A Page in the Life with Vikram Seth

From The Telegraph:

Vikram-sethWhether Jeffrey Archer sought permission from the shade of Rupert Brooke before he moved into The Old Vicarage, Grantchester, I don’t know. But when Vikram Seth decided to buy the Old Rectory in Bemerton, Salisbury, he had a word with one of its previous owners, the poet and Anglican priest George Herbert, who died in the house in 1633. “I had a little colloquy with him as to whether I should buy it… I imagined Herbert saying, ‘Oh yeah, go ahead’. I think basically I was granting myself permission.” Seth, puckish and urbane, is showing me around his house’s beautiful if molehill-pocked garden adjoining the River Nadder, and describing the Heath Robinson-like process for making jam from the fruit of the medlar tree that Herbert planted here. He recalls how he first came here on a rainy day with his then-partner, the violinist Philippe Honoré; he wanted to look around the place where some of his favourite poems were written, so pretended to be interested in buying it.

“I’m not a country type, I’ve lived in cities most of my life. But within five or 10 minutes of being here, I felt there was something really drawing me towards it. Obviously not the price tag.” A stained-glass window in the tiny church across the road seemed like a good omen: it depicts Herbert holding a violin. He shows me the bridge in the garden on which he slipped and fell that day. “I thought, well, that is very unpropitious, and then I thought wasn’t there the example of William the Conqueror who stumbled and fell when he first landed, and said this showed his attachment to the soil? So I thought I’d interpret it according to my own devices.” The house and garden have inspired some of the libretti Seth has written for various musical collaborations with Honoré and the composer Alec Roth. Some of these crisp, glittering texts, collected in The Rivered Earth, follow Herbert’s metrical forms.

More here.