You may know that I have a fascination with old local guide books, and Black’s 1901 Buckinghamshire Guide was featured in this column a couple of months ago.
A few years later MacMillan Publishers introduced their “Highways & Byways” series of County Guides, and I have the editions relating to my two favourite counties - Bucks and Dorset.
The Bucks one which first appeared in 1910 was compiled by well known author Clement Shorter (1857–1926, pictured above) who lived in Great Missenden.
Illustrations (rather than photographs) were provided by Frederick L. Griggs, and I have included his depiction of Shelley Cottage along with Mr Shorter’s Shelley paragraphs in the Marlow pages.
The Old Parsonage is the other Marlow illustration.
It is a nice account of the Shelleys’ short stay in West Street.
I am assuming that the facts are all correct, although Mr Shorter, earlier in his Marlow pages, is mistaken in the date for the building of our suspension bridge, and this was not put right in subsequent editions.
Strangely, it is an error that can be found in other guide books from this era: the bridge was completed in 1832; All Saints Church a couple of years later.
Also, there is now a body of opinion that Lord Byron did indeed come to Marlow, calling on both Shelley and Peacock.
Of course in this present time it is Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein that is far more widely read and talked about, rather than her husband’s extensive and rather complicated writings.
Often described as the first work of science fiction, the idea for her classic novel was conceived in Italy, but written in West Street, Marlow.
Elsewhere in Highways & Byways in Buckinghamshire there is a comprehensive examination of the story of the embalmed hand of St. James the Apostle, a precious relic in the possession of Marlow’s St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.
I’ll feature that another time.
Contact Michael on email@example.com or 01628 486571