Sunday, August 30, 2015

Nobody Has Ever Died II

The second and last part of this booklet by Shaw Desmond (1877-1960). He was an Irish novelist, poet, founder of the International Institute for Psychical Research in 1934, and author of many works on the afterlife and several Scientific Romances- some dystopian and possibly influenced by Olaf Stapledon. He appears as himself in Haunted Palace(1949), a documentary, directed by Richard Fisher, in his role as a ghostbuster. There is more on Desmond at the at the SF Encyclopedia.

VI.
STORIES FROM MY CASE-BOOK

It is impossible in a little booklet of this kind in every case to give the minutiae of authorities, places, times, people present and conditions of phenomena described and other references, but the reader wose interest has been stimulated to further study is advised to refer to the author's books and to those of others. The books of Geraldine Cummins, in particular, will be found of the utmost value, especially her Scripts of Cleophas and their kindred volumes, which can, with the author's, be obtained at any good library.
 The following experiences from my case-book and from other records may be relied upon. They run the gamut from tragedy to comedy. They are of the stuff that helps to make psychic history.
 Some years ago I was travelling on one of my American lecture tours in my Pullman, from San Diego to San Francisco. In the night, I was awakend by a most powerful influence which kept on "calling out," so to speak, the name of Annie Flynn.
 This spirit influence brought to my memory a lady

The Secret Places XVII & XVIII

Two more chapters of The Secret Places (Elkin Mathews & Marrot London 1929) - a chronicle of the 'pilgrimages' of the author, Reginald Francis Foster (1896-1975), and his friend 'Longshanks' idly rambling in Sussex, Kent and Surrey. See our posting of the first chapters for more on Foster and this book, including a contemporary review in The Tablet.
XVII

A FANTASY IN THANET

Longshanks had vowed (he said) to drink cherry brandy with the ghost of Dickens at the Crown Inn at Sarre, on the Canterbury road, but first, it being the vigil of Christmas, we went to St. Nicholas up at Wade above the Thanet marshes, to hear the first carols of the village hand-bell ringers. There were we constrained to drink with them in their sadly modern tavern under the gaunt church, so that we were late in starting for Sarre. Longshanks feared that Dickens, who kept regular hours, would have gone, and so we sought a guide who would take us by the shorter way of the brook lands. But he being full of Christmas ale, we left him (roaring great songs into the frosty night) outside a shepherd’s croft and departed thence with all speed, alone.
We felt the wind shifting; the little easting in it stung our faces. And then it began to snow.
Longshanks and I tramped silently

ABMR - The Antiquarian and Book Monthly Review

There are now no popular magazines in the UK covering the field of rare and antiquarian books. Just seven years ago there were two—Rare Book Review and Book and Magazine Collector –and I wrote regularly for both of them. First to fold was Rare Book Review, a very glossy and well designed affair financed by a wealthy dealer. Previously this had been known for many years as the Antiquarian Book Review, and before this as the clumsily-titled Antiquarian Book Monthly Review, an early issue of which we have here.

When we consider how well designed and glossily produced magazines covering other fields in the arts –such as fashion and the fine arts—it is astonishing how unglamorous this particular magazine must have appeared to the eye of someone familiar with, say, Vogue,  the Burlington Magazine, or Country Life at that time. To arrive at something that could compete in visual terms with these titles it took over 40 years and oodles of dealer's dough. It isn’t as if there had never been glossies that had dealt with aspects of the antiquarian book trade---The Bookman, a product of the twenties and thirties, being the most notable.

The idea for a new popular magazine distinct from the academic Book Collector and the dryasdust Clique,

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nabokov's first book


Found in - Vladimir Nabokov: a Descriptive Bibliography by Michael Juliar (Garland, N.Y. & London 1986) this description of Nabokov's first book.

A1 [UNTITLED]

A1.1 First edition, in Russian: 1914

Title-page: \Untitled. Privately printed. 1914./
binding: Brochure or folded sheet, possibly in violet paper cover.
Contents: One poem.
Note: Non-extant. There is speculation that this item never existed and that Nabokovian memory is in error.
We may never know for sure.

Online, an article Vladimir Nabokov and William Shakespeare by Philip F. Howerton is quoted where he writes '...in 1914 he published his first work, a small book of poems in a lilac folder. It carried an epigraph from Romeo and Juliet.' Whether Howerton had seen the book or this is some other work is not quite clear but the colours (violet / lilac) would indicate it is VN's first work - A1 in the canon.

The whole thing is reminiscent of the enigma around Joyce's first book Et Tu Healy (possibly Parnell) which we dealt with in some depth at the late Bookride. There are no copies known of this book said to have been written by Joyce when he was 9 and published by his proud father in 1891. With some authors their first book is known in only a few copies - Machen's Eleusinia (1881) in only one copy (according to Ahearn*) and Byron's Fugitive Pieces (1806) in just 3 copies and William Carlos Williams Poems (1909) (according to Ahearn again) exists only in 2 copies in the first state**. It goes without saying that these are all of extremely high value…

* Allen and Patricia Ahearn. Book Collecting. (Putnam's NY 2000)

** You need a comma in line 5...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Harold Nicholson and Desmond McCarthy—the terrible twosome



Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough, but the only photos I’ve seen that feature Harold and Desmond have also included other Bloomsberries, notably Vita Sackville West. I’m not a fan of Bloomsbury and could only bear to watch ten minutes of one episode of the current TV drama, Living in Squares, but I don’t think either man was part of the Virginia 'n Duncan inner circle, as it were, and I don’t think the two were great friends. But there must be some reason why they were snapped together. Perhaps it was another bookfest organised by the Times or Sunday Times, as was the case with the Read and Spender press photo. This one, from the Graphic Photo Union,  bears identifications in pencil on the reverse . Desmond died in 1952, aged 75, a year after being knighted for services to the critical essay and the amusing anecdote, so the photo was probably taken around the mid 1930s.

Some of the most entertaining and scathing remarks on MacCarthy and Nicholson can be found in Virginia Woolf’s published Diaries. I have the volume for 1931 – 36. Here, for instance, are her views on Desmond:

Thursday, 3rd September 1931
‘…Oh, I was annoyed at Desmond’s usual sneer at Mrs Dalloway---woolgathering. I was inspired to make up several phrases about Desmond’s own processes, none of which, I suppose, will ever be fired off in print. His worldliness, urbanity, decorum as a writer; his soft supple ways. His audience of teaparty ladies & gentlemen. His timidity. How he wraps everything in flannel…His perpetual condescension.His now permanent stoop in the back. His aloofness---in the bad sense. I mean, he never takes a nettle by the leaves: always wears gloves…’

And Nicholson:

August 12, 1934
‘…Vita thinks Harold is getting soft & domestic, because he talks of grandchildren & wants to have a butler to brush his clothes & a spare room…’

[R.M.]

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Young England - the worst play ever?


Found - a 1935 theatre programme for Young England, a play by Walter Reynolds often cited as the worst play ever. Nevertheless it was a great success and some people saw it 20 times. We covered it pretty thoroughly at a posting at bibliophile site Bookride. We had found a copy of the book and catalogued it thus:
Young England is a now uncommon book  and of interest to theatre collectors and connoisseurs of the odd and the zany. Reynolds appears to have been a sort of Amanda Ros of the theatre--so very bad that he is good. Young England (Walter Reynolds) Gollancz, London 1935.  8vo. pp 288. Frontis portrait, 5 plates. A play in two periods. This play had an unlikely success in the 1930s rather similar to the fictitious 'Springtime for Hitler.' It was so appallingly bad that audiences came along in their droves for over 300 nights to shout amusing remarks and generally revel in its ghastliness. The frontis portrait of the Reverend Walter Reynolds shows a stern Scottish type who apparently would walk up and down the aisles of the theatre during performances telling people to be quiet. Quite scarce.'

What emerges from contemporary reviews is that the actors in this terrible play co-operated with the audience and adapted lines and action according to shouts from the audience, some of whom were fuelled by cocktails which were so popular in the 1930s…In one performance the villain, when led away by the police, pauses to say "Foiled!" He was almost licked one night when the crowd shouted not only "Foiled!" but "Baffled!" "Beaten!" "Frustrated!" "Outwitted!" "Trapped!" "Flummoxed!" He waited until the wits were through, then hissed: "Stymied!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A begging letter from a debtor’s prison


Begging letters from debtors don’t usually survive, although there are at least three reasons why they might. Perhaps the writer was a well known person who at the time was down on his luck and counted on a friend or person of means to help him out. Alternatively, the writer could later have become famous or even notorious and the letter would be regarded as a souvenir or talking point. Of course, the writer could have been neither famous nor notorious, and the retention of a begging letter was a means of recording a favour that one man owed to another.

This particular letter is from someone who signs himself M. Eurius Beaubrier, and is addressed to a Henry Clarke. Although preliminary research has revealed nothing of the writer, who may have been French, the handwriting is that of an educated man

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sir James ‘Golden Bough’ Frazer & his wife Lilly---a devoted couple to the very end

Few wives in literary history can have been as devoted to their famous husbands as Lilly Frazer was to the great anthropologist James Frazer, author of The Golden Bough.
Born around 1854 in Alsace, Elisabeth Adelsdorfer came to England after she had married an English mariner named Groves, with whom she had two children.  When he died she found herself the mother of two teenagers and turned to writing in order to support them. Although having little or no knowledge of the subject she somehow persuaded editors at the Badminton Library to give her a commission to write a book on the history of dancing. In 1894, while researching the subject of dance among the primitives she sought the help of James Frazer (1854 – 1941), then an obscure Cambridge don, and the author of the first part of The Golden Bough (1890). The couple were married in 1896, not long after Lilly’s Dancing appeared.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dame Dorothy Brock, O.B.E.


Found among the papers of L.R. Reeve* this affectionate portrait of Dorothy Brock much admired educationalist and the headmistress of the Mary Datchelor School in Camberwell for 32 years.


DOROTHY BROCK

Dame Dorothy Brock, O.B.E., was at one time Headmistress of the Mary Datchelor School, in Camberwell. Her pupils were very fortunate indeed to be learning under the direction of one of the best speakers in London, and much as I admired the platform genius of the late Mrs E. M. Burgwin of Brixton, I am fairly sure that if it were possible to have a choice of listening to one of them on the same evening I should choose Miss Brock.

It may be that her successor was, or is, as excellent a teacher as her immediate predecessor, and as charming a personality, for probably the appointment was open to all the leading women of Great Britain, but whatever the name of the fortunate successor, she had one of the hardest tasks in the country when she stepped into Dr Brock's shoes,

Edward Balston---the man in love with Eton College

It’s bad enough to learn that nineteen British prime Ministers attended Eton College without learning recently, as I did, that one Eton man was so enamoured of the benefits of a classical education that he seriously suggested that Latin and Greek were the only subjects that should be taught in the classroom.That man was not, incidentally, Boris Johnson, but Edward Balston.

Balston—the son of William, that famous papermaker familiar to all students of palaeography—attended Eton in the 1820s and early 30s and then entered  King’s College, Cambridge in 1836. Awarded the Browne Medal for Latin verse every year from 1836 to 1839, he was unusually elected Fellow of King’s in 1839, two years before he  graduated, though why it took him five years to gain his B.A. is not adequately explained. In 1842 he became a priest.

Balston loved Eton so much that he couldn’t wait to return

Friday, August 14, 2015

'Nobody has ever died' - A psychic manifesto I (1946)


Found in the Coleman collection this striking pamphlet. The collection consisted of 3000+ books and booklets on parapsychology, spiritualism and the occult accumulated by a zetetic Bedford scientist determined to disprove all aspects of the paranormal. This pamphlet by Shaw Desmond from 1946 is actually quite late in the day for spiritualist and psychic publications. They were at their height in the early 1930s. There is a theory that they blossomed in the 1920s with the business of putting grieving parents in touch with their dead soldier sons…In the age of Dawkins these pamphlets are still published but the flood has (sadly)  become a  small stream. Shaw Desmond (1877-1960) was an Irish novelist, poet, founder of the International Institute for Psychical Research in 1934, and author of many works on the afterlife and several Scientific Romances- some dystopian and possibly influenced by Olaf Stapledon. He appears as himself in Haunted Palace(1949), a documentary, directed by Richard Fisher, in his role as a ghostbuster. There is more on Desmond at the at the SF Encyclopedia.

FOREWORD

 Supposing someone came up to you and said: “My dear fellow, I have just made a discovery which has given me a new lease of life. It has made me happy. It costs nothing!” What would you think?
 You would think your friend was mad.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Henry Harben and his 'Dictionary of London'

Henry Harben's Dictionary of London is a detailed
gazetteer of over 6000 street and place names in the City of London; their location, origin and changes. Henry Harben died in 1910 and his work was published posthumously in 1918. Unfortunately Harben died before being able to complete the extension of his work to cover Westminster and Southwark. He is unknown to the DNB and Wikipedia, although there is a cricketer and an industrialist who share his name. Our man's full name was Henry Andrade Harben. This well researched piece about him was found in the front of a copy of his dictionary in the collection of Ralph Hyde, a great scholar of London history and topography.

Harben's Dictionary (of just 'Harben' as it tends to be called) is one of the most useful London reference books ever to have been complied and published, yet scarcely anyone has heard of it. Copies of it surface very rarely. When a copy does, dealers charge the earthier for it, selling it to a few who are in the know*.

'Harben' appeared in 1918. It's compiler, Henry Andrade Harben, was born in 1849,

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hiroshima and Nagasaki seventy years on ----a naval officer’s visit to Japan in 1946/1947

To mark the terrible events of seventy years ago in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, here are some postcards bought by my late father while visiting Japan, late in 1946 or early in 1947, as a commander in the Royal Navy. They were found interleaved in the first volume of a two volume guide book entitled We Japanese, first published in December 1934 and June 1937,by H.S.K Yamaguchi, the managing director of the exclusive Fujiya Hotel at Miyanoshita, situated in the mountainous region of Hakone, eighty miles SW of Tokyo.

The first and second volumes of this four hundred page guide to ‘many of the customs, manners, ceremonies, festivals, arts and crafts of the Japanese’ were reprinted in October and December respectively. A third and final volume appeared in 1949. My father probably bought his copies while staying at the hotel, which was established in 1878

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Secret Places XV & XVI


Two more chapters of The Secret Places (Elkin Mathews & Marrot London 1929) - a chronicle of the 'pilgrimages' of the author, Reginald Francis Foster (1896-1975), and his friend 'Longshanks' idly rambling in Sussex, Kent and Surrey. See our posting of the first chapters for more on Foster and this book, including a contemporary review in The Tablet.


XV

THE WITCH OF WALLAND

Longshanks is a man of Kent, and because of that he quite properly has no love for Sussex. Nor, despite my great skill in argument, can I persuade him that my county is a sacred place. He concedes that she may have been holy once, but now she has been defiled by the horde of novelists and poets who have adopted her as their own and driven forth her true sons to consort with barbarians. And that, of course, is true.
And so, having come to Rye above the marshes, we

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Edward Fitzgerald buys a Constable and conceives Alice (1841)

Found in  A Fitzgerald Medley (Methuen, 1933) an excerpt from a letter by Fitzgerald (the translator of Omar Khayyam) that he sent to his friend Frederick Tennyson in January 1841. Charles Ganz, the editor of the anthology, includes this in the introduction to a piece Fitzgerald wrote for children - a version of Dickens's Little Nell in simple language for children. The letter reads:

I have just concluded, with all the throes of imprudent pleasure, the purchase of a large picture by Constable*, of which, if I can continue in the mood, I will enclose you a sketch. It is very good:but how you and Morton would abuse it! Yet this, being a sketch, escapes some of Constable's faults, and might escape some of your censures. The trees are not splashed with that white sky-mud, which (according to Constable's theory) the Earth scatters up with her wheels in travelling so briskly round the sun; and there is a dash and felicity in the execution that gives one a thrill of good digestion