One foot in the grave at 44 !

12796501More heart-warming advice from Real Life Problems and their Solution (1938) by the cheery R Edynbry.

‘I am just forty-four years and beginning to feel that real middle age is just around the corner. I don’t mix much with other men and never talk over my symptoms with anybody. But I often speculate as to what may be in store for me in the way of health and sickness. I should be glad if you would tell me some general symptoms of middle age so that should experience them in the coming years I should not be taken by surprise.’

Changes take place so slowly in middle age that it is often difficult to compare conditions from one year to another. The trend of physical life is now downwards, however, gradually, and whether it will be hurried or delayed depends upon the constitution and manner of living. As a rule it becomes more difficult now to plan and carry out personal schemes, the success of which depends upon quick movement and energy. The healthy flush of youth shown in the complexion, gives place to a certain pallor, except when blood pressure gives a florid appearance. Greyness and some degree of baldness begin to show. There may be a bagginess under the eyes and wrinkles at the outer corners. Hearing may not be so keen as formerly and glasses are generally necessarily for reading small print.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature of middle age is the layer of abdominal fat and the general sagging of the body. Unless increasing care is paid to the diet, dyspepsia may give trouble, and various forms of nervous irritability draw attention to the fact that something is wrong. Worry about the physical or economic situation often causes insomnia at this time. The sex life needs careful regulation and all emotional strain should be avoided as far as possible. The sensible man—who should be his own doctor to some extent in middle age—should know that one of the secrets of health and happiness at this period lies in the simplification of one’s needs and demands. Less food and plainer food; less worry because of fewer ambitions and desires; less responsibility because nothing is undertaken without reasonable hope of accomplishment. [RR]

 

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Bruce Calvert—the man who cancelled Christmas

Bruce Calvert advert pic 001Found in the classified column of The New Masses for May 1927 is this advert for The Open Road, a monthly magazine described by its founding editor, Bruce Calvert, as ‘A Zinelet of High Voltage for People Not Afraid to Think’ and a cure for ‘ Mental Obstipation and Brain Fag ‘.

Calvert, who ran the operation from his home in Pequannock , New Jersey, delightfully dubbed by him ‘Pigeon-Roost-in-the Woods’, had been a hard-bitten magazine editor in Chicago and Pennsylvania before moving to the backwoods of Griffiths, near Gary, in his home state of Indiana, to take up the life of an anarchist-freethinker inspired by, among others, Walt Whitman and Thoreau. In 1908 he had brought out the first issue of The Open Road, which appeared regularly until 1915. Espousing a philosophy of ‘right thinking and right living ‘, Calvert made his magazine a fount of various heterodoxies which delighted in offending straight-laced home-loving and family-orientated Americans. In April 1911 one of the most controversial issues challenged the hijacking of Christmas by commerce—a point of view which earned him the soubriquet of ‘Indiana’s Prize Crank ‘.

By November 1911 ‘The World League for a Sane Christmas’ had established its HQ in Room 431 of the State Life Building in downtown Indianapolis. Members who paid their $10 subscription could expect their money to go towards various planned publications as well as a booklet entitled The Christmas Insanity. Moreover, each new member was obliged to sign the following agreement:

‘I will from this time forward neither give nor accept Christmas presents outside my own immediate household, and I will do all I can by distributing literature and other propaganda work to discourage the senseless practice of indiscriminate Christmas giving, to the end that true human love and brotherhood may reign in the hearts of men instead of the maudlin insanity which now disgraces the day ‘ Continue reading

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Dangers of Infatuation

Cougar couple by Cranach

Some sensible advice from Real Life Problems and their Solution (1938) from the ever reliable R.Edynbry.

One can truly ascribe it to a loss of balance when a woman in the “ forties “ or “ fifties “ falls madly in love with a youth young enough to be her son; or even with a son-in-law. Sometimes he happens to be an employee or even a close friend of the family. The problem in the home is a terribly distressing one. To reason with her is useless, and kindly restraint with pacification is the only available remedy. With great good luck this dangerous phase may soon pass over and leave a wife full of contrition and shame —a condition often to be feared almost as much as the former. A wise family doctor may also be of great help by explaining to her how the change of life can affect both the mind and the emotions. One the phase has passed, never reproach the woman, or make her unhappy about it. Just show your happiness at her return to normality, and if possible, arrange for her to take a holiday or a change of some sort.

Unmarried woman of middle age are equally liable to these emotional outbreaks. Sometimes they take the form of persecuting a public character by sending anonymous letters or by waylaying him. Women of hitherto unimpeachable morals may try to seduce much younger men, or even bring charges against a perfectly innocent stranger. All these cases need the skilled care of a trained physician who will understand the real basis of the situation. Unreserved condemnations and punishment serve little purpose and can be cruel. To understand all may not be to forgive all, but, when it is recognised that the great majority of these women are mentally and emotionally sick, the otherwise harsh judgment passed upon them will often be softened.  [RR]

(Painting by Cranach)

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A Pre-First World War European Federation formed on Co-operative principles

waechter-sir-max-picOn June 12th 1913, sixty years before the UK joined the EEC, and 103 years before it voted to leave it, The New Age, a well-known Socialist weekly, published a prescient article by one of its frequent contributors, Joseph Finn (1865 – 1945), a former tailor who, according to one source, became ‘one of the first Jewish labour leaders in Britain.’ In it Finn put forward a radical economic alternative to the political vision of a ‘United States of Europe’ that Sir Max Waechter had outlined in a recent issue of The Fortnightly Review.

On the eve of a possible war between Britain and Germany Waechter had argued that there were no political, racial or dynastic reasons why the two nations should not join as the prime movers of a larger European Union. Finn, however suggested that the basis for any such federation should not be political, but economic. Germany and Britain were in direct economic competition with one another and therefore were unlikely to cooperate within a proposed political union, but might even go to war in furtherance of their own economic ambitions. Finn continued:

‘If nations were not afraid of competition they would not surround themselves with tariff walls. England is no exception, though she is a Free Trade country. English free trade originated in a period when England was the workshop of the world. On the one hand, she had no rivals; on the other hand, she stood in need of cheap food for her factory hands. Such economic conditions were the natural mother of the political institution of Free Trade. Now, having lost her monopoly in manufacture, and she being compelled to face formidable rivals, we see growing up a political tendency towards Protection. Thus we see clearly the truth of the sociological law, that the political structure of society is the outcome of the economic structure. Continue reading

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Going to the Sales in 1906

olivias-shopping-001Now that the January sales appear to be in full swing it might be valuable to take the advice of the pseudonymous ‘ Olivia ‘, a copy of whose ‘ prejudiced guide to the London shops ‘of 1906 cropped up in a pile of books. This chatty and opinionated, and possibly American-born, veteran of West End emporia, took retail therapy to new heights in her search for quality, elegance and good value. Here’s what she has to say about the vexed matter of sales.

The magic word that stocks our wardrobes, deletes our purses, disorganizes our routine, fascinates us, repels us, delights us, disappoints us twice a year regularly in London—for how much is it not answerable?

The ethics of sales are so disturbing, one time so morally and clearly good, the next minute so conspicuously disappointing and bad, that no woman, I believe is quite settled in her mind regarding them. 

Personally, I find it a delightful thing to buy a pretty piece of stuff ‘marked down ‘.Even when I can buy the same thing fresh and by the yard, and at the identical price, it never thrills as does that remnant with the wrong amount of yards, the torn edge, and the marked down price. There is no doubt we all love a bargain, even when it is only on paper.

This trait in our feminine character is fully appreciated by the shopkeeper. Therefore, there are sometimes disappointments to be encountered at sales. On the other hand, some of us attempt to remain level-headed in the matter, and are not to be won over. Continue reading

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Google Blaster – the name game

A young jotwatcher, one Simione, from the Silicon Fen area has sent in famous_fantastic_mysteries_195306this amusing game that can be played using an iPhone or laptop. One player picks 3 people of seemingly equal fame and all the other players have to say (in order) who has the highest google rating i.e. number of hits. It is best when searching to put the full name in inverted commas – e.g. “Kevin Bacon.” Players score 1 point for naming the person with the most hits and an extra 2 points for naming all 3 in correct order. First to ten , at that point you can play again but one session is usually enough. Try Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borges and Vladimir Nabokov. The leader is Borges at 7.88 million, Proust at 4.68 and Nabokov at 3.3 million.

In the realm of popular youth culture who is the bigger – Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga? Bieber wins at 168 million, Lady Gaga 137M and Taylor trails with a mere 127 million. Results can change day by day and rather randomly. People currently in the news do well, as do those associated with technology. Best to avoid common name like James Brown or John Taylor.

You can mix cultures to make it more challenging – say Kafka, Ayn Rand and Samuel Beckett— predictably Kafka comes in at number one with 7.74M, objectivist Ayn Rand at 5.7M and Beckett with only 3.97 million hits.  [See our illustration which brings Rand and Kafka together.]
Names of rock bands can be fun – try Kraftwerk, Radiohead, Metallica (it’s Metallica by a country mile.)

With Elvis, Bob Dylan and Albert Einstein, the scientist leads, followed by Bob and trailed quite closely by ‘The King”. Super heroes throw up some surprises- at 100million Super Mario has more hits than the Hobbit and Darth Vader combined. Theoretically you could try Oranges, Apples and Lemons or Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle but celebrities are the most fun. The name of the game, according to Simione was suggested by the cocktail in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster*. Simione also suggests it could be a drinking game with the loser having to buy a round or the winner drinking a shot. More sober players could play for money, say a  $1000 a point.

He (or she) suggests you try William Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling and John Lennon or Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath and Bjork. Such fun!

*Beeblebrox advised that you should “never drink more than two Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters unless you are a thirty ton mega elephant with bronchial pneumonia.”

 

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George Sims and espionage

img_2750Found in a thriller by George Sims (1923 -1999) an interesting letter about the book. Sims was a successful and much admired dealer in rare books, something of a poet and a novelist with several of his books being about the book trade (bibliomysteries.) This book Who is Cato? (Macmillan, London 1981) actually has an art dealer, one William Marshall (rich but disillusioned), as its hero. He becomes involved in espionage through his connection to  ‘Intelligence’ in WW2 and finds himself working against the KGB many years later while on holiday in Majorca…

The letter from Sims to a woman friend, who ran a bookshop, is on headed notepaper from his cottage ‘Peacocks’ in Hurst, Berkshire. It reads:

Many thanks for your helpful cheering letter. I was glad to have it. Probably I’ve told you that when Cato was published we were in America and our daughter phoned to say that there had been a mysterious burglary at our cottage in which nothing was taken. When I came back I was puzzled as to how an entry was made into our cottage and my office; nothing was missing not even some £10 notes in the office drawer… exactly like the burglary which took place at William Marshall’s cottage near Hambleden!!

Obviously someone thought I knew more than I did. I was to blame as I had signed the official secrets document when I was at the SCU, and there was quite a deal of fact mixed with the fiction. Love George.

The S.CU. ‘Special Communications Units’ were outstations of S.I.S (‘Special Intelligence Services’) involved mostly with radio communications. They were disbanded in 1946. Sims, known to be irascible, appears quite philosophic about this incident. His books are collected, especially the bibliomysteries, also his excellent and still mouthwatering catalogues

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The Bruno Hat hoax 1929

13883Found – Society Racket: A Critical Survey of Modern Social Life (Long, London 1933) by Patrick Balfour (Baron Kinross) – a journalist. At the time of this book he was ‘Mr Gossip’ at the Daily Express and the character Adam in Waugh’s Vile Bodies was probably partly based on him (Adam becomes ‘Mr Chatterbox’ at the ‘Daily Excess’.)

Balfour covers the 1929 hoax surrealist exhibition at the Guinness’s house in Buckingham Gate SW1:

‘Then an invitation was sent out to a “First exhibition of Pictures by Bruno Hat” in Mr and Mrs Guinness’s house. It was accompanied by the following biography:

Mr Bruno Hat came to England with his father in 1919 from Lubeck. After having lived in this country a short time, Mr Max had married an English woman, and bought a general dealers shop in Sussex, where he lived until he died in 1923. The shop is now managed by Mr Bruno Hat with the help of his stepmother.

Mr Bruno Hat is now 31 years of age. Apart from some two months or so at a Hamburg art school, he is entirely self-taught. In frequent visits to London, exhibitions provide him with little little more than a glimpse of contemporary movements in painting. He has never, until now, exhibited a picture. A month ago, however, several examples of his work were taken to Paris, and the opinion there was so immediately favourable that successful arrangements have been made for an exhibition there In the early winter. Continue reading

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More Bright Young Thing Parties

img_2731In an earlier jot we referred to a Schoolboy Party held at the Punch Club in 1932 which was attended by the cream of young society but there are many more such parties covered in the now rare book Society Racket: A Critical Survey of Modern Social Life (Long, London 1933). Patrick Balfour (Baron Kinross) was a journalist, at the time of this book he was ‘Mr Gossip’ at the Daily Express and the character Adam Fenwick-Symes in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, who works for a while as ‘Mr Chatterbox’ at ‘The Daily Excess’ may have been partly based on him.

Balfour traces this style of party back to the ‘freak’ parties of the nineteenth century citing Lady Castlereagh’s parties where guests took chloroform. In the era before the BYT’s many parties were marked by extreme drunkenness among the young toffs  and women were either excluded or fled to their rooms rather than risk an encounter with ‘drunken gentlemen.’ Balfour writes “..right up until the war, in the days of the Empire Promenade, young men used to behave drunkenly in public.’ By the late 1920s this was disapproved of. He notes that the themed parties started in a modest way with things like ’Treasure Hunts’ and ‘Midnight Chases’ as a reaction to the dullness of the sozzled, dowager-ridden previous generation.

They set the Thames on fire at Henley, they held a false surrealist exhibition of a hoax artist called Bruno Hat, the leaflet for which -‘Approach to Hat’ is now extremely collectable. Among the parties recorded by Balfour were a Circus Party, A Russian Party, A Baby party, A Wild West party and the famous ‘bottle and bath’ party put on by Brian Howard and Elizabeth Ponsonby. The two hired St. George’s Baths at the height of a heat-wave, so that their guest might swim between dancing and supping. This do caused a shock in the media, mainly because the music was provided by a ‘negro’ band. David Tennant gave a Mozart party where guest wore 18th century costume, there was a wild party in Royal Hospital Road in ‘fancy undress’…

In Vile Bodies Waugh writes: –“…Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in London and disgusting dances in Paris – all that succession and repetition of massed humanity … Those vile bodies…”

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Guernsey – a WW2 Press Diary

img_2725Found – a small  44-page wire-stitched newsprint pamphlet (no date or printer specified) entitled “PRESS” DIARY of Island Life during the German Occupation 1940-1945. Probably printed in Guernsey in late 1945. It records life under German occupation  in Guernsey through short news items. It is much concerned with the many changing rules and proclamations by the Germans regarding cars, tobacco, potatoes, curfews,  penalties for plunder of unoccupied premises (death) also it  records local crime, entertainment and privations. Cigarette rations were down to 20 cigarettes a week and 2 oz of tobacco. Many notices are brief – ‘’Rat Destruction committee advertise for dogs and ferrets.’  ‘Owners of private cars ordered to report.’ ‘Potato Board report that shortage of potatoes is due to hoarding.’ ‘First case against cyclists for riding abreast. Fined 2/6 each.’ ‘Germans order collections of old bicycle tyres, and tubes, rags, old paper, feathers, rubber, bones, leather and unbroken glass bottles’ ‘Appeal for old felt hats for making into slippers.’

Ships arriving with supplies are noted including  the one ton of delicacies- milk, chocolate, cheese and sweets donated to the island’s children by the Swiss International Red Cross in April 1941. The  Guille-Allès Library of Guernsey allowed residents 2 books at a time (raised from one.) There were many burglaries and break-ins reported and several profiteers and black marketers arrested and fined. One man arrested for breaking into a house and stealing and assaulting a woman received 12 strokes of the whip and 5 years in prison, a few were summarily shot. Continue reading

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My wife is uncultured—can I improve her? (1938)

19744241506Another ‘solution’ to ‘real life problems’ from the pen of the redoubtable ( and mysterious) R.Edynbry, who doesn’t seem to have published any book other than this little volume (Real Life Problems and Their Solution) of 1938 from Odhams Press, London.

I realized when I married that my girl had few brilliant mental attainments. She had no interest in literature, nor had she even a parrot-knowledge of the names of writers or the classic books of the past. She is a product f the film era, and I have come to the realization that I have married one who comes within the category of the lightheaded. She cannot be serious for more than one minute at a time, and I get no intelligent response to my suggestions. Do you think that, with careful handling, I could introduce her into the ways of thought; to good literature; to an appreciation of the best things of life—-wean her, so to speak, from the dross? The thought that I might be ashamed of her one day appals me. What do you advise ?

‘The best thing for you to do is to concentrate on some of your wife’s good qualities and help her to develop these to the full. It is extremely unlikely you will ever be able to ‘cultivate’ her in the way you wish. There is a very large class of women who take no interest whatever in what men call culture. Even when they do appear to be interested in art, literature or classical music, it is usually to further some scheme at the back of their minds. Or, as has been said by a wit,” When women talk of astronomy, they are thinking of the astronomer “.A love of good books and literature and the fine things of life is inborn and cannot be superimposed like a coat of varnish. A fact that many psychologists have noted is that when a young girl has had her interests centred mainly on the emotions, there is little prospect of intellectual things making any appeal to her. Continue reading

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A contemporary critic responds to Wyndham Lewis’s ‘Blast’

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The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel: Spring 1915 by William Roberts

On the eve of the First World War ‘ T.P. Weekly’s John O’London records his response to the recently published first issue of Blast.

July 2nd. —I find it is not necessary to resist extravagant gospels; they cancel each other. Yesterday Futurism, today Vorticism. I should like to know the precise moment at which one becomes a fogey when ism succeeds to ism. Mr Ezra Pound does not make this plain in his “Salutation the Third”, printed in Blast, wherein one reads:

These are they who objected to newness,

HERE are their TOMBSTONES.

They supported the gag and the ring;

A little black BOX contains them.

So shall you be also,

You slut-bellied obstructionist,

You sworn foe to free speech and good letters,

You fungus, you continuous gangrene.

I have seen many who go about with supplication.

Afraid to say how they hate you

HERE is the taste of my BOOT,

CARESS it, lick off the BLACKING.

Ezra’s boot it at least tangible, and inter alia it goes far to fulfil one of the declared aims of the Vorticists, “to destroy politeness “ – Continue reading

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How to Waste Money at Christmas

waste-money-christmas-pic-001How to Waste Money at Christmas

1) Order in a lot of fruit that goes bad
2) Order in flowers you have no time to arrange
3) Buy handsome presents and have them put down
4) Give a big Dance when you can only afford a Games Evening
5) Economise on heating, and give everyone ‘flu ( see Doctors’, Nurses’ bills)
6) Economise on lighting ( and let people trip over stairs and break their ankles etc)
7) Give rubbishy presents and make lifelong enemies.
8) Overdo yourself and have to go into a Nursing Home.

Extract from The Perfect Christmas (1933) by Rose Henniker Heaton.

[R.M.Healey]

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500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions

img_2706Found – a 1982 book collector’s catalogue from George S Macmanus of Philadelphia 500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions. Mostly modern American and British literature, it has many direct signed presentation from the authors and  many association copies. There are the usual authors who are known to have signed a lot – Galsworthy, Masefield, John Drinkwater, Witter Bynner etc., but also uncommon signers like the great WW1 poet Isaac Rosenberg-  a copy of his play Moses signed shortly before his death, a modest condition copy at $2500. There are some inscriptions whose significance is hard to fathom- Norman Douglas’s In the Beginning inscribed by him to the effete (and highly collectable)  novelist Reginald Turner “To Reggie hoping he won’t follow Symira’s example in ‘every’ respect, from Norman Douglas.” Great condition $375. There are several Aldous Huxley 1920s novels inscribed to Anita Loos with minor condition problems in the $300 range and several Swinburne presentations at $1000 inscribed to the artist Burne-Jones. A decent buy at $1750  is George Orwells Eton leaving present. We have had dozens of these through over the years. Each boy was given a current smart cream-coloured edition of Poems by Thomas Gray. The presentation leaf reads: ‘Hunc Librum Erico A Blair’ and it is signed by the master ‘Cyrillus’ Alington. Potentially these ‘leaving present’ books exist for Cyril Connolly, Brian Howard, Aldous Huxley, Harold Acton, Henry Green and, possibly more valuable than even Orwell, Ian Fleming. Continue reading

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The Old Codgers

s-l400Found – a cheap paperback called The Daily Mirror Old Codgers Little Black Book (Wolfe, London 1975.)  The book is billed as ‘100s of funny, curious and strange facts from the world famous Live Letters column…’ The Old Codgers  column, where readers wrote in to get answers on all manner of things, had begun in 1936, apparently the idea of the newspaper’s  proprietor Hugh (later Lord) Cudlipp. It finished in 1990 by which time The Mirror’s thrusting new editor Roy Greenslade considered its old fashioned and said it was “putting off the younger readers we are trying to attract.”

An article at the time in one of the broadsheets said that while the world went through ‘convulsive’ changes the Codgers remained in ‘a pre-war era redolent of flat caps, allotments,racing pigeons and Woodbine cigarettes…’ There was a bit of protest when it was axed but considering that the Codgers were receiving a 100 letters a day it was fairly muted. They often referred to their legendary Little Black Book that  claimed to contain ‘all information known to man.’ In the days of the web most of the questions that readers sent it could now be very quickly answered. Google is now ‘the little black book.’  The questions were often sent it to settle arguments ‘down the pub’. The most common question in the latter period of the Codgers was whether Stan Laurel was Clint Eastwood’s father. The Codgers research showed he was not. Below are two fairly typical Codgers answers to questions on  ‘Slippery Wednesday’ and the origin of the phrase ‘Mad as a hatter.’

‘Slippery Wednesday’ is another day that has stuck in older memories because of its dire conditions. A former horse carman recalled how he had to put sacks on his horses hooves and his own feet to get about, and that pedestrians were ‘going down like ninepins’, because of the ice. But he couldn’t remember the exact date, only that it was a Wednesday in the 1920s. We were able to tell him that it was December 21, 1927 when severe frost on overnight rain caused chaos in London and other parts of the country, resulting in thousands of street accidents.

‘Mad as a hatter’ dates from the days when hats were made of felt which was processed by having mercury rubbed over it. The unfortunate men who did the job got mercury poisoning which caused their limbs to shake and contorted their features so that they looked crazy.

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The Right and Wrong People to invite to a Christmas party

how-to-ruin-christmas-illustration-001Two extracts from The Perfect Christmas (1933) by Rose Henniker Heaton.

Right people

Cheerful People

Lots of Young People

The guest with a car

The Enterprising Girl

The Elderly Woman who can tell fortunes

The Elderly Man (if red-faced and jolly).

The Handy-Man (issue invitation early, as he is in great demand).

Anybody good with children.

The Unselfish Friend.

 

Wrong people

The Bone-lazy.

The Egoist.

Mischief-makers.

Spoil-sports.

The Greedy and the Selfish.

Mean People (who suffer tortures at Christmas).

People who always feel “out of things.”

[RR]

 

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A Cod Medieval Menu

design-for-chelsea-arts-club-ball-1914Found, part of a menu for the Chelsea Arts Club Ball, which was held at the Albert Hall, March 4th 1914:

Some clear Soupe—warme, ‘tis for one ande alle.

Ye Baron of Beefe, roasted ande tender

Ye Wilde Boare, hys Heade—a dishe for ye Kinge

Large Surrey Capons withe Truffles—no bones argale, eate fearlesslie

Ye Tastie Ham spyced as atte Yorke

Ye Venyson Pasty—tastilie cooked

Chykens, plump ande temptinge—trye them.

Ye Kindlye Oxe , hys Tongue

Agayne Chykens mayde toothsome by Galentyne

Dishe Pastys with Pidgeons —ryghte sustainynge

Beefe cunninglye cooked with spyces—try it

Raised Pastrys with Bubleyjocks, as they doe them in Yorkeshire—ryghte good

And thene some green stuffes with Dressinge .

AND THENE COME YE SWEETES GOODE FOR ALLE MEN ANDE MAYDENS

This year, this famous society Ball, in which fancy dress was de rigueur, must have had medieval England as its theme, although the drawing by Alex Jamieson (pictured), which sold in 2014 at Bonhams, does not suggest this. Contemporary reports record this Ball as being particularly weird and wonderful. Just a few months later many of the male party-goers would have found themselves leading troops into battle in the Flanders mud. Too many, alas, would never dance again. [RH]

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Bishop Bury: a 14th century bibliomaniac

philobiblion-pic-001Bishop Bury of Durham spent so much money on books that he lived in dire poverty and debt and when he died all that could be found to cover his corpse was some underwear belonging to his servant.

The facts regarding his library are mind blowing. According to W.M. Dickie, who wrote a paper on Bury and his magnum opus , the Philobiblon, in The Book Handbook (1949), he had more books than any bishop in England. Five wagons carried them away, which suggests that the number of volumes was more than 1,500. This compares with the Sorbonne’s 1,722 in 1338, the 380 volumes at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, in 1418 and the 122 housed in the University Library there in 1424.

In his Philobiblon Bury writes of wishing to found a college in Oxford and to endow it with his library, but no college is named. Some historians have maintained that the library was bequeathed to Durham College, but there is no evidence that the college received any such endowment. The sad truth is that this wonderful library was probably broken up and sold off to pay Bury’s huge debts.

The Philobiblion is revealing as to how many of Bury’s books were acquired:

“We were reported to burn with such desire for books, especially for old ones, that it was more easy for any man to gain our favour by means of books than of money. Wherefore since support by the goodness of the aforesaid Prince (Edward III)…we were able to requite a man, well or ill, to benefit or injure mightily great as well as small, there flowed in instead of presents and guerdons, and instead of gifts and jewels, soiled tracts and battered codices, gladsome alike to our eye and heart…In good will we strove so to forward their affairs ( the affairs of donors of books) that gain accrued to them, while justice suffered no disparagement”

In this way Bury, when Keeper of the Privy Seal, was given four books, namely Terence, Vergil, Quintilian and Jerome against Rufinus by Richard de Wallingford, Abbot of St Albans, who also sold to Bury for fifty pounds of silver, thirty-two other books, of which he gave fifteen to the refectory and ten to the kitchen (presumably at Westminster Abbey), an act which was later condemned by Thomas Walsingham, former scriptorarius at the Abbey. The Abbot’s motivation in securing such an astonishing bargain for Bury was to promote the interests of his monastery at Court and indeed Bury helped him secure a royal charter giving the Abbot the exceptional right of imprisoning excommunicated persons. When Bury became Bishop of Durham in a fit of remorse he restored some of the books to St Albans. And following his death, Wallingford’s successor at the Abbey secured other volumes at a discounted price from Bury’s executors. One of these, John of Salisbury’s Policraticus—now in the British Museum—bears an inscription recording its sale to Bury and its repurchase in 1346 from his executors. Only two other manuscripts are known to have belonged to Bury. One is in the British Museum and the other is in the Bodleian. Both are from St Albans. Continue reading

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Grooming by letter? Innocent pre-web days…

pen-pal-letterWhat do you think of pen friendship? My daughter has been introduced, through a club, to a pen friend in France, and so far the letters received from the French girl are quite nice in every way. But I have been studying them recently, and, here and there, have noticed remarks which might conceivably indicate that the writer is a woman and not a girl. There is nothing undesirable whatever in these letters, but I have heard so much of the clever and cunning ways certain types of foreigner have of insinuating themselves in the minds of girls, that I am somewhat in doubt as to whether this correspondence should be allowed to go on. Perhaps you will kindly give me your views on this matter.

There are several reputable agencies in this country for putting correspondents in touch with foreigners. One of their expressed aims is to promote international goodwill. Often an interchange of visits results from the pen friendships thus formed., In so far as this correspondence furthers the exchange of views of general interest –for example, young people tell of their families, schools, occupations and excursions—they serve an excellent purpose and can be very educative. The idea is to link up correspondents of about the same age and standard of living.
If your daughter was introduced by a reliable source you have little to fear. It is usual for correspondents to exchange photographs at an early stage; if this has not yet been done, you might request this favour. Then, unless her correspondent is intending to deceive, you will be able to form a pretty good estimate of her age. In any case, you will do well to supervise the letters both ways. In the event of your daughter wishing to accept an invitation to visit France, you should first take up references —through the club or privately—which would leave no doubt as to the absolute trustworthiness of her prospective hosts.

( an extract from Real Life Problems and their Solutions (1938) by R. Edynbry
[R.R]

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Poets as plagiarists

 

clouston-pic-001The plagiarist today runs the risk of being sued by an artist, whether novelist, poet, composer or dramatist –or by the artist’s estate. However, in the case of poetry, it has always struck me how easy it must be for anyone entering a poetry competition to filch some particularly impressive lines from a forgotten slim volume or a short-lived little magazine. If the victim of the theft is dead there is only the slimmest possibility that the estate would discover it .

But when the theft is made from a comparatively obscure literary work many hundreds of years old and in another language the chances of the thief being detected in his or her lifetime are very thin indeed. Most literary thieves of this type are exposed many years after their own deaths. The whole issue is discussed in Literary Coincidences ( 1901) by W. A. Clouston, a folklorist and expert on oriental literature well qualified to address this matter.

One of the worst offenders seems to have been Lord Byron. In his Hebrew Melodies we find this first verse of ‘To a Lady Weeping ‘

‘I saw thee weep—the big bright tear

Came over that eye of blue;

And then methought it did appear

A violet dropping dew;’ Continue reading

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