The Man Who Ate Bluebottles : And Other Great British Eccentrics Paperback
Illustrated by Peter Till
'Catherine Caufield has shown us that eccentrics are fascinating characters ... they add to the gaiety of nations and it would be sad to see them fade away' Patrick Moore, Daily Express'A hilarious compilation ... not to be missed' Good Book Guide'Mad dogs and Englishmen, laid out for public gaze' Fortean TimesUntil he ate a bluebottle, William Buckland had always maintained that the taste of mole was the most repulsive he knew.
But that was before he ate the embalmed heart of Louis XVI.
William, and a hundred other colourful characters populate the pages of this amusing survey of those strange British people through the ages.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 224 pages, Illustrations, unspecified
- Publisher: Icon Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 19/09/2002
- Category: Humour collections & anthologies
- ISBN: 9781840467772
- Hardback from £7.85
Showing 1 - 1 of 1 reviews.
Review by bookishbat
The problem with telling stories of eccentric persons is that these folk often have a set of quirks and humorous anecdotes - and then not much more in their history. Caufield has narrowed her field to British eccentrics, and then devotes anywhere from a few paragraphs to several pages about each. The ones that are short feel - well, extremely short. For example:<br/><br/>"'The Scottish Homer' William Wilkie<br/>The poet Wlliam Wilkie was once asked by Lady Lauderdale, the wife of his patron, to stay the night with them. Wilkie replied that he would stay on condition that her ladyship supply him with a pair of dirty sheets. Wlkie absolutely refused to sleep between clean sheets; and if he did have the misfortune to encounter a pair always removed them before getting into bed. A blanket was the only thing he cared for. Well, not a blanket, exactly, since he covered himself with twenty-four pairs of blankets every night.<br/><br/>[Skipped a paragraph here on Wilkie's preaching - he "had taken holy orders." And a line or two in here about his forgetfulness.]<br/><br/>Although he was a learned man, Wilkie read very badly and could not spell. He was dubbed the "Scottish Homer" after the publication in 1757 of his Epigoniad, an epic poem in the style of the Iliad. Tradition has it that Wilkie consulted only one person while writing the poem: he read each section aloud to an old village woman, Margaret Paton, changing and rewriting whatever she did not like until the whole had received her blessing."<br/><br/>This is a good idea of how the stories are mildly humorous - and also gives an example of how the text leaves you with more questions. I can understand not having an explanation for the sheets and blankets business - eccentrics sometimes don't have a reason for these sorts of things themselves. But you'd think with a nickname like the Scottish Homer there'd be a bit more information on that epic poem. <br/><br/>Which leads to the next problem - no footnotes. There's a three page "Eccentric Bibliography," but unless a book or author is mentioned in the text, or the eccentric is mentioned in the book's title, it's unclear which reference was used. Many of the references are from the 1700-1800s, so I definitely believe that the author has done her research - it's just that the primary reason of the text is to amuse, not to inspire further research. It's probably to the author's credit that I want to know more about some of the people she's chosen. And it wouldn't surprise me if there was no further information - some of these people were probably referred to only in local legends, and thus hard to track down in any written sources.<br/><br/>Despite this all this nittering, I'd recommend the book. The stories are amusing, and the names of the eccentrics have led me on many a merry google search. I've actually found many books in public domain - though nothing from the bibliography so far - the books I've found are authored by some of the eccentrics.<br/><br/>I do have to add that I'm still somewhat amazed that anyone would name their son Clotworthy. As in Clotworthy Skeffington, 2nd Earl of Masserene.<br/><br/>In case anyone was still wondering - the man who ate bluebottles, mentioned in the title? That would be William Buckland:<br/><br/>"Until he ate a bluebottle, William Buckland had always maintained that the taste of mole was the most repulsive he knew. Buckland, Oxford's first professor of geology and the father of Frank Buckland (q.v.), was remembered by Lord Playfair as 'a born expermentalist. I recollect various queer dishes which he had at his table. The hedgehog was a successful experiment. ...I thought it good and tender. On another occasion I recollect a dish of crocodile, which was an utter failure.'"<br/><br/>No, there's no mention of how the bluebottles were served. Or why. Yes, I'm still wondering about that.