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The vintage travel books of H.V. Morton

Last month I picked up my first H.V. Morton book, A Stranger in Spain. I had learned a little about Morton from my research for our 50 Essential Travel Books feature so a shelf of his work proved irresistible to someone who enjoys thoughtful travel writing.

Flicking through the book, I knew I had to buy it when I saw how Morton (1892-1979) described the Spanish breakfast, or the lack of it, in a rather insulting manner.  Morton was a man who called a spade a spade but did so with a wonderful vocabulary. The dust jacket is also a beauty.

The most fascinating parts of A Stranger in Spain is when he verges into Spanish history and offers wonderful context about Spain’s royalty, its key figures and important events dating back to the Moorish conquest. Last night he was visiting Extremadura region but, in reality, he was explaining the history behind the Spanish conquest of the Incas.

The H.V. comes from Henry Canova Vollam (H. V.) Morton and he was a fine journalist as well as a travel writer. He is famed for his legendary Daily Express scoop regarding the opening of the Tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in Egypt. He also wrote for the Daily Mail, the Daily Herald and the Evening Standard.

His first book, The Heart of London, was published in 1925, and was a spin off from his Daily Express column. With cars becoming more popular, his next book, In Search of England, was a bestselling account of driving around the country in a Morris. No traffic jams in 1926. Further In Search of books followed for Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

His first overseas travel book was In the Steps of the Master, published in 1934. The books kept coming – he wrote about Turkey in In the Steps of St. Paul (1936) and the Middle East in Through Lands of the Bible (1938).

After World War II, he wrote about South Africa with In Search of South Africa, published in 1948. Two books followed on Italy – A Traveller in Italy (which I have also bought) for Northern Italy and A Traveller in Southern Italy.

True lovers of this man’s travel writing might be interested to learn that a H.V. Morton Society exists. The Society lists 50 books, booklets and pamphlets by Morton.

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