Author Archives: Jot 101

Haunt of the sixties jet-set—The Bell at Aston Clinton

Good food guide Bell Aston clintonA few days ago we heard on the radio that there was much more violence during the Great Train Robbery of 1963 than has been reflected in the over-romanticised films about it. We also learnt that the notorious Leatherslade Farm, where the robbers held out, is no more.

Luckily, ‘The Bell’ at Aston Clinton, the pub frequented by the prosecution at the trial down the road at Aylesbury, is still around. Here’s what the Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 had to say about this very popular inn just a year before the robbery took place:

Gerard Harris now has his own company and controls the inn; perhaps his brow will become less furrowed. The Bell is no well known to our members now that it is difficult to find anything new to say about it. Its menu is large, but not gigantic and the cuisine rises to a level of real distinction…creamy pate, 3/-; Arbroath smokies in cream,3/6; coq au vin, 9/6; beef Avignon, 8/6; sweetbreads chasseur,8/6; entrecote marchand de vin, 11/-; blackcurrant sorbet,2/-;crème brule,2/6…The menu is supported by a long and a remarkably chosen wine-list. The strongest section is probably the clarets: at one end is a Haut Medoc at 10/6, at the other ‘28’s and ‘29’s—chateau bottled wines between 32/- and 45/-, which are now not at all easy to get, even from wine merchants. Ordinaires at 9/6. Often crowded, and service sometimes overtaxed ( especially the wine service); but meals are served until quite a late hour. Open all year. Bed and breakfast, 19/6; no full board (App by too many members to list .) Continue reading

Up and coming authors in 1895

William-Pett-RidgeFound in The Album for August 19th, 1895, are these encouraging words for aspiring fiction writers:-

Let no boy or girl, ambitious of literary fame, fear nowadays that they will be denied a hearing. The one thing necessary is merit—something to say and the power to say it. Granted so much, and industry, success is certain.

Take the case of two young men who have fought their way into success, and with whose careers I happen to be familiar. They are Mr W Pett Ridge (above) and Mr H. G. Wells. Neither had any influence; neither, when they began to write, had friends in the literary world; neither had the advantage of a ‘Varsity education; and yet these two young men have six books between them on the eve of publication. Moreover, the stories and articles and dialogue that make up these books having already appeared in serial form, these authors have already made incomes out of them which barristers or bank-clerks of the same age would consider exceedingly handsome.

How was it done? Just by choosing fresh subjects, by looking at those subjects with fresh eyes, and by having the gumption to know what journals those subjects would suit. Mr Pett Ridge is a London born and bred, and a Londoner who was blessed by nature with a most observant eye, great patience, and quite an abnormal sense of humour…Hardly a day passes but the writes a short story or a dialogue and hardly a night passes but his shrewd brown eyes peer into some corner of the London he knows as well as Mr Gladstone knows Downing Street…
Continue reading

Cabaret, Chinese food and national anthems in Yorkshire’s most eccentric pub

Showers John StanhopeAn entry in the 1961- 62 edition of The Good Food Guide describes the exuberant John Showers and his’ inn’, the Stanhope in Calverley Lane, Rodley, south east of Leeds, thus:

‘He fills out the nightly menus with his own essays, and he has written two books about it. Foreign visitors, of which there are many, are liable to be welcomed in their own tongue (Mr Showers’circular green notepaper has Cheerio on it in thirty languages) and escorted to their tables to the sound of their own national anthem. There is a nightly cabaret, by no means undistinguished and not ‘blue’ for which he sometimes writes the script. The dining-room is very small, and serves some English dishes but ignore them ( except for no. 80 ’curried octopus’—so English, don’t you think?) and go for the Chinese food. Try, divided among a party, the Sea Salad (9/-), inkfish with bean sprouts (8/-), Stanhope Special ( based on chicken , pork and water-chestnuts, 8/ 6) or ask for some advice…

Reading the two books in question one will discover that before he opened The Stanhope, the Essex-born Showers was, among other things, a male manikin, bus conductor, and a banana planter. In 1937, inspired by the example of the new king and his consort playing darts publicly he installed a board in his saloon, hoping to attract the upper middle class. Alas, only the local proletariat came to play, and eventually the board was relocated to the tap-room. All of which recalls Basil Fawlty’s disastrous ‘gourmet night’ ! Continue reading

C. K. Scott Moncrieff – The Ideal Translator

Found- a press cutting from The Bookman, March 1932 by one De V. Payen-Payne, a good evaluation of the life and work of C. K. Scott Moncrieff – in a review of a posthumous book by him. It may be a myth or an exaggeration but I heard that Scott-Moncrieff was working on his monumental Proust translation while on the staff at The Times and occasionally when he was stuck for the English mot juste (as it were) he would consult the entire office and everything came to a halt while the right word was found – world news be damned!

Edward_Stanley_Mercer_-_Charles_Kenneth_Scott-Moncrieff

Painting of Scott Moncrieff by E S Mercer

It is a moot point whether a mother or a wife or any near relative can write the ideal biography. Not that this book pretends to be a biography, although it contains many details that only a mother can give, and will prove invaluable when the ideal biographer appears, and Scott Moncrieff’s work is assessed critically and compared with the lit he led. Some may think that too much space has been given to his experiences in the War and to the letters that he wrote to his family and friends when on service. Since 1918 we have a large number of such accounts, and Scott Moncrieff’s adventures, although most creditable to himself, were not very different from those of many other intellectual men thrown into the cortex of combat. Others too may think that the postscript is too personal for inclusion. Instead of it, an index would have been a desirable adjustment.  Continue reading

Havelock Ellis on British geniuses

 

Havelock Ellis picFound in a album of cuttings from various East Anglian newspapers in the early twentieth century is a review that appeared in The Leader, December 24th, 1906 of A Study of British Genius by the pioneer sexologist Havelock Ellis. The reviewer gleefully notes that East Anglia seems to have produced a high proportion of geniuses. To make his point he lists in order of greatness those English counties that have contributed most to the making of English men of genius. These were:

Norfolk

Suffolk

Hertfordshire

Warwickshire

Worcestershire

Herefordshire

Buckinghamshire

Cornwall

Dorsetshire

Oxfordshire

Shropshire

Ellis looked at the genius’s place of origin—that is, the district to which his four grandparents belonged. London as a birthplace was ignored altogether. This was because, where information was available, it was nearly always found that the parents had migrated to London. It rarely occurred that ‘even one grandparent belonged to London ‘. Continue reading

James Platt—-Felixstowe’s genius linguist

 

Platt OED picDiscovered in an album of cuttings is this obituary of James Platt ( 1859 – 1910), one of the most distinguished philologists of his day.

‘English philology has suffered a heavy loss by the death of Mr James Platt, jun. at the age of 49 at his residence at Felixstowe.

Probably no living philologist could vie with Mr Platt for variety of knowledge. He had a thorough knowledge of all European languages, and a fair acquaintance with every known language, ancient or modern and a special taste for those which were out of the way, such as, for instance, those spoken on the American Continent, from Patagonian to Eskimo, and on the latter language he wrote a brilliant for the ‘Athenaeum’ a few years ago. He possessed a phenomenal memory and an astonishing range of reading. During recent years he had translated many beautiful Eastern poems which had not previously been rendered in English verse…’

The obituarist also refers to Platt’s valuable contributions to Notes and Queries and most notably his participation in James Murray’s Oxford English Dictionary project, where he identified ‘ strange alien words ‘.Unfortunately, Platt never lived to see Murray’s great dictionary published, and after an illness of two years he died at the age of 49, leaving a widow and a little girl named Irene. On her own death in 1990 it was discovered that Irene had bequeathed £250,000 to the University of East Anglia to establish the Platt Centre for ‘the study and teaching of modern foreign languages.’

[R.M.Healey]

 

 

White or Red ?

Jeff Koons has become the latest in a long line of illustrious artists to produce a label for the equally celebrated wine of Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Here is passage from The Cellar Key (1933) by T Earle Welby* which everyone who dines out should commit to memory.

‘…The corks of the opened bottles have been carefully examined, and smelled, after cutting off the tops, which may seem mouldy without the rest of the cork or the wine in any but a sound state. A spoonful of each wine has been tasted, with an olive-cleansed palate. The host is satisfied: the guests will be.

   But let the guests know, by inscription in the margin of the menu or by word of mouth, what wines are to be offered them. I appeal, in the divine name, to hosts and hostesses not to let a maid wander around a table asking, “White or Red?” White what? And red what? Is the choice between an honest white Graves and an equally honest red Graves, or between the former and Kangaroo Burgundy? In any event, why should such a choice be offered one? No vinously educated person can possibly want to drink red wine of any kind with the fish, or, having therefore chosen white, to be condemned to white for the whole meal.

   However, the crimes against wine committed in the house are as nothing to those in which the unconscious criminal does his horrid deeds at a restaurant. To ask guests what they will drink is a stupid abdication of the position of host, a position with higher duties than that of paying the bill. They may know what they would severally take to drink, though in an average English party three-fourths of them will not; but, even if they do, they each will hesitate to avow a preference which might send the host beyond his estimate. It is for the host to choose, and in advance of the arrival of his guests. He knows, as his guests cannot, on what scale he had conceived of the entertainment; or, if he does not, he should have bidden his friends to some restaurant with which he was better acquainted. It is for him to take complete charge; to order both food and wine before his friends arrive ; to spare the party the evil ten minutes during which its members would otherwise gape at menu and wine- list…’

*See an earlier jot on Welby – author of  the classic food book The Dinner Knell (1932).  [RR]

Fake news—-1932 style

Buddha matches

Found in the Jan-Feb 1932 issue of Collector’s Miscellany is this report on a bizarre anti-religion campaign rumoured to have been created by the USSR.

‘It has been extremely difficult to secure definite information relating to the anti-religious match-box labels said to have been issued by the Soviet Government as part of their anti-God campaign. The one illustrated in this issue depicts the crucification of Christ and bears the words “Jesus Christ Safety Matches”. This label is understood to be one of a series, as there are said to be others depicting the Sacred Heart and various other religious subjects.

       These matches which have been the subject of much comment in the daily press, are said to have been hawked upon the streets of London by gutter merchants and that a member of Parliament raised the question in the House of Commons as to whether any action was being taken by the British Government.

         One thing is certain, and that is these labels are likely to be rare; I do not know of any collector in this country fortunate enough to secure a specimen. A London correspondent assured me that the matches were never sold in London but were produced by the Krishna Match Co. of India, who also issue of BUDDHA MATCH, and others featuring various Indian religions. Personally, I am inclined to favour this statement, as the box in question, said to have been bought in the New Cut, may easily have been bought from India by some seaman.                                                                                                        (JOSEPH PARKS ) Continue reading

Wilmarth Lewis—book collector extraordinaire

Strawberry Hill catalogue 1842Found in a copy of John O’London’s Weekly for 18th April 1952 is a review of Collector’s Progress by Wilmarth Lewis ( 1895 – 1979) in which the author reveals that the combination of wealth and a collector’s obsession brought about the greatest collection of manuscripts relating to Horace Walpole in the world.

In his book Lewis revealed that he had always been a born collector. At the age of five he collected house flies in a discarded cigar box. A year later he had turned to shells. Stamps, coins and butterflies followed. Eventually, he began to collect books, starting with standard works and moving on to first editions. On the way to Europe by ship to fight in the First World War he met John Masefield, who introduced him to the writings of Horace Walpole. As a result of this meeting he collected a complete set of Masefield first editions. In 1923, at the age of 28 he had $5,000 a year (a large sum in those days) to spend on books. He was an enthusiast for the eighteenth century, but had not yet decided which particular eighteenth century writer to collect. Eventually, in 1923,after buying in London a copy of Jesse’s George Selwyn and his Contemporaries annotated by the bluestocking Lady Louisa Stuart, he returned to Horace Walpole, vowing to assemble the finest collection of Walpoliana– mainly letters and Strawberry Hill books– in the world. In 1952 he described his Library thus: Continue reading

London pubs with unusual customs and bizarre attractions

Ye old watling picFound in the Haining Archive are these pages of handwritten notes on unusual old London pubs, possibly from a book by London topographer Royston Wells, who may have written the notes himself.

“The Wrestlers”, North Hill, Highgate

Original pub 1547. New one built 1921 around enormous Jacobean fire grate. Ancient custom of “ swearing on the horns “ still performed.

Original fire grate still there, but no mention of swearing on the horns on Website.

“ Lamb and Flag”, Covent Garden,

Covent Garden’s oldest pub, outside which Dryden was set on and nearly murdered. On 19th December glasses of mulled drinks given away to regulars to celebrate the fact that Dryden was not actually killed.

Blue plaque commemorates attack on Dryden

“Crown and Greyhound”, Dulwich Village.

HQ of Dulwich Village Perpetuation Society, who keep up Dickens’ traditions and meet here regularly in Dickensian gear.

Dickens did meet members of Dulwich Society at Greyhound, but no mention on website of present day members dressing up. Continue reading

How to stay free from colds (1936)

Medley flier 001In this season of coughs and colds here is some advice ( published in Medley) from a scientist writing in Health and Strength.

Are colds infectious? No? It has been proved that the whole crowd of microbes and germs commonly associated with red noses, rheumy eyes and sneezes are just as alive and active in a healthy nose as in a runny one, but there is no cold.

So the next time your neighbour in the bus starts atishooing, there’s no real need to turn the other way. You must breathe through your nose. Our nasal organs are so constructed that, although cold bacilli may play on their doorstop all day long, they cannot get into the body.

A cold doesn’t get a look in when out body is fit, and our blood circulating well. It is only when what the doctors call our basal metabolism—the fire of life—gets below par that the germs can get busy.

Four things help us more than anything else to be cold free—warm feet, breathing through the nose, one or two hours spent every day in the open air, whatever the weather, and orange juice.’ Bamford Stanley, D.Sc in Health and Strength.

Don’t take this theory of the common cold too seriously, as the good doctor seems to believe that colds are caused by bacteria ( bacilli). Of course, we now know that they are the result of a virus, as anyone knows who has ever been refused antibiotics for the sniffles. [RR]

Television—1930s style

TV set 1936

Many thanks TVHistory.Tv

We have noticed in an earlier Jot that one of the first—or indeed the first– mention of the word ‘television’ in poetry was in Poems by Michael Roberts (1936). But in the October 1936 issue of the literary miscellany Medley can be found a remark by the playwright and Punch humourist A.P.Herbert taken from The Listener.

‘This latest miracle (television) fills me with odd, inconsequent thoughts. For example, will it be possible, I wonder, to switch off the sound and retain the sight? This would enhance the wicked satisfaction of cutting off what one dislikes. One could continue to gaze at the golden girl who will sing sharp, without having to listen to her.’

This is an interesting observation in that the first regular high definition broadcasts from Alexander Palace began on November 2nd 1936. As Mr Herbert was writing in the Listener a month or several months before this time, he based his observations on the period when the Baird system was operating alternatively with the high definition electronic system. It was then decided by the BBC that the high definition system supplied the superior picture and therefore should prevail, and that essentially is the system that we have today.

With the victory of the high definition system came a renewed demand for TV receivers—and a number of companies that had gained a reputation for producing radio receivers competed in this new market. Although these TV sets seem to have been basically superannuated radios that supplied the wavelength for the TV broadcasts, it should have been possible to turn the sound down and retain the picture. [R.M.Healey]

 

Mary Fitt – life as a caravanserai

Found on the back of a 1946 green Penguin Death and the Pleasant Voices by Mary Fitt this self-penned portrait of herself. Mary Fitt (1897-1959) is fairly well covered online, both under her real name Kathleen Freeman, and her pseudonym – under which she wrote classic late golden age detective fiction. As Kathleen 9710253386Freeman she wrote many books on Ancient Greece, Socrates, the Sophists etc, She lived near Cardiff with a friend Lilian Clopet also a writer – Lilian survived her by 30 years. There is a good bibliography of both writers at the University of Toronto site.  The piece on the back of the Penguin is charming and informative:

Asked for a biography, Mary Fitt says:

‘It is, I think, the writer of fiction who is interest to the public, not the person of whom the writer is a part. Therefore I do not propose to give details of where I was born, where educated, and so forth. In my character as Author, I was born some years later than myself, in that part of the world which lies between classical Greece and Elizabethan England.

‘In the present, the Author and I have identical interests. We live in the country, in what a friend recently described as “your Italian-blue house”. It is not Italian, but it is blue – sky-blue*. Our hobbies are – our hobby is – people, their pleasant or queer or sinister possibilities; for we have noticed that Character really is Destiny.

‘Such a hobby involves travelling; so we travel, but not as Author: people see authors coming and they “talk script”; we like to see and hear them as they are off the set, because what they then say and do is new.

‘My interests range over time and space. My greatest regret is that one day I too shall have to pack up and leave this caravanserai, which is so mad, so bad, and so wonderful.’ 

*Lark’s Rise, a house in St. Mellons.

World’s Champion Slacker

slacker of eastbourne 001A clipping taken from the August 16th issue of the Daily Express for 1927, reported that David Weinberg, a restaurant owner, had been summoned to Eastbourne Police Court for the recovery of wages allegedly due to Thomas Charity, a hotel porter. Weinberg stated that he had employed Charity seven times before dismissing him summarily for being absent without leave. Weinberg called him ‘the world’s champion slacker’. When asked for his employment record Charity admitted that he had been in ‘288 situations since 1913 and that his average time in a situation was three days ‘. The case was dismissed.

If there had been a Guinness Book of Records in the 1920s we at Jot 101 feel that Mr Charity would have made the grade. Readers, however, may know of an even slacker employee. Let us know if you do. [RR]

A new kind of bookshop in 1930s New York City

Drew elizabeth pic 001Discovered in a copy of The Publisher’s Weekly for March 22nd 1930 is this feature by John D. Stannard on a New York bookshop that aimed, with its decorations and objets d’art, to emulate the comfort and charm of a private library.

Elizabeth Drew, a graduate of Vassar College and her ‘ associate’ , the artist Jessie Leach Rector, opened their (unnamed) shop on 43 East 60th Street in September, 1929, just a few weeks before the Wall Street Crash. Designed to be an antidote to the ‘ graceless ‘stores that most booklovers had become used to, the couple had created a ‘ bookish background’ in which old furniture and rare objects of art competed with books for the attention of customers.

Everything in the shop was for sale, including the ‘ lamps, lampshades, old prints and watercolours, framed and unframed mirrors, screens and tables’ provided by Rector, who specialised in interior decoration, and the ‘primitive Indian pottery and Spanish colonial silver which Drew imported from Peru. Drew emphasised that although her store was sophisticated, had an exclusive list of patrons, and sold old and rare books, including modern first editions and fine bindings, her ideal customer was the ‘middle-class ‘type who travelled into town on the subway.

A key innovation devised by Drew was the monthly review of new books in the fields of fiction, biography, essays, Book-of-the Month, Literary Guild, Crime Club and best sellers, which was sent out to a hand picked 6,000 names, half of whom came from friends of the two booksellers, and which bore the testimonial ‘ Recommended by Elizabeth Drew’. In fact, the reviews came not only from Drew herself, but by these friends, who signed their work. Continue reading

Wilhelmina Stitch

WilhelminaFound a fine copy of Beacons in the Night (Methuen, 1934) by Wilhelmina Stitch. A small book of simple, unsophisticated poetry.   Wilhelmina Stitch achieved some popularity and sales in the first half of the 20th century. As a sentimental poet she was very much the Donovan to Patience Strong’s Dylan. She has no Wikipedia page unlike Ms Strong who has a lengthy and well tended entry. Some facts of her life are known and she turns up on a site Memorable Manitobans who have this to say:

Born at Cambridgeshire, England in 1888, daughter of I. W. Jacobs, she married E. Arakie Cohen while he was visiting England and returned with him to Winnipeg. They had one son, Ralph. After her husband’s death in 1919, she was forced to seek employment to support herself and her son. Her friends encouraged her to submit her writing for publication, which led to a successful career as a writer which continued to the time of her death. Writing under the pen names “Sheila Rand” or “Wilhelmina Stitch”, she had poetry and stories published in the Winnipeg Tribune and the Winnipeg Telegram. In time, she became, in the words an obituary, “one of the best-known women writers in the British Empire”.

While living in Winnipeg, she worked for, and became close friends with, university professor Reginald Buller. He believed that she had telepathic powers and carried out experiments, largely without success, to test them.

She later remarried to Scottish physician Frank K. Collie and moved with him to London, England where she died on 6 March 1936.

Much of her poetry has religious themes and much of it is in prose that rhymes, an odd slightly  kitsch style, like a precursor of rap:


BE OF GOOD CHEER

In the dumps, don’t know why. Cannot smile, want to cry. Mind distressed, awful blue. Felt like this, haven’t you? Not a single soul to care, life is more than I can bear, troubles seem to pick me out, faith’s misplaced by sullen doubt, hope is vanquished by a fear, can’t find comfort, can’t find cheer, heart is sore, awful blue -felt like this, haven’t you?… Lift that scowl, smile instead. Look! The sun is overhead. Didn’t notice it before. Not so blue, Not so sore… Life is sweet, found this true. Felt like this, haven’t you? Continue reading

The Writers’ and Artists’ Year-book 1923

 

Artists and writers yearbook 1923 001In the year in which the UK edition of The Waste Land was published, as well as novels by Lawrence, Wells and Huxley, comes this copy of The Writers and Artists Year-book. Evidently owned by a lady who wished to make money from her writing, the blank pages at the back of this book devoted to a record of contributions includes mostly household and beauty tips, such as ‘ Dangers in the Kitchen ‘ ,‘To Clean Hats ‘, ‘ My Great Grandmother’s Beauty Tips’, and ‘Adulterated or Not ‘, all of which were accepted. However, it seems as if this writer was also concerned with the role of women in society; she sent an article entitled ‘Women as Prison Wardresses’ to the Yorkshire Post, which though it was not published there, was re-sent to the Yorkshire Evening Post, where it appeared in May 1923 in the ‘Work for Woman’ series as ‘The Prison Wardress’. Other magazines to which she sent feature articles include Farm, Field and Fireside, Pearson’s and the Westminster Gazette.

Our freelance journalist also appears to have been interested in contributing verse. In the section covering ‘ Magazines and Journals’ she has underlined in pencil references to ‘ verse ‘ , ‘ humorous verse’ or ‘ poems’ in the Times (really?), the Prize, Lady’s World, Ideas, Humourist, Home Notes, Graphic, Colour, Chummy Book Annual, Children’s Companion, Boys’ Own Paper, among other periodicals. There are pencil marks next to the names of various American periodicals, too. Continue reading

A precursor of the mobile phone ?

train phone pic 001Today, thanks to mobile phone technology, we can easily hold a conversation on a train with someone hundreds of miles away. Back in 1930, many decades before the mobile was developed, experts at Canadian National Telegraphs were bringing this convenience to rail travellers.

According to a short piece in the issue of Armchair Science for July 1930, a passenger on the ‘ International Limited ‘ service of Canadian National Railways was now able to ‘ complete a call from the moving train to his residence or place of business ‘. In addition, it was now possible for someone ‘ in Montreal, Toronto, or elsewhere to establish communication with a friend on the train, whether in motion or standing ‘. It was not explicitly stated what the maximum range in miles might be for these calls. What is certain though, is that for possibly the first time the phrase ‘I’m on the train ‘ was heard by fellow passengers who frankly couldn’t have cared less.

This radical development in telecommunications was made possible, it seems, by ‘the setting up of a series of “channels” on one wire circuit ‘ by means of which ‘ a number of messages can be sent in each direction at the same time.’ This was, according to the article, a form of ‘broadcasting ‘, using wires and was known amongst telegraphists as “wired wireless”. [R.M.Healey]

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]

 

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