Cloven Country: The Devil and the English Landscape by Jeremy Harte - review by Edward Brooke-Hitching

Edward Brooke-Hitching

The Neighbour from Hell

Cloven Country: The Devil and the English Landscape

By

Reaktion 336pp £15.99
 

Where the Devil is he? Everywhere, yet not quite anywhere. His influence can be detected in place names across the world. Take, for example, Hell, a small unincorporated community in Livingston County, Michigan. On 31 January 2019, Hell literally froze over. Meteorologists recorded the temperature there plummeting to a record low of –26°C. For the inhabitants of Hell (population: seventy or so; town slogan: ‘Go to Hell!’), the polar vortex that struck was little more than an inconvenience, and not nearly as irritating as the cackling with which the national newspapers reported it. The town was apparently given its name by George Reeves, the first person to settle in the area, who was asked for his thoughts on what the place should be called. He reflected on the terrible swarms of mosquitoes, impenetrable forests, wetlands and other torturous features that had greeted him and replied, ‘I don’t care. You can name it Hell for all I care.’ And lo, on 13 October 1841, the town of Hell was christened.

There have even been judicial attempts at pinpointing the Devil’s exact location, with both God and the Devil appearing as defendants in lawsuits. In the 1971 case United States ex rel Gerald Mayo v Satan and His Staff, for instance, Gerald Mayo, an inmate at Western Penitentiary, Pittsburgh,

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