The most extraordinary thing. One of the drearier characters who has appeared in both of my books, Henry’s Trials and Smethurst’s Luck, was the Home Secretary at the time of the legal difficulties of both gentlemen, Sir George Cornewall Lewis. He eventually provided both Henry John Hatch and Thomas Smethurst with free pardons, but his reluctance with the former, condemned Henry Hatch to six unnecessary month’s stay in Newgate Prison. He (Lewis) has been a person for whom I have had some contempt, as one of the scholarly landed gentry, reluctantly co-opted into government and entirely divorced from the common people.
His biography paints him as a droll sort of chap; he was frequently quoted as having said: ‘Life would be tolerable were it not for its amusements…’ It goes on to say that his written work was ‘prolix…[using the] deliberately flat prose…of one who dislike style in writing’. (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). Cornwall Lewis was definitely not one of my favourite people.
And then I started reading one of his books. The book in question: An Historical Survey of the Astronomy of the Ancients, published in 1862 was probably his last published work; he died the following year. And it’s really good! Readable and very interesting! It is scholarly and packed with references, yet written in simple accessible prose. In trying to untangle which Greek astronomer/philosopher said what or believed what, it’s a goldmine, a real mother-lode of information. And thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can download it from Google – as can anyone – and read it on my iPad.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs