FOR a journalist with a political background, the attraction of
the 1846 is clear: it was the year when Sir Robert Peel ushered the
repeal of the Corn Laws through Parliament, and thus alienated
himself from most of his party. But there was other upheaval, too:
in demographics, as the industrial revolu-tion reached its height;
religion, after the secession of Newman to the Roman Catholics;
transport, with the spread of the railways; even art, with the
development of photography. Stephen Bates delights in it all in
Penny Loaves and Butter Cheap: Britain in 1846
(Head of Zeus, £25 (£22.50); 978-1-78185-254-5).
Queen Victoria has attracted voluminous biographies in the past.
In Queen Victoria: A life of contradictions (now
in paperback: £8.99 (£8.10); 978-0-00-750455-8), Matthew
Dennison takes 154 pages (plus index) to tell the story of her
reign, and point up some of the paradoxes of an independent woman
who relied heavily on her husband and other counsellors.
ANA SAMPSON's Green and Pleasant Land: Best-loved poems
of the British countryside (Michael O'Mara Books, £9.99
(£9); 978-1-78243-301-9) arranged according to the seasons
and their associations ("Seaside", "Day's End"), uses famous short
poems and verse extracts to celebrate "This other Eden".
THE series producer of BBC Radio 4's Prayer for the
Day, Philip Billson, has compiled an attractive hardback of a
full year's worth of these 300-word devotional talks (each ending
in a prayer), broadcast at 5.43 a.m. before Farming Today.
Prayer for the Day: 365 inspiring daily
reflections includes a foreword by a former contributor to
this slot, Lord Harries (Watkins Publishing, £12.99
A NEW edition of The Poems of Rowan Williams,
first published in 2002, has been published by Carcanet Press at
£9.95 (£8.95); 978-1-84777-452-1. It contains 65 poems, of
which 12 are translations, includings those of Rilke and the Welsh
poets Ann Griffiths and, in particular, Waldo Williams. The book
incorporates the earlier collections After Silent
Centuries and Remembering Jerusalem.
EUAN CAMERON's translation from the French of
Philippe Claudel's 2012 book Parfum: A catalogue of
remembered smells (Maclehose Press, £12.99
(£11.70); 978-0-85705-272-8) is a memoir in 63 short
"episodes", ranging from Acacia, Garlic, and Aftershave to Prison
and Sewage Works.
Somewhere in between comes Churches, which the author still
visits frequently, even though he no longer believes. They are
French churches, of course, associated with the "theatre of the
Mass", and such smells as those of incense, of starched robes
stored in a tall cupboard scented with lavender and eau de Cologne,
and of the "priest's winey breath after the Eucharist". The smell
of "dogged, profound and enduring piety", the "odour of unshakeable
belief", is, Claudel says wistfully, a "marvellous illusion".
Philip Van Doren Stern was an American author, editor, and Civil
War historian, but those who haven't heard of him may still have
seen the Hollywood Christmas film It's a Wonderful Life.
It was based on his book The Greatest Gift, which
he wrote as his Christmas card for 1943, now reprinted as a small
hardback with an afterword by his daughter (Transworld, £7.99