MISS Barbara Cartland has just produced another romantic novel, of which she has already written nearly four hundred. It is called Never Forget Love (new English Library, £8.95) and can be read without undue insult to the intelligence in about an hour.
The first five or six pages of the book are devoted to a summary of Miss Cartland's previous accomplishments, literary and other. And she herself explains that the house providing the background to her latest novelette, which she calls Lyn, is really Longleat, "the most beautiful ancestral home in England."
She is probably right about this. Longleat belongs to the Marquess of Bath and is the most perfect example of Italianate Elizabethan architecture in the country. The bold Barbara, however. states that Longleat "began as a Priory built by the Augustinian Canons and was sold for £53 to Sir John Thynne in 1515 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries". Something wrong with the dates here surely?
Dissolution was a bit later and did not really take off until after Thomas Cromwell, exactly 450 years ago, in 1536, became Henry's Vicar-General in spiritual matters.
I last met the immortal Miss Cartland at a service of thanksgiving for the seemingly miraculous recovery of her stepson-in-law, Johnny Spencer, at a Northampton church. I was very glad to be there having known and liked Johnny for so many years. The service was followed by a magnificent luncheon at Althorp for several hundred people.
This was in 1979, before Johnny Spencer had become something of a national celebrity as the father of the Princess of Wales.
Longleat, incidentally, was one of the many English houses whose gardens were endowed with magical beauty by "Capability" Brown. The best book about him I have ever read has just been published by Hutchinson.
It was written by Thomas Hinde who recently edited that excellent modern version of The Domesday Book. It contains some stunning photographs of some of England's most beautiful houses and gardens and can be considered good value at £15.95.