Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Stephen Crane and a Sussex Ghost

What is it about young ex-pats writing single performance plays performed by amateurs at Christmas? A recent Jot told the story of The Princess and the Pauper, a drama by the 24 year old British humorist Harry Graham, which was performed by amateurs at Christmas 1900 in Government House, Ottawa. Exactly a year earlier, a one-off performance of The Ghost, written mainly by the 27 year old American Stephen Crane, best known for The Red Badge of Courage, was acted out by amateurs, at Brede, near Rye in Sussex.

In 1899 Crane and his wife Cora were renting Brede Place, a crumbling mainly late medieval manor house, a mile from the village, with huge fireplaces but no indoor plumbing.

Though the Cranes were enchanted by its old-world charm and maintained an open house for all and sundry, some visitors were less enamoured. One was Karl Edwin Harriman, who in print complained of the ‘chill, damp and draughts of the old house ‘, and of the wind ‘which whistled through the casements every moment of the day and night ‘. Ford Madox Ford described it in Mightier than the Sword as ‘ an ill-fated mansion…full of evil influences ‘.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A letter from Baron Corvo

An undated  Baron Corvo letter (1889-1890) about the artworks in the church of St Cuthbert with Matthias in Earl's Court, London. Rather short but with classic Corvine nuances.

Written to the vicar Father Westall shortly after the first 2 or 3 pictures of the Stations of the Cross were hung in the London church, from the Collegio Suizzera, Rome (Scots College). There is much online about this splendid church (and Fr. Westall) but no mention of the Guido Reni (sold/ stolen?) The letter was published in the Autumn 1966 Philbeach Quarterly, a magazine somewhat in advance of the usual parish newsletter - it had a poem by Betjeman ('Anglo Catholic Congresses') a good piece on the Arts and Crafts figure William Bainbridge Reynolds + John Heath-Stubbs and Michael De-La-Noy were on the editorial board.The enigmatic self-styled Baron Corvo, Frederick Rolfe (rhymes with loaf*) writes:

Dear Sir,
May I be allowed to ask the name of the painter of the Stations of the Cross in your church, and history of the very fine copy of Guido Reni's San Sebastian, which also hangs there? 
Though I do not suppose any weight attaches to my opinion, I feel bound to say that your Stations are far more beautiful than any I have seen, even here, and the Guido, too, is the best representation of the original I know, though perhaps a little "skied."
Your obedient servant,
Frederick William Rolfe,

*The late Donald Weeks' pronunciation, presumably researched and authenticated by him.

An Ear for Murder

Found - a rare and sensational Australian pulp mystery/ thriller from the late 1940s. Unknown to online malls and the great bibliography of crime fiction by Allen J Hubin, although he lists other titles by Max Afford. It is titled An Ear for Murder (Frank Johnson, Sydney, no date). The inside cover reads:

This is a Magpie novel - read it now it will hold you to the end.
What manner of creature was this, to whom the slaying of his victim was not enough? What manner of foul beast was it whose bloody fingers must perform the further savagery of mutilation? What strange secrets lay behind the locked doors of the mysterious, corpse-guarded study? These are the questions answered by world-famous criminologist Jeffery Blackburn in this punch-packed story of murder on the loose. With thrills on every page, this grand story of crime and detection is a "must" for murder-fiction fans. You won't be able to put it down until you've turned the last page. 

The book appears intelligent and well written , the sleuth's day job being a professor of higher mathematics. The claim on the cover 'No crime could be more horrifying in its ferocity' may be something of an exaggeration..the plot involves a crazed novelist, a millenarian sect and a titled British millionaire stockbroker. There are as many as 100 books in the Magpie series, not all thrillers or even fiction.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Vulcan 2

The second part, from the fascinating forgotten work Oddities: A Book of Unexplained Facts (Allan, London 1928) by R.T. Gould, on the non-existent planet Vulcan. The first part can be found here.

Vulcan Landscape (from Star Trek, the Motion Picture)
 Leverrier, once convinced as to the real character of Lescarbault's discovery, lost no time in performing the necessary calculations which that worthy had found so baffling. He obtained, for the new planet's mean distance from the sun, about 13,000,000 miles, and for its period of revolution 19 days 17 hours. Lescarbault, who had seen Mercury in transit over the sun with the same telescope, and the same magnifying power, on May 8, 1845, considered that the new planet (which he decided to name "Vulcan") had a disc rather less than a quarter as large. Accordingly, Leverrier calculated that Vulcan's volume was probably about one seventeenth that of Mercury.

Flexible Books from Jonathan Cape

In a little recorded piece of publishing history Jonathan Cape in 1934 issued a series of small books called Flexibles. They were cloth covered books with dust jackets but the covers were much thinner than hardbacks and  flexible. They were a sort of half-way house between paperbacks and hardbacks. The first Penguin paperbacks appeared the next year and may have caused the premature demise of this series after only 10 books. They were quite stylishly presented and pleasant to handle. All were reprints.

 The first in the series Lewis Browne's The Story of the Jews was probably re-issued as a counter to  the rise of Hitler.  Others in the series include Hemingway's Men Without Women (uncommon now especially in the jacket) Joyce's Portrait of the Artist and later Dubliners, followed by Beverley Nichols Twenty-Five. The last 'flexible' was Italian Backgrounds by Edith Wharton, number ten in the series. All came out in 1934 and as far as can be ascertained there was no number eleven. Amazon has this review of the fifth book in the series Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs: 

No plot devices or car chases here--this is a book to read on a rainy afternoon when nostalgia and melancholy threaten to overwhelm. It's comfort food like grandma used to make--reassuring, soul-fortifying, and full of the capacity to cheer. It's also addictive--once you take a bite out of Pointed Firs, you can't stop.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Arts and Crafts Fiction 1909

Found - an Edwardian novel by Rosa Mulholland Cousin Sara. A Story of Arts and Crafts (Blackie, London 1909). A novel of its time with a setting in the artistic world, with Britains travelling in Europe (Italy) and manufacture and invention. These themes appeared in many novels of the time - especially Galsworthy, E.M. Foster and H.G. Wells (the brilliant Tono Bungay- also from 1909). The plot is neatly summarised on a loosely inserted flyer:

 Miss Mulholland's new book is a story of arts and crafts in the double sense of both words. The scene is laid in Belfast and its environments, in London, and in Italy. Sara's father has lost his legs in battle, as developed a talent for the invention of machinery. Arno Warrender is the son of a dead friend of Robert Montgomery, owner of Montgomery's flax spinning mills at Bleachgreens, and has been received in the office of the mill side-by-side with Harvey Durrant, the protege and supposed heir of Sir Jonah Cunnyngham, a wealthy banker and retired shipbuilder. Arno, with genius and passion for art, gets into disgrace, and through tribulation finds freedom, flies to Italy, and gains the highroad to distinction, while Harvey remains the favourite of his circle. The Colonel's important invention is stolen and patented by a person in his confidence, while the real inventor is discredited. On this incident, and all that leads up to it, and on its consequences the main action depends. Sara is a devoted daughter, and the good angel of Arno through all his troubles.

Frontispiece by Frances Ewan showing Sara
'at work in the Art Galleries of Florence.'

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Macaroni Cheese by Wilfred Pickles

From "As We Like it" Recipes by Famous People edited  by Kenneth Downey  (Arthur Barker, London 1950.)  There is much mention of rationing as in this recipe from Wilfred Pickles. Rather forgotten today but at one point his shows on BBC Radio and TV attracted millions. He also appeared as the grumpy father in Billy Liar (1963).


Here is the recipe I promised you: in these days of shortage of meat this is a recipe which is easy to make and all of the food is unrationed.

First, steam some macaroni in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes, then make a white sauce with grated cheese. Put this cheese sauce over the macaroni, fry some rings of onions crisp, grill some tomatoes and serve with hot, dry toast. And by gum it's grand!

Wilfred Pickles and his wife Mabel

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cherry Cake by Enid Blyton, Mulled wine by Evelyn Waugh

From "As We Like it" Recipes by Famous People edited  by Kenneth Downey  (Arthur Barker, London 1950.) Famous people included Joyce Grenfell, Georgette Heyer, Leslie Charteris, Douglas Fairbanks, Christopher Fry, Celia Johnson Vivian Leigh, Richard Mason, Charles Morgan, Ivor Novello Laurence Olivier, Wilfred Pickles, Freya Stark, Richard Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt ,Katherine Hepburn, Enid Blyton and Clementina Churchill. The book has a forward by Edwina Mountbatten of Burma and she writes that every penny from the sale of the book will go to the funds of the Returned Prisoners of War Association. There is much mention of rationing and tinned food  but Evelyn Waugh goes for an extravagant and slightly incapacitating mulled wine in full Brideshead fashion.

Mulled Claret (for six persons)

Take six bottles of red wine (it would be improper to use really fine Bordeaux, but the better the wine, the better the concoction.)  Any sound claret or burgundy will do. 1 cup full of water; 2 port glasses of brandy; 1 port glass of ginger wine; 1 orange stuffed with cloves; peel of two lemons; 3 sticks of cinnamon; one grated nutmeg.

Heat in covered cauldron. Do not allow to simmer. Serve hot and keep hot on the hob. Should be drunk at the same temperature as tea. 
To be drunk during and after luncheon in February or after dinner on any winter evening. 

Enid Blyton's recipe is for a fairly simple and economical  Cherry Cake for the children…

This is a cake my own children love, and is easy to make when children come to tea.


Half pound of margarine. 3 eggs. 6 ounces castor sugar.6 ounces cherries. 6 ounces flour. A few drops of vanilla essence.

Method: Beat the margarine and sugar till soft and creamy, drop in eggs one by one and beat well in between each. Add flour gradually, and lastly cherries and flavouring. If too stiff, add a little milk. Bake in a moderate oven to start, and then drop to Regulo 3. It takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to bake.

This is just as nice with fruit instead of cherries, or ginger cut up it is excellent.

Half the quantity makes a nice little cake for tea, but only takes 3/4 to 1 hour to cook.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Johnson and Boswell scholar at the front 1918

From the introduction to R.W. Chapman's scholarly edition of Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland... (Oxford 1924.) Chapman survived World War One. While a generation of great  scholars were killed and many books and academic projects were never completed Chapman actually managed to work on editing Boswell while soldiering at the Macedonia front - as he explains.

In the fine tradition of the soldier/scholar he always travelled with his Horace (Odes); just after the war he wrote The Portrait of a Scholar and Other Essays Written in Macedonia 1916-1918 (Oxford University Press, 1920.) He collected silver spoons, and on that subject he regarded 'the speech of Eton and Christ Church as the most beautiful of earthly sounds...' Returning from the Eastern front he stated that there were 'few more exciting pursuits than textual criticism.' He also edited Jane Austen, for which he is now chiefly known.

Mountain gun at Macedonia Front in World War 1

This edition was planned, and in great part executed, in Macedonia, in the summer of 1918. I had a camp behind Smol Hill, on the left bank of the Vardar, and a six inch gun (Mark XI, a naval piece, on an improvised carriage; 'very rare in this state'), with which I made a demonstration in aid of the French and Greek armies, when they stormed the heights beyond the river; I think in June.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Arnold Bennett and 'dressing apraxia'

Football fans among the Jot 101 community may remember the ridicule which greeted the failure of the childlike Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, to don a  simple training bib. Fans blamed the footballer’s apparent dimness , but his difficulties with clothing recall a syndrome known as  ‘dressing apraxia ‘,which, according to the consultant neurologist G. D. Perkin, writing in the British Medical Journal,  ‘are graphically described by the novelist Arnold Bennett in Clayhanger*

Bennett ‘s Journals reveals the novelist to have been interested in medicine as it concerned his own chronic poor health , some of the symptoms of which were neuralgic pains, headaches and insomnia, but also that of his  father, Enoch. Perkin argues that the ‘dressing apraxia’, clearly demonstrated in Darius Clayhanger’s inability to dress himself, was a reflection of Enoch’s own medical condition. Having failed to identify the disease responsible for the symptoms suffered by both men, Perkin final alighted on Pick’s disease, a rare neurodegenerative condition,

Friday, April 18, 2014

R.T. Gould and The Planet Vulcan 1

T.T. Gould & his wife Muriel
Found - a fascinating forgotten  work Oddities: A Book of Unexplained Facts (Allan, London 1928) by R.T. Gould. Rupert Thomas Gould (1890 – 1948), was a lieutenant Commander in the British Royal Navy noted for his contributions to horology. While in the navy in WW1 he suffered a nervous breakdown. During long recuperation, he was stationed at the Hydrographer's Department at the Admiralty, where he became an expert on various aspects of naval history, cartography, and expeditions of the polar regions. He gained permission in 1920 to restore the marine chronometers of John Harrison, and this work was completed in 1933. Jeremy Irons played him in Longitude, a dramatisation of Dava Sobel's book about John Harrison Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, which recounted in part Gould's work in restoring the chronometers.

Something of a polymath, he wrote an eclectic series of books on topics ranging from horology to the Loch Ness Monster. He was a member of the Sette of Odd Volumes (Brother Hydrographer) and the book Oddities is dedicated to the club. He was a science educator, giving a series of talks for the BBC's Children's Hour starting in January 1934 under the name "The Stargazer", and these collected talks were later published. He was a member of the BBC radio panel Brains Trust. He umpired tennis matches on the Centre Court at Wimbledon on many occasions during the 1930s. This is the first part of the chapter on the planet Vulcan (more to follow)-


  Many things, ranging from collar-studs to battleships,* are quite easy to lose. Heavenly bodies, however, are not usually regarded as included in that category. Yet for such to be lost is not an absolutely unknown occurrence. Biela's comet, for example, after circling round the sun in a regular and decorous orbit for a considerable time, was seen as two comets in 1852,† failed to return in 1859, and has not since been heard of since. Some of the minor planets, too–tiny bodies a few miles in diameter–have proved so troublesome to rediscover that an American astronomer, the late Professor J. C. Watson, endowed a Home for Lost Planets‡–that is to say, he created a special fund for the purpose of having the orbits of the twenty-two minor planets discovered by himself regularly computed and kept up to date, thus ensuring that such planets would always be "present and correct" when required.

* Some years ago, on draining a disused dock at one of the French naval yards, an old and forgotten submarine was found in it. See Punch, 3-II-09.

† One, at least, of its observers was a total abstainer.

‡ In humble imitation of this kindly act, the present writer maintains a Home of Rest for Aged Typewriters–now (1944) sheltering some seventy inmates.

The Surface of Vulcan by nethskie
  The story of the planet Vulcan, however, is not so much that of a lost Planet as of one which, although once accepted as a member of the Solar System, never existed.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gabrièle Buffet Picabia on Dada

Found in an exhibition catalogue from the Hanover Gallery, London 1968 of Francis Picabia watercolours this unpublished essay on Dada by Picabia's widow Gabrièle Buffet Picabia (1884 - 1988). It is mostly quotations from important Dadaist manifestoes but the first part is by her (followed by Andre Breton.)

The intellectual world of Europe has been upset for several years by a strange sect which calls itself "Dada", and its followers Dadaists.

It is difficult to define Dada because Dada pretends to escape from everything that is common or ordinary or sensible. Dada does not recognise any traditions, any influences, or indeed and limits. Dada is a spontaneous product of life; a sort of cerebral mushroom which can appear and grow in every soil.

Dada cannot be defined; it reveals itself; and during the five years in which Dada manifestations have taken place all over the world, the public which comes en masse, in turn furious, amused, deceived, and nevertheless subjugated, has not succeeded in solving this problem:

Are the Dadas serious?
Are the Dadas curers?
Are the Dadas artist?
Are the Dadas dangerous?
Are the Dadas harmless idiots?

And nevertheless they do not make any mystery of their thoughts. They talk of art, religion, morals, politics. They say the most dangerous things that can be said without any detour. They cherish the crudest words. They adore scandal. They flood the world with their ironical manifestations.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The face that launched a thousand ships

In Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus the hero greets Helen of Troy with two of the most famous lines in English literature:

Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium ?

It was always assumed (for some reason) that this arresting imagery could not have emanated new-minted from Marlowe’s imagination, and for years scholars tried to find a source. Classical texts were ransacked for clues and in 1938 the art historian W. S. Heckscher, writing in the Journal of the Warburg Institute, reported that in an exchange between Hermes and the cynic Menippus in Lucian’s Dialogues of the Dead he had discovered the following lines which had been prompted by the two men surveying a pile of skulls of the once famous, who included the former beauty, Helen of Troy:

Menippus: And for this a thousand ships carried warriors from every part of Greece;
Greeks and barbarians were slain, and cities made desolate.. (translation by F. G. Fowler )

Heckscher argues that this democratic dictum of mors omnia aeqat (in death we are all equal)-- that the facial characteristics of beauty and ugliness which distinguish us in life-- are wiped out in death, was  quite common in the later period of the ancient world. He also speculates that the learned Marlowe probably met with the Lucian dialogue from the translation by Erasmus of circa 1535.
Of course, a similar message can be found on gravestones in Britain from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. One epitaph that never fails to chill my bones accompanies a most life-like skull:

Remember man, as you walk by
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so shall you be ….


Many thanks Robin...Eliot's lines from The Waste Land inevitably come to mind:

Gentile or Jew  
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Consider Phlebas? Good title for a novel...

The Cry of Starving Men by Edwin Drew (1908)

 A small hand bill, a one page poem, sold for a penny in 1908 to raise money for the poor by the 'Hyde Park Relief Movement for the Unemployed' with The Cry of Starving Men written by the author, elocutionist and poet Edwin Drew. He appears to have been a correspondent of Dickens (the name Edwin Drood was inspired by his name.) He flourished between 1870 and 1915. There is Pathe News footage of him as 'the last survivor of the Dickens society' - placing a wreath on the novelist's tomb. Drew's last published work was The Chief Incidents of the 'Titanic' Wreck (1912). Of the Hyde Park Relief Movement for the Unemployed very little is known*,apart from the information on this hand bill.

* There may well be much more information in libraries, online research reveals this one note at Open Library - 'The Labour Bureau was established in consequence of Drew's founding of the Hyde park relief movement following his speeches on unemployment, in Hyde park in September 1908.' This poem is dated October 1908...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Khruschev joke

A clipping from the Daily Telegraph 2/6/1956.

Khruschev Anecdote 

Only rarely did Molotov, now retired, show the slightest trace of a sense of humour. Khruschev , on the other hand,won full marks in Downing Street for the story he told there.

He was describing his difficulties with his new middle class of technicians. 'You can't' he explained 'go on telling them what to do and think.The Secret Police handle them stupidly.'

Then he said that recently he had joined some technological students over the samovar to see what sort of ideas they had.

He turned to one and asked: 'Tell me, who wrote Anna Karenina?' 'Not me Comrade Khruschev, not me. I assure you.'

Tolstoy Redivivus

Next day Khruschev sent for the Secret Police chief. 'You see' he told them 'what nonsense goes on as the result of your stupid methods. I ask a student who wrote Anna Karenina and  me tells it wasn't him.'

Later that day the Secret Police chief came back and said: 'I have dealt with the matter of the student you complained about.'

'Well' said Khruschev, 'what have you done?'

'I had him round the office for an hour and he has now confessed he did write Anna Karenina.'

Unknown cat poem...

Found in an expensive leather bound book on golf courses from 1909 these tipped in poems. They appear to be the work of one Wilfrid A Mellor. The second poem about a cat is a sort of prequel to Eliot's Old Possum, not quite up there with Eliot but a bravura performance which we quote in its entirety:

Upon a velvet sunny lawn
In pose unmatched by graceful fawn
The furry hero lay 
While ever in his drowsing brain
He dreamt his battles o'er again
And amorous conquests gay

Of days when over his crouching foes
With cruel teeth and barbed toes
He posed his iron sway
Of nights when in the moon-lit air
He serenaded maiden fair
Both black and white and grey

And now when years had left their trace
When tattered ears and war scarred face
Had followed in their train
Under the walled gardens trees
He purred and dozed and took his ease
And dreaming lived again

Written in the front of the book are these words:'This book belongs to Wilfrid A Mellor of Hyde Park Mansions. Whoever shall steal it, or sell it, in any way alienate it from him, or mutilate it, let him be anathema maranatha.'

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chesterton, Belloc, Baring

Found in the vast Jimmy Kanga collection a work on three of his favourite writers. Nearly 10% of his 20,000 books are by or are related to this British Catholic triumvirate, many in multiples... The book is Chesterton, Belloc, Baring by Raymond Las Vergnas (Sheed & Ward, London 1938.) The jacket shows  Sir (Herbert) James Gunn's oil painting Conversation Piece (G.K. Chesterton; Maurice Baring; Hilaire Belloc). The picture resides at the National Portrait Gallery with this note in the catalogue:'The idea for the portrait came to Gunn at a dinner to celebrate Belloc's 60th birthday ; the completed work was shown at the Royal Academy in 1932.'

From the foreword to the book :

Inside d/w blurb
It is quite true that the three authors whose portraits we have here tried to sketch were, first and foremost, highly individual. Each had his characteristic temperament, and a vigourous, undisguised originality. In Chesterton, exuberance predominates: lucidity in Belloc: limpidity in Maurice Baring. A taste for paradox seems, at first sight, to be common to all three: yet paradox itself is found to be, in them, susceptible of very varied hues. Chesterton's shouts of laughter hardly suggest the guarded irony of Belloc or the Attic salt of Baring. Moreover, their dominant inclinations took them in different directions. A critic, even-to-day, seems justified fastening on Chesterton primarily as essayist; Belloc, as historian; Baring, as novelist.

Yet they meet and fuse in a deep and powerful unity. They were born at much the same time; their active careers were at least parallel, and to this they owed, first, acquaintance; then, a mutual esteem; then, a close friendship.

Monday, April 7, 2014

London Night and Day 1951

London Night and Day, illustrated by Osbert Lancaster, edited by Sam Lambert (Architectural Press, 1951)

Surely one of the most entertaining of the plethora of books brought out in the wake of the Festival of Britain. The coloured cover illustrations and the vignettes in black and white were by Osbert Lancaster, a friend of John Piper—the same John Piper who is named in a section devoted to the Festival, to which he contributed, among other things, a superb semi-abstract panorama. If you hadn’t been informed that Lancaster had designed the cover, you would have attributed it to Piper, whose style of portraying shop fronts is showcased in Buildings and Prospects, which had appeared just a few years earlier. Lancaster’s style is identical. Was Piper concerned that he was being flagrantly copied by Lancaster? Probably, but according to his biographer Frances Spalding, the two men were friends.

London Night and Day, like Stanley Johnson’s Soho (c1949), previously reviewed on Jot101, is a sparkling read. It seems to be multi-authorial, though in the list of names that feature in the Acknowledgments only that of J. M. Richards would be recognised by most people today. However, a few of the others, such as Colin Boyne, and Gordon Cullen were prominent in the world of architecture back then. One or two of the remainder may have been restaurant critics—seeing as at least a third of the book is devoted to pubs, restaurants, cafes and night clubs. Although his name doesn’t appear anywhere in the book, the voice of John Betjeman, then at the height of his fame, seems to colour much of the text. Perhaps he is there under a pseudonym, perhaps as the ‘editor’, Sam Lambert. After all, this is the sort of guide to which he would have been attracted. Betjeman  also worked with Richards at the Architectural Review and was a close friend of Lancaster’s. Neverthess, the best Betjeman bibliography, published by the Betjeman Society, has nothing to say about London Night and Day.

The guide is arranged to reflect a whole 24 hours in London, hour by hour. Under '4 pm cuppa' some attractive tea shops and cafes, none of which have survived, are described. Back in 1951 Yarner’s Coffee House, at 1, Langham Place , was the place to find BBC types. I  know for a fact that the abstemious Geoffrey Grigson, at various time both a producer and a contributor, was a frequent customer. His more thirsty colleagues, like Dylan Thomas, Louis MacNeice and Rayner Heppenstall, were generally to be found in a favourite local around the corner, propping up the bar way beyond the time allotted for lunch.

Two hours later, if you fancied a beer or a glass of wine after your day in the City, the Jamaica Wine Bar, off Lombard Street, would be a good place to overhear city types gossip, although in those innocent days before financial meltdowns, that accountant who looked like Bob Cratchit, was probably only on  about £12 a week.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Battle of Waterloo not won on the playing-fields of Eton

Further illusions shattered by this small book The Encyclopaedia of Fads and Fallacies by Thomas Jay (Elliott Rightway Books, Kingswood Surrey 1958.) Apparently bulls are colour blind so red rags do not bother them, Turkish baths are not Turkish (and they are not baths) and alcohol cannot be drunk in any concentration strong enough to kill germs. Even the assertion that 'The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton' also appears to be unfounded according to the iconoclastic T. Jay. It seems a pity, as it is one of those poetic ideas like AE's 'In the lost boyhood of Judas / Christ was betrayed.' What Jay actually says is:

The Duke of Wellington is credited with having said 'the The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton.' There is no truth in that assertion. There were only a very small number of officers from Eton at the battle.

The quotation may have been taken too literally by Jay -online research reveals this at the Wikipedia entry on Eton:

According to Nevill (citing the historian Sir Edward Creasy), what Wellington (actually) said, while passing an Eton cricket match many decades later, was, 'There grows the stuff that won Waterloo', a remark Nevill construes as a reference to 'the manly character induced by games and sport' amongst English youth generally, not a comment about Eton specifically. In 1889, Sir William Fraser conflated this uncorroborated remark with the one attributed to him by Count Charles de Montalembert's C'est ici qu' a été gagné la bataille de Waterloo ('It is here that the Battle of Waterloo was won.')
Moholy Nagy 'Dusk at the Playing Fields of Eton'

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ostrich Fallacies

Found in The Encyclopaedia of Fads and Fallacies by Thomas Jay (Elliott Rightway Books, Kingswood Surrey 1958) a small section on ostrich fallacies. The reference to a Bergen Evans
book is probably his Natural History of Nonsense.

The Diet of the Ostrich

There is a foolish notion that the ostrich can digest iron. Many zoos and menageries have quite a lot of trouble because the public will feed ostriches with nails or bits of metal. As Bergen Evans points out in one of his books, it rarely occurs to people that the purposes of the bars, moats, and walls at zoos is to protect the animals from us. 


An ostrich does not bury its head in the sand thinking that it is hiding itself. But what some politicians will do without the metaphor I don't know. If alarmed, or suspicious, the ostrich will lie flat on the ground with its head stretched out flat in front so that it can size up the situation. And it can do that very well from that position.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Sensational Story of the Christie Case

Found - a sensationalist paperback The Christie Case (Gaywood Press, London circa 1958). A rare non-fiction pulp by Ronald Maxwell - one of the youngest journalists following the case. The book begins:

The Christie case was more than the stories below the headlines for me.It was the story behind the headlines and it took many sleepless nights and long-drawn days to unfold as I followed closely upon the greatest manhunt of modern days, culminating in the final arrest of a man named John Reginald Halliday Christie, in whose flat the partly clothed bodies of four women were found strangled. In the small garden behind the flat, there were uncovered the skeletons of more women, who were still not identified weeks after the discovery.

The story began when a coloured man named Beresford Brown decided to fix the wireless in the kitchen of the ground floor flat at number 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London W 11. That was on Tuesday, March 24, 1953. Beresford Brown intended to share the kitchen of the flat – which had recently been vacated by John Christie – with other tenants of this dingy, two storey house. By accident, the man tapped against the wall, and there was a hollow sound. It intrigued him. He tore away a strip of wallpaper and discovered a small hole in the partition which his action had exposed. Through the hole, in the small cavity inside, he saw a woman's leg. Shaken with horror, he looked closer. There, in the dark hollow, he could see well enough to distinguish the outline of a partly clothed body. In his brief glance it up in the fact that there were two bundles behind the body. 

… He ran excitedly into the street in search of the police, it was not difficult to find a constable in this part of the Royal Borough of Kensington... within minutes, the whole apparatus of Scotland Yard been set in motion in motion and the hunt had begun...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

J.N.W. Sullivan & Colin Wilson -- 'The Desirability of the Ordinary.'

Found in a pamphlet by Colin Wilson: Autobiographical Reflections (Paupers' Press, 1980) this quotation from the writer J.W.N. Sullivan. Sullivan was a friend of Aldous Huxley & John Middleton Murry, later he knew Aleister Crowley and was part of Ottoline Morrell's intellectual country house salon at Garsington in the 1920s. In the first World War he worked in the ambulance services in Serbia. Colin Wilson writes of him:

I have always felt that the very essence of the human problem was grasped by that fine music critic, J. W. N. Sullivan, in his classic autobiography But For the Grace of God (London: Jonathan Cape 1932). He writes about the first world war:

'The only assimilable 'lesson' taught by the war was the extreme desirability of the ordinary commonplace civilised life. Even as seen from the relative security of a war hospital that life seemed desirable almost beyond imagining. Looking out on those dark, alien Serbian hills, after a day spent amongst the sights and odours of suppurating flesh (for all our wounded, on the long journey from the front, developed gangrene), I have had visions of Paradise. I have pictured the lighted Strand, one of the golden streets of Heaven, and longed for its ambrosia, two poached eggs on toast, in those dazzling halls of light called Lyons' restaurants. It was inconceivable to me that I could ever have been discontented with life in such celestial surroundings.