The genesis of this fine monograph occurred in a moment of confounding cultural confrontation when Christopher Ely first viewed Russian landscape painting of the nineteenth century. Perplexed, he jotted down a question for himself. Why, he asked, were these works so 'consciously unbeautiful'? Gazing at one dreary canvas after another, he wondered, 'What was this fascination with mud?' (p.
How fortunate are historians of that broad band of southern Somerset covered by seven topographical volumes of the Victoria County History (VCH) compared with those of most of the historic county for whom no such resource yet exists. It is the distant ideal of the complete set for Somerset that is most urgently required.