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Short notices

by
28 November 2014

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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. PH

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 (£11.70); 978-1-78028-855-0). GP

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. GP
 
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 (£7.20); 978-0-857-52321-1). GP

 

 

 

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