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Edward Fitzgerald buys a Constable and conceives Alice (1841)

Found in  A Fitzgerald Medley (Methuen, 1933) an excerpt from a letter by Fitzgerald (the translator of Omar Khayyam) that he sent to his friend Frederick Tennyson in January 1841. Charles Ganz, the editor of the anthology, includes this in the introduction to a piece Fitzgerald wrote for children - a version of Dickens's Little Nell in simple language for children. The letter reads:

I have just concluded, with all the throes of imprudent pleasure, the purchase of a large picture by Constable*, of which, if I can continue in the mood, I will enclose you a sketch. It is very good:but how you and Morton would abuse it! Yet this, being a sketch, escapes some of Constable's faults, and might escape some of your censures. The trees are not splashed with that white sky-mud, which (according to Constable's theory) the Earth scatters up with her wheels in travelling so briskly round the sun; and there is a dash and felicity in the execution that gives one a thrill of good digestion in one's room, and the thought of which makes one inclined to jump over the children's heads in the streets. But if you could see my great enormous Venetian picture you would be astonished.

Does the thought ever strike you, when looking at pictures in a house, that you are to run and jump at one, and go right through it into some behind-scene world on the other side, as Harlequins do? A steady portrait especially invites one to do so: the quietude of it ironically tempts one to outrage it: one feels it would close again over the panel, like water, as if nothing had happened.

Ganz comments: "This fantastic idea reminds us of Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there. Carroll wrote his story. Fitzgerald played with the idea and let it slide. One cannot  help regretting that he never wrote an original story for children, but we must rejoice that Little Nell's Wanderings, the result of the efforts of two men of genius is left to us."

*Not sure what this picture was. I can find no paintings of Venice by Constable. It would of course be excessively valuable now. He is known to have bought two Constables in 1842 that sold for healthy sums when he died in 1876. The cover of the book is by Frank Brangwyn.

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J. B. Priestley by L.R. Reeve

Another piece from the papers of L.R. Reeve*. He never met Priestley but saw him speak and even appears to have been pointed at by the great man.

J. B. PRIESTLEY

J. B. Priestley may during his adult life have sometimes failed to reach his usual high standard. Certainly I have at times experienced an uneasy feeling that some passages have galloped along giving a faint impression of superficiality, a suspicion of slickness, pretentiousness, and pot-boiling. Yet I would forgive him half-a-dozen trifling contributions because of the heart-lifting, sustained enjoyment arising from The Good Companions, which I encountered more than thirty years ago, and have read again in 1969 with even more pleasure than at the first reading: a fact which leaves me wondering why thirty years on, when one is supposed to reach a plateau of jaded thrills and fancies, the enjoyment of an earlier book is assuredly enhanced. It may be that one's appreciation of a classic increases after many years of weary persistence in studying second-rate literature which misguided critics have informed us are masterpieces; or it may be that when one's knowledge of the human condition is greater than in early days, the better we are able to appreciate a perfect delineation of real men and women.
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Sherlock’s Watson — was he a bad doctor?

Found in The London Mystery Magazine of April/May 1951 this amusing Sherlockian poem casting doubt on Watson's medical credentials…The author 'Sagittarius' was a journalist named Olga Katzin* who wrote several humorous and satirical books, some in rhyme. A short life  is appended below. The London Mystery Magazine began in 1949 and went on into the mid 1950s. It gave its address as 221b Baker Street. Adrian Conan-Doyle (Arthur's son) 'not uncharacteristically' sued the magazine, but lost the case.

Illustrated by 'Figaro'

DOCTOR…?

Holmes left one unsolved mystery,
The case of the strange M. D.;

Was he ever qualified?

Had he anything to hide?
And why was he always free?
Facts of his previous history
Researchers fail to trace,

But there’s something queer in his medical career,
For he never had a single case.

Nobody called Dr Watson
For medical advice;
If Sherlock in a hurry asked his company in Surrey,
Watson would be ready in a trice.
No one ever seemed to worry,
When he drove to Charing Cross,
Which strengthens the suspicion that as surgeon or physician
Watson was a total loss.

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E. M. Forster, the Rajah and his tutor

Most people who know E.M.Forster’s Passage to India (1924) also know that the background research for the novel was undertaken while the author worked as private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas, senior, who ruled a tiny State in north central India. In 1953, many years after the novel appeared, and sixteen years after the Maharajah had died, Forster published as The Hill of Devi  recollections of his time in  what he called ‘ the oddest corner of the world outside Alice in Wonderland’.

Forster had first met the young ruler, who bore the rather cumbersome cognomen of  Sir Tukoji Rao III, in 1912 , while he was the guest of the high-flying administrator  Malcolm Darling, who had himself arrived in India in 1904.  ‘His Highness’, or H.H., as the Rajah styled himself, was then just in his early twenties, having succeeded his father in 1900 at the tender age of twelve. In 1906 Darling was appointed his tutor and mentor, and in October 31st, 1907 the two men, together with the usual retinue, including possibly the Rajah’s beloved brother, embarked on what might today be called a ‘ fact -finding ’ tour of ’ All-India’ and Burma , which is briefly mentioned by Forster in his book. Various members of the party were responsible for taking snaps of the sights along the way. The Rajah himself can be seen in many of the photos, and Darling features in at least one. The camera used seems to have been a Kodak, which had become popular early in the 1890s—and it is this photographic record, mounted in a Kodak album, with brief identifying captions by the Rajah, that has recently come to light in a provincial auction house in the UK.

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Laughton Osborn

Found- a rare anonymous work by Laughton Osborn, an almost completely forgotten writer and one time friend of Poe - A Handbook of Young Artists and Amateurs in Oil Painting (Wiley and Putnam New York 1845.) The author is given as 'An American Artist' and the book demonstrates  a very thorough technical knowledge of the subject, particularly the making and mixing of colours. Very much a writer manqué, his entry in the American Dictionary of Biography ends on this pathetic note: 'His plays were obviously for the library, and not for the footlights, and a search of dramatic records fails disclose any mention of their production in New York or elsewhere.' An online search some 80 years later shows no mention of any performances or reviews of his plays but brings up one modern critic (David S Reynolds) writing that his plays '…have been  deservedly ignored because they sheepishly attempt to duplicate both the  the form and content of Shakespeare's plays.' As a friend (and correspondent) of the 'divine Edgar', surely the greatest of all American writers, he may be worthy of greater note. Poe writes about him fulsomely in The Literati of New York (1850) which is available at Wikisource. The shorter Allibone has this: 'Novelist. Author Confessions of a Poet, Sixty Years of the Life of Jeremy Levis,etc. A writer of some power, whose works have been criticised as of questionable morality.'

Here is his entry in the American Dictionary of Biography:

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Life and death in a Georgian workhouse ( A real life Mr. Bumble)

Here is a letter picked up years ago in London among a box of ephemera. It is undated, though the watermark is 1821. It is addressed to ‘Mr or Mrs Peacock’:

Mrs Kennion is quite surprised that Mr Peacock should have sent this poor boy to work. He was certainly very ill & ought to be in bed & have medical advice immediately. Mrs K will call at the workhouse about 1 o’clock & hopes that Mr Peacock will have sent for the Parish doctor before that time,that she may hear what he thinks of the child. Mrs K has sent him to Dr Sympson & Mr Richardson, but they are both from home.
Friday.

A bit of Googling revealed that the action took place in Harrogate, then just beginning on its journey to becoming the most select watering place in the north of England.  In June 1822 Henry  Peacock, formerly the master of Aldborough and Boroughbridge workhouse,  arrived, with his wife Elizabeth, as the master of Harrogate’s workhouse in Starbeck. Evidently aiming to make an impression with the employers by saving money, the couple soon managed to reduce the average cost of keeping a pauper by establishing what was basically a vegetarian diet. This regimen could have contributed to the poor health of the boy in question. It would probably not have included many, if any, fresh vegetables, and may, like that of the hero of Oliver Twist, which was set in the 1820s, have consisted mainly of gruel.

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Marlowe in Abadan

Another humorous piece from the papers of  'EVOE' i.e. Punch editor E.V. Knox. A Kit Marlowe parody…

MARLOWE IN ABADAN

 "Our methods of dealing with Persia have scarcely been those of Tamburlaine the Great," I wrote; and then (remembering a recent dramatic performance) I thought "How very strange if they had been." Something, I suppose, after this sort.

Enter, from underground holes, MR. MOUSSADEK and the BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY, with great voluted swords.

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Hallucinations of Shakespeare

When English tourists abroad are accosted by foreigners on trains it is now more likely to be about Manchester United or Downton Abbey. According to the writer Maurice Baring, in his time it was often about Shakespeare, as in this intriguing account in his Lost Lectures (London, 1932):

Over and over again it has been my fortune to be told about English literature by foreign high-brows in trains, and to be initiated in the secrets of the literature of my country. I once met a Serbian professor who told me that he had written a book about Shakespeare. He spoke French (not Shakespeare—the Serb). Shakespeare was a well known case, he said, of self-hallucination. He knew, because he was a mind doctor. Hamlet was a well-known case of a man who thinks he sees ghosts.
“But”, I said, “the other people in the play saw the ghost.” “They caught his infection,” he said.
“But they saw it first,” I objected.
“It was Suggestion,” he said; “it often happens. The infection comes from the brain of the man who thinks he sees a ghost before he has seen the ghost, and his coming hallucination infects other brains. Shakespeare hallucinated, or he could not have described the case so accurately. All his characters hallucinated—Macbeth, King Lear, Brutus (he saw a ghost).”
I said enough things had happened to King Lear to make him go mad. “Not in that way,” he said. “Ophelia is mad; Lady Macbeth is mad; Othello is mad; Shylock is mad; Timon of Athens is very mad; Antonio is mad; Romeo is mad. The cases are all accurately described by one who has the illness himself.”
“Was Falstaff mad?” I asked.
“Falstaff,” said the doctor, “is a case of what we call metaphenomania.
He was a metaphenomaniac; he could not help altering facts and changing the facets of appearances.”
“What we call a liar?” I suggested.
The doctor said that was an unscientific way of putting it, but it was true. Then he got out.

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D.H. Lawrence & Rananim – the lost plans

In our researches in the Glenavy papers in various books and online we came across  traces of D.H. Lawrence's plans for a Utopian community to be called Rananim. At one point it appears that Lady Glenavy had Lawrence's actual plans for the community…

Painting by D.H. Lawrence

22/1/17 Lawrence wrote to Baron Glenavy (Gordon Campbell):

I hope, in the long run, to find a place where one can live simply, apart from this civilisation, on the Pacific, and have a few other people who are also at peace and happy and live, and understand and be free…

A little later he wrote to Gordon Campbell :

You see for this thing which I stutter at so damnably I want us to form a league - you and Murry and me and perhaps Forster - and our women - and any one who will be added on to us…as long as we are centred around a core of reality, and carried on one impulse.

Earlier (1915) he had written to E.M. Forster:

…in my island I wanted people to come without class or money, sacrificing nothing, but each coming with all his desires,  yet knowing that his life is but a tiny section of a Whole : so that he shall fulfil his life in relation to the Whole. I wanted a real community, not built out of abstinence or equality, but out of many fulfilled individualities seeking greater fulfilment. But I can't find anybody. Each man is so bent on his own private fulfilment…'

Campbell's wife, Lady Beatrice Glenavy writes in her memoir Today We Will Only Gossip (Constable 1964):

About 1915..Lawrence  begin to formulate his ideas about  an Isle of the  Blest which he had named Rananim, a name which he got out of one of *Kot's Hebrew songs.  He had written out a long draft of the constitution of this island and given it to Gordon to study, hoping to get him interested and involved, believing him to have the organising capacity and the capital to work the scheme. Gordon put the papers away and they were forgotten till after Lawrence's death when Gordon met Aldous Huxley in London and they spoke of Lawrence and Gordon remembered the plans for the island which his practical mind had not taken seriously.  Huxley was very interested and said these papers were of great importance and interest. When Gordon returned home he looked for them in the place where he thought he had put them, but they were not there. We searched the house and we almost tore it to bits in an effort to find the document, which consisted of several sheets of paper covered with Lawrence's own beautifully careful writing. They were never found and their disappearance remains a mystery.

Kot = the writer S. S. Koteliansky a core member of the Bloomsbury group. This Hebrew musical version of the first verse of Psalm 33 ('Rejoice in the Lord, O ye Righteous') is preserved in his papers.

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Matthew Arnold letter – a football injury

Found tipped into the front of Poems of Matthew Arnold (London, 1853) an unpublished  handwritten signed letter from the poet to his French friend the writer and anglophile Edmond Schérer.

PAINS HILL COTTAGE, COBHAM, SURREY*. Oct 13th '76

My dear Mr. Scherer

My boy slipped down and was trodden upon at football last March, and was very ill afterwards from some injury to the back. He got well, however, but when I wrote to you we had been disturbed by a sudden return of his pain.  We have taken him to Prescott Hewitt** a great surgeon, who says that he must lie in bed till the pain has entirely gone,  this upsets the arrangements of a small cottage, as we have to give our invalid the one spare room we have, that he may have more air  and  space than in his own little room.  So we are unable to receive any guests in the house while he is ill, and therefore I was obliged, to my very great regret, to put you off.  I fear it will be still a week before we cease to be a  hospital but – do let me know what you are doing and how long you stay in England.  I cannot easily give up the hope of seeing you here. At any rate I shall meet you at the Athenaeum, I trust;  for next week I begin inspecting*** again and shall be in London every day. I have so much to say to you and to hear from you. Most sincerely yours Matthew Arnold.

* Printed at head of notepaper. This was in the beautiful private landscaped park Painshill Park and Arnold rented the cottage from 1873 to 1888.

** In Dickens's Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens , Jr., (1879) under 'Doctors' Prescott G. Hewitt is noted as Consulting Surgeon at the  Evelina Hospital for Sick Children (Southwark Bridge Road.)

***Matthew Arnold  was appointed, in April 1851, one of Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools, a job which he worked at until 1886. He once described it as 'drudgery.'

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‘Lines on the Loss of the Royal Charter’

At least 800 lives were lost in the seas around the shores of Britain in the violent storms on the night of 25-26 October 1859. 223 vessels were wrecked: the biggest disaster of all was the loss of the Royal Charter off the coast of Wales, in which almost 450 people died. The ship was returning from Australia and the passengers included many gold miners, some of who had struck it rich at the diggings in Australia and were carrying large sums of gold about their persons. A consignment of gold was also being carried as cargo; it was insured for over £300,000 - about half a billion pounds in todays money. Many of the passengers were killed by being dashed against the rocks by the waves rather than drowned. Others were said to have drowned, weighed down by the belts of gold they were wearing around their bodies. The survivors, 21 passengers and 18 crew members, were all men, with no women or children saved. This poem on one side of a small  card was probably sold for a halfpenny or farthing just after the disaster. The address 'Trafalgar, Neyland' is nearby in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire. Of Maria Roberts nothing is known…

We also have a more accomplished poem about a gold ring washed up on the beach (to follow) but this poem was probably composed very shortly after the fateful night:

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Books in Shakespeare’s plays

Browsing Ayscough's An Index to the Remarkable Passages and Words made use of by Shakspeare ; Calculated to Point Out the Different Meanings to Which the Words are Applied (Thomas Tegg, London 1827) I checked out its dozen or so entries under 'books'. It is fairly comprehensive (Samuel Ayscough was known as 'The Prince of Indexers') but at about 500 pages is not  a 'concordance' and  its intention was somewhat different, as stated in the title. Henry IV (Part 2) seems to be the play with the most bookish references

Books

Burn but his books. Tempest, Act 3, Scene 2.
Drown my books.  Ibid, Act 5, Scene 1.
The gentleman is not in your books. Much Ado About Nothing, Act 1, Scene 1.
Tire the hearer with a book of words. Ibid, Act 1, Scene 1.
These trees shall be my books. As You Like It, Act 3, Scene 2.
I have unclasp'd to thee the book of my secret soul. Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 4.
By what time shall our book, I think be drawn. 1 Henry IV, Act 3, Scene 1.
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Flexible Books from Jonathan Cape

In a little recorded piece of publishing history Jonathan Cape in 1934 issued a series of small books called Flexibles. They were cloth covered books with dust jackets but the covers were much thinner than hardbacks and  flexible. They were a sort of half-way house between paperbacks and hardbacks. The first Penguin paperbacks appeared the next year and may have caused the premature demise of this series after only 10 books. They were quite stylishly presented and pleasant to handle. All were reprints.

The first in the series Lewis Browne's The Story of the Jews was probably re-issued as a counter to  the rise of Hitler.  Others in the series include Hemingway's Men Without Women (uncommon now especially in the jacket) Joyce's Portrait of the Artist and later Dubliners, followed by Beverley Nichols Twenty-Five. The last 'flexible' was Italian Backgrounds by Edith Wharton, number ten in the series. All came out in 1934 and as far as can be ascertained there was no number eleven. Amazon has this review of the fifth book in the series Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs: 

No plot devices or car chases here--this is a book to read on a rainy afternoon when nostalgia and melancholy threaten to overwhelm. It's comfort food like grandma used to make--reassuring, soul-fortifying, and full of the capacity to cheer. It's also addictive--once you take a bite out of Pointed Firs, you can't stop.


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Arnold Bennett and ‘dressing apraxia’

Football fans among the Jot 101 community may remember the ridicule which greeted the failure of the childlike Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, to don a  simple training bib. Fans blamed the footballer’s apparent dimness , but his difficulties with clothing recall a syndrome known as  ‘dressing apraxia ‘,which, according to the consultant neurologist G. D. Perkin, writing in the British Medical Journal,  ‘are graphically described by the novelist Arnold Bennett in Clayhanger*

Bennett ‘s Journals reveals the novelist to have been interested in medicine as it concerned his own chronic poor health , some of the symptoms of which were neuralgic pains, headaches and insomnia, but also that of his  father, Enoch. Perkin argues that the ‘dressing apraxia’, clearly demonstrated in Darius Clayhanger’s inability to dress himself, was a reflection of Enoch’s own medical condition. Having failed to identify the disease responsible for the symptoms suffered by both men, Perkin final alighted on Pick’s disease, a rare neurodegenerative condition, a description of which he discovered in a French medical journal of 1928. As this disease is often familial, and according to Bennett’s biographer Margaret Drabble, it was reported to have killed two of his sisters, might  the symptoms suffered by Bennett suggest that he too may have been afflicted, though Perkin maintains that the Journals ‘nowhere support the possibility’.

Bennett’s sometimes frantic search for quack remedies for his chronic bad health occasionally placed him in further danger. Could it be that the ill-judgement, a product of the cognitive impairment brought about by Pick’s disease, caused the novelist’s own tragic death. In January 1932, while staying in a Paris hotel, Bennett refused to pay for mineral water in the restaurant and, ignoring the advice of the waiter that this was not a wise thing to do, downed a glass of tap water from the carafe. He was taken ill with typhoid and died two months later. [RR]

*For many months now he had helped Darius to dress, when he came up from the shop for breakfast, and to undress in the evening. It was not that his father lacked the strength, but he would somehow lose himself in the maze of his garments, and apparently he could never remember the proper order of doffing or donning them. Sometimes he would ask, “Am I dressing or undressing?” And he would be capable of so involving himself in a shirt, if Edwin were not there to direct, that much patience was needed for his extrication. His misapprehensions and mistakes frequently reached the grotesque. As habit threw them more and more intimately together, the trusting dependence of Darius on Edwin increased. At morning and evening the expression of that intensely mournful visage seemed to be saying as its gaze met Edwin’s, “Here is the one clear-sighted, powerful being who can guide me through this complex and frightful problem of my clothes.” A suit, for Darius, had become as intricate as a quadratic equation.

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The face that launched a thousand ships

In Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus the hero greets Helen of Troy with two of the most famous lines in English literature:

Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium ?

It was always assumed (for some reason) that this arresting imagery could not have emanated new-minted from Marlowe’s imagination, and for years scholars tried to find a source. Classical texts were ransacked for clues and in 1938 the art historian W. S. Heckscher, writing in the Journal of the Warburg Institute, reported that in an exchange between Hermes and the cynic Menippus in Lucian’s Dialogues of the Dead he had discovered the following lines which had been prompted by the two men surveying a pile of skulls of the once famous, who included the former beauty, Helen of Troy:

Menippus: And for this a thousand ships carried warriors from every part of Greece;
Greeks and barbarians were slain, and cities made desolate.. (translation by F. G. Fowler )

Heckscher argues that this democratic dictum of mors omnia aeqat (in death we are all equal)-- that the facial characteristics of beauty and ugliness which distinguish us in life-- are wiped out in death, was  quite common in the later period of the ancient world. He also speculates that the learned Marlowe probably met with the Lucian dialogue from the translation by Erasmus of circa 1535.
Of course, a similar message can be found on gravestones in Britain from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. One epitaph that never fails to chill my bones accompanies a most life-like skull:

Remember man, as you walk by
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so shall you be ….

[RH]

Many thanks Robin...Eliot's lines from The Waste Land inevitably come to mind:

Gentile or Jew  
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Consider Phlebas? Good title for a novel...

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The Cry of Starving Men by Edwin Drew (1908)

A small hand bill, a one page poem, sold for a penny in 1908 to raise money for the poor by the 'Hyde Park Relief Movement for the Unemployed' with The Cry of Starving Men written by the author, elocutionist and poet Edwin Drew. He appears to have been a correspondent of Dickens (the name Edwin Drood was inspired by his name.) He flourished between 1870 and 1915. There is Pathe News footage of him as 'the last survivor of the Dickens society' - placing a wreath on the novelist's tomb. Drew's last published work was The Chief Incidents of the 'Titanic' Wreck (1912). Of the Hyde Park Relief Movement for the Unemployed very little is known*,apart from the information on this hand bill.

* There may well be much more information in libraries, online research reveals this one note at Open Library - 'The Labour Bureau was established in consequence of Drew's founding of the Hyde park relief movement following his speeches on unemployment, in Hyde park in September 1908.' This poem is dated October 1908...

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J.N.W. Sullivan & Colin Wilson — ‘The Desirability of the Ordinary.’

Found in a pamphlet by Colin Wilson: Autobiographical Reflections (Paupers' Press, 1980) this quotation from the writer J.W.N. Sullivan. Sullivan was a friend of Aldous Huxley & John Middleton Murry, later he knew Aleister Crowley and was part of Ottoline Morrell's intellectual country house salon at Garsington in the 1920s. In the first World War he worked in the ambulance services in Serbia. Colin Wilson writes of him:

I have always felt that the very essence of the human problem was grasped by that fine music critic, J. W. N. Sullivan, in his classic autobiography But For the Grace of God (London: Jonathan Cape 1932). He writes about the first world war:

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The Air of Bloomsbury 3

The last part of an article found in a Times Literary Supplement from 1954 - a very lengthy anonymous review of J.K. Johnstone's The Bloomsbury Group. This part is good on on their attitude to mysticism (see Cambridge conviction). At the time there was still a debate as to whether the Bloomsbury Set actually existed. In Clive Bell's slightly irascible article in Century in February 1954 What was 'Bloomsbury'? he continually asks whether it actually existed - as far as he could see it was just 'a dozen friends..between 1904 and 1914 (who) saw a great deal of each other...' He names these '...the surviving members of the Midnight Society -Thoby Stephen (died in the late autumn of 1906) Leonard Woolf...Lytton Strachey (who actually lived in Hampstead) Saxon Sydney-Turner, Clive Bell. There were the two ladies. Add to these Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, Maynard Keynes, H.T.J.Norton and perhaps Gerald Shove...certainly Desmond and Molly MacCarthy and Morgan Forster were close and affectionate friends but I doubt whether any of them has yet been branded with the fatal name..' Bell refers to these as the 'old gang' and names a few younger candidates: David Garnett, Francis Birrell, Raymond Mortimer, Stephen Tomlin, Ralph Partridge , Stephen Sprott, F.L. Lucas and Frances Marshall ((later Mrs Ralph Partridge). This review is anonymous but is certainly by someone who knew his (or her) stuff.

Yet as temperaments appear to run in families they retained a passionate individualist faith, though without obligations. 'We were,' says Maynard Keynes, 'in the strict sense of the word immoralists, we recognized no moral obligations on us, no inner sanction to conform or to obey.' It was this rejection of tradition, combined with 'comprehensive irreverence,' which made them suspect to the outer world. lt was 'I think a justifiable suspicion,' he says, and proceeds with admirable candour, wit and yet loyalty to show that there was something both brittle and far too narrow in their early views, and perhaps dubious about their later lives, when 'concentration on moments of union between a pair of lovers got thoroughly mixed up with the once rejected pleasure.'

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Iris Murdoch and friends

Found – a photo of a crowd of writers and intellectuals. The novelist Iris Murdoch is recognisable, with her husband John Bayley to her left and the man in suit and tie second last to the right is possibly Isaiah Berlin (without his usual heavy specs) described in an obituary ‘as the most prominent thinker of his generation.’ Probably from the early to mid 1970s and possibly taken in the garden of Iris’s house Cedar Lodge at Steeple Aston near Oxford. Oxford may well have provided most of the guests, some of whom look vaguely familiar. Identifications welcome.

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Psychic Messages from Oscar Wilde

From a large spiritualist collection this curiosity Psychic Messages from Oscar Wilde (Psychic Book Club, London 1924) published 24 years after his death and purporting to be spirit communications from purgatory with the great writer. Why Oscar was in purgatory and not heaven is not explained (although he famously said 'I don't want to go to heaven. None of my friends are there.') One of the communicants, Eric Dingwall (described online as '...a man of many parts – psychical researcher, librarian, book and antique collector, anthropologist, sexologist, intelligence operative) was no mere gullible spiritualist and occasionally they get Oscar's tone...his damning opinion of Joyce's recently published Ulysses is interesting, but it seems more likely Oscar would have approved...

COPY OF AUTOMATIC SCRIPT OBTAINED MONDAY,

JUNE 18TH, 1923.

Present.-Mr. V., Mrs. Travers Smith, Mr. B., Mr. Dingwall (Research Officer of the Society for Psychical Research), Miss Cummins.

Mr. V. was the automatist, Mrs. T.S. touching his hand.

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