British Heritage: June/July 2000 Letters

A BLOTT ON OUR RECORD

Thank you for Jean Paschke’s profile of David Sucher, a fine actor with almost cult status for PBS mystery audiences as Hercule Poirot.

I should like to point out, however, an oversight, or at least an omission. Ms. Paschke reports that Agatha Christies’ daughter approached Suchet about playing Poirot after seeing him as Blott in the film Blott on the Landscape. But she didn’t mention what it was about the Blott role that attracted Christie’s daughter, or what Suchet thinks of this film and of the character Blott.

I think your readers would enjoy this film, though some may not. It’s based on a Tom Sharpe novel–an outrageously funny attack on the fatuous pretentiousness of bureaucratic establishments–social, political, and academic. Sharpe’s satire is high comedy with a mixture of farse and caricature that at time might offend. British professors of literature have told me that Sharpe is strictly a man’s read, and that he isn’t their cup of tea.

As Poirot, Suchet is no doubt praiseworthy for what he created and for his execution of it. Nonetheless, for me his virtuoso role is Blott. Many of Sharpe’s characterizations are more complex than they first appear to be, and such is the case with Blott, in whom Suchet echoes the mixture of humour, moral outrage, and scrupulousness tempered by expediency that Sharpe created in his character.

William B. McColly
Hershey, Pennsylvania

 

LOOKING FOR A GOOD MUSEUM? HERE’S A NATURAL SELECTION

Dr. Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of the renowned Charles Darwin, was a thinker and philosopher and writer who first speculated about evolution. He lived for part of his life in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and there is a wonderful museum in his former residence within the cathedral close. From his writings you can see the origin of the theories of evolution. At the museum, you can also see the inventions he made, and the kind of life lived by an educated medical doctor in the 18th century.

The museum, though difficult to find, was worth every minute I spent there; I plan to return in the near future. It would be ideal for families with children, since displays are interactive and many of Dr. Darwin’s inventions are available for hands-on experimentation. The museum is very well set up in terms of linking residence space, audio tapes, pictures, and objects to make it a genuine learning experience for adults as well as children. Its location in the cathedral close also makes it convenient for people touring the cathedral. You and your readers might want to check it out. You should also take a look at Lichfield as well. I found it to be a quintessential English town and very well located for days out in this vicinity.

Sandra Lee
Silver Spring, Maryland

 

 

ELEANOR OF THE ACADEMY

Judy Sopronyi gives an enticing review of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir (April/May). I was surprised however, by her suggestion that Eleanor would be a good subject for a film. There is indeed a movie about Eleanor of Aquitaine. Katherine Hepburn won the Academy Award in 1968 for her portrayal of Eleanor in The Lion in Winter. Peter O’Toole played Henry; Anthony Hopkins, Richard; and Jane Merrow, Alise. Readers can find it at most video stores.

David Miley
Rock Island, Illinois

 

 

AND SPEAKING OF CLASSIC CINEMA…

I found an "oops" in the Jane Eyre review in the December 1999/January 2000 issue. The first movie version of this story was not the one starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles. According to Leonard Maltin the first one was in 1934 with Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive. Also, in addition to William Hurt’s and Ciaran Hind’s rendition, there is one with Timothy Dalton. Like The Secret Garden, there have been lots of remakes and most of them are pretty good. Oh well, just for the record….

Dorothy Holmes
Arvada, Colorado

 

 

CORRECTIONS

In the Travellers’ Choice Awards presentation in the April/May issue, we mistakenly described Geoffrey Chaucer writing his Canterbury Tales "in the late 1400s." A few alert readers pointed out that, as Chaucer died in 1400, this is very unlikely. True enough. What we meant to say, of course, was that he wrote his master work "in the late l4th century." We also mistakenly mislabelled the winner and runner-up in two of the awards categories. St. Paul’s Cathedral was in fact the runner-up to York Minster in the Best Cathedral Interior category, and The British Museum Library was runnerup to The Victoria & Albert Museum in the Best Museums category.

Also in the April/May issue, we incorrectly attributed the History in Focus department to Karen Kenyon. The byline should have credited Katherine Bailey. We apologize for these errors.

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