22 NOVEMBER 1997, Page 42

Juliet Townsend

Anyone who enjoys the minutiae of life in the past will have great fun exploring Restoration London by Liza Picard (Weidenfeld, £20) which ranges 'from Poverty to Pets, from Slang to Sex' and includes punishments for every crime and revolting remedies for every disease. The details of daily life are also minutely described in The Brontes: A Life in Letters by Juliet Barker (Viking, £20), the familiar story told through a wonderfully vivid collection of their own writings — mainly Charlotte's. Definitely not 'good with children', she describes her little charges as `riotous, perverse, unmanageable cubs' and `devils incarnate', but many more dedicated teachers must have echoed her heartfelt ejaculation, The holidays will come. Coraggio!'

The Brontë sisters returned with relief to Haworth after their often doomed forays into the wider world. John Betjeman, in Coming Home, an anthology of his prose selected by his daughter Candida Lycett Green, and illustrated by his grand- daughter Endillion (Methuen, £20), shows an equally strong homing instinct. His evocation of England, particularly in passages written for broadcasting, where one can almost hear his voice, is both idiosyncratic and true, and his vision in the Thirties of the perils of development and destruction has proved all too accurate.

His article on Blisland church finds a fellow in The Collected Poems of Charles Causley (Macmillan, £20). Causley, that fine Cornish poet, writes of the same church and its exotic patron saints:

The two saints shudder on their granite plinth.

Pray for us, says Protus, says Hyacinth.

He is a poet both of place and of people and this collection is full of unexpected pleasures and the satisfaction of 'the right words in the right order'.