Harry Mount

Kindled Spirits

‘It’s a safe place for widows,’ said a helper at the last Dartington Literary Festival, when I asked her why book festivals were doing so well these days.

Now that’s not much of a slogan. ‘Safe for Widows’ carries all the dank, characteristically British, low expectations of a sign I saw this week outside a lock-keeper’s cottage outside Hertford – ‘Don’t pet the dog; it may bite’.

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