Frank J. Minnitt (1892-1958)

FMinnitt_Bunter_sm Found in the Peter Haining archive this piece by his friend the tireless researcher W.O.G. Lofts. Both men noted in former jots. Minnitt is not  forgotten as long as Billy Bunter is still part of our culture and it is worthwhile recording this Lofts piece which appears not to have been published.

Frank J. Minnitt - Billy Bunter Artist in The Knockout.

By W.O.G. Lofts.

Every so often someone emerges from the shadows as it were to become the leading light of the show. An understudy replaces the star and becomes an overnight hit. A reserve footballer or twelfth man cricketer is promoted to the first team, and scores a hat trick, plus the winning goal, or a sparkling ceatury as the case may be. Another case in point: when Gerald Campion - a small part actor on the screen- landed the T.V. part of Billy Bunter. Completely unknown to the public at large, overnight he became a star. And so it was once with a comic artist named Prank J. Minnitt, who after years of plodding along, drawing the centre pages of small - now long forgotten strips - when was given the job of illustrating a character who today is a household word. The name of course being Billy Bunter the fat boy of Greyfriars School in Kent.

Although one can write the whole life story and history of Billy Bunter, almost nothing is known at all about the artist who drew him in Knockout except for his birth and death dates. Born in 1892, possibly at Warlord, nothing is known of him until his work appears on the scene in 1927 in several Amalgamated Press comic papers. His art work that featured in such top selling papers as Chips Jester, and Joker, with a curious rounded style (that was to stand him in good stead in later years) could be said to be competent enough to fill the centre pages. Never in the class of Bert Brown, Percy Cooking, G.W. Wakefield, or Roy Wilson, he was never even considered to duplicate like most artists for these great illustrators. His style was so distinctive that it is hard to see how he could copy any other artists work. Seemingly, he was just content to plug along, eking out a living for a few guineas a week, and never improving sufficent to get bigger commissions to draw the front pages.

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The Truth about Publishing (1926)

Found in RL2463_1 The Truth about Publishing (Allen & Unwin, London 1926) this flier/ order form for the book ‘to be published in September.’ Quite an early use of the word ‘blurb.’ The pamphlet ends with this tongue-in-cheek claim ‘…The Truth about Publishing is a long book but it is published at a low price. This happy combination is due to the fact that the publishers were able to dictate their own terms to the author.’ Our illustration shows a later version of the book illustrated with a portrait of Sir Stanley Unwin by Oskar Kokoschka. He is not to be confused with the great comedian Stanley Unwin  (‘deep joy.’)

A ‘Blurb’

Mr. Stanley Unwin is not tongue-tied, like the ghost of the elder Hamlet. No power on earth or in heaven can forbid him to tell the secrets of his publishing house. ‘The Truth About Publishing’ – how fascinating a theme! Cannot we see authors (whose name is legion, but who, in general, are parsimonious book-buyers) queuing up in Museum Street, burning with eagerness to have their should harrowed by these revelations? ‘Are our suspicions to be justified? Will it prove as bad as we thought?’ – thus we can imagine one Author saying to another while they await their turn.

Readers of ‘The Truth About Publishing’ will find it a fascinating book, of fit is written by one who is a master of his craft of book-publishing; has served his apprenticeship in the book-printing trade, as a publisher’s traveller, and as volunteer assistant to a German bookseller; and has the witty and humorous pen of a ready writer. A successful publisher, withal, eager, not only to inform, but also to criticise. Genially and shrewdly he criticises, not authors alone, but publishers and printers and papermakers and bookbinders and booksellers and book buyers (when there are any) as well. This criticism is always kindly, always helpful – always directed towards the cause he has most at heart, the production and distribution of good books. Incidentally, he makes a modest livelihood (not a fortune!) by the process? Agreed! That is why he is so well qualified to tell us all about it, and to convince his readers that the good publisher is an expert in whom, with due precautions, we may trust; not a necessary evil, but a necessary good.

On his title-page is a quotation from a famous publisher of an artier generation, with which this blurb may aptly close. (Yes, Mr. Stanley Unwin tells us all about blurbs, in his volume of cheerful indiscretions! – but he has not written this one himself). ‘It is by books that mind speaks to mind, by books the world’s intelligence grows; books are the tree of knowledge, which has grown into and twined its branches with those of the tree of life, and of their common fruit men eat and become as gods knowing good and evil.’

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The Golden Dustmen of Dickens’ time

Dust heap Somers TownA central character in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend (1865) is Nicodemus Boffin, nicknamed ‘The Golden Dustman ‘ because of the wealth he inherited from his old employer John Harmon, who had made his fortune as a Dust Contractor at Somers Town. These famous rubbish piles stood where the filthy Maiden’s Lane (now roughly York Way) joined onto Pentonville Road, near where Kings Cross station now stands. Here, just about anything could be found—‘dust ‘ was a Victorian euphemism; there was more likely to be dead dogs ,cats, horses, discarded pots and pans, crockery, shoes, boots, old clothes and all sorts of debris from the surface of roads, including grit, horse dung, dog dirt, as well as the human excrement collected by the scavengers. All this so called ‘dust’, once separated, could be sold to various factory owners for large profits. Dickens, who loved exploring London, once lived in Doughty Street, which is just a mile from the famous Somers Town dust heaps, and must have known them well. He also became friendly with a wealthy Dust Contractor from Islington called Henry Dodd who, at his death in 1881, left a fortune of £111,000. It has been argued that the character of Boffin was based on Dodd.
A contemporary sketch of the Somers Town site is dated 1836, but doubtless contractors had been adding to the muck heaps for many years up this date. Scavengers are depicted clambering over the filthy heaps in search of the more valuable items to sell on, a process that still takes place in some third world countries. It is interesting to find, therefore, a London Times classified advertisement of December 6th 1820, when Dickens was a boy of eight, requesting Dust Contractors to tender for a contract in Chelsea.

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A Norfolk Dr Frankenstein ?

Cruso auction 001

Discovered on a stall in Portobello Road is this fascinating auction poster of 1815 announcing the forthcoming sale of household furniture and effects that once belonged to a bankrupt called T. Hunter. Research in Norfolk County Record Office produced nothing about Mr Hunter, although I was luckier with Robert Cruso, who was a prominent King’s Lynn auctioneer at this time. Indeed his name is preserved in the present firm of valuers and surveyors, Cruso and Wilkin of King’s Lynn, which was established in 1756 and now claims to be one of the oldest auction houses in the UK.

However, the auctioneer and his unusual name aren’t the only features that stand out in this poster. Some of items listed for sale are unusual, to say the least. Among the usual mirrors, chests of drawers and pictures can be found a ‘compound universal microscope in mahogany case complete’, a ‘full size double barrel Air Pump’, and most intriguing of all, an ‘Electrifying Machine’. These items prompt the questions; who exactly was T. Hunter, and what was he was doing with these scientific instruments?

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Cuppa in the City

51Y+-eY-sUL._SL500_SX317_BO1,204,203,200_From the Good Cuppa Guide by Jonathan Routh (1966) in the ‘Tea in the City’ section. Jonathan Routh (1928-2008) was a hoaxer and practical joker, most famous as the presenter of ITV’s Candid Camera. Previous to this he had successfully invented a fictitious 18th Century poet, gaining him a mention in the TLS. As well as his guide to tea shops in London he produced the Good Loo Guide (1968); the New York version was called the Good John Guide. He was also a prolific, and eccentric, painter – Queen Victoria was depicted trying to lose weight using a hula-hoop. Some of his paintings occasionally turn up in auction..
 

The Leadenhall Tea Room and Billiards Salon

(Licensed for Billiards and Tobacco)

21 Lime Street

This vast subterranean arena which hasn’t changed one iota since 1880 is one of the weirdest sights in England. In it are maybe two hundred men drinking fivepenny cups of tea – which is all that’s served for their refreshment – watching another fifty on the billiard tables. It seemed only right that, in purchasing my cup, I should have received change for my 6d with an Edwardian penny. I felt, too, that at last I’d stumbled across what that ‘Something’ is that people who are ‘Something in the City’ do. As I say, it’s weird; and it goes on from 10 in the morning to 9 at night. Just the click of cue on ball and spoon on cup. An absolute must for those who like to take their tea in surroundings that are different.

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Medicinal Virtues of Strong Coffee

Typical London coffee house in the 18th century

18th Century Coffee House*

Among the astonishingly varied contents of the very scarce Family Receipt Book (undated but c1810) is this incredible piece of PR on behalf of strong coffee:

‘Strong coffee, in the proportion of an ounce and a half to a pint, and particularly when made by infusion, is not only truly grateful to the palette, but wonderfully fortifies and strengthens the stomach, as well as the whole nervous system. It adds, maintains one of its warmest panegyrists, or gives spirits to the body, on any sinking, faintness, weakness, or weariness, of mind or body, and that beyond whatever the best wine can effect; conveying, as it were, life and strength to the whole frame. It is, doubtless, very good against consumptions, vapours and hysterics, and all cold and moist diseases afflicting the head, brain etc; it prevails also, on being long and plentifully used, against the scurvy, dropsy, and gout , as well as all manner of rheumatic pains ; absorbing all acidities in the human body, and destroying the congelative powers by which those diseases are chiefly generated; while, by it’s(sic) diuretic property, it carries off all those heterogene and morbific humours, after a very singular manner. “

It may be, says Salmon, the medical writer here in part quoted, “that I have said a great deal in commendation of this strong coffee, but I can truly assert that  I have said nothing but what I know myself, and that in my own person, to be truth, and have had confirmed by manifold and daily experiences for a great many years, to my exceeding satisfaction. I was also cured, about ten years since, of a rheumatic pain in my shoulder; which was so vehement that, besides the perpetual pain, I could not as much lift my arm or hand up to my head, not put it behind my back , for nearly two years , in which I received no benefit by a long application of vesicatories, and continual use of opiates. Of this vehement rheumatism, I was perfectly cured by drinking a full quart of strong coffee at a time, and continuing it some days together, nor have I since the smallest return. The like relation I have had from two other persons, particular patients of mine, who were much more grievously afflicted, by their own accounts, than even I was; who by an extravagant drinking of strong coffee, to use their own words, were perfectly cured, and freed from their deplorable lameness, after manifold applications, and the use of many other things, both external and internal, had for some years past been tried in vain.”

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Group Captain F.C. “Griff” Griffiths and the Maquis

71wD8UA294LFound loosely inserted in his book Winged Hours this account by Group Captain F.C. “Griff” Griffiths (1913-1996) of his time in France with the Maquis and his attempts after the war to trace members of the French Resistance who had helped him escape. In April 1943, Frank Griffiths, then a Squadron Leader, was posted to No. 138 Special Duty Squadron to take part in SOE ‘drops’ taking men and supplies to resistance organisations in occupied Europe. On the night of the 14/15 August 1943 his Halifax aircraft serial JD180 was brought down when flying low over Annecy (near the French/Swiss border) by small arms fire from an Italian Alpini corporal. He was one of two survivors and escaped his Italian captors and was subsequently sheltered by the Maquis and eventually escaped over the border to Switzerland, returning to England around Christmas 1943. The problem with tracing his brave saviours after the war was that none of them had used their real names…

PYRENEAN PICNIC

One of the sad things about Escaping/Evading experiences is that to protect our helpers we did not wish to know their real names or to remember addresses. We thus failed to make contact with many of them after the war.

For over 43 years I endeavoured to trace a helper with whom I had formed a strong rapport. All I knew of him was that his name was “Antoine” (obviously a nom de guerre) and that his French was difficult to understand because he was a Catalan.

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Gerald Heard on J.W. Dunne’s Theory of Time

HEARD16Found – the typescript of a review by Gerald Heard of J.W. Dunne’s The Serial Universe (1934). Dunne proposed that our experience of time as linear was an illusion brought about by human consciousness. He argued that past, present and future were continuous in a higher-dimensional reality and only experienced sequentially because of our mental perception of them. He went further, proposing an infinite regress of higher time dimensions inhabited by the conscious observer, which he called “serial time.” In his time Dunne’s work was highly influential, Aldous Huxley (a friend of Gerald Heard) J.P. Priestley and T.S. Eliot all used his ideas in their work. Gerald Heard is sometimes cited as a proto hippie or father of the ‘New Age’ movement. Wikipedia writes: ‘His work was a forerunner of, and influence on, the consciousness development movement that has spread in the Western world since the 1960s.’ He also wrote several still rated supernatural fantasies. This typescript was probably published in a newspaper at the time.

MR. DUNNE'S THEORY
OF TIME


'IMMENSELY IMPORTANT' FOR MAN

The Serial Universe. By J. W. Dunne.
(Faber. 10s. 6d.)

Reviewed by GERALD HEARD

  In pre-Nazi days in Germany there used to be a popular print. It showed one of the great German philosophers walking along the main street of his home town with his manuscript under his arm, on the way to the printers. He keeps close to the wall because down the street's centre dashes that dreaded black travelling carriage inside which can be seen Napoleon, Europe's tyrant, rushing from-one battlefield to another.

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Samp soup—a recipe from Count Rumford

Count_RumfordFound in a pamphlet of c 1796, entitled On Food, and particularly of Feeding the Poor by the pioneer of cheaply produced dishes , Benjamin, Count Rumford, is a recipe that is not likely to catch on among modern foodies, though those who like experimenting with trendy cereals such as Quinoa, might find it intriguing. To me it sounds like a superior thickened gruel, but others might disagree.

Receipt for a very cheap Soup

‘Take of water eight gallons, and mixing with it 5lbs of barley-meal, boil it to the consistency of a thick jelly.—Season it with salt, pepper, vinegar, sweet herbs, and four red herrings, pounded in a mortar.—-Instead of bread, add to it 5lb. of Indian Corn made into Samp, and stirring it together with a ladle, serve it up immediately in portions of 20 ounces.

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The Unknown Country

RM coverRaymond Maufrais (1926-50) was a French paratrooper, journalist and explorer. In September 1949 he attempted to travel solo from French Guyana to Brazil. His route would take him through the densely forested and sparsely populated Tumuk Humak mountain range. In February 1950 his notes and equipment were found in a hut by the River Tompok. Final entries show that the exhausted Maufrais intended to swim to the nearest habitation – a distance of some 70 km. His body was never found. His father Edgar journeyed to Guyana in 1952 and spent many years in South America, publishing an account of his search for his son – whose fate has never been determined – in 1956.)


Thursday, 12th January [from the penultimate entry]

For a month now I’ve lived in the virgin forest, living entirely on what it provides and working hard meanwhile. And I’m nothing unusual, physically; I’m the average Frenchman – if that – the average European with his habits, his tastes, his modest scale of life – and his misadventures during the last twenty years. So that I’ve given the lie to those who asserted after their third round of punch that Guiana is “death to the European. He can’t exist in it without taking every possible precaution, keeping to a fixed diet, and avoiding physical effort. Hunting, for instance. You’ve got to go slow with your hunting; if you don’t, it’ll wear you to a shred. Kill you, in the end, it will”.

But Guiana is an unknown country. It’s not Guiana that kills the European, and it’s not hard, physical work, either. It’s the European who kills himself; and, as he needs an excuse, he pins the crime on Guiana.

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