Being engaged to be married, 1954 style

Engaged book 1954 cover 001In view of the coming Royal Wedding here’s a glimpse of the conventions regarding engagements that prevailed sixty three years ago. So You’re Engaged, a collection of essays by a motley crew of contributors, containing some ‘big‘ names of the time, such as the cartoonist Marc, Gilbert Harding, Godfrey Winn, John Betjeman, Constance Spry, Peter Ustinov, Elizabeth Arden, Andre Simon and Googie Withers, is undoubtably a period piece, just as today’s guides to healthy living and spiritual wellbeing will be regarded as ‘of their time’ in the future.

The first contributor was ‘What’s My Line’ radio celebrity and confirmed bachelor Gilbert Harding, who injects some clear-headed common sense into the ‘delovely and delicious ‘aspects of being engaged. It’s all very well the groom drinking in all the beauty of his future bride, Harding warns, but this is the time to notice some of her irritating habits. ‘Does she get lipstick on her teeth, comb her hair in public, let her stockings get twisted, let her nail varnish flake?’ Moreover, does the handsome fiancé ‘ talk with his pipe in his mouth, does he use a clothes brush, does he keep his shoes clean and can you bear his friends ?’

There are some wise words too from Gilbert on how to keep the marriage on an even keel. Harding cites five ‘really happy marriages ‘he has known in which the couples have alighted on a winning formula. They behave, Harding suggests, as if they are ‘still engaged’. Continue reading

How to Waste Money at Christmas

waste-money-christmas-pic-001How to Waste Money at Christmas

1) Order in a lot of fruit that goes bad
2) Order in flowers you have no time to arrange
3) Buy handsome presents and have them put down
4) Give a big Dance when you can only afford a Games Evening
5) Economise on heating, and give everyone ‘flu ( see Doctors’, Nurses’ bills)
6) Economise on lighting ( and let people trip over stairs and break their ankles etc)
7) Give rubbishy presents and make lifelong enemies.
8) Overdo yourself and have to go into a Nursing Home.

Extract from The Perfect Christmas (1933) by Rose Henniker Heaton.

[R.M.Healey]

King27s_Bench_Prison_-_Principal_Entrance_by_Thomas_Shepherd_c.1828.

A begging letter from a debtor’s prison

Begging letters from debtors don’t usually survive, although there are at least three reasons why they might. Perhaps the writer was a well known person who at the time was down on his luck and counted on a friend or person of means to help him out. Alternatively, the writer could later have become famous or even notorious and the letter would be regarded as a souvenir or talking point. Of course, the writer could have been neither famous nor notorious, and the retention of a begging letter was a means of recording a favour that one man owed to another.

This particular letter is from someone who signs himself M. Eurius Beaubrier, and is addressed to a Henry Clarke. Although preliminary research has revealed nothing of the writer, who may have been French, the handwriting is that of an educated man and the tone is rather pathetic. The letter suggests that both he and Clarke, who is also hard to identify, had dealings before.

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Japanese Rupees in Burma 1944

Fell out of a book - this curious souvenir of what is now known as The Burma Campaign - which raged from 1941 to 1945 with the Japanese in the ascendant much of this time. The tide was turned (with heavy losses on both sides) in early 1945 and Mountbatten staged an elaborate victory parade, at which he took the salute in Rangoon on 15 June of that year. This took place despite the fact that thousands of Japanese were still fighting hard behind British lines - as they tried desperately to escape across the Sittang river into Thailand, losing heavily as they went. This 100 Rupee note printed by the Japanese was issued under their 'puppet government' lead by Dr Ba Maw in early 1944.

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Show me the Money, Coutts

Sent in by Hertfordshire's top jotter Robin Healey for which much thanks. The tradition of writing family histories appears to be alive and well.

I’ve always been mildly amused at why the heir to a banking fortune ends up with the name Money-Coutts. And I’m equally certain that my aunt, who wrote a history of the Coutts family, was also tickled by the name.

Anyway, here’s an attractive bookplate which an inscription in pencil on the reverse assures us was designed by the gifted painter and book illustrator, John D Batten (1860 – 1932), in 1889, at the age of 29. The design is eclectic, featuring a central circular panel that owes much to Burne-Jones, and spandrels that are crammed with writhing Art Nouveau-style  foliage.

We can be sure that the design was very much to the taste of Batten’s patron, Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer ( 1852 – 1923), who had studied Law at Cambridge but  was considered too unstable to join the family firm. Instead he practised as a solicitor in Surrey while pursuing under the pseudonym ‘ Mountjoy’ his preferred vocation as a poet and general man of letters, safe in the knowledge that he was not likely to end up in a garret. He also befriended the composer Isaac Albeniz, becoming his benefactor and contributing the lyrics to a series of operas.

John Batten had a similar background to Money-Coutts. He also read Law at Cambridge, though at a later period, and like his future patron, was called to the Bar. Again, like Money- Coutts, Batten abandoned Law for his true passion, which in his case was Art. In 1886 he exhibited for the first time at the Grosvenor Gallery, which was owned by a kinsman of Money-Coutts, Sir Lindsay Coutts. So, it is very likely that the artist and the banking heir met through their shared association with the Gallery.

It would be interesting to know how the relationship developed over time, and particularly whether Money-Coutts became a keen collector of Batten’s striking, Pre-Raphaelite-influenced paintings.