Author Archives: Jot 101

A Charles Morgan collection

 

Charles_Langbridge_MorganDiscovered in a catalogue of the late 1990s from the estimable dealer in autographs, David J Holmes, is a long description of a collection of holograph letters, typed letters, and post-cards from Charles Morgan (1894 – 1958 ), the English novelist and playwright who became a household name in the 30s and 40s. The price asked was $8,500.

Twenty years ago Morgan was out of fashion and unread, hence the relatively low price, which works out at about £18 a letter. In the same catalogue a letter of two pages from A. A. Milne would cost you $1,000, while one of similar length from Virginia Woolf is priced at $2,000. Today, while there will always be fans of Milne and Woolf, Morgan’s popularity has hardly improved, though apparently there are signs of a ‘revival ‘. However, in the world of literary biography quantity is everything. A single, if fascinating, letter from the creator of Pooh Bear would mean very little to a Milne biographer, and the same could be said for the Woolf letter. Continue reading

Another bookshop goes bust …

Though this was in 1924. Here is a wry comment from the Summer 1924 number of Now & Then, on the preference for chocolates over books. Plus ca change.Charing cross road in the twenties

FOR twenty years in the middle of Charing Cross Road, London, there was a certain bookshop. It had a nice central position and thousands of people passed its doors daily. When it was first started it had a bold frontage with nice tall windows full of new books. A few years later the shop was cut in two, half of it continued to sell books, but the other half became an emporium for the sale of chocolates. It was not a very smart bookshop—its stock might have been wider in appeal and better displayed. Its attention to customers was however courteous, and willingness to get any book not in stock was invariably expressed. It performed a service and its proprietor continued to live. Now the bookshop, or rather the half-shop, has disappeared owing to its inability to pay increased rent. In place of the books in the window appears a bold announcement:

                                        DUGGAN’S DERBY SCHEME

                                       TICKETS TEN SHILLINGS EACH

                                           £25,000 IN CASH PRIZES!

The chocolate shop continues.

   We have no doubt that Duggan’s takings and the receipts from the chocolates are considerably larger than was the turnover from the sale of books. Bread and Circuses in Ancient Rome—Chocolates and Spotting Winners in modern London—it’s the same old world! 

[R.M.Healey]

 


 

Highest and lowest earners in 1888

According to 1,000 Ways to 1,000 ways to earn a living cover 001Earn a Living (1888) these were the highest and lowest earners in that year.

 

Highest. (sorted highest to lower; highest rate of remuneration quoted)

A ‘star’ equestrian rider in a circus,  £100 pw.

National newspaper editor, £2,000 per annum

Leader writer, London newspaper, £1,500 per annum

Drapery buyer, £1,000 per annum

Inspector of Mines, £1,000 per annum

Novelists, possibly £1,000 per book

 

Lowest ( sorted lowest to higher; lowest rate of remuneration quoted)

General servant in home (female), £8 per annum

Junior hospital nurse, £8 per annum

Feather-maker, 3.6d per week

Waitress, 5s per week

Barmaid, 7s per week

Lifter-up (boy)at printers, 7s 6d per week

Female library assistants, 7s 6d per week

Footman, 8s per week

Groom, 8s per week

Collar-maker, 8s 6d. per week

False teeth maker, 15s per week.

[RR]

Laughing at Poetry

Laughing at SwinburneIn the April 24th 1942 issue of John O’London’s Weekly can be found a perceptive view by the essayist Robert Lynd on the subject of risible poetry written by good poets. He takes his cue from an incident a century before when Thomas Wakley, the founder of the Lancet, stood up in the Commons to mock some puerile lines from ‘Louisa’ by the Poet Laureate, William Wordsworth.

Lynd then goes on to wonder whether ‘absurdities were so common in the older poets as they came in the period that followed the French Revolution. Shakespeare and Milton seem never to have descended to such unconscious ludicrousness as Wordsworth. I do not think that any of the older poets ever wrote a line that parodies itself so easily as Swinburne’s :–

Swallow, my sister: O Sister

     Swallow. 

‘One of Swinburne’s loveliest poems, ‘Before a Mirror ‘, Lynd continues, ‘begins with a verse of extraordinary nonsense –at least, containing extraordinary nonsense—and yet who can fail to be moved by it:– Continue reading

Dining out at a time of rationing

Rationing at the Ritz 001When William Bently Capper, an acknowledged authority on hotel management, and incidentally brother of the famous suffragette Maude Capper, published his booklet Dining Out? in 1948, the War had only finished less than three years before. Rationing was still a problem, particularly for diners out. What was likely to be offered at a good West-end restaurant? Was it worth the expense and effort to eat out there?

The whole aim of Dining Out? was to assure gourmets that there was little to fear. Restaurants were not exempt from rationing, but as long as diners recognised that certain rules instituted in 1942 by the Ministry of Food’s supremo, Lord Woolton (promoter of the infamous Woolton Pie), applied to eating places, a pleasant meal with wine could be had almost as easily as in the pre-war era. In his chapter entitled ‘Utility meals for Austerity Times’ Capper outlines what problems gourmets were likely to encounter.

Every meal served in a public restaurant, breakfast, luncheon, tea and dinner, is limited and regulated by a four-page document known officially as the Meals in Establishments Order…Public meals are restricted to three courses—but that is not the half of it. Certainly, the restaurateur must not serve you more than three courses, but he is also restricted by law as to what he serves in those three courses. You may not have, for instance, more than one main dish; that is, a dish containing more than 25 per cent of its total weight in meat, poultry or game. You may not have more than two subsidiary dishes: dishes containing less than 25 per cent of the foods specified. If you have a main dish, you may have only one subsidiary dish in addition.

Thus, you may have hors d’oeuvres ( a subsidiary dish), followed by meat or chicken, and then a sweet or cheese. Instead of hors d’oeuvres, you may have white fish ( but not fresh water fish!), or soup or, if you forego the sweet, you may have soup, fish and a main dish. Continue reading

Errors of the educated

Speeches and toasts 001Found in Speeches and Toasts by Leslie F Stemp ( 1952) is a chapter on ‘’certain besetting carelessnesses of dictum from which even our high-brows are not immune”.

Although none of the speeches or toasts in the book are as funny as Reginald Perrin’s alcohol induced peroration at the National Fruit Convention, or Hugh Grant’s best man speech In ‘Four Weddings’, Mr Stemp, a barrister for the Gas Board, does provide both mildly amusing and serious examples of speeches for most occasions. And although many remain hopelessly dated, as his use of the word ‘high-brow’ suggests, the advice he offers on grammatical errors remains useful today. Here are some of my favourite examples:

“That” and “which”.

It is wrong to use the relative pronouns” that” and ”which” as if they were interchangeable, and to be varied to meet the demands of euphony. Their provinces are distinct; the boundaries between them well marked. Every defining clause whose antecedent is not a person should be introduced that that, every such clause that adds new matter by which. The test of defining new clauses is: would the suppression of them render the statement untrue? If so it is a defining clause. “We have rejected all the cases that arrived sea-damaged”. Omit the clause and what remains ios a falsehood: all the cases were not rejected: the sound were accepted.” We have received your statement, which is receiving our attention.” Even if this sentence were cut short after “statement”, if would be true. The first sentence, therefore, contained a defining clause, properly introduced by “that” , and the second an added clause , preceded, correctly, by “which”. Continue reading

The Riviera Revisited (1939)

FullSizeRenderFound — a 30 page holiday brochure by Charles Graves – The Riviera Revisited. [London], [1939]. Probably written in 1938 and portraying a relaxed lifestyle, with plenty of good food and booze. Olive oil is not recommended as sun protection! After WW2 Charles Graves wrote 2 longer books on the Riviera – The Royal Riviera and (again) The Riviera Revisited… The picture of bathers at Eden Roc is from the booklet.

A Summer’s Day.

Juan-Les-Pins is the only resort I have ever visited four years in succession. I can think of no greater compliment. It has an admirable beach. It has a summer and winter season, like practically every other place on the Riviera. But whereas six or seven years ago the clientele was mainly English and American, it is now largely French, which I find charming. Somehow the prettiest girls from Paris go there for their summer holidays, and the restaurant of the casino has indubitably the best hors-d oeuvres in the world. The man who makes them is worth a fortune to any London restaurant or hotel. He stuffs everything with everything else. Pimentoes, aubergines, sardines, olives, tunny fish and so on. The casino is famous for the light-hearted character of its gambling. In the summer you wear white flannels or anything else. The croupiers smile (a distinct rarity). The champagne cocktails are first-class. The lobsters are as fresh as God made them; so are the crayfish. Let me quote from “And the Greeks”: Continue reading

A Thousand Ways to earn in Living in 1888

1,000 ways to earn a living cover 001As most people know, 1888 was the year in which ‘Jack the Ripper’ committed his heinous crimes. It has been argued that the murderer was a trained surgeon , and under the heading ‘ Medicine’ in A Thousand Ways to Earn a Living ( Tit Bits Offices, 1888) we learn that a naval surgeon could earn from 11 – 17 shillings per day, while weekly pay for a police constable in London started at 28 shillings.

Predictably, the pay structure for members of the ‘oldest profession ‘is not included, although a typical’ lady of the night’ in the East End probably earned more in a week than would an average jobbing actress, whose wages as a ‘super’ in a theatre (the equivalent today of an Assistant Stage Manager) according to the Guide, would be between 10 and 15 shillings a week. Having worked herself up to the top of her profession, via elocution lessons and the inevitable casting couch, a budding Lily Langtry might earn as much as £30 or £40 a week. And all this before the era of Cinema and TV!

As for those who reported the murders and printed the newspapers, pay rates were also surprisingly good. A reporter on a London ‘ daily ‘ could earn anything from £3 to £7 a week, while a sub-editor’s pay might be between £5 and £16. However, a leader writer on a London paper could command £500 to £1,600 per annum and an editor from £500 to £2,000. Continue reading

Reviewers getting it wrong

 

Robert Frost picA Boy’s Will by Robert Frost, reviewed by C. R. Orage in The New Age , June 12th 1913.

‘He declares of his friends meeting with him after some years:-

They would not find me changed from him they knew—

Only more sure of all I thought was true (trew).

 

Evidently he dreamed no great dreams, believed in nothing beyond the will of a mortal boy to accomplish. Let him trot along “in the gloaming “, as he says, with his Mary, and rhyme “those is” with “roses”. As idle rubbish is published every day.’

Frost, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and now recognised as one of America’s greatest poets, was nearly forty when he published this debut collection, which was generally well received. Elsewhere in the same issue, Orage was equally harsh on Yeats, another great poet, who, though only nine years older than Frost, was already established as a leader of the Celtic Twilight movement. From his treatment of all but one of the other poetry and novels reviewed in this issue, Orage clearly despised pretentiousness, preciousness, poetical clichés, lovey-dovey verse, Georgianism, fancy and whimsy, Edwardian chicklit, and melodrama about marriages. The trouble is, Frost’s collection demonstrated none of these faults. Perhaps he just didn’t like Americans.

The only collection Orage approved of was Green Days and Blue Days by P. R. Chalmers—‘fifty or so ditties by a modern young man’, according to Orage. Chalmers, a banker by profession, wrote other ‘ditties‘ and also books on hunting. [R.M.Healey]

 

Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (6)

This the final part of this amazing series. Many thanks David Redd.

APPENDICES

Assorted background and peripheral information on Bear Hudson and others.

Appendix 1 

Norah C. James 

Her 1939 autobiography I Lived in a Democracy is good on reminiscences of Victorian childhood and early grass-roots politics, but then becomes sketchier, mainly due to James’ determination “to avoid my emotional life”. Love affairs with “C” and “Y”, and indeed the obscenity trials of The Well of Loneliness and James’ own Sleeveless Errand, receive only brief treatment, as (with more reason) does a phase of subsequent writing covered by “I decided to write some more books, and used a pseudonym for some of them.” However James’ many cameos of social attitudes are revealing, and the reader can discern the mood which made “Jimmy” write Sleeveless Errand the way she did. The appearance of her Straphangers as a Cub Book is just one of the minor mysteries which must lie behind so many Bear Hudson activities.

Appendix 2

Bernards’ Fiction Series

Bernards contained mysteries too. This sub-series seems to have consisted of just two thin paperbacks, Nos. 27 and 29 within the general wartime numbered series otherwise labelled “Bernards’ Technical Books”. Continue reading

The Accompaniments of Wine

bordeaux chateau bottled 1934The great oenophile and gastronome T. Earle Welby had sound and sensible, if occasionally harshly expressed, views on what to eat with wine. Here are some of his opinions taken from the brilliant Cellar Key (1933).

‘With the exception of Champagne, which is never better than when taken in the forenoon, and Sherry, which is highly adaptable, all wines need, for full enjoyment, to be accompanied or immediately preceded by food. It is thus an important part of connoisseurship to know the affinities and antipathies between particular wines and food.

To begin with the enemies of all wine whatsoever, almost all hors d’oeuvres are inimical. To a great extent they consist of smoked, pickled, or highly condimented articles, and are therefore bound to blur the palate. But there is nothing to be said against plain melon, caviare, or oysters. Genuine Chablis is proverbially most enjoyable with oysters; and all the fine white Burgundies…will accord excellently with oysters, as indeed with crab or lobster or fish of any kind. But unless melon or caviare or oysters be selected, it is wise to eliminate hors d’oeuvres on a serious vinous occasion, and simply have Spanish olives in brine put on the table as a preliminary, and kept there till the meal is at an end.

Egg dishes are usually not favourable to the enjoyment of wine, for eggs very often have more a less a sulphurous flavour, and though this may hardly matter when one is drinking the baser, over-sulphured white wines of Bordeaux, it is very harmful to all delicate wines. Continue reading

An attack on Oscar Wilde and Yeats

Yeats picFound, in the June 12, 1913 issue of a famous review is this scalding attack on two famous Irish writers.

In his “Oscar Wilde: a Critical Study “…Mr Ransome remarks that he cannot understand why the Oscar Wilde period (with Mr Yeats, I may add, as its tail-piece) was ever called decadent. Surely, it is either disingenuous or incompetent to fail in such an easy matter. The school was called decadent because it was decadent; and the decadence consisted in the usual feature of decadence, namely the elevation of the part above the whole in value. Pater, I verily believe, never had an idea in his life. In consequence he spent the whole of his energy in concealing the fact in his style. On his style he spent enormous pains as if he knew that he would live by that or nothing. That, I say– the over-attention to style—is decadence. Wilde again was never even a man of letters. Mr Ransome in my opinion utterly fails to present Wilde as he was –an Irish causeur and wit, a born blarney, a talker. In his conversation Wilde was as nearly natural as a self-conscious Irishman in England can possibly be ; that is, he talked to the English as if they were an exotic Frenchman, never by any chance, aiming at the truth, but aiming always at producing in us a pleasant gaping admiration of his cleverness. There are plenty of such Irishmen in England today, only their vogue is past and they no longer surprise us. Too clever for his intellect I called one of them a few weeks ago. Mr Ransome, however, takes Wilde seriously, if critically, as a writer, as a literary man. But as a writer, if you like, Wilde was a poseur. With a pen in his hand he was no longer Wilde but a sort of figure which I can only describe as Turveydrop on paper. He finicked among the words and phrases of the language as if he was playing court to them and was expecting a rebuff from the English genius at any moment. I never saw a page of Wilde that had not “ amateur “ in the vulgar sense written all over it , in vocabulary, in phraseology , and in construction. That also, when the writer is unaware of it, is decadence. It is not mastery of the language, but service under it, as under a mistress. And our language, thank goodness, hates the man who treats it as if it were the Lady of Shallot or Isolda. It is a queen, and its best courtiers are Prime Ministers. Continue reading

Frances Mundy-Castle: a neglected poet

Democrats Chapbook cover 001The identity of the ‘ quiet woman‘ who wrote A Democrat’s Chapbook (1942), a hundred page long commentary in free verse on the events of the Second World War up to the time when America joined the Allied forces, was only revealed when Anne Powell included two passages from it in her anthology of female war poetry, Shadows of War (1999 ). However, those who had read her volume of Georgian verse entitled Songs from the Sussex Downs ( 1915), a copy of which was found in the collection of Wilfred Owen, might have recognised the style as that of ‘Peggy Whitehouse’, whose Mary By the Sea also appeared under this name in 1946. All three books were the work of Mrs Frances Mundy –Castle (1875 – 1959).

Thanks to her son Alistair, we now know a little more about Mrs Mundy-Castle. We know, for instance, that she came from a wealthy family and that at the age of sixteen she published a volume of her poems. She then married Mr Mundy-Castle, who managed a local brickworks, and the family settled down at Cage Farm, an early eighteenth century house on the eastern outskirts of Tonbridge. Here she seems to have held a sort of salon for local writers and artists, among whom was the cult artist and writer Denton Welch, who lived a mile or so away and was friends with her daughter Rosemary. In his later years, according to his biographer, she was ‘a frequent target of his malicious humour ‘, despite the fact that it was she who had given him the idea of writing his first book. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (5)

Some of the other things?

On 8 June 1956, Abraham Assael (“known as Albert Assael”) was granted a Certificate of Naturalisation according to the London Gazette, 17 August 1956. His origin was given as Turkey. His occupation was given as Company Director (Printers, Publishers and Stationers), probably a standard category rather than a full and accurate description.

This led into my other question. What was Bear Hudson doing after its Forties publishing wound down?

If your interest is only in the pulp fiction, the following may not appeal. Please flick down past the reading-bear logo, and resume when it reappears.

Bear Hudson after publishing

One clue as to the firm’s further activities appears in, of all places, the Chemist and Druggist, 11 July 1953:

“REPRESENTATIVE required by established house to carry an attractive and original line. Non-competitive with present lines carried. Liberal commission. Apply: Bear Hudson, Ltd., 63 Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush, W.12.”

I wonder what that “attractive and original line” could have been. Perhaps something like the “Key-lite” device advertised in Motor Sport for December 1964?

(web image)

Technical Suppliers Ltd.? At the same address? Oh, yes. See a brief mention in the Jewish Chronicle for 24 June, 1966:

“… our Managing Director, Mr. B. Babani, Technical Suppliers Ltd., Hudson House, 63 Goldhawk Road, London, W.12.”

Babani. Hudson House. Again. Technical Suppliers Ltd. had evidently moved from W.6 to W.12. along with Bear Hudson. Parts of the jigsaw puzzle are starting to fit together. I find another piece, a 1964 half-page advertisement in Practical Wireless for Bernards Books’ radio manuals. They are available by mail from Bear Hudson Ltd. of 63 Goldhawk Road.

So the close link to Bernard Babani continued for decades. In 1944 Technical Suppliers Limited was printing booklets for Bernards and for Bear Hudson. In 1953 it was printing the Hudson House Classics. In 1964 it was operating from the same building as Bear Hudson, as presumably it always had. Continue reading

The Worst English Poets—number 4—Rev Edward Dalton

Jot 101 Worst poets cover 001The Rev Edward Dalton was a Victorian cleric and leading light in the Protestant Association. Here is an extract from his sublime effusion, ‘The Railway Journey’ (in The Sea, the Railway Journey and other Poems, London c1875)

The last friends part,

And off we start,

The engine pants and snorts and blows,

The carriage doorways slam and close,

The broad and ponderous wheels are rolled

By thick-set arms of iron mould,

While streaming from the sprouting side

The steam escapes in hissing tide.

Cranch, crunch, thud, rud, dubber-dub-rub.

Thudder, rubber, dub-dub-dub- a- rub-rub.

 

Startled at starting, for our nerves are weak,

We gasp for breath,

Grow pale as death,

As one long piercing, shrill, unearthly shriek

Rings thro’ ears, and stops the power to speak,

The cry of anguish, or vindictive yell

Of baffled imp, or vanquished fiend of hell,

The death-shriek of some monstrous beast,

We’ve smashed a million pigs at least.

Ah no! no sucking pig has lost a bristle,

The shriek was but the starting railway whistle,

Our speed increases as we rattle down

And reach the suburbs of the outer town;

And there, yes, there

On the look-our slope of the garden sward

I caught a glimpse of my darling Maude… Continue reading

An artist among the Charing Cross Road bookshops

IMG_3272Found in the art instruction magazine The Artist (London, November 1934) an interview with the artist and art therapist Adrian Hill about his recent oil painting ‘In Charing Cross Road.’ Here are a few extracts -most of Hill’s talk is about  technique, but there are some insights on the choice of subject:

… there were some who questioned the impulse behind the work, and wondered whether the scene was worth the skill and discernment that the artist had brought to the task

I admit that I shared a little of this feeling. Charing Cross Road is a central and important thoroughfare, but it must rank in the C3 class amongst London highways. Indeed, there is so little of the beautiful or the picturesque about the neighbourhood that I asked Adrian Hill if the idea of sitting down to paint it came to him suddenly, or if he had deliberately hunted for such a subject.

“No, I wasn’t looking for it,” he said. “It came to me. It was a gift from the London traffic. I was waiting to cross the road when I suddenly found it in front of me, complete in design and detail, asking to be painted.”

“As far as size is concerned, did you see it as a 24″by 20″?”

“No, I thought at first of making it bigger – about 40″ by 30″ – but it was an experiment in the ay of subject, and I decided to go modest. If ever I do a similar scene, I shan’t hesitate to paint it on a grander scale!”

“You had no misgivings about tackling it inside the studio?”

“None at all. I believe I should have painted it mush less spontaneously and confidently if I had had the subject in front of me. The details would have been so insistent that I should have been led into making a still life study of books instead of an impression of a bookshop, which was what I was after.”

“But I suppose you had to use a model for the books?” Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (4)

John Lane, the London publisher of Eudora Welty’s classic story-collection The Golden Apples, decided in 1952 that sales had slackened too much to justify keeping the work in print. According to Noel Polk’s Eudora Welty – a bibliography of her work (1994), “1175 unbound sheets were sold to “Bear Hudson[?].” How very odd. Perhaps across the world there are copies of John Lane’s edition of The Golden Apples in unusually basic binding.

Did Bear Hudson do that kind of thing often? Apparently, yes. Or at least, it did in 1952. The Reading University literary archives include records from publishers George Allen & Unwin Ltd; in 1952 there was correspondence with “Bear Hudson Ltd who buy remainders from A&U”. Interesting.

A year later, though, Bear Hudson made one last attempt at an orthodox publishing venture.

The Hudson House Classics

After the gap, in 1953-54 there materialised the “Hudson House Classics”. These were five hardcover books reprinting safely out-of-copyright children’s stories such as Treasure Island.

Despite the statement “Published by Hudson House, London” these were clearly Bear Hudson productions. The 1953 dust-jacket spine of Kidnapped carries the familiar logo of the reading bear, and the books were printed by Technical Suppliers Ltd., known to be located at 63, Goldhawk Road, as was Bear Hudson Ltd. itself. Untitled19

Not all Hudson House Classics were dated (or indeed showed the bear anywhere). I found a 1954 date for Treasure Island hiding behind the frontispiece, inexplicably avoiding the title and back-of-title pages. Some books may have been reprinted or only bound-up intermittently; their boards can be either red or green.

Then, after these five, nothing. (More Hudson House Classics were said to be forthcoming, but naturally I can’t find any, not even Little Women despite the HHC Good Wives being its sequel.) So there are still questions.

What was Bear Hudson doing after the Forties? Who were the people behind it?

I looked for the people first. Continue reading

Dining with the famous in the early 1960s (2)

Hampshire


The high-flying Oxford graduate Robert Fearnley-Whittingstall visited Burley Manor in the New Forest a few months before he married gardening writer Jane in 1962. Three years later, celebrity chef Hugh, of River Cottage fame, was born. According to those who approved the hotel, the owners used their own ‘vegetables, cream, poultry and pigs ‘. So doubtless, the merits of locally sourced produce were passed onto the River Cottage presenter. However, it is unlikely that Hugh’s cooking skills were inherited from his Dad, because, according to Jane, the only dish her husband could cook for the young ladies he entertained as a bachelor was devilled kidneys!John Arlott pic

John ‘the Voice of Cricket’ Arlott, who started his career as a policeman in Basingstoke before being discovered by poet and BBC producer Geoffrey Grigson, was a oenophile and gastronome who enjoyed great hospitality at the White Horse Inn, Droxford, which just happens to be a few miles from the ‘Bat and Ball ‘pub in Hambledon, where cricket began in the eighteenth century.

In the early sixties ‘motels ‘ were becoming popular, although one doesn’t expect to find many in the Good Food Guide. However, there are at least two, one of which, ‘The Royal Oak Motel’ at Newington, near Hythe, offered, according to the approvers a delicious, though expensive selection of continental and English dishes, including escalope in Marsala ( 14/-) and frog’s legs ( 10s 6d). It is not known whether one of the approvers, Geoffrey Finsberg, a Tory councillor at just 24, who became a senior government minister in the seventies, dined here on expenses. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (3)

Bear Hudson authors

Much could be written about “Elmer Elliot Saks”, better known as F Dubrez Fawcett or as the main “Griff” of many near-the-knuckle paperbacks. With short page counts and fast typing he could breeze through a book a fortnight and still take afternoons off.

The House of Fear by “Frank Richards” reminds us that Charles Hamilton had years of wartime struggles, scraping along in low-paying marginal markets before his post-war resurgence with Billy Bunter in books, theatre and TV.

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

Frank Griffin in Nos. 525 and 538 may have been the F. Griffin who wrote Bear Hudson’s factual No. 518, Women’s Legal Problems. However, he was more obviously the Frank Griffin who wrote pulp action paperbacks for Mellifont, Hamiltons and others.

Pure non-fiction contributors also intrigue. No. 515 The 20th Century Guide to London was by Vernon Sommerfield, a pre-WWII transport writer who had broadcast as early as 1925 on “The Human Side of Railways” from 2LO, the forerunner of the BBC; his son was the noted political activist/novelist John Sommerfield.

And who was W.T. Baker, author of the atypical polemic I Speak to the Workers, No. 503? A review of his book mentioned that “Under the pen-name of “Benchfitter” he has contributed frequently to house-organs published by the staffs of factories.” Clearly Mr Baker had spoken to the workers before. Did his proposed next book, ‘Two-tenths of a thou’ from Nazi domination, ever appear? Apparently not. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (2)

Bear Hudson numbered booklets

The first Bear Hudson booklet was Be Clever with Leather, numbered 501. (No doubt the numbers 1 to 500 were left clear for Bernards.) The highest Bear Hudson number I know of was No. 555, How to Make Rugs, by F.J. Christopher. Some titles carried both the general number and a subset number within a “Model Engineering Series”.

Incidentally, the first few titles were published from 14 The Broadway, Hammersmith, W.6, before the firm settled down at Goldhawk Road, W.12. (A reprint of Be Clever with Leather had the old address on its front cover and the new address on its back, before a further reprint saw 63 Goldhawk Road reach the front cover at last.)

(web image)

(web image)

The Bear Hudson publishing story had several twists and turns. Omitting various oddities of 1946-48 for now, I would place the numbered booklets into three main phases:

1943-5             mostly craft/DIY subjects

1946                mainly pulp fiction

1947-50           returning to crafts

Booklet prices and formats

The prices ranged from 1/- to 2s.6d (5p to 12½p in modern money), with a very few at 6d or 3s.6d. This may have seemed expensive at the time for small stapled pamphlets, but in wartime the printers often controlled the scarce paper stocks and could negotiate a high cover price to increase their own profits. The flimsy pink interior paper just visible in the early printing of Be Clever with Leather above may have been an attempt to imitate home pattern paper, or may have been simply what was available; later impressions saw variations in paper, printers and even the number of staples. (Wartime shortages may explain why, for example, Bernards’ booklet No. 42 used eye-straining dark red paper, while No.51 was slightly more legible on blue.) Most Bear Hudson titles were printed on ordinary white paper. Continue reading