British Heritage: DECEMBER 1999/JANUARY 2000 Letters

9/23/2000 • British Heritage Archives


I enjoyed "Cornwall: Land of Literary Shrines" in the December 1999/January 2000 issue (page 47). However, I was surprised that no mention was made of Eleanor Hibbert. Ms. Hibbert is a world-famous British author who has sold millions of books worldwide under the pseudonyms Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, and Philippa Carr. Of the one hundred-plus titles that constitute her life’s work, most have been published under her Plaidy pseudonym. She derived this name from Plaidy Beach, in Cornwall. Nineteen of her 20 books written under the Carr pseudonym are collectively known as "The Cornwall Saga." The early books in that series are set largely in Cornwall. One can learn a lot about the way of life there, especially from a historical perspective, by reading these wonderful books.

Bonny G. Smith
Fairfax, Virginia


I have just finished reading Karen Eberhardt’s excellent article "Literary Cornwall" in the December/January issue. In her article, Ms. Eberhardt states that though John Steinbeck spent time in Cornwall studying the environs of Tintagel, he never published his book about King Arthur.

I suppose she is technically right as his book was published after his death, but there is a Steinbeck book, published in 1976, titled The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights.

Steinbeck credits the original work of Sir Thomas Malory with helping him learn to read.

Edythe Connolly
Lake Oswego, Oregon


I read "Keepers of the Kingdom" in the December 1999/January 2000 issue and I am of the opinion that these ancient titles are museum pieces. They should be be treated as such and paid for by those wishing to view them.

Many other similar European institutions have either functioned in this manner or have disappeared. Even in the United States, it has become necessary to solicit voluntary money to preserve what we do not wish to lose. But ancient British titles, including those of the present monarchy, seem to me to be an unnecessary expense for the British taxpayer.

The British do have their various heritage foundations and trusts. I think it more appropriate to subsidize these relics in this way than to increase the British tax burden.

Rosella Jones Willis, M.D.
Kirkwood, Missouri


I was interested to read about the Bayeux Tapestry in your October/November issue. I’ve been fascinated by this embroidery since I learned about it as a child.

Your readers might be interested to know that there is a replica of the Bayeux Tapestry in England, in Reading Museum. I hadn’t been there for almost 40 years, and last time I was in the U.K., I stopped over in Reading. I didn’t expect much of the place, but I thought I’d give the local museum a look. It turned out to be a little gem; they have some excellent Roman artefacts from the excavations at Sil-chester, and some reconstructions of local buildings. And there, in its own specially designed case, is the replica of the Bayeux Tapestry.

It was made in 1885-6 by a group of embroiderers from Leek, Staffordshire. The idea came from Mr. and Mrs. Wardle of that town. Mr. Wardle was a silk-dyer. He and his wife had seen the original embroidery in Bayeux and hand-colored photographs of it at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Mrs. Wardle felt that England ought to have a copy of the tapestry for its own, and Mr. Wardle went about dying the woollen thread to match the original as closely as possible. Mrs. Wardle and her team of ladies set to work and produced this replica in just over a year.

According to the information accompanying the display, the Victorian ladies "modified" certain elements of the original which they deemed not quite suitable for all eyes. (Some of the pictures were indeed quite racy.)

The finished work later toured the U.S., to great acclaim. Eventually it was sold to a local alderman, who subsequently became mayor of Reading and donated the tapestry to the local museum. When the museum was restored and expanded in 1993, the tapestry finally got its own custom-built display case and a routine cleaning and remounting.

There are several other reproductions in the U.K., including one in Hastings and one in Lyndhurst, in the New Forest, which I found to be particularly charming and beautifully worked in a variety of styles and emboidery. I also saw one in Plymouth that was being prepared as a gift to be sent to someplace in Maryland. Anyone could put a stitch into it for one pound. I was told that "everyone" had put in a stitch, including the Queen and Prince Philip!

Finally, travellers interested in such things should not miss the Overlord Tapestry at the D-Day Museum at Southsea, Portsmouth. This work, inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, commemorates the landings in Normandy in June, 1944.

J. M. Ferguson
North Vancouver, British Columbia


A belated congratulations and thanks for the article on my favourite painter, John Singer Sargent, in your April/May issue. My wishes are all the more sincere for being late, as I have just returned from Boston where I was fortunate enough to visit the Sargent exhibition twice. Your article was the deciding factor in my making that trip. I have long admired Mr. Sargent and am so pleased that I finally have gotten to see so many pieces in person.

Tom Johnson,
Pasadena, California