Review of ‘Beyond The Copper Beech’, by Brian Jones

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

BEYOND THE COPPER BEECH

Brian Jones has a long professional background far beyond the old market town which he made his home and wherein stands the copper beech of the title of this new publication. The town is Wirksworth and many of us know something of its literary links, not least with George Eliot, D.H. Lawrence and Olive Schreiner.

Or we think we know, for in a foreword to Beyond the Copper Beech, John Windsor has good cause to advise: 'Keep this book handy. The Wirksworth whispers about Adam Bede are acquiring the status of urban myth, and so might the local legends of D.H. Lawrence, Marx and Engels, Richmal Crompton's "Just William" and Alison Uttley - all ably dealt with in this book - unless the myth-makers are repelled.'

It is easy to understand the exasperation of a careful researcher when faced with hand-me-down 'facts' far removed from reality, so the corrections assembled by Brian Jones provide an apt lesson in not taking oft-repeated stories at face value. Future researchers and writers will applaud his deserved finger-wagging, wrapped up in many engaging revelations about his subjects. A brief selection might include the daughter of Karl Marx who spent a 'so-called honeymoon' (paid for by Friedrich Engels) at The Rising Sun in Middleton, the Hungarian Baroness who made rather a hash of the Derbyshire dialect, and the literary achievements of a Wirksworth doctor known to many only through the film The Elephant Man. Then there are the origins of a Macbeth.

Beyond the Copper Beech contains wonderfully evocative illustrations by Wirksworth artist Gerry Vaughan and concludes with a generous bibliography and a commendably thorough index. Self published, the book is on sale at Wirksworth Heritage Centre priced £5.99.

Review by Julie Bunting


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