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

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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]