A Village in a Valley

I bought Beverley Nichols’ A Life in a Valley solely based on the spine.spine

I love the extraordinary detail: a man sits under a blossoming tree with his dog, overlooking the country road that winds into the valley.  The mountains overlook the separated pastures in the background.


Unfortunately, the spine is extremely faded compared to the front and back covers, but the front cover does contain a nice BN, surrounded by a wreath of flowers.


Even the endpapers contain this same elaborate design, just with more detail. The script is extremely unique, reminding me of the fronds on the Australian fern, just not as curlicue.


Australian fern, 2012.

Australian fern, 2012.


Australian fern, 2012.

Australian fern, 2012.

Whenever I pull this book off the shelf, I think to myself ‘what a great this book New Zealand purchase,’ and I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m always reminded when I see the title page, which clearly states it was printed in New York in 1914.  It’s not impossible that it was transported to New Zealand, but I’m thinking it’s not exactly probable…especially considering he’s an English author.  But I digress.

The frontispiece is also extremely beautiful, along with the title page:



Out of the two, the frontispiece is my favorite, as it reminds me of the lavish English city estates with heavy wood paneled libraries and large padded window seats.

Title Page

Title Page


Unfortunately, for a book so heavy on illustrations before you open the book, there are only two other illustrations throughout the entire book: at the table of contents page and above the first chapter.  Perhaps the editor felt the illustrations were distracting from the text of the book?  I certainly find them distracting (who doesn’t love photos?!), but I also find them some of the book’s most endearing qualities.

Table of Contents Illustration

Table of Contents Illustration

Chapter 1 illustration

Chapter 1 illustration

When I found out Beverley Nichols was a male, and not only male, but best remembered for his gardening books (he specialized in winter flowers,) I felt ashamed for assuming someone with the name of Beverley was female.  Born in 1898 in Brighton, England, Nichols was an avid storyteller.  Throughout his lifetime, he wrote over 60 books, with no subject left untouched: he wrote plays, fiction, mysteries, short stories, essays, six autobiographies, children’s books, as well as books on travel, politics, religion, cats, and parapsychology. Additionally, he ghost wrote for others.


Photo courtesy of Almost Famous Cats.

Photo courtesy of Almost Famous Cats.

In the late 1920s, Nichols purchased a thatch cottage in Glatton, England, and created his own mecca of gardens, where he gained inspiration for many of his novels.  But unfortunately for him, his neighbors were not happy with his constant parties, his homosexuality, or his friends (according the NY Times article on his life, he had a number of male friends who attempted to pick up several young boys in the neighborhood, and eventually tipped him to the potential police involvement).  So, he sold that place, and moved to London-a city much more accepting to his social circle.

In addition to the little sordid affair above, Nichols wrote (in one of his autobiographies), that he attempted to kill his father 3 separate times: age of 15, he slipped crushed aspirin into his father’s soup. In a second attempt, as his father napped on the lawn, he ran a heavy roller him, and in a third endeavor, he slipped his father a heavy dose of sleeping pills right before abandoning him in the snow. Surprisingly, his father recovered each time!  Nichols certainly seems quite the interesting character, that’s for sure.  He died in 1983 after he fell in his home in Richmond, England.

Further Reading:

Almost Famous Cats. ‘Beverley Nichols.’ Tumblr. 5 December 2011. Image. 17 December 2013. http://yourcatwasdelicious.tumblr.com/page/73

Connon, Brian.  Beverley Nichols: A Life. London: Constable, 1991. Print.

Nichols, Beverley.  All I Could Never Be.  New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1952.  Print.

Patkanas, Christopher. ‘Fabulous Dead People: Beverley Nichols.; New York Times Magazine Blog. 12 January 2011. Weblog. 12 November 2013 http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/fabulous-dead-people-beverley-nichols/?_r=0

New York Times. ‘Beverley Nichols Dies: Briton Wrote 50 Books.’ New York Times. 17 September 1983. Web. 17 December 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/1983/09/17/obituaries/beverley-nichols-dies-briton-wrote-50-books.html

Timber Press. ‘The Official Beverley Nichols Website.’ Timber Press. 2013. Web. 12 November 2013 http://www.beverleynichols.com/


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Filed under 1910s, Books

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