Sir Max’s Birthday Party

maximilian birthday prgramme 001Found—a programme for the seventieth birthday party of Sir Max Beerbohm (1872 – 1956), the well known caricaturist, parodist and all-round wit.

It was held on August 24th 1942 and organised by the Players Theatre, which during the war had moved to a ‘basement ‘ in Albemarle Street. The seventy-strong Maximilian Society, had been created especially for the event, and it was decided that a new member would be added each subsequent year that ‘ the incomparable Max ‘celebrated his birthday. The chairman was ‘Sir’ Desmond MacCarthy, the Bloomsburyite literary critic.

All we can gather from the programme is that much of the entertainment comprised seven Music Hall singing acts who trilled such raffish ditties as‘ Milly’s Cigar Divan ‘, ‘ Sweethearts and Wives’, and ‘ Driving in the Park’ . Beerbohm, who began his career in the 1890’s at the height of the Music Hall era, would have known these songs, and might even have chosen them.

Some of the performers were big names themselves. The actor Frith Banbury ( 1912 – 2008) would star in the classic film ‘The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp’ the following year. Hedli Anderson (1907 – 90), the singer and actress, was associated with the Group Theatre and had previously starred in plays by Auden, Isherwood and MacNeice, whom she married that same year. In fact, ‘Funeral Blues ‘was specially written for her by Auden and put to music by Britten for the Group Theatre’s production of ‘The Ascent of F6’. As we all know, the poem later became the star turn in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. Continue reading

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 They are unpublished but were used by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy in his 1992 biography The Interior Castle: a Life of Gerald Brenan.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

Ian Fletcher

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Found in the Peter Haining archive, an Independent obituary by Peter Mendez of the fin de siecle scholar Ian Fletcher (1920 – 88). As the obituarist remarks, Fletcher’s vertiginous rise in 1955 from humble book-stamper in Catford Public Library to University teacher was extraordinary and may be unique in the history of modern British academic life. Today, when the possession of a Ph D is obligatory for entry into academia, and when many with this qualification are either unemployed or in low-grade jobs, the idea that someone with no degree at all could be elevated to a lectureship in English Literature would be laughed out of court.

But this was Fletcher’s position in 1955. Not only did he lack a higher degree, but he had never attended a University. However, in compensation he became a prolific contributor to such neo-Romantic post-war magazines as Tambimuttu’s Poetry London, Peter Russell’s Nine and Wrey Gardiner’s Poetry Quarterly. In 1948 Tambimuttu published a volume of his poems entitled, Orisons. He also brought out an edition of Lionel Johnson’s Collected Poems in 1953. Fletcher’s passion for the aesthetic movement and the literature of the eighteen nineties had begun early. His book-hunting excursions in that golden age of the forties and early fifties, when rare titles could be had for under ten shillings, led him to assemble a large collection which became a valuable resource. At the same time his growing reputation as a poet and scholar attracted the attention of Professor D. J. Gordon of Reading University, who saw that the young librarian might be a valuable addition to his staff. And it soon became apparent that Gordon’s trust in him was well placed.

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Harold Nicholson and Desmond McCarthy—the terrible twosome

Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough, but the only photos I’ve seen that feature Harold and Desmond have also included other Bloomsberries, notably Vita Sackville West. I’m not a fan of Bloomsbury and could only bear to watch ten minutes of one episode of the current TV drama, Living in Squares, but I don’t think either man was part of the Virginia 'n Duncan inner circle, as it were, and I don’t think the two were great friends. But there must be some reason why they were snapped together. Perhaps it was another bookfest organised by the Times or Sunday Times, as was the case with the Read and Spender press photo. This one, from the Graphic Photo Union,  bears identifications in pencil on the reverse . Desmond died in 1952, aged 75, a year after being knighted for services to the critical essay and the amusing anecdote, so the photo was probably taken around the mid 1930s.

Some of the most entertaining and scathing remarks on MacCarthy and Nicholson can be found in Virginia Woolf’s published Diaries. I have the volume for 1931 – 36. Here, for instance, are her views on Desmond:

Thursday, 3rd September 1931
‘…Oh, I was annoyed at Desmond’s usual sneer at Mrs Dalloway---woolgathering. I was inspired to make up several phrases about Desmond’s own processes, none of which, I suppose, will ever be fired off in print. His worldliness, urbanity, decorum as a writer; his soft supple ways. His audience of teaparty ladies & gentlemen. His timidity. How he wraps everything in flannel…His perpetual condescension.His now permanent stoop in the back. His aloofness---in the bad sense. I mean, he never takes a nettle by the leaves: always wears gloves…’

And Nicholson:

August 12, 1934
‘…Vita thinks Harold is getting soft & domestic, because he talks of grandchildren & wants to have a butler to brush his clothes & a spare room…’

[R.M.]
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The Dutch Sensitivists

An excellent introduction by Edmund Gosse to Louis Couperus's 1891 novel Footsteps of Fate ('Noodlot') translated from the Dutch by Clara Bell. Gosse corresponded with Couperus but he wrote well informed  introductions similar to this to every book in Heinemann's long series of European novels. They show great scholarship and an enthusiasm for the emerging movements in writing in the last decade of the 19th century. While Britain had its aesthetic 1890s movement and the Celtic Twilight and the French their decadent writers the Dutch had the 'Sensitivists'…There are interesting references to the Dutch Browning (the poet Potgieter) also resident in Florence and also to Netscher the Dutch George Moore, a singular honour.

THE DUTCH SENSITIVISTS

In the intellectual history of all countries we find the same phenomenon incessantly recurring. New writers, new artists, new composers arise in revolt against what has delighted their grandfathers and satisfied their fathers. These young men, pressed together at first, by external opposition, into a serried phalanx, gradually win their way, become themselves the delight and then the satisfaction of their contemporaries, and, falling apart as success is secured to them, come to seem lax, effete and obsolete to a new race of youths, who effect a fresh aesthetic revolution. In small communities, these movements are often to be observed more precisely than in larger ones. But they are very tardily perceived by foreigners, the established authorities in art and literature retaining their exclusive place in dictionaries and handbooks long after the claim of their juniors to be observed with attention has been practically conceded at home.

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John Hayward—‘the most malicious man in London’

This photo, which is inscribed on the reverse, 'Rose Macaulay (centre) and John Hayward' was found amongst a large collection of press photographs that included a number of other shots of celebrated British cultural figures from the forties and fifties. Judging from the physical condition of the identified figures, it must date from the mid fifties. Hayward had suffered from muscular dystrophy since his twenties and eventually became wheelchair- bound. I suspect that the other two individuals in the shot were his ‘carers’, although observant Jotwatchers may know better. Even though Hayward was said to be light in weight, I can’t imagine the spindly Rose  having the energy to propel him across the grass. Incidentally, does Rose come into the category of Very Tall British Female Novelists**, along with Virginia Woolf ?

The photo makes Hayward, with his thick lips and mischievous mien, resemble top notch Modernist Wyndham Lewis. Nor were these facial features the only attributes they held in common. Both were disabled, though Lewis only became blind in his late sixties. Both were close to T. S. Eliot, though the much younger Hayward was more of a literary groupie than the intellectual equal of the poet, though his various editions of poetry gave him a certain cachet.  In 1926, while still an undergraduate at Cambridge, he had met Eliot for the first time. They got on well and Hayward developed the friendship with letters and invitations to the lonely Eliot to visit him at his home. In 1946 the two men moved into a flat together, with Hayward as the great man’s companion and amanuensis. For many years his closeness to Eliot, and his extraordinary ability to amuse all who came into contact with him meant he became a popular guest at literary parties, where his waspish tongue (which Lewis also had) was much in demand. One friend called him approvingly ‘the most malicious man in London’.  On Saturdays Eliot could be seen wheeling his friend around London, but the poet‘s late marriage ended the relationship and Hayward was obliged to vacate the flat in 1957. A year later Rose Macaulay died. Eliot died in 1965 and Hayward followed him eight months later. [RMH]

According to CelebRiot she was 5 foot 7 inches but this is a site more about Lady Gaga than V.W. so it may be inaccurate. Tall for a woman but not "Very Tall."
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Hope Mirrlees ‘Paris’ 1919

Hope Mirrlees. Paris. (Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Richmond 1919-1920)

The rediscovery of the Scottish writer Hope Mirrlees (1887 – 1978) may be principally due to the merits of her one masterpiece, the long poem Paris, which the Woolfs published in 1920. Only 175 copies of the 600 line poem were produced, which means that it now belongs with Pound’s early privately printed work as a true rara avis of modernism. In 2011 a dealer had a superb copy for $8,000 which has now sold. Predictably, critics today use the modish term 'psychogeographical' to describe the poem, which is a daring, impressionistic tour in French and English through the French capital and has been described as the 'missing link between French avant-garde poetry and The Waste Land.' The stylistic parallels are obvious, and the influences of Pound and other Imagists, are noticeable too:-

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Djuna Barnes ‘The Ladies Almanack’ (1928)

Found in one of our catalogues from 2002 a very limited and exquisite edition of Djuna Barnes's The Ladies Almanack. It was found by Martin Stone in Paris and was catalogued by him for us. It sold fairly easily to a high end London dealer for £5000.

Djuna Barnes 'The Ladies Almanack' (Privately published, Paris 1928)

Small 4to.  pp 80. Illustrated. Number 4 of  10 copies on Verge de Vidalon with illustrations hand coloured by Djuna Barnes. The  complete first edition  was 1050 copies  In full vellum wraps with highly attractive hand coloured cover. Signed on the limitation page in Djuna Barnes hand as 'A Lady of Fashion' and also on fep presented  to Lady Rothermere signed  'Djuna Barnes, Paris 1928.' Lady Rothermere was married to the press baron Viscount Rothermere (Lord Harmsworth) and was  the patron of various writers most notably T.S. Eliot who was able to give up his bank job due to her financial assistance. 'Ladies Almanack'  was printed by Darantiere in Dijon and has a curious publishing history - it was originally to be published by Edward Titus at the Black Manikin Press in Paris. However when Djuna Barnes found out how much Titus was charging her she decided to publish and distribute the book herself with financial help from Robert McAlmon. The name Edward Titus is blacked out on the title page in all copies. The ordinary edition was $10, the hand coloured one of 40  $25 and the ten hand coloured and signed copies were $50 a sizeable sum in 1928. The work, a celebration of female sexuality and a rebuke to heterosexual patriarchy, portrays in disguised form, many of the cultural and artistic elite of the Parisian avant garde of the time- epecially the Lesbian circle which was gathered around Natalie Clifford Barney - Janet Flanner, Romaine Brooks, Solita Solano, Dolly Wilde ('Doll Furious') Lady Una Troubridge ('Lady Tilly Tweed-in-Blood') and Radclyffe Hall. Janet Flanner called her 'the most important woman writer we had in Paris.' In fine  fresh condition - an exemplary copy of this beautiful expatriate book; in tirage de tete the black orchid of Lesbian literature.

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Visitor’s Book for Calcot Park

In about 2007 we acquired  a collection of books from the estate a kinsman of the Heber-Percy family in a cottage close to the country house of the eccentric musical composer Lord Berners at Faringdon near Oxford. In the collection was this visitor's book (which later sold on the web for a low four figure sum..)

VISITOR'S BOOK FOR CALCOT PARK AND HUNGER HILL (EARL OF ROSSLYN 1914-1935). Oblong 4to (13" x 10"). Handsome red grained full leather binding with coat of arms in gilt on cover, slightly rubbed and slightly stained but sound VG. About 60 leaves. The visitor's book from 2 country houses owned by the Earl of Rosslyn (1869-1939)- Calcot Park and Hunger Hill. 3 photographs of these imposing houses pasted to first page. The first part, at Calcot, runs from 1914-1918. The second, larger part at Hunger Hill from 1925-1935. Signatures from Calcot include Diana Wyndham, Lord Wemyss, Countess Sutherland, Blanche Somerset, Arthur Balfour, Joseph Joffre, Admiral Jelicoe, Dame Nellie Melba, George Robey, Horation Bottomley, J. M. Barrie, Raymond Poincare, Douglas Haig, Herbert Asquith, Eleanor Glyn, George Vth and Queen Mary (the last 13 all appear to have stayed over one weekend in the summer of 1916). The visitors to Hunger Hall combine the old grand Rosslyn friends and the Bright Young Things crowd of their son Hamish St. Clair Erskine (Erskine had been at Eton with Robert Byron and James Lees-Milne and was leader of a "thoroughly irresponsible set." His name cropped up in a Home Office report on the greatest Eton scandal of the day when the actress Tallulah Bankhead was rumoured to have held an orgy with Hamish and his friends in a hotel at Bray.) Erskine, a "reckless charmer", was engaged to Nancy Mitford- this came to nothing; he was the first of a series of unavailable men that she fell in love with. Visitors during this time included Lady Rosslyn's great friend and mentor R. H Bruce Lockhart almost every weekend, Tom Mitford, John Betjeman (seven times, sometimes with Penelope Chetwode), Alan Pryce Jones (4), Peter Watson (3), Robert Byron, Nancy Mitford (3), Nancy Beaton (5), James Lees-Milne and Alvilde Bridges (5), Randolph Churchill, Peggy Evans (4), David Tennant, Victor Rothschild (3), Honor Guinness, Anthony Blunt, Henry Yorke (ie Henry Green). Calcot Park is now a Golf club.

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Innkeeper John Fothergill lampooned

Found - in A Bunch of Blue Ribbons.A Volume of Cambridge Essays [Collected by I. Rose. London: Chapman & Hall, 1933] a satirical poem lampooning the celebrated innkeeper John Fothergill. Fothergill wrote a best-seller Diary of an Innkeeper and was known to Oxford students for his inn at Thame, frequented by, among others, most of the prominent members of  the Brideshead set. Oddly, he is unknown to Wikipedia but has a good entry in the DNB. His Diary was republished fairly recently by the Folio Society. A Bunch of Blue Ribbons was a sort of counter blast to a recent work Red Rags -a record of pet hatreds and aversions by bright young students at Oxford and Cambridge. This poem is in a chapter called A Sob Sister defends Oxford by Christopher Saltmarshe (a Cambridge poet also unknown to the all-knowing Wikipedia):

I am giving below a disgraceful and insulting lampoon which fell into my hands. The subject is an inn-keeper, whose name is dear to the immediate generation of Oxonians, which learnt to appreciate him as a host, an epicure and a gentleman. As an example of the depths of scurrility to which the enemies of Oxford can stoop I, as an old Cantab., believe these verses to be unparalleled.

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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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The Air of Bloomsbury 2

The second part of an illuminating 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 the religious philosophy of the group and what gave them such strength and separateness. As the author says they enjoyed "..supreme self-confidence, superiority and contempt towards all the rest of the unconverted world." The Maharishi to the set was G.E. Moore and his Principia Ethica is still much in demand.

THE AIR OF BLOOMSBURY

…still they were hardly a group, Mr. Bell maintains. Yes, they met often and were intimate friends. Yes, they did like each other; also they shared a taste for discussion in pursuit of truth and a contempt for conventional ways of thinking and feeling. But, he asks, is there anything specific in this? Could not as much be said of many collections of young people in many ages? Here Virginia Woolf seems to chime in with him. ln Jacob's Room there is a tenderly mocking glimpse of her hero as he sits reading in the British Museum. And Jacob surely suggests an early Bloomsbury figure ? Indeed, from the fleeting touches which convey so well the effect of his presence, those who can remember her brother Thoby,and a certain hewn grandeur in his appearance, are tempted to read him back into Jacob, thus giving Jacob an independent existence, which her characters rarely possess in their own right. "Life on the page," says Mr. Forster, she could always give her characters, "but rarely life eternal..She could seldom so portray a character that it was remembered afterwards on its own account as Emma is remembered for instance ... "

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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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