An ode to the printed word

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O’ where is the romance of this modern age.

Must everything be so instant, so ‘on line,’ so text abbreviated.

And for goodness sake there’s now even something called ‘e-readers’ and ‘Kindles,’ to take the place of the hard copy printed word. Now that really is turning over a new leaf too far.

For like one’s true beloved a book is a joy to behold, to be held and treasured, to be softly caressed, to always be there to inspire and comfort, and in the warmth of a summer’s afternoon to be laid upon the meadow grass, open and vulnerable to one’s intimate indulgence.

A slab of plastic is hardly the same and dialling up an ‘eBook’ must be about as impersonal as trawling through some on line dating site, whatever they are.

But on the subject of the printed word our district has a distinguished past and not least with that iconic role model for the under fives, Noddy.

Having moved from a small house in a poor parish of London, in 1932 the Reverend A. Hann came to Newton Longville to live at the Rectory with his wife Dorothy.

She was a Guide Commissioner and an author of Guide books, and on occasion her famous friend Enid Blyton would come to stay.

At another Rectory in a village not far away was born the founder of the Daily Express while in more recent times Bletchley came to be associated with a more infamous press ‘baron’, Robert Maxwell.

As for Newport Pagnell the town has associations with Samuel Pepys, who described an overnight stay, John Bunyan, from the days of the Civil War, and an organist of Malvern Priory, whose book recounts his early days in and around the town.

In fact having been one of the last articled pupils of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whom he assisted in his projects, his father had been engaged in building the branch railway line from Wolverton.

Another who published his early recollections of local life was a doctor, who as a boy had lived at Great Linford with his paternal grandfather, the village schoolmaster.

Elsewhere during World War One, Mr Will Purvis of Loughton was awarded the MBE. A former Northampton journalist, and a well known drama critic and book reviewer, he was the author of several works and for many years specialised in gardening matters.

At North Crawley, Thomas David Boswell purchased the estate of Crawley Grange in 1803. He was the younger brother of James Boswell, the biographer of the famous Dr Johnson, and as mentioned in previous articles another famous literary figure was the Olney poet William Cowper.

Yet the town has another claim, for a non-resident rector, Moses Brown, edited Isaac Walton’s famous book the ‘Compleat Angler.’

At Emberton, in 1916 a poem by the Reverend Sams was published in the Spectator. Then his talents were again recognised in 1920, when his verses for the clock tower war memorial received the following approval from Rudyard Kipling: “Do not alter any of your words; they are perfect.”

At Stony Stratford the proprietor of a dancing and deportment academy, Mr Joseph Hambling, became the inspiration for the character of Mr Turveydrop in the Charles Dickens novel, ‘Bleak House,’ while in another famous book the boy’s journey to Rugby through Fenny Stratford is described in ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays.’

As for diaries, the most locally well known are those of the Reverend William Cole, of Bletchley, and Betsey Wynne, of Swanbourne.

However of no less interest are those from the 20th century of Herbert Bennett, whose recollections of life in Bletchley during WW2 have recently been featured, and from WW1 Lance Corporal Albert Brawn. His parents lived at Osborne’s Farm, High Street, Newport Pagnell, and his entries described his active service until October 21, 1914, when he was fatally wounded.

Less poignantly, from the 18th century, lovelorn letters remain from an Aspley Guise rector.

But personally speaking I’ve about as much need for romance as I have for a ‘Kindle.’ Women? ‘E-readers’? No thanks. At my time of life the only entertainment I need in bed is a good book.

by John Taylor

> John Taylor writes the Way We Were column that appears in Milton Keynes Citizen most Thursdays