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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]

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‘Eddie’ – tributes to Sir Edward Marsh

Found in a book* of tributes to Sir Edward Marsh, these two pieces unknown to the web - the foreword by Winston Churchill and the 'Tailpiece' by Max Beerbohm. Wikipedia (who regard him as a polymath) has this on him. Very clever, amusing, retiring, gay, one of the 'great and the good' and a patron of the arts - it is hard to think of a modern equivalent. Churchill, whom he served as Private Secretary for many years, attended his memorial and here contributes a touching piece on 'Eddie.' Beerbohm, who regarded him as 'not unalarming' also recognised him as 'one of the ornaments of his time.'

Foreword

Winston Churchill 

The friendship of Eddie Marsh is a memory which I put high among my treasures. We began working together at the Colonial Office in 1905 and from then onwards out association remained intimate and happy for nearly fifty years. He was not only an admirable Civil Servant, on whose judgement, loyalty, and competence I could always count, but he was a master of literature and scholarship, a deeply instructed champion of the arts, and a man for whom the esteem of his friends could not fail to be combined with their deepest affection. His serenity in all things made his companionship a pleasure; and his noble and generous nature made him an unfailing joy to men and woman of all generations who were so fortunate as to walk with him along the road. 


Tailpiece

Max Beerbohm

Eddie 

I do not remember having anywhere at any time heard him spoken of by anyone as Edward Marsh. And yet, with his tufted eyebrows and his monocle, and his sharply chiselled features, and his laconic mode of speech, he was not, one would have thought, unalarming. Or at any rate one would have thought so if his great kindness of heart had not somehow shone through the rather frigid surface of his social form. He was immensely more interested in other people than in himself - though he must have known that he was undeniably one of the ornaments of his time. 



*Sketches for a composite literary portrait of Sir Edward Marsh. C. Hassall and D. Mathews. London: Lund Humphries for the Contemporary Art Society, 1953.
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I once met A. S. Eddington

Found in the papers of L.R. Reeve (see A.J. Balfour for background on him) this piece on the British astronomer, physicist, and mathematician Sir  Arthur Eddington (1882 - 1944.) He did his greatest work in astrophysics and also wrote books on philosophy and popular science. L.R. Reeve actually met him and gives an amusing account of the slightness of this encounter but has good information on Eddington's appearance and his lecturing style. He ends with quite a good joke, relatively speaking…Some may remember that David Tennant played him in the BBC/HBO film Einstein and Eddington (2008.)

A. S. EDDINGTON

For several years I expressed my homage to Semprini, the pianist of genius; then when I heard him declare on the radio that if he were on a desert island his choice of a book would be The Nature of the Physical World by Sir Arthur Eddington, O.M., F.R.S., my obeisance was beyond all description, for I look upon Eddington as the greatest astronomer of my era.
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Sir Fred Schonell

Found in the papers of L.R. Reeve (see A.J. Balfour for background on him) this piece about the Australian writer and educationalist Sir Fred Schonell. He was also the author of several books aimed at teaching children to write and spell. The site Old School Reading Books suggests that some of these have become collectable. Reeve, having met the great man, had presentation copies of some of these...

SIR FRED SCHONELL

Professor Hamley once stated that the late Sir Fred Schonell was the best secretary the education section of the British Psychological Society had ever had. How right he was.
  Hamley, like Schonell, was an Australian, but there was no exaggeration in his assertion, for although Schonell’s unruffled manner was rather deceptive I also, whose knowledge of earlier secretaries is possibly greater than Hamley's, can announce that he was nearly perfect, and his professional career is a record of almost unbroken success. Moreover, although he and I were mutual members of three societies in London and frequently used to have a chat, I have to admit that until I read an obituary appreciation in The Times I was unaware of a great deal of his unusual career. I knew he was born in Perth, but it was news to me that he was one of the first graduates of the University of Western Australia to achieve a Hackett overseas scholarship.
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A. J. Balfour

A good piece from the papers of *L.R. Reeve on A.J. Balfour, as a former U.K. Prime Minister he is the highest ranking subject so far (along with Lloyd George.) As usual Reeve is good on his subject's voice and oratorical skills. Reeve's frequent presence at congresses and symposiums of 'leaders of thought' shows him as an almost Zelig-like figure...He ends on a joke, that if not true, ought to be.

Despite his deceptively ornamental appearance, the late Earl Balfour was a worker. Although his attractive manner was unperturbed and casual, he must have experienced periods of unremitting labour through many months; otherwise he could never have written so many theses and philosophical books, added to political publications, parliamentary labours, constituency engagements and university visits.

   His career as a statesman, philosopher and eminent speaker, is too well known to need emphasizing in great detail, but a few outstanding phenomena regarding his life should never be forgotten.
   In appearance he was probably the most aristocratic representative of his period, and was the greatest asset to the perpetuators of the class system. When in his seventieth year he was the leader of a mission to America in 1917, he was one of the most popular visitors England could have sent at any time, because he increased our prestige and disarmed criticism. I mention "perpetuators". Let me make it clear I am not suggesting that Balfour was a determined fighter to maintain the contemporary status quo. He seemed to be fully aware that in this world of fluctuations, there must be modifications of the class system, and an acknowledgement that injustices should be eliminated until the rights of all people are recognized.
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Lord Haldane

Found among the Reeve* papers this short memoir of Lord Haldane - i.e. Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane KT, OM, PC, KC, FRS, FBA, FSA (1856 – 1928)  an influential British Liberal Imperialist and later Labour politician, lawyer and philosopher. As with many of Reeve's pieces he had never met the man but had seen him give speeches at congresses and describes his speaking style well. He writes '...many 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." For Reeve the unifying qualification all these people have is '… some subtle emanation of personality we call leadership, and which can inspire people to actions  unlikely to be undertaken unless prompted by a stronger will.'

LORD HALDANE

When one begins to delve into the pages of great books of reference, such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, there are times one stops at a certain page and reads with an increasing sense of wonder and respect. I was looking for Haldane, and as I read the wonder grew. So this was the man treated so contemptuously by most of us during the First World War!
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The Reverend John Scott Lidgett (1854-1953)

Another jotting from the L.R. Reeve collection on the educationalist the Reverend John Scott Lidgett (1854-1953). A marvellous man, described here as a 'little packet of dynamite,' and author of 15 books. Reeve has a good story also about "the best-dressed woman in Rotherhithe…"

JOHN SCOTT LIDGETT

Where did I get the news that the late Dr Scott Lidgett was chairman of the centre for Psychotherapy, Epsom, at the age of ninety-six? All I remember is that I found the information jotted down in one of my scrapbooks. It may be true because he lived to the age of ninety-nine, and at ninety when a young journalist from the Kentish Mercury called at his home for an interview and congratulations, he was certainly in full command of his mental powers.
  At the end of the visit the young newsman expressed the hope that he might call again when the veteran reached his century. "It could be”, retorted the eminent divine, "you look as if you might live another ten years". The remark was typical, for Dr Lidgett, one of the most distinguished nonconformists of his generation, a little packet of dynamite, was a decidedly witty man; and every time I saw him, his expression never showed a trace of emotion, for his self-control was so significant to any observer of human nature that one felt that no situation would make him lose his colossal nerve. Moreover, as some of his minor duties were to be a manager of several schools, stories galore were told of his visits. Two remain in my memory: at one school on Prize Day the headmaster, during his report, declared that the year's successes were not due to himself but to his staff. His face dropped when Scott Lidgett, presenter of prizes, said he accepted the headmaster' s announcement.
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Sir Fred Mander

From the Reeve* collection this study of  Sir Frederick Mander (1883 -1964) headmaster and trade unionist and the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) from 1931 to 1947. He was an important figure in British educational history but there is no photo of him available. He may be in this photo of members of the National Association of Head Teachers taken in Leamington Spa in the 1950s. Teachers are not movie stars and most searches bring up a British moustachioed character actor called Miles Mander who was born in 1884…Reeve is good on detail, especially speaking style - it is useful to know that occasionally Sir Fred 'murmured at the end of a sentence.'

SIR FRED MANDER

The late Sir Fred Mander was at one time a highly successful headmaster in Luton. During that period of his life he was popular with children, staff and parents; the school was throbbing with life and happiness, and when he resigned to labour in a wider sphere, Luton lost a splendid headmaster, although he still continued to exert a great influence in other branches of life in his own town.
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Caroline Graveson of Goldsmiths’ College

From the L.R. Reeve collection - this worthy piece about Caroline Graveson of Goldsmiths’ College. She is commemorated at their library site which is where the photo comes from (with much thanks). Her dates are not given but she started there in 1905. Reeve, as usual addresses the subjects speaking skills ('…her elocution was perfect…majestic'.)

CAROLINE GRAVESON

It would be very unlikely to hear of even one ex-student, trained at Goldsmiths’ College, London, when Miss Graveson was the Vice-Principal, who would speak disparagingly of one of the most gracious educationalists of her long era and an illustrious member of the Training College Association.
  For Miss Graveson was one of those exceptional women whose integrity, judgment, fairness, and dignity were suggested immediately one met her, and one always felt that any of her interpretations was likely to be the right one.
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I once met… Ian Hamilton

I first encountered Ian Hamilton (1938 – 2001), poet, critic and famously combative editor of The Review, via Geoffrey Grigson. That is, I discovered that he’d once done an interview with Grigson and that this wonderful piece of barbed writing had been reproduced in Grigson’s The Contrary View.

I never expected to meet the man himself. I assumed that he might be difficult to pin down to a time and place, and so I left it at that. After all, I had the printed interview, which was probably all I needed. Then it occurred to me that as he lived in London I could at least write to him and see if he was willing to meet me. I think I got as far as finding his address in Wimbledon. I duly wrote. He replied, but no date was fixed…

Time passed, but around late 1994 I was glancing through the newspaper and I found a photograph of someone ( I forget his name ) who  was the spitting image of Ossie Ardiles, the Argentinian mid-fielder who was then managing  Spurs. A bit of lateral thinking led me to an extraordinary decision. Ian Hamilton was a fanatical Spurs supporter. I would go to his address and present him with this newspaper clipping. It would be an ice-breaker and hopefully might lead to a formal interview.

So, after a few weeks I did just that. I made my way to Hamilton’s rather comfortable Edwardian house in Wimbledon and gazed through the window. There he was, sitting around the dining table with a number of people, including a woman of Asian appearance who I later found out was his second wife, Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian novelist. I boldly marched up to the door with my clipping of ‘Ossie Ardiles’ and rang the bell. I seem to recall that Hamilton himself answered, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, I announced myself and, with the minimal explanation, handed over the clipping. He did smile. He might even have laughed. It was all over in two minutes. He told me that he had dinner guests, but asked me to phone or write with a view to an interview. I never did write. Sadly, he died a few years later. [RMH]

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Professor C. W. Valentine (Psychology)

From the L.R. Reeve* collection of short sketches of people he had met - this affectionate piece about psychologist C.W. Valentine (1879-1964).  He wrote many books on psychology and was the  editor of  The British Journal of Educational Psychology for its first 25 years. Wikipedia (so far) knows him not.. Reeve saw him lecture several times...

Professor C. W. Valentine

Forty years ago I used to believe that Professor C. W. Valentine was one of the most reliable psychologists in England. Time has never changed my opinion, for on the many occasions when I have listened to him, or read about him he has always left me with the same impression of steadiness and sense of proportion so that one always felt that any declaration from him was the result of an objective mind which had arrived at a conclusion after exhaustive study.
  I can, however, express a decided opinion on one of his books: an early volume on intelligence tests. Years ago an elderly colleague of mine was pestered by his newly qualified daughter to advise her on the best intelligence tests. He came to me. I took Valentine's book to school. We went into a huddle. He gave the tests according to instructions. Because I didn't know his boys I marked and assessed the results. A few days later he came to me beaming. "I have known every boy for at least six months and your marks are perfect." Salutations to Professor Valentine. And if the book in question is now out of print so much the worse for intelligence tests and education in general. No doubt the usual gibe 'old-fashioned' will be objected by superficial minds. Well, eating, drinking, breathing, speech and many other things are of ancient custom; when, therefore, the phrase ‘old-fashioned, is presented one can usually suspect a feeble argument, something like a lawyer's dictum, "When you have a weak case attack the man."
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May Smith O.B.E. Industrial Psychologist

From the L.R. Reeve* collection of short sketches of people he had met - this affectionate piece about psychologist May Smith O.B.E (1868-1968). There is a very brief entry at Wikipedia but a lot more in an article on early women industrial and experimental psychologists which details sleep privation tests she performed on herself in her study of fatigue amongst workers. Our photo is from the Science Museum and is of a Dotting Machine made by Edgar Schuster. It was used for testing accident-proneness in industrial workers by May Smith and her fellow psychologist Millais Culpin while she was at the Industrial Fatigue Research Board. This was  a body originally set up to study the health of munitions workers during World War I. As often with L.R. Reeve, an assiduous attender of lectures, he evaluates oratorical style - in her case 'compulsive' and '..much more unassuming than she ought to have been.'

May Smith

Mr Alec Rodger M.A., of Birkbeck College, London, has recently contributed, in a Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, a well-deserved tribute to the late Miss May Smith, O.B.E., whom for many years I considered to be among the dozen ablest psychologists in this country; and to this day my opinion has never changed. Moreover, Mr Rodger's survey of her career strengthens my previous conviction of her wide outlook, for although I saw her, heard her unruffled, steady speeches, read accounts of diligent research, such as studying, with Dr Millais Culpin, 1,000 people in all walks of life to find 60 per cent showing some sign of mental ill-health, I never knew of her close knowledge of so many of our eminent pioneers in psychology. I knew that she had been associated with William McDougall, Millais Culpin and Cyril Burt; but the fact that she had been influenced by the eminent Samuel Alexander, Lord D'Abernon, Lord Woolton and the steady, clear-thinking Eric Farmer was news to me;  and Mr Rodger’s account of her early days emphasises once again how frequently we meet people for years and suddenly learn that we have both lived in the same locality for a long period, and experienced a human environment of similar interest. Miss Smith and I both knew some of Manchester's leading figures and eminent learned men.
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L. P. Jacks

From the Reeves* collection, this study of the slightly  neglected writer L.P.Jacks (Lawrence Pearsall Jacks 1860-1955). His best known book was probably Mad Shepherds and Other Human Studies from which the drawing of 'Snarley Bob' comes (below.) There is an excellent article on him in Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography and Gutenberg have the entire text of Mad Shepherds.

L.P. Jacks.

A potential distinction was presented unknowingly to the citizens of Nottingham in 1860, the year when the eminent Lawrence Pearsall Jacks was born. I have a notion that he was a delicate child and frequently a trial to his parents; but I am sure that I am one among thousands to whom he has given hours of delight, either in speeches or in his fascinating literature.
  Indeed I sometimes feel that he would have been much better known to the general public had he been nothing but a professional journalist, instead of one of the leading Unitarians of his long career; for his reminiscences are so well written and so fascinating that I often pay him the compliment of a second or third reading. I browse among his memoirs as frequently as those of Harold Nicolson's letters and diaries and Frank Swinnerton's autobiographies; for there is a touch of magic and intensity in his recollections which keep many a mesmerized reader fighting against sleep on numerous occasions. His was the vivid phrase, the unmistakable meaning, the frank opinion, the distilled  wisdom of a long life among some of the most brilliant men of his era, and anyone who could claim him for a friend must have been a very privileged adult.
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F. H. Shapland

From the Reeve collection.* This is a fascinating character (especially from a bowling point of view) and although manager for Team England (as it was not known then) for the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games bowls team and a superb and noted player of the game he is unknown to Wikipedia and turns up online mostly in club lists. But all has changed, changed utterly, thanks to fellow Devonian L.R. Reeve's writings…

English Team, Commonwealth Games 1958

F. H. SHAPLAND

I have met a good many busy men in my long life, but cannot believe anyone could be more active than Harold Shapland. Yet he seems to thrive on his multitudinous commitments, and to the world he appears to be one of the happiest men alive, with his ready wit, ready smile and readiness to chat with any bowler who happens to be near him when watching a thrilling encounter.
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I once met…Eric Korn

Eric in Red Square (from ABA Newsletter )

Eric Korn (1933-2014) seems to have been a much admired man, if all the many recent tributes in the Letters pages of the TLS to the polymath, ex-marine biologist, bookseller and brain-box star of Round Britain Quiz, are any indication.  All these encomia remind me of a visit I paid to his home over fourteen years ago.

Having been impressed for years by his performances on Round Britain Quiz on which the current less demanding TV show  Only Connect  is loosely based, and having some notion of his special areas as a book dealer, I was curious to discover how he had become so well read in so many disparate subjects. Locating him was easy enough. Like so many dealers nowadays, his home was also his shop, and this turned out to be a rather conventional looking Edwardian terraced house in Muswell Hill. I’ve interviewed a few booksellers in my time but not one of them  answered the door wearing scruffy jeans and a T shirt. I took to him immediately.

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The Duchess of Atholl

How and where does one begin when describing such an exceptionally experienced public woman as the Duchess of Atholl? I* might do worse than start at a meeting held in Essex Hall, Strand, when she was Parliamentary Secretary to the old Board of Education. Appointed by the Prime Minister, Mr Stanley Baldwin, and under the leadership of Lord Eustace Percy who, she said, was no shirker, she admits to feeIing honoured to be the second woman in English history to be a Minister, and she soon made it evident in her public life that she was never afraid to join the ranks of a minority group of people.

I had better not mention the number of years of my regular attendance at meetings at Essex Hall. I spoke there at a conference; I made reports there monthly during one period; I witnessed many exciting arguments; but never was any other meeting in that historic building so memorable to me as one at which the Duchess delivered one of her steady, thoughtful orations. She was no tub thumper, no rabble rouser, no player to the gallery, no provider of cheap wisecracks. She simply forced her head to take control of her emotions and just gave us facts, combined with ideals, very hard to challenge. There is| no need to add that after the meeting there was some animated discussion among groups in the corridor and in the Strand teashops.

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Leoni’s Quo Vadis restaurant: ‘no better place in the world to dine or lunch’

Leoni printed this praise from the film actress Evelyn Laye in a tiny promotional booklet reprinted to coincide with the Festival of Britain in 1951.The year before, journalist, S. Jay Kaufman, a veteran American, in a letter to Leoni, revealed that from 1911 to July 1914 no 27, Dean Street, Soho, which under Pepino Leoni became the Quo Vadis restaurant in 1926, had been home to himself and the painter Horace Brodsky. Back then, Kaufman explained, the domestic arrangements might have been pretty basic, but the good company had made up for this:

'The cuisine ? Ours! The charwomen ? Ourselves! And to this Adam house came Harry Kemp, John Flanagan, Augustus John, Jacob Epstein, J.T Grien, Lillian Shelley, Nelson Keys, Lily Cadogan, David Burton, Louis Wolheim Arnold Daly, Sir Charles Cochran , Leon M Lion, Constance Collier, Granville Barker, and Frank Harris…’

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Partying with Royals in London (1930)

Lord Glenavy with his
 children Patrick and Biddy

This is a continuation of a jot from March 2014 featuring  a good letter, over 20 closely written pages found among some papers bought in Ireland.  Indiscreet, gossipy ('The Prince  of Wales was blotto..') from the inner circles of power and privilege in 1930 and like something out of Waugh's Vile Bodies. The recipient was Beatrice Elvery, Lady Glenavy (1881 - 1970). Irish artist and literary host, friend of Katherine Mansfield and friend of Shaw, Lawrence and Yeats. She modelled for Orpen and painted 'Éire' (1907) a landmark painting promoting the idea of an independent Irish state. The letter is from her husband Charles Henry Gordon Campbell, 2nd Baron Glenavy (1885–1963) politician and banker in England and Ireland. This is from the last two pages, the letter ends on a scrap of 'Irish Free State Delegation' paper.

I had to go to a party at  Buckingham Palace, they were much the same people as at Londonderry (an earlier party)   but Kipling and Barrie instead of Elinor Glyn and Mrs Stevens. Lady Jowitt was all over us to go to another cocktail party but I rather shrank from meeting Mary Hutchinson. I met Plucky's mother in law, Lady Melchett. The Prince of Wales is a wretched looking old-young man who would be quite insignificant if he hadn't large eyes of a brilliant blue. The Queen's bosom reaches form her chin to her pelvis and anyone talking to her has to stand about five feet away. The Duchess of York is quite simple and pleasant looking;  Winston Churchill remembered me and got into a conversation about the Xmas day I spent in his room at the Ministry of Munitions which attracted quite a crowd.

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I once met…Luise Rainer

Sad to hear of the death of the film star Luise Rainer at 104, but as we (often) say in England, she had  'a good innings'. I met her in the mid 1990s when she must have been in her late 80s. Myself and the esteemed rock musician and bookseller Martin Stone travelled to her villa in the Italian part of Swizerland to buy some of her books. I recall she picked us up at the station in a smart and powerful car and took us along  winding, perilous mountain roads at considerable speed. Something of a white knuckle ride. She was full of energy and amusing chat. She told us that life was not very social in this part of Switzerland. When she had arrived she gave two enormous parties for everybody interesting in the neighbourhood. She had done this before at other houses in her long life and usually after these events you just sat back and waited for invitations to come in and your social life was 'sorted.' Sadly, she did not hear a word from anyone, apparently this was not untypical of the Italian Swiss. Lots of old friends had come to stay however. She told us  of a 100 year old British peer who had stayed for a month or two. Because of his great age she had hired a local nurse to look after him and Luise was rather surprised that he later willed this nurse a large sum of money!  We saw some good books including several presentation copies (a first of House of Incest by Anais Nin signed and presented to one of her husbands comes to mind). She was considering a move to London and asked me about  prices in the Knightsbridge area. I am sure she found London a lot more fun than the Alps…

She was a great beauty in youth and this could be seen even in old age. Luise had some good art on the walls and some sculpture. I recall a Sonia Delaunay and a Marie Laurencin. I guess she must have moved shortly after. In February this year I tweeted a happy 104th birthday to her and mentioned our trip to see her near Lake Como. I was amazed to get this tweet back from her "..would love to see photos of that trip if you have any…?" Sadly we took no photos, this being slightly  before the smart phone era. R.I.P. Luise, a truly great star!

Martin Stone wrote in with this (I had forgotten entirely about the snake!) :

That trip to see her did seem to leave a strong impression,didn't it? Sitting on the terrace with the lake far below, she announced she was leaving to live in London."But why go from here?"one of us said,"this is paradise.""Oh,I've had enough of Paradise",she said,"now I'm ready for Hell".

Do you remember the snake in the basement that we refused to dispose of for her? I thought that might have blown the deal...I also remember several Egon Schiele paintings/drawings and a sensational medieval triptych spotlighted- I think you tried to buy them with the books,and she said "No,Sotheby's Geneva next month! " Great lady.