Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday the 19th May

I have been reading Sabine-Gould's book about the Reverend Harker of Morenstow, alongside Daphne Du Maurier's 'Vanished Cornwall'.. Sometimes stories overlap in one's mind and as you chase threads the small world of England closes in.  For instance I found out that Sir Bevil Grenville, a Royalist, who fought in the Civil War on the Lansdown ridge, near Bath, (my favourite walking place) actually came from Cornwall, and just following his family history in Cornwall makes me sad for this man who was killed in the battle so far from home.

 "Bevil Grenville, thinking to repeat his victory at Stratton, led his men uphill to seize the guns.  He fell, mortally wounded.  Thereupon his standard bearer, Tony Paine, seized Sir Bevil's young son John, a boy barely fourteen, and clapped him upon the dying man's horse, and the boy tears smarting in his eyes, brandished his father's sword and rode in the enemy's pursuit" 

Du Maurier even when she writes factual books cannot but embroider and illustrate her stories, and when I started reading her book she shocked me from the first page.  She opens with a story when she was 5 years old the gardener had caught a snake in the garden, but instead of killing it outright had nailed it to a tree with a knife, saying that it would be dead before nightfall.  She of course keeps an eye on its wriggling around, and sure enough the poor creature was dead at nightfall - how cruel....

But this is what it was like, and another story of Du.Maurier, which I will record because the telling of it was so good..

Pistol Meadow;  In the mid 18th century a transport ship of soldiers were washed up on the rocks at Lizard Point, and a couple of hundred corpses were washed ashore.  The locals found them at low tide jammed into rock crevices, tangled in seaweed, half hidden by stones and also a great quantity of firearms had washed up as well.  Just above the cove was a tiny meadow, the sort that Tangye talks about that fall down to the sea and are only good for growing daffodils.  Anyway it was here the local people dug pits for the bodies and carried them up the cliffs, but overnight a great company of wild dogs descended on the corpses and devoured them. 

This so upset the people that all their dogs were driven out of the villages for miles around and "In after months, and even years, so it was said, the Lizard people shunned the companionship of dogs".  Of course Du.Maurier visited the meadow, no wild flowers, just mounds surrounded by stumpy gorse, shaped grotesquely by the wind. I just love a truly gory story, maybe she just visited the wrong meadow. Telling this tale to LS and he suddenly says our friend down in North Hill also says that there are still wild dogs round in Cornwall - yikes...

Soon when LS has finished in the studio, we are off for a picnic at Paper Mill lock, scotch eggs are done, baked in the oven, and there is even some potato mayonnaise from last night.  We had our first English asparagus, which was delicious and a treat at this time of the year for tea last night, reminding me when as a child my grandfather always cooked asparagus (upright in the saucepan of course, so that the tips were lightly cooked) with a poached egg and a dish of melted butter...


  1. So much of my sense of history has been colored by 'historical narratives'--which I'm assured are facts embellished with the 'might have been' conversations and encounters which went unrecorded. I would place DuMaurier's 'The King's General" in that category. Its a book worth re-reading.

    1. That of course is true, the delicious sense of drama to be found in all historical accounts and folklore are embellished through the ages, so that the original 'kernel' of the story has to be sought...

  2. Asparagus and melted butter is my idea of heaven.

  3. Great post Thelma. I have Daphne du Maurier's "Vanishing Cornwall" and have always been fascinated by her as a person. You are the ONLY person I know who also owns and reads books by Sabine Baring-Gould (apart from me!) Fascinating stuff within. Shivery stuff about the wild dogs devouring the corpses, and that poor snake . . .

  4. Hi Jennie, Don't actually own it, have it on my computer in bookmarks, would love to own some of Sabin Goulding's books. Take a great delight in all these 19th century writers, most of them being vicars only work on Sunday!