Tuesday 3 November 2009

Fonthill Novel By Aubrey Menen


Mrs. J. Colvin, who recently holidayed in our area, staying at a country cottage between Salisbury and Tisbury, has enquired whether we can give her any details for a book called Fonthill by Aubrey Menen.

We are pleased to reply that the Warminster & Wylye Valley Society For Local Study has a copy among its library, and from it we can glean the following details:

Fonthill is a comedy novel written by Aubrey Menen in 1973 and 1974 and it was first published by Hamish Hamilton Ltd., of 90 Great Russell Street, London, WC1, in 1975.

The story is set in the 1820s and is divided into five parts, namely: Private View, The Scandal, The Women, The Pillory, and Fontill Abbey.

Aubrey Menen in a note at the beginning of the book says:

“It is not generally known that part of Fonthill is still standing, though in a dilapidated state. The grounds, however, have reached that peak of natural beauty at which Beckford aimed. They are private property, but they may be visited by persons declaring their interest in the author of Vathek.”

“It was while walking in these grounds that this novel began to take shape in my mind. During the writing of it (1973) a standing silver cup collected by Beckford was sold at a London auction for £40,000; shortly after, Cozen’s sketchbooks were sold for £120,000.”

According to the notes on the back cover of the book:

“Aubrey Menen was born in London, of Indian and Irish parentage and attended University College, London, where H.G. Wells encouraged him as a writer. Menen become director of the Experimental Theatre, for which he wrote and produce several plays.”

“On a visit to the Nawab of Bhopal in India in 1939 he was appointed to organize war publicity on the radio, in English, and become one of the leading radio personalities in India. The nationalist parties opposed all support for the war, but nevertheless his programmes made Indian radio history with a very large following. After the war he joined the Political Department and undertook a special mission to a remote jungle tract in western India.”

“For the last twenty years Aubrey Menen has devoted his time entirely to writing. His best known books are The Prevalence of Witches, The Duke of Gallodoro, A Conspiracy of Women, Speaking the Language Like A Native, and The Space Within the Heart.”

Among Menen's other books, are, fiction:

The Stumbling Stone, The Backward Bride, The Ramayana, The Abode of Love, The Fig Tree, and Shela.

And, non-fiction:

Dead Man In A Silver Market, Rome For Ourselves, India (with photographs by Roloff Beny), Cities In The Sand, Upon This Rock, and The New Mystics (with photographs by Graham Hall).