A few days ago we heard on the radio that there was much more violence during the Great Train Robbery of 1963 than has been reflected in the over-romanticised films about it. We also learnt that the notorious Leatherslade Farm, where the robbers held out, is no more.
Luckily, ‘The Bell’ at Aston Clinton, the pub frequented by the prosecution at the trial down the road at Aylesbury, is still around. Here’s what the Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 had to say about this very popular inn just a year before the robbery took place:
Gerard Harris now has his own company and controls the inn; perhaps his brow will become less furrowed. The Bell is no well known to our members now that it is difficult to find anything new to say about it. Its menu is large, but not gigantic and the cuisine rises to a level of real distinction…creamy pate, 3/-; Arbroath smokies in cream,3/6; coq au vin, 9/6; beef Avignon, 8/6; sweetbreads chasseur,8/6; entrecote marchand de vin, 11/-; blackcurrant sorbet,2/-;crème brule,2/6…The menu is supported by a long and a remarkably chosen wine-list. The strongest section is probably the clarets: at one end is a Haut Medoc at 10/6, at the other ‘28’s and ‘29’s—chateau bottled wines between 32/- and 45/-, which are now not at all easy to get, even from wine merchants. Ordinaires at 9/6. Often crowded, and service sometimes overtaxed ( especially the wine service); but meals are served until quite a late hour. Open all year. Bed and breakfast, 19/6; no full board (App by too many members to list .)Continue reading →
Found in our boundless archive – this crime photo with a typed note pasted to the back: –
Police Sergeant Barrie Warner with the ornate brass lecturn (sic) which was found dumped in a quiet lane. London Colney* police are anxious to trace the owners of the object which has the inscription ‘presented to the Parish of St. Petrox by William Smith’ – Churchwarden 1884- around the base.” Echo and Post Ltd, Hemel Hempstead.
No date but most of the crime photos in our archive come from the 1970s. Possibly someone of an ecclesiastical bent was able to identify where the item came from. 40 years later using the net one can be pretty certain this is St. Petrox Dartmouth and William Smith was a local solicitor whose family were associated with the church. There is another St. Petrox in Pembrokeshire but Dartmouth is far more likely. How the lectern came to be abandoned in Colney is a mystery, possible the item was regarded as too recognisable or unsaleable in the criminal underworld…
*London Colney is a village near St Albans. It is by junction 22 of the M25 but probably at the time it had not been completed in this area.
Discovered in a box of books is this copy of It’s Fun Finding Out, putatively by Bernard Wicksteed, but actually written with Chapman Pincher, the man who was to become a true legend among spy-hunters.
Back in 1947, when the book was published by the Daily Express, Wicksteed, an RAF war hero, was an ex sub-editor who had published his first book, Father’sHeinkel in 1944. Pincher was an ex physics teacher who had recently joined the Express as a science correspondent. One day Express editor Arthur Christiansen had the bright idea of bringing the two men together to compile an exploration of weird facts something along the lines of the American Ripley Believe It Or Not books. The result was It’s Fun Finding Out.
Structured so as to reveal facts while on visits to several places, including a Zoo, the seaside, a farm, a wood at night, a river bank, the country in Autumn, a grouse moor, an art gallery and the Science Museum, the book also considers facts relating to social history, philately, the amazing physical toughness of Winston Churchill, the French view of the English and vice versa, and guppies, among many other topics. Continue reading →
When Erle Stanley Gardner( 1889 – 1970), the famous American crime novelist, began contributing stories to pulp magazines in the twenties, he used his own two fingers to type. However, realising that self-imposed targets of 1,200, 000 words a year were unlikely to be achieved in this primitive way, he took on what eventually became a ‘ team ‘ of secretary/typists. In this press photo of 1943 from the El Mundo archive we see two of them, Jean Bethel and Henriette Trilling, on either side of the ( ) year old novelist. The two women seem to be performing different tasks. Bethel is possibly taking notes on plots and characters for the novel that her partner is typing out from Gardner’s dictation, for future novels or for the travel books that the prolific writer also published. Gardner’s secretaries also acted as temporary corpses—assuming positions on the floor for added verisimilitude.
Over the years Gardner must have become very attached to Jean Bethel in particular. In 1968, following the death of his first wife, he took his ‘ faithful secretary’, then aged 66, as his second. At his death in 1970, aged 80, Jean became his literary executor and twenty years later, at 88, she was still administering his estate, which included a huge archive. [R.R.]
Forgery has always fascinated historians of literature, whether it takes the form of a whole manuscript or annotations in a printed book, or (of much rarer occurrence) a whole book or books, as in the case of Thomas Wise. The manuscript forgeries of the self-styled Major George Gordon De Luna Byron, alias De Gibler, alias Monsieur Memoir, were of some key Romantic poets, including Byron, Shelley and Keats. The one that concerns us here was a quatrain and a long prose note supposedly written by Lord Byron on the fly leaves of a copy of the fifth edition ( 1777) of the works of the eighteenth century poet, William Shenstone.
This particular forgery was well known to bibliophiles for many years, but had been long lost until our own Jot 101 CEO bought this particular copy in a book sale about eight years ago. Details were then handed on to Byron scholar Andrew Nicholson, who discussed them in a paper published in The Byron Journal in 2010. We at Jot 101 HQ are grateful to the late Mr Nicholson for his assiduous research which focuses on the nature of the forgery. It had been acquired by a certain Mr Young from the library sale in 1851 of John Wilks, MP, a well known collector of manuscripts.
The forgeries, penned in black ink, appeared in several volumes of the Works, as follows:
Volume 1: on the first fly-leaf at the head of the page
Writers of all kinds should be grateful for the work done of their behalf by two men, the lawyer, MP, and writer, Thomas Noon Talfourd (1795 – 1854) and the Tory MP and historian Lord Mahon (1805 – 75), who were the driving forces behind the Literary Copyright Act of 1842. But this was not the first Act that granted authors rights over their work. The first to do so became law in 1709. Up to this time copyright was restricted to booksellers who, as publishers, would buy up all rights from authors for a fixed sum. The 1709 Act first made it legal to anyone to own a copyright—even authors, although it gave them a meagre fourteen years. A further Act of 1790 extended this period to 28 years. Although this was an improvement, it still meant that a young writer like Dickens, whose Pickwick Papers was dedicated to Talfourd in 1837, could not expect to profit from his early works beyond his mid fifties. It is probable that his friendship with the novelist prompted Talfourd to pursue legislation that would benefit writers like him and to this end he presented an initial version of the 1842 bill to Parliament in 1837.
This bill failed, but Talfourd remained determined. Further bills were presented and at last, in 1842, the Literary Copyright Act became law. This extended copyright to the life of the author plus seven years, and where copyright already existed in a work under earlier legislation, it was to be extended to that provided by the new Act. The Act was further amended in 1911 and several times since.
So here is a rather rare item –a letter from Lord Mahon to T. N. Talfourd written six years before the famous Act was passed. Although the issue of copyright is not mentioned in the letter, the contents do suggest that the two men, who shared literary interests, were on friendly terms. Talfourd had sought election to the Athenaeum, a prestigious London club which numbered many writers, artists and scientists among its members. He was unsuccessful on this occasion, not because, as Mahon explains, the committee doubted Talfourd’s ‘eminent qualification ‘, but because there were insufficient committee members present to vote.
Although Talfourd’s literary career was unremarkable, he became a guiding presence on the Bench and died at the comparatively early age of 59 while delivering judgement in court. [R.M.Healey]
Found - a curious and very rare spiritualist book The Spirit of Irene Speaks published in Bournemouth in 1923. The title refers to a notorious murder in 1922 of a young cook, Irene Wilkins, who had travelled down to Bournemouth to London in response to a potential employer from an advertisement she had placed in a local paper. She had been met at the station in a large Mercedes and her body was found in a field the next day battered to death. Eventually a chauffeur was arrested, one Thomas Henry Allaway. An astute car designer had noted the car's registration number at the station and he was also recognised by a telegram clerk… The book claims that through 'psychometrics' (in this case the psychic tracing of the murderer through clairvoyant communications from an object from the murder scene) a medium had solved the case and there is a weight of convincing evidence in the book and suggestion of police co-operation. No account of the case found online mentions this aspect of the case.
However the book is notable for other reasons. It has a long plea at the beginning by Dr Abraham Wallace for the repeal of capital punishment as being irrational and unchristian and a further article on 'The Futility of Capital Punishment.' The endpapers of the books are designed by the cult outsider artist Madge Gill. She is mentioned in the text as having produced these 'automatic drawings'. She is called Madge E. Gill from London ('this lady through her mediumship obtains gorgeous oriental designs in marvellous colour schemes, and quite unusual in conception. She also, under control, does the most beautiful embroidery and needlework…)
Madge Gill (1882- 1961) was a prolific outsider and visionary artist. She was introduced to Spiritualism by an aunt when she was in her teens in East London. Later when she was about 40 she began creating thousands of mediumistic most done with ink in black and white. She claimed to be guided by a spirit she called "Myrninerest" (my inner rest) and often signed her works in this name. Many feature a young woman in intricate dress often thought to be a representation of herself or her lost (stillborn) daughter, and female subjects dominate her work. Her drawings are characterised by geometric chequered patterns and organic ornamentation, with the blank staring eyes of female faces and their flowing clothing interweaving into the surrounding complex patterns.These endpaper drawings, different at both ends (rear endpapers pictured) do not have the female face…a book on her came out in 2013 by the musician and occultist David Tibet.
Found in The Fingerpost: A Guide to Professions for Educated Women, with Information as to Necessary Training (Central Bureau for the Employment of Women. 1906) an article called 'Literary Catchpennies' which outlines various scams played on would be writers of the time. Some of these scams, often for bigger stakes, are still with us on the web.
The perennial literary advertisement trick is, perhaps, the most specious of all. A "Publishing Firm" will offer to consider MSS. sent to Box so-and-so at the offices of the paper in which the advertisements appears. Or the advertisement asks for some specified requires a fee; sometimes he merely swallows all the MSS. sent to him and is heard of no more. A plausible gentleman, with an office in London, extracted from a struggling authoress of my acquaintance a fee of 10s. 6d. for the purpose of making copies of a little tale of hers for the American Press. Another required a specimen of already existing work as a "proof of competency," before employment. With wary caution a printed specimen was submitted, which was duly returned, with a word of approval and with an article taken from a Nonconformist journal - a sketch of some famous preacher - which the applicant for employment was required to paraphrase and return. This being done the MSS. apparently vanished into space for upon a visit of inquiry being made to the address mentioned in the advertisement, the advertiser's name was unknown! Again, a budding composer advertised for "Lyrics." A little poem on "Daffodils" was sent to him. After a weary wait, a gentlemanly young man called on my friend to explain that out of hundreds of lyrics though which he had waded hers was the only good for anything. He asked permission to set it to music and promised to pay a small sum - with many apologies for the smallness. A few days later came - not the small sum - but a tortured love song of Elizabethan or Stuart period. That is to say a phrase here and there was given with dashes in between. These gaps were to be filled up with suitable words. This curious piece of literary patchwork being done, it joined the Daffodil lyric - in oblivion. What budding authoress has not sent precious MSS. to advertised "Literary agencies" with timid hopes that the agent's joyful acceptance of them - together with the "unusual deposit" for "placing same" - will set her free on the first step of the ladder of fame. If the MSS. is "placed" the deposit may nicely counterbalance the price secured for the article plus the commission to the agency; or, more probably at some pains and after some delays the article may be rescued by the author - minus the deposit. Since, however, no author is entirely comment to judge of the selling value of his work, it may reasonably be supposed that a properly conducted literary agency could serve a useful purpose in introducing the budding author to his public. The unfortunate thing is that the budding author generally pays dearly before he discovers that the really bona-fide agency has little need to advertise daily in a score of papers for "suitable MSS."
Other pitfalls to unwary persons "who can write" are the advertisements offering prizes in competitions for more or less intricate word spinning. It is hardly necessary to utter warnings against these, for they appeal mostly to the enterprising speculative sort of person, in whom the gambling instant is not strictly suppressed. It may be noted, however, that "prizes" won in such conceptions seldom pay the competitor for the trouble involved in winning them. They certainly do not pay the genuine work seeker.
Fortunes to Order
Answers to much-advertised offers to teach the work seeker "How to make a fortune" generally result in the return of a fascinating booklet, detailing with the utmost gravity the "trade secrets" of some industry which is sure to be entirely foreign to the fortune seeker's taste or capacity. Two such treatises are before me; one has to do with allotment gardening and the other with pastry making. When all the "ifs" and "ands" are counted the reader comes to the conclusion that although the advertiser's experiences might be genuine a fortune would be much more quickly made by writing a similar booklet and selling it in thousands at 1s. or 1s. 6d., than by rolling out any of the precepts contained therein.
Found - Journals and Journalism (with a guide for literary beginners) published by the Leadenhall Press (London 1880.) The author is stated as 'John Oldcastle' - a pseudonym of Wilfrid Meynell (1852-1948) who became a newspaper publisher and editor. It is likely that the book appeared because at the time journalism was all the rage, like photography in the 1960s or developing apps now…It is full of good advice, occasionally caustic in tone, and starts out with a warning to 'amateurs'. The final part of this extract from the first chapter deals with vanity publishing scams, and refers to an amusing scandal when one scammer sued another. These 'bubbles' were then common and are still with us on the internet. The entire text can be found at Brewster Kahle's incredible expanding Internet Archive.
Even more fatally amateurish is the practice, not uncommon with beginners, of addressing a more or less gushing note to an editor, disclaiming any wish for remuneration, and intimating that the honour of appearing in his valuable paper is all the reward that is asked. A contribution that is worth printing is worth paying for; and to an established paper the trifling sum due for any ordinary article is a matter of no consequence whatever — a mere drop in the bucket of printing and editorial expenses.In the case of a new paper, not backed by much capital, it is different.Gratuitous contributions may there be welcome ; but such a paper will hardly live; nor, if it did, would there be much prestige attached to an appearance in its pages. Besides, the offer of unremunerated labour to an experienced editor will often, and legitimately, be resented. He feels that an attempt is being made to bribe him, and, however absurd the bribe, the idea is not pleasant. There is, in a word, only one fair and sufficient test of capacity in literature as in the other arts, and that is the test of competition in the open market. Our old friends Supply and Demand ...are the only trustworthy umpires in the matter...
As to the style of amateurs, though we have just spoken of freshness as their possible characteristic, the curious fact is that, contrary to natural expectation, they generally write more conventionally than the hacks of journalism. The amateur sets himself too energetically to keep the trodden ways ; he is too timid to allow any originality which he may possess to assert itself; and it is only when he is familiar with the necessary laws that he gives himself a desirable ease and liberty in non-essentials.
Finally, let amateurs beware of " amateur magazines," and of agencies for the profitable placing of literary work. These are generally bubbles — bubbles that will burst as soon as they are pricked with a silver or a golden pin. Some years ago an action was brought by one of these amateur associations against another ; and a number of dreadful young men of nineteen, with long hair, and spectacles, appeared in court as plaintiffs and defendants. No doubt the original promoters of such an organisation traded to good purpose on the credulity and ambition of the provincial and the young, beginning with a profession of philanthropy, and ending with a request for a subscription. They soon had their imitators, however ; the monopoly was broken, the spoils divided; and what with the exposure resulting from their internal dissensions, and the bitter individual experience of the thousands who lent willing ears and purses to their allurements, we may hope that their occupation is now gone.
Found in the Haining archives - this article by Edgar Wallace.It is unclear from which magazine it was clipped but probably dates from the late 1920s and was published for his British readers. Several of Wallace's books refer to Sing Sing prison including Mr J.G. Reeder Returns (1932) which has a story called The Man from Sing Sing. Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was the adopted son of a Billingsgate fish porter in London, and largely self-educated - the newspaper boy who became one of the most famous writers in the world. He sold millions of books, but he was plagued by debts due to an extravagant lifestyle. He left Britain for the United States in 1931, only to die in Hollywood in 1932, aged 56, after writing the original story for King Kong. His body was returned by ocean liner in honour, only to be reunited with an ocean of outstanding bills.It is said all his debts were paid off in a few years from massive book sales. A BBC radio programme earlier this year by thriller writer Mark Billingham on Edgar Wallace (The Man Who Wrote Too Much?) suggested he was somewhat forgotten. He may not be much read anymore but his books are still collected throughout the world…
Found in the endless Haining archive, an article cut from The Union Jack Detective Supplement, undated but about 1925. Peter Haining was a collector of Sexton Blake books so this piece on the scientific / forensic detective Professor Alexandre Lacassagne (1843-1924) would have interested him.
A Real Sexton Blake
By Donald Campbell.
They read like improbabilities, the achievements of this real-life Sexton Blake. But we credit them when we see the working methods of Professor Lacassagne, who has recently died.
A few weeks ago there died at Lyons one of the greatest scientists of his own kind in the world.
This was Professor Alexandre Lacassagne, honorary professor to the Faculty of Medicine, who passed away at the ripe old age of eighty-two. He was the first man in Europe to apply science to detective work. He served as an officer in the army of Napoleon III., and fought through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.He was taken prisoner. When released he was attached to the Bataillons d’Afrique, then a species of depot for all the rough characters who came to do their military service, usually very much against their wills.
First he merely studied characters, but afterwards the real criminals, and specialized offenders who came under his treatment.
Found in the Haining collection - this article from 1936 on pickpockets. The author Louis Mansfield has much advice,most still relevant. The bit about a 'dip's' long, tapering fingers may be fanciful but certainly it is not a profession for one with fat fingers...
PEARSON'S WEEKLY, May 30, 1936
THIS IS DERBY WEEK, SO–
WATCH YOUR POCKETS!
Pickpockets will be busy among the crowds. It is their best time of the year. Louis C. S. Mansfield, detective and crime investigator, lets you into secrets of the "dip's" profession – and they have some good ones. You have been warned!
TAKE HIS ADVICE–
I have worked against pickpockets for years. Here's my advice to you if you want to return home with your notecase.
Be careful when you see men carrying, and not wearing, their overcoats, or holding newspapers which are open–not folded.
Grab your wallet quickly if a stranger starts brushing paint or dust off your coat.
If somebody hits you on the back and says "Sorry," look for a touch in front–because you won't feel it.
Found in the Haining collection - a mid 19th century pamphlet An Address to the people of Suffolk on incendiary fires. No publisher, author, date or place of publication is given. WorldCat notes that there is a copy in the Goldsmiths'-Kress Library of Economic Literature, (no. 34328) and says the author was probably Lord Thurlow - a Suffolk peer (Edward Hovell-Thurlow) and estimates a publication date of 1845. Evidently Suffolk was plagued by arson at this time. An impassioned plea, unashamedly patrician in tone, to stop this outbreak. It appears to be addressed mainly to farm workers and may have been spoken to a gathering and/or published in local newspapers. The account of the violent and seditious behaviour of people at the fires is fascinating and alarming...
Found in the Haining archives - this slightly scaremongering article by Edgar Wallace from Nash's Pall Mall Magazine in March 1931. Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was the adopted son of a Billingsgate fish porter in London, and largely self-educated - the newspaper boy who became one of the most famous writers in the world. He sold millions of books, but he was plagued by debts due to an extravagant lifestyle. He left Britain for the United States in 1931, only to die in Hollywood in 1932, aged 56, after writing the original story for King Kong. His body was returned by ocean liner in honour, only to be reunited with an ocean of outstanding bills.It is said all his debts were paid off in a few years from massive book sales. This article was copyrighted from America and one can imagine him churning it out in Hollywood to pay the bills. The title belies the content which is about criminal gangs anywhere in Britain- even art thieves. A BBC radio programme earlier this year by thriller writer Mark Billingham on Edgar Wallace (The Man Who Wrote Too Much?) suggested he was somewhat forgotten. He may not be much read anymore but his books are still collected throughout the world…
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.
The second and last part of Bill Lofts article (possibly unpublished) about London markets. This mainly deals with his search for books, comics and 'boy's books.' Loft's prose style is not exactly Nabokov but his enthusiasm and tireless research carries it along…there is much online about the dealer turned publisher Gerald Swan. Bill gives an affectionate portrait of him..
But easily the main attraction to me was the second-hand bookstall where I used to exchange my comics, and later boys papers. The proprietor was a Gerald Swan, later to become quite a famous publisher in our field of cheap paperback novels, comics, and boys papers, as well as Annuals which he named 'Albums'. These 'Swan Albums' were priced at 3/6d each - printed on the cover, but were sold at a shilling, when he probably still made a big profit on them. Mr Swan was really an extraordinary dressed man to be in charge of a wooden shabby bookstall.
From the Peter Haining papers, this typed manuscript by the great researcher and expert on British comics and periodicals W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts (1923-1997). It is from the early 1970s and is slightly politically incorrect. Autre temps etc., The second part deals with Bill's quest for second hand books at these markets and here his taste is distinctly old fashioned. A vanished world.
My Favourite London Market Places.
I should think that most collectors, or at least those as youngsters in pre-Second World War days, would remember with some affection their local market place. In all probability this was where they bought or exchanged their comics and later Old Boys papers at a second-hand bookstall. This to supplement their regular weekly favourite ordered from the newsagent.
From the Peter Haining papers, this typed manuscript by the great researcher and expert on British comics and periodicals W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts (1923-1997). It is interesting that Fleming got even close to writing a Sexton Blake, a bit like J.K. Rowling deciding to do a new Secret Seven adventure (actually not a bad idea..)
Sexton Blake and James Bond
I must confess that I greatly enjoyed the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. Alas, there were only about sixteen of them as he died a premature death in 1964. Since then a number of other writers have penned them, but never read as well as the creator.
The first in 1955 was entitled 'Casino Royal' when the author an ex-M.I.5 man, certainly was authentic in every detail. The films that commenced in 1963 with 'Dr. No'*. I also greatly enjoyed, especially those featuring Sean Connery. Roger Moore his successor was just as good, though even more suitable to the Saint character, with his type of humour.
From the Peter Haining papers, this typed manuscript by the great researcher and expert on British comics and periodicals W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts (1923-1997). The type of the bogus colonel (and, more commonly, the bogus major) is well known from 1950s British films but here is the real thing - a rather pathetic tale where Lofts' losses were low and the Colonel appears to have been a reader of Henty…
The letter addressed to me was in bold flourishing handwriting, and the address was 'The Lodge' Cranbrook near Epsom, Surrey. I don't know why, but I slightly suspicious of the person at first sight, but briefly the letter read as follows…
It’s a truism that the higher you climb in society or show biz the more you have to lose to blackmailers or stalkers. But this is not a phenomenon of modern times. In a previous Jot it was shown how C. M. Westmacott, a gutter press editor of the Regency period, used his position to extract money from high society offenders. At around the same time the Duke of Wellington—since 1815, the most Famous Living Englishman—was a victim of a determined aristocrat by the name of Lady Georgiana Fane...
Born in 1801, Fane had first met Wellington just after the battle of Waterloo, when at the age of 14, she had danced with him at a ball. In her twenties, she became friendly with Lord Palmerston, who apparently proposed marriage to her. This shedeclined and instead turned her attention once more to the hero of Waterloo. Lady Georgiana, whose beauty was captured in two portraits by Thomas Lawrence, was also highly strung, possibly to the point of neurosis. When she features in the memoirs of her cousin, Lady Arbuthnot, Wellington’s confidante, she is often described as being chronically ‘ill’ and at one point Arbuthnot suspects that her indisposition was ‘almost entirely nervous’. Nevertheless, Wellington seems to have become very fond of the young aristocrat and despite his marriage their friendship developed into romance, with the result that intimate letters were exchanged. After the death of his wife Kitty in 1830, a number of other high society ladies were eager to snare the eligible widower, and possibly because he felt uncomfortable about the increasingly persistent tone of her letters to him, Wellington decided to break off his relationship with Lady Georgiana.