This book is about celebrity, geography, and propinquity. The mysterious title needs to be explained. The “sixth continent” is neither fabled Atlantis nor some unrecorded Utopia of the mind. It’s simply a local Romney Marsh joke, or conceit, probably invented by the Marsh’s fable-maker, Ford Madox Ford, who offered it as an unsourced quotation in his book on Britain’s Cinque Ports: “These be the five quarters of the world, Europe, Asia, Africa, America and the Romney Marsh.” Kipling, who lived nearby, with his imperial touch, added “Australy” to the list, which explains Finlayson’s particular total. Romney Marsh stretches in Kent from the English Channel eight miles inland and fourteen miles down the coast into East Sussex. Its flatness does make it seem Continental, for it covers a hundred square miles. A millennial creation out of earth heavings, solidified by...


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