An immersion in clear, cool and still waters

October 30 2012

“The reading of it has been like an immersion in clear, cool and still waters.” – Church of England Newspaper on GM TrevelyanAn Autobiography and Other Essays (1949). On dust jacket.

He died fifty years ago. The Telegraph had a piece on the day by David Cannadine, who wrote his biography. There is a book about the family by Laura Trevelyan. GM’s father was George Otto Trevelyan. Trevelyan was Master of Trinity, Cambridge, from 1940 to ’51.

P.T.: What about Trevelyan?

A.T.: I admire him very much, for one thing because he writes in a wonderful way and is such a pleasure to read. Secondly, he has a very comprehensive all-round view: he will really give you a picture of all sides of life and activity. He has got right away from that purely political, military, old-fashioned kind of narrative history. When I was at school, the first of his series of Garibaldi books came out, and that was absolutely fascinating to me. I admire him very much.

He had a highly-developed sense of English landscapes. (So did AL Rowse at his early best.) Beginning of Grey of Fallodon, the biography of the British Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916:

“Fallodon has no rare and peculiar beauty. It is merely a piece of unspoilt English countryside – wood, field and running stream. But there is a tang of the North about it; the west wind blows through it straight off the neighbouring moors, and the sea is visible from the garden through a much-loved gap in the trees. The whole region gains dignity from the great presences of the Cheviot and the Ocean. Eastward, beyond two miles of level fields across which he so often strode, lie the tufted dunes, the reefs of tide-washed rock and the bays of hard sand; on that lonely shore he would lie, by the hour, watching the oyster-catchers, turnstones, and dunlin, or the woodcock immigrants landing tired from their voyage.

“Close at hand to the south, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle surround the top of a sea-girt promontory, save where the high basalt cliffs are washed by the tide. Into that ample enclosure the cattle of Fallodon used in old days to be driven for safety in time of Scottish invasion. [Footnote: Grey told me that when, in 1882, he succeeded to the Fallodon estate, he found it still burdened with a payment of half-a-crown a year to the owners of Dunstanburgh in return for this old-world privilege. Dunstanburgh was a favourite place with him, from boyhood to the end.] Eight miles to the north, the keep of Bamburgh rises against the sky, and on the ocean’s bosom lie the Farne Islands – still the greatest of British bird sanctuaries, as when Saint Cuthbert lived there alone among the eider duck and tern.

“And on the other side of Fallodon, to the west, rise the heather-moors, crowned by Ros Castle Camp, Grey’s favourite point of view, closely overlooking Chillingham Park with its white cattle and the castle where his family had borne rule in the old border times. Beyond Chillingham, the green, rounded, Cheviot range hides Scotland and shelters this outpost strip of England between hills and sea. All North Northumberland is visible from Ros Camp, now dedicated as a memorial to Edward Grey.

“In no part of the island are the distant views more spacious, nowhere else are the glories of cIoudland more constantly unveiled. The sense of freedom and vastness, thus purveyed to the eye, is enhanced to the spirit by the tonic air, to a greater degree than in flatter lands or mountain-girdled dales. Stone farms and cottages, solidly and seemlily built, are scattered over the open country, which is protected from the Northumbrian wind by many plantations and strips of beech, ash, and other trees. The denes, hollows and streambeds hold wild vegetation that luxuriates wherever there is shelter. Outcrops of rock form lines of tall, fantastic cliffs, facing inland, and clad in bracken and wild growth. Such is the land that moulded the character of Grey, consciously ere long; unconsciously during his boyhood of rod and gun.”

___

I  ENGLAND

England in the Age of Wycliffe 1899

England under the Stuarts 1904

The Life of John Bright 1913

Lord Grey of the Reform Bill 1920

British History in the Nineteenth Century 1922

History of England 1926

England under Queen Anne:

Blenheim 1930

Ramillies and the Union with Scotland 1932

The Peace and the Protestant Succession 1934

Sir George Otto Trevelyan: A Memoir 1932

Grey of Fallodon 1937

The English Revolution, 1688-1689 1938

A Shortened History of England 1942

Trinity College: An Historical Sketch 1943

English Social History: A Survey of Six Centuries, Chaucer to Queen Victoria US 1942, UK 1944; illustrated edition in four volumes 1949-52

___

II  ITALY

Garibaldi:

Garibaldi’s Defence of the Roman Republic 1907

Garibaldi and the Thousand 1909

Garibaldi and the Making of Italy 1911

Scenes from Italy’s War 1919

Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848 1923

___

III  MORE

The Poetry and Philosophy of George Meredith 1906

Clio: A Muse and Other Essays 1913

The Recreations of an Historian 1919

An Autobiography and Other Essays 1949

A Layman’s Love of Letters (Clark Lectures delivered at Cambridge October-November 1953) 1954

___

IV  ABOUT

David Cannadine, GM Trevelyan, A Life in History 1992

Laura Trevelyan, A Very British Family: The Trevelyans and Their World 2006

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

4 Responses to “An immersion in clear, cool and still waters”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    A Shortened History of England and English Social History: wartime meditations on England, like VW 5.


  2. […] An immersion in clear, cool and still waters (old post). […]


  3. […] context for the same generation, which had a stronger memory of old landscapes than we do, by GM Trevelyan (post here). For Trevelyan, the English landscape was still at its loveliest in […]


  4. […] Post on Trevelyan, and bibliography […]


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