The fourth book on my Kindle: At Home by Bill Bryson. I seem to remember finding this slightly annoying but, looking back, I've highlighted quite a lot. Mostly of the kind of facts I wish I could remember to repeat to people while having one of those fact-based exchanges people have in pubs.
"The 1851 census also showed that more people in Britain now lived in cities than in the countryside – the first time that this had happened anywhere in the world"
1851! This is nothing new to us. We're used to it. Copy us.
"The duke was so cheap that he refused to dot his i’s when he wrote, to save on ink."
I can't remember which Duke. It doesn't matter.
"*Although he is hardly read now, Walpole was immensely popular in his day for his histories and romances. He was a particularly adept coiner of words. The Oxford English Dictionary credits him with no fewer than 233 coinages. Many, like ‘gloomth’, ‘greenth’, ‘fluctuable’ and ‘betweenity’, didn’t take, but a great many others did. Among the terms he invented or otherwise brought into English are ‘airsickness’, ‘anteroom’, ‘bask’, ‘beefy’, ‘boulevard’, ‘café’, ‘cause célèbre’, ‘caricature’, ‘fairy tale’, ‘falsetto’, ‘frisson’, ‘impresario’, ‘malaria’, ‘mudbath’, ‘nuance’, ‘serendipity’, ‘sombre’, ‘souvenir’ and, as mentioned a few pages back, ‘comfortable’ in its modern sense."
Bring back gloomth!
"Two years before his unhappy adventure with ‘many worms creeping’, Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary a rather more prosaic milestone in his life. On 25 September 1660, he tried a new hot beverage for the first time, recording in his diary: ‘And afterwards I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink), of which I never had drank before.’ Whether he liked it or not Pepys didn’t say, which is a shame as it is the first mention we have in English of anyone’s drinking a cup of tea."
I remembered this one.
"For years he refused to accept that the future of motion pictures lay in projecting images on screens because he hated the thought that they could become visible to someone who had slipped into the viewing chamber without buying a ticket. For a long time he held out for the idea of keeping them securely inside hand-cranked peepshow boxes."
The movie person hasn't changed much.
"A big part of the appeal of Brown’s approach was that it was cheap in the long run. Manicured grounds with their parterres and topiary and miles of clipped hedges needed a lot of maintenance. Brown’s landscapes looked after themselves by and large. He was also emphatically practical. Where others built temples, pagodas and shrines, Brown put up buildings that looked like extravagant follies but actually were dairies or kennels or housing for estate workers."
Capability Brown, presumably. Design resillience there.