British Library explores UK landscape over millennium

Thu May 17, 2012 6:21am EDT
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By Peter Myers

LONDON (Reuters) - "When you are once out upon its bosom you have left all traces of modern England behind you, but, on the other hand, you are conscious everywhere of the homes and the work of the prehistoric people."

Watson's note to Sherlock Holmes describing the hauntingly barren Dartmoor in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (1902) is included in a new British Library exhibition on how landscape permeates some of the best British writing, and how writers have responded to space and place.

The 150 works chosen to represent more than 1,000 years of British literature in "Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands" also throw up some unlikely comparisons.

Where else would you see the original manuscript for "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" together with the six-centuries-older "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", the earliest surviving manuscript of the medieval romance poem?

Curator Jamie Andrews, head of English and Drama at the British Library, selected thematic snapshots of different types of places for the exhibition, which he describes as "choose your own adventure" in style.

The hope is that visitors will navigate their own way through and find their own connections in sections which range from "wild places" and "rural dreams" to "dark satanic mills" via "Cockney visions", "beyond the city" and "waterlands".

Andrews told Reuters that one of his aims was to "compare similar spaces but through different periods and the way writers have seen them; it's very clear that what writers bring to a description of space is their own background, memories and hopes for a space."

"In one sense there is no such thing as a single space; it's just an accumulation of writers' creative responses. On the other hand, there are certain continuities."   Continued...