Saturday, November 30, 2013

Rare Decadence

From a catalogue from 2000, this very rare novel. There are less than a handful of decadent novels from the 1890s in English (plenty in French) and after Oscar Wilde and Marc Andre Raffalovich there is really only this novel published by the elusive Henry & Co., Try finding another copy! Recently it has been available as a P.O.D.

Langley, High. The Tides Ebb out to the Night; Being the Journal of a Young man - Basil Brooke- edited by his Friend Hugh Langley. (H. Henry, London 1896.) Full crimson buckram gilt lettered, ruled in blind, fore edges untrimmed.
8vo. vi,311pp. Highly uncommon decadent novel in the form of a journal and letters, showing an infatuation with French Symbolism. There are descriptions of decadent London rooms and a good deal of drug-taking including kif, ‘hasheesh’ and morphine to which the chief character becomes addicted, when his love affair with a young woman goes awry. The number of decadent English novels of this period is very small: this books appears unrecorded by any of the 90s bibliographies and, although highly accomplished, seems to have attracted very little notice in its day.

Stephen Spender’s amazing ancestors

Sent in by Robin, a serious jot fan, scholar and idler. It is reassuring to see people investigating their own collections and archives and then sharing the results..

I recently rescued from a job lot of books this Birthday Book designed by HRH the Princess Beatrice, which appeared in 1881. It looks exactly as the title suggests it would look---a largish, heavy gift-book in high Victorian taste bound  in light tan cloth embossed with a repeating floral pattern in gilt and with gilt edged pages.

Open it up and there are 365 pages—one for each day of the year with twelve very typical German chromolithographs introducing each month. After a cursory inspection I put this scented confection aside without a single glance at the ink inscriptions on many pages and the ostentatious presentation inscription on a flyleaf. Big mistake! 

Recently, for some reason, I decided to re-examine that flyleaf. Here’s what I read:

To my mother, on her birthday, Caroline Spender, from her eldest son, John Kent Spender and his wife, Lily Spender. In commemoration of September 29, 1885. 

Spender is not a common name, so I Googled away. What a result! It turns out that Caroline was Stephen Spender’s  paternal great grandmother , which makes John Kent Spender his grandfather, and Lillian (1835 – 95), a prolific novelist, his grandmother, which could explain where some of Stephen’s creative talent came from. We may assume that on 29 September 1885 a large birthday party was held, possibly in the family home at Bathwick, near  Bath, and that all those present—friends as well as relations -- left their tributes in the form of a signature plus an  extract from the works of an admired  writer-- on the pages reserved for their own birthdays.  

The poet’s ancestors were a fascinating bunch. Stephen’s uncle, John Alfred Spender (1862-1942), son of John Kent Spender and Lillian, was a well-connected newspaper editor. The signature of Stephen’s dad, Edward Harold Spender, a journalist who was to die when the future poet was just 17, is also here.  Stephen’s great uncle, William Saunders, seems to have had even more in common with his great nephew. Born in 1823, he became both a Liberal MP and a newspaper publisher.

Friends of the Spenders in 1885 included a few very distinguished figures and a few less so. Little could be found about Ethel Margaret Buckeridge, although someone of that name was later married in Australia. When Alfred Henry Robinson Thornton signed his name at the age of 22, he had not yet made it as an artist. However, the fact that Urijah R. Thomas, a nonconformist minister from Redland Park, Bristol, and a leading figure liberal thinker in the city, should also leave his tribute, seems perfectly in line with the Spender family’s freethinking principles.

But perhaps the most exciting non-family name in the Birthday Book is that of Lilias S. Ashworth Hallet. Born in 1844, and from a Quaker background, she went on to marry a professor from Bristol University and when she later inherited a large amount of money from her parents, she spent much of it campaigning for women’s rights, especially female suffrage. She lived long enough to see the vote given to most women in 1918.The Women's Library contains many of her letters. Her being a member of the Spender circle in the 1880s is highly significant. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Edna Clarke Hall - tales of Augustus John

Edna Clarke Hall (1879–1979) was a watercolour artist, etcher, lithographer and draughtsman. In 1897 when she was fourteen she entered the Slade School of Art. Whilst there, Edna was taught by Henry Tonks, "the most renowned and formidable teacher of his generation" (famously blasted by the Vorticists.) She studied alongside Gwen and Augustus John, Ida Nettleship, Ambrose McEvoy and Albert Rutherston. Throughout her long life she did many illustrations to Wuthering Heights. She was also a close friend of the poet Edward Thomas.

These two anecdotes are taken from a tiny Slade Centenary catalogue (1971) that has an introduction by Anthony D'Offay. Both concern the wild youth of Augustus John...

Charlotte Street

Sometimes after working at the Slade all day, I would go with Gwen John and her brother (Augustus) to their rooms in Charlotte Street, where we would sit for each other.

One evening, John found he was without his key. Tantalisingly, the windows on the upper floor were wide open. John suddenly climbed onto the front iron railings and  went straight up the face of the house, using the crevices between the flat stones as handhold and foothold. We stood below in horrified silence holding our breath. He disappeared into one of the open windows and a moment later was standing smiling at the front door. ECH 1894

 A Walk

 In 1895 when he was on a visit  to us in St Albans, Augustus John and I went for a very long walk. I found it very hard to keep up with him mile after mile as he strode along at a great pace. At last, as I almost ran beside him, I confessed that I was very tired. He stopped and looked at me in surprise - I think he had forgotten that I was there, so lost in thought was he. Then, without a word, taking my hand, he stuffed it into his pocket with his own and on we went as before, but for me with a difference, for I was curiously comforted by the tight hold of his hand on mine.  ECH 1895

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

George Barker on MacLaren Ross

At some point in the 1990's we bought a lot of books and papers from the Norfolk based poet George Barker. This catalogue entry is worth preserving. For some reason it seems a bit down on Barker, possibly because Barker is very hard to sell whereas novels by Julian MacLaren Ross go, as they say in Canada, 'like snow off a dyke.'

Barker, George. ( J. Maclaren Ross.) Manuscript of a review by George Barker of the autobiography of  J. Maclaren Ross. 1960s. Typed MS with notes in Barker's hand and a signed note at the top saying that he wrote the review for The Tatler. 800 words with many hand written additions and corrections. It begins 'I remember him as a rather melancholy Malvolio drawling away in a high pitched nasal monotone to which no one in the Wheatsheaf, or the Highlander or the French Pub ever paid any attention at all...' Barker grudgingly admits that his memoirs are not 'entirely unmemorable'. Most of the review is spent putting the boot in and, apart from the envy a  minor writer might feel for another who has become a major cult, it appears that most of GB's animosity came from the fact that JMR borrowed a tenner from him and never repaid it.

 'I found reading them both evocative and faintly shameful. Evocative because Maclaren Ross really did possess a door-to-door salesmen's eye for snap evaluations, and faintly shameful because he had an eye for almost nothing else.' Barker (who got by on academic work  from which, it is said, that he tended to be dismissed for drunkeness, lechery or indolence) is referring to JMR's job working for several years as a vacuum cleaner salesmen, an experience of which JMR writes brilliantly in Of Love and Hunger. SOLD

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Query for Dr. Dee

In our last posting on Notes and Queries we cited a query by one 'E.F.R.' as an example. He seems to have been an assiduous querier and soon after was asking about the Elizabethan occultist, John Dee.

Dr. Dee's petition to James I.—"E.F.R." states that he has lately discovered, in the lining of an ancient trunk, two or three curious broadsides, one of which purports to be Dr. Dee's petition to James I., 1604, against the report raised against him, namely, "That he is or hath bin a Conjurer and Caller, or Invocator of Divels." He would be glad to know whether this curious broadside has been printed in any memoir of Dr. Dee. 

A valuable find. John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination, numerology and Hermetic philosophy.

A few decades after his death his manuscripts came into the possession of the scholar Méric Casaubon, who published them in 1659, together with a long introduction critical of their author, as A True & Faithful Relation of What passed for many Yeers between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. and King James their Reignes) and some spirits. The British Museum has three copies and also a copy of Dee's 1604 petitioning broadside which appears to be unpublished.

The name Casaubon was of course used by George Eliot in Middlemarch for the pompous and dessicated scholar who marries the heroine, Dorothea Brooke, because he needs an assistant for his work. His 'masterwork' Key to All Mythologies, is stalled and remains unfinished at his death. He is likely to have been a Notes and Queries reader...

Notes and Queries - 2 Queries

Notes and Queries is a British periodical. It was originally subtitled "a medium of inter-communication for literary men, artists, antiquaries, genealogists, etc". Its motto was "When found, make a note of", from the catchphrase of Capt. Cuttle, a character in Dickens' Dombey and Son (1848). Dickens himself was a contributor, as were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Walter Skeat and Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo.) Most contributors were pseudonymous or anonymous. Ironically it was first produced to combat the perceived lowering of intellectual standards caused by 'railway mania' - but the trains allowed for its swift printing and distribution. Parallels with the web are often made - some referring to it as the 'Victorian Internet.'

The most intriguing section was 'Queries' where contributors asked for information on subjects they were studying. A typical query on London history from one 'E.F.R.'

The Strand Maypole.—What was the ultimate fate of the "tall Maypole" which "once o'erlooked the Strand"?  The answer came in the next issue. ***

166 years later Jot101's motto 'found it, read it, posted it' echoes Captain Cuttle's "When found,make a note of" and in the same spirit here are a couple of queries:

Somewhere  Oscar Wilde wrote the most significant thing in British history was the leather trousers of some royal personage. Not sure where he wrote this and what he actually said. Possibly in undergraduate notes.

Colin Wilson wrote that it was hard to imagine a potentially happier situation than a young millionaire lying on his yacht in the Aegean with all the summer still ahead of him. Possibly girls were lying by his side...Where was this? It might have been in a book of essays - some on H P Lovecraft.

***It was taken down about the year 1717, when it was found to measure a hundred feet. It was obtained by Sir Isaac Newton, and borne on a carriage, for timber, to Wanstead, in Essex, the seat of the Earl of Tylney, where, under the direction of the Reverend Mr. Pound Breton, it was placed in the Park, for the erection of a telescope, the largest then in the world, presented by a French gentleman to the Royal Society.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Origin of the Dalek

Sent in by loyal jotwatcher RMH this very topical offering...By the way Kulfi is delicious, especially pistachio or mango. There are also a few local India restaurants/ canteens near the BBC which serve Kulfi. Some in the nearby Acton area have been there long enough to support his theory...

The otherwise excellent Dr Who drama, Adventures in Space and Time (televised on 21 November) deftly skated round the origins of the Dalek shape. There was a scene revealing a miniature mock up of the Tardis interior, but the Daleks emerged from the design studios as full sized models. Thus the important initial stage in the design process was missed out. Which is a pity. When, a few months ago, I interviewed Roberts Banks Stewart, a Dr Who scriptwriter from the early days of the programme, he assured me that the BBC production designer Ray Cusick, who died recently, had got the idea for the Dalek from salt and pepper pots used in the BBC canteen. Apparently, his sketches of these were shown to Terry Nation , who was so delighted by them that he got the BBC design people to create a full size model. The rest is history.

By I’m not entirely convinced. At least ten years ago I was visiting a small Indian restaurant off the Commercial Road in London when I saw a battered metal sign displaying some Dalek-shaped kulfi cones. The sign was worn and battered, which suggested that it may have pre-dated the arrival of the Dalek. Unfortunately, I can’t recall any company name on the sign or any other evidence that would help me arrive at a date of manufacture.

Then just six months ago I discovered that someone had posted a photo of a newer advertising placard advertising similar-looking Dalek-shaped kulfi cones. Now, it may have been that forty or more years ago some ice cream company in India wanted to cash in on the popularity of the Daleks. Or-- just as likely-- could Ray Cusick have been inspired, even subliminally, to create the prototype Dalek after  visiting an Indian restaurant in the UK, or indeed in India itself ? 

Dr Who fanatics would be wise not to exterminate my theory without providing evidence to disprove it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Old Jokes 1886

From Jests New and Old collected by W. Carew Hazlitt etc., ( Jarvis, London 1886). These are some of the better jokes from a list of 600 or so. Not exactly rolling in the aisles material but probably pretty rib-tickling in their day. Possibly in the hands of a comedian like Eddie Izzard, or Russell / Jo Brand or Chris Rock a few laughs could be extracted from them. They are no worse than some of the jokes to be found  at the email gossip sheet Popbitch's Old Jokes Home every week.

Some years ago, says Richardson in his "Anecdotes of Painting," a gentleman came to me to invite me to his house: "I have," said he, "a picture of Rubens, and it is a rare good one. There is little H– the other day came to see it, and says it is a copy. If any one says so again, I'll break his head. Pray, Mr. Richardson, will you do me the favour to come, and give me your real opinion of it?"

Reynolds, the dramatist, observing to Martin the thinnes of the house at one of his own plays, added–"He supposed it was owing to the war." "No," replied the latter, "it is owing to the piece."

A foolish fellow went to the parish priest, and told him with a very long face, that he had seen a ghost. "When and where?" said the pastor. "Last night," replied the timid man, "I was passing by the church, and up against the wall of it I beheld the spectre." "In what shape did it appear?" said the priest. "It appeared to be in the shape of a great ass." "Go home, and hold your tongue about it," rejoined the pastor, "you are a very timid man, and have been frightened by your own shadow."

Sir John Millicent, the judge, was a man of superior abilities and a good lawyer, but addicted to his cups. He used to say that there was nothing for it, but to drink himself down to the capacity of his colleagues.

George III. in one of his morning rides, noticed Mr. Blanchard's pretty house on Richmond Hill ; and being told it belonged to a card-maker, he observed, "What ! what ! what ! a card-maker !  all his cards must have turned up trumps."

Dean Jackson, passing one morning through Christ Church qaudrangle, met some undergraduates, who walked along without capping. The Dean called one of them, and asked, "Do you know who I am?"  "No, sir."  "How long have you been in college?"  "Eight days, sir."  "Oh, very well," said the Dean, walking away, "puppies don't open their eyes till the ninth day."

Leigh Hunt was asked by a lady at dessert, if he would not venture upon an orange: said he, "Madam, I should be happy to do so, but I'm afraid I should tumble off."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Vegetarian Instructions

From the Vegetarian Handbook (London 1970). The last 8 pages consist of instructions to show to your hosts in hotels and restaurants so that they understand your diet requirements. The style of non meat food is possibly now slightly dated (nut rissoles, vol-au-vents) and even a little joyless, but the leaflet makes pretty sure that the food provider gets the picture. Serious Veggies could well use it, or modify it...We have added the Spanish version and tried to OCR (read digitally) the Esperanto - but it scrambled.


The following pages, in seven different languages, may be useful to visitors in hotels that do not normally cater for vegetarians. Translation has been kept as literal as possible so that the various items can easily be identified.


  Lunches and dinners, consisting exclusively of produce of the vegetable kingdom, with or without the addition of dairy produce.

1. SOUPS and sauces made with vegetable (not meat) stock. Vegetable soups of all kinds.

2. ENTRÉES, such as:
  Souffles, various; cauliflower au gratin; spaghetti or macaroni, with tomato or cheese; vols-au-vent, with vegetable filling.
  Rissoles made with nuts or other vegetable ingredients.
  Omelettes and other egg dishes, various.

With these dishes, vegetables such as:
    Potatoes, peas, green vegetables, carrots, beans. (If fried, vegetable oil or butter should be used.)
  For making rissoles, use lentils, beans, chestnuts, or other nuts (such as almonds, etc.). The nuts should be well ground.

3. SALADS, such as:
    Green, mixed, Russian (without anchovy); hors d'œuvre, with lemon and olive-oil (or mayonnaise).

4. PUDDINGS, etc. (made always without animal fat, except butter or cream), such as:
    Baked, boiled or steamed puddings; pastries, cakes, ices, cômpotes of all kinds; rice and other cereals, with jam or honey.

5. FRUITS (either fresh or stewed).

SPECIAL NOTE. Never serve meat, fish, fowl, or jelly. Do not over-season any of the dishes. Serve only vegetable gravies. Use no animal fats, except butter and cream.


  Almuerzos y comidas, consistiendo exclusivamente de productos del reino vegetal con o sin la adición de productos de lecheria.

1. SOPAS y salsas hechas con ingredientes vegetales (sin came). Sopas vegetales

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Paul Klee- bookplate for Dr. Louis Michaud

Paul Klee's bookplate for his fellow Swiss school friend Louis Michaud (1880 - 1957) the clinician, scientist and teacher. Klee's only bookplate, with the printed initials 'P.K.' in the corner. A copper plate etching measuring 161 by 181mm, the design itself measuring 148 by 105mm. Listed in the Catalogue Raisonée (Kornfeld) as Klee's engraved Opus no 2. Known in only a handful of examples. Within a tree trunk frame Mephistopheles, seated in Dr. Faust's office addresses an eager student. Surrounding them are various objects comically recalling medical studies - a skull with a pipe in its mouth, a nude female torso, a retort, an inkwell, a baby in a wire covered jar and a stuffed hanging fish. Above and below merged, as it were, with the tree are a snake or lizard-like  figure. A cartouche at the top bears the owners name with 'Ex Libris' above, below are the first lines of a famous verse from Goethe's Faust- "der Geist der Medizin ist leicht zu fassen!" (The spirit of medicine is easy to grasp...") Ironic  in style, the bookplate also shows (according to Benoit Junod) 'the first signs of that distortion of forms of the living world which Klee was later to develop.' Sold several times in the last 2 decades for about £1600. No one ever plonks down the money, you usually have to take post-dated cheques and books and bookplates as swaps -- bookplate collectors are fairly cautious. However there is a new breed emerging in the Extreme Orient who buy high and without demur-- they tend to favour erotic bookplates...  


Walt Whitman Parody

From a Ignes Fatui, a Book of Parodies by Philip Guedalla
(Oxford 1911) Parodic poems and playlets written while Guedalla was at Rugby and Balliol College, Oxford. Some of the parodies are of slightly forgotten authors like W.E. Henley and Maeterlinck (a piece that sounds like  Beckett's Godot) but he also lampoons Macaulay, Swinburne, Kipling, Baedeker, Omar Khayyam, Hardy, Shakespeare and Shaw. Here is his Whitman squib - at the time Whitman's reputation was still breaking in England.

Canzonette to Democracy

I sing the song of me mendacious and the lies of
me mendacious:

I see God give the Land to the People, and the
grasshoppers on the Land,

I see double! Libertad, Americanos, Libertad I
cry. (No, I will not keep quiet.)

I want Eight, Votes for Women, brilliantine, a half blue, one Man one Pub., Home Rule for Wales and a National Theatre.

Allons, camerados, let us tax the foreigner; let's
tax him in Paumanok, Manhattan, Oswego and Illinois, but especially in Illinois.

I care nothing, or comparatively nothing for 
Second Chambers, Revising or otherwise. I 
am not a Peer: are you?

How hot you all look, the En Masse, the Tout
Ensemble: I too am hot from my unkempt
hair-thatch to the ten curling toes, each self
-contained with its individual nail.

O Columbia, how hot I am!

[Oxford 1910]

The tone is reminiscent of Rick the 'people's poet' from The Young Ones but it passes the first test of parody - i.e. you know who is being parodied...not sure what 'Eight' was however.

'Walt Whitman, Inciting the Bird of Freedom to Soar'
by Max Beerbohm 1904

Riddle Me Ree

A few riddles from a mid 19th century joke book Tom Brown's Jest Book. Purchased from the amazing library of Jeremy Beadle MBE (1948 -2008) British entertainer, television star,  hoaxer, quizmaster, book collector and philanthropist. He had a dozen shelves of joke books, mostly modern and the family kept a lot but this one escaped. Most are slightly groan-making to modern ears, some slightly  smutty and several by coincidence concerned with sheets...

Why is an unbound book like a lady in bed ?
Because it is in sheets.

Why is a lady in her shift like the Hague ? Be-
cause she is in Holland.

Why is a drunkard with a fiery face like a Chris-
tian Monitor ? Because he puts in mind of Hell

Why is a Prime Minister like a May pole ? Be- .
cause it is a high post.

Why is a grave-digger like a waterman ? Because 
he handles skulls.

Why is a man like a melon ? Because best raised
in a hot-bed.

Why are men like timber ? Because they often

Why is a madman like two men ? Because he is
a man beside himself.

Why is a looking-glass like a philosopher ? Be-
cause it reflects.

What's a man that is in the midst of a great
river and can't swim ? Like to be drowned.

What is a man like in the midst of a desert,
without meat or drink ? Like to be starved.

Longer Riddles

My mother bare me in the field ;
Soon after I was sold ;
And then to kiss a lady's thighs,
I oftentimes made bold.
Soon after I was made divine,
And much admir'd by some;
At length, for which I now repine,
I wip'd a beggar's bum.

ANSWER: Some hemp ; afterwards made into a shift; the
rags of which made paper, whereon was printed a
sermon, which was at length put to a base use.

My master often lies with me,
His wife I oft enjoy ;
Yet she's no whore, nor cuckold he,
And true to both am I.
My clothes nor woman fit nor man,
Theyr'e neither coat nor gown ;
Yet oft both men and maidens, when
They're naked, have them on.
What's oft my belly, is oft my back,
And what my feet, my head;
And though I'm up, I have a knack,
Of being still a-bed.


Friday, November 15, 2013


Several derivations of the word punk can be found. The word occurs in Shakespeare  to describe a woman of doubtful virtue. Dr Johnson, citing the Bard, defined a punk as ‘a whore, a common prostitute, a strumpet’ while in later street argot it meant yob or hoodlum. But the OED has another definition for punk—‘rotten wood, fungus growing on wood’ or ‘worthless stuff, rubbish’. Recently, I found the OED definition confirmed in a scarce recipe book of circa 1809, and online this was re-affirmed by a modern American naturalist, who called  the  bracket fungus piptoporus betulinus, ‘white punk’.

This fungus, which is known in the UK as ‘razorstrop fungus’, can hardly be described as 'worthless'. In fact, ‘white punk’ is very valuable if you wish to make a fire but have no cigarette lighter or matches on you, but perhaps do have a magnifying glass, two twigs to rub together or a piece of flint.

Punk is a polypore that grows mainly on silver birches and which, when dried, and cut into strips, makes handy tinder. But don’t take my word for it. Read the wise words of Anon from The Family Receipt Book ( London ca.1809).

On the continent, every traveller, sportsman, &c, carries constantly this tinder about him; which is conveniently portable, and resembles a piece of very thick tanned leather, of an elastic substance, and a sort of velvet surface on the upper part. It is in fact, a large fungus, commonly called punk, which grows at the roots of old trees, where it spreads to a considerable size. This substance is dressed, hammered, and…being dried, forms the true German tinder at all times ready for use, and far less liable to become damp than English tinder. 

According to this account, Germans usually use a flint to light the punk, which they carried everywhere with them in a pouch. Once lit, the punk would be stuck directly into a tobacco pipe or be held against a ‘match’ (that is, a spill ). The writer argues that if punk was as popular in England as it was in Germany, a whole new source of wealth might be established.

Many poor persons might be employed in collecting the punk, which is now suffered to rot without utility…it might prove the means of greatly assisting the manufacture of paper…

So, punk has, in all likelihood, a German derivation, and my guess is that our American naturalist may live, or have grown up in, the mid West, which was widely settled by German-speaking immigrants from the early nineteenth century. And as John Lydon called himself Johnny Rotten, could he have read somewhere that punk also meant rotten wood ?  [R.H.]

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I once met Francis Bacon

Not the essayist and improbable author of Shakespeare's plays, but the artist who yesterday broke the world record for highest sum ever achieved by an artist in auction.$142.2 million.

It must have been in the early 1980s, I had been viewing a book sale at Christies South Kensington ('CSK') in the days when they still had large lots of books in tea-chests and you would find the legendary Roger Elliott ('2 L's, 2 T's') and the writer /bouquiniste Alex Trocchi ploughing through them. I bumped into an old friend and he told me he was going to look at, and possibly buy, some precious stones at a sort of geology shop just off the King's Road. We made our way to his car through Reece Mews a cobbled street opposite the mighty auction rooms. Half way along we were hailed by an oldish but very lively man in what appeared to be a rubber mac, surmounted by a pleasing slightly waxy face - it was none other than the artist Francis Bacon who appeared to have lunched well and was on his way to his studio. We chatted for a moment and he asked us where we were going. We told him that we were off to buy some precious stones. Possibly he was about to invite us into his studio...however he replied 'So you're going abroad are you?' That was it. A slightly enigmatic remark. It seemed curious but it could be that, like Graham Greene, he took valuables with him when he went abroad to exchange or give as gifts - something practiced only by those with very long suits of cash.

Our colleague Martin Stone, guitar musician and book scout, met him a couple of times in Paris when he was working for Shakespeare & Co. He dined with him at the smart restaurant, next to the Whitman bookshop,  called La Bucherie. Martin reports that he was very good company- erudite, worldly and witty. Later at Reece Mews someone

made a fortune clearing a skip (dumpster) placed ouside  full of bits of half finished canvas, palettes and sketches..

See this Fortune article explaining why his tryptych of Lucian Freud made so much. It's basically about the rich getting richer.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I once met….Uri Geller

Sent in by a supporter of Jot for which many thanks...

 It was in the spring of 2005 that I was dispatched to interview the great Spoon Bender himself. His assistant had given me an address in Sonning-on-Thames, that home of the more discerning glitterati. I found his place quite by chance. Well, you could hardly miss it. Glimpsed through trees at the end of a longish drive was a large and modern mansion of the Bishops Avenue School of architecture, complete with portico. There was also a pair of huge metal (unbent) gates flanked by brick pillars, one of which incorporated the inevitable entry phone. I phoned through, the gates opened slowly, and I started down the drive towards the house.

Geller himself answered the door--a slim, smiling figure with neat bouffant hair, greying slightly. He must have been in his late fifties but retained his boyish good looks. He guided me across the marble floor of an atrium that wouldn’t have disgraced the palace of a Hollywood A-lister.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

100 year old con man - the Yellow Kid

Found in a sensational crime paperback The Big Con (Pocket Books, NY 1949) a press cutting dated 1975 - the obituary of an amazing conman/ hustler/grifter Joseph Weil (1875-1975). He seems to have been the first to put forth the idea (often mentioned in the TV series Hustle) that 'you can't con an honest man.' It is possible that their  character Albert Stroller (Robert Vaughn) the elderly 'roper' responsible for ensnaring potential marks, is based on Weil. There is an exhaustive profile of Stroller at Wikipedia with no mention of any influences but useful info such as '...he cannot go to Indonesia as he sold the air force some fighter jets in the '70s, and they still haven't arrived.' Weil's comments on bankers are especially prescient..

Joseph (Yellow Kid) Weil, 100, Leading U. S. Trickster in '20s.
 From Wire Dispatches

 Chicago, Feb 27- 1975.

 Joseph (Yellow Kid) Weil, 100, the 1920s confidence artist whose con schemes netted him an estimated $8 million, died yesterday in a convalescent home.
 For nearly three years, the fragile little man had been a welfare patient, living out his life on the memories of his heyday, when his canary-yellow gloves, cravats and suits, yellow calling cards and autos, yellowish red hair and golden whiskers made him an international figure.
"If I had to do it all over again, I would be foolish if I didn't," Weil told an interviewer last summer on his 100th birthday
. "I don't feel a day over 70. I still like to look at the ladies and take a sip of wine. I like to listen to the radio, but I'll be damned if I'll play bingo with the rest round here. It's a ripoff."

He said he had spent all his money "in high living and travel," tucking away nothing for his later years.
The son of a saloon keeper in a boisterous, two-fisted Chicago neighborhood, Weil worked as a young con artist in New York and Chicago.

 He had many aliases
 wearing various disguises, he was known as Dr. Henri Reuel, John Bauer, Sir John Ruskin Wellington and Count Ivan Ovarnoff as he swindled his wealthy financiers and industrialists for more than 40 years.
 He "retired" in 1941 after serving 27 months in a federal prison in Atlanta on a mail-fraud charge involving a phony oil-lease scheme.
Weil was a legend in his own time in the elite world of con artists. In his time he:

• Rented office space and hired lesser con men for a "brokerage office" though which he worked a bogus stock swindle for 20 years.

• Staged fake prize fights, seeded "gold mines" and promoted "talking dogs" who, of course, could not.

• Tried to sell Cook Country Hospital for $150,000.

Six Years in jail. 
For his successful life in crime, Weil paid with just six years in jail, although he said he had been arrested 1,001 times.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bolan in Cyclops

From the first issue of the Norwich based literary magazine Cyclops (Wild Pigeon Press 1968). Other contributors included Jeff Nuttall, Snoo Wilson and Bill Butler. There is a full page portrait of Marc by Harriet Franklin, the wife of the magazine's editor Dan Franklin. Cyclops says of Marc: 'Sings with Tyrannosaurus Rex. First book of poems is appearing soon.' Indeed this poem appeared soon after in his Warlock of Love. Untitled (as it is titled) is  a prose poem so abstract it might turn into mist and float out to sea. It seems probable that rare and exotic herbs were consumed during its creation...Take it away Marc:

Tall as the truth the creature coughed in the clouds, 
feeding on mountain tips and the rare winged eagle lords 
that journeyed higher than the memory of man. Its claw, caked in mist and wishes, ripped at a pillar of fear 
masoned long ago by terrible forgotten Titans, to
 prevent the dreams of man from floating in the valleys 
of the diamond.
 Its eyes, like women and sand, shifted ever searching 
for the perilous horn of plenty. A foolish colossus 
it looked, ragged and unworshipped. Solitary on the 
roof of the world, a remaining nightmare in a plateau 
of fair thought.
It moaned and clumsily spewed spells of fear on the 
storm stallions grazing in the temple of pearls. And 
the years danced on. And all that moves returns to 
stone, eventually.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Violent Poets No:5 Darius Guppy

As pugnacious ex-offenders go, Darius Guppy is a bit of a one-off. The convicted insurance fraudster, fellow Bullingdon Club member with Boris Johnson and David Cameron, doesn’t do remorse. Instead of keeping a low profile in his newly adopted home in South Africa, he has come out fighting. Guppy, as readers of Private Eye will know, is said to have once asked his friend Boris to arrange to have a pesky reporter beaten up for violating some sort of honour code — a Guppian honour crime, if you like. Johnson refused, but according to the TV profile of the London Mayor, the two men remain friends, and not long ago Guppy defended his Oxford pal. In the past couple of years Guppy has several times railed publicly against the moral failings of Western society, comparing them to the honourable principles upheld by the present Iranian government, who continue to practise public hangings and still persecute, among others, the peace-loving followers of Ba’hai.

On his mother’s side Guppy has some dubious claim to ancient Persian aristocratic blood. One ancestor was a poet and indeed the talent for verse manifested itself quite early in young Guppy’s life. Although he has never published a collection, in 1984 he edited with John Adlam  an anthology of Oxbridge poetry entitled First Set: Blue Jade, which has become a bit of a collectors’ item. Guppy wrote eight of the fifty poems in it, some of which demonstrate a genuine lyricism, especially when applied to descriptions of place, in this case, Venice:

 By a lamp post, on an edge,
A blue green wave danced up to me
And kissed a pair of
Dangling legs, draped on a ledge
Then melted into blue jade

Immortal like stone, a stony city
Rose up from the pearls with a ruby sun
To haunt the ghostly speckled sea blanket
With shadeless colours, vague reality
Which rolls and sways and dives into itself… ( Blue Jade in Venice)

Or when recalling the unwanted sexual attentions of a family friend from childhood:

I grew with her
Through scattered games
And skipping footsteps,
Through walks around the house
And nightmare nights,
Through stinking bedroom scenes,
She laid with me unfelt, unseen… (The Companion)

England has a proud tradition of pugilistic poets. Byron was handy with a duelling  pistol and the vertically challenged Keats had a mean left hook. The bull-fight aficionado and minor versifier Roy Campbell punched fellow poets Geoffrey Grigson and Stephen Spender for having the gall to express left wing views, while socialist poet Vernon Scannell, who listed 'hating Tories' as one of his hobbies in Who’s Who, was an amateur boxer.  Richard Savage, whose life was chronicled by Samuel Johnson in his Life of the Poets actually killed a man, but evaded the noose*. More recently, Bill Oddie lookalike Craig Raine, whose Geordie father was a prize fighter, and Tom 'appalling' Paulin nearly came to blows over something or other. (R.M. Healey)

*Also worth looking out for is Billy the Kid. An anthology of Tough Verse. [Compiled by Michael  Baldwin.Hutchinson 1963]

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Estate of the late F.Scott Fitzgerald

After his death, there was $706 cash in hand, Frances Kroll wrote Judge Briggs; $613.25 would go for burial expenses: “casket and services $410; shipping $30; city tax $1.50; transportation (to Baltimore) $117.78.” His worldly goods consisted of:

1 trunkful of clothes

4 crates of books

1 carton of scrapbooks and photographs

1  small trunk with some personal effects—the Christmas presents sent him, personal jewellery (watch, cuff links), several scrapbooks and photographs

2  wooden work tables, lamp, radio

Is this how a man ends? — a few crates “dumped to nothing by the great janitress of destinies” (from the brief verse found in his desk after his death).

From College of One: The Story of How F. Scott Fitzgerald Educated the Woman He Loved (1967)
by Sheilah Graham.