Off the Beaten Track by J. H. B. Peel (Robet Hale £8.95) IT WAS an unexpected pleasure to find yet one more "last" volume by J. H. B. Peel who died last year, leaving these essays to delight his readers. They all tell of journeys in England, Scotland or Wales, most of which were made in order to seek the memories of the traces of writers whose work he loved or people whose lives interested him.
Brinkwells, near Eittleworth in Sussex, is the house in which Eiger lived from 1917 to 1921 and Peel, visiting it, recalled the happiness of the composer in his first three years there and his desolation in the last year after the death of his wife.
At St Juliot, in Cornwall, Peel wrote of Hardy's meeting with his first wife; at Martin, in Hampshire, he found someone who remembered W H Hudson's sojourn there; at Yattenden, in Berkshire, he reflected on the temperament of the poet Robert Bridges, and at Purnpsaint in the county that used to be called Carmarthenshire, he pitied the plight of Edward Thomas, not yet a poet, slogging at his book The kknield Way. A visit to Great Tew, in Oxfordshire, was the occasion for telling the story of Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, who died fighting for the King in the Civil War.
Peel made journeys, too, into Shropshire, along the Foss Way through Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, to Dorset, to Perthshire, to Caithness, to Northumberland. He found something worth writing about in all these places and the volume would be a delightful bedside book to dip into again and again.