Author Archives: Jot 101

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

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)

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

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

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 then all the 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 biggest – 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”. (Allegedly Dylan once chucked  Phil Ochs out of a limo for suggesting he would never be as big as Elvis – turns out Ochs was wrong!) Super heroes throw up some surprises- at 100 million 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.”

 

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

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

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…”

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