author, George Knight, brings his debut trailing chains and cerements behind him, in these modern chillers.
The Annotated Kidnapped
Next in the Bapton Books Annotated Classics series, Mr Wemyss and Mr Pyle take the reader on a journey ’round Scotland and back across again, through the Highland wilds, the perils of loyal Jacobites, and the Appin Murder, in their signature style. Essential reading for two classes of reader: those who already cherish Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure, and those who do not – yet – realise they do.
The Bapton’s Brief Lives series,
for which Mr Pyle is commissioning editor, is also in hand.
We expect the first biography under this imprint to be a life of US Grant, by Michael Neubauer.
Tonight at the Morpheum: a hospital farce in three acts:
Mr Pyle’s highly personal account of his parents’ deaths, his own subsequent illness, the failure to catch it early, and the consequences: heart attack, triple bypass, and (ongoing) recovery, owing to the brilliance of surgeons and the dedication of nurses.
A witty and wise long essay, by turns harrowing and hilarious, this is an account of missed chances and misdiagnoses ... and of heroic efforts by skilled health care professionals, the bemusements of illness, and, of course, the time Deputy Brangus managed to shut down the other hospital in the county at an inconvenient time....