The Clash and Storm Jameson—an enigma

The Clash JamesonThe Clash was formed in 1976. Storm Jameson died ten years later, aged 95. I don’t know what sort of music Ms Jameson liked, but I doubt if she was a great fan of punk rock. But if at 85 she was an enthusiast for this music genre she might have been delighted if Paul Simonon, The Clash’s bassist, had taken the name of their band from her 1922 novel The Clash.

She might have been even more pleased if, when the band members had finished putting together their difficult second album, they named it after another Jameson book, London Calling (1942).

But of course, it’s unlikely that either of these borrowings took place. One could ask Mr Simonon for the truth, but he might not be willing to admit it. After all, it’s not very rock and roll to name your band after a fusty old ‘twenties novel. Joe Strummer (1952 – 2002) is no longer on the planet to spill the beans. Other former members of the band might not be able to recall the stories behind the two names.

There are countless examples of musicians borrowing the names of their bands from books, movies and even newspaper headlines, but for a punk outfit to take the names of both their band and their second album from two books written by the same largely forgotten octogenarian female writer seems beyond belief.

And yet….It has been said that the band Generation X, fronted by Billy Idol ( aka William Broad), took its name from a book published in 1964 by Jane Deverson ( see previous Jot ) that Mr Broad had found in his mother’s home . Was Storm Jameson a favourite author of Simonon’s or of any other member of The Clash ? [RR]

 

La Guerre du Feu ( The Quest for Fire)

Quest for fire cover 1967La Guerre du Feu, an early fantasy novel, probably written by Joseph Henri Honore Boex (1856 – 1940), one of two Belgian brothers who often wrote fiction together under the pseudonym J.H Rosny-Aine. was published in 1911 by the Bibliotheque-Charpentier in Paris. It is said to have been first translated into English by Harold Talbott in 1967. If this is true, it is odd that the acclaimed journalist and translator Eric Mosbacher in his note of 8.5.1979 ( shown) stated that this ‘ remarkably uninspired story’ was ‘ totally undeserving of translation ‘ and that the Souvenir Press should decline it. It is possible, of course, that a translation into a language other than English was proposed. Mosbacher translated from French, Italian and German.

Mosbacher’s description of the original novel reflects his utter disdain for it; the final line of his summary: ‘the caste (sic) also includes mammoths, tigers, etc’ says it all. Nevertheless, the producer of the movie, set in palaeolithic Europe, and based on the translation, seems to have been happy with the story, and ‘The Quest for Fire’ , with a budget of $12m, a director in Jean-Jacques Arnaud, and a cast that included the facially challenged Ron Perlman in his debut role and Rae Dawn Chong as the love interest, was released in 1981. It made $40m at the box office, gave Chong a well deserved award for her performance and garnered an Academy Award for make –up. Not bad, considering that the dialogue was restricted to grunts and shrieks. It launched the movie careers of both Chong and Perlman, with the latter starring as the deformed, simian-like creature Salvatore in The Name of the Rose.

It is not known whether Mosbacher ever saw the movie (unlikely) or that he regretted not accepting the invitation to translate it, if indeed the job had been offered to him. He and his wife, Gwenda David, also a translator and who incidentally I visited in her Hampstead home years later, continue to work together until his death in 1997. [R.M.Healey]

 

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Banned books

Lummox coverBanned books: No 12: Lummox by Fannie Hurst

Found in the Summer 1924 issue of Now & Then (Jonathan Cape) is this brief announcement:

‘LUMMOX finds new admirers every day. Miss Hurst is expected in England shortly, and many admirers are hoping to meet her. She is a prominent figure in New York literary and dramatic circles and has a number of friends in Europe also. The ‘ ban ‘ of the circulating library still remains, but the book is on sale at the bookshops. The current impression is the third.’

This ‘ban’ is a bit of a puzzle. The journalist for Now & Then places the word in quotation marks, which suggests that although Mrs Hurst’s book was in the shops, it was not available for borrowing in certain circulating libraries, though these libraries are not specified. Nor is it clear whether these libraries are in the U.S. or the U.K. A thorough online trawl has revealed nothing on this issue.

At the time Fannie ( or Frances ) Hurst, as the report suggests, was an immensely popular, best-selling American author of rather sentimental and melodramatic novels, many of which had been adapted for the cinema. It has been claimed that she accepted $1m for the film rights of one particular novel. As for the problematical Lummox there seems little in this tale of a young female immigrant who is exploited and abused by her rich employers that could possibly offend even the most delicate sensibilities of an average circulating library subscriber. However, Hurst’s proto-feminism and support for the oppressed in society might have touched a few nerves among members of the wealthy middle class in post-war Britain. [RR]

 

G.S.Fraser on George Barker, the purple monkey

fraser : barkerFound on a scrap of paper which looks as if it has been scrunched up into a ball and ironed out flat is this squib on the poet George Barker by G. S. Fraser, the poet and critic.

The item is signed but not dated, but as it refers to Barker’s departure for Japan in 1939 to take up an appointment as Professor English we must infer that it dates from this time. Fraser looks back at Barker’s short but promising literary career, which then consisted of three volumes of verse, the first of which had been published by David Archer ( the David referred to ) at the Parton Press, and a number of contributions to little magazines, including New Verse, which was founded and edited by the gifted poet and highly influential critic Geoffrey Grigson.

For some reason known only to himself Eliot saw enough in Barker to encourage his efforts and it was Eliot who got the semi-educated Barker ( he didn’t even have a degree) his teaching post in Japan. This, however, was bad timing for Barker, as his burgeoning academic career was curtailed due to the outbreak of the Second World War and he was forced to return to England.

The whole tone of the squib strongly suggests that there was no love lost between Fraser, a good minor poet and a sound critic, and the wayward, uneven and often drunken and opinionated Barker, who if one is to believe all the stories about him, seems to have been a sort of Poundland Dylan Thomas, both as a writer and as a professional scrounger. However, on the subject of alcoholic writers, it is valuable to apply Thomas’s own definition of an alcoholic as ‘someone you dislike who drinks as much as you ‘. Continue reading

Are Novels Deteriorating ?

 

Discovered in a copy of the November 1927 issue of Good Housekeeping, a book-sized magazine with a middlebrow literary flavour ( Arnold Bennett, W.J.Locke, Frank Swinnerton, and St John Irvine contributed to it ), is this feature by G.H.Grubb, the London chief of Putnam’s.

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As we can see, Grubb regrets the thousands of manuscripts that he and his fellow editors have to deal with every year, ninety-eight per cent of which are ‘wasted efforts …inconsequential manuscripts written by inconsequential people ‘.He expresses barely disguised disdain for the lack of trouble taken by new novelists, who see in the novel only opportunities for fame and celebrity, rather than the practice of a ‘high art ‘. But, he admits that like every other publisher, he is obliged to continue his task of sifting in the tiny hope that ‘the real thing of merit’ will appear. Indeed, he feels that in the slight decline of what he calls the ‘ sex novel’ ( later to be labelled ‘ bodice rippers ) that the future looks promising for the emergence of a ‘ clean novel, rightly admixed with sentiment, true in its life realisms, and big and broad enough to find a place for a little humour and a modicum of religion ‘. Continue reading

The same old story…

Vanity press advertIn the fascinating Thousand Ways to Earn a Living (1888) the section on ‘Literary Work’ covers journalism, authorship, and something called ‘compilation’. In the journalism chapter modern-day readers might be surprised at the high rates of pay awarded to humble London hacks ( up to £10 a week in 1888—more than a skilled surgeon or a junior barrister might earn ), but few could argue that in late Victorian Britain , as in 2017, in the newspaper world ‘ the majority of new ventures are promoted by newspaper men who have been underpaid or unfairly dealt with by their employers ‘.

Nor, it seems, has the world of vanity publishing changed much. After praising the commitment to potential authors of such a serious publisher as Bentley (who brought out the early work of Dickens), the dangers of unscrupulous publishers is addressed:

‘Advertising sharks should be avoided. Their only aim is to obtain money from unsuspecting writers of inexperience, and they generally manage to rob those whom they get into toils considerably. During the past few years they have been exposed in many papers; but, as their advertisements still appear, there is no doubt that they are still engaged in their nefarious work. Their advertisements may easily be detected. They generally address their announcements to ‘Authors, Amateurs, and others’; sometimes it is fiction, at others poetry that is wanted. But in every case it is plunder that is meant. Mr Walter Besant has laid down the axiom that no one should pay for the publication of his literary work. In the majority of cases this is a good rule, though like many another good rule, it has its exceptions…’  

The rewards earned by novelists has perhaps changed a little in 130 years. Back then ‘the novel-writer ‘, we are told, got’ £50 to £1,000 for a book’. To us this seems rather generous, considering that in 2017 an average first-time novelist would be lucky to receive an advance of £500. What has changed greatly since 1888 is the demise of the serial.’ The modern novelist’, it was reported, ‘ usually manages to run each story he writes through a magazine and a number of provincial and colonial newspapers before issuing it in book form ‘. Incidentally, note the gendering of this modern novelist at a time when the most popular novelists were likely to be writers like Rhoda Broughton and Marie Corelli. Continue reading

A Charles Morgan collection

 

Charles_Langbridge_MorganDiscovered in a catalogue of the late 1990s from the estimable dealer in autographs, David J Holmes, is a long description of a collection of holograph letters, typed letters, and post-cards from Charles Morgan (1894 – 1958 ), the English novelist and playwright who became a household name in the 30s and 40s. The price asked was $8,500.

Twenty years ago Morgan was out of fashion and unread, hence the relatively low price, which works out at about £18 a letter. In the same catalogue a letter of two pages from A. A. Milne would cost you $1,000, while one of similar length from Virginia Woolf is priced at $2,000. Today, while there will always be fans of Milne and Woolf, Morgan’s popularity has hardly improved, though apparently there are signs of a ‘revival ‘. However, in the world of literary biography quantity is everything. A single, if fascinating, letter from the creator of Pooh Bear would mean very little to a Milne biographer, and the same could be said for the Woolf letter. Continue reading

Laughing at Poetry

Laughing at SwinburneIn the April 24th 1942 issue of John O’London’s Weekly can be found a perceptive view by the essayist Robert Lynd on the subject of risible poetry written by good poets. He takes his cue from an incident a century before when Thomas Wakley, the founder of the Lancet, stood up in the Commons to mock some puerile lines from ‘Louisa’ by the Poet Laureate, William Wordsworth.

Lynd then goes on to wonder whether ‘absurdities were so common in the older poets as they came in the period that followed the French Revolution. Shakespeare and Milton seem never to have descended to such unconscious ludicrousness as Wordsworth. I do not think that any of the older poets ever wrote a line that parodies itself so easily as Swinburne’s :–

Swallow, my sister: O Sister

     Swallow. 

‘One of Swinburne’s loveliest poems, ‘Before a Mirror ‘, Lynd continues, ‘begins with a verse of extraordinary nonsense –at least, containing extraordinary nonsense—and yet who can fail to be moved by it:– Continue reading

Reviewers getting it wrong

 

Robert Frost picA Boy’s Will by Robert Frost, reviewed by C. R. Orage in The New Age , June 12th 1913.

‘He declares of his friends meeting with him after some years:-

They would not find me changed from him they knew—

Only more sure of all I thought was true (trew).

 

Evidently he dreamed no great dreams, believed in nothing beyond the will of a mortal boy to accomplish. Let him trot along “in the gloaming “, as he says, with his Mary, and rhyme “those is” with “roses”. As idle rubbish is published every day.’

Frost, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and now recognised as one of America’s greatest poets, was nearly forty when he published this debut collection, which was generally well received. Elsewhere in the same issue, Orage was equally harsh on Yeats, another great poet, who, though only nine years older than Frost, was already established as a leader of the Celtic Twilight movement. From his treatment of all but one of the other poetry and novels reviewed in this issue, Orage clearly despised pretentiousness, preciousness, poetical clichés, lovey-dovey verse, Georgianism, fancy and whimsy, Edwardian chicklit, and melodrama about marriages. The trouble is, Frost’s collection demonstrated none of these faults. Perhaps he just didn’t like Americans.

The only collection Orage approved of was Green Days and Blue Days by P. R. Chalmers—‘fifty or so ditties by a modern young man’, according to Orage. Chalmers, a banker by profession, wrote other ‘ditties‘ and also books on hunting. [R.M.Healey]

 

Frances Mundy-Castle: a neglected poet

Democrats Chapbook cover 001The identity of the ‘ quiet woman‘ who wrote A Democrat’s Chapbook (1942), a hundred page long commentary in free verse on the events of the Second World War up to the time when America joined the Allied forces, was only revealed when Anne Powell included two passages from it in her anthology of female war poetry, Shadows of War (1999 ). However, those who had read her volume of Georgian verse entitled Songs from the Sussex Downs ( 1915), a copy of which was found in the collection of Wilfred Owen, might have recognised the style as that of ‘Peggy Whitehouse’, whose Mary By the Sea also appeared under this name in 1946. All three books were the work of Mrs Frances Mundy –Castle (1875 – 1959).

Thanks to her son Alistair, we now know a little more about Mrs Mundy-Castle. We know, for instance, that she came from a wealthy family and that at the age of sixteen she published a volume of her poems. She then married Mr Mundy-Castle, who managed a local brickworks, and the family settled down at Cage Farm, an early eighteenth century house on the eastern outskirts of Tonbridge. Here she seems to have held a sort of salon for local writers and artists, among whom was the cult artist and writer Denton Welch, who lived a mile or so away and was friends with her daughter Rosemary. In his later years, according to his biographer, she was ‘a frequent target of his malicious humour ‘, despite the fact that it was she who had given him the idea of writing his first book. Continue reading

Leavis’s ‘life enhancing’ piano shop

Leavis pianos pic 001Found in the May Week 1914 issue of the Cambridge student magazine Mandragora is this full page advert for the Regent Street piano shop run by Frank Leavis’s father Harry. Pianos figured very large in the lives of the Leavis family. Harry’s brother ran a piano shop in Mill Road and their father was a piano tuner in another part of the city. According to his biographer, Dr Leavis admired his father, apparently a cultured man, very much. It is not known whether Leavis, or his simian-faced wife, Queenie, played the piano.

Leavis was in his first year studying history at Emmanuel College when the advert appeared. When war broke out a few months later he signed up, but after a year was permitted to resume his studies at Cambridge—this time in the newly formed English department. Apart from short spells teaching at York, Wales and Bristol, Leavis spent his whole academic life in Cambridge, setting up home in Bulstrode Gardens–then an enclave of ‘thirties villas off the Madingley Road on the edge of the city, but now next door to both the Cavendish Laboratory and the Institute of Astronomy. How Leavis would have loathed this juxtaposition.

Interestingly, his dad’s piano shop lay almost opposite Downing College, where Leavis was to spend much of his time brain-washing vulnerable students. It is now a ‘Pizza Hut ‘fast food restaurant. He would have hated that too.

[Sent in by a loyal jotwatcher – opinions are his, although the tide seems to have turned against the Leavises this century. Take it or Leavis..]

Up and coming authors in 1895

William-Pett-RidgeFound in The Album for August 19th, 1895, are these encouraging words for aspiring fiction writers:-

Let no boy or girl, ambitious of literary fame, fear nowadays that they will be denied a hearing. The one thing necessary is merit—something to say and the power to say it. Granted so much, and industry, success is certain.

Take the case of two young men who have fought their way into success, and with whose careers I happen to be familiar. They are Mr W Pett Ridge (above) and Mr H. G. Wells. Neither had any influence; neither, when they began to write, had friends in the literary world; neither had the advantage of a ‘Varsity education; and yet these two young men have six books between them on the eve of publication. Moreover, the stories and articles and dialogue that make up these books having already appeared in serial form, these authors have already made incomes out of them which barristers or bank-clerks of the same age would consider exceedingly handsome.

How was it done? Just by choosing fresh subjects, by looking at those subjects with fresh eyes, and by having the gumption to know what journals those subjects would suit. Mr Pett Ridge is a London born and bred, and a Londoner who was blessed by nature with a most observant eye, great patience, and quite an abnormal sense of humour…Hardly a day passes but the writes a short story or a dialogue and hardly a night passes but his shrewd brown eyes peer into some corner of the London he knows as well as Mr Gladstone knows Downing Street…
Continue reading

C. K. Scott Moncrieff – The Ideal Translator

Found- a press cutting from The Bookman, March 1932 by one De V. Payen-Payne, a good evaluation of the life and work of C. K. Scott Moncrieff – in a review of a posthumous book by him. It may be a myth or an exaggeration but I heard that Scott-Moncrieff was working on his monumental Proust translation while on the staff at The Times and occasionally when he was stuck for the English mot juste (as it were) he would consult the entire office and everything came to a halt while the right word was found – world news be damned!

Edward_Stanley_Mercer_-_Charles_Kenneth_Scott-Moncrieff

Painting of Scott Moncrieff by E S Mercer

It is a moot point whether a mother or a wife or any near relative can write the ideal biography. Not that this book pretends to be a biography, although it contains many details that only a mother can give, and will prove invaluable when the ideal biographer appears, and Scott Moncrieff’s work is assessed critically and compared with the lit he led. Some may think that too much space has been given to his experiences in the War and to the letters that he wrote to his family and friends when on service. Since 1918 we have a large number of such accounts, and Scott Moncrieff’s adventures, although most creditable to himself, were not very different from those of many other intellectual men thrown into the cortex of combat. Others too may think that the postscript is too personal for inclusion. Instead of it, an index would have been a desirable adjustment.  Continue reading

Mary Fitt – life as a caravanserai

Found on the back of a 1946 green Penguin Death and the Pleasant Voices by Mary Fitt this self-penned portrait of herself. Mary Fitt (1897-1959) is fairly well covered online, both under her real name Kathleen Freeman, and her pseudonym – under which she wrote classic late golden age detective fiction. As Kathleen 9710253386Freeman she wrote many books on Ancient Greece, Socrates, the Sophists etc, She lived near Cardiff with a friend Lilian Clopet also a writer – Lilian survived her by 30 years. There is a good bibliography of both writers at the University of Toronto site.  The piece on the back of the Penguin is charming and informative:

Asked for a biography, Mary Fitt says:

‘It is, I think, the writer of fiction who is interest to the public, not the person of whom the writer is a part. Therefore I do not propose to give details of where I was born, where educated, and so forth. In my character as Author, I was born some years later than myself, in that part of the world which lies between classical Greece and Elizabethan England.

‘In the present, the Author and I have identical interests. We live in the country, in what a friend recently described as “your Italian-blue house”. It is not Italian, but it is blue – sky-blue*. Our hobbies are – our hobby is – people, their pleasant or queer or sinister possibilities; for we have noticed that Character really is Destiny.

‘Such a hobby involves travelling; so we travel, but not as Author: people see authors coming and they “talk script”; we like to see and hear them as they are off the set, because what they then say and do is new.

‘My interests range over time and space. My greatest regret is that one day I too shall have to pack up and leave this caravanserai, which is so mad, so bad, and so wonderful.’ 

*Lark’s Rise, a house in St. Mellons.

George Sims and espionage

img_2750Found in a thriller by George Sims (1923 -1999) an interesting letter about the book. Sims was a successful and much admired dealer in rare books, something of a poet and a novelist with several of his books being about the book trade (bibliomysteries.) This book Who is Cato? (Macmillan, London 1981) actually has an art dealer, one William Marshall (rich but disillusioned), as its hero. He becomes involved in espionage through his connection to  ‘Intelligence’ in WW2 and finds himself working against the KGB many years later while on holiday in Majorca…

The letter from Sims to a woman friend, who ran a bookshop, is on headed notepaper from his cottage ‘Peacocks’ in Hurst, Berkshire. It reads:

Many thanks for your helpful cheering letter. I was glad to have it. Probably I’ve told you that when Cato was published we were in America and our daughter phoned to say that there had been a mysterious burglary at our cottage in which nothing was taken. When I came back I was puzzled as to how an entry was made into our cottage and my office; nothing was missing not even some £10 notes in the office drawer… exactly like the burglary which took place at William Marshall’s cottage near Hambleden!!

Obviously someone thought I knew more than I did. I was to blame as I had signed the official secrets document when I was at the SCU, and there was quite a deal of fact mixed with the fiction. Love George.

The S.CU. ‘Special Communications Units’ were outstations of S.I.S (‘Special Intelligence Services’) involved mostly with radio communications. They were disbanded in 1946. Sims, known to be irascible, appears quite philosophic about this incident. His books are collected, especially the bibliomysteries, also his excellent and still mouthwatering catalogues

Angus Wilson—author from the Museum

Angus Wilson picAlthough Angus Wilson is almost as unfashionable as F. R. Leavis these days, there was once a time when members of the chattering classes could hardly wait for his next novel or collection of short stories.

We are talking about December 1953, which is when John O’London’s Weekly ran a cover story entitled ‘ Author from the Museum ‘. In it Wilson is depicted as a sort of Larkin-like figure of prose (although at this time the Bard of the Humber had yet to achieve the elevated position he now occupies).Like Larkin, he was a librarian of an academic institution—in his case the British Museum, where he was Deputy Superintendent of the Reading Room—and like Larkin at Hull, he seems to have become a bit of a celebrity there. This is how the journalist Sewell Stokes described him:

‘Small of stature, with a luxuriance of prematurely silvered hair, and the gentle and accommodating manner of a diplomat, he might be cast by a film director as someone attached to the retinue of Marie Antionette. His appearance somehow vaguely suggests his belonging to another century. Diplomacy he certainly needs to maintain friendly relations with those readers of various nationalities, and varying temperaments, who use the Museum. An American lady used it recently for no more legitimate purpose than to have a peek at Mr Wilson, whom she had come to regard, through her admiration for his books, as rather a landmark.  Continue reading

Llewelyn Powys—a typescript of his letters

Llewellyn Powys picIn an undated ( but probably late 1980s ) catalogue numbered ‘25’ from the American dealer David J Holmes are some genuine literary treasures and possibly some bargains. Letters from Henry James, A. E. Housman, W. S. Gilbert, and Lewis Carroll, together with manuscripts from Washington Irving and Vita Sackville West stand out. But at a mere $1,500 the undoubted bargain on offer is the typescript created by Alyse Gregory, wife of the writer Llewelyn Powys, of some of his letters, 1900 – 38.

The letters begin when Powys was at Sherborne School and end a few months before his death in 1939 at the age of 55 from complications resulting from a stomach ulcer. As Holmes remarks, the typescript is a unique resource, since many of the letters were destroyed after the author’s death. However, his wife only selected the ones she considered worth publishing, which is a shame. The correspondents included his brother, the acclaimed novelist John Cowper Powys, A. R. Powys, Philippa Powys, Gertrude Powys and H. Rivers Pollock, a barrister, and show how avidly he followed the burgeoning literary career of his brother and also how his tuberculosis was a constant worry. For instance, in September 1915 he declared:

‘I am happy, yes, I am happy, but do not think if my health remains to me I will work always…God—-but my sickness is persistent –it eats away at me always. I am surely doomed. I am as good as dead already…’ Continue reading

Literary Masterpieces

james-joyceLiterary Masterpieces

In the miscellany Medley from October 1936 appears this intriguing pronouncement:

‘ It has been found that literary masterpieces of the first rank have been produced most frequently by authors who were from the ages of 40 to 44 inclusive’

Dr Harvey Lehman

We thought we’d test out the good doctor’s theory using, among other sources, the excellent Annals of Literature (1961), which finishes at 1950.

We started with Charles Dickens (1812 – 70). In this five year period he published three memorable novels: Bleak House, Hard Times, and Little Dorrit. However, most critics regard Great Expectations (1860) as his ‘literary masterpiece. ‘

We then turned to George Eliot (1819 – 80). She was 40 when Adam Bede was published, 41 when The Mill on the Floss appeared, 42 when Silas Marner came out, and 43 when Romola hit the shelves. All wonderful novels, but most critics would class Middlemarch( 1871-72) as her ‘ masterpiece of the first rank’.

Next we looked at James Joyce( 1882 – 1941). Here we hit the mark. His Ulysses, undoubtably a ‘ masterpiece of the first rank ‘, appeared in 1922 ( though it was years in the making ). Joyce was 40 at the time. Continue reading

Private Life of Henry Maitland – author’s copy

IMG_1579Found – the dedication copy of Morley Roberts  ‘roman a clef’  The Private Life of Henry Maitland– a fictionalised biography of George Gissing (Maitland.)  H.G.Wells, Clement Shorter, Edward Clodd and many others also turn up under disguised names. Although the book is fictional it gives a very good and authentic account of Gissing and his literary life and his circle. Loosely inserted is a note in MR’s hand giving the real names of many characters etc., The novel New Grub Street is here Paternoster Row. The book has a dedication in MR’s hand to the printed dedicatee – his late wife Alice daughter of the playwright Angiolo Robson Slous – ‘To my dear wife (14.9.11).’ She had died the year before the book’s publication.  A long signed note on the title page explains:

This book was actually dictated during a period of great tribulation and I found myself utterly unable to correct the proofs with any care. It is therefore full of faults most of which I hope where removed in the revised edition of 1923. Much of the value of this book, if it has any, is due to the fact of it’s downright truth and directness as it was done at a time when I was incapable of understanding that any could be disturbed by anything but some great disaster. Morley Roberts

The note in MR’s hand gives a comprehensive list of the disguised names. A handful  were already  known  and a few characters (e.g. George Meredith) are in the book under their real names. It would be impossible to imagine a better copy of the book, the only think lacking is the 104 year old dust- jacket. Continue reading

I once met A.E. Coppard

icoppar001p1Found – a  handwritten  letter signed by E.V. Knox (‘Evoe’) to someone called Magniont asking for recollections of A.E. Coppard. This was almost certainly Dr Jean-Louis Magniont who translated Coppard into French. The letter is undated but mention of a recent BBC adaptation of Coppard’s stories dates it as 1969. ‘Evoe’ writes:

I will tell you all I can recollect about A.E. Coppard. But I fear that it is very little and perhaps not very helpful to you.

As you mentioned, I wrote a small episode, and he considerably longer one, for the Kidlington Pageant of 1931. Those were the days when pageants kept popping up everywhere. This one was arranged by Frank Evay, who lived at Shepton Manor where the pageant was held. He was a friend of mine and an eccentric. For instance, he collected tramps, gave them a meal and a the nights lodging in a barn and sent them on their way. He introduced me to A.E. Coppard whom he had first met, as he told me, when Coppard was collecting tickets at Oxford railway station.

I remember him as small, prosaic, and self-contained and perhaps determined not to be eccentric. Possibly that is an illusion of my own. I became at once a “fan.” Coppard, I think, was very little known at that time, for at a dinner of a literary club I told Desmond McCarthy, then perhaps our leading critic, that I thought that Coppard was our best English short story writer, and Desmond had not heard of him. He said however- ”Well we must try to read this Coppard of yours.”  Clearly he did. Continue reading