Tuesday, April 30, 2013

British Surrealism - Arson - an Ardent Review (1942)

Toni del Renzio. ARSON. AN ARDENT REVIEW. Part One of a Surrealist Manifestation. London, 1942.

Although billed as 'Part One' this was the only issue of this surrealist magazine of 'incendiary innocence' ever to appear. Several other magazines, mostly smaller in format and associated with E.L.T. Mesens appeared and all have become quite hard to find and consequently expensive. Del Renzio was a key figure in British Surrealism, never a burgeoning movement but oddly attractive and now quite collectable. Under the headline 'SUPERDAD' the art journal 'Studio' published this obituary for him in Febuary 2007:-

Toni del Renzio has died aged 91. Truer than life always, he was born to a landed Italian family outside St Petersburg, where his father was a diplomat to the Tsarist court. He had a legendary and varied life, not least in contributing to Studio International, with whose editor, Peter Townsend, he established a natural rapport. Fluent in several languages, he had fought in the Spanish Civil War but ended up in the lap of the Surrealist movement in Paris. On eventual arrival in London, he founded the Surrealist magazine Arson. 

A Ballooning Humourist

Albert Smith ( 1816 - 60 ), a qualified physician turned humorist, who unlike some of the more famous writers for Punch, is rather forgotten now, was, for a short while, an enthusiastic balloonist, until he came a cropper. One of the letters featured here is addressed to a certain Barton, and may refer to an impending ascent, because 'Vauxhall Station' is described as 'a meeting place' and we know that in this period many balloons took off from Vauxhall Gardens. In the other letter, written on a Monday night, he warns ‘Sir Edwin ‘ (possibly the painter Landseer ) that he has a morning ‘ascent’ on Tuesday morning ( no date, alas), but will come to see him in the late afternoon, when he has landed.

The letter to Sir Edwin may refer to an impending balloon flight from Cremorne in July 1847 in which Smith and nine other passengers, who included fellow Punch contributor Shirley Brooks. The ecstatic Smith recalled the novelty of his experience thus:

‘ The first sensation experienced was not that we were rising, but that the balloon remain fixed whilst all the world below was falling away; while the cheers with which they greeted our departure grew fainter, and the cheerers themselves began to look like the inmates of many sixpenny Noah’s Arks grouped upon a billiard table…’

But in the following October the writer had a different and grimmer tale to tell. This time, it was planned to ascend from Vauxhall Gardens and drop fireworks over Pimlico. Unfortunately, at 7,000 feet (over a mile up) there were problems with the balloon and the basket began to descend rapidly. Ballast, including bottles of wine, was jettisoned in an attempt to lighten the load, but to no avail.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A scrap of Cole Porter

Cole Porter (1891 – 1964) is arguably the greatest popular songwriter of the twentieth century. I read somewhere that he composed around 1,000 songs, not all of which are as brilliant as ‘Night and Day’, ‘I get a Kick out of You ‘ and ‘Anything Goes ‘. One is called ‘Ours ‘and was written for the rather forgotten comedy musical of 1936 ‘Red Hot and Blue ‘, in which Bob Hope, Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante starred. Somehow or other, along with some unrelated letters, I acquired a tiny fragment of the original manuscript which the maestro had given to a lady to give to a young man he had taken to. This information was typewritten on a slip of paper that came with the fragment. Here are the words on it:

‘Inclosed (sic) is the original hand writing of Cole Porter…This is a number that Cole Porter gave to Mother to give to one of her pupils, whom Cole Porter was particularly interested in. Mother knows him, and was out to his Beverley Hills home on an interview for this same pupil. Cole Porter is a great artist, and as modest and unassuming and sincere as all artists be.


I know nothing of this Mother, the child who typed the slip, the mysterious male pupil, or whether Cole Porter’s interest in him was purely professional or romantic. It would be nice to solve this little mystery and perhaps trace the remainder of the musical manuscript. I presume that the pupil allowed Mother to cut off the heading as a keepsake of the great man.[R.H.]

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oscar and the Oxford bullies

T. Earle Welby (1881-1933) is an almost forgotten writer, columnist and character. He is at present unknown to Wikipedia although Bill Greenwell writes about him at his blog about the New Statesman competition.  It's odd that this should be his only memorial as he was somewhat right wing and hostile to democracy.He enjoyed conversation, and was known for a mannerism whereby he used a sideways movement of his hand for emphasis, which, since it was often associated with his reminiscence of India, was described by a wit as 'the Calcutta Sweep.' His collection of literary essays has a review of a memoir by the actor manger Sir Frank Benson who was at Oxord with Oscar Wilde. Welby writes:

Oscar Wilde, a contemporary at another college, was, (Sir Frank) tells us, so far from being in those days 'a flabby aesthete' that only one man in that college was physically his match. Four raggers having decided to wreck his rooms, Wilde knocked down three, picked up the fourth and carried that vainly struggling enemy to his rooms, piled up all his furniture on top of the poor wretch, and then invited a crowd which had changed its allegiance to celebrate the triumph in the wines of that parsimonious creature. Excellent! and, disapproving of those who engage in horseplay with ass-sense, were I capable of tampering consciously with the sacred text of Peacock I should comment :

'The wines of beasts provide our feast, 
And their overthrow our chorus.'

But, and alas! it is very evident Sir Frank Benson thinks that if Wilde had kept to throwing hefty men downstairs he would have written something better than that matchless play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which is at once the perfect comedy of manners and the perfect parody of the comedy of manners.

**Welby is included in The Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations for this piece from his culinary book The Dinner Knell : '"Turbot, sir," said the waiter, placing before me two fishbones, two eyeballs, and a bit of black mackintosh…'

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The real Downton Abbey

Every fan of ITV’s Downton Abbey will know that is filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, the ancestral home of the Earls of Carnarvon. The third Earl built the present Castle, but it was his son, the fourth Earl (1831 – 90), who in his second term as a Tory Secretary of State for the Colonies achieved notoriety as the man who, through his policies of the enforced confederation of South Africa, indirectly caused the Boer Wars.

Earl of Carnarvon ('Twitters')
Carnarvon was clearly not a man to be trifled with. In January 1864 he had a number of fliers printed and circulated to his neighbours, informing them that 'the want of definite regulations for  admission to or through' his park had obliged him to revise the 'rules'. One of those who received a flier* was the Rector of Highclere, Philip Menzies Sankey, a graduate of Oxford who claimed among his friends, the influential proto-aesthete, Walter Pater. Presumably Rev. Sankey had been obliged to traverse the park in order to get to his church and so a copy of the new 'rules' that governed access would have been useful. Unfortunately, Sankey’s copy of the amended rules, together with his pass-card, which were originally included with the flier, are now missing, which means that we don’t know what these new rules were. However,  I’m sure that 'Twitters', Carnarvon’s nickname on account of his various nervous tics, was scrupulously fair to his neighbours.

Today, of course, the impecunious current Earl of Carnarvon has the well known musical composer Baron Lloyd-Webber of nearby Sydmonton House as his very wealthy neighbour. And it was Lord Sydmonton who, not long ago, offered to buy Highclere Castle and its land to prevent the Earl from building houses between the Castle and his home. Not surprisingly, the Earl stoutly refused the offer and ever since relations between the aristo and the arriviste have remained strained.[RMH]

* Dear Mr. Sankey. So much inconvenience has of late been experienced that the want of definite regulations for admission to or through the Park, that I have found it necessary to revise the existing rules.

I have endeavoured so to frame them, that whilst
henceforward preventing all confusion and irregularity, they
shall at the same time not interfere with any of the facilities
which may contribute to the personal convenience of my
Neighbours, and which it has always given me so much satis-
faction to afford them.

I have enclosed a copy of the revised rules, and it will
give me much pleasure, in accordance with No. 5, to place a
pass-card at your disposal, if you will bc good enough to let
me know your wishes.

I enclose you at once a card [?]--- [Believe me?] Yrs truly Carnarvon

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Herbert Horne (1855 - 1916)

An article from the long defunct Anglo - Italian Review, October 1918. Edited by Edward Hutton, an English  Italophile who wrote several Italian travel books and featuring articles by Nobel Prize winner Grazia Deledda, Norman Douglas & Benedetto Croce. This piece is by the novelist Reginal Turner and is an affectionate tribute to his friend Herbert Horne - art historian, art dealer, architect, typographer and Arts and Craft movement designer. The photo below is of him with his friend and colleague the architect  A.H. Mackmurdo (standing) and an older woman, possibly AHM's mother at a house ('Brooklyn') in Enfield. The story of Horne finding  two Michelangelo drawings for a penny each in the Fulham Road is hard to top...

HERBERT PERCY HORNE, who died in Florence
in May, 1916, belonged to the numerous band of
interesting Englishmen who made Italy their home,
and the memory of whose sojourns there does not
pass with their death. He did not found a family
there as did Walter Savage Landor. He took no
part in public life as did Waddington, who went
casually to Perugia and remained there to become
Syndic. It may even be said that to the majority
of Italians as to Englishmen his name was unknown.
He had an almost morbid love of retirement ;
those who knew him well could not but be amazed
at his slight suspicion--there is no other word-
of hospitality. Yet Herbert Horne was known to
a large circle which included some of the best-known
and ‘many of the most talked about of his contem-
poraries: most of them loved him, all of them
respected him, and he was recognised by them as one
of the most learned, one of the wisest, and one of the
most reliable men of his time.

Horne was indeed a “ character,” a very rare
personality, full of magnetism, yet lacking the
desire or the power of spreading it over a wide area.
It is seldom perhaps that a man of such a solid
reputation as he had among those who knew him
has been so little known to the general public, for
he .lived in an age when more things were known
about eminent people than they knew about them-
selves. He had to a peculiar extent the power to
“ pass in a crowd ” ; it was more peculiar in him that
he desired to do so; and the crowd remained quite
unaware of the stir he created among his friends
and those acquaintances with whom his learning
brought him in contact.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The other John Lennon

A curious find in a box of old poetry -- the completely unknown John Lennon's Rossall Hall. A Poem (Printed for the Author, Preston 1834.) It was bound up with 6 other books including a book of Epicurean Recipes (1832) and Memoirs of Madame Malibran de Beriot by Isaac Nathan author of The Hebrew Melodies. All in a small rust coloured moiré cloth-bound book with a leather label on the spine with the word 'Miscellanies' lettered in gold. Decent condition with some occasional foxing to text. The John Lennon book appears to be, like its author, completely unknown-- no copies at WorldCat, Copac or the vast Karlsruhe database which has the complete catalogues of many worldwide libraries.

It is a mere 36 pages and is mostly devoted to unadulterated praise of the great local landowner and philanthropist Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood (1801 - 1866) who founded the town of Fleetwood, in Lancashire and was squire of Rossall Hall. At the time he also owned most of Southport. The work is dedicated to him and some of the verses may have been used in his election campaign. At the 1832 general election, Fleetwood was elected M.P. for Preston, in the first parliament following the Reform Act. The poem's style is very slightly thumping, far better than McGonagall, but Swinburne he was not: 

Hail Rossall Hall! thou stately dome,
With heavenly virtues blest:
Where learned sages find a home,
And weary traveller's rest.

Lennon, however, was no sycophant, his backing of Fleetwood was based on the politician's promise of work in the reform parliament for the rights of a million hand-loom weavers '...who, for a series of years have been labouring under the most unjust privations ever yet recorded in the annals of England's domestic history.' Lennon was campaigning in his poems for a minimum wage of a pound a week for the weavers. Fleetwood's many good works are recorded in his lengthy Wikipedia entry. He was also responsible for starting the development of the new resort town of Fleetwood built on a rabbit warren at Rossall Point near his stately pile. Initially he had considered naming his new town New Liverpool or Wyreton. There are a few traces of Lennon's campaigning work in transcripts and histories at Google Books but research is hampered by myriad references to the great Beatle. Politically he was on the side of the working man and a dogged campaigner for worker's rights- that and a certain facility for rhyming connect him to his illustrious namesake. 

Other compelling connections appear with a bit of searching online. Rossall Hall later became a private school and was attended by Stan Parkes, John Lennon's cousin. A fan site has this:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Communist attack on Cliveden Set 1938

Found in the Chips Channon collection a pamphlet produced by the Communist Party of Great Britain attacking his friends in the Cliveden set. Produced in an edition of 10000 in March 1938 it also has much on the Spanish Civil war - they demanded 'immediate assistance for Spain...the withdrawal of Hitler and Mussolini's armies and airplanes..protection of all shipping in Spanish Republican ports.' Channon himself is attacked along with Lennox Boyd 'open pro-Fascists who got ministerial posts.' The first page reads: 

Cliveden House at Taplow, Buckinghamshire, country home of Lord and Lady Astor, meeting-place of powerful secret diplomats. Week-end parties at Cliveden House have made and broken British Cabinet Ministers. Decisions taken there have brought Europe to the verge of war. Friends of Hitler and enemies of the people are welcome there. Many of the “National” Government’s betrayals of peace have begun with a Cliveden week-end party. The Cliveden set  . . . their power reaches through British banking, transport, journalism- through Britain’s Parliament, across the seas to International Fascism. But their power can be broken. . . .

'The Astors are a very wealthy American family..'

Cliveden was, of course, to be back in the news 24 years later with the breaking of the Profumo scandal in 1962.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Le Matelot (London restaurant run by a psychiatrist) 1955

A review of the Le Matelot restaurant found in Bon Viveur's London & the British Isles (Dakers, London 1955). Bon Viveur was a pseudonym for Fanny Cradock and her husband the fly-whiskered Johnny. They later became celebrity TV chefs. The use of the word gay at the time tended to indicate merry, jolly, insouciant, zany etc., although the restaurant went on into the 1960s (possibly later) and is referenced at The Lost Gay Restaurants site. The girl in the coral jeans and exposed midriff sounds distinctly modern and the whole scene described might be something out of the 1961 Tony Hancock movie The Rebel. The owner roaming the restaurant in horns is not something you see in current London eateries.

You will either be enchanted by this small restaurant or embarrassed. It is unique. The proprietor, Dr. Hillary James, is a psychiatrist by day and a restaurateur by night.
On Christmas Eve he wears horns. We keep a regular date there on Christmas eve now. The staff are young, gay, inconsequential and yet highly efficient and courteous. But Le Matelot is informal. Witness,the extremely pretty young Miss who, on our first visit, plonked down our ratatouille, remarking casually, ‘mon Dieu quel Plonk' (anent the garlic). This same nymph, wearing coral jeans, exposed mid-riff, holly in her fair curls and mistletoe in her buttonhole, nonchalantly removeda champagne cork, poured the wine (not for us - we dislike drinking champagne all through a meal) and tossed the cork back down the restaurant to a colleague in a South American hat, a printed silk blouse and a pair of somewhat startling pants. ‘Corky,’ he said - quite untruthfully, as he smelled the cork. Then both grinned at the contented customer and continued to carry in dishes _ of Avocado Vinaigrette (3s.), Coquilles St. Jacques (3s.), Corn on the Cob (zs. 6d.), New England Grilled Gammon with Sweetcorn (6s.), Poulet Henry IV (5s.), superb Stilton cheese (2s. 6d.), and Dames Blanches (2s.) for the sweet-toothed.
It is a delightfully uninhibited, scatty little place, brimming with custom, canopied with fish-nets, discreetly lit and gay, gay, gay, in our stuffed shirt old town. We hope you’ll like it as much as this year’s crop of B.V. recommended regulars.
Name: Le Matelot
Address: 49, Elizabeth Street, S.W.1
Tel.No.: SLOane 1038
Proprietor: Dr. Hillary James
Hours of Opening:
Luncheons (Monday to Friday): 12.30 to 3 p.m.
Dinners: 7 to II p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays: Dinners only
Licensed for the sale of Wines

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The other Margaret Roberts

Margaret Roberts was a novelist from North Wales ( 1833 – 1919) author of at least 38 books of fiction and non-fiction, including  Mademoiselle Mori and The Atelier du Lys (An Art Student in the Reign of Terror). She spent her middle years in Torquay and this letter addressed from Florence Villas to a Miss Franks reveals her to be quite a bluestocking and also something of an entrepreneur.

We know, for instance, that she wrote Mademoiselle Mori in Italian (all but the last chapter) and then translated it into English, but the letter tells us that she was also proficient in  'advanced'French. It seems that she was planning to promote classes in German and French aimed at ‘governesses and others who cannot manage Cambridge terms‘ and asked Ms Franks if she knew of any such people who could benefit from learning a new language. She had already recruited two tutors—one from St Mary Church at 10/- a year , and another from Newton Abbot at 15/- a year. She herself would offer her services at 10/- a year. 

She tells Ms Franks that she had previously given free classes in French, but few members had paid; however she had also conducted classes at 5/- for those governesses who were ‘unable to pay more.' Her namesake the late Margaret Thatcher (born Margaret Roberts) would have approved of such diligence. (R.H)

Her books are now collected along with other lesser Victorian women writers, although she is omitted from Sutherland's Victorian Fiction and most other sources. Her books were assiduously collected by Robert Lee Wolff the great expert on Victorian novels. He had most of her works, many in presentation to her step-niece Helen Latham. Mademoiselle Mori is about a woman artist caught up in the 1849 revolution in Rome…Wolff had a fine copy.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Facts on the Fab Four from 'Fabulous' 1965

Trivial info on the Beatles from their 'fab' days. Found in 'Fabulous' 1965.  Surely they were the first 'boy band' and the template for all boy bands since?

John flew to Hong Kong wearing pyjamas.

John is a cat lover.

Ringo spent much of his childhood in a Cheshire hospital.

John used to envy his cousin Stanley's Meccano set.

Brian Epstein hesitated a long time before taking Ringo as a replacement for Pete Best. 

Patti Boyd didn't like the Beatles before she met them on the set of A Hard Day's Night.

John's father was a singer on  prewar Atlantic liners.

George has bought a bow and arrow.

George is afraid of flying.

Ringo's stepfather Harry Graves sings  Beatles songs at family parties.

The Beatles never visit a barber.

John never saw an audience properly until Dundee in Scotland. Then he wore contact lenses.

Paul washes is hair every day.

Ringo cannot swim, except for a brief doggie paddle.

They are never photographed with their hair 'up'.

Paul ate  cornflakes and bacon and eggs at a champagne and caviar luncheon in London. Music publisher Dick James was host.

Their new chauffeur, Alf Bicknell, used to drive for David Niven and Cary Grant.

John has bought his mother-in-law a house near his own in Surrey.

Paul wants to buy a farm.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lotos Club, New York - The Ace of Clubs

The Ace of Clubs

That’s what Mark Twain called New York ‘s famous Lotos Club, which still exists.  Founded in 1870 by a group of writers and critics, it seems, back then, to have been a sort of plusher Groucho Club. Its first home was at 2, Irving Place, off 14th Street. The early leading lights were, like Twain, high powered journalists; but before too long, scholars, artists, collectors and connoisseurs had joined the throng. Within two years the Club had outgrown its quarters and had moved to more spacious premises in Fifth Avenue. Here members might live semi-permanently.

Thomas W. Knox  (1835 – 96), adventurer, soldier, popular author and journalist, had begun as a teacher, left to join the gold rush and when the Civil War broke out in 1863 was made a colonel in the Californian National Guard, but  was invalided out and subsequently became a war correspondent for the New York Herald. He then travelled the world, initially with the Russo-American Telegraph Company, and from the 1880s, when not travelling abroad, had an apartment at the Lotos Club. By 1889, it would appear that he had lost his taste for ‘parties and receptions’. In this letter to fellow journalist Alphonse Miner Griswold, popularly known as ‘The Fat Contributor’, politely declining an invitation, Knox writes that ‘for the past two years and more I have altogether ceased to be a society belle (sic)…I’m nearly always in bed by 11 pm.’

But Knox’s taste for adventure never waned. In 1896, just seven years after writing to Griswold, Knox died at his beloved Lotos Club after returning from the Sahara. He was just 60. Griswold had predeceased him in 1891 aged 57. It must have been all that rich Lotos Club food. The Club is still famed for its Michelin star cuisine.[RH}

Sunday, April 14, 2013

National Front versus Calder & Boyars + 'corruption and depravity' 1968

 From a collection of political ephemera. A note attached to an ordinary paper bag which was intended as a sick bag. A protest at a performance at the Royal Festival Hall in 1968 The arts and censorship : a Gala Evening concerning depravity and corruption. Put on by 'The National Council for Civil Liberties and Defence of Literature and the Arts Society', this was a performance involving, among others, Alexander Trocchi and Samuel Beckett. It was  compered by George Melly and with contributions, performance, material or both by  John Mortimer, Roger McGough, The Scaffold, Larry Adler, Fritz Spiegl, Edward Bond, Willie Rushton, Marty Feldman, Barry Took, Billie Whitelaw, Christopher Logue, Adrian Mitchell, Sheila Hancock, Tom Lehrer, Ann Firbank, Paul Jones, William Burroughs, Bertolt Brecht & Dame Peggy Ashcroft.

 Copies of the programme are to be found in distinguished American libraries with the vomit bag and statement laid in. The cover for the night's programme was by Alan Aldridge and his poster for the event is shown below.

The National Front is a far right UK political party. In the 2010 general election they garnered 0.6% of the vote.


This paper bag is presented to you with the compliments of 


We are sure that the most 'avant-garde',  pseudo-communist, drug addicted sex perverts will feel impelled to vomit before the evening's exhibition of "corruption and depravity" is over.

But don't waste your vomit by throwing it at the performers. Instead, store your vomit in the paper bag and give it to Mr John Caldar will Miss Marian Boyars as you leave. These well-known "publishers" will welcome your personal contribution to their forthcoming book : "Gillie de Retz - Saint, Social Reformer and Martyr."

Thank you for your co-operation.

Printed and published by the National Front 11 Palace Chambers, Bridge Street, London SW1. 

There is no trace of the Calder and Boyars book and it appears not to have been published.

Gilles de Montmorency-Laval (also known as Gilles de Retz or Gilles de Rais) (1404–1440), Baron de Rais, was a Breton knight, a leader in the French army and a companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc.

From 1427 to 1435, he served as a commander in the Royal Army, and fought alongside Joan of Arc against the English and their Burgundian allies during the 100 Years' War, for which he was appointed Marshal of France.

In 1434/1435, he retired from military life, depleted his wealth by staging an extravagant theatrical spectacle of his own composition and dabbled in the occult. After 1432 Gilles engaged in a series of child murders, his victims possibly numbering in the hundreds.

He is believed to be the inspiration for the 1697 fairy tale "Bluebeard" by Charles Perrault. His life is the subject of several modern novels, and referenced in a number of rock bands' albums and songs.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Model School and DJ rules

From a book by the YBA Angela Bulloch called Rule Book (2000). An artist's book which collects together official lists and full plain colour pages with their official names ('Pantone Yellow C'). Basically new conceptual art-- the lists include things taken from the side of packets, directions to make a hair lock, health warnings, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights etc., +  this list of rules from a (Russian?) model school.

August VIII Model School

1 The dormitories may not be locked and will be checked at night by four security guards to deter intruders.

2 The dormitories are strictly single sex.
Members of the opposite sex are not allowed.

3 You are expected to run five kilometers at 6:30am and then do two and a half hours in the gym each morning.

4 Your diet will be strictly controlled for you and you will be expelled for gaining weight.

5 Alcohol, smoking (for girls), sex, and chocolate are banned.

6 If you have crooked teeth they will be straightened by means of braces or they will be capped.

7 If your nose is not straight or your ears stick out too much they will be fixed by Dr, Rudenko and if the implants are available you may also have breast surgery.

8 Each model will make a promotional video and you will be required to make a speech in English for it.

9 The fees are 400 Roubles a month. Also 15% of your future earnings will go to your agent.

10 You cannot do anything without your agent's permission.

Sounds more like Cromwell's New Model Army and assumed to be real. The agent's commission sounds modest. This list of instructions pinned outside a DJ's booth sounds authentic.

1. Say 'Hi'  then 'BYE' (better yet, wave from the dance floor)

2. If the DJ is in position he obviously cannot speak to you.

3. No person in this booth is employed by a record store.

4. The dance floor is where all the people are dancing - NOT HERE.

5. Since the DJ doesn't DJ in the lounge, the loungers shouldn't lounge in the DJ booth.

6. When in the DJ booth, if you find yourself saying 'Excuse me' more than once, then you should excuse yourself from the booth.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bon Viveur at the Connaught

A review of the Connaught Hotel's restaurant found in Bon Viveur's London & the British Isles (Dakers, London 1955). Bon Viveur was a pseudonym for Fanny Cradock and her husband the fly-whiskered Johnny.They later became celebrity TV chefs. The style is of its time, revelling in luxury after the austerity of the decade since the war -'shriek for grilled kidneys...'

Where Maitre Chef de Cuisine Pierre Toulemont rules the kitchens the restaurant must inevitably prosper. The Connaught is severely English in the most distinguished manner. The wine butler stalks majestically across the panelled dining room bearing the silver salvo which, from time immemorial has been the proper platter from which to proffer (decanted) port. Overseas visitors will capture here some of the nostalgic atmosphere of old London where rendezvous with gastronomy is kept by the subjects of King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.

Let us not commit the solecism of discussing price, beyond stating that the best is never cheap– a repellent word in any context – but is seldom exorbitant – that is reserved for the fashionable, which is quite another thing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Finer Points of Advertising

Found in a privately published book on advertising From One Person To Another. What advertising is all about and how you go about it. By John E O’Toole. (FCB, London & NY 1977 -'Intended solely for the use of FCB people in their work for FCB clients'). A good summary of basic laws from the splendidly named Fairfax Mastick Cone, an advertising wunderkind from the days of Mad Men and before…


Fairfax Cone has said only one thing, to my knowledge, that is patently untrue. It is in this brief piece he wrote years ago, something many of us keep in our offices and try to keep in our minds. I include the piece here, not only to see if you can spot the untruth, but because it can serve as a summary of this entire book for those in a hurry.

"It is the primary requirement of advertising to be clear, clear to what exactly the proposition is.

If it isn’t clear, and clear at a glance or a whisper, very few people will take the time or the effort to try to figure it out.

The second essential of advertising is that what must be clear must also be important. The proposition must have value.

Third, the proposition (the promise) that is both clear and important must also have a personal appeal. It should be beamed at its logical prospects; no one else matters.

Fourth, the distinction in good advertising expresses the personality of the advertiser; for a promise is only as good as its maker.

Finally, a a good advertisement demands action. It asks for an order , or exacts a mental pledge.

Altogether these things define a desirable advertisement as one that will command attention but never be offensive.

It will be reasonable, but never dull.

It will be original, but never self-conscious.

It will be imaginative, but never misleading.

And because of what it is, and what it is not, a properly prepared advertisement will always be convincing and make people act.

This, incidentally is all I know about advertising.”

The falsehood, of course is the last sentence. He knows immensely more about advertising than that.

He simply didn’t want amateurs involving themselves in the fine points before mastering the basic skills of the craft. That admonition pertains as we launch into the few aspects of execution that are, perhaps, more entertaining to discuss than the fundamental considerations they follow, but are worthless without them.

Proficiency in the fine points depends heavily on a life-long love and respect for one’s language, a fair design instinct, a reasonable ear for music and a sense of what is appropriate.
It depends equally on learning through trial and error. Discussing work each day with Fax Cone, as a fortunate few of us did for many years, resulted in numerous trials and resulted in abundant errors., but the knowledge gleaned from those conversations is today beyond price.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Musical Sand in China

Taklamakan Desert, Khotan

Joseph Offord Musical Sand in China published in
Nature, Volume 95, Issue 2368, pp. 65-66 (1915).

Among the immense mass of ancient Chinese records and manuscripts brought back from the buried cities and caves of ancient Khotan, in Central Asia, and now stored in the British Museum, is one called the Tun-Huang-Lu, a topographical description of part of Khotan itself. This little geography was written in the time of the Tang dynasty, in the seventh century, but probably contains matter from earlier authors.

Among the specially interesting natural phenomena of the country described in the Tun-Huang-Lu is a large sandhill, which at certain times gave forth strange noises, so much so that a temple in its vicinity was entitled the “Thunder Sound Temple.'
The geographer, speaking specially of the sandhill, says:-"The hill of sounding sand stretches 80 li east and west and 40 li north and south. It reaches a height of 500 ft. The whole mass is entirely constituted of pure sand. In the height of summer the sand gives out sounds of itself, and if trodden by men or horses, the noise is heard 10 li away.  at festivals people clamber up and rush down again in a body,  which causes the sand to give a loud rumbling sound like thunder.Yet when you look at it next morning the hill is just as steep as before."

 Mr Lionel Giles, from whose translations of the Tun-Huang-Lu these extracts are made,  mentions that this sounding sandhill is referred to in another old Chinese book, the Wu Tai Shih.

Found reprinted in Strange Planet, A Sourcebook of Unusual Geological Facts (Sourcebook Project Maryland 1975). Compiled by William Corliss, this is from Volume E-1. From the amazing library of Jeremy Beadle MBE (1948 -2008)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Leigh Fermor on Gathorne-Hardy

This obituary for minor Bloomsburyite Eddie Gathorne-Hardy fell out of a book by his sister Anne Hill (of Heywood Hill) Trelawny's Strange Relations (Mill House Press, Stanford Dingley 1956) and was presented by her to Alan Ansen, the Athens based writer and member of William Burroughs literary circle.  The obituary article on EGH was written for The Times by Patrick Leigh Fermor (a xerox with inked notes by Anne Hill.) It appears not to have been published and is an excellent example of Paddy's great prose:

It would be said of no-one but Eddie Gathorne-Hardy that he belonged with equal fitness to the pages of White's Natural History of Selborne and the Satyricon of Petronius. Further analogies, with correct instinct but a few decades too early, could be sought in Valmouth and South Wind, but found to a split second in date, mood and intention in Vile Bodies, and though the brief intemperance of his Oxford days and the scrapes and festivals of the young and the bright in the 'twenties London gave him an aura which never quite faded, it was a figure of strong intellectual substance and authority that vanished from the scene on June 18th.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Esther Rantzen in School Mag 1958


While in the Upper Sixth of the prestigious North London Collegiate School, where her schoolfellows included psychologist Susie (then called Susan) Orbach, budding writer Esther Rantzen seems to have got her head down working for her scholarship to Oxford. For in the school magazine for 1957/58 we look in vain for her name among the Orchestra, Netball, Hockey, Tennis, Rounders and Swimming teams. She wasn’t a prefect and doesn’t even appear to have bothered herself with the Drama Group, which is bizarre. But she was a member of the School Magazine Committee, which may account for her two contributions—a slightly silly piece of verse about cows and this long appreciation of food, rendered as a dream.  This gastronomic knowledge must have stood the presenter of That’s Life in good stead when it came to offering members of the public bat stew and selecting rude shaped vegetables to titter at.

Would hyberbolic Esther have made it as a novelist, like her ancestor Ada Leverson, author of The Little Ottleys (and known to Oscar Wilde as 'The Sphinx') had not the BBC come calling ? We’ll never know. [R.H.]
Love at First Bite- click to read!

Baden Powell - from a slob to a scout

Lord Baden Powell's Adventuring to Manhood (London 1936)

A book for 'boys of all ages from 10 to 90' full of useful tips and info. A scout was expected to carpenter, paint, plumb and make knives from branches of trees and cups from birch bark. He was also expected to avoid being a 'slob.'


That is what this book is for; to show how real men can be made out of slobs and how slobs can make themselves into men if they like to try.

What on earth is a slob you may ask well – I don't know myself. The word doesn't come up in any dictionary that I know of, but I take it to mean the slot was a boy was inclined to look on the games all work rather than joining them himself, who likes to go to the "flicks"  (if other people pay for his seat) and who smokes cigarettes in the hope of looking manly when it only makes him look a young fool.

In other words, a slob is a young slacker. Yet a slacker, who leads a miserable life, no good to himself or to anyone else, can, if he likes, be turned into a hefty, happy and useful MAN.

Lord B-P may have been wrong about 'slob' not being in any dictionary. It’s been traced to Irish slab, meaning “mud,” “mud flat,” “muck” or “mess,” but it also appears to owe something to “slobber,” which once meant “mud” or “slime” as well as “drool,” and also to “slubber” (“to stain” or “to soil,” or “to do slovenly work”) and to “slop” and “sloppy.” The meaning "untidy person" is first recorded in 1861.

The book ends '...make yourself strong in Body and Mind and Spirit, and stick to your scout promise all your life, and you will be a real MAN – and not a slob!'

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dirk Bogarde letter

Typed signed letter from October 1995.The recipient is unknown as is the identity of 'Ivor'; the celebrated actress who has died is also not named. No major British female stars appear to have died in that year...

...I am not attending the Memorial Service because I am recording on that day...also I hate the things. Ivor has spoken to me, most kindly, but understood...I do hope it is tremendously well attended, it damn well should be. Every single Critic should be there, perhaps a tiny bit of her brilliance might wash over them! They need a cleansing light. Ever, Dirk.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fax from David Hockney

A fax from David Hockney's LA Studio November 1995. The numbers are now defunct and the message private. It was to tell the secretary of a rich scientist wanting a portrait of her boss that 'Mr Hockney will not be able to accept the commission. It is not a normal policy for Mr Hockney to accept commissions for portraits, as he wishes to choose his own sitters. We trust you will understand...'

At some point in the 90s Hockney was doing 'fax art' and presumably the header of this fax is his work or was chosen by him. The fax has not faded and is as bright as the day it was sent.