The letters of Dora Harcourt


The Letters of Dora Harcourt

In 1820, London socialite Dora Harcourt travelled to Langdale Friars, two miles outside of Whitehaven, to stay with her ‘country cousins’. It is fair to say it was going to be a culture shock. Her father, Cecil, had a keen interest in folklore and customs so asked Dora to write to him with whatever customs she came across in West Cumbria. He kept her detailed letters and, 30 years later, published them in the Art Illustrated magazine which shared them with a wider readership but also preserved them for posterity. The articles were forgotten and lay neglected for over 180 years. But now I have been reprinted them with notes about the folklore and customs that Dora wrote about. 

The contents include:-

    •  –  Where these letters came from – Who was Dora Harcourt and where was Langdale Friars?
Letter I:
    •  – Arrival in a shandrey  – a welcome present of stale hot cross buns  – preparing Paschal eggs  – keeping witches  at bay  – fun with peas  – a curtsey to the new moon
Letter II:
    •   – Barring-out  – a tragedy  – funeral customs  – telling the bees  – the wake
Letter III:
    •  – May Day traditions  – wrestling and hound-trailing  – going forth  – spinning songs  – romance  – Baal fires
Letter IV:
    •  – Harvest home  – Lammas Fair  – more courtship rituals  – fortune telling  – peas scalding  – troubles in love
Letter V:
    •  – Christmas in Cumberland  – the mummers arrive  – carol singers  – the peg tankard  – a Christmas wedding and its customs  – new year’s eve customs – a Gordian knot

Notes - background notes by Alan Cleaver on the folklore and traditions mentioned by Dora Harcourt

There are three versions of the book available to buy:

The paperback book available from Amazon for £4.76 which is black and white.

The Kindle version from Amazon which is £3.

The deluxe version. This is with colour pictures, high quality paper, handstitched and with a cloth-bound hardcover. It is £15 plus £2 postage (available only to UK addresses). It's a labour of love (hence the price) but is a perfect gift for family, friends - or just yourself if you still love a good well-made book.