Bunhill: By 'eck, the passion

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The Independent Online
I'LL TELL you one thing: this proposal by the Local Government Commission to abolish what's left of Lancashire would have horrified Honore de Balzac (pictured below). A J P Taylor quoted Balzac describing Lancashire as 'the county where women die of love'. Do not laugh. Taylor thought them more likely to say, 'Come on lad, let's get it over,' but I'm not so sure. Think of Bet Lynch, Thora Hird, Hylda Baker, Dora Bryan. These are people of strong emotions. Graham Robb, Balzac's latest biographer, identifies the quote as coming from Le Lys dans La Vallee, where it is uttered by the Lancastrian Lady Arabella Dudley to her lover, the book's hero, Felix de Vandenesse. Balzac's English authority, his lover, Sarah Lovell, came from Bath; Lady Arabella did not die of love, despite being jilted by Felix; but these are minor quibbles. I have seen wistfulness in Wigan, and a terrible longing in Oldham. Both these places are now in Greater Manchester, ripped away in earlier reforms. Enough. Give over. And have you noticed, by the way, the remarkable resemblance between Balzac and Sir John Harvey- Jones?