Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 19 (1988)
Being born in Warwickshire, it seems, confers distinction upon those who write. I can make this statement without giving myself airs, since I was born in another county, and, according to Gabriel Woolf, merely to dwell in Warwickshire is no guarantee of excellence.
Shaking the local dust from his feet with a grand dramatic gesture, so to speak, Gabriel Woolf began his programme with extracts from Henry V on "the vastly fields of France", whither we had been puffed by the breath of Shakespeare's contemporary, Michael Dray ton. Back in Warwickshire, a contrast followed from the early pen of George Eliot, quietly dramatising a conversation between neighbors, from Scenes of Clerical Life, which gave us a taste of the local dialect.
The spice of the programme was its variety: favourite sonnets by Shakespeare and Drayton were followed by fishy poems of Rupert Brooke; then we entered the sphere of childhood with an hilarious sticky poem by Paul Jennings full of hard staccato sounds. Children of Michael Drayton Middle School, Hartshill provided up-to-the minute poems with their Warwickshire biros. What a treat it must have been for those at Nuneaton who heard their own jolly verses read by such a gifted performer! A little lame dialogue from the minor pen of Angela Brazil kept us giggling, with the black stockinged ones kicking up their legs in the gym; and Maggie and Tom, fishing happily in the Round Pool near The Mill on the Floss, after the shameful episode of the neglected rabbits, brought the first part to a close in a haze of golden sunshine.