Recently, following the lead of an article by William Mason-Owen published in a 1951 issue of The Colophon magazine, Jot 101 looked at some of the manuscripts and typescripts in the British Museum Library that were then withheld from publication due to the sensitivity of their contents. In part two we examine the banned printed books mentioned in the article.
First on the Colophon list is Cantab, by the otherwise respected Irish writer Shane Leslie, which appeared in 1926. This was ‘withdrawn under threat of legal proceedings for obscenity’. Your Jotter hasn’t examined the novel, which recounts the adventures and misadventures of a Cambridge undergraduate, but those in the know have maintained that any indelicacies it contains are inoffensive and certainly do not justify the ban.
D.H.Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were also regarded as dangerous to public morality. Around half the first edition of the former was burned in 1915, hence its comparative rarity. Moreover, if you can find a copy in the original rather sensationalist dust wrapper you will get a few thousand pounds for it.
Ulysses (1922) was another on the list. The Little Review, in which excerpts appeared, was prosecuted in the US and the whole book remained suppressed here until 1934.The Egoist, which published parts of it in the UK was also the subject of court action. The first edition of the book appeared in Paris in 1922, but copies of this and subsequent continental editions were subject to seizure by British customs until a ban was lifted on its publication in the thirties. Continue reading
Found- How much do you know? The book of a thousand questions and answers. It was edited by Harold F. B. Wheater and published in London (Oghams Press, circa 1937.) It is part of a set of 10 practical self improvement books bought in a secondhand bookshop (Chapel Books, Westleton). Condition was way above average but the books are of modest value. Some of the information is very dull but at JOT we occasionally do dullness. Some info is very dated and some possibly erroneous – if the Ying Lo Ta Tien was 23000 books that would put it on a par with a printed out version of Wikipedia 2016 (in English). Possibly volumes were thin with big lettering…the first entry sounds like the luckiest accident ever and the one on Schubert is a tragedy and a terrible waste- what was sold for 8 shillings would probably now make £8 million.
What is the largest gold nugget ever found?
The ‘Welcome Stranger’, discovered by accident in Victoria, Australia, in 1869, through a cart making a rut in the ground. It weighed 2520 ounces.
What was the world’s largest encyclopaedia?
The Ying Lo Ta Tien, or Great Standard of Yung Lo, compiled in China by order of the emperor of that name during the fifteenth century A.D. It consisted of 22,937 books and contained nearly 367,000,000 written characters. Only three copies were made; two perished when the Ming dynasty fell in 1644; the third (with the exception of a few volumes) was destroyed in the siege of the Legations at Peking (Peiping) by the Boxers in 1900. Continue reading
From the ever-giving El Mundo archive is this quite astonishing Fox Photos pic of a multi-storey garage housing what appear to be bran new, high-class, automobiles. Along with the press agency stamp and the date 6 Feb 1930 is a description in Spanish of the scene. Here it is in full:
Un “garage” moderno, ofrece a los ojos un aspecto fantastico y desconcertante .El automovil ha reemplazado definitivamente al caballo como elemento de transporte y las grandes ciudades se preparan par albergar la avalanche de coches que diariamente sugen de las fabricas e inundan las callas. Este “garage” , que pareciera el producto de una fantasia, ha sido construido en Paris.**
I have yet to see a photo that better expresses the visual impact of the Art Deco era. [R.M.Healey[
**A modern “garage ” offers a fantastic and baffling appeal to the eyes. The car has definitely replaced the horse as a transport medium and big cities are preparing to host the avalanche of cars daily coming out of factories and flooding the streets. This ” garage ” which seems the product of a fantasy , has been built in Paris .
This was sent by Edmund Wilson (or his secretary) to people who wrote to him. It is a measure of his fame at the time (1950s?) He is now remembered more for his association with other writers, especially Vladimir Nabokov and Scott Fitzgerald. G.B. Shaw used to send out something similar and also Evelyn Waugh. Apparently people would write to Wilson just to get a copy of the slip. The note on it reads: “I don’t [do] live readings either unless I’m offered a very large fee. EW”. These type of generic rejection/ fob-off lists have now graduated to email…any examples welcome.
Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him to:
Write articles or books to order,
Write forwards or introductions,
Make statements for publicity purposes,
Do any kind of editorial work,
Judge literary contests, give interviews,
Take part in writers’ conferences,
Contribute to or take part in symposiums, or “panels” of any kind,
Contribute manuscripts for sales,
Donate copies of his books to libraries,
Autograph works for strangers,
Allow his name to be used on letterheads,
Supply personal information about himself,
Or supply opinions on literary or other subjects.
Found in the Peter Haining archive, an Independent obituary by Peter Mendez of the fin de siecle scholar Ian Fletcher (1920 – 88). As the obituarist remarks, Fletcher’s vertiginous rise in 1955 from humble book-stamper in Catford Public Library to University teacher was extraordinary and may be unique in the history of modern British academic life. Today, when the possession of a Ph D is obligatory for entry into academia, and when many with this qualification are either unemployed or in low-grade jobs, the idea that someone with no degree at all could be elevated to a lectureship in English Literature would be laughed out of court.
But this was Fletcher’s position in 1955. Not only did he lack a higher degree, but he had never attended a University. However, in compensation he became a prolific contributor to such neo-Romantic post-war magazines as Tambimuttu’s Poetry London, Peter Russell’s Nine and Wrey Gardiner’s Poetry Quarterly. In 1948 Tambimuttu published a volume of his poems entitled, Orisons. He also brought out an edition of Lionel Johnson’s Collected Poems in 1953. Fletcher’s passion for the aesthetic movement and the literature of the eighteen nineties had begun early. His book-hunting excursions in that golden age of the forties and early fifties, when rare titles could be had for under ten shillings, led him to assemble a large collection which became a valuable resource. At the same time his growing reputation as a poet and scholar attracted the attention of Professor D. J. Gordon of Reading University, who saw that the young librarian might be a valuable addition to his staff. And it soon became apparent that Gordon’s trust in him was well placed. Continue reading
Found- a copy of a rare book: Poems from Turkey (Taylor and Co., London, 1872). The author is anonymous but is known to be William Platt Ball (born 1844). Loosely inserted is a note giving info about him (see below*.) Of interest is the fact that he was in Turkey advising the Sultan about fireworks and while there seems to have put on a few shows. The frontispiece illustration shows a display over water with the fireworks being launched from a raft or jetty. There are poems about fireworks in the book one of which (‘Pyro’s Pilgrimage’) is quoted after his preface:
These poems (except a few pages on Turkish subjects added since my return) were written during a stay of fourteen months in Constantinople. During this period I superintended (under His Excellency Halil Pasha) the Sultan’s firework displays, organised a firework factory, and taught the complete art and mystery of firework making to a set of forty Turk soldiers, and English (in the mornings) to a class of four Efendis. Continue reading
Found in The Camp Followers’ Guide! (Niles Chignon. New York: Avon Books, 1965) this groovy quiz to ascertain how camp you are – aimed at men and women. Some tastes have changed, some clubs have vanished…a ‘Yes’ to over half means you are fairly serious about being camp.
Camp I.Q. Check List
Are you fanatical about egg creams?
Do you collect Wold War II ration books, old buttons, music boxes, stereoscopes and Ball jars?
Do you use banana soap?
Do you prefer Mexican paper flowers to real ones?
Do you have a Thirties Modern Vanity designed by Carl Hammerstrom in redwood burl with rounded corners and a big oval mirror?
Do you have a Bevelacqua chair with chrome flat bar steel arms?
Have you see Gunga Din five times? Goldiggers of 1933, ten? The Devil is a Woman, fifteen? The Creation of the Humanoids, twenty?
Do you have toys in your bathtub?
Do you play with a jump rope, a Whee-lo toy, or a giant Japanese Yo-yo? Continue reading
Today, a hundred years on, most historians find it difficult to justify the carnage that was the Great War. Back in 1919, many were morally divided on the issue. One man who saw the fight against German brutality as a wholly justified, glorious crusade, was the poet and playwright Henry Newman Howard (1861 – 1929). On reading The Paths of Glory, an anthology of anti-war poetry, he sent a scathing letter to its pacifist editor, Bertram Lloyd. A typewritten copy of this letter was recently found, tucked in with a batch of press cuttings relating to the offending book, in a copy of it , which may have been Lloyd’s own, that ended up the library of Maria Assumpta College, Kensington and was subsequently de-accessioned into the secondhand book trade.
Here in full is Howard’s letter to Lloyd:
29 Jan 1919
25, Charlbury Road,
Your’ anthology ‘of War Poems is a crime. I grieve that the publishing house fathered by noble John Ruskin should be Sponsors to this execrable publication. Never again will I purchase a book bearing the stamp fouled by the guilt of this sinister booklet. Other books there are one recalls as foul things. Il Principe, possibly John Davidson’s Testament; Nietzsche—these last, like the German Empire, died mad of their guilty thoughts. Your book, garbage from end to end—if not in the individual poems, assuredly in their bringing together—carries the sickly unction of a spurious humanitarianism. Continue reading
Discovered in the Haining archive, this letter from someone called D.L.Rolton of Ambleside, Cumbria, a fan of Haining’s The Fortune Hunter’s Guide. In ‘ gratefulness ‘ to the author for his ‘ useful and interesting ‘ book Rolton offers the following nugget of information regarding ‘ Lame Jack’s Fortune’.
I suggest you obtain ( borrow, beg or hire for one day ) a metal detector. On that fine day, try alongside the left side of the road, as one goes from Woodford to Epping —but only in the region of the fork that leads to Loughton ( diagram inserted ).
No! I am not being funny at all—I am most serious, and I don’t think you need to stray far from the side of the road. Try it !
It is not known where Rolton found the reference to Lame Jack’s treasure. It may be part of local folklore, although Lame Jack is not to be found using Google. It does not follow that because Rolton addressed his letter from Ambleside that he wasn’t acquainted with the site, which on the map is occupied by woodland named ‘ Reed’s Forest ‘. If any metal detectorist wishes to investigate the site, some research in the local history section of Loughton Library may yield clues. A study of W.R.Fisher’s The Forest of Essex (1887) could be also be useful. But be warned –it is over 40 years since Rolton sent the letter, and a huge amount of metal detecting has been done in this time. [R.M.Healey ]
A bookplate from Hollywood 1928 right at the end of the silent movie era. It was done for actor and film director Robert G. Vignola (1888 – 1953) and was found in his copy of Emil Lucka’s Eros. The Development of the Sex Relations Through the Ages (Putnam’s , N.Y. 1915.) It was drawn by the film costume designer Walter Plunkett, presumably a friend of the distinguished director and 26 years old at the time. By this time Vignola had acted in many movies and had directed at least 60, some of which are no longer to be found.
Vignola’s career seems to have come to and end just after ‘talkies’ came in, a not uncommon fate for older directors. The figures in the bookplate represent stars of the time and probably relate to movies he had made. Other film directors who had bookplates include George Cukor, Bryan Forbes, Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B de Mille.
Found in the Peter Haining Archive, two letters that raise objections to the author’s views on Black Magic expressed in his Witchcraft and Black Magic (1971). Both emanate from distinctly offbeat sources. Here is the first letter. The second may feature in a later Jot.
The first letter ( dated only May 30th) was sent by someone called August Vironeem on behalf of ‘ the Directors ‘ of an American ‘Thelemic ‘ group ‘ described by Vironeem as an ‘ offshoot of Aleister Crowley’s ‘Initiatory lodge in England known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn ‘. Objecting to Haining’s section on Crowley as ‘ totally eroneous ‘, the writer goes on to repudiate ‘ with a high degree of certainty ‘ the Great Beast’s association with Black Magic:
‘neither Crowley, not any of his disciples, partisans, sympathisers, nor modern day devotees do have, or have ever had, anything thing at all to do with black magic, ( and here , I must firmly state that Manson’s Solar Lodge of the O/T/O and other perversions do not bear upon Crolwey. Had he been alive today He’d have been nasueated by such groups.’
Vironeem ends by maintaining that although Crowley had his faults, he also had his ‘ moments of genius’; he then invites Haining to ‘take a quick look at’ Crowley’s ten volume set of The E
Your present Jotter is not really qualified to comment on Crowley or his philosophy, but most of his apologists have strongly denied that their hero practiced Black Magic. Indeed, the Crowley Wikipedia entry tends to suggest that his cult of Thelema was a much more intellectually nuanced philosophy than his simple-minded critics would have us believe. To me as a tyro it seems to be a philosophy that centres on a world view of extreme individualism, containing aspects of anarchism, and showing the influence of William Blake. Continue reading
From A Winter Evening Entertainments; or, Curious Mathematical and Philosophical Problems, etc. (Jasper Wiseman, Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd 1820.) Most of these puzzles have punning answers that might nowadays elicit groans.. Almost all are present in many other books and magazines of the time, it is doubtful that the author made up any of them. Wise man.
What step must I take to remove the letter A from the alphabet?
By B heading it.
If I buy four oranges for a penny, and give one of them away, why am I like a telescope?
Because I make a far-thing present.
Which of the cardinal virtues will water be when just frozen?
Why is spectator like a bee-hive?
Because he is a be-holder. Continue reading
In issue number 11 ( January 1951) of the book miscellany Colophon someone called W. Mason- Owen describes some of the literary material that remains locked away in two departments of the British Library ( or British Museum Library as it was then known). Incidentally, didn’t unfashionable novelist Angus Wilson work in the Manuscript department of the BM around this time? I bet he had a peek at these banned items.
Henry Campbell-Bannerman ( James Guthrie)
In 1951 the first and most important of these departments was the Copyright Department, in which ‘ neatly packed away in brown paper parcels ‘ could be found ‘ politician’s diaries , books, letters and documents of scientists, inventors, poets and literary men, Court gossipers and King’s Messengers’. According to Mason-Owen, many of these writings wouldn’t be available to read for another fifty years—some perhaps would never be read. Owen then describes a few examples of the material locked away:-
- Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s private papers. Apparently, according to Mason-Owen, Campbell-Bannerman was Prime Minister in the early part of ‘ the nineteenth century’ , which should of course read ‘ the twentieth century ‘. Never mind. The reason they’re hidden away was because this particular politician was ‘famed for his caustic outbursts ‘against his more intransigent opponents. It’s hard to imagine that many of these MPs would have been alive forty or fifty years on, but there you are. I suppose war hero Winston Churchill might have been one of them.
Forgery has always fascinated historians of literature, whether it takes the form of a whole manuscript or annotations in a printed book, or (of much rarer occurrence) a whole book or books, as in the case of Thomas Wise. The manuscript forgeries of the self-styled Major George Gordon De Luna Byron, alias De Gibler, alias Monsieur Memoir, were of some key Romantic poets, including Byron, Shelley and Keats. The one that concerns us here was a quatrain and a long prose note supposedly written by Lord Byron on the fly leaves of a copy of the fifth edition ( 1777) of the works of the eighteenth century poet, William Shenstone.
This particular forgery was well known to bibliophiles for many years, but had been long lost until our own Jot 101 CEO bought this particular copy in a book sale about eight years ago. Details were then handed on to Byron scholar Andrew Nicholson, who discussed them in a paper published in The Byron Journal in 2010. We at Jot 101 HQ are grateful to the late Mr Nicholson for his assiduous research which focuses on the nature of the forgery. It had been acquired by a certain Mr Young from the library sale in 1851 of John Wilks, MP, a well known collector of manuscripts. Continue reading
A typescript found in the Haining Archive, and possibly published, contains potted accounts of many examples of horrible or ridiculous deaths involving food. Here are a few of them:
A Gruelling Fate
Few cooks have suffered a more bizarre fate than Richard Rosse, a well-known London chef in the sixteenth century. In the year 1530 he was appointed to the household of the Bishop of Rochester and appears to have satisfied his master until the autumn. Then, says an account of his life published in Remarkable Trials and Notorious Characters ( 1850):
It was declared that he had poisoned some gruel being made for the Bishop and imprisoned in Smithfield. Here he was boiled to death.
Cheesed off with Life Continue reading
Found- a bookmark advertising the virtues of Everyman’s Encyclopaedia. For obvious reasons the set is now of very little value, except as decoration. In the 1920s, when these were written it was a (relatively) portable fount of all knowledge – hence these brief encomiums from the great and the good (and the titled). Sets could be bought with their own small book-case ‘in unstained oak’ and the deluxe versions in full leather (£7 10 shillings.) It boasted 7 million words and 2700 illustrations plus a World Atlas.
Some opinions on Everyman’s
Prof. Sir J. Arthur Thomson
What an encyclopaedia! So comprehensive and yet so compact. It is like a well-arranged series of levers, releasing a wealth of potential energy with minimum effort.
H. G. Wells
I think it remarkably good value.
A wonderful production. These 12 volumes form a library in themselves, a never-failing source of information and delight.
Found among some papers of the late John Symonds (1914-2006) novelist, biographer (Aleister Crowley), playwright and writer of children’s books – this letter. The sender’s name has been clipped off but he or she was obviously something of a power in the literary world. It displays two opposing views of the writer John Gardner. The second letter was written to propose Symonds for a literary position and talks of Gardner in glowing terms, the first letter (to Symonds) declares that he is ‘…one of the worst novelists in the world.’ This is the world of Martin Amis’s The Information, his great novel of literary rivalry.
Dear John, … You must excuse me for coupling your name with John Gardner’s in the way I do: it was but for policy and diplomacy. In my opinion John Gardner was one of the worst novelists in the world. But he was also just about the most famous American novelist of the past 20 years, in terms of the publicity he got and the huge sums of money he made and the general ballyhoo that went with his name. And the fact that I knew him gives a certain credence to my suggestion that you are another of the same. You and I needn’t tell them that we know you aren’t, praise be! I also enclose a little essay which might interest you, which isn’t to say you have to model yourself on me. But if you get the job let me know and I will give you a few hints which you can regard or disregard as you think fit. Tra la! Continue reading
Found in The Poetry of Flight, an Anthology (edited by Stella Wolfe Murray, published by Heath Cranton, London 1925) this stirring poem by the American poet Minna Irving (1857 – 1940) Her real name was Minnie Odell Michiner and she was from Tarrytown, New York. She published a poetry collection, “Songs of a Haunted Heart” in 1888, and published poems in turn-of-the-century periodicals such as Munsey’s, The Smart Set, and The Gray Goose. She also wrote a science fiction story “The Moon Woman” which appeared in the November 1929 issue of Amazing Stories (right.) She has no Wikipedia entry. The anthology, which has pieces by Homer, Swinburne, Duncan Campbell Scott and W.H. Davies is dedicated ‘..to the memory of all have given their lives for aeronautical progress.’ Her poem could have been written by an Italian Futurist and has all the excitement of the early days of aviation.
The Army of the Planes
They are coming with the drumming of a million pinions humming
And the purr of mighty motors that are all in time and tune
Proudly soaring with the roaring of the thousand northers pouring
Through the vast and hollow spaces sacred to the sun and moon
They are racing into places filled with radiant star faces
Listing British novelists or poets who were also medics is a fun party game. Going right back to the eighteenth century one can think of Goldsmith and Smollett. From the nineteenth, I suppose Keats can be included, although without a degree in medicine, he can’t be classed as a physician. Thomas Lovell Beddoes is a less well known example, as is Samuel Warren, who ought to be better known, especially as his ground-breaking Passages from the Diary of a late Physician heavily influenced the Bronte sisters. Among the twentieth century poets there are a few, including Dannie Abse and Alex Comfort and I dare say one or two writers studied medicine, but never practised it. I don’t think Somerset Maugham did, apart from a stint in the Red Cross. And then there is Gabriel Fielding (1916 – 86).He certainly practised. In fact he was a GP and a prison doctor based in Maidstone for many years until literary fame allowed him to give up medicine and try his luck in America. With a mother who was a descendant of Henry Fielding, he certainly possessed the literary credentials to succeed, and indeed he did, but not so much in his native land, where he is still little known. The reputation of Alan Gabriel Barnsley (his real name) is well documented in a review dated April 6th 1963 from the Haining Archive. In it, John Horder, himself a doctor and writer, marks the publication of Fielding’s fourth novel, The Birthday King, which had just appeared in the States, with the statement that in America he was acknowledged as ‘ one of our leading novelists, along with Graham Greene, Muriel Spark and Iris Murdoch’. According to Horder, Gabriel’s obsession with ‘the darkness in man ‘ was present from the start. In his debut novel, Brotherly Love (1954), for instance, Fielding’s hero, David Blaydon, who is based on the author’s eldest brother George, gets pushed into the Church, becomes entangled in the lives of various women in his parish and eventually falls ‘a great height from a tree to be found dead by one of his brothers in one of the most horrifying scenes in fiction’. Continue reading
Found— an envelope crammed with an intriguing collection of newspaper cuttings and Velox snaps, most dating to 1931. The majority of the cuttings concern the failing health of forty three old Bertha Lewis, the famous ‘Savoyard’, who at the height of her singing career with the D’Oyly Carte Opera, was badly injured when a car driven by fellow singer, Sir Henry Lytton, veered off the road and rolled down an embankment during a violent rainstorm between Huntingdon and Cambridge.
The couple were returning from Manchester, when, according to Lytton, the front wheels of the car skidded on a patch of oil. After somersaulting, the vehicle came to rest the right way up. Lytton sustained injuries to his legs and kidneys, but Lewis was rendered unconscious and had serious spinal injuries. Both were rushed to hospital, but while Lytton was discharged after a few days, and later returned to work, Lewis, according to the bulletins which were issued daily to the newspapers, gradually succumbed to her injuries and died after five days.
Lewis’s tragic death was mourned throughout the world of musical theatre and beyond. On June 18th at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, following a performance of ‘The Mikado’ by the D’Oyly Carte Company, Lewis’s career was commemorated by the presentation of a ‘silver Irish Loving Cup ‘.The singer was praised as ‘a noble woman, a great artiste…who delighted thronged houses by her grace, charm, and faithful portrayal of the characters created by Sir W. S. Gilbert’. Continue reading