What is it that makes England and the English what they are? What are the essentially English qualities? This book makes no claim to definitive answers but suggest that, like a golden thread that is only visible when the sun shines on it, that which is most precious to the English is that which is most commonly overlooked.
Rather as the genetic code determines the nature of a being, there are certain elements which have been important in forming the English nation. They are truth, freedom and wisdom which, in turn, have found their expression in the development of a language with a uniquely rich literary tradition, the Common Law and a spiritual heritage of religious tolerance.
Linda Proud and Valerie Petts
At a time of bewildering change in the affairs of the world and the nation, Consider England gives us an opportunity to reflect on those things which could be endangered by neglect and ignorance.
The text comprises four essays and is accompanied by ninety of Valerie Petts' superb paintings in that most English of art media, the watercolour. Together word and picture celebrate the beauty and character of both rural and urban England and invite us to consider the English nation anew. Sample page.
The Law is above you
English - the Nation's treasure
The open-air Church
0-85683-145-X Published by Shepherd-Walwyn, 1994 original price £17.95
Now available from Godstow Press at £10.00. Hardback 144 pp.
What a good read it is - a deliciously written short course that pins the English character on a trinity of deep strengths: its law, language and religion. You'll want to tuck this one into your travel bag to turn to when the eyes tire of sights and the mind strives to grasp. There's no whiff of the lecture hall here, as we do battle with brave Alfred the Great and hear how all those nymphs and shepherds strayed into English poetry. There's rue and ruin along with changing way - not least, of the countryside itself - but certain changeless ideals of truth and freedom endure. Victoria Magazine, March 1996.
This is a brave book. The author . . . has a burning sense of vocation: to make the self-critical, self-destructive English once more aware of their splendid endowments. Elizabeth Longford Daily Telegraph, 7 January 1995.
Valerie Petts's creative genius with a paint brush and Linda Proud's sharp mind and acute writing gift impressed the publisher Anthony Werner so much that he was not satisfied until the pair had amalgamated for a book he had long dreamed about: Consider England. The book - an insight into what makes England England and the English English - is a concept he has wanted to see fulfilled for many years. 'This was just the correct partnership to bring it to fruition,' he said. Limited Edition, Oxford Times, November 1994.
This book is required reading for all who are mindful of their heritage. Queen's English Society, February 1995.
An extraordinary work of scholarship, imagination, insight and wit with dreamy watercolours. Carol Kidwell.
FULL REVIEW FROM THE MENSA JOURNAL
Coffee table-style books on the British Isles are far from unusual, there have been an abundance of titles in recent years which attempt to put across the beauty of the countryside in a wide variety of ways, from the works of Gentlemen to such books as Over London. Each one manages to convey what the author wishes the reader to see with moderate success, and lasts as long as it takes the reader to work from one cover to another. Such books are 'Nine minute wonders' at a sixty minute price; suitable for leaving out to impress visitors for a week or so until the novelty has worn off and a new, similar, title appears and briefly grabs at the imagination. Consider England has appeared on the market after the fad for such titles has worn out, long after the fashionability for well-known personalities to earn extra cash on their names alone has been passed. It is not, however, a title that can be reckoned alongside such swiftly passing phases in publishing history. It is not a work that simply shows off a few spots of outstanding beauty in one artist's style or another, or that sells a particular area of the United Kingdom as a tourist spot.
Linda Proud has written a book, with many interesting and poignant quotations, that covers far more than simply the tourist areas. It is aimed more at the English themselves, with the clear message that, perhaps, before running themselves and their country into the ground, they ought to consider its rightful place not only in the world, but in their hearts and minds. At the same time it is not a book packed with political messages - such as those the present Prime Minister is fond of giving to boost morale or incite the workforce to better production through pride - although the Preface does allow several home truths to creep in. Instead it is a mixture of history and comment on the nature of the beast; the factors that go into shaping the English and their outlook, and the many things they are inclined to overlook which form such an integral part of their combined personality and heritage. It is a history of those things we take for granted; the Common Law, religious tolerance and literary tradition; the things we tend not to talk about until something goes wrong. The great advantage of this book is that everything is carefully crafted to come across as a package without pretension, without a pandering attitude and without the 'we're better than you because...' remarks that cause the downfall of many otherwise worthy publications. Instead there are a vast number of apt quotations and examples that highlight the ways in which the English and their land have been formed down the centuries. There are quotations from William Wordsworth through to Lord Denning, and examples from the Domesday Book to The Compleat Angler.
Consider England has a second advantage which cannot possibly be overlooked. The watercolours, ninety of them, painted by Valerie Petts greatly enhance what is already a well produced book. With an eye for detail and colouring, Valerie Petts has managed to combine a variety of styles that do justice as much to Durham Cathedral as to Inner Farne Island or Victorian housing in Skipton. and they are the sort of watercolours people treasure, not because of the name of the artist so much as because they are clear, expressive without being obscure and, without wishing to denigrate the work of such artists as Gentleman and Hockney, impressively simple. They put their message across in a fashion that shows clearly what nature intended the eye to see without tricks or enhancements.
The coffee table book has come a long way since it first entered the houses of the fashionable and position conscious. That it has returned to the form and contents of Consider England is not only to be applauded but, if possible, drawn to the attention of other authors and their publishers as the way forward. This is one book that can be read, and thought about, rather than being consigned to the coffee table in a prominent position until a newer title appears in the bestseller lists.
It is now over ten years since the publication of Consider England, but the issues it raises are not only still relevant but even more pressing. It is now vital we understand who we are and what we have to offer the world. Even as our institutions vanish, our spirit remains.