I had not heard of this book before, but when I saw what my Mum was proffering me from a shelf of elderly second-hand books in a market in Brighton, I was intrigued. It was about Victorians, about Queen Victoria, about changing lives and changing times… All things that I loved, so although it was not a book with which I was familiar, I bought it anyway. (Plus my mum is usually very good at picking out good books to read.)
So I started reading it when we sat down for a cup of coffee, in between tramping around Brighton’s lanes. It turned out to be a poignant and loving description of a life well lived during a time of great change. Mundy, a groom, lives in a village and works for the Master at the big house. He has grown up in a rural area and is very much attuned to the rhythms of the country side – the seasons, the natural cycle of life.
However, just as the seasons revolve and change around him, Mundy has to live in a time of rapid evolution – from a world of horse and cart to the noisy and unreliable motor car; from a time of personal pleasure to a time of pleasure engaged in public and in groups, a shift from the pronoun “I” to the pronoun “we”…
Although Mundy does nothing wrong (except perhaps to fail to adapt to progress), he gets left behind and unable to keep up his place in the modern world around him.
A sweet but sad book about the role of progress and how it can affect human life. Absolutely delightful descriptions of Victorian country life (reminiscent in many ways of Laurie Lee’s “Cider with Rosie”) and a poignant description of a man left behind as the world grows and changes around him.
It also provided a nice foil for reading “Her Fearful Symmetry” as there is a Victorian aspect to that as well.
I had not read T. H. White’s work before, although knew that he had written the Arthurian book “The Sword in the Stone” and was noted more for his Arthurian scholarship. So this was a tiny gem tucked in his backlist. Not much written about it on the web, but a gem all the same.
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