AUTHOR OF THE MONTH:   Beverley Nichols (1898-1983)

 

 

If you like gardening, or fixing up old houses, or laughing out loud (or all three), you are certain to enjoy reading books by Beverley Nichols.

 

A Renaissance man, he was not only a writer of books for both children and adults, but also a song writer and playwright, a pianist, an actor, a connoisseur of epicurean delights, a lover of cats and eventually a renowned gardening expert.   He wrote over 50 books, and many of them were best sellers.  For collectors, he is a fascinating focus because his writing covers such a vast array of subject areas (memoirs, politics, plays, travel, children’s books, mysteries, and more).

 

 Today he is probably best loved for his delightfully entertaining and informative books on his experiences with renovating his homes and gardens in England.  Getting himself deeper than deep in renovation projects, he joyfully allows his readers to laugh and learn along with him at his travails as he progresses from not knowing how to prune a rose or boil an egg to doggedly completing his visions against all odds, all the while receiving questionable advice from nosy but lovable neighbors. 

 

 

His gardening books include:

 

  • Down the Garden Path (Jonathan Cape 1932; Doubleday 1932)
  • A Thatched Roof (Jonathan Cape 1933; Doubleday 1933)
  • A Village in a Valley (Jonathan Cape 1934; Doubleday 1934)*
  • The Gift of a Garden (W. H. Allen 1971; Dodd, Mead 1972) – this is a condensation of the three books above it)
  • How Does Your Garden Grow? (Allen and Unwin 1935; Doubleday 1935)
  • Green Grows the City (Jonathan Cape 1939; Harcourt 1939)
  • Merry Hall (Jonathan Cape 1951; Dutton 1953)
  • Laughter on the Stairs (Jonathan Cape 1953; Dutton 1954)
  • Sunlight on the Lawn (Jonathan Cape 1956; Dutton 1956)
  • Garden Open Today (Jonathan Cape 1963; Dutton 1963)
  • Forty Favourite Flowers (Studio Vista 1964; St. Martin's 1965)
  • Garden Open Tomorrow (Heinemann 1968; Dodd 1969)
  • The Art of Flower Arrangement (Collins 1967; Viking 1967)

 

Enjoy an excerpt from Laughter on the Stairs in which the author leads two of his overly helpful neighbor ladies through his newly renovated greenhouse:  

 

The dead hand of Mr. Stebbing hung heavy over this conservatory when I first arrived.  With devilish ingenuity he had contrived that the main drain from upstairs should be let through the roof, like a sort of pillar, so that it was apt to stun all who passed that way.  At crucial moments it sent out embarrassing gurgles and hisses, usually when one was showing people geraniums.  This drain has now been diverted, and bricked up with a square column, painted white.  In summer it is covered with a riot of pale blue plumbago.

  The removal of the drain was one of the few things which Miss Emily, from delicacy rather than from desire, was unable to deplore.  When she first stepped into the conservatory on her way to the music-room she paused, flinched, and exclaimed:

‘Dear me…more changes!  Now let me see, what have we done here?”

I could not think of any polite way of saying that I had removed the main drain from the upstairs lavatory, so I ignored the question.

‘Yes…what have we done?’ demanded Our Rose, who was standing by her side.

   Miss Emily suddenly realized that her question was embarrassing. ‘Something structural, dear,’ she murmured.

  ‘Yes, but what?’

 Miss Emily glared at her.  Structural, dear,’ she repeated.

  ‘But that might mean anything…’

 ‘Quite, dear,’ snapped Miss Emily.  ‘It might.’  With which she passed through to the music-room... 

 

And from the comical opening chapter of A Thatched Roof:

 

The low lintels of the cottage have many disadvantages, but they have one supreme advantage.  They afford an immediate topic of conversation.  They make things start, quite literally, with a bang. 

   Even the stiffest young guardsman—the type that says, after a long pause, ‘…But my deal fellow, what about India…I mean…what?’ even these young gentlemen find it difficult to concentrate on Imperial problems when they are reeling back from a staggering blow on the forehead.

 

 

A complete bibliography of all of Beverley Nichols’ books can be found at the website of Timber Press:

http://www.timberpress.com/beverleynichols/bibliography.cfm

 

Timber Press has recently brought Nichols’ most loved gardening books back into print and they are available at their website.  For the collectors among you who want first editions, the search is more challenging, and yet Beverley Nichols is a reasonably affordable author to collect, and certainly a rewarding one.  Some of his books are usually available here at Old Scrolls Book Shop.