Found, a page torn from a copy of the Bookdealer dated 13th November 2003 previewing the forthcoming sale at Sotheby’s of the collection formed by the artist and book collector Robert Lenkiewicz.
Because of his reclusiveness, little was known about Lenkiewicz before he died in 2002 aged just 60. A media frenzy then broke out. There are so few genuine eccentrics in the art world that the press can hardly afford to ignore such a prime example as Lenkiewicz. Here is a passage from the preview:
‘Here we have a man who faked his own death some years before he died …and lived for a few days in hiding at the Cornish home of one of his patrons, the Earl of St Germans. He was notorious for befriending and patronising vagrants and tramps, in particular one Edwin McKenzie, who lived in a concrete tube on a rubbish dump and preferred to be known as Diogenes. Since Diogenes’ death in the 1980s the whereabouts of his bodily bits were a mystery, until his embalmed remains were discovered in a secret drawer in a bookcase at Lenkiewicz’s Barbican library. ‘
‘If you remain unimpressed there were other discoveries including what was left of the condemned 16th –century witch, Ursula Kemp. Her skeletal remains, which had been nailed to the coffin, are believed to have been disinterred in Victorian times. This find nicely compliments his great book collection, illustrating as it does Lenkiewicz’s obsessive curiosity with life and death’. Continue reading
Found among a pile of ephemera at Jot HQ, a clipping from the Cambridge Evening News, dated 24th May 1980, plus a printed sermon entitled ‘I know where I’m going ‘ by The Rev David Watson, vicar of St Mary-le-Belfry Church, York. As a true evangelist Watson wanted to get his message across, so not only was his sermon broadcast on Radio 4, but printed copies of it were obtainable from his own home from 20 copies for 40p (plus postage) up to 240 copies for a very reasonable 240p (plus postage).
Watson also wanted to fill churches, and indeed marquees. In May 1980 he and a group of five young devotees were to be seen touring the UK delivering the message of Jesus to packed venues. In the first week of June, 1980, we learn from the newspaper clipping, he was due to address a crowd in the 3,000 seater ‘ Supertent ‘on Midsummer Common in Cambridge. Amazingly, ‘ over 200 churches of all denominations in the Cambridge area ‘ had come together to stage the festival. It is not known how many attended this free event, but we can be sure that there would have been plenty of printed sermons in that Supertent together with piles of his new book, My God is Real.
We in the UK are used to hearing about American evangelists of all sects broadcasting on radio, filling venues, publicly baptising new converts, speaking in tongues and wrestling with rattlesnakes, but twentieth century Britain has no great tradition of Anglican evangelism. So David Watson seems to have been a maverick. Nonetheless, he was seen by others as the answer to the spiritual malaise that was afflicting the Anglican church at that time. Continue reading
I had first met the writer and wife of the brilliant architectural photographer Edwin Smith, in 1984 at Saffron Walden Museum, where I was a museum assistant. I was helping her with an exhibition of her late husband’s photographs. I recall that she called everyone ‘ darling ‘, which I saw as suggesting that she had once been in the theatre. I don’t remember anything more about her.
Fast forward to the late 1990’s and I was actually sitting with her in the kitchen of ‘The Orchards ‘, the famous home outside Saffron Walden that she and Edwin had once shared. Having visited various artists’ homes over the past two decades, including that of John and Myfanwy Piper at Fawley Bottom, I should have been prepared for what greeted me there, but I wasn’t. In the sitting room I seem to remember bright modern pictures and sculpture and art books covering every surface, with a lot of wickerwork and hand knitted rugs and potted plants. Rather Bloomsburyish, I thought, but in a nice way. The kitchen was more practically furnished, but in the same rather genteel-arty style. It also had a typically smell about it, an odour of old money artist that I’d noticed about the Pipers’ kitchen. Perhaps it was the drains. But I liked this comforting smell. Continue reading
All collectors and dealers love book fairs, don’t they? Well, up to a point. They can be good places to see what other dealers are up to— what treasures they are selling and how well they are doing. And even if they don’t buy anything, fairs can be good places for collectors to value their own collections. On the down side, fairs can be intimidating for collectors who only want to chat to dealers about books. There is often a tangible sense that dealers are only interested in talking to you about books if you show an interest in buying one of their items.
However, 20 years ago, it would seem that alongside these perennial complaints about dealers there was something more sinister going on behind the scenes. A clipping from the Watford Observer dated August 15th 1997 told the story of a local dealer who had had the temerity to challenge the book fair establishment and had paid a high price for doing so. Vince Peddle, co-owner of the imaginatively named Peddle Books, and publisher of the info-sheet Book News, had recently published a front page article in this magazine complaining that the over abundance of fairs was putting some dealers out of business. Continue reading
Anyone recall that classic episode of Father Ted in which Ted is accused of racism after he is unwittingly caught making fun of the small Chinese community on Craggy Island? Only a decade or so earlier it had been acceptable to call the Chinese ‘chinks ‘ or ‘slitty-eyed’ and remark on their skin colour and droopy moustaches. Further back still, Sax Rohmer became a best-selling author with his tales of the criminal Dr Fu Manchu and Music hall artistes made jokes about opium dens, Chinese laundries and the white slave trade.
One of these artistes was Billy Bennett, who worked the halls from 1919 until his death in 1942. One of his specialities was to recite ‘ burlesque monologues ‘ –not only on the stage but also on radio—and some of the texts of these were published in booklet form for use, presumably, to keep up morale during the early years of the Second World War. These monologues were liberally laden with double entendre and barely disguised racist slurs that would prevent them from being performed today. Continue reading
Found—a letter dated February 22nd 1889 from the journalist and novelist Eliza Lynn Linton (1822 – 98). Before she arrived on the scene in the 1840s women who wrote for magazines and newspapers were freelancers. E.L.L., as she became known, was the first salaried female journalist in Britain, and perhaps the world—and one of the best paid, at one time receiving an annual salary which today would be the equivalent of over £50,000.
Lynn came from a conventional middle class background in Crosthwaite, Cumberland. Her father was a parson and her grandfather Bishop of Carlisle. Attractive and gregarious, she might have married into one of the professions, but instead educated herself in the ancient and modern languages and literature ( her father was too ‘ indolent ‘ to do so himself, she later wrote) and in her early twenties left her comfortable home for London, determined to make a name as a novelist. Her first two novels failed to impress, but undaunted in 1848 she turned to journalism, joining the staff of the highly respected Morning Chronicle. She continued to write short stories and novels and eventually found a degree of success. However, her reputation in literary circles was founded less on her novels and more on her popular journalism, which appeared in All The Year Round, the Monthly Review and the Saturday Review. In perhaps another gesture of defiance she married the woodcut artist, writer and Chartist W. J. Linton , and moved into his ramshackle Lake District house named Brantwood, later to become the home of John Ruskin. The marriage failed and Linton returned to London, where her home became a sort of literary salon. Continue reading
Found, a letter dated 6th December 1990 from someone called Rudi to the playwright John Osborne, whom he addresses as ‘ Colonel’, presumably a reference to Colonel Redl, the protagonist of Osborne’s controversial play A Patriot For Me (1965).
The letter accompanies a copy of Billy Bennett’s Third Budget of Burlesque Monologues (c1940), which Rudi had sent Osborne as a sixty-first birthday present. The Music Hall star Bennett ( 1887 – 1942), a unique comic presence on the stage and on radio from 1919, was a great favourite of Osborne’s, as indeed he was of Tommy Cooper, Ken Dodd and Eric Morecambe. Bennett’s billing as ‘ almost a gentleman ‘ was used by the playwright as the title of his second volume of memoirs. Here is the letter in full: Continue reading
In London recently buying a small collection of books near Palace Gate I spotted three Bentley Bentaygas parked casually along the neighborhood streets. The one pictured can reach 190 mph and will leave little change from £150K. The ultimate SUV, 4 by 4, ‘Chelsea tractor.’ On showing this photo to a colleague, something of a ‘petrol head’,he informed me that there were certain areas of London that (young) tourists visit just to see rare and expensive supercars in the flesh – Mayfair, Chelsea, Belgravia mainly. He said that the visitors sometimes encourage the owners, often young Middle Eastern guys, to rev them up. In one instance the driver forgot he was in gear and shot forward into another supercar wrecking both. I blame Jeremy Clarkson..
Found—a clipping from the mid Victorian Jerrold’s Weekly News regarding the legendary Sir Richard Phillips—a sort of Robert Maxwell of his time—and the witty physician, Dr John Wolcot (aka Peter Pindar).
‘Having mentioned Sir Richard Phillips, I must observe that his shop in Bridge-street was the lounge of a good many literary men. Philips was a shrewd man, fresh-coloured and stout. He lived to the age of eighty. He ate no flesh food, on the ground of his affection for animals. He had a notion in the latter part of his life, that he had discovered a system that would supersede Newton’s theory of gravity. Wolcot said that Phillips, notwithstanding his refusal of animal diet, had no objection to feed upon the brains of authors, and that he loved wine, but kept no beef-steaks. He referred here to Pitt, who it is said ‘would drink wines, but who kept no concubines’, in allusion to the notorious indifference of the Minister towards the fair sex. Walcot said that fact alone proved the Minister a great rascal. One of Pitt’s advocates, observing that it was no matter, Pitt was married to his country: ‘Yes’, said Wolcot, ‘and a cursed bad match it was for his country ‘. Now Doctor, that is too bad, was the reply: ‘You yourself have been but a bad subject of the King’. ‘It may or may not be so,’ said Wolcot, ‘but I can tell you the King has been an excellent subject for me ‘. Phillips used to call upon the doctor after the latter became totally blind, in order to get verses from him for the old Monthly Magazine. When he got them, so niggardly was Phillips, that the doctor could never obtain a second copy of the magazine to send to a friend. ‘I am constantly giving him something ‘, said the doctor. ‘When I ask for a couple of copies of my lines, he said I shall have them “at the trade price”. I will give him no more; ‘he is a Shylock.’ Continue reading
Found in a box of ephemera are some pages from a feature entitled ‘The Fore-Edge Painter ‘, which was published in a early fifties issue of Lilliput magazine. The piece is about a professional antique- faker who is introduced by an antiquarian bookseller to ‘Gulliver’, who wants to know the tricks of the forgery trade.
The piece is doubtless semi-fictional and was probably contributed by a dealer or collector familiar with the tricks of the forger which, by the way, is still very much alive, the most astonishing recent example being that of Sean Greenhalgh, the brilliant art student dropout who fooled ‘ eminent ‘ West End dealers and museum professionals with artefacts created in the garden shed of his council house in Bolton.
In this Lilliput feature the faker is described as ‘ a foxy little man with a red knobbly face, sandy hair and cunning hazel eyes ‘—a bit of a cliché that, since most forgers look like the average Joe, and indeed Greenhalgh has the face of a fifty something football fan you might find in the public bar of a pub outside Old Trafford. Continue reading
Found—a programme for the seventieth birthday party of Sir Max Beerbohm (1872 – 1956), the well known caricaturist, parodist and all-round wit.
It was held on August 24th 1942 and organised by the Players Theatre, which during the war had moved to a ‘basement ‘ in Albemarle Street. The seventy-strong Maximilian Society, had been created especially for the event, and it was decided that a new member would be added each subsequent year that ‘ the incomparable Max ‘celebrated his birthday. The chairman was ‘Sir’ Desmond MacCarthy, the Bloomsburyite literary critic.
All we can gather from the programme is that much of the entertainment comprised seven Music Hall singing acts who trilled such raffish ditties as‘ Milly’s Cigar Divan ‘, ‘ Sweethearts and Wives’, and ‘ Driving in the Park’ . Beerbohm, who began his career in the 1890’s at the height of the Music Hall era, would have known these songs, and might even have chosen them.
Some of the performers were big names themselves. The actor Frith Banbury ( 1912 – 2008) would star in the classic film ‘The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp’ the following year. Hedli Anderson (1907 – 90), the singer and actress, was associated with the Group Theatre and had previously starred in plays by Auden, Isherwood and MacNeice, whom she married that same year. In fact, ‘Funeral Blues ‘was specially written for her by Auden and put to music by Britten for the Group Theatre’s production of ‘The Ascent of F6’. As we all know, the poem later became the star turn in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. Continue reading
Alas, good eating places, whether pubs, hotels or restaurants, often come to sticky ends. They close down and when they re-open are often a shadow of their former selves. They frequently burn down, either deliberately to claim insurance, or by accident when a deep fat fryer goes up in flames.
Destruction by fire was the fate of one of the more unusual eating places in the 1961 Good Food Guide. The Swordfish Hotel, on Crofton Cliffs in Lee – on- Solent was a much-loved attraction on the Hampshire coast, between Gosport and Southampton. It boasted a superb view of the Solent, had its own beach, and in 1961 was serving weird starters, such as fried silk worms and roasted caterpillars. More significantly, its chef was trained, in the words of Raymond Postgate ‘at that nursery of good cooks, the Westminster Technical College ’. Continue reading
An extract from the ever fascinating A Thousand Ways to Earn a Living (1888)
‘This is undoubtably one of the most promising occupations for women of which we are able to speak. The type-writer, we may mention for the benefit of those who may not have had the opportunity of seeing it in work, is a small machine for the rapid writing of letters or other documents operated by a keyboard. In the United States there are between sixty and seventy thousand type-writers. In London, the machines are being brought into use in all kinds of offices, and there can be little doubt but that they will speedily become universal. Authors dictate their books to type-writers, legal papers are copied by them, and business correspondence of every description transacted with them. It is an employment particularly well suited to well educated girls. To acquire a really useful knowledge of type-writing would take from six to eight months. The largest school in London is that of Madame Monchablon, 26, Austin Friars E.C. who charges 2 guineas until perfect. The machine usually adopted is the No. 2 “ Standard” Remington . In about 6 months a speed of 50 words a minute is attained, and this can be increased to 80, and in phenomenal cases to 100. We are informed on the best authority that appointments can always be obtained for skilled operators. ‘
Apparently, according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary the word typist in relation to someone who operated a typewriter, was coined in 1885, which begs the question as to why it was not used in A Thousand Ways .
I wonder who the first author was to produce a book in typescript. Any ideas out there in Jotland ? [R.M.Healey]
Some examples from 1,000 Ways to Earn a Living (1888)
Secretaryships to institutions
‘Are held usually by clergymen or retired military men. These positions are much coveted, and in a recent instance 967 applications were received in reply to a single advertisement in The Times. Secretaries of clubs are frequently members of distinguished families. Such positions fall only to the fortunate. The renumeration is from £400 to £1,500 per annum, including apartment and board.
Private, Household Cavalry
1s. 9d a day plus rations, lodging, clothing &c equal to 15s per week.
‘Speaking of it as a profession, the Church is one of the widest of all. Most of the professors at our Universities, the masters in our schools, and numbers of secretaries of religious and other bodies, are qualified priests. In order to become a clergyman it is almost absolutely necessary to obtain a University degree, although it is not requisite ( as is popularly understood ) that that degree should have been granted by either Oxford or Cambridge… From the point of view of a livelihood, it is unfortunately too well known that the Church is far from being a lucrative profession, though, like others, it has its co-called prizes…yet…there is no reason why a clergyman’s leisure time should not be profitably employed in a material as well as a moral sense. The pursuits of tuition or literature are always open to him… Continue reading
Some of the celebs who ‘approved’ restaurants and inns in The Good Food Guide of 1961 – 62 were poets, journalists, novelists and literary translators. Two of them—Keidrych Rhys (1915 – 87), the Welsh poet and veteran editor of the literary magazine Wales, and Michael Meyer, the prize-winning translator and biographer of Ibsen and Strindberg, and a friend of Raymond Postgate—feature prominently in the London section of the Guide.
Along with drama and good conversation , the greatest passion of Meyer (1921 – 2000), according to a friend, was food. He writes about his passion for it in his autobiography, Not Prince Hamlet (1985), and doubtless he was instrumental in recommending good eating places to his friend Raymond Postgate. Certainly, he is one of the more frequent ‘approvers‘ to appear in the Guide and at one point was expected to succeed as its editor. Eclectic in his tastes and apparently prepared to trawl London for good places to eat, one of his favourite restaurants was Fiddlers Three in Beauchamp Place, Kensington, very close to the trendy Parkes ( see earlier Jot). Appropriately for such a fan of European culture, the food seems to have had a pronounced East European flavour; dishes included ‘ goulash, boiled silverside and dumplings, whole small pigeon, stuffed baby marrows, prune and orange jelly, home-made soups, kedgeree with cheese sauce, and home-made cream cheese’. Translation work often pays well, which explains why Meyer was also able to afford Chelsea’s La Carafe, a branch of the famous fish restaurant Wheeler’s, where lobster Cardinal ( 15/-) and 32 varieties of sole were on the menu. Continue reading
Found in a pamphlet called Spain and Us. (Holborn and West Central London Committee for Spanish Medical Aid, London 1936) this contribution by Louis Golding suggesting a boycott of the drink Port. Quite early in the history of political boycotting of products. Other contributors to this rare booklet included J. B. Priestley, Rebecca West, Stephen Spender, Ethel Mannin, Francis Meynell, T. F. Powys, J. Langdon-Davies, and Catherine Carswell.
Drink no port.
The aeroplanes are still entering Portugal for the assistance of the gallant Generals, Franco and Mola. So are the shells, the rifles. Perhaps the poison-gas bombs are on their way by now.
And Port is still leaving Portugal.
We must drink no Port.
I know that the Port we might deny ourselves tonight is not the Port which left Portugal a fortnight from now is not likely to be balanced on adept palates for another ten, twenty, fifty years. Ten years from now there may be no docks at Oporto for the disembarkation of its Port, nor docks on the Thames for its reception. Continue reading
In the fascinating Thousand Ways to Earn a Living (1888) the section on ‘Literary Work’ covers journalism, authorship, and something called ‘compilation’. In the journalism chapter modern-day readers might be surprised at the high rates of pay awarded to humble London hacks ( up to £10 a week in 1888—more than a skilled surgeon or a junior barrister might earn ), but few could argue that in late Victorian Britain , as in 2017, in the newspaper world ‘ the majority of new ventures are promoted by newspaper men who have been underpaid or unfairly dealt with by their employers ‘.
Nor, it seems, has the world of vanity publishing changed much. After praising the commitment to potential authors of such a serious publisher as Bentley (who brought out the early work of Dickens), the dangers of unscrupulous publishers is addressed:
‘Advertising sharks should be avoided. Their only aim is to obtain money from unsuspecting writers of inexperience, and they generally manage to rob those whom they get into toils considerably. During the past few years they have been exposed in many papers; but, as their advertisements still appear, there is no doubt that they are still engaged in their nefarious work. Their advertisements may easily be detected. They generally address their announcements to ‘Authors, Amateurs, and others’; sometimes it is fiction, at others poetry that is wanted. But in every case it is plunder that is meant. Mr Walter Besant has laid down the axiom that no one should pay for the publication of his literary work. In the majority of cases this is a good rule, though like many another good rule, it has its exceptions…’
The rewards earned by novelists has perhaps changed a little in 130 years. Back then ‘the novel-writer ‘, we are told, got’ £50 to £1,000 for a book’. To us this seems rather generous, considering that in 2017 an average first-time novelist would be lucky to receive an advance of £500. What has changed greatly since 1888 is the demise of the serial.’ The modern novelist’, it was reported, ‘ usually manages to run each story he writes through a magazine and a number of provincial and colonial newspapers before issuing it in book form ‘. Incidentally, note the gendering of this modern novelist at a time when the most popular novelists were likely to be writers like Rhoda Broughton and Marie Corelli. Continue reading
On October 13th 1928 John O’London’s Weekly published a feature in which several well-known publishers revealed the books they had most enjoyed publishing. Though spokesmen for Blackwood’s, Duckworth and Methuen (E. V. Lucas, no less) were reluctant to divulge their choices, a number of other publishers were quite happy to do so. Here is a selection of the publishers that nominated a book or books:-
‘Having been an admirer of the ideas of Samuel Butler, and having read him a great deal, it was, of course, extremely satisfactory to be able to take over Mr Fifield’s business and by doing so become the publisher of Samuel Butler….to get, later, Col Lawrence’s Revolt in the Desert was, perhaps, a bit of a ‘scoop’
H. Grubb (Putnams)
‘…I am sure Major Putnam would agree with me that an author whose books we have been very proud to publish was Washington Irving. My own particular section among his writings would be ‘The Sketch Book’, which, of course, will last while literature remains…’
Harold Shaylor (Brentano’s)
‘….occasionally there arrives a book the publishing of which becomes even more interesting than usual. Such a one was ‘ But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes ‘. Miss Anita Loos’s MS had been anxiously awaited for many months, and it finally arrived. The reading of the proofs was somewhat hampered by the gusts of laughter that continually floated through the office! Nevertheless, thousands of copies were with the booksellers on publication day.’
Charles Boon ( Mills and Boon)
‘…I think that perhaps Jack London’s ‘The Valley of the Moon’ is our choice, for it has many times been described as one of our finest real love- stories ever written.’ Continue reading
A glimpse into the world of bookselling in Edwardian England. The following’ special bargains’—advertised for sale in ‘ new condition’– are listed in The Bookman of August 1908 by Edward Baker’s Great Bookshop, Birmingham. The discounted prices of 1908 are compared to what the same books ( inevitably in slightly worse condition) are listed at in Abebooks today.
Beccari’s Wanderings in the Great Forests of Borneo (1901) 8s 6d (42p) £600
Book of the Cat by Frances Simpson (1903) 9s 0d (45p) £325
Dominion of the Air by Rev J.M.Bacon (1904) 2s. (10p) £87
Moss Flora by R.Braithwaite (1887) £2 10s (250p) £120
Historical Locomotives by Bennett 1s (5p) £75
How I shot my bears by Mrs Tyacke (1893) 2s 6d.(12p) £650 Continue reading
Guaranteed to madden the sisterhood are these disdainful words by a certain Thomas Powell in his Welch Bate, Or a Looking Back Upon The Times Past (1603) which is included in Charmers and Caitiffs (1930), an anthology of prose and verse written by men about women:
‘Instead of songes and musicke, let them learne cookerie & laundrie; & instead of reading in Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, let them reade the Groundes of Good Huswiferie. I like not a female poetesse at any hand…’
Although there is no doubting the author of this advice, there is a problem with the full title of Mr Powell’s book. According to the editors of Charmers and Caitiffs , the full title of the collection is A Welch Bate, or a Looking Back Upon the Times Past. However, in the DNB entry for Thomas Powell we find that the work in question is entitled A Welch Bayte to Spare Prouender. The Internet has little or anything to say about Powell, and although both the DNB and The Dictionary of Welsh Biography (1959) sketch out a brief biography, neither is certain about the year of his birth and death.
What we can say is that he was born around 1572 in Diserth, Radnorshire, studied at Gray’s Inn for one year and served as solicitor-general in the marches of Wales, 1613 – 22. More interested in literature than in law, he published various works in poetry and prose, including the book in question, a justification of Queen Elizabeth’s treatment of papists and puritans, which was suppressed. However, he is better known for his pioneer work on the public records. His Direction in Search of Records remaining in the Chauncerie, Tower, Exchequer etc appeared in 1622, while A Repertorie of Records followed in 1631. He died around 1635.