Monday, March 31, 2014

Carroll Levis and the Meaning of Dreams

Found in The World's Strangest Ghost Stories by R. Thurston Hopkins (Kingswood: The World's Work, London  1955) this piece in the preface about the American writer, TV personality and dream therapist Carroll Levis. There is much on Carroll online with Pete Waterman claiming he invented reality TV and The Beatles in their earliest form as The Quarrymen failing in the first rounds of one of his TV talent contests(1957). Paul McCartney described him as the 'Hughie Green of his day.'

Thurston Hopkins is dealing with an earlier incarnation of Levis as a radio star and before that a sort of analyser of dreams (during the depression.) At the end Hopkins even brings in our own J.B. Priestley, also in his time something of a star...The radio show where the public's dreams are re-enacted seems ripe for rebirth.

In 1931, Carroll Levis, who presented the Levis Discoveries Radio Show to eight million aficionados, published Dreams and their Meanings, which was syndicated and featured in newspapers in Canada and the United States. The same year, he wrote a radio series entitled Dream Dramas. Listeners were invited to send a description of their most vivid dreams to Levis, who rewrote them into short twelve-minute playlets. The dreams were re-enacted by  a group of actors, under the direction of Carroll Levis, and at the conclusion of the dramatized dream, a three-minute analysis and interpretation was given to the listeners.

As the result of the prominence given to this subject by the famous broadcaster and author, he soon compiled one of the largest collections of dreams in the world. He became a competent authority on this subject....

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I once met….. William Rees Mogg

Sent in by a Jot regular - this moving account. In the rare book trade he was renowned for having returned an expensive book he had bought from another bookseller, saying 'I did not find it as saleable as I had hoped.' Only someone as eminent as the ex-editor of The Times could get away with such an excuse. The shot below is of him with Mick Jagger at a TV discussion in 1967 after William Rees Mogg's 'Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel' editorial condemning a jail term handed to Mick for dope offences. At the time he was 10 years older than the great Stone.

This was after he’d left the editorial chair of The Times and was running the very posh Pickering and Chatto antiquarian bookshop in Pall Mall. Before I arranged to interview him I had mugged up on his tastes by reading the guide to book collecting that  he’d published a few years earlier. I must admit that I was a little intimidated by his reputation—not just as a high Tory patrician figure from the higher reaches of journalism—but also as someone whose refined tastes in Augustan literature were likely to show up my own thin knowledge of this area.

I needn’t have worried. He turned out to be charming, friendly, and not at all pompous. Knowing that I might be caught out if the conversation turned into a debate on the respective merits of Pope or Burke, I made most of my questions revolve around his youthful exploits as a collector of eighteenth century literature in wartime and post-war London. In this regard he turned out to be immensely informative. I learned, for example that during the forties an increasing supply allied to a decreasing demand for antiquarian books meant that dealers were able to acquire choice copies of excellent titles for small sums and pass on these books for a reasonable profit to modest collectors like himself. Back then, it was possible to assemble an interesting library and not pay more than ten shillings for any book. He had bought the 68 volume first edition of Johnson’s Lives of the Poets for £7 15 shillings. Other collectors with bigger pockets, like Geoffrey Keynes, were also able to create  formidable libraries in this period.

Rees Mogg also revealed that on a long plane journey he was more likely to take a copy of Ivanhoe than Pope and that he’d sold most of his Pope collection to the New York Public Library. Most fascinating of all, however, was his anecdote concerning the acquisition of a rummer engraved 'Blake in anguish, Felpham 1804'. He’d seen it in a Christies catalogue, decided to view it, and eventually bought it for £55. He later sold it to the famous Corning Glass collection in New York, where it is now recognised as the only glass ever engraved by William Blake.

Friday, March 28, 2014

How to be Happy on the Riviera 4

The concluding part of a posting of a complete book How to be Happy on the Riviera by Robert Elson W. (Arrowsmith Ltd., 11 Quay Street, Bristol, 1927).The appendix has a wealth of information, much of it aimed at the long stay vacationer and the expat or 'remittance man' (similar to the trustafrian of our time). The address and name of the British Consul in Monte Carlo (G W Hogg) the address of the British Library and the Anglo-American Library (in the Grand Hotel building.) There was even a weekly paper for the British abroad,The Cote D'Azur,that came out on a Friday. There is good advice for those who 'winter abroad' -- Hyeres is suggested for those who like it quiet, Monte Carlo for those who want it lively (but the bathing is poor). Also invaluable advice for the journey there, that might still hold true:-
"Don’t trust the time-tables as to there being a restaurant-car on any train southward from Paris (except the Calais–Méditerranée); bring a tea-basket with you and be prepared to grab things from the buffets at the Gare de Lyon and at Marseilles, or you may go foodless."

Practical Hints

  As to the probable cost of a visit to the Riviera, I have compiled two estimates, based partly on my own experiences and partly on information gathered from friends who have come out. The first is compiled with an eye to economy, but provides for a modest share in the less expensive amusements; I have put the cost of pension at frs. 35 per day, not because it is impossible to find it at a lower figure, but because that should be obtainable anywhere without difficulty. 

In the second I have taken a more liberal view; although one cannot live at the best hotels for £1 a day (including extras), at that price good accommodation and excellent food could be obtained even last season

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Political and Royal gossip 1920s

Lady Elvery by William Orpen

A good letter, over 20 closely written pages. Indiscreet, gossipy ('The Prince of Wales was blotto..') from the inner circles of power and privilege in the mid 1920s. The recipent was Beatrice Elvery, Lady Glenavy (1881 - 1970). Irish artist and literary host, friend of Katherine Mansfield and friend of Shaw, Lawrence and Yeats. She modelled for Orpen and painted 'Éire' (1907) a landmark painting promoting the idea of an independent Irish state. The letter is from her husband Charles Henry Gordon Campbell, 2nd Baron Glenavy (1885–1963) politician and banker in England and Ireland.

 Quite a good little show at the Londonderry's the other night. Great strong retainers at the door in short kilts of the Stewart tartan created an atmosphere of sex appeal, much fortified by the magnificent bosoms of the Marchioness Curzon which are said to have only reached their full bloom for the first time this season.

The white face of Elinor Glynn, a a long green velvet gown, made our RC aboriginals visibly insecure: her walk is so sensuous as to suggest unimagined pleasures in love and is enhanced by some minor pelvic obstruction which necessitates a few swings with the right leg before she can take a step. Her daughters, married to a pair of peers or better, offer a pleasant contrast of blackheads and anaemia. Lady Jowett was escorted by Eddie Marsh who is still holding up wonderfully together...........We bumped into Gladys Cooper fresh from the theatre in full make up, on Londonderry's arm and a bodyguard of four young men........
On asking Lady Jowett how she explained Baldwin's remaining in public life she said the Baldwin family had a firm hold on the British public's imagination ever since she said, when asked whether she found it (illegible) to have so many children imposed upon her by her husband that 'each time she closed her eyes and thought of England'...........

Eire by Beatrice Elvery (1907)

On Friday McGilligan, Hogan and Fitzgerald went to dinner with the King. Everything gold including the forks.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Constable and the Spedding family----the missing pieces of the jigsaw

Sent in by a regular from Hertfordshire - Robin Healey.

John Constable -- The Spedding Home

Less than five minutes into an episode of the recently aired Fake or Fortune series I pricked up my ears. Fiona Bruce and her art sleuths were discussing the provenance of a putative Constable painting of Yarmouth Harbour when they pronounced the name of a former owner, Jane Spedding.

That rang a very loud bell with me. You see, about 25 years ago I bought a rather battered dissected map of England and Wales, dating to around 1811, from an eccentric old dealer in the Pimlico Road. It was priced at just only £2, and I assumed that its cheapness reflected the fact that it, like many of these early jigsaw puzzles, had many pieces missing. At home I examined it further and discovered that the handwriting in pencil on the bare wood on the reverse of the lid confirmed my suspicions. There were, according to the writer, six pieces missing---‘ Anglesea, Flintshire and Radnor, Surrey, Middlesex and Isle of Wight ’. But there was more information. The writer had appended two names and two addresses: ‘Margaret and Jane Spedding 23, Norfolk Street, London & Hampstead Heath, near London, Middlesex, England’.

The names meant nothing to me then, but fast forward ten or so years later and in some context or other I came across the name of the lawyer Anthony Spedding. He  was the legal partner of Constable’s father-in-law Charles Bicknell and owned a  town house in Norfolk Street, off the Strand, and a weekend retreat on the Heath. After Constable had settled in Well Walk, Hampstead, he got to know Spedding and his family, ‘(their house is clearly visible in ‘The Road to the ‘Spaniards’), and visited them regularly. In August 1829 Jane Spedding sent Constable’s daughter Emily, then aged four, a present of a doll’s house with a covering letter. After hoping that the gift would give her ‘ dear little Emily ‘as much pleasure as it had given  her at the same age, Jane adds that some things in her 'old Baby house' were a little damaged.

Several things are broken but may be repaired with a little glass & the legs of the sofa & chair will be found in the drawer of the kitchen...

So it is possible that Jane had been as careless with her doll’s house as she was with the segments of her jigsaw puzzle. I imagine Constable trying to complete the puzzle after taking tea with his friends and I smiled at the irony of  the artist’s most familiar painting, ‘The Haywain’ going on to feature on so many jigsaw puzzles in our own time.

Some association object travel across continents before they find another home with a dealer or collector, but I guess the journey from Hampstead to Pimlico wasn’t that long.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to be Happy on the Riviera 3

The penultimate part of Robert Elson's 1927 book dealing with indoor and outdoor amusements and of course gaming. There is a good description of a Gala dinner which has the authentic 1920s tone:

 "A gala dinner may be ...a more elaborate entertainment indistinguishable from a fête, the room being decorated for the occasion–sometimes in a really artistic manner–and a good programme of show-turns provided. There are sure to be surprises–toys to make noises with, balloons, etc. The peculiarity of surprises is that they are always the same. Occasionally really attractive gifts are distributed, or prizes given in connection with dancing or a tombola (raffle). If you are in an appropriately happy-go-lucky mood, a gala is usually quite enjoyable. It is good to play the fool sometimes, pelting and being pelted by the occupants of neighboring tables with little coloured balls, and trying to hit people at a distance with harmless projectiles. Also, you never know what may come of it. A happily-married lady of my acquaintance first made her existence known to her husband by hitting him on the ear with a flying sausage; he asked her to dance, and the thing was as good as done."

Such goings on would have been vieux jeu by the 1940s. Interestingly many fetes described have gone - The Venetian Fete at Cannes has been replaced by a film festival, car shows and uphill car racing at Monte Carlo has become the Rally, but the Burning of the Boat still goes on and the Battle of Flowers - so all is not lost.


Indoor Amusements

Whether they gamble or not, most of the visitors to the principal places spend a considerable portion of their time after sunset in the local casino. It takes the place of a club, and offers more entertainment. After a fine day one goes there to read the papers and the latest news posted up in the day's telegrams; to have tea, listen to music, and dance or watch the dancers; one makes acquaintances, whom very often one never sees elsewhere, but who may be found regularly in the same place in the hall or reading-room at the same hour. There are, in addition, of course, more formal entertainments–concerts, theatrical performances, variety shows, ballet, etc.

As to the charges for admission, a distinction is usually made between admission to the main hall only, and a card which also admits to the gaming-rooms (salles de jeu); the latter is called carte du cercle so as to comply with the law, gaming being in theory only permissible in clubs.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Doctor Who fan solicits Abu autograph

An interesting fan letter from 2005 found among a collection of TV memorabilia. A very polite and thoughtfully composed letter from an ultra-keen collector of 'The Doctor.' He even goes as far as enclosing a pen, a good idea for an autograph hound on the street but unusual in a soliciting letter (surely?). 850 autographs is pretty good going...could only find one photo of Terence Brown in his role as Abu. By the way the factoid about the early use of dry ice sounds convincing but how true is it?

Dear Mr Brown

I am writing in the hope that you can add to my collection of Doctor Who autographs.

If possible, I should be grateful if you would sign the enclosed cards, which relate to the Doctor Who story The Krotons in which you appeared as the doomed Gond  student "Abu."  His death at the hands of the croutons  was one of the first major uses of dry ice in television drama, and was the catalyst for the Doctor and his friends becoming involved in Gond society. Also enclosed is a pen, which should help with signing certain cards, and a return envelope with sufficient postage for both the cards and a pen.

Of course, I appreciate that Doctor Who is only a very small part of your career, and that you make the firm not to sign certain cards, but I should be grateful if you would return them in any event.

Terence Brown as Abu
Please could you also let me have a signed photograph. I 
have made one using images from the Doctor Who website, as I realise you may not have any available, but please accept my apologies for the quality. I much prefer a signed picture of the actor, rather than their role in Doctor Who, so I should be grateful for a current photograph if at all possible. These items are solely for my personal collection of over 850 actors and crew from the programme, and I'm quite happy if you would like to dedicate them.

The Krotons is one of the Doctor Who stories for which I have only been able to obtain a couple of autographs, most recently from actor Gilbert Wynne.

I do hope that you will find the time to reply…

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chiff - Chaffs in March

Found -- a couple of pages from a magazine loosely inserted in a bird-spotter's book. They are from 1967 and seem to me from a magazine about or sponsored by PNEU -the Parents’ National Education Union -an affiliation of  schools throughout the British Isles and the world**. In an article  by Dinah Lawrence* a freelance journalist and novelist she discusses wild life in March. The style is reminiscent of the nature notes still found in The Guardian and gently parodied by Evelyn Waugh as long ago as 1938 in Scoop. After discussing Jung and Freud Dinah Lawrence talks about Professor Hardy's recent Gifford Lectures which, as in his book The Living Stream, make a link between Natural History and religion.... she then discusses bird life:

I start listening for Chif -chaffs about the middle of March. I have only heard their light, non-carrying voices once as early as 6th March. I also go to a friend's land,  well  before the end of the month, to see if the Sand-martins have arrived  at her huge sandpit. They seem to start work straightaway, even after their long journeys, for the birds that roost in the reeds in the valley nearby, do seem to be the birds that are going on, farther north. The activity of digging out holes for nesting places is a fascinating operation to watch. The steep faces of the sandpit are pocked with old ones and these feathery-legged birds sometimes clear these and sometimes start new ones. If you stand below on the floor of the sandpit, little jets of sand puff out from old and new holes: the birds scuff the sand out with their feet, as they go burrowing in, head first.

The earliest reference to television in literature

Sent in by loyal jotter RR. Interestingly we recently catalogued a literary magazine edited by Lawrence Durrell 'International Post' (1939) -- it had a TV critic and was full of promise but went to just one highly elusive issue. Our copy sold immediately at a substantial premium.

One strong contender ( I would welcome more examples from readers) must be this poem which appeared in Poems (1936) by Michael Roberts. We don’t have a date for this composition, but it was doubtless written when very short experimental broadcasts using the Baird process were being made late each evening from Alexander Palace during the period 1933- 36.My Christmas 1934 issue of The Radio Times lists these in the radio section. They consisted mainly of a series of dances performed by an elegant lady who was obliged to wear a special designed TV- friendly costume that emphasized stripes and zig-zags. There were also vocal recitals and other simple performances that would easily fit into the twenty minute slot.

When, in 1936, the largely unsuccessful and decidedly clunky, Baird method was replaced by the electronic EMI-Marconi process, a greater flexibility in programming was possible. The time allocated to television was greatly extended and in the three years in which it operated, television gave broadcasters like John Betjeman, John Piper and Geoffrey Grigson, opportunities to become well known to an albeit ( the broadcasts only  reached London and parts of the Home Counties) limited audience.
Alas, all this growing potential came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the Second World War. [RR]

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Minor Symbolists 2 (Nicholas Kalmakoff)

More from  this article Unisex, 1910-Style found in a forgotten antiques bulletin The Four in Hand Letter from May 1970.

It was in 1962 that the work of a rather more bizarre artist, Nicholas Kalmakoff, was newly discovered in the Paris Flea Market. Kalmakoff was born in Russia in 1873 and the earliest influence on his life was a German governess who taught him to believe in the Devil -- a recurring theme in his paintings. He studied painting in Italy and returned to St. Petersburg in about 1903. He became immersed in all sorts of strange mystical and sexual cults and probably even attended the satanic meetings that Rasputin was holding at the time.

In 1908 he was commissioned to do the costumes and decor for Wilde's Salome and his interpretation was so shockingly extravagant (the interior of the theatre was designed to closely resemble the most unmentionable part of a woman!) that the production was taken off on the first night.

Unfortunately Kalmakoff's unhealthy reputation had reached such a peak that he eventually had to leave Russia and after exhibitions at Latvia and Belgium he settled in Paris. His last and rather unsuccessful exhibition was held there in 1928. In 1955 he died in an old people's home.

Kalmakoff's work is curiously compelling -- painted in the brilliant and rich colours of Russian church paintings. Philippe Julian in his introduction to Hartnoll & Eyre's current exhibition describes how these extraordinary paintings were discovered: 'When they wiped the dust off, monkeys were revealed, dressed in Louis XIV costume but with expressions of austere, icon-like ecstasy, Christ dripping with pearls; angels dripping with blood; heavy, pallid women, squatting in entwined embrace, gazing at each other with the glaucous eyes of toads; ancient forgotten gods, adorned with Christian ornaments, parading Faberge flowers and beaded with gilt perspiration. Angkor or Memphis or Byzantium provided the background for extravagant sacrilegious rites'.

Sensuality and eroticism in the form of bold hermaphrodite figures and phallic symbolism are all interwoven with the weaving, twisting patterns of paint. His canvases, when not signed with his name, even have a phallic hieroglyph as his mark.

One of the main influences on Kalmakoff's work was Burne-Jones who together with Gustave Moreau and Boecklin also influenced Von Stuck, Delville, Levy-Dhurmer, Knoppf and most of the other Symbolists painters.

Another field during the early years of this century which was liberally sprinkled with exceptionally good artists

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Minor Symbolists

Found - this article Unisex, 1910-Style in a forgotten antiques bulletin The Four in Hand Letter from May 1970. It billed itself as The Fortnightly Guide to Collecting for Profit (Art Antiques Junk Valuables). Very much for the intelligent dealer and stall holder of the time with its eye on prices and trends. It tips the fringe PRB painter Simeon Solomon as an artist to watch, a painting of his recently made a 6 figure sum but he could then be bought for less than a £1000 for an oil. The artists mentioned here are still quite obscure with no art books or Catalogues Raisonnées available ...[in 2 parts with the first mostly on Eric Robertson and the second on Nicholas Kalmakoff]

Unisex, 1910-Style

Eric Harald Macbeth
Robertson (1887-1941)

It's only recently that the weird and wonderful artists working at the beginning of this century have been given a name -- the Symbolists. Strangely enough, it's also only during the last few years that many of them have been discovered, which perhaps is the reason why the craze for Symbolist paintings is beginning to crackle.

Before the Symbolists it was the Pre-Raphaelites, that group of fervent mediaevalists such as Rossetti, Holman, Hunt, Millais, Arthur Hughes and several others who were chiefly working during the 1840s to 1860s.

Gradually the pure grace and beauty of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings begang to pall and a few artists, influenced by Beardsley, started to produce paintings that, although equal to the previous style in quality and draughtsmanship, often had a rather perverted and macabre feeling about them. Artists were beginning to question the meaning of life and death, and to become obsessed with the idea of evil and degradation in beauty. The result was a number of paintings, full of strange eroticism, in which men and women with beautiful bored faces are given curiously asexual bodies (in fact, in some cases, it's difficult to tell which is which). 

An artist whose work has this look of frozen sensuality about it is Eric Robertson, who until the beginning of this year was virtually unheard of.

Robertson was born in Dumfries in 1887. He studied at the Royal Institute, Edinburgh and then attended the 1908-9 session at the Edinburgh College of Art. In 1912 the Edinburgh group held its first exhibition and soon achieved a certain amount of fame -- Frederick Quinton mentioned in The National Outlook, November, 1920, that 'usually people look to the Edinburgh Group, as we know them, for something unique rather than universal; for something of pagan brazenness rather than parlour propriety'. 

The other members of the group included A. R. Sturrock, J. R. Barclay, W. O. Hutchinson, J. G. Spence Smith, Dorothy Johnstone, D. M. Sutherland, Mary Newbery, and Cecile Walton, whom Eric Robertson married in 1914. It was during this marriage that Robertson's best works were created -- they are free from the contemporary inhibitions and extraordinarily well-drawn and painted.

Towards the end of the 1923 his marriage to Cecile Walton was starting to break up and his work gradually declined. In 1924 he moved to Liverpool and got married again and although he produced a few things of interest his artistic career was virtually at an end.

In March this year a very successful exhibition of his work was held -- the first since the Edinburgh days.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How to be Happy on the Riviera 2

The second part of a posting of a complete book How to be Happy on the Riviera by Robert Elson W. (Arrowsmith Ltd., 11 Quay Street, Bristol, 1927). There is plenty on food and restaurants (including menus and tips on coffee, ice cream and liqueurs) and some good descriptions of gamblers in Monte Carlo - 

"Little old women in Victorian black silk dresses and bonnets; others attired in the fashions of twenty or thirty years ago; exotic-looking young women, wearing extravagant parodies of the fashions of to-day – some exactly like cinema vamps; women like men, and girls like boys. A duke who is a frequent visitor summed it up neatly: 'There are always a lot of queer wild-fowl about' may see incredibly ancient men; wild-looking men with immense manes of hair; gaunt men with sunken cheeks and bony hands who might have come out of a novel by Mrs. Radclyffe, unnatural-looking young men who might have been created by Mr. Michael Arlen; people who impress you as half crazy, others who look as if they had been dead a long time, only they don't know it.'


A Day in Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo has become democratised. You will see more nursemaids and children, more plainly-dressed, commonplace people, than smart folk, in the famous gardens; and in recent years new-comers have generally expressed disappointment on the Terrace. "What a dowdy lot!"

  Nevertheless, the place still retains its peculiar charm. The part that matters is coquet. (I am sorry there is no English equivalent: coquet implies a combination of smallness, smart-sness and nattiness.)The Casino with the terrace and gardens,three out of the four luxe hotels and most of the other first-class ones, the best restaurants and cabarets, the Sporting Club and the Palais des Beaux Arts–secondary places of entertainment belonging to the Casino – and the chic shops, are all packed into an area of less than a thousand yards square; and within this area everything that money can do to keep up appearances is done. There are no beggars, no hawkers, no advertisement hoardings.

The Air of Bloomsbury 3

The last part of an  article found in a Times Literary Supplement from 1954 - a very lengthy anonymous review of J.K. Johnstone's The Bloomsbury Group. This part is good on  on their attitude to mysticism (see Cambridge conviction). At the time there was still a debate as to whether the Bloomsbury Set actually existed. In Clive Bell's slightly irascible article in Century in February 1954 What was 'Bloomsbury'? he continually asks whether it actually existed - as far as he could see it was just 'a dozen friends..between 1904 and 1914 (who) saw a great deal of each other...' He names these '...the surviving members of the Midnight Society -Thoby Stephen (died in the late autumn of 1906) Leonard Woolf...Lytton Strachey (who actually lived in Hampstead) Saxon Sydney-Turner, Clive Bell. There were the two ladies. Add to these Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, Maynard Keynes, H.T.J.Norton and perhaps Gerald Shove...certainly Desmond and Molly MacCarthy and Morgan Forster were close and affectionate friends but I doubt whether any of them has yet been branded with the fatal name..' Bell refers to these as the 'old gang' and names a few younger candidates: David Garnett, Francis Birrell, Raymond Mortimer, Stephen Tomlin, Ralph Partridge , Stephen Sprott, F.L. Lucas and Frances Marshall ((later Mrs Ralph Partridge). This review is anonymous but is certainly by someone who knew his (or her) stuff.

Yet as temperaments appear to run in families they retained a passionate individualist faith, though without obligations. 'We were,' says Maynard Keynes, 'in the strict sense of the word immoralists, we recognized no moral obligations on us, no inner sanction to conform or to obey.' It was this rejection of tradition, combined with 'comprehensive irreverence,' which made them suspect to the outer world. lt was 'I think a justifiable suspicion,' he says, and proceeds with admirable candour, wit and yet loyalty to show that there was something both brittle and far too narrow in their early views, and perhaps dubious about their later lives, when 'concentration on moments of union between a pair of lovers got thoroughly mixed up with the once rejected pleasure.'

Yet their revolt against tradition in religion and morals never extended to literature...they were innovators, and important ones, as all writers who are living and contemporary in the true sense must be.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Iris Murdoch and friends

Found - a photo of a crowd of writers and intellectuals. The novelist Iris Murdoch is recognisable, with her husband John Bayley to her left and the man in suit and tie second last to the right is possibly Isaiah Berlin (without his usual heavy specs) described in an obituary 'as the most prominent thinker of his generation.' Probably from the early to mid 1970s and possibly taken in the garden of Iris's house Cedar Lodge at Steeple Aston near Oxford. Oxford may well have provided most of the guests, some of whom look vaguely familiar. Identifications welcome.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mona's 440 Club - dancing at the Lesbian Bar

Found, folded into an American thriller from the Donald Rudd collection of detective fiction, this napkin - a memento of Mona's 440 Club generally credited as being the first lesbian bar in the United States -'Where Girls Will be Boys.'

James R. Smith's San Francisco's Lost Landmarks (2004) says the following about Mona's:

Mona's 440 Club was another [club] that took advantage of the city's tolerance and tourism. Opening in a Columbus Street basement in North Beach in 1936, Mona Sargeant's tavern quickly hit the travelsheets as a place "where girls will be boys." The first openly lesbian club, Mona's female waiters and performers wore tuxedos and patrons dressed their roles. Within a couple of years, Mona's moved to 440 Broadway and took the address as part of the club's new name, Mona's 440 Club. Great entertainment, first local and later national talent, made a night at Mona's an event.

At Mona's in the 1940s
 Straights loved the opportunity to rub elbows with openly gay patrons, posing for pictures with them when possible. Gladys Bently, the great African-American cross dressing diva, sang the blues to an enthusiastic audience during the World War II years. Known alternatively as "America's Great Sepia Piano Artist" and the "Brown Bombshell of Sophisticated Song, " the 250-pound Bently exuded sexuality. Mona's introduced a generation to the lesbian lifestyle in a proud manner.

After 26 years, Mona's was closed and replaced by Ann's 440 Club at the same location... [mid 1950s] More good info in this piece Before the Castro: North Beach, a Gay Mecca

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Etiquette for young ladies at Cambridge

Found - this scarce pamphlet: Say "Thank you" : a manual of university etiquette for young ladies. It is known to be by Jean Olivia Lindsay and is light-hearted in tone. Jean Lindsay was at Girton in the 1930s and published several books on Spanish and Scottish history. The text of this book has (so far) been unavailable. Google Books note the existence of the book but have no text. Although she is very down on jeans and corduroys ('deplorable') the work is quite modern in tone, at one point she suggests you could meet men by joining a religious club 'but there the young men are apt to have very honourable intentions...' There is also a lot of practical advice, some of which probably still holds, like 'It is more important to be polite to gyps and bedders than to the Bursar or Senior Tutor.'



Almost certainly no bluestocking would ever worry whether her behaviour was ladylike or not, so a book of University etiquette for young ladies may appear to be so much wasted effort. However, as the great majority of young women who come up to the University every autumn would hotly repudiate the title of bluestocking, some of them may find these notes useful. Some dyed-in-the-wool donnish bluestockings may even find them amusing.


The most essential garment to bring to Cambridge is a Pair of pyjamas. Undergraduate life is not a round of dissipated cocktail parties, but many parties in the first term begin at 9.30 or 10 p.m., and consist of hair-drying sessions which go on over cups of cocoa till long after midnight. If the fresher is not to fall into bed fully clothed and lose the habit of regular baths it is wise to bath first and attend the party in pyjamas and dressing gown. Cambridge corridors are cold and staircases precipitous and badly lighted, so elegant crepe de chine pyjamas and high-heeled mules trimmed with feathers are not advisable.
The next essential is a cocktail frock. It is advisable to learn how to iron all kinds of exotic materials; it is essential to know how they can be cleaned to remove stains of sherry, coffee, cider cup and ice cream.
One long ball frock is needed unexpectedly soon in the career of all young women with College awards, for in the first term there is a ceremony known as the Admission of Scholars at which Scholars wear full evening dress. Even pensioners, who are exempt from the Admission ceremony, need a ball frock because women's Colleges at Cambridge celebrate May Week just before Christmas.
Cambridge is cold. Most engagements have to be reached after a brisk ride on a bicycle through rain and a high wind. Warm underclothes are essential.

Survival in a Nuclear Attack

A chilling piece of ephemera from the Cold War era - a  graphic 6 page folding pamphlet published in the UK by the Central Office of Information. Unsure of the date. Assume early 1960s. It advises "...stay in refuge until told what to do next" - but who exactly will be issuing orders at this point?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wonders of the 1930s

Some amazing covers from Modern Wonder: the Pictorial Review.(Odhams, London 1937 - 1940)

An astonishing magazine of modern invention, science and future prediction (visions of the future) subjects include: photography (miniature), aviation & flying boats, trains, shipping, wireless, television, military machinery, car racing, world record speed attempts, deep-sea diving & submarines, power stations and manufacturing. Striking, colourful covers, mostly by Bryan de Grineau and Lashwell Wood. Most issues have stories, (thrillers and science fiction) by such writers as Clifford Cameron, Stanton Hope, W. J. Passingham, Peter Barr, and in the first issue, John Wyndham (writing as John Beynon) Issue 1 also includes the required supplementary booklet 'Marvels of Today'. Issue 105 sees the appearance of Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' comic strip, for about 30 issues, mostly in colour.  From issue 134, as Britain moves into the war, it's name changes to Modern Wonders (War Pictures).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sligo’s Markree Castle---a misdemeanour recorded

Markree Castle

An extraordinary memento of Ireland’s bloody Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923) is this blue crayon scrawl in a copy of John Scott’s Visit to Paris (1814). The book came from the library of Edward Joshua Cooper, M.P. (1798 – 1863), one of a long line of Protestant occupiers of Markree Castle dating back to 1663.

During the short war between the Anti-Treaty IRA and the Irish Free State forces, a battalion from the latter occupied the majestic Castle for a short time, presumably to consolidate their hold over County Sligo. No doubt, the Coopers wisely decided to flee their family home during this bloody period, which gave some of the Irish officers the opportunity to avail themselves of a splendid library. It is not known how much a certain Captain Cavanagh read of Mr Scott’s book on Paris, or what he thought of it. However, what we do know is that he found the blank pages a very convenient notebook, as made his mark on at least three pages.

The most interesting entry concerns Corporal George O’Mahoney Rogers who, Cavanagh notes, was found ‘drunk and disorderly in (a) Public House at about 9.45 P.M.’ Perhaps at some time, other records will divulge what happened to Corporal Rogers… Or indeed Captain Cavanagh.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Forum Club (Grosvenor Place)

Found-- this intriguing bookplate. It can be seen in many books deaccessioned from the club's library. Until I researched the Forum Club I thought it had some occult or theosophical connection, as the women look like priestesses witnessing some sort of vision or apparition. In fact it was a normal London club, but solely for women, with 1,600 members.

It was founded in 1919 as The London Centre for Women's Institute Members, and lasted into the early 1950s. A number of suffragettes and early feminists were members, including Elizabeth Robins, Mary Sophia Allen and Sybil Thomas and Viscountess Rhondda. As well as accommodation for members (and their maids), the club contained a dining room, a lounge, a photographic darkroom, a salon which could by hired for exhibitions, a bridge room, a billiard room, a library and a hairdresing room. Formerly it had been the residence of of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was Prime Minister from 1905 to 1908. A blue plaque commemorates his residency. During World War I it was The Princess Christian's Hospital for Officers - a convalescent home with 35 beds, affiliated to Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital in Millbank. A website in 2012 reported it was now boarded up but it will probably re-emerge as an oligarch's palace or a hotel.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eating Chinese in late 1940s Soho

Forwarded to us by a loyal jot watcher. One restaurant was favoured by celebrities - Johnnie Mills, Bobby Howes, Coral Browne, Sandy Powell, Ivan Maisky and Lady Cripps - probably impressive names in their day. I especially like the bit about Lord Tredegar bringing his own jade chopsticks...

Click to read

Stanley Jackson’s brief but brilliant Indiscreet Guide to Soho is crammed with so much colourful reportage on the immediately post-war night life, petty crime, Bohemian characters and restaurants in this popular quarter of London, that it is difficult to choose what to Jot down. In the end, I opted for two pages on Chinese restaurants. Jackson attributes our ‘craze‘ for eating Chinese to our sympathy for the nation’s stand against the ‘Jap Fascists‘, but the trend must surely pre-date this.

Incidentally, what happened to the redoubtable ‘Ley-On’s ?’