A pre-Coronation Communist Party pamphlet of 1937

Communist Party leaflet 001Aimed specifically at workers looking forward to the glamorous Coronation of King George VI on May 12th 1937 is this glossy brochure published by the Communist Party of Great Britain. It argues that it is scandalous that a total of £20,000,000 will be spent by the Government in staging the event and by those attending it (new outfits and hotel bills) when that sum might be better spent on new homes, nursery schools and underfed children.

Naturally, the Party denies that it against those with money spending it on whatever they like. What it does argue is that it is divisive for members of the moneyed class to flaunt their wealth before working people. It is also hypocritical for them to spend it on ‘fripperies’ when the ruling class has acknowledged that the Coronation is an occasion for the rich and poor to come together and celebrate the pageantry of this memorable event like ‘ one happy family’.

‘The idea is that you, Bill Smith, miner, fitter, shop assistant, belong to the same happy British family as Lord Nuffield, Mr Selfridge and your own employer—all the King’s loyal subjects together.’

Of course, the pamphlet argues, this is an example of government duplicity. Those in power see the millions as money well spent if the pageantry invokes sufficient feelings of patriotism among the working class to encourage workers to fall in with their ‘ war plans ‘. However, the pamphlet argues that it is up to workers to ensure that the ruling class do not achieve this cosy arrangement.

‘First, make them pay more. If you have to work on Coronation Day, demand holiday rates of pay. Some employers are trying to show how patriotic and generous they are by giving a holiday with pay on Coronation day. If your employer is one of these, demand a proper holiday of at least a week with pay this year and every year—like the French workers get. When they urge you to brighten up your street with flags and streamers, demand that the landlord brightens up your home as well. If they provide a free tea for the children on Coronation day, accept it and see that your children have a good feed and a good time. But demand also, that your children and happy and properly fed during the rest of the year…’   Continue reading

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

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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

Dining with the famous in the early 1960s

Norman Painting diningA copy of Raymond Postgate’s pioneering Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 is a real eye-opener for the 21st century foodie. Forget steak, mushrooms and chips followed by Black Forest Gateau at the nearest Berni Inn—- here were restaurants where high quality and innovative dishes were served. Postgate asked those who were members of the Good Food Club to fill in the report page at the end of each guide, ‘approving’ a particular restaurant. If he liked the comments the names of the ‘approvers’ were added to the end of the restaurant entry. Most of these approvers were just ordinary people who liked good food, but a number turned out to be amongst the great and the good of the time, including writers, academics and showbiz types. It is likely that Postgate recognised these names and deliberately selected them out as a way of attracting diners who also recognised these ‘ celebs’. Here are some examples.

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Eternal bachelor Norman Painting, who played the patriarch of long-running radio series’ The Archers’ for a record number of years after leaving an academic career at Oxford, where he fell out with his B.Litt tutor, the lazy and apathetic Lord David Cecil, was an enthusiastic diner at Bertorelli’s in Shepherds Bush, just round the corner from the BBC. He also enjoyed the food at several other good restaurants scattered over the country. A serious gastronome, it seems.

Antiquarian book legend Anthony Rota, a great diner-out, appears to have enjoyed Mediterranean cuisine at the Tavana restaurant in Heddon Court Parade, Cockfosters. He also approved the cheap ’n’ cheerful Romano Santi bistro in Greek Street, Soho, and the more traditional Foxley Hotel in Bishop’s Stortford. 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.”

 

Stuntmen- a ‘respected heavy’

IMG_1966Found in Spotlight’s Register of Stunt Performers and Stunt Arrangers: 1991-93 this entry on the ‘respected heavy’ Michael Crane. A fascinating book, mostly men, some listing the equipment that they can provide (Abseiling equipment, Air Bags, Fire Suits etc.,) Michel Crane, a formidable figure, also worked as a bodyguard in those inevitable resting periods in the life of a stuntman…minding Heads of State, Royalty, Pop Stars- the usual crew. His entry reads:

Michael Crane.

Height: 6ft 7in

Weight: 25st

Chest: 55in

Credits: 

Stunt Arranger: Henry Rawlinson’s End.

Stunt Performer: Brannigan, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Legend, Defrosting the Fridge.

Capabilities: Driving Stunts, small arms expert, boxing and all general stunt work.

Acting Experience: twenty-five years experience playing small parts, heavies, giants, monsters, pirates, Scotsmen, Blacksmith etc.

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The 1971 Bookbang—a damp squib?

The_Sacred_Mushroom_and_the_Cross_coverHalfway through its run Guardian journalist Alex Hamilton visited the much vaunted Book Bang (see earlier jot)  in Bedford Square and discovered many disappointed people . One of these ( presumably a writer ) had scrawled on a litter-bin: ‘ Publishers are rich, writers poor, people poorer’. A bookshop owner called Eddie Pond complained about paying good money to be bombarded with promotional shows. There was much else to complain about, according to Hamilton:

‘You can’t see work from the private presses, because their shows start elsewhere on Monday. You can’t be drawn by Felix Topolski for £3 because he has now gone back to his studio under the arches. You can’t see underground gigs because the Bedford Settled Estate would not permit a concrete base to be sunk in their turf…You can’t smoke in the tents. You can’t drink till six, because the square businessmen objected to the echoes of saturnalia they caught on the breeze…You can’t see many heads of the publishing industry, because they have bigger fish to fry, and didn’t all want the Bookbang in the first place…’

In fact, so lukewarm were the bigger publishers that two of them underwrote the Bookbang to a derisory extent—Penguin and Weidenfeld both donated a measly £250. Nor did the book industry help much with staffing. Those few staffers who did arrive were grossly overworked. A frustrated Bookbang supreme Martyn Goff was quite willing to admit to Hamilton that ‘of all the publishers who promised me help, only one turned up’. Continue reading

Maundy Gregory – a St John’s Wood Gatsby

IMG_1829Found in a 1955 Punch – a review by the novelist Anthony Powell of Honours for Sale. The Strange Story of Maundy Gregory. (Gerald Macmillan, London: Richards Press 1954). Maundy Gregory had in the 1920s what amounted to a licence to print money. He sold honours, a profession that made a comeback in the Blair years. For £10,000 (about $1 million now) he could get you an earldom; knighthoods were a bit cheaper. You could, in fact, sign a cheque to him in your expected new name–only cashable when you assumed the title. He liked rare books, especially the works of the fantastical Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo.) In some cases (according to AJA Symons in Quest for Corvo) he would pay his agents to track down supposedly unfindable books, money no object. He had a mansion in St John’s Wood which later became the world famous Beatle’s recording studio.

Powell calls him an ‘honours tout’, a ‘real life Gatsby’ and ‘a mad aspect of the 1920s incarnate’. He suggests that anyone  ‘who enjoys a good laugh’ should read the list of  guests at his Derby Eve Dinner at his own club ‘The Ambassador’s.’ Something of a ‘sausage fest’ (i.e. no women) but, as Powell says, Gregory certainly knew how to ‘bring them in.’  The author of the book, Gerald Macmillan, may  be exaggerating when he says it was the most distinguished gathering ever held…

List of guests at Ambassador Derby Eve Dinner, held on June 2, 1931.

Major-General J. E. B. Seely (in the Chair), Sir Austen Chamberlain, Mr. Winston Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, Mr. J. H. Thomas, the Duke of Sutherland, Viscount Craigavon, the Marquess of Reading, Major-General the Earl of Scarborough, Sir John Simon, Lord Southborough, Viscount Elibank, Mr. J. Maundy Gregory, Lord Jessel, Mr. Ralph E. Harwood, Earl Winterton, Lord Queenborough, Lord Bayford, Mr. W. Dudley Ward, Lord Plender, Marquis del Moral, Lieutenant-Commander Sir Warden Chilcott. Continue reading

Sabrina—Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe

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Sabrina on the set of ‘Blue Murder at St Trinians’ being sketched by Ronald Searle

Found in the Peter Haining Archive a small file on the now forgotten fifties British glamour model Sabrina, who in 1936 was born in Stockport as Norma Sykes. The nature of some of the contents of the file, which includes three large glossy prints of the scantily clad model in various provocative poses, suggests that Haining was one of the thousands of young ( and not so young) men who had fantasised about the bosomy blonde in her heyday, when she was compared to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. His curiosity may have prompted either by research for a possible book on Arthur Askey, in whose TV shows she had appeared, or by another clipping in the Archive—-a double-page spread in The Mail on Sunday for September 1st 2002.

In this article Sabrina, who following her unsuccessful bid for Hollywood stardom had settled for a life of leisure as the wife of a wealthy LA gynaecologist, only to lose most of it following her divorce, was tracked down by reporters to a seedy corner of Beverley Hills :  Continue reading

Odd photos bought online 2

anne1Bought at eBay for the price of a latte (and muffin) -these 3 photos purporting to be of a British royal – Anne, Princess Royal. The left and right photos are indubitably her, the middle photo (printed on Fujifilm Crystal
Archive paper -as is the other colour shot) may not be. It shows a well dressed and striking young woman emerging from a Ford Thunderbird sometime in the (late?) 1960s in what looks like a field or orchard with other mostly pretty fancy American cars parked there. It has the feel of a Cindy Sherman performance  art photograph and if authentic must have been taken on a tour of America by Anne or while she was on holiday there.

 

The mouth (and nose) and assured demeanour certainly look like Anne. The provenance is good but such web purchases always have an element of doubt- certainly if it is Anne she is looking uncharacteristically  ‘cool’ and it is one of the ‘groovier’ moments of her young life. An online search revealed nothing conclusive especially when coupled with the words ‘Thunderbird.’
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A bookseller meets T.E. Lawrence

IMG_0006Found among  the books in the working library of the actor Peter O’Toole (1932 – 2013)  his copy of Letters of T.E. Lawrence (Readers Union, 1941.) O’Toole had surprisingly few books on or by Lawrence considering that this  was probably his greatest role and the film that made him an international star. In the Reader’s Union edition was loosely inserted  a one page wartime broadsheet keeping members of the book club informed about new publications. It was from an address at Wray Common, Reigate. This broadsheet / flier was dated February 1941and  has a good piece (“T.E.”) on Lawrence by his friend and bookseller  K.W. Marshall.

I have more reason to feel grateful to T.E. Lawrence than most booksellers. When I was unemployed years ago, he loaned me Clouds Hill his Dorset cottage, where I stayed for just over three months. Later, my wife and I spent a honeymoon holiday there. On my first  visit I was in “possession” of the cottage, and Lawrence would ask permission to stay the night on the infrequent occasions that he managed to pay a visit. He was very proud of the cottage and spent some considerable effort and time in gradually planning a comfortable retreat for his retirement. Unfortunately, when he died he had not enjoyed Clouds Hill for as long a period as I had; and during his short term of possession he was harassed by news reporters. Continue reading

Gillian Hills–Beat Girl

For someone brought up with the Beatles, it’s difficult to understand the attraction for teenagers of what came immediately before the Fab Four transformed pop music for ever. Here, for instance, is the back page Film Review promo for Beat Girlbeatgirl_poster a movie released in 1960 that purported to show ‘ squares ‘ what their ‘beatnik’ teenage sons and daughters were getting up to behind their backs. Starring the pop singer Adam Faith ( his film debut at the age of 18 ), horror star Christopher Lee, a young Oliver Reed and the fifteen year old bilingual starlet Gillian Hills, it was also the debut of John Barry, who went on to forge a glittering career in film music.

In 1960, most pop music fans were more interested in how teen idol Faith would cut it as an actor, than they were seeing ‘ the second Bardot ‘, as Roger Vadim hyped the fifteen year Hills, but looking back, it is odd that latter’s acting career never took off. Here was an actress, whose striking blonde beauty and obvious acting talent should have propelled her to greater things. In ‘Beat Girl’ Hills plays the ‘ bad girl ‘ Jennifer, the sulky-looking beatnik, who rejects the values of her respectable parents and lives for the kicks she gets out of dancing in night clubs and hanging out in milk bars. In the opening scenes of the film she is a pouting, free-spirited presence as she descends the stairs to the basement dance floor, where, seemingly oblivious to everything and everyone around her, she begins a freestyle dance routine. On her website ( which is worth a visit ) Hills describes the dance thus: ‘ my brain flipped, my feet followed and I was off’. As for her role as Jennifer, she saw it as a protest at her treatment by her Lycee in Paris, who expelled her for taking on a debut role in Vadim’s Les Liaisons Dangereux ‘.

 

‘I could vent my frustration, my disgust, the helplessness and despair, and the anger at what had happened to my life in the recent months.’

‘Beat Girl’ proved popular in Britain, but was banned in France. However, this did not prevent Hills from taking roles in a number of French films in the early sixties and from recording pop songs in French, including the annoyingly catchy ‘ Zou Bisou Bisou’ (1961), which was later used in ‘Mad Men’. But in Britain the film roles were small. She was a brunette in the cultish ‘Blow Up ‘(1966) and in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ she had a cameo. She also appeared occasionally on British TV.Gillian Hills pic

In 1975 Hills decided to stop making films and left for New York City to try her luck as a book and magazine illustrator. Judging from the artwork on her website, she appears to have genuine artistic talent too! At 72, Hills now lives in England with her husband Stewart Young, manager of AC/DC and Cyndi Lauper, among other artistes. [R.M.Healey]

 

 

Books we must not read. Part One

In issue number 11 ( January 1951) of the book miscellany Colophon someone called W. Mason- Owen describes some of the literary material that remains locked away in two departments of the British Library ( or British Museum Library as it was then known). Incidentally, didn’t unfashionable novelist Angus Wilson work in the Manuscript department of the BM around this time? I bet he had a peek at these banned items.

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Henry Campbell-Bannerman ( James Guthrie)

In 1951 the first and most important of these departments was the Copyright Department, in which ‘ neatly packed away in brown paper parcels ‘ could be found ‘ politician’s diaries , books, letters and documents of scientists, inventors, poets and literary men, Court gossipers and King’s Messengers’. According to Mason-Owen, many of these writings wouldn’t be available to read for another fifty years---some perhaps would never be read. Owen then describes a few examples of the material locked away:-

  • Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s private papers. Apparently, according to Mason-Owen, Campbell-Bannerman was Prime Minister in the early part of ‘ the nineteenth century’ , which should of course read ‘ the twentieth century ‘. Never mind. The reason they’re hidden away was because this particular politician was ‘famed for his caustic outbursts ‘against his more intransigent opponents. It’s hard to imagine that many of these MPs would have been alive forty or fifty years on, but there you are. I suppose war hero Winston Churchill might have been one of them.
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William Loring, academic, soldier and first Warden of Goldsmiths

Found among  the papers of the long defunct literary agency Michael Hayes of Cromwell Road S.W.5  - parts of a manuscript memoir by one L.R. Reeve of Newton Abbot, South Devon. Mr Reeve was attempting to get the book (Among those Present: Very Exceptional People) published, but on the evidence of the unused stamp Hayes never replied and  L. R. Reeve published the book himself through the esteemed vanity publisher Stockwell two years later in 1974.

L R Reeve had in a long life met or observed a remarkable selection of famous persons. He  presents 'vignettes' of 110 persons from all grades of society (many minor or even unknown) they include Winston Churchill, Dorothy Sayers,  H H Asquith, John Buchan, the cricketer Jack Hobbs, J.B. Priestley, H.G. Wells, Marconi, E.M. Forster, Duchess of Atholl, Marie Stopes, Oliver Lodge and Cecil Sharp -- 'it is unnecessary to explain that  many I have known have not known me. All of them I have seen, most of them I have heard, and some of them have sought information, even advice from me."

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Rock and Roll Cookery

Found – an uncommon cook book called Cool Cooking. Recipes of your Favorite Rock Stars by Roberta Ashley ( Scholastic Book Service USA 1972). As it was published 40 years some of the stars are now dead (John Lennon, George Harrison, Eddie Kendricks, Wilson Pickett, Joe Cocker) or sadly forgotten (The Honey Cones, The Grass Roots, The Bells, Andy Kim, Odetta, The Delfonics, Rose Colored Glass, Mandrill) and Paul McCartney was still eating meat. He provides a pizza recipe with sausage and anchovies etc.,

Some recipes are long and complicated and some short to the point of minimalist. From Elton John (‘who doesn’t cook at all’) is a multi ingredient Shrimp Currry. Kris Kristofferson’s Tacos looks slightly difficult but he advises (unlike Nigella) ‘prepackaged taco shells’. George Harrison’ s Banana Sandwich requires bread and a banana with peanut butter optional -‘Slice  a ripe banana lengthwise and lay on a piece of bread. If you like, you can spread the bread with peanut butter.’ That’s it.

Another banana themed recipe comes from Carly (‘You’re so vain’) Simon. Carly ‘likes strange food combinations she creates spontaneously’. This concoction, she says, tastes great with yoghurt and mandarin oranges.

Carly’s Concoction
Chopped Walnuts
1 container cottage cheese
1 banana
honey ( as much as you like)
Mix the walnuts into the cottage cheese and sliced the banana over the top of this mixture. Pour honey over the whole concoction and serve.

Lastly John Fogerty ( Creedence Clearwater Revival) has a good egg recipe for a rock and roll breakfast.

Fogerty Scrambled Eggs
4 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1/2 stick butter

 Beat  the eggs well and stir in the sour cream ; add salt and pepper and blend. Melt the butter in a skillet and pour in the eggs. Fry over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until the eggs are  solid. Serves 2.

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The Beatles – Where do they go from here? (1965)



Found in Photoplay from April 1965 this speculative article about The Beatles by Anne Hooper -'Where do they go from here?' Some now slightly forgotten names are mentioned -Pete Murray, Ray Noble, David Jacobs, Maureen Cleave and also the unfortunately not forgotten Jimmy Savile ('that crazy, way-out disc jockey') who claims (surely falsely?) that  he worked at Liverpool  docks with the lads...

What is to happen to our golden boys? How along will they last? What will they be doing in , say five years time? These are among the dozens of questions that are asked today about the phenomenal Beatles.

Rumours of splits and break-ups are often heard. Fierce competition from groups like 'The Rolling Stones' has had the fans shaking their heads and saying, "Well, they've had it good, but can't last." But it has, though. The Beatle's last single "I Feel Fine" proved that the boys were still very much on top. They haven't been eclipsed by the Stones and, with their second film about to be produced, they're not likely to be by anyone...

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Accolades for Elvis, King of Rock

Found in an amusing slim music trivia paperback Rock's Follies: Soundbites from the world of rock this collection of (mostly) eulogistic quotes about Elvis Presley, oddly titled 'The father of us all?' The book was given away with the April 1996 issue of  men's lifestyle magazine Maxim. Amongst the quotes were these (1-11) and we were inspired to find a few more (12-22)  by this excellent book (illustrated  by the late, great Ray Lowry, R.I.P.) The last entry by Nik Cohn would probably end up in Pseud's Corner in the cynical U.K. but it addresses the King's spiritual side.

The father of us all?

1. Without Elvis, none of us could have made it. - Buddy Holly

2. I didn't think he was as good as the Everly Brothers the first time I ever laid eyes on him. - Chuck Berry.

3. It took people like Elvis to open the door for this kind of music, and I thank God for Elvis Presley. - Little Richard.

4. Gosh, he's so great. You have no idea how great he is, really you don't. You have no comprehension - it's absolutely impossible. I can't tell you why he's so great, but he is. He's sensational. He can so anything with his voice. He can sing anything you want him to, anyway you tell him. The unquestionable King of rock 'n' roll. - Phil Spector.

5. When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail. - Bob Dylan.

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I once met….John Heath-Stubbs

John Heath-Stubbs by Patrick Swift

Coming across a copy of a relatively recent booklet entitled The Guide to Bayswater (Sunrise Press) I turned to the page on Artesian wells which  accounted for much of the water supply to Bayswater in the early nineteenth century. The next entry was on Artesian Road, which reminded me of a visit to the poet and critic John Heath-Stubbs circa 1994. I think I must have got his address and phone number from Who’s Who.

I knew little about him as a person, apart from the fact that he was blind and had a very large head. I didn’t much enjoy his poetry, but was interested in hearing his views on Geoffrey Grigson, on whom I was writing a biography-- not because either of them had seriously clashed in print or in person, but because Heath-Stubbs was part of the neo-Romantic reaction to Auden and his generation, of which Grigson was a member, and also perhaps because the latter had violently attacked two neo-romantic poets—George Barker and Dylan Thomas, and inter alia their literary mentor, Edith Sitwell.

Looking back over twenty years, all I can recall of our conversation was the fact that Heath-Stubbs defended the poetic aesthetic of Sitwell, which I had decried, and that he showed a degree of irritation with the more extreme manifestations of neo-romanticism.
He also urged me to read his recently published autobiography, Hindsights, which alas, I had failed to do.

But what impressed me the most about this very remarkable man, whose head was indeed enormous, was the way he coped with his blindness. I had never before interviewed a blind man—indeed I had never been inside the home of one. Something I did find bizarre was the fact that as someone who had been totally blind for nearly forty years, he had pictures on his wall.Unless these had been hung when he had had some residual vision, their presence seemed pointless. I was also appalled by the large and obviously dangerous holes in his carpets. Why had no-one urged him to install brand new ones? These might have incurred some expense, but tripping up on a threadbare carpet could have killed or seriously injured the poet. It then occurred to me that as a blind man it was in his interest to know where all the potential dangers in his home were located, and these included holes in carpets. I was also impressed by the ease with he made me a cup of coffee, although the mug was left balancing precariously on the edge of a table. I later learnt that he often cooked for his guests—and did it well—so for him making a coffee must have been a simple task. I also noticed, as so many others had done, before and since, the evidence of spilt food and drink on his clothes.

Just before I left, a much younger man let himself into the house. He was clutching some books, I seem to recall, and I assumed that this was his friend and housekeeper, the legendary Eddie Linden, who was in the habit of reading to him.
[R.M.Healey.]

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Hermann Sudermann—bearded wonder

 This is unusual, but perhaps not for its time. Back in 1906, when this postcard was sent from Berlin to a certain Seigfried Keiller, who was living in the Jewish ghetto of Gartenstrasse, Breslau, it would seem that celebs trusted the postal service to deliver signed photos of themselves safely. Not a likely prospect today!

Hermann Sudermann (1857 – 1928), a hugely successful novelist and dramatist in his day, was that celebrity, as one can see from the bottom of the card, where his scrawl of a signature appears just above his printed surname. We don’t know exactly when the card was printed, but he looks to be around his mid or late forties.  At the time Sudermann was at the height of his popularity. A German nationalist and an admirer of Nietzsche, his plays and novels found a ready audience, not only in his native land, but also in Japan and Britain, where, for instance, the English version of his drama Heimat, which played with the notion that the artist should be able to lead a freer moral life than the bourgeoisie, attracted actresses like Sarah Berhardt and Mrs Patrick Campbell. His plays also formed the basis of more than thirty films worldwide.

Sudermann died in 1928, but as someone who promoted nationalism and romanticized ideas of ethnicity, his popularity lasted right up the Second World War. However, with the defeat of Hitler and the cultural re-evaluation that accompanied the rebuilding of Germany, his work became distinctly unfashionable and today he is an almost totally forgotten figure.
     
Incidentally, it is interesting to speculate why Sudermann came to send a signed photo of himself. It is possible that Keiller attended a performance of one of his plays in the presence of the dramatist and that he approached him for an autograph. Sudermann may then have promised to do better than supply a signature and afterwards dispatched the signed postcard. Such a scenario seems more likely than the notion of Keiller looking up Sudermann’s address and number in the Berlin phone directory. But you never know!

[R.M.Healey]
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A rare drawing by Lavinia Spencer—Princess Diana’s great great great grandmother

Bought a few years ago in a provincial auction house for very little, this signed drawing of Frances Molesworth by the talented amateur Lavinia Bingham, dated 8th June 1780, is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because the artist was Princess Diana’s great great great grandmother. However, the relationship between Lavinia and Frances is also significant. After the death of her natural mother, Frances entered the household of her mother’s only surviving sibling, Lady Margaret Bingham, and her cultured husband Sir Charles (later Lord Lucan),who were the parents of Lavinia. At the time Frances would have been twenty and Lavinia two years younger, and it is highly likely that the drawing, which Lavinia presented to Frances,  was executed at the family home at Laleham, Surrey. Interestingly, the sitter seems to be wearing the same, or a very similar, wide brimmed hat trimmed with feathers that she was to wear in a later portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. No doubt the two girls were rivals in the marriage stakes. Both had striking good looks, but whereas  less than a year after the sitting Lavinia married George, the second Earl Spencer, brother of Georgiana, Countess of Devonshire, Frances rejected two very eligible suitors, including Lord North, before she agreed to marry John Jeffreys, Marquess of Camden, in 1785.

Although, like her descendant, Princess Diana, Lavinia Spencer was a beauty, none of the features of the  ‘People’s Princess’ can be detected in the famous portrait, also by Reynolds, which now hangs in Althorp, along with some of the sitter’s own artistic productions. Nor did Lavinia seem to share many of her descendant’s personality traits. Although before her marriage she was described as a ‘sweet creature’, she was later disliked by some for her perceived bitchiness and arrogance. Certainly, she ruled her household at Althorp with a self confidence born of her elevated station, which Diana, for all her occasional feistiness, could not rival.

We know how Diana’s short life ended, but in contrast Lavinia’s appears to have been full of contentment. She died in 1831, aged 69, just long enough to see her son, Viscount Althorp, became Chancellor of the Exchequer. [RR]

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Thomas Augustus Trollope—the famous novelist’s forgotten brother

While many admirers of Anthony Trollope are busy celebrating the great novelist’s bicentenary, spare a thought for his older brother, Thomas Augustus Trollope (1810 – 92), who was always in his shadow, but who as a novelist, prolific travel writer and biographer in his own right, may have eclipsed Anthony in the word stakes.

In a long literary career Thomas published around sixty books, having begun a writing partnership with his mother while still at Oxford? In addition, he was a prodigious contributor to magazines. His friendship with Dickens, for instance, led to a long association with Household Words. Much of his work was achieved while living in some style in Italy. He moved to Florence in 1843, creating with his first wife a salon for expatriates at the Villino Trollope, which was expertly decorated and whose  sumptuous furnishings included a library of 5,000 books.
From here he migrated to Rome, where with his second wife, the writer Frances Trollope, he established another refuge for the expatriate  community.

In this short undated letter Trollope apologises  to a Mr Cutbill for not being ‘ able to remain at home’ to see  him, and suggests that he  instead  delivers a ‘ packet ‘ to number  193, Piccadilly, ‘ otherwise the advantage of the scarcity would be lost ‘.As the address in question was that of Trollope’s publishers, Chapman and Hall, and if the letter dates from the period before he left for Italy, this packet may have contained some literary material of interest to the writer, but equally,  it could have been something perishable which may have spoiled if Cutbill, who was away from home at the time, had waited until his return to present  personally to Trollope.

This latter possibility seems unlikely. We simply don’t know what Trollope meant by ‘the advantage of the scarcity’, but if the package did indeed contain a perishable gift from Cutbill, perhaps Trollope felt that his publishers would be best placed to look after it until he returned to claim it.
[R.M.Healey]