Copyright Information

HV Morton Society bulletins archive

Back to main indexes:

literary notes :: society snippets :: collectors' notes :: verses :: travellers' tales :: family history notes


Dear fellow Mortonites,

This is the first in an occasional series of notes which, hopefully, will be of some interest to the avid collector of H.V. Morton's works.

Your comments or suggestions would be most welcome.

With best wishes,

Peter Devenish

"There is no word in the English language - no good word - to describe book collectors like myself. No matter how large and excellent one's library may be, one cannot call oneself a librarian because the word has been too closely associated for centuries with members of (the librarian's) ancient calling. Therefore we have to be content with frightful words like bibliophile or, worse still, bibliomaniac. If these words derived from Greek are ugly the English equivalents are just sloppy, such as bookman, booklover or the awful and whimsical bookworm. The only dignified word to describe anyone concerned with books is the Latin librarian and, as I say, it has a purely professional association. There is, however, a forgotten and obsolete adjective which is never used now, nor was it ever used very much in the past, which is a good word and deserves a better fate. It is the word librarious. Now, I think, that is a good word! If I may not call myself a librarian, I prefer to think of myself as a librarious person.

"I am a librarious person. And I like the word. It suggests someone curled up in an easy chair surrounded by books. It suggests someone rising librariously from his chair to cast a librarious eye over the shelves before returning librariously to his chair to remain out of circulation for the rest of the day."

(H.V. Morton, Books and Libraries: Thoughts of a Librarious Person; South African Libraries, October 1969, Vol. 37:2, reprinted from The Cape Librarian, Cape Provincial Library Service, South Africa, March 1969; from a collection of essays compiled by Kenneth Fields)

HVM Collectors' Note - No.1


As some Mortonites will recall, a few months ago a survey was conducted on the scarcity, or otherwise, of the various H.V. Morton titles.

In no way can it be claimed that the survey was conducted along scientific lines! It merely took into account tallies from bookdealers' catalogues listed in Abebooks' on-line data base; dealers’ data bases world-wide collated by the AddAll search engine; the catalogues of 22 of the largest university libraries in the UK and Ireland contained in the COPAC on-line data base, and the collections of a few of the more militant HVM enthusiasts.

For neatness, if for no other reason, the survey included 50 HVM titles. The London Year and A London Year were counted separately, as were The Waters of Rome and The Fountains of Rome.

The findings of the survey are shown below. The titles are ranked in descending order of scarcity.

Regardless of the survey's unscientific approach, the results could be considered to reflect with some confidence the degree of scarcity of each title.

Here are the results, beginning with the scarcest title now available:

1    TRAVELS IN PALESTINE AND SYRIA (an abridged, paperback edition of In the Steps of the Master, produced for the British Armed Services)

2    TRAVEL IN WAR TIME (a pamphlet on the pleasures of cycling during the travel restrictions of the Second World War)

3     GLASTONBURY, THE JERUSALEM OF ENGLAND (an illuminated booklet containing an extract from In Search of England)

4    THE SOUL OF SCOTLAND (a pamphlet containing an extract from In Search of Scotland)

5    LONDON (The Little Guides Series)

6    WHAT I SAW IN THE SLUMS (a pamphlet containing a series of articles first written for the Daily Herald)

7    LONDON - A GUIDE (a revised edition, in a larger format, of London [The Little Guides Series])

8    THE LONDON SCENE (the larger format USA edition of London [The Little Guides Series])

9    MAY FAIR - HOW THE SITE OF A LOW CARNIVAL BECAME THE HEART OF FASHIONABLE LONDON (a soft-cover history of Mayfair commissioned to promote the opening of the Mayfair Hotel in London)





14    A LONDON YEAR (the revised edition of The London Year)

15    WHEN YOU GO TO LONDON (the USA edition of The London Year)




































HVM Collectors' Note - No.2


Dear fellow Mortonites,

One of the scarcest of H.V. Morton's titles is The Land of the Vikings, From Thames to Humber, published by Richard Clay & Sons (The Chaucer Press) of Suffolk, England. There is no publication date mentioned in the book but it is presumed to have been published in 1928 as HVM's introduction to the book is dated January of that year.

The book describes HVM's travels through the counties of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire: that part of England known a thousand years ago as the Danelaw. HVM states that: "It was here, between the Thames and Humber, that the Vikings, who harried our coasts in early Saxon times, were allowed by treaty with Alfred the Great to settle down and become respectable, or more or less respectable, inhabitants of this country."

(As a brief digression I should mention that the chapters on Norfolk were published, almost intact, in the May 1929 issue of the magazine Travel, published by Robert M. McBride of New York.)

The Land of the Vikings is a slim volume, just 109 pages plus introduction, with 15 delightful black and white illustrations by Frank H. Mason, R.B.A., and endpaper maps. The format of the book is quite different from other of HVM's titles of the period, being 23 cm by 14 cm wide, with boards covered in orange cloth and title labels (paper) pasted on the spine and front cover (see the picture below). As far as I know it was published in only one edition, but in the past 12 months or so a soft-cover version published in the same year has been listed on the internet. If you have seen a copy of the soft-cover format I, and I'm sure many other Mortonites, would be very interested to know about it.

During the past year or so I have been following prices of hard-cover copies of The Land of the Vikings listed on the internet. As is to be expected, the trend is upwards. Prices for the six copies that came onto the market in the 12 months to December 2003 ranged from £50 to £200 (US$92 - US$285; AU$120 - AU$480). All copies were said to be in "very good" condition although two lacked the title label on the spine. At the time of writing only one copy of Vikings is listed on the internet, at £200 for a copy described as "title label on spine missing, boards lightly bowed, lightly soiled, wear to extremities, slight spine lean." (I feel quite smug about having bought my copy in March 1999 for £9, after the book dealer had declined to accept the marked price of £12 because the condition didn't quite meet his original description. And the dealer was a Scot!).

During the same period only two soft-cover versions of Vikings came onto the internet market. The first copy was listed initially at £150 (US$275; AU$360) in December 2002 and in three stages by September 2003 the dealer had reduced the price to £50 (US$92; AU$120). It is no longer listed so presumably the copy has been sold. The second soft-cover copy, described as being in "tatty" condition, was listed in June 2003 for £25 (US$46; AU$60) and appears to have sold quickly.

Since acquiring my copy of Vikings I have been puzzled as to why HVM went away from Methuen, the publisher of his other books of the period, to Richard Clay; and why the book was printed in such a different format. I had never heard of the book being accompanied by a dust-jacket so I assumed it was issued without one. Certainly none of the hard-cover copies I have seen or heard about had a jacket, nor did any of the listings mentioned above refer to a jacket.

In July last year, Philip Jones of Morden, London, contacted John Baker concerning the reference to The Land of the Vikings on John's website (, and John referred Philip's email to me.

Philip Jones, who is something of a railway buff, thought that, although he did not have a copy, Vikings may have been published under the auspices of the London and North-Eastern Railway (LNER). He explained that the book was advertised in LNER publications around 1930 jointly with two other volumes of a similar format, namely, On the Line and Cameos of Three Counties, From Humber to Tweed, both written by Dell Leigh. The three books were priced at 2s 6d each.

Following up this information proved very interesting indeed.

On the Line describes various aspects of the LNER's operations and the author's trip by train from King's Cross station in London to Waverley station in Edinburgh. The book, somewhat longer than Vikings at 199 pages, has illustrations by Frank H. Mason and Freda Lingstrom. Cameos of Three Counties presents many brief pieces on towns and sites in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland. It has 168 pages and is illustrated by Frank H. Mason.

There is no doubt that the three books were published as a short series describing those parts of England served by the LNER. Although not one of the books mentions a publication date, I think all would have been produced at about the same time. More on this in a moment; in the meantime, back to the matter of dust-jackets.

For the purposes of research (as I hastily explained to a third party when the Visa statement arrived), I bought copies of On the Line and Cameos of Three Counties. Now here's the interesting bit: the latter, in a format identical to Vikings, came in a dust-jacket (see a picture of it below). And the inside flaps of the dust-jacket advertise the other two books in the series: On the Line and The Land of the Vikings. Unfortunately, my copy of On the Line did not come in a jacket. However, at present listed on the internet is a copy of this title with a "rubbed and damaged dust wrapper."

I think this is sufficient proof that all three titles in the series originally were issued with dust-jackets. If you happen to have a copy of Vikings in its original jacket, please let me know and perhaps we can begin negotiations for exchanging your book and jacket for a modest house on an acre of bushland in sunny Australia.

As far as the sequence of publication is concerned, On the Line was listed before Vikings on the jacket of Cameos; thus it would seem to have been published first. The subject of the book appears to support this. And obviously publication of Cameos followed Vikings, but how long after is unknown.

If you have any comments on these notes I would certainly appreciate hearing from you. (Even if you don't I would still appreciate hearing from you!)

With best wishes,

Peter Devenish


Dear fellow Mortonites,

Following is a nice little story from Peter Walton of Australia; a story that I'm sure will resonate with all book collectors.

With best wishes,

Peter Devenish

HVM Collectors' Note - No.3


Over the past few years I have collected the majority of my H.V.Morton books within Australia; the rarer editions take some finding, and some have involved part of my travels to the UK.

In 2000 my wife Elaine and I decided on a fly-drive jaunt from Heathrow through Wales, the Midlands of England and back to London. This trip included an essential visit to the Welsh town of books, Hay-on-Wye, book collectors Heaven. That visit resulted in acquiring I Saw Two Englands, The Heart of London and Ghosts of London.

We drove north through the spa town of LLandrindod Wells, Bangor, to Lancaster, then across to Harrogate.  There are very nice bookshops in Harrogate, but no success on the HVM hunt. So on to Pickering, a beautiful town with a delightful little antique shop.

After lunch we entered the antique shop to have a look around; a few books, but no Mortons. Elaine was some distance from me looking through an album of postcards and bookmarks. She called me to come over. "Look what I've found," she said. I could hardly believe what I was seeing! In the album was a very good + copy of the slim, soft-cover edition of HVM's I, James Blunt, his only published work of fiction, priced at ten pounds. (I have included a scan of the cover below.)

The chances of finding such a "hard to find" title where and when we did was a stroke of luck. It is the thrill of the hunt and finds like this that make book collecting so rewarding.


Peter Walton


Dear fellow Mortonites,

Here is another happy collector's story, this time from John Baker of New Zealand.

If you, too, have a story please share it with other members of the Society; I'm sure it would be appreciated by all.

With best wishes,

Peter Devenish

HVM Collectors' Note - No.4


Having just read Peter Walton's snippet, brings to mind an episode that recently brought a rather unusual find to the surface.

I had purchased one of HVM's more common titles from a book dealer in Northern England, who, having seen the link to my website on an email I sent him, remarked that he was quite keen on HVM's works. I replied, thanking him for the book and asked him if, by any chance, he had any other books by HVM on his shelves, and I sent a list of the rarer booklets and pamphlets. He replied that he thought he had seen a booklet lying around somewhere out back and said he would look for it.

To my surprise, the following day he replied and said he had found a copy of the booklet Travel in War Time and was I interested. When I picked myself off the floor, I immediately emailed back say 'YES' and could he send it airmail. The booklet cost £4.95 plus airmail, which I considered reasonable under the circumstances. (See a picture of the cover below.)

The moral of the story is: most book dealers keep lesser know items out the back and if you ask the right person at the right time, you might be surprised at the outcome. Never become slow at coming forward!

Happy hunting.

John Baker

HVM Collectors' Note - No.5


Dear fellow Mortonites,

If you were a member of the Society at the time, you may recall that a copy of one of H.V. Morton's rarest titles, Glastonbury, The Jerusalem of England, came on the market in January - briefly - and was snapped up by one of our members, Ann Curtin of  Australia.

Ann has an enviable reputation for acting swiftly when a rare HVM title surfaces, and she has demonstrated her prowess once more. A few days ago, while trawling the book search engines on the internet for her 'wants', she hit upon a copy of The London Year: A Book of Many Moods. Usually there are two or three copies of this title listed by book dealers world-wide, but the difference this time was that a dealer in Sydney had listed a Very Good copy with the very scarce dust-jacket.

I'm aware of only one collector of HVM's works who has this title in a jacket (modesty prevents me from disclosing who that collector is), and I have seen a jacketed copy listed by a dealer only once. So, full marks to Ann yet again for being so quick off the starting blocks!

The London Year: A Book of Many Moods was published in 1926 by Methuen & Co. of London. The book presents a calendar of London scenes and ceremonies from January to December. It is 21 cm by 15.5 cm wide, with blue cloth-covered boards, gilt-stamped title on the spine, and a gilt embossing of London's coat of arms on the front cover. It has 211 pages, including an appendix and is illustrated throughout with delightful sketches from A.E. Horne's A London Sketch Book.

The American edition of The London Year was re-titled When You Go to London and published in 1927 by McBride and Company of New York. The dimensions of the American version are similar but it has 319 pages due to a different layout of the illustrations, the addition of an introduction titled Before You Go to London, an expanded appendix, and an index. This edition has maroon cloth-covered boards, gilt titling on the spine, and McBride's device blind-embossed on the front cover. (I also understand that a pocket-book edition of When You Go to London was published in 1927 by Harper and Bros, of New York. If you can confirm this, any further information you can pass on to me would be much appreciated.)

The English edition was revised in 1933 and the title was changed from The London Year: A Book of Many Moods to A London Year. The revised edition was printed in a cheaper and smaller format (19.5 cm by 13 cm wide) in red cloth-covered boards and gilt lettered spine, and with 213 pages including an index, plus an introduction and several pages of publisher's advertisements at the back. A.E. Horne's sketches were deleted and replaced by just 6 photographic illustrations, thus making it a less attractive edition than the first.

Collectors have wondered why the name of the revised edition was changed to A London Year. Perhaps HVM gives some hint of the reason in his introduction to the book. In the first paragraph he writes: "I have strenuously refused to reissue it [the book] in the country of its birth because it seemed to me to voice a delight in the gaieties of London life now, alas, quite out of touch with our times [the height of the Great Depression]. It was written during that brief waltz of wealth after the War by one who gazed on the events of a London year with the bright and perhaps too eager eyes of a debutante. Now, however, I have been persuaded to bring out a new edition; and I do so in the belief that if these good times do not return, this record of the Season may achieve something of an archaeological interest."

Perhaps "the London year" implies a life-style which continues to be enjoyed regardless of the times and the hardship faced by the masses, whereas "a London year" denotes a time now past when the fortunate enjoyed the high life and the masses gazed upon the frolicking of their betters without bitterness and with an almost paternalistic pride.

Included below are pictures of the three editions mentioned here.

With best wishes,

Peter Devenish

§ §

Dear fellow Mortonites,

The recent notes from Peter Walton regarding his good luck in finding a copy of HVM’s I, James Blunt, have prompted me to send you the following background information to the book, which I hope you may find interesting.

With best wishes,

Kenneth Fields


HVM Collectors' Note - No.6



In 1941 the Ministry of Information was a government department that had been created at the outbreak of war and had now grown to an enormous size.

This propaganda organisation was concerned with all aspects of information management that was crucial to the national interest. It was given extensive powers, having control over the BBC, dissemination of information, press relations and news censorship. Its many separate divisions included a Home Intelligence Unit that prepared reports on the morale of the civilian population; a Films Division; and a Literary and Editorial Division that produced a range of booklets about the war. The Author’s Section was housed in the University College buildings in Gower Street, Bloomsbury and for a period its head was novelist Graham Greene who worked alongside fellow writer Malcolm Muggeridge. With academic scepticism they both believed their work was of little importance and found the Ministry to be generally inefficient.

However in spite of these misgivings Greene continued to take his duties seriously. One of his schemes involved approaching a number of well-known politicians and writers to ask if they would use their talents in writing a series of patriotic pamphlets and books. These famous names of the time included E. M. Delafield, Herbert Morrison, Vernon Bartlett, Dorothy Sayers, Howard Spring and H.V. Morton.

HVM accepted the challenge, returning to his home in Binsted, Hampshire, to write what was destined to be his only published fictional work, I, James Blunt. In it he takes his reader forward to September 1944 to an England that has lost the war and is under Nazi rule. James Blunt is a retired tradesman who is living in the village of Foxton near Farnham (probably HVM’s home village of Binsted) and his diary reveals the terrible changes that the Occupation has brought. Dr. Goebbels is in charge of the Daily Express, all personal savings have been frozen and the Gestapo are ruthlessly enforcing the New Order in Britain. Buckingham Palace has a huge Swastika flag flying from its flagpole, Trafalgar Square has been renamed Hitler Square, Victoria Station is now Himmler Station, British workers are being transported to Germany and Scottish shipyards are building German warships to attack America. The fifty-six page paperback booklet ends with a message reminding the reader that the diary of James Blunt will remain fiction ‘as long as England condemns complacency.’

Graham Greene later recalled that Morton’s writing style was ‘a bit too popular to be good,’ and he needed to rewrite the booklet before publication, no doubt to make the aggressive propaganda message more apparent. But HVM, who had given his services free, so impressed Churchill with this publication that he was later invited to report on one of the most historic meetings of the war, which was later published as Atlantic Meeting.

Greene also pursued a similar theme with his story The Lieutenant Died Last that was published in Collier’s. This tale, that describes how a small band of German troops land in an English village prior to a full Nazi invasion, was later adapted by producer Alberto Cavalcanti for his classic film Went the Day Well that was released in 1942. And a more recent variation on the same theme was the popular film The Eagle has Landed.

Another important aspect in the battle to boost morale was the regular overseas short-wave broadcasts by the BBC. During these war years HVM gave regular talks on the African Service and wrote accompanying articles in the overseas BBC magazine, London Calling. In July 1942, to coincide with the publication of his booklet in the USA and Canada, he wrote about ‘James Blunt in Occupied Britain’. Here he explained the reason why he had written what was seen by many to be an unpleasant booklet full of gloom and despondency. He said that he firmly believed that the allies would win the war but it was important that the public were reminded of the real penalty of defeat.

HVM Collectors' Note - No.7



Dear fellow Mortonites,

You probably know that H.V. Morton's very popular books In the Steps of the Master and In the Steps of St. Paul were first published by Rich & Cowan of London in 1934 and 1936 respectively.

HVM's regular publisher for some nine years previously had been Methuen & Co. Why, then, did he change? This is explained in Kenneth Fields' biography, H.V. Morton: The Life of an Enchanted Traveller, and in Michael Bartholomew's biography, In Search of H.V. Morton, but in essence HVM left Methuen after the company changed ownership and the new management arrangements became untenable to him. Subsequent changes lured HVM back to Methuen a few years later, however, and Methuen immediately took over the publishing of both books mentioned above.

But this is not the end of the story of the In the Steps of ... books.

In the Steps of the Master and In the Steps of St Paul were the first two titles in a series published under Rich & Cowan's imprint between 1934 and 1955. All of the titles in the series began with In the Steps of ...  and there were nineteen titles in all. Whether Rich & Cowan had planned the series from the start, or whether the series grew from HVM's popularity and the volume of sales from his two books, is not known.

The 19 titles in the In the Steps of ... series are listed below. It is interesting to note that the production quality of the earlier books in the series was of a substantially higher standard than that of the later books. Rich & Cowan had financial difficulties early in the life of the series and they were taken over by another publishing house. Although the entire series was produced under the Rich & Cowan imprint, this probably explains why later titles gave Rich & Cowan's address as "Hutchinson House" in London. If you have any additional information on this I would be most interested to know.

Included below, also, are scans of the covers of two of my favourite "non-Morton" books from the In the Steps of ... series. Please let me know if you would like scans or any further information on other titles in the series.

With best wishes,

Peter Devenish

"In the Steps of ..." Series Published by Rich & Cowan


Addison, William

*    In the Steps of Charles Dickens, 1955


Bigland, Eileen  

*    In the Steps of George Borrow, 1951


Bowen, Marjorie

*    In the Steps of Mary, Queen of Scots, 1952


Brittain, Vera

*    In the Steps of John Bunyan, 1950


Duke, Winifred

*    In the Steps of Bonnie Prince Charlie, 1953


Glen, Douglas

*    In the Steps of Lawrence of Arabia [Undated, c1939]


Golding, Louis

*    In the Steps of Moses the Lawgiver, 1937

*    In the Steps of Moses the Conqueror, 1938


Heath, Sidney

*    In the Steps of the Pilgrims, revised and republished in 1950  (first published in 1911 as Pilgrim Life in the Middle Ages)


Houghton, Leighton

*    In the Steps of the Anglo-Saxons [Undated, c1947]

*    In the Steps of the Normans and Plantagenets [Undated, c1948]

*    In the Steps of Joan of Arc, 1951


Morton, H V

*    In the Steps of the Master, 1934  

*    In the Steps of St Paul, 1936


Raymond, Ernest  

*    In the Steps of St Francis, 1938

*    In the Steps of the Brontes, 1948


Rennie, James Allen

*    In the Steps of the Clansmen, 1951

*    In the Steps of the Cavaliers, 1954


Thorndike, Russell

*    In the Steps of Shakespeare, revised and republished in 1948 (first published in 1939 as A Wanderer With Shakespeare)