Legacy by Thomas Harding review - Lyons Corner Houses revisited – AuthenticAfrican

Posted on by Anthony Quinn

A family history of the once-revered British tea shops is enthralling

Of all of this country’s bygone entertainments, the ones I most regret having missed are a night at a musical hall and tea at a Lyons Corner House. The latter’s disappearance is the more poignant, for it is a loss that today makes no sense: cafes and coffee shops are among the few real survivors on the 21st-century high street. In Legacy, award-winning writer Thomas Harding (author of Hanns and Rudolf) recounts a Jewish dynastic saga that carries striking echoes of the recent theatrical tour de force The Lehman Trilogy. Both trace an arc from modest origins in mainland Europe to unimaginable prosperity, before drastic overreach and calamitous ruin.

J Lyons and Co rose to fame via the efforts of two families, the Salmons and the Glucksteins. Harding has a particular urge to get their story right – his mother was a descendant. His ancestor Lehmann Meyer Gluckstein, born in 1787, was an itinerant scholar in Germany and was forever on the run from the wildfires of antisemitism. After a brief exile in the Netherlands, the family migrated to London in 1843, where Lehmann’s son Samuel set up in Whitechapel as a cigar-maker.

Continue reading...