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Adam Nicolson is the author of many books on history, travel and the environment. He is winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the British Topography Prize and lives at Sissinghust Castle in Kent. His other books include 'Arcadia' ('Earls of Paradise' in hardback), 'Men of Honour', 'Sea Room', 'Power and Glory' and 'Seamanship' and, most recently, 'Sissinghurst'.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD 2019 Wordsworth and Coleridge as you've never seen them before in this new book by Adam Nicolson, brimming with poetry, art and nature writing. Proof that poetry can change the world. It is the most famous year in English poetry. Out of it came The Ancient Mariner and 'Kubla Khan', as well as Coleridge's unmatched hymns to friendship and fatherhood, Wordsworth's revolutionary verses in Lyrical Ballads and the greatness of 'Tintern Abbey', his paean to the unity of soul and cosmos, love and understanding. Bestselling and award-winning writer Adam Nicolson tells the story, almost day by day, of the year in the late 1790s that Coleridge, Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and an ever-shifting cast of friends, dependants and acolytes spent together in the Quantock Hills in Somerset. To a degree never shown before, The Making of Poetry explores the idea that these poems came from this place, and that only by experiencing the physical circumstances of the year, in all weathers and all seasons, at night and at dawn, in sunlit reverie and moonlit walks, can the genesis of the poetry start to be understood. What emerges is a portrait of these great figures as young people, troubled, ambitious, dreaming of a vision of wholeness, knowing they had greatness in them but still in urgent search of the paths towards it. The poetry they made was not from settled conclusions but from the adventure on which they were all embarked, seeing what they wrote as a way of stripping away all the dead matter, exfoliating consciousness, penetrating its depths. Poetry for them was not an ornament for civilisation but a challenge to it, a means of remaking the world.
The Smell of Summer Grass is the story of the years spent in finding and building a personal idyll, sometimes a dream, sometimes a nightmare, by writer Adam Nicolson and his wife, cook and gardener, Sarah Raven. Without knowing one end of a hay baler from the other, Adam Nicolson and Sarah Raven, fed up with London and with life, escaped with his family to a run-down farm in the Sussex Weald. Looking for Arcadia, they found a mixture of intense beauty and profound chaos. Over three years they struggled with dock leaves, spring flowers, bloody-minded sheep and neighbours before eventually arriving at some kind of equilibrium. Funny, poetic, ironic and wise, 'The Smell of Summer Grass' is based partly on the long out of print 'Perch Hill'. It traces the growing intimacy between man and his chosen place, his love affair with it and his frustrations with its intractable realities. As an attempt to live out the pastoral vision, it makes one heartfelt plea: we should never abandon our dreams.
Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts at the Hay Festival on 31 May 2011. The Smell of Summer Grass is based partly on the long out of print 'Perch Hill'. It is the story of the years spent in finding and building a personal Arcadia, sometimes a dream, sometimes a nightmare, by writer Adam Nicolson and his wife, cook and gardener, Sarah Raven.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD 2019 'This is a book of wonders' Sunday Times 'Spellbinding and intelligent' Financial Times 'Extraordinary and engrossing' Spectator It was the most extraordinary year. In a book brimming with poetry and nature writing, biography and adventure, Adam Nicolson walks in the footsteps of Coleridge, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy during the months in the late 1790s they spent together in the Quantock Hills. Out of it came The Ancient Mariner, 'Kubla Khan', Lyrical Ballads and 'Tintern Abbey'; Coleridge's unmatched hymns to friendship and fatherhood; Wordsworth's revolutionary verses and paeans to the unity of soul and cosmos, love and understanding. In short, a poetry that sought to remake the world.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be given your own remote islands? Thirty years ago it happened to Adam Nicolson. Aged 21, Nicolson inherited the Shiants, three lonely Hebridean islands set in a dangerous sea off the Isle of Lewis. With only a stone bothy for accommodation and half a million puffins for company, he found himself in charge of one of the most beautiful places on earth. The story of the Shiants is a story of birds and boats, hermits and fishermen, witchcraft and catastrophe, and Nicolson expertly weaves these elements into his own tale of seclusion on the Shiants to create a stirring celebration of island life.
WINNER OF THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE 2018 WINNER OF THE JEFFERIES AWARD FOR NATURE WRITING 2017 The full story of seabirds from one of the greatest nature writers. The book looks at the pattern of their lives, their habitats, the threats they face and the passions they inspire - beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer. Seabirds are master navigators, thriving in the most demanding environment on earth. In this masterly book, drawing on all the most recent research, Adam Nicolson follows them to the coasts and islands of Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, and the Americas. Beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer, The Seabird's Cry is a celebration of the wonders of the only creatures at home in the air, on land and on the sea. It also carries a warning: the number of seabirds has dropped by two-thirds since 1950. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of a seabird colony will this century become little but a memory.
WINNER OF THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE 2018 WINNER OF THE JEFFERIES AWARD FOR NATURE WRITING 2017 The full story of seabirds from one of the greatest nature writers. The book looks at the pattern of their lives, their habitats, the threats they face and the passions they inspire - beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer. In ten chapters, each dedicated to a different bird, and each beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer, The Seabird's Cry travels their ocean paths, fusing traditional knowledge with all that modern science has come to know about them: the way their bodies work, their dazzling navigational expertise, their ability to smell their way to fish or home, to understand the workings of the winds in which they live. At the heart of the book are the Shiant Isles - a cluster of Hebridean islands in the Minch that Adam Nicolson has known all his life - but he has pursued the birds much further: across the Atlantic, up the west coast of Ireland, to St Kilda, Orkney, Shetland, the Faeroes, Iceland and Norway to the eastern seaboard of America, the Falklands, South Georgia, the Canaries and the Azores - reaching out across the widths of the world ocean. This book is a paean to the beauty of life on the wing, but even as we are coming to understand the seabirds, a global tragedy is unfolding. Their number is in freefall, dropping by nearly seventy per cent in the last sixty years, a billion fewer now than in 1950. Of the ten birds in this book, seven are in decline. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of a seabird colony, rolling around the bays and headlands of high latitudes, will this century become but a memory.
Seabirds have always entranced the human imagination and Adam Nicolson has been in love with them all his life: for their mastery of wind and ocean, their aerial beauty and the unmatched wildness of the coasts and islands where every summer they return to breed. Over the last couple of decades, modern science has begun to understand them: their epic voyages, their astonishing abilities to navigate for tens of thousands of miles on a featureless sea, their ability to smell their way towards fish and home. Only the poets in the past would have thought of seabirds as creatures riding the ripples and currents of the planet, but that is what the scientists are seeing now too. In ten chapters, each dedicated to a different bird, and each beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer, The Seabird's Cry travels the ocean paths along with them, looking at the way their bodies work, the sense of their own individuality, the strategies and tactics needed to survive and thrive in the most demanding environment on earth. At the heart of the book are the Shiant Isles, a cluster of Hebridean islands in the Minch but Nicolson has pursued the birds much further - across the Atlantic, up the west coast of Ireland, to St Kilda, Orkney, Shetland, the Faeroes, Iceland and Norway; to the eastern seaboard of Maine and to Newfoundland, to the Falklands, South Georgia, the Canaries and the Azores - reaching out across the widths of the world ocean which is the seabirds' home. But a global tragedy is unfolding. Even as we are coming to understand them, the number of seabirds is in freefall, dropping by nearly 70% in the last sixty years, a billion fewer now than there were in 1950. Of the ten birds in this book, seven are in decline, at least in part of their range. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of a seabird colony, rolling around the bays and headlands of high latitudes, will this century become little but a memory.
Longlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction `A thrilling and complex book, enlarges our view of Homer ... There's something that hits the mark on every page' Claire Tomalin, Books of the Year, New Statesman Where does Homer come from? And why does Homer matter? His epic poems of war and suffering can still speak to us of the role of destiny in life, of cruelty, of humanity and its frailty, but why they do is a mystery. How can we be so intimate with something so distant? `The Mighty Dead' is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by some of the oldest stories we have - the great ancient poems of Homer and their metaphors of life and trouble. In this provocative and enthralling book, Adam Nicolson explains why Homer still matters and how these vital, epic verses - with their focus on the eternal questions about the individual versus the community, honour and service, love and war - tell us how we became who we are.
Longlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction`A thrilling and complex book, enlarges our view of Homer ... There's something that hits the mark on every page' Claire Tomalin, Books of the Year, New StatesmanWhere does Homer come from? And why does Homer matter? His epic poems of war and suffering can still speak to us of the role of destiny in life, of cruelty, of humanity and its frailty, but why they do is a mystery. How can we be so intimate with something so distant?`The Mighty Dead' is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by some of the oldest stories we have - the great ancient poems of Homer and their metaphors of life and trouble. In this provocative and enthralling book, Adam Nicolson explains why Homer still matters and how these vital, epic verses - with their focus on the eternal questions about the individual versus the community, honour and service, love and war - tell us how we became who we are.
Where does Homer come from? And why does Homer matter? His epic poems of war and suffering can still speak to us of the role of destiny in life, of cruelty, of humanity and its frailty, but why they do is a mystery. How can we be so intimate with something so distant? In this passionate and deeply personal book, Adam Nicolson sets out to explain why these great ancient poems still have so much to say about what it is to be human, to love, lose, grow old and die. 'The Mighty Dead' is a journey of history and discovery, sewn together by the oldest stories we have - the Iliad and the Odyssey, which emerged from a time before the Greeks became Greek. As nomadic tribes of the northern steppe, they clashed with the sophisticated cities of the eastern Mediterranean. These poems tell us how we became who we are. We witness a disputatious dinner in 19th-century Paris and Keats finding in Chapman's Homer the inspiration to travel in the 'realms of gold'. We go to Bosnia in the 1930s, with the god of Homer studies Milman Parry where oral poetry still thrived; to Spain to visit the possible site of Hades; to Troy, Ukraine, Syria and the islands of the Mediterranean; and to that most ancient of modern experiences, the open sea, in calm and storm. Reflecting on fathers and sons, men and women, on the necessity for love and the violence of warriors, on peace and war, youth and old-age, Homer is the deep voice of Europe, as dark as Mavrodaphne and as glowingly alive as anything that has ever been.
Adam Nicolson tells the story of England through the history of fourteen gentry families - from the 15th century to the present day. This sparkling work of history reads like a real-life Downton Abbey, as the loves, hatreds and many times of grief of his chosen cast illuminate the grand events of history. We may well be `a nation of shopkeepers', but for generations England was a country dominated by its middling families, rooted on their land, in their locality, with a healthy interest in turning a profit from their property and a deep distrust of the centralised state. The virtues we may all believe to be part of the English culture - honesty, affability, courtesy, liberality - each of these has their source in gentry life cultivated over five hundred years. These folk were the backbone of England. Adam Nicolson's riveting new book concentrates on fourteen families, from 1400 to the present day. From the medieval gung-ho of the Plumpton family to the high-seas adventures of the Lascelles in the eighteenth century, to more modern examples, the book provides a chronological picture of the English, seen through these intimate, passionate, powerful stories of family saga. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished archive material, here is a vivid depiction of the life and code of the gentry. `The Gentry' is first and foremost a wonderful sweep of English history, shedding light on the creation of the distinctive English character but with the sheer readability of an epic novel.
Prize-winning author Adam Nicolson tells the story he was born to write - the real story of England. It is the gentry that has made England what it was and, to a degree, still is. In this vivid, lively book, history has never been more readable. We may well be `a nation of shopkeepers', but for generations England was a country dominated by its middling families, rooted on their land, in their locality, with a healthy interest in turning a profit from their property and a deep distrust of the centralised state. The virtues we may all believe to be part of the English culture - honesty, affability, courtesy, liberality - each of these has their source in gentry life cultivated over five hundred years. These folk were the backbone of England. Adam Nicolson's riveting new book concentrates on fourteen families with a time-span from 1400 to the present day. From the medieval gung-ho of the Plumpton family to the high-seas adventures of the Lascelles in the 18th-century, to more modern examples, the book provides a chronological picture of the English, seen through these intimate, passionate, powerful stories of family saga. The families have been selected from all over the country and range from the famous to the unknown. Some families are divided by politics , such as the family that took different sides in the Reformation; others destroy their inheritance through reckless gambling or investments . All of them are vivid depictions of the life and code of the gentry, and have left deep archives of family papers which the author has been able to use, often for the very first time. THE GENTRY is first and foremost a wonderful sweep of English history. It presents a convincing argument on what has created the distinctive English character but with the sheer readability of an epic novel.
A fascinating, lively account of the making of the King James Bible. James VI of Scotland - now James I of England - came into his new kingdom in 1603. Trained almost from birth to manage rival political factions, he was determined not only to hold his throne, but to avoid the strife caused by religious groups that was bedevilling most European countries. He would hold his God-appointed position and unify his kingdom. Out of these circumstances, and involving the very people who were engaged in the bitterest controversies, a book of extraordinary grace and lasting literary appeal was created: the King James Bible. 47 scholars from Cambridge, Oxford and London translated the Bible, drawing from many previous versions, and created what many believe to be the greatest prose work ever written in English - the product of a culture in a peculiarly conflicted era. This was the England of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson and Bacon; but also of extremist Puritans, the Gunpowder plot, the Plague, of slum dwellings and crushing religious confines. Quite how this astonishing translation emerges is the central question of this book. Far more than Shakespeare, this Bible helped to create and shape the language. It is the origin of many of our most familiar phrases, and the foundations of the English-speaking world. It was a generous and deliberate decision to make the Bible available to the common man: not an immediate commercial success, but which later became a bestseller, and has remained one ever since. Adam Nicolson gives a fascinating and dramatic account of the early years of the first Stewart ruler, and the scholars who laboured for seven years to create the world's greatest book; immersing us in a world of ingratiating bishops, a fascinating monarch and London at a time unlike any other.
Since establishing himself as a critically acclaimed landscape photographer in the 1970s, Fabian Miller has reinvented himself as an artist specializing in camera-less, darkroom-produced photographic images exploring the elements of light, time, and color in a notably spare, but also vividly spiritual aesthetic style which recalls elements of Modernism and intuitive scientific exploration. Fabian Miller exposes light directly onto photographic paper through substances such as plants, engine oil, cut-paper shapes, glass and water. The methods used in the capturing of Fabian Miller's artworks means that they are nearly impossible to accurately reproduce, resulting in one of a kind, strikingly luminous pieces; a record of light's behavior caught on photographic paper. The Colour of Time features images personally retouched under the artist's direction, and therefore provides the most accurate printed representation of his work: The pictures I make are of nothing which exists in the world.... What I am trying to suggest is a state of mind which lifts the spirits and gives strength and some kind of clarity. The Colour of Time is split into three key sections. In the first section, noted academic philosopher Nigel Warburton provides an overview of Fabian Miller's work to date, including pieces which were created prior to his landmark Year 1, October 2005-October 2006. Year 1 is Fabian Miller's documentation through the passage of a year, with Fabian Miller creating a daily image, with results that vary from gentle to radical. The book features examples of artworks from all of the artist's recent works, including Year 2 and later series, as well as pictures of Fabian Miller's work in the context of various gallery exhibitions. The latter sections of the book more directly cover the periods of 2007-2008 and 2009-present. The second section encompasses full color plates of examples of work from the series Year 2. The artwork plates are prefixed with an introductory essay by novelist, mythologist and cultural historian Marina Warner. The final chapter is preceded with an introductory text by eminent travel writer and historian, Adam Nicolson, whose essay The Otherworld focuses on the prominence of the concept of night-time nothingness and the inexorable links between the notion of an otherworld , the natural world, and the human psyche in Fabian Miller's work. Garry Fabian Miller has a deserved reputation as one of the most progressive artists working with photography today and The Colour of Time is a beautifully reproduced overview and welcome addition to the published work of the artist's progressive and affecting recent output.
A fascinating account from award-winning author Adam Nicolson of the history of Nicolson's own national treasure, his family home: Sissinghurst. Sissinghurst is world-famous as a place of calm and beauty, a garden slipped into the ruins of a rose-pink Elizabethan palace. But is it entirely what its creators intended? Has its success over the last thirty years come at a price? Is Sissinghurst everything it could be? The story of this piece of land, an estate in the Weald of Kent, is told here for the first time from the very beginning. Adam Nicolson, who now lives there, has uncovered remarkable new findings about its history as a medieval manor and great sixteenth-century house, from the days of its decline as an eighteenth-century prison to a flourishing Victorian farm and on to the creation, by his grandparents Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, of a garden in a weed-strewn wreck. Alongside his recovery of the past, Adam Nicolson wanted something else: for the land at Sissinghurst to live again, to become the landscape of orchards, cattle, fruit and sheep he remembered from his boyhood. Could that living frame of a mixed farm be brought back to what had turned into monochrome fields of chemicalised wheat and oilseed rape? Against the odds, he was going to try. This paperback edition will be fully updated to cover the first year of Adam Nicolson's endeavour to revive the estate and return it to the glories of its past. More than just a personal biography of a place, this book is the story of taking an inheritance and steering it in a new direction, just as an entrepreneur might take hold of a company, or just as all of us might want to take our dreams and make them real.
A fascinating depiction from award-winning author, Adam Nicolson, of a family and a country on the hinge of modernisation. Was our country once a better place? Has modernisation destroyed as much as it has improved? And can we see in an earlier Britain a way of living, an Arcadia, which now seems both ideal and remote? Through 16th- and 17th-century England, the changes of an approaching modernity accelerated. With the growing power of the state, the disruption of the traditional bonds of society, the breaking of communities and the marginalisation of the great families who had once balanced the power of the crown, the new mercantile, individualist world increasingly clashed with the communal and chivalric ideals of the old. To tell this story from the 1520s to the 1640s, Adam Nicolson takes a single great family, the Earls of Pembroke, their wives, children, estates, tenants and allies, and follows their high and glamorous trajectory across three generations of change, nostalgia, ambition, resistance and war. `Arcadia' is a rich and detailed evocation of England on the hinge of medieval and modern, and in this wide-ranging book Adam Nicolson explores a world in transition, moving from the intrigues, alliances and vendettas of the court to the intricate, everyday business of rural communities managing their affairs in times of stress. It was an England caught up in its first taste of modernity, yet divided over how to react to it, split between the old and the new, the moment at which the world we have lost turned into the world it has now become.
An unforgettable look at the contradictions of heroism, as embodied by Horatio Nelson and as tested by the battle of Trafalgar. Adam Nicolson looks at the variety of qualities - ruthlessness, bravery, kindness, cruelty - that combined in both Nelson and his troops to carry that fateful day. Trafalgar gripped the nineteenth century imagination like no other battle: it was a moment of both transcendent fulfilment and unmatched despair. It was a drama of such violence and sacrifice that the concept of total war may be argued to start from there. It finished the global ambitions of a European tyrant but culminated in the death of Admiral Horatio Nelson, the greatest hero of the era. This book fuses the immediate intensity of the battle with the deeper currents that were running at the time. It has a three-part framework: the long, slow six hour morning before the battle; the afternoon itself of terror, death and destruction; and the shocked, exultant and sobered aftermath, which finds its climax at Nelson's funeral in a snowy London the following January. Adam Nicolson examines the concept of heroes and heroism, both then and now, using Nelson as one of the greatest examples. A man of complexity and contradiction, he was a supreme administrator of ships and men; overflowing with humanity, charm and love but also capable of astonishing ruthlessness and ferocity. Nelson's own courage, vanity, ruthlessness and sweetness made him one of the great identifiable heroes of English history. In Men of Honour, Adam Nicolson also traces the stories of many unknown people of the day. He tackles the move from the age of reason to the age of romanticism, and examines a battle that was not only a uniquely well-documented crisis in human affairs but also a lens on its own time. Adam Nicolson does not approach Trafalgar as a military historian. His book gives a wonderfully immediate recreation of both the battle itself and its aftermath in a rich, concrete and intellectually engaging style.
Accompanied by an eight-part series, this is the story of Adam Nicolson's adventure in a small boat around the western coast of the British Isles. Early in the year, Adam Nicolson decided to leave his comfy life at home on a Sussex farm and go on an adventure. Equipped with the Auk, a forty-two-foot wooden ketch, and a friend who at least knew how to sail, he set off up the Atlantic coasts of the British Isles: Cornwall to Scilly, over to Pembrokeshire and the west of Ireland, to the Hebrides and its offliers, St Kilda and North Rona, before heading on to Orkney, and finally to the Faroes, a two hundred mile leap out into the autumn winds of the North Atlantic. But the book is not just a travel journal. Adam Nicolson writes of his own yearnings for the sea and for wide open spaces. His year is strung between the competing claims of leaving and belonging, of thinking that no life could be more exhilarating than battling a big gale driving in out of the Atlantic and of wanting to be back, in harbour, safe, still and protected. Running throughout the book is a dialogue within the author himself between the attractions of home and not home, the certainties of what you know and the seductions of what you don't. Reflective and poetic, this book is full of rich experience. It is a story passionately engaged with the beauty and marvels of the wild Atlantic coast, but is also a self-portrait of a man in the middle of his life who is determined to find out what it's all for.