Post-war wilderness, 1950

The World My Wilderness

A view of St Paul’s through wasteland, cover artwork published in 1950 for Rose Macaulay’s story of a girl who is sent to live in London after years in occupied France (jacket design by Barbara Jones). I’ve yet to read it. The inside wrap reads:

“London and the ordered formality of English life seemed to her after the wild maquis society of France more than strange, repellent even, a totally unintelligible confusion. She was bewildered, not merely by the ordinary rules of what is called civilised life, but also by the ambiguity of her personal relationships within that framework… the only escape from it she found in a real but fantastic world which she created for herself in the wrecked and flowering wastes around St Paul’s, which became her physical and spiritual home.”

Here’s an image from 2013.

Hemmed in 7


  1. Nick · April 17, 2013

    Based on your previous postings – all of which are fascinating and often beautiful – I think you’ll enjoy The World My Wilderness. It features some wonderful, ecstatic scenes of a girl in that almost unimaginable London wilderness – admittedly, from memory they are alternated with other scenes of her guardians pacing up and down and saying, ‘What are we going to do with her,’ most of which I think you could skip. But it’s a powerful little novel.

    • whistlesinthewind · April 18, 2013

      Thanks for reading and also for the generous comments: as said, will be reading this book next!

  2. alablague · April 17, 2013

    I used to think that it was one of my favourite books of all. The scenes of the wild girl in the ruined churches overgrown with flowers are very powerful. I read it again recently and it was still great but not that great. Well worth reading though, like everything she wrote. And your dust cover is so much crisper than mine.

    • whistlesinthewind · April 18, 2013

      That’s some recommendation – will have to start reading. I’ve always intended to read ‘They Were Betrayed’ and had it for years. I found a small stash of beautifully preserved 40s/50s books which must have been catalogued and jacket-strengthened for a private library – of course collectors aren’t interested if they have codes or stamps, but I love the perfectly typed label inside each one, with the month and year it was bought…

      • alablague · April 18, 2013

        They Were Defeated is quite hard going. It’s written entirely in Seventeenth Century English. She was formidably brainy about that sort of thing.

        And No Man’s Wit is my favourite. An English family of well-intentioned but smug intellectuals travel though Franco’s Spain looking for a son who fought in the Civil War. One of them is less intellectual than the others but turns out to be a mermaid.

        Towers of Trebizond is also easily found and very good.

        I agree about ex-library books. My copy of I Would be Private (possibly her worst novel) was once the property of the Miami Public Library and retains that august organisation’s mission statement.

  3. dianajhale · April 18, 2013

    This sounds great – a variation on the Secret Garden in a way maybe. I love Barbara Jones’s work. There is a small exhibition at Whitechapel gallery now in London about an exhibition she did there in the 50’s including some of her folklore collection.

    • Nick · April 18, 2013

      Thanks for the tip-off about the Barbara Jones exhibition, Diana – I’ve been fascinated by her for a few years but not seen much of her work – suppose since some of it is curatorial it’s hard for that to be represented in books anyway. But I love even the title Black Eyes and Lemonade…

    • whistlesinthewind · April 18, 2013

      Thanks Diana – I didn’t know how much work she’d done – the exhibition looks fantastic and fascinating, and the original poster from 1951 is just brilliant…

  4. Pingback: The World My Wilderness Revisited | whistlesinthewind

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s