Biographies chart a dozen stars who made their mark
"There is properly no history, only biography," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1841.
Simplistic and contentious this assertion may well be, but no one understands the relationship of the one to the other better than Cornish historian James Whetter.
Indeed, a feature of his writing from the days of his work on the economic history of Cornwall in the 17th century has always been the detailed research that he has carried out into both the period and the personalities of that period.
More recently, in putting together studies of the Marxist philosopher, writer and poet Christopher Caudwell (birth name Christopher St John Sprigg) and the Welsh novelist and short story writer Geraint Goodwin – both of whom were active in the early 20th century – he again began reading around his subjects.
The resulting research found its way into his Cornish People series in The Cornish Banner and it is 12 of these biographical studies that make up his latest volume, Cornish People In The 20th Century.
Dr Whetter sees the 1920s and 1930s as a golden age of many talents in Britain, one when artistic and literary works were moving into the modern age and "a fulcrum between antiquity and modernity".
The talented individuals featured in this first volume are architect John Campbell, artist Christopher Wood, writers William Golding (pictured), John Betjeman, Daphne du Maurier, Nigel Tangye and Compton Mackenzie, controversial priest Bernard Walke, servicemen Guy Gibson, Patrick Glasson and William Savage, and boxer Len Harvey.
As the author acknowledges, not all of his subjects were from Cornish families, but they all had a strong link with Cornwall, and the collection will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable contribution to our understanding of the territory in the early to mid-20th century.
The written portraits are themselves enhanced with a wealth of illustrations, both colour and black and white.
Edmund Bentley wrote that biography was different from geography, being "about chaps", as opposed to maps. While "chaps" do constitute 11 of the 12 subjects of part one of Cornish People, the balance will be redressed somewhat in 2014 when part two will include studies of Anne Treneer, Barbara Hepworth, Lady Vyvyan of Trelowarren and Joan Manning-Sanders.
Cornish People In The 20th Century: Part 1 by James Whetteris published by Lyfrow Trelyspen at £15.