I absolutely dote on Sir Roy Strong and I recommend anyone to read his autobiography. From growing up in a bookless house in north London to heading two important British institutions and becoming an adviser and licensed jester to the royal family is quite a journey. The first of his books I read was King Charles I on Horseback, a monograph on Van Dyck’s great painting. I enjoyed his exhibition of Tudor and Jacobean portraits (was it 1969?) so much that I went twice. More recently I’ve loved reading about the garden he created with his late wife at The Laskett.This new book, Visions of England is just the kind of history I like, both scholarly and anecdotal. It’s described as an essay which the author hopes can be read at a sitting. His idea of ‘the wider reading public’ is perhaps a little ambitious; I lost count of the number of times he uses the word ‘mnemonic’ and think the book will be better understood by people who already have some general historical knowledge. This is the very thing which Sir Roy concludes is sadly lacking today.
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