Sunday, June 01, 2014

Been There


Click image for larger version.
Image source: Disciple of Knowledge.

I got to thinking recently about how I love to come to a new place and just walk the walk. Looking at everything. Taking photos. And speculating on what might lie behind the façades. The history. The human stories.

I got to wondering had I missed a vocation as a travel writer and that reminded me of an author whose travel writings I so enjoyed in my youth. He seemed to happen in on places and make them come alive.

He had so sunk into my subconscious at this stage that it took me yonks to remember his name: H V Morton and his series of travel books "In Search of ..." everywhere.

Had he influenced my curiosity about the places I found myself in? Had his intimate and loving descriptions of his travels given me an affection for my places too?

So, in a spirit of nostalgia I decided to check him out.

What a shock.

Far from the avuncular traveller of my recollection he turns out to have been a complete gobshite. To quote Max Hastings:
The shrewd, amiable lone traveller of Morton's narratives emerges in real life as a thoroughly nasty piece of work - vain, cynical, misanthropic, deeply anti-Semitic, with a penchant for grotesque sexual adventures.
Apparently Morton even made up loads of stuff in his books. And here was me, when I got home from a walkabout, madly surfing the net and checking out everything twice over for accuracy. What a disappointment.

His biographer, Michael Bartholomew, apparently had similar emotions to what I am now going through. Hastings again:
The best of Morton's writing displays great shrewdness, descriptive power and charm. He brought to his books the qualities of an outstanding Beaverbrook journalist of his period: masterly understanding of public taste, deployed in a moral void. Bartholomew is so disgusted by the revelation of Morton's nastiness and deceits that he finds it hard to be charitable about his books, though he struggles manfully.
Ah well, so there never was a golden age. But perhaps the thought that there might have been makes the present that little bit more bearable.

And you can check out my places on this page.


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