Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Shropshire lads

You may know that I'm deeply attached to Shropshire, the rural county home of - amongst others - Mary Webb, Wilfrid Owen the war poet and (if you like that kind of thing) Edith Pargeter, author of the Cadfael stories (medieval monk PI).

Let's not forget too that this hilly border land was where Captain Wentworth was sent to get him away from the action in Persuasion.

He had remained in Shropshire, lamenting the blindness of his own pride, and the blunders of his own calculations, till at once released from Louisa by the astonishing and felicitous intelligence of her engagement with Benwick.

Lawrence's 'St. Mawr' is set amongst the Devil's Chair on the mythically-rich Stiperstones Hills, and Emily Morgan, one of the possible models for Miss Havisham lived in Newport. Forster transformed Clun (a name which encapsulates Shropshire's Welsh aspects) into Oniton for Howard's End.

The Devil's Chair

Clun. At rush hour.

Nasty playwright John Osborne died near Clun too. Most importantly for those who - like me - find borders and liminal states interesting, is Lorna Sage, a Welsh academic from just over the border in Wales, who attended school in English Shropshire, and wrote a harrowing memoir, Bad Blood.

The villages of Homer and Wig-Wig (yes, really) inspired a children's book I haven't read.

Who isn't from Shropshire? A. E. Housman - author of A Shropshire Lad. The poem's a disguised lament for his repressed homosexuality, in which the distant 'blue-remembered hills' of Shropshire (viewed from Worcestershire) stand in for what might have been.

So not quite a backwater… The county even has its own Twitter feed!

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