The delightful, gossipy diaries of James Lees-Milne describe his encounters with the owners of country houses - from eccentric lords and oil millionaires to raffish socialists - as he travelled over England saving properties for the National Trust. Here are sharply observed accounts of dinner with Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst; Winston Churchill's bedroom at ChartwelThe delightful, gossipy diaries of James Lees-Milne describe his encounters with the owners of country houses - from eccentric lords and oil millionaires to raffish socialists - as he travelled over England saving properties for the National Trust. Here are sharply observed accounts of dinner with Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst; Winston Churchill's bedroom at Chartwell; T. E. Lawrence's dilapidated Dorset cottage; and war damage to a great house in Derby. All are infused with his love of beauty and his sympathy for those giving up their ancestral homes forever.Generations of inhabitants have helped shape the English countryside - but it has profoundly shaped us too.It has provoked a huge variety of responses from artists, writers, musicians and people who live and work on the land - as well as those who are travelling through it.English Journeys celebrates this long tradition with a series of twenty books on all aspects of the countryside, from stargazey pie and country churches, to man's relationship with nature and songs celebrating the patterns of the countryside (as well as ghosts and love-struck soldiers)....
|Title||:||Some Country Houses and Their Owners (Penguin English Journeys)|
|Number of Pages||:||128 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Some Country Houses and Their Owners (Penguin English Journeys) Reviews
James Lees-Milne worked for the National Trust and during the 1930s and 1040s he visited many country houses whose owners were thinking about handing them on to the trust. The small book is extracts from his diaries organised by house rather than date. Lees-Milne is wonderfully observant, sometimes snide and very funny: "There were Mr Woodhouse, a little, dull old man with a flabby hand, [and] genial Lord Barrington with hairs growing out of his cheeks and ears..." "Luncheon consisted of one egg in a jacketed potato..."I will definitely be buying and reading the full diaries.
Having always lived in the U.S. I have a general fascination with the English countryside, the long history of the estates of England (because long history for us here is, well, not that long), and anyone who has a respect for art, architecture and natural beauty. These are most of the reasons I picked up James Lees-Milne's Some Country Houses and Their Owners. For a few mid-century years, J. L-M's visits to vast historic English estates were recorded in his diaries, and part of his accounts are in this small book published in the Penguin English Journeys series.J. L-M worked for the National Trust to persuade country estate owners to deed their property to this private preservation charity as a more certain way to save it than the means that families currently had available them. Approaching mid-20th century, an agricultural depression, increased taxation, and the deaths of so many family heirs due to war had left the future of these houses iffy at best.J. L-M is an applauded writer and his diary entries of this preservation mission are simplistically captivating. Well-connected himself, Milne's writings include the appearances of famous Brit friends and others such as writers, artists, and royals. I'm also just a sucker for J. L-M's descriptive prose:Of Uppark in Sussex: "the country round here is heavenly, rolling downs under a pellucid sea-light." And at William Morris' Kelmscott Manor, "I leant out the case window, unlike the Lady of Shalott, and gazed.....I do not remember experiencing such a sweet peace and happiness as during these two hours."Lees-Milne doesn't leave off the realism that these English families faced. In spite of their past prosperity, many families were giving up any chance of luxury just to ward off decay and ruin. Many during the 1940s were basically surviving on little food, little fuel and heat, and living in massive homes with no staff to help them.The National Trust apparently saved many of the homes in these writings, but the introduction explains that some either did not survive or continued under the ownership of the families until present day. I am sure the National Trust proposal was not a solution for all estates and must have carried its own complications and pitfalls. Nevertheless, this book makes a nice short read if you just love imagining a whiff and a breeze of the English countryside.
Such a good read. Fascinating glimpse of the early 1940s - the requisitioned Country Houses and estates, the massive cultural revolution with the death of one age and the birth of the next - the final fall of the feudal system and the English gentry class. James Lees-Milne certainly got his miles in and visited many fantastic buildings. I enjoyed his nack of divining personalities and character, recording appearances > what was being worn and eaten - and recording so humanely some very funny scenes for us to share - what a bunch they all sound.....Lord Berwick of Attingham Park and his concern for the ghosts in the house and why one of them should want to disguise itself as a vacuum cleaner [JL-M concludes 'really, he is a delicious man'!]Lady Binning of Fenton House, Hampstead whom JL-M liked over tea taken on 22 Dec 1944 until she disclosed that she was anti-democratic and very pro-Nazi - 'Oh dear!', his diary entry.....indeed.The lesbian coterie at Smallhythe Place, KentThe Hoare's of Stourhead > Lady Hoare 'Don't you find the food better in this war than in the last?', JL-M replied that he was rather young in the last war but certainly remembers being given rancid margarine at his prep school as an 8 year old, 'Oh' she says, 'you were lucky. We were reduced to eating rats'. 'I was a little surprised, until Sir Henry looked up and said 'No, no, Alda. You keep getting your wars wrong. That was when you were in Paris during the Commune.' .....what a dame...Very enjoyable read, I will look up his other published diaries and a biography.
Very interesting. Author sounds an interesting character so I'll be investigating further. Never knew the history of the beginning of the national trust.
This delicious and frustratingly slim volume provides a snapshot of a very specific level of English country life during the 1930s and 1940s. The author, Mames Lees-Milne, visited a variety of notable countryside properties across England with the aim of persuading the owners to hand over their properties to the National Trust. The diaries document those visits and range from a night spent at Sissinghurst with Vita Sackville-West("Vita is adorable...I love her deep plum voice and chortle") through to visits to Clouds Hill, the home of T.E Lawrence ("The cottage is embowered in rhododendrons. It is a pathetic shoddy little place. The visitors have stolen all they could lay their hands on...").It is a beautifully precise book this, intensely acute and cutting at time, and wildly romantic and wistful at others. Lees-Milne's vocabulary is a delight, as is his intensely evocative phraseology. Various individuals are described as "hirsute teddy bears", "very much older than me, I am pleased to say" and,, in one particularly emphatic moment as "resembling a clairvoyante preserved in ectoplasm." I also enjoyed how, when it came to Lees-Milne's visit to Chatsworth and his old friend Debo, Debo is described as having "all the Mitford virtues and none of the profanity". There's such a lovely, albeit slightly waspish, tone of phrase to this book.This edition is a short read, and acts perhaps best as an introduction to the work of Lees-Milne and the context of the country house in England at that time. It is a beautiful, brief, teasingly short book and one that reveals so much in its brief space. I read it primarily as part of my PhD research in the hope of finding a little more information around the National Trust and its early attitudes towards writer's properties. In truth, the extracts within this edition are too brief and too fragmented to be of constructive use. But - as a quick and vivid snapshot into a forgotten world, populated by grouse and corsetry and servants, this edition is something particularly wonderful indeed. I look forward to reading more of these diaries.
This is great fun, he certainly speaks his mind about the people and homes he is visiting. I also have a book on National Trust homes and find it very useful to look up the house he is writing about in it.
Bought this in Oxford and finally got around to reading it. I really enjoyed it. I noticed Highclere Castle was not in it though ;)
Am feeling better disposed towards Lees-Milne because he was a close friend of Vita Sackville-West. And he calls her "adorable". That made me smile.