4 Sept. 2020: Feedback from readers
Burnham Press, the publishers of Mary Hardy and her World, report on feedback from appreciative readers of the volumes. It is now a little over four months since publication day.
As with The Diary of Mary Hardy, which Burnham Press published in 2013, the very great majority of readers are choosing to buy all four volumes—thus taking advantage of the reduced price for the set. As a result reviews on Amazon.co.uk appear principally under the four-volume sets and not under individual volumes.
Here are some of the comments sent so far to Burnham Press and the author Margaret Bird. These reactions are distinct from the full-scale reviews, published in printed journals, which are accessed separately on this website.
Readers’ names are omitted here. Many of those invited to the book launch bought pre-publication copies, which explains the early dates of some of the comments.
Beautiful and readable
3 Sept. “The books are so packed with interesting chapters I can’t put them down. I keep going from one volume to another reading individual parts . . . The books are wonderful: the research and connections, the varied subjects covered in such detail; really I cannot put into words how beautiful the books are – and so readable as well.”
16 Aug. “I now have the four new volumes of your great work. I am bowled over by the work you have done and the quality of the books; . . . such research, such details, and such rewarding reading. I am loving it.”
A woman’s diary brought to life
24 June “The account of Trades and Professions [in Volume 3] is very interesting. I noted the detail that, although women would have contributed to the family trades, ‘official documents . . . tend to mask female input.’ Perhaps this tells us, in a nutshell, why your work bringing to life this woman’s diary is so important . . . All the photos and illustrations are beautifully laid out – thoughtfully positioned and well balanced.”
A stupendous achievement
14 June “The range of your scholarship, and its up-to-dateness, is most impressive. I thought that I was pretty well up on late 18th and early 19th century social history, but I learned a lot from you. To have edited the diary would have been a great contribution to scholarship, but producing four such extensive companion volumes, with exhaustive indexes, is a stupendous achievement. It’s the equivalent of several doctoral theses . . . You have shown how much insight can be gained into how people led their lives, and how society worked. I am filled with admiration for all the research you have done, and marshalled it into an accessible form, with a very interesting format.”
28 May “The book [Volume 3] is full of fascinating material about the churches round here [in north Norfolk] – and anecdotes about some of the characters. I had no idea about the phenomenon of roving preachers, for example.”
Insight into children’s lives
17 May “The illustrations, layout and presentation of the book [Volume 1] are stunning, especially the colour plates. It is a joy to delve into! . . . So far I have particularly enjoyed reading Chapter 5 ‘Nurturing children’ and Chapter 6 ‘Pupils’. What an amazing insight into the lives of children at the time.”
7 May “I am absolutely staggered by the amount of work and care that has gone into this [the four volumes] . . . I have started with the section on the sea, which is fascinating. The whole project is an astounding piece of work and also beautifully laid out.”
Wagnerian in scale and execution
23 Apr. “The four volumes are truly and aptly Wagnerian in scale and execution.”
21 Apr. “The contents are so rich and enjoyable that it will take ages to take it all in . . . I soon turned to the index and its fascinating byways, eg the entry for ‘ink’.”
The quality of the printing
19 Apr. “I am about 200 pages into Volume 1. I read it when I go to bed. It took me about 75 pages to get into the rhythm of it, but now I am enjoying it very much. There is so much to admire, I don’t know where to start . . . The quality of the printing is first class.”
19 Apr. “We listened to your excellent interview this morning on BBC Radio Norfolk. I have been reading the new book [Volume 1]; every page is a revelation.”
A work of art
10 Apr. “As a slow reader it will take me a long time to read it fully [Volume 4], but I will start with the ‘Civilians at War’ chapter. I have scanned through it all and it really is a work of art, as well as a great historical work, and I find it a pleasure to handle.”
There is nothing quite like this
26 Mar. “What an awesome achievement . . . There is nothing quite like this [Volume 2], telling the detailed story of the growth of a brewery in that period.”
16 Mar. “The books are an incredible legacy. We have been delving into Volumes 2 and 4, for the chapters on brewing and the sea, and enjoying them enormously, as they are producing many lively discussions . . . I am sure many people will have enormous pleasure following your explorations of the Hardys.”