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This report is taken from PN Review 71, Volume 16 Number 3, January - February 1990.

The Colonel's Daughter David Arkell
When David and Tina Wilkinson came to live at Lower Padworth in 1971 they had no plans to become literary sleuths. David was simply an architect attracted to the many possibilities of Malthouse Cottage in its idyllic situation beside the Kennet and Avon Canal.

There were surprises to come. One day Wilkinson learnt that Richard Aldington had lived in the cottage from 1920 to 1928 with the beautiful and mysterious 'Arabella' (Dorothy Yorke). It was an almost unknown period in the writer's life when, recovering from the war, he laid the foundations of that formidable knowledge of French texts which so dazzled his contemporaries. Many famous people passed through the house - and down Mill Lane to visit the water meadows of the Kennet. The more fussy ones, like T.S. Eliot, were treated to a room at the Hare and Hounds, an establishment on the Bath Road; but old friends like Lawrence and Frieda were put up at the cottage.

Fairly soon Wilkinson began to read Aldington's books, including The Colonel's Daughter which, in a quite peculiar way, seemed to strike a nerve. He began to sense echoes from the characters of this 1931 novel in the people of 1970s Padworth. Though he did not know it at the time Wilkinson was now as truly 'hooked' as any barbel in the Kennet: he had become a literary sleuth.

Aldington had written somewhere that the novel's Berkshire background was evident in its fauna and flora; but ...


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