Old Downton Lodge

Old Downton Lodge

Em Marshall-Luck enjoys a meal worthy of a Michelin star

Old Downton Lodge is a remarkable place. Set amidst Shropshire’s rolling hills (despite the establishment itself being in a tongue of Herefordshire, poking rudely into Shropshire) it was originally a farm and is formed of a series of very old buildings, with the oldest part – the dining room – dating back to the eleventh century. The present owners have been here six years, and have gradually converted it from a B&B to a spectacularly sophisticated restaurant, with the assistance of head chef Karl Martin, who has been with them for three years.

There are also 10 individually decorated bedrooms; I was pleased to hear that these are dog-friendly, although children under the age of 12 are not allowed in the restaurant, due to the length and intensity of the meals. Continue reading

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The Dutch Hercules


Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with St Matthew and the Angel

The Dutch Hercules

The Correspondence of Erasmus: Letters 2357 to 2471, translated by C. Fantazzi, annotated by J.M. Estes, University of Toronto Press (2016), Pp. xix, 391, ISBN 978 1 4426 4878 4. $180.00 (hb), reviewed by Darrell Sutton

Erasmus, the Man

The Renaissance originated during the late 13th century in Florence, Italy. It swept over Europe and led to innovative attainments in literature, art, architecture, music and science. Rediscoveries of major literary works of imperial Rome and classical Greece formed its intellectual basis. The Dutch humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), more popularly known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, was held in high regard for his editions of Greek and Latin texts.

People were complaining about blatant avarice in the Dutch provinces where it was felt that the Papacy held too much sway. These objections eventually led to formal protests. The “Reformation” in Germany, likewise, proceeded with fervor. Over the next decade it consumed villages, cities and nations. Continue reading

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Wines, Ales and other Consumables

Vignes Alsace Husseren les Châteaux

Wines, Ales and other Consumables

Tested for you by Em Marshall-Luck

Two excellent white wines and one top-notch red; a wine subscription service; some superb, predominantly Cornish, ales, and batch of foodie items – including a couple more subscription services – make up this column’s recommendations; all of which are perfect for summer-day consumption.

The 2014 Muscat d’Alsace “Collection”, is from Maison Kuentz-Bas, a winery which was founded in 1795 and is based in one of the highest spots on the Alsace Wine Route, with vineyards around the village of Husseren-Les-Châteaux.  The vineyards are both organic and biodynamic, as the winemakers feel strongly that lower yields and more natural methods of growing and production result in more characterful wines. Continue reading

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They’re Rough

Untitled Painting by Zdzisław Beksiński

They’re Rough

Hartley’s heroes, hangin’ tough

Ranald Mackenzie (1840-89) was a general in the United States Army. His name is little known outside military history circles, unlike his contemporary, the hapless and incompetent General Custer. Despite losing his life and those of the troops under his command in a campaign against the Sioux Indians, Custer achieved immortality of sorts via the full Hollywood treatment. In contrast, Mackenzie has attracted much less attention. He was sent to deal with the Comanche, the most formidable of Plains Indian tribes, who at one stage managed to drive back the advance of European settlement by a hundred miles. Mackenzie succeeded in his mission not so much with the glamorous horse soldiers of Custer’s command but by using black infantry, the so-called Buffalo Soldiers. Even nomads need time to rest and find food. Mackenzie denied them the opportunity. He and his soldiers harried the Comanche relentlessly until ground down and exhausted they surrendered. Mackenzie provided an early example of how remorseless pursuit of an enemy deep into its own territory can achieve success. Continue reading

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Broken Lion

The Lion of St Mark, Venice

Broken Lion

Otello; dramma lirico in four acts, music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Arrigo Boito, after the play by William Shakespeare, conductor Antonio Pappano, director Keith Warner, Royal Opera, 10th July 2017, reviewed by Leslie Jones

As Roberta Montemorra Marvin notes in the official programme (page 21), certain critics believe “that [in Otello] Boito and Verdi even improved upon Shakespeare’s original”. A case can certainly be made for this contention by comparing the opening scene of the play with that of the opera. In Shakespeare’s Othello, it is Venice, at night. Roderigo, urged on by Iago, informs Brabantio that his daughter Desdemona has eloped. In Otello, however, as Professor Matthew Dimmock reminds us (programme, page 12) the action is fast-forwarded. Otello (Jonas Kaufmann) arrives in Cyprus after the tempest in which the Turkish fleet is fortuitously destroyed. Lighting designer Bruno Poet deserves especial credit for the visual effects during the storm. When we first see Desdemona, likewise, she is strikingly posed against a now peaceful night sky. Continue reading

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The Anchor, Walberswick

The Anchor, Walberswick

It is rare to find an establishment that cannot be faulted in any point, no matter how exacting one’s standards are – yet that is what we were overjoyed to find in The Anchor, in the long and pretty village of Walberswick, on the beautiful Suffolk coast not far from Aldeburgh and popular Southwold.

There has been an inn on the site of The Anchor for centuries, but the current building, intended as a hotel, dates from the 1920s. It is a warm and welcoming building – comprising many different, small rooms and bars, some with log fires blazing away, one painted an enveloping red, another a radiant peacock blue with colourful artwork on the walls and dark wooden furniture. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, 9th July 2017

Song of the Lark, by Jules Breton

ENDNOTES, 8th July 2017

In this edition: Beethoven and Liszt in Kent; Busoni from Chandos;  Sterndale Bennett and Schumann on the Artalinna label, reviewed by Stuart Millson

The Pilsdon Barn next to St. Mary’s Abbey in the mid-Kent community of The Mallings is not well known as a performance venue. But increasingly, this timbered hall is attracting a growing number of professional chamber musicians, keen to expand their concert profile in the provinces. Run by local violinist and teacher, Stephen Hatfield, the East Malling Research Station Music Club can always be counted upon to present the most promising recitalists, and last month Jina Shim (top prizewinner in the Christopher Duke Piano Competition/2011 Chandos Young Musician of the Year) and Xiaoyun Lim (Melbourne Conservatorium/Royal College of Music) visited – to great acclaim – in a joint recital of Beethoven, Liszt, Haydn, Debussy, Chopin and Rachmaninov. Continue reading

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Canada, Matrix of Modernity

Painting by Zdzisław Beksiński

Canada, Matrix of Modernity 

On the Sesquicentennial of Canadian Confederation, Mark Wegierski considers the emergence of the “managerial-therapeutic regime”

The Sesquicentennial (150th Anniversary) of Canadian Confederation is being celebrated in 2017 (July 1). Nevertheless, it is clear that Canada today is diametrically different from what it was in 1967 (the Centennial), let alone 1867.

Until 1896, Canada was dominated by an alliance of English Canadian Conservatives and Quebec “Bleus”. After 1896, however, the Liberal Party dominated the federal government. The success of the post-1896 Liberal Party was predicated on combining virtually every federal parliamentary seat from Quebec with a minority of seats from English Canada. It was a formula for power which manifestly worked. Until 1963, perennial Liberal rule did not have radical social implications, as all the three main parties (the other two being the “Progressive Conservatives” and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation) shared a “traditionalist-centrist” social consensus. Continue reading

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Enlightened Despots

President Woodrow Wilson

Enlightened Despots

Leslie Jones enjoys a compelling analysis

Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics & American Economics in the Progressive Era, Thomas C. Leonard, Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford, 2016, 250 pp., reviewed by Leslie Jones

In Illiberal Reformers, economic historian Thomas C. Leonard reminds us that between 1890 and 1914, fifteen million immigrants entered the United States. Almost 70% of this total figure was drawn from southern and eastern Europe. The title of Leonard’s book, albeit paradoxical, is certainly apt. For American Progressives, including eminent social scientists such as economist Richard T. Ely of John Hopkins University and politicians such as Professor Woodrow Wilson, not only rejected laissez-faire, they generally espoused eugenics and “scientific racism”.

Indeed, control of immigration was an integral part of the attempt to “remake American economic life through the agency of an administrative state” (page 10). One of the key steps in the consolidation of the latter was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. According to Edward A. Ross, Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, workers of “inferior races” accepted lower wages than American workmen, who chose to have fewer children in the face of such unfair competition. Continue reading

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Brexit is Britain’s Independence Day

Brexit is Britain’s Independence Day

Stephen Michael MacLean discerns ‘the end of the beginning’

Independence Day. That was Boris Johnson’s description of June 23rd last year, as he and fellow Leave campaigners canvassed the United Kingdom for Brexit, making the case to exit the European Union and strike out into the world once more as a sovereign nation.  What a year it has been, with much to come before the official break in March 2019. ‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end,’ so Sir Winston Churchill described an early Allied victory in the darkest hours of World War II. ‘But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’

Many trace the origins of Brexit to Bruges in September 1988, when Margaret Thatcher declared that ‘We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.’ Continue reading

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