Gerald Brenan – Diaries and Journals 1925-1932

gerald-brenanFound amongst the papers of the late distinguished bookseller and publisher Joan Stevens this cutting from a catalogue. It appears to be dated in 1976, bookseller not named but it does not sound like Joan. Gerald Brenan was still alive and his reputation well established, but it has subsequently grown, especially through his strong Spanish connections and the price looks very reasonable indeed. It was probably bought by, or sold on to, the University of Texas who seem to have most of his papers. They are unpublished but were used by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy in his 1992 biography The Interior Castle: a Life of Gerald Brenan. As a dedicated Powysite Joan Stevens would have been interested in Brenan’s connection to Gamel Woolsey who had a passionate and painful affair with Llewellyn Powys. Gathorne-Hardy notes that, with typical Bloomsbury disdain, both Carrington and Lytton Strachey regarded her as a ‘bore.’ The part of Brenan was played by Samuel West in the 1995 movie Carrington.

307. Gerald Brenan’s Diaries and Journals, 1925-1932

Typescript, with manuscript corrections and additions. Two volumes, 239pp, 4to.

A document of both literary merit and literary significance. The majority of Brenan’s diary is devoted to the record of his long affair with the painter Dora Carrington. Although chronicled elsewhere (David Garnett’s “Carrington, Letters and Extracts from her Diary” 1970), Brenan’s own version of the frustration and anguish culminating in the inevitable ending of their relationship makes a fascinating counterpoint to the version found in Carrington’s letters to him, as edited by their mutual friend Garnett. Continue reading

Literature – The Rivals

Found among some papers of the late John Symonds  (1914-2006) novelist, biographer (Aleister Crowley), playwright and writer of grendel001children’s books – this letter. The sender’s name has been clipped off but he or she was obviously something of a power in the literary world. It displays two opposing views of the writer John Gardner. The second letter was written to propose Symonds for a literary position and talks of Gardner in glowing terms, the first letter (to Symonds) declares that he is ‘…one of the worst novelists in the world.’ This is the world of Martin Amis’s The Information, his great novel of literary rivalry.

Dear John, … You must excuse me for coupling your name with John Gardner’s in the way I do: it was but for policy and diplomacy. In my opinion John Gardner was one of the worst novelists in the world. But he was also just about the most famous American novelist of the past 20 years, in terms of the publicity he got and the huge sums of money he made and the general ballyhoo that went with his name. And the fact that I knew him gives a certain credence to my suggestion that you are another of the same. You and I needn’t tell them that we know you aren’t, praise be! I also enclose a little essay which might interest you, which isn’t to say you have to model yourself on me. But if you get the job let me know and I will give you a few hints which you can regard or disregard as you think fit. Tra la! Dear Sir, .I understand that my friend John Symonds is making an application to succeed John Gardner as resident novelist …May I say a few words in support of his application? As novelists, Gardner and Symonds had something in common: both brought a new perception to the writing of novels; they were (and Symonds still is) in the old sense, Makers. No American novelist has written novels quite in the way John Gardner did; no English novelist, in the way Symonds does. I am sure you will find this to be so when you look at his work when considering his application. Such novels as ‘Prophecy and the Parasites’, ‘The Shaven Head’, and ‘The Guardian of the Threshold’ are unique in English – and each is equally distinct when contrasted with the others. By a coincidence, I knew John Gardner well …I watched his early success as a novelist with the pleasure of a friend. And I can tell you that John Symonds is man (in his own, different way) of the same stamp. He would bring to the task of teaching the novel the same qualities as John Gardner had – a fresh viewpoint, having no truck with mere convention for its own sake, a lifetime of experience in many kinds of literary activities, wide practical experience in journalism and publishing, enthusiasm, insight, and a deep dedication to the art of writing. Indeed, I can think of no more fitting successor to John Gardner…You may already know some of John Symonds’s work – his important study of the Shakers, ‘Thomas Brown and The Angels’, for example, and his life of Madame Blavatsky. There is also his definitive biography of Aleister Crowley. Symonds began to publish novels in 1946, and has now published fourteen. You may also have seen the first two volumes of this ‘Collected Plays’, a publication still in progress. I hope these remarks may be helpful, and please call upon me if I can assist you further.  

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The Literary Cranks of London – The Vagabond Club

The second of a series on 'The Literary Cranks of London' this published in  The Sketch on Aug. 29th, 1894. Written by a member George Brown Burgin (1856-1944), novelist, critic and journalist. There are various photos of him in the National Portrait Gallery collection. He was sub-editor of the humorous journal The Idler from 1895 to 1899. He wrote over 90 novels but there is no Wikipedia page for him. However there is quite a bit online on him including various quotations such as his claim that: 'It is much more comfortable to be mad and know it than be sane and have one's doubts.' The Vagabond Club was founded around the blind poète maudit Philip Bourke Marston and boasted such distinguished members as Jerome K. Jerome, Robert Barr, Conan Doyle, Barry Pain,  and Israel Zangwill. No women. It is interesting that Burgin mentions, without opprobrium, that  it contained 'misogynists'...

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The Literary Cranks of London – The Cemented Bricks

I came across this oddly named literary coterie quite recently in a catalogue by the august bookseller and writer John Saumarez Smith in a scholarly note about one of its members - the writer (anthologist) Robert Maynard Leonard (1869 - 1941) who among other things was secretary to the Anti-Bribery League, which sounds like something from a G K Chesterton short story. Members of the 'Cemented Bricks' included Richard le Gallienne, Walter Jerrold, Sir John Parsons, Lord Amulree and Joseph Knight. The web yields very little about them except this page from The Sketch of 13/2/1895 bought for the price of a mocha latte on eBay. It remains unknown to Google books and even Brewster Kahle (praise his name) has not archived it... At the same time we bought another in the series of 'Literary Cranks of London' on 'The Vagabond Club' which will follow later.

The Literary Cranks of London.

The Cemented Bricks.

The Cemented Bricks.! Who or what are they? Is it a new order of Hod-fellows, or is it a building society?

That question, or series of questions, was put to me by a lady three years ago. This article will supply the answer.

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The Air of Bloomsbury

Virginia Woolf &
Clive Bell 1909

Found in a Times Literary Supplement from 1954 this anonymous review of J.K. Johnstone's The Bloomsbury Group. Clive Bell did not agree with much of the information or opinions in this article and wrote a letter to the editor in response, which appeared a week later. Oddly he wrote later that the review "is by far the most intelligent and penetrating piece that has been written on the subject." It is obviously by someone very familiar with the group. The Bloomsbury industry did not start in earnest until 1967, the year of love, with Michael Holroyd's monumental biography of Lytton Strachey. Interesting to note that Maynard Keynes was very slightly looked down on by the set - possibly this is something Bell addresses in his letter.

THE AIR OF BLOOMSBURY

Mr. Johstone's The Bloomsbury Group is a respect-worthy book. lt often shows imaginative insight, and always long and sincere thought. Sometimes we detect a faint aroma of what Mr. Forster calls pseudo-scholarship, but this might well have been far stronger and more frequent, considering that his study of the Bloomsbury Group, as he calls it, was first conceived as a Ph.D. thesis. A pseudo-scholar, Mr. Forster explain (adding endearingly that this is what most of us are) is one who moves around books and not through them. “Books have to be read," he adds, characteristically,"worse luck for it takes a long time; a few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed lo the west. The reader must sit down alone and  struggle with the writer. . . ." And this Mr. John- stone has done faithfully and well, almost throughout. His book is mainly a study of the three Bloomsbury writers, Lytton Strachey, the biographer, and the two novelists, Virginia Woolf and Mr. E. M. Forster... [the reader]will surely find that Mr.J increases his insight  into their art, and their unobtrusive mastery of pattern and design. Indeed Virginia Woolf, he shows, invented almost a new novel form to express her "experience of  living,"...

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