Another ‘solution’ to ‘real life problems’ from the pen of the redoubtable ( and mysterious) R.Edynbry, who doesn’t seem to have published any book other than this little volume (Real Life Problems and Their Solution) of 1938 from Odhams Press, London.
I realized when I married that my girl had few brilliant mental attainments. She had no interest in literature, nor had she even a parrot-knowledge of the names of writers or the classic books of the past. She is a product f the film era, and I have come to the realization that I have married one who comes within the category of the lightheaded. She cannot be serious for more than one minute at a time, and I get no intelligent response to my suggestions. Do you think that, with careful handling, I could introduce her into the ways of thought; to good literature; to an appreciation of the best things of life—-wean her, so to speak, from the dross? The thought that I might be ashamed of her one day appals me. What do you advise ?
‘The best thing for you to do is to concentrate on some of your wife’s good qualities and help her to develop these to the full. It is extremely unlikely you will ever be able to ‘cultivate’ her in the way you wish. There is a very large class of women who take no interest whatever in what men call culture. Even when they do appear to be interested in art, literature or classical music, it is usually to further some scheme at the back of their minds. Or, as has been said by a wit,” When women talk of astronomy, they are thinking of the astronomer “.A love of good books and literature and the fine things of life is inborn and cannot be superimposed like a coat of varnish. A fact that many psychologists have noted is that when a young girl has had her interests centred mainly on the emotions, there is little prospect of intellectual things making any appeal to her.Continue reading →
The removal of the British Library from Bloomsbury to St Pancras seems to have ushered in a new, more relaxed, attitude towards the rules governing who can acquire a reader’s card, according to a Guardian article of 2005. In it the Reading Room is described as being crowded with undergraduates, anxious, no doubt, to obtain an advantage over their peers. Under the rules prevailing in 1938, and which are contained in a Guide to the Use of the Reading Room, a copy of which we found recently in a box of ephemera, restrictions which perhaps Karl Marx might have recognised, were doubtless drawn up to limit the number of readers using the famous Rotunda. There is a distinctly schoolmasterly tone to the following advice:
The Reading Room is in fact, as well as in theory, a literary workshop and not a place for recreation, self improvement or reference to books which are obtainable elsewhere…
No person will be admitted for the purpose of preparing for examination, of writing prize essays, or of competing for prizes, unless on special reason being shown; or for the purpose of consulting current directories, racing systems, lists of unclaimed moneys , or similar publications.
‘Racing systems’ and ‘lists of unclaimed moneys’. How redolent of the seedy world of Brighton Rock, which appeared a year later.
There is also a touch of ‘Greeneland’ about the advice offered to those prospective Readers seeking a testimony :
The Trustees cannot accept the recommendations of hotel-keepers or of boarding- house or lodging-house keepers in favour of their lodgers… [R.R.]
Colin McIlwaine seems to have made a nice little earner out of collecting schoolboy howlers. His Selection of Schoolboy Howlers, first published in 1928, had gone into a fifth edition by 1930, while two further anthologies, More Schoolboy Howlers and Smith Minor Again followed. An obvious thought occurs with such collections. It must have been tempting to bulk out genuine howlers with made up ones, but since McIlwaine gives no sources for his examples, it is almost impossible to differentiate between the real and the suspicious. A date attached to each howler would also be useful from a social historical point of view. It would be interesting, for instance, to chart the rise of the specifically ‘ schoolboy’ howler as opposed to the malapropism beloved of eighteenth century compilers of joke books, such as Joe Miller’s Jest Book. My own tentative research has brought to light a chapter devoted to them in a book dating from the 1880s, but it doesn’t follow that the author of this book was supplied with howlers by schoolmasters of his acquaintance. It could be that certain howlers had become part of common currency by this period.
Some howlers collected by McIlwaine can be dated quite accurately.
‘ Joan of Arc was canonised by Bernard Shaw ‘
‘Mussolini is an ugly man. He wears the shirt of the Madonna, and when he smiles he makes people weep. He has been killed four times…He can do everything and knows everything and loves playing the saxaphone with his family. Galileo was charged with High Treason because he said that Mussolini moved round the sun, and not the sun round Mussolini.’Continue reading →
Thus begins the front page article published in the January 19th 1951 issue of John O’London’s Weekly. In it the art critic F.M.Godfrey recounts the campaign of Anthony Emery, a mature undergraduate at Pembroke College, Oxford, to supply examples of modern art for the Common rooms, hostels and Unions used by every undergraduate in Britain.
The crusade to inspire students with the right attitude to ‘ the good, the beautiful and true’ had begun just after the war at Emery’s own college, where, shocked by the ignorance of modern art shown by serving officers, he ( a wartime officer ) and some like-minded friends had pledge to subscribe a £1 each to established a small collection for their common room. Inspired by the guidance of Sir Kenneth Clark, who had chosen for them a painting each by John Minton, John Piper and Duncan Grant, they had gone on to choose their own pictures.
As Godfrey remarks, Emery’s manifesto, which he called ‘A New Oxford Movement’ had the spirit of the reformer about it. And Godfrey himself echoed his sentiments.
‘Our appalling ignorance towards modern art must be eradicated when we are at the impressionable …age of under twenty, and we must conquer the schools to secure a lasting influence upon our manhood. If we had a ministry of culture and in it a department for the dissemination of modern art, here are the brains and the will to conduct it. For already half of Oxford has succumbed: Pembroke, Worcester, Brasenose, Exeter and New College, Magdalen and St Edmund’s Hall are outbidding one another in the effort to acquire the largest collection of modern painting in the United Kingdom ‘.Continue reading →
Found among the papers of the mathematician Norman Routledge (1928-2013) this affectionate memoir of E.M. Forster. Routledge had known Forster in the 1950s when he was a Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. He went on to become a distinguished teacher of mathematics and was a close friend of Alan Turing, inheriting some of his books. The second half of his working life was spent teaching maths at Eton. These notes were probably for a talk he gave to the boys there (mid 1960s) with a sound recording of Forster talking (probably this piece from YouTube) and some reading from his books. The notes are written on the back of the maths homework of one Hope-Jones minor…
I wish I was going to tell you about a great hero- figure, spouting brilliant and amusing things, and combining an amazing literary fertility (an earth-shaking novel every year) with great and noble deeds -what should they be? – fighting injustice and involved in passionate love affairs? But he is none of these.
He happens to have lived since the war in the college, Kings, where I was an undergraduate, and so one would occasionally meet him on social occasions. He’s rather non-descript in appearance – has a moustache and rather dowdy clothes and speaks very little but listens a lot. Very gentle eyes. Is greatly loved by all who know him– has indeed the air of always having been loved without having had to strive for it. Can be very amusing if he wishes, but you have to listen carefully– I’ve seen people quite fail to notice that he has been making fun of them. Continue reading →
Found in a box of old text books (Zinn collection) is this copy of part two of C. B. Heberden’s edition of Euripedes’ Medea ( notes and appendices) published by the Clarendon Press in 1886.Stamped in gold lettering on the light brown cover of this distinctly dull-looking school text book are the words MESSEL/TARVERS. Inscribed in pencil on the fly-leaf we find ‘ L.Messel/Tarvers ‘, which suggests that it belonged at one time to Leonard Charles Rudolph Messel ( 1872 – 1953), father of the famous stage designer Oliver Messel. Beneath the inscription are two pencil and ink drawings—one of a veiled lady in Victorian dress, the other a small profile of a man’s head.
Leonard was the eldest son of Ludwig Messel, a German stockbroker who had emigrated to Britain, possibly in the late 1860s.He married and in 1890 bought Nymans, a 600 acre estate near Hayward’s Heath in West Sussex. His son Leonard was sent to Eton, where he joined Tarver’s house, and that is all we really know about his life as a schoolboy. However, if he did execute the two drawings, then he obviously passed on his artistic skills to his son Oliver, who may also have inherited skills from his mother, who was the daughter of Edward Linley Sambourne, the eminent Punch cartoonist. This being so, it is equally likely that Oliver, who also attended Eton, inherited his father’s copy of Heberden’s Euripides, and it was he who drew the veiled woman and male profile. Continue reading →
Found- How much do you know? The book of a thousand questions and answers. It was edited by Harold F. B. Wheater and published in London (Oghams Press, circa 1937.) It is part of a set of 10 practical self improvement books bought in a secondhand bookshop (Chapel Books, Westleton). Condition was way above average but the books are of modest value.
Some of the information is very dull but at JOT we occasionally do dullness. Some info is very dated and some possibly erroneous - if the Ying Lo Ta Tien was 23000 books that would put it on a par with a printed out version of Wikipedia 2016 (in English). Possibly volumes were thin with big lettering...the first entry sounds like the luckiest accident ever and the one on Schubert is a tragedy and a terrible waste- what was sold for 8 shillings would probably now make £8 million.
What is the largest gold nugget ever found?
The 'Welcome Stranger', discovered by accident in Victoria, Australia, in 1869, through a cart making a rut in the ground. It weighed 2520 ounces.
What was the world's largest encyclopaedia?
The Ying Lo Ta Tien, or Great Standard of Yung Lo, compiled in China by order of the emperor of that name during the fifteenth century A.D. It consisted of 22,937 books and contained nearly 367,000,000 written characters. Only three copies were made; two perished when the Ming dynasty fell in 1644; the third (with the exception of a few volumes) was destroyed in the siege of the Legations at Peking (Peiping) by the Boxers in 1900.
Found- a bookmark advertising the virtues of Everyman’s Encyclopaedia. For obvious reasons the set is now of very little value, except as decoration. In the 1920s, when these were written it was a (relatively) portable fount of all knowledge – hence these brief encomiums from the great and the good (and the titled). Sets could be bought with their own small book-case ‘in unstained oak’ and the deluxe versions in full leather (£7 10 shillings.) It boasted 7 million words and 2700 illustrations plus a World Atlas.
Some opinions on Everyman’s
Prof. Sir J. Arthur Thomson
What an encyclopaedia! So comprehensive and yet so compact. It is like a well-arranged series of levers, releasing a wealth of potential energy with minimum effort.
H. G. Wells
I think it remarkably good value.
A wonderful production. These 12 volumes form a library in themselves, a never-failing source of information and delight.
Found in Osbert Lancaster’s With an Eye to the Future (John Murray, 1967)– this account of Oxford professor R.M. Dawkins (1871-1955):
No eccentric professor of fiction could possibly hold a candle to the reality of Professor Dawkins whose behaviour and appearance placed him, even in an Oxford far richer in striking personalities than it is today, in a class by himself. Ginger-moustached, myopic, stooping, clad in one of a succession of suits which he ordered by postcard from the general store of a village in Northern Ireland, he always betrayed his whereabouts by a cackling laugh of great carrying power. (Once when passing alongside the high wall of Exeter, startled by this extreme sound, I looked up and saw the professor happily perched in the higher branches of a large chestnut tree hooting like a demented macaw.)
Richard MacGillivray Dawkins was an archaeologist and a scholar of classical and modern Greek. After studying engineering, a windfall enabled him at the age of twenty-six to enter Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to read classics. After graduating he became associated with the British School at Athens, eventually becoming its director. He studied Greek dialects and was involved in excavations in Crete, at Sparta and elsewhere. From 1916 to 1919 he served as an intelligence officer in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, in eastern Crete. In 1920 he was appointed to a chair of Byzantine and modern Greek at Oxford, and in 1922 he became a fellow of Exeter College (from which he retired in 1939, continuing to hold rooms there until his death) and an honorary fellow of his old college, Emmanuel. He had known Evelyn Waugh, Ronald Firbank and was very generous to his friend the difficult and impecunious genius Baron Corvo. He was also an early collector of watercolours by Edward Lear. Most of this info and a portrait by the British Vorticist William Roberts can be found at English Cubist. Lancaster illustrated his piece with a drawing of the professor perched in the tree.
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."
When the Austro-Hungarian empire was dissolved following the end of World War One the new nation of Austria came into being. The economic consequences for this country was a drastic devaluation of the krone (or Crown) and inevitable hyperinflation. The following short article in the December 1921 issue of the University College Magazine is a chilling report of the privations suffered by academics in Austria and other countries in central Europe:
As a result of the privations which they had to undergo, ten per cent of the professors in Austria died between1918 – 20. Consumption is usually the first symptom---and that means the end is not very far off when there are no supplies of fresh milk and nourishing food, with nothing but a chilly room in the heart of winter, and no fire in the grate.
On October 15th 1921, one tin of milk in Vienna cost kr. 240, and today, since the appalling crash of the krone, probably costs 500 at least. A professor’s weekly salary therefore would be entirely expended on the purchase of three tins of milk.
The case of a Professor of Egyptology---met personally by the present writer in Vienna—is typical of many. He was working many hours every day as a clerk in the tramway office. Imagine---and pardon the suggestion—Professor Flinders Petrie filling up returns of ‘bus tickets, at the headquarters of the L.G.O.C, and being proud to have obtained such dignified work.
Eighty to 120 thousand kronen is the average salary of a professor. At present exchange rates this represents a maximum of £10 a year.
Try to imagine a professor in the University of London living on £10 a year!!
And the lot of a student is by no means brighter.2,000 kronen, the average monthly income of about 7,000 Austrian students will now buy 3s 6d, or a pound.
But there is fortunately a happier side to this otherwise gloomy picture.
The Universities of twenty-nine different countries banded themselves together last year to save, in so far as they could, the thousands of students and professors in the Universities of Central Europe. The £150,000 raised “fulfilled a noble purpose”, as Sir Maurice de Bunsen, former British Ambassador in Vienna wrote, “in keeping alight the torch of learning in countries where its brilliancy has been overshadowed by the national disaster.”
Let us all unite again this year and continue this splendid work.
Complete guarantees have now been obtained which warrant us starting relief work immediately in the Russian Universities. Your help is needed to make this possible.
These were being published in books from at least the late nineteenth century. Peter Haining, most of whose archive we now hold, collected a number of them for a projected book. Here are some examples he found. The first were sent in for a prize competition of c1900, the second bunch was assembled by Charlie James from a northern comprehensive school in 1987 and the third lot of howlers has a more international flavour:
Ben Johnson was the man who wrote a life of Bothwell. Bothwell was the man who murdered Mary Queen of Scots.
The fire of London, although looked on at first as a calamity, really did a great deal of good. It purified the city from the dregs of the plague and burnt down 89 churches.
Edward III would have been King of France if his mother had been a man.
When will you expect an eclipse of the sun to take place?
In the night.
The sun never sets on English possessions because the sun sets in the west and our colonies are in the north, south and east.
The zebra is like the horse, only striped, and is chiefly used to illustrate the letter Z.
“There is a Museum story that when a member of the staff committed suicide in this room ( the Cracherode) by shooting himself his superior’s first reaction was : ‘Did he damage the book bindings ?”
It sounds like one of those apocryphal remarks that are handed down from employee to employee through the decades in great institutions , but according to Barry C Johnson, author of a booklet entitled, A British Museum Legend (privately printed 1984), it was probably a genuine expression of concern by the Keeper of Books for his valuable charges. The suicide in question had taken place in 1922, but as Johnson remarks in his account of the events leading up to the tragedy, no-one he spoke to about the event could recall the name of the unfortunate Assistant Keeper.
His name was, in fact, Henry Symons, and it would seem that he was a well liked and respected figure both at work and at home, though contemporaries agree that he was very reserved and essentially a loner. His low profile at the BM combined with the fact that he doesn’t seem to have published anything of note, or left any personal diaries and only a few letters, made the job of Johnson as biographer, a challenging one, though his own post at the BM, doubtless proved of great value.
"Here come I, my name is Jowett
All there is to know, I know it
I am Master of this College
And what I don’t know isn’t knowledge."
This squib gently mocks the pretensions of arguably Balliol College’s most famous Master. Jowett was a Greek scholar, and like many classicists through the ages, felt that a grounding in Latin and Greek was sufficient qualification to tackle most areas of knowledge. But he was also a dedicated theologian and an educational reformer. This letter, which another hand (possibly the same one that snipped out Jowett’s signature, thus losing text) has dated in pencil 5th November 1874, four years after Jowett was appointed Master, is addressed to a Mr Buckland (possibly a member of the celebrated clan of eccentric scientists). In it Jowett, who was always interested in Indian affairs and was a member of the 1854 committee drawn up to debate the future administration of the colony, shows his keenness to promote the benefits of an education at Oxford University to young men who might wish to join the Indian Civil Service. Previous to 1858, when it closed, such candidates would have been trained at Haileybury College, near Hertford, but Jowett argues that an Oxford education might prove more attractive to these young men than a stint at Haileybury, should that institution be ‘revived’.
Found among the papers of L.R. Reeve* this affectionate portrait of Dorothy Brock much admired educationalist and the headmistress of the Mary Datchelor School in Camberwell for 32 years.
Dame Dorothy Brock, O.B.E., was at one time Headmistress of the Mary Datchelor School, in Camberwell. Her pupils were very fortunate indeed to be learning under the direction of one of the best speakers in London, and much as I admired the platform genius of the late Mrs E. M. Burgwin of Brixton, I am fairly sure that if it were possible to have a choice of listening to one of them on the same evening I should choose Miss Brock.
It may be that her successor was, or is, as excellent a teacher as her immediate predecessor, and as charming a personality, for probably the appointment was open to all the leading women of Great Britain, but whatever the name of the fortunate successor, she had one of the hardest tasks in the country when she stepped into Dr Brock's shoes, and one would like to know how the traditional pioneers of public schools for girls, Miss Beale and Miss Buss, would stand up to such an appointment.
It’s bad enough to learn that nineteen British prime Ministers attended Eton College without learning recently, as I did, that one Eton man was so enamoured of the benefits of a classical education that he seriously suggested that Latin and Greek were the only subjects that should be taught in the classroom.That man was not, incidentally, Boris Johnson, but Edward Balston.
Balston—the son of William, that famous papermaker familiar to all students of palaeography—attended Eton in the 1820s and early 30s and then entered King’s College, Cambridge in 1836. Awarded the Browne Medal for Latin verse every year from 1836 to 1839, he was unusually elected Fellow of King’s in 1839, two years before he graduated, though why it took him five years to gain his B.A. is not adequately explained. In 1842 he became a priest.
Balston loved Eton so much that he couldn’t wait to return there. In 1840, before he had even graduated, he became an assistant master at his alma mater. Twenty two years later he was chosen as Head. In July 1862, not long after his appointment, Balston came up before the Clarendon Commission on Education. On hearing his views on the primacy of classics in the classroom Lord Clarendon was appalled:
I can find nothing about Robert Barlow apart from this affectionate portrait by his friend and colleague L.R. Reeve* whose archive we acquired. He may have been born in 1897 but that's about it..His obscurity is particularly odd because Reeve rated him 'supreme ...above all' and he had met many famous men and women, some world famous.
In my opinion Robert Barlow, born in Manchester, was the most outstanding Lancastrian of his era, and during the last hundred years Lancashire has been rightly proud of many great men. Moreover, although I spent most of my long life in London persistentIy visiting the House of Commons, colleges of the University of London, conferences, public meetings and lectures in search of and finding really great men and women, supreme above them all stands Robert Barlow. Continue reading →
There are plenty of biographical anecdotes concerning the experiences of writers using the facilities of the old British Museum Library —from Washington Irving through Karl Marx up to David Lodge and beyond. When the famous round Reading Room was built many incorporated into their fiction memories of studying there. However, we have little idea today of the process by which books were ordered in the very early years of the Library.
So when an actual ordering slip from this period turns up —and one signed by a well known author—it is a rare event. Surely such ephemera are scarcer even than Shillibeer omnibus tickets and must rank among other celebrity souvenirs, such as non-presented cheques signed by Hollywood film stars and the like.
This particular ordering slip was made out by the poet Thomas Campbell (1777 – 1844), whose Pleasures of Hope was a minor success in 1799, and who remained a well known, though hardly revered, figure of the Romantic period. The book he ordered was The History of Edward the Second by Sir Francis Hubert, which first appeared in 1629. We know the book was asked for on August 23rd , but with no year date present we must examine the style of the vestigial remnant of the printed part of the form and guess that the order was made sometime between 1803, when Campbell settled in London, and 1819, when he brought out his Specimens of the British Poets.
If the order was made before 1810 it would be interesting to know if Campbell had problems obtaining a ticket to the Museum, or whether his celebrity as an author removed any barriers to entry. After this date the ticket system was abolished, which made it much easier to access the Library, although readers often had to wait for many hours, sometimes days, for their books to arrive. [RMH]
From the papers of L.R. Reeve* this record of a remarkable educationalist, mathematician and speaker. He is unknown to Wikipedia and online research reveals very little. He contributed some photographs to the Country in Town exhibition (July 2 to July 16, 1908) at Whitechapel Art Gallery to illustrate 'Day Educational Rambles' in the education section. He appears to have received a double honours degree at London University in Anglo- Saxon and Early English (1901?.) As with many of Reeve's subjects he was a remarkable speaker...
J. W. SAMUEL, B.A.
It was during a conference at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, London, that I first saw J. W. Samuel. He was delivering an address, and I recall vividly the profound impression he made upon me, for I was listening to a man who was one of the most effective speakers in London. He had every attribute required for the highest standard of oratory, and his first essential gift was a perfect delivery. His cultured accent, smoothly expressed, would certainly be my aim if I were to enter a competition in debate, and for some mysterious reason which I could not quite explain, his voice always made me think of Earl Balfour, one of England's greatest statesmen. Additionally he was a remarkably handsome man, tallish, with a magnificent head of white wavy hair. He had a truly extensive vocabulary, which made him a most persuasive speaker who could, in a debate, demolish most of an opponent's points and, when he occasionally felt that way, would add a little sarcasm to complete his triumph. Continue reading →
Found in the papers of L.R. Reeve (see A.J. Balfour for background on him) this piece about the West Indian writer, educational psychologist and teacher Dr Elsa H.(Hopkins) Waters. There is little online about her and Reeve's piece will add substantially to knowledge of her life. Her first book Ability and Knowledge. The Standpoint of the London School (Macmillan, London) came out in 1935 she wrote about five more (several published by the National Froebel Foundation) and her last book Principles of education: with special reference to teaching in the Caribbean was published by the O.U.P. in 1967. She was probably born about 1900 and was still alive when Reeve wrote this piece about 1970.
DOCTOR ELSA WALTERS
There came into our compartment at Newton Abbot station a well-dressed West Indian girl. She asked timidly if the train went to Paignton. Answered in the affirmative she lifted her suitcase on to the rack and responded readily to our inquisitive questions, then joined quietly in the general conversation. She informed us that she was a student at the Institute of Education, London. After Torquay, the young student and I were the only passengers in the compartment and she continued the story of her early life in the West Indies. Could she, I asked, tell me anything about Dr Walters, a university lecturer who had gone to her country. "Do you mean Miss Elsa Walters?" At my affirmative nod she informed me that she had heard of the lady but had never seen her. Strange, I thought, that a young West Indian scholar could give me the elusive, forgotten Christian name of an acquaintance. Continue reading →