Thomas Meagher

Found In Old Pots

The Rings of Saturn

By WG Sebald

The Harvill Press 304pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

You can learn a lot on a walk around Suffolk.

For instance, consider the slender iron bridge that crosses the River Blyth between Walberswick and Southwold. It was constructed in 1875 for a narrow gauge rail link between Southwold and Halesworth, and the train that ran on it is said to have been built for the Emperor of China – the imperial heraldic dragon could be made out under the carriages’ black paintwork. Want to know which Emperor of China? Kuang-hsu, actually, a child emperor who was keen on modern machinery but whose reformist political inclinations led the Dowager Empress Tz’u-hsi (who died, by the. way, after a double helping of her favourite pudding, crab apples and clotted cream) to send him into exile. Tz’uhsi, incidentally, was a contemporary of Swinburne, who, in the 1870s, found plenty to be melancholy about in the haunting, sea- engulfed town of Dunwich, which was one of the most important ports in Europe during the Middle Ages and lies a taxing hike south of Walberswick. Diminutive Swinburne had a very big head: when he went to Eton in the summer of 1849, his was the largest hat in the school.

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