My Aunty May was one of that legion of women constrained to spinsterhood by the slaughter of the First World War. She devoted herself to good works, commanding half of Kent for the St John Ambulance Brigade, and being a lifelong carer of old folk. Her private consolation was reading, and her book collection, which never ceased to grow, ran riot through every room of her various successive small houses in Hythe. One of her strong suits was poetry, and she was a disciplined reader, noting in the margins every occasion on which she consulted a particular passage. She read through Robert Bridges’ anthology The Spirit of Man ten times, taking one quotation a day, from 1942 (when she received a copy of the 23rd impression as a Christmas present) to 1973. Her last notation, on 16 January 1973, was two-thirds of the way through her eleventh trawl, at a quotation from Paradise Lost . . .