A Bearskin’s Crimea – Colonel Henry
Percy VC & His Brother Officers by
Algernon Percy, Leo Cooper, £19.99.
Amidst the wealth of books about the First
and Second World War, the Crimean War
is all too often overlooked. The names
of Cardigan, Balaklava and Florence
Nightingale, along with the Charge of the
Light Brigade, provide mere token
recognition of a conflict that for all its
suffering has rarely attracted the attention
of modern day historians.
This book provides a timely reminder
of the fighting, the conditions and the
characters involved in the Crimean War.
It is told principally through the eyes of a
regimental officer in the Grenadier Guards,
The Honourable Henry Percy, who was
present at all the major battles of this grim
conflict: the Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman
and the Siege of Sebastopol.
Percy was no ordinary commentator.
He was wounded twice and his fearless
leadership was rewarded when he received
one of the first Victoria Crosses for his
gallantry at Inkerman – ‘The Soldiers’
Battle’. Away from the battlefield, he had
a direct access to, and knowledge of, the
allied commanders and his candid criticism
of some of their decisions makes for
He also throws light on the character
and work of Florence Nightingale and her
nurses, based on his own experiences as a
patient in Scutari Hospital.
Interestingly, his brother, as a Member
of Parliament, was closely involved in
advancing the cause of women’s nursing at
the same time. The most fascinating feature
of this book, however, is Percy’s graphic
accounts of bitter fighting and comradeship
under extreme conditions. A Bearskin’s
Crimea is both a poignant human story and
a superb narrative of an oft-forgotten war.
Freemasonry in Music and Literature
edited by Trevor Stewart, Canonbury
Masonic Research Centre, £17.50 plus
£2.50 p&p. ISBN 0954349814.
Freemasonry is rich in music and literature,
and this book contains nine papers in the
second volume of The Canonbury Papers
given at a conference in 2003.
The papers range from the mid-15th
century to the present and are international
in perspective with subject topics from
England, Germany, Russia, France,
Holland, Austria, Scotland and Sweden.
The extensive references and index will
be of particular interest to those interested in
pursuing further studies into this fascinating
area of Masonic research.
One taster is the paper on James Boswell,
biographer of Dr Samuel Johnson. Boswell
was a Scottish Mason, but a womaniser
and heavy drinker. He tried to claim virtue
in that he was a Mason. His wife was
unimpressed, describing the Masons as
“an indiscriminate, confused rabble.”
There is a paper on the manifestation
of Freemasonry in the works of Goethe,
songs of 18th century English Lodges, some
literary contexts of the Regius and Cooke
MSS, and on Masonic songs, marches, odes,
cantatas, oratorios and operas in the 18th
and early 19th centuries.
The 18th century was a prolific period
in Masonic songbooks, as another paper
reveals, while Hogarth’s Masonic narratives
and Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado are
Michael Costa, a 19th century director of
music at Covent Garden, is studied to show
how his career in music and Masonry might
be an indicator of changing perceptions to
Freemasonry in the latter part of that period.
A study of Russian Freemasonry, which
can trace its origins back to the 1730s, is a
fascinating insight, and inevitably no such
book would be complete on music and
Freemasonry without Mozart.
This is a gem of a book and does full
credit to the hard work of the Canonbury
Masonic Research Centre which, since its
foundation as a charitable trust in 1998, has
done so much pioneering work.
AUTHOR OF THE QUARTER –|
What prompted you to write Pundits from
Pakistan – On tour with India 2003–4?|
The tour was fortunate timing. I was
looking for something more than
magazine journalism and wanted it to
What most surprised you about the tour?
Not being from a family divided by the
horrific partition of 1947 or affected by
the three subsequent wars, Pakistan had
held little resonance for me beyond the
stereotypes peddled in the mass media.
To observe the unique attachment
between the people of India and
Pakistan was illuminating and touching.
In many ways, the tour was a people’s
peace movement allowed to blossom
finally as a result of the thawing in
political will. The numbers who crossed
the border for the tour were the highest
since the early years of Partition. To
witness cricket as the catalyst to such
a cultural, social and, to an extent,
political dialogue between the two
countries was an extraordinary thing.
When writing a book, do you have a
preferred place of work and a favoured
I often write to music. A bit of natural
light or wind is important, too. All of
Pundits from Pakistan was written in my
bedroom, which is fairly big and silent
by Bombay standards.
How do you relax?
Music, reading, surfing and watching
cricket. A bit of whisky or tea generally
Who is your favourite author?
I think there are great books rather
than great authors. Over the last couple
of years I’ve enjoyed books by Naipaul,
Coetzee and Dostoevsky.
Which book are you reading at present?
I’ve just finished Mike Marquese’s
Chimes of Freedom, which added plenty
of real context and insight to my
affection for Bob Dylan’s exquisite
stream of albums. I’m planning to read
a Hemingway next.
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