Edmund Burke said: “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors”. A key strand in his conservative philosophy was that we inherit the accumulated wisdom of our forebears, which we abandon at our peril.
A new book by David Abbott and Catherine Glass, “Share the Inheritance”, draws on the same inspiration. David Abbott was a contemporary of mine at King Edward VI School Southampton. He went on to become a doctor, and practised in some of the world’s far-flung trouble spots. He is also a man who loves his country and believes in its independence.
The book draws together some of the key lessons of history which have informed the British people and their culture. Needless to say these include freedom and independence. Big topics, but he illustrates them with events from our history, presented in bite-size chunks and illustrated with extensive pictures and quotations in the margin. Many of the stories will be familiar, yet they contain nuggets which may be new to many readers – for example the story of St. Alban’s execution at the hands of the Romans.
He also mentions the unsolved death of William Rufus in the New Forest, struck down by Sir Walter Tyrell’s arrow (but was it malice or dreadful accident?). He refers to the cart which carried the body of the King to Winchester – although he fails to mention that it was owned by a Charcoal Burner named Purkiss, a direct ancestor of mine (at any rate we can trace our lineage to a 17thC Purkiss in the New Forest, and since families rarely moved in those days, it seems a fair bet).
I suspect that David’s cultural tastes may be not too far from my own. I was struck by a detail from a Burne Jones painting on the cover, and a quotation from Tolkien on p22. There is a huge range of highly apposite and sometimes amusing quotations in the margins, including one or two from the Bible. If I have a criticism, it is that he has chosen to use a dumbed-down, Formica-topped modern translation for some of these. But it’s a minor point.
This is the sort of book that’s a delight to pick up and dip into. So if it’s not too early to be recommending stocking-fillers for Christmas, here’s one for every sceptic’s stocking. “Share the Inheritance”, hardback, £9.99, The Inheritance Press, firstname.lastname@example.org, ISBN 978-0-9843921-0-0
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