Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden - review by Jan Morris

Jan Morris

Song of the Earth

Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place


Granta Books 348pp £20 order from our bookshop

Partway through this fascinating work we come across the Cornish painter Peter Lanyon (died 1964), and he seems to me unexpectedly emblematic of the whole. He came home from the Second World War to join the eagerly abstractionist movement of English artists that became known as the St Ives School. He was the one Cornishman among them, and some resented the stoutly Cornish, semi-figurative element to his work. ‘Why don’t you admit you’re an abstract painter,’ demanded one of them, ‘instead of all this stuff about Cornwall?’

Philip Marsden, the distinguished author of Rising Ground, seems to be rather in Lanyon’s situation. Just as conventional landscape painting was about to run its course in the 1960s (Lanyon was dubbed ‘the last landscape painter’), so the art of literary travel writing is fizzling out now. To my mind

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