Saturday 26 October 2019

Solve All Present Problems

Christmas draws nearer (although, to my mind, the presence of Christmas decorations already in Jermyn Street, even if they have not yet been lit, is a case of major jumping of the proverbial gun).

But, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, Christmas is coming. As a result, most of us are beginning to experience that familiar seasonal background niggle of worry that is best articulated by the question: “What the hell am I going to give everyone this year?”

Normally I would reply to this query  with the obvious response: one of my older daughter’s beautiful prints, of course.

But some recipients may already have their walls well-covered, while others might prefer reading to looking. For these, I would like to suggest - indeed, highly recommend, based on my reading of its opening chapters  - a book called The Mother of Beauty and written by Nigel Andrew.

The book chronicles what  Mr Andrew describes as his increasing obsession with church monuments made in what he calls “the Golden Age, stretching from the tail end of the sixteenth century through to the great hiatus of the Civil War”. Among its subtexts are his love of poetry, his interest in (or perhaps, to avoid a slightly creepy undertone, his awareness of) mortality and his deep affection for England (but not the immediately post-Princess of Wales England of “lachrymose sentimentality”) and its quiet villages.

There is something immensely comforting about Mr Andrew’s prose and about the meticulous care with which he has gathered his research into this charming book. Luckily, there is enormous scope for a sequel as the author has barely begun a thorough chronicling of all the treasures the scattered, until now unsung (pace Betjeman),  parish churches of England contain.


  1. Thank you so much, Zoe! I missed this, as I was too busy enjoying reading about Muker (and I so agree about underrated stained glass, and the Rev D.D. Martin). I'm delighted that everyone who's read it so far has enjoyed it so much. I certainly enjoyed writing it – though the experience of getting it out there via Amazon has been unbelievably gruelling.

  2. I think it is a fascinating & delightful book & am planning to give it as a present. Re church monuments I wonder what you might think of the Wyvill monument at Masham, which we came across the other day - there are some pictures in a blogpost here called Dancing Men & Racing Sheep. You might also find Sydney’s oldest church interesting, not for the beauty of its monuments but for the glimpses of the early history of Australia they provide: (sorry if that seems self-promoting; I do genuinely think the two topics might interest you)