Wilhelmina Stitch

WilhelminaFound a fine copy of Beacons in the Night (Methuen, 1934) by Wilhelmina Stitch. A small book of simple, unsophisticated poetry.   Wilhelmina Stitch achieved some popularity and sales in the first half of the 20th century. As a sentimental poet she was very much the Donovan to Patience Strong’s Dylan. She has no Wikipedia page unlike Ms Strong who has a lengthy and well tended entry. Some facts of her life are known and she turns up on a site Memorable Manitobans who have this to say:

Born at Cambridgeshire, England in 1888, daughter of I. W. Jacobs, she married E. Arakie Cohen while he was visiting England and returned with him to Winnipeg. They had one son, Ralph. After her husband’s death in 1919, she was forced to seek employment to support herself and her son. Her friends encouraged her to submit her writing for publication, which led to a successful career as a writer which continued to the time of her death. Writing under the pen names “Sheila Rand” or “Wilhelmina Stitch”, she had poetry and stories published in the Winnipeg Tribune and the Winnipeg Telegram. In time, she became, in the words an obituary, “one of the best-known women writers in the British Empire”.

While living in Winnipeg, she worked for, and became close friends with, university professor Reginald Buller. He believed that she had telepathic powers and carried out experiments, largely without success, to test them.

She later remarried to Scottish physician Frank K. Collie and moved with him to London, England where she died on 6 March 1936.

Much of her poetry has religious themes and much of it is in prose that rhymes, an odd slightly  kitsch style, like a precursor of rap:


BE OF GOOD CHEER

In the dumps, don’t know why. Cannot smile, want to cry. Mind distressed, awful blue. Felt like this, haven’t you? Not a single soul to care, life is more than I can bear, troubles seem to pick me out, faith’s misplaced by sullen doubt, hope is vanquished by a fear, can’t find comfort, can’t find cheer, heart is sore, awful blue -felt like this, haven’t you?… Lift that scowl, smile instead. Look! The sun is overhead. Didn’t notice it before. Not so blue, Not so sore… Life is sweet, found this true. Felt like this, haven’t you? Continue reading

The Writers’ and Artists’ Year-book 1923

 

Artists and writers yearbook 1923 001In the year in which the UK edition of The Waste Land was published, as well as novels by Lawrence, Wells and Huxley, comes this copy of The Writers and Artists Year-book. Evidently owned by a lady who wished to make money from her writing, the blank pages at the back of this book devoted to a record of contributions includes mostly household and beauty tips, such as ‘ Dangers in the Kitchen ‘ ,‘To Clean Hats ‘, ‘ My Great Grandmother’s Beauty Tips’, and ‘Adulterated or Not ‘, all of which were accepted. However, it seems as if this writer was also concerned with the role of women in society; she sent an article entitled ‘Women as Prison Wardresses’ to the Yorkshire Post, which though it was not published there, was re-sent to the Yorkshire Evening Post, where it appeared in May 1923 in the ‘Work for Woman’ series as ‘The Prison Wardress’. Other magazines to which she sent feature articles include Farm, Field and Fireside, Pearson’s and the Westminster Gazette.

Our freelance journalist also appears to have been interested in contributing verse. In the section covering ‘ Magazines and Journals’ she has underlined in pencil references to ‘ verse ‘ , ‘ humorous verse’ or ‘ poems’ in the Times (really?), the Prize, Lady’s World, Ideas, Humourist, Home Notes, Graphic, Colour, Chummy Book Annual, Children’s Companion, Boys’ Own Paper, among other periodicals. There are pencil marks next to the names of various American periodicals, too. Continue reading

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

500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions

img_2706Found – a 1982 book collector’s catalogue from George S Macmanus of Philadelphia 500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions. Mostly modern American and British literature, it has many direct signed presentation from the authors and  many association copies. There are the usual authors who are known to have signed a lot – Galsworthy, Masefield, John Drinkwater, Witter Bynner etc., but also uncommon signers like the great WW1 poet Isaac Rosenberg-  a copy of his play Moses signed shortly before his death, a modest condition copy at $2500. There are some inscriptions whose significance is hard to fathom- Norman Douglas’s In the Beginning inscribed by him to the effete (and highly collectable)  novelist Reginald Turner “To Reggie hoping he won’t follow Symira’s example in ‘every’ respect, from Norman Douglas.” Great condition $375. There are several Aldous Huxley 1920s novels inscribed to Anita Loos with minor condition problems in the $300 range and several Swinburne presentations at $1000 inscribed to the artist Burne-Jones. A decent buy at $1750  is George Orwells Eton leaving present. We have had dozens of these through over the years. Each boy was given a current smart cream-coloured edition of Poems by Thomas Gray. The presentation leaf reads: ‘Hunc Librum Erico A Blair’ and it is signed by the master ‘Cyrillus’ Alington. Potentially these ‘leaving present’ books exist for Cyril Connolly, Brian Howard, Aldous Huxley, Harold Acton, Henry Green and, possibly more valuable than even Orwell, Ian Fleming. Continue reading

The Old Codgers

s-l400Found – a cheap paperback called The Daily Mirror Old Codgers Little Black Book (Wolfe, London 1975.)  The book is billed as ‘100s of funny, curious and strange facts from the world famous Live Letters column…’ The Old Codgers  column, where readers wrote in to get answers on all manner of things, had begun in 1936, apparently the idea of the newspaper’s  proprietor Hugh (later Lord) Cudlipp. It finished in 1990 by which time The Mirror’s thrusting new editor Roy Greenslade considered its old fashioned and said it was “putting off the younger readers we are trying to attract.”

An article at the time in one of the broadsheets said that while the world went through ‘convulsive’ changes the Codgers remained in ‘a pre-war era redolent of flat caps, allotments,racing pigeons and Woodbine cigarettes…’ There was a bit of protest when it was axed but considering that the Codgers were receiving a 100 letters a day it was fairly muted. They often referred to their legendary Little Black Book that  claimed to contain ‘all information known to man.’ In the days of the web most of the questions that readers sent it could now be very quickly answered. Google is now ‘the little black book.’  The questions were often sent it to settle arguments ‘down the pub’. The most common question in the latter period of the Codgers was whether Stan Laurel was Clint Eastwood’s father. The Codgers research showed he was not. Below are two fairly typical Codgers answers to questions on  ‘Slippery Wednesday’ and the origin of the phrase ‘Mad as a hatter.’

‘Slippery Wednesday’ is another day that has stuck in older memories because of its dire conditions. A former horse carman recalled how he had to put sacks on his horses hooves and his own feet to get about, and that pedestrians were ‘going down like ninepins’, because of the ice. But he couldn’t remember the exact date, only that it was a Wednesday in the 1920s. We were able to tell him that it was December 21, 1927 when severe frost on overnight rain caused chaos in London and other parts of the country, resulting in thousands of street accidents.

‘Mad as a hatter’ dates from the days when hats were made of felt which was processed by having mercury rubbed over it. The unfortunate men who did the job got mercury poisoning which caused their limbs to shake and contorted their features so that they looked crazy.

Poets as plagiarists

 

clouston-pic-001The plagiarist today runs the risk of being sued by an artist, whether novelist, poet, composer or dramatist –or by the artist’s estate. However, in the case of poetry, it has always struck me how easy it must be for anyone entering a poetry competition to filch some particularly impressive lines from a forgotten slim volume or a short-lived little magazine. If the victim of the theft is dead there is only the slimmest possibility that the estate would discover it .

But when the theft is made from a comparatively obscure literary work many hundreds of years old and in another language the chances of the thief being detected in his or her lifetime are very thin indeed. Most literary thieves of this type are exposed many years after their own deaths. The whole issue is discussed in Literary Coincidences ( 1901) by W. A. Clouston, a folklorist and expert on oriental literature well qualified to address this matter.

One of the worst offenders seems to have been Lord Byron. In his Hebrew Melodies we find this first verse of ‘To a Lady Weeping ‘

‘I saw thee weep—the big bright tear

Came over that eye of blue;

And then methought it did appear

A violet dropping dew;’ Continue reading

Edward Thomas on Nietzsche

 

600px-edward_thomas_memorial_stone

Edward Thomas Memorial Stone near Steep

Found in the June 1909 issue of Bookman is a generally favourable review of M.A.Mugge’s Nietzsche: his life and work together with translations of the philologer-turned- philosopher’s various works.

Rather surprisingly, perhaps, the reviewer is the poet and miscellaneous writer, Edward Thomas, not known ( at least in his own writing ) as an admirer of the anti-Christian proponent of the ubermensch philosophy, though he was undoubtably, like Nietzsche, an anti-Nihilist.

Nietzsche’s distrust of historicism, and delight in the ‘ moment’ is echoed by Thomas, who sees the philosopher more as an ‘exquisitely sensitive  poet and man of culture ‘ than as a rationalist. When Nietzsche declares that “ one who cannot leave himself behind on the threshold of the moment and forget the past, who cannot stand on a single point, like a goddess of victory, without fear or giddiness, will never know what happiness is ‘, Thomas adds ‘ nor wisdom, nor beauty’.

Thomas goes on to say that when Nietzsche set up the Greeks as a model, he was choosing ‘ an utterly unhistoric people, knowing no tongue but their own ; and not only the Greek, but every man who achieves a great thought or act, he calls ‘unhistorical’, because in the power and the glory of the creative moment he forgets all that he knows, just as a beautiful living thing forgets all that makes it so in a beautiful attitude or gesture ‘. [RR]

From the classified ads in T.P.’s Weekly, July 11th 1914

t-s-eliotBachelor, in digs.,wishers to meet gentlemanly fellow of refined tastes, bank clerk for instance, who wants chum. Walks, cycle rides, physical exercises, theatres etc. Friendship desired. Confidences exchanged. (X2, 372)

Although T.S. Eliot was studying philosophy at Oxford in July 1914, he was probably lonely in his ‘digs ‘ and may have met a bank clerk who persuaded him that such fellows were sensitive and highly cultured. This could explain why, in 1917, he himself decided to join Lloyds Bank in London. However, it’s hard to visualize Prufrock taking up cycling and other physical exercise.

The Summer School of Patriotism—–An endeavour to organise the forces working for the renascence of patriotism in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, to be held at Bexhill-on-Sea, August 1st to September 12th. Stamp for full particulars, Organising Secretary, 6, Melbourne Road, Merton Park, London, S.W. (X2, 315).

A bit worrying, this. A call for patriotism in mid July 1914! Two weeks later Britain was at war with Germany. What were these armchair warriors planning to do in sunny Bexhill for six weeks? And why did the Secretary not volunteer his or her name? Still, never mind, the event was probably cancelled due to you know what. Continue reading

The neglect of prose

Found, in the issue of Today for March 1919, is this well argued plea by the acclaimed journalist Bernard Lintot for a greater appreciation of prose:

today-title-page-1919-001‘One of the most persistent of literary illusions is that the writing of prose is easier than the writing of verse. The contrary is the truth in both instances. Most of those who try can write passably good verse, and most of those who try fail to write passably good prose. Further there are far more triers at verse than at prose. Why? In the first place those who think they can write prose rarely pause to consider whether they are writing prose, because prose is popularly assumed to be all that writing which is not verse. In the second place verse writing is the more primitive, and therefore the most instinctive, and therefore, again, the easier form of literary expression. This, you may say, is mere theory. So it is. But, as theories go, it is none the worse for that, and as for facts, it is only necessary to point to the epidemic of verse-writing in full flux at this very moment. Never were there so many volumes of verse; never so many verse-writers, and those who succeed in bringing their composition to printing-point are in the minority of those who use or abuse metre and rhyme for the purpose of expression or amusement or vanity. The remarkable output of verse and poetry at the present moment is perhaps a little abnormal, but it certainly indicates a hitherto unsatisfied taste for this form of literary composition.

                                                         *     *     * 

The volumes are read, it is true, very largely by those who have written, are writing, or would like to write, verse, and the fact that many more of them (volumes, not readers ) are issued than volumes of prose, say genuine prose essays, novels or plays, proves that verse is more popular than prose. But, you object—and there is as much meaning in your ‘but’ as there was virtue in Touchstone’s ‘if’—what about the newspapers: are not they very prose of very prose, and popular? What, again about Sir Hall Caine and Mr Charles Garvice and Miss Ethel Dell and other novelists with high velocity circulations; do not these walk in the garden of prose? They do not, nor are newspapers found there. Those about to become popular abstain from prose as they would the plague. They angle with clichés and dazzle with jargon. They grow rich and famous, but they do not write prose, because, desiring success, and being good business folk, they know that the lovers of prose are so few as to be beneath commercial notice. Some of them couldn’t write prose if they tried, others resist a temptation that does not pay. Continue reading

In Honour of Mr. John Betjeman – Patrick Leigh Fermor

john-betjeman-statueFound- in a copy of Nip in the Air (John Murray 1974)  a book of poems by John Betjeman this affectionate parody by the esteemed travel writer Patrick (‘Paddy’) Leigh Fermor. It is probably from a magazine (pp 379-380), possibly The London Magazine but is not archived anywhere online. It is probably from the 1970s. It deserves a place in a completist Betjeman collection and in any future collection of Fermor’s complete oeuvre.

In Honour of Mr. John Betjeman – Patrick Leigh Fermor

Eagle-borne spread of the Authorised Version,

Beadles and bell ropes, pulpits and pews,

Sandwiches spread for a new excursion

And patum peperium under the yews!

 

Erastian peal of Established Church-bells!

(Cuckoo-chimes in Cistercian towers)

Bugloss and briny border our search. Bells

Toll the quarters and toll the hours.

 

Unscrew the thermos. Some village Hampden

Swells the sward. Fill the plastic cup

For toast to Brandon, to Scott and to Camden,

To dripstone and dogtooth, with bottoms up! Continue reading

Oscar Wilde—a case of ‘human wreckage’

oscar_wilde_portraitFound in the issue of T.P.’s Weekly for July 11th 1914 is this distressing description of Oscar Wilde a year and a few months before his death. It was sent in by an American reader who noticed it in an article by the war correspondent George W Smalley (1833 – 1916) for The New York Tribune:

‘Oscar Wilde died in 1900, a bankrupt in respect of property and reputation alike. With regard to our personal relations I will quote Wilde’s own testimony:

     “ I dislike all journalists, and Smalley most of all “

I was staying with Sir Sydney and Lady Waterlow at their villa in Cannes during the winter of 1898 –’99. Every Sunday morning I used to drive with Sir Sydney to the further end of the Esterel promontory, the most picturesque portion of that picturesque Mediterranean shore, to the east and south-east of the town. As the horses walked up the long hill, I saw at some distance a figure of a man coming slowly down. He was tall, heavily built, ill-dressed, almost ragged. You could hardly say he walked. He shambled and slouched and stumbled along. As he came near, his face was bloated, the flesh hung below the jaw in dewlaps, the eyes were bleared; there was hardly a look of conscious humanity left in them; his whole attitude was one of illness and extreme misery and despair. ( It was Oscar Wilde.)

     He passed rather close to the victoria, and the spectacle of so much human wreckage was appalling’. [RR]

 

The Motor Car ( J.H.Goring)

motor-car-1910I see him at night with his head low down

And his terrible eyes ablaze,

He takes at astride the long street of the town,

Like a dragon of older days

 

The throb, throb, throb of his heart I hear,

And the throb of my own replies

As he booms and bounds from the darkness near,

And into the darkness flies.

 

And I long to leap out on his back and away,

Away, in the night, alone,

Any where out of myself and to-day,

To drown in the deep Unknown.

This little poem by J.H.Goring—a minor versifier of the early twentieth century—was discovered in The Odd Volume (1910). It is not the best or earliest car poem,but it is powerful enough and perhaps deserves a place in an anthology of motoring literature for its evocation of the romantic allure of early motor vehicles.

The opening stanza also recalls that famous engraving of 1845 by George Cruikshank entitled ‘The Railway Dragon’ which shows a locomotive as a fire breathing dragon consuming everything in its path. The difference, of course, is that in 1845 passenger locomotives had only been around for about 15 years and were genuinely feared by many of the older generation, especially farmers, who were terrified that their crops would be destroyed by sparks from a locomotive’s chimney. However, in 1910 motor vehicles were more commonplace. In fact, the first had taken to the road around 1885, and by 1910 around 100,000 were in existence in the UK. That is not to say that in south Essex, where Goring lived, the sight of a motor car did not have to power to thrill and excite the imagination. [R.M.Healey]

An early poem on the thrill of flying

airplane-wright-brothersRescued from a copy of The Odd Volume, a one-off literary miscellany published in 1910 to raise money for the National Book Trade Provident Society, is the following poem by Norman Davey entitled “Aerial Survey (no 3498 K).”

Back from Sahara’s sun-scorched sand,

With its dome of shimmering blue:

Back from beyond Van Dieman’s Land

Where the pack-ice breaks the view :

Back from the glow of the sun-kissed snow

On Fuji Yama’s crest;

We have fled from the grey of the dawning day

—Fleeter than falcon for its prey—

Home to the winsome West,

       My Boys!

Back to the winsome West! Continue reading

Homo — the periodical (1901)

Homo magazine cover 001Found on the front cover of the Boston- published bibelot The Cornhill Booklet of July 1901 is this advert for ‘HOMO, A Periodical for Men and the Women who look over their shoulders’. The advert tells us that the magazine was issued once a month at one dollar for the twelve numbers of the year and that the address in all cases was HOMO, BEVERLY, NEW JERSEY.

That’s it. The advert tells us nothing about the nature of this new venture—whether it was literary or otherwise—or who the contributors might be. The Net is quiet on the subject too, apart from informing us that the magazine lasted no more than a year, which speaks volumes, one supposes. So here’s a challenge to all in the Jotosphere. Would anyone who has seen a HOMO please report back to JOT 101 HQ with a full description of it?  [The word did not have pejorative overtones at this stage, Partridge in his Dictionary of the Underworld dates its use as ‘homosexual’ from 1937.]  RR

 

Edward Newman, poet of south-east London

Edward Newman picChristopher Adams’s miscellany entitled The Worst English Poets (1958) is a disappointing volume. Though the author may have decided to exclude the universally execrated McGonnigal for reasons of space, there can be no excuse for omitting the work of Amanda McKittrick Ros, arguably the worst poet and the worst novelist in the English language. She was never as prolific a versifier as the Scot.

Still, Adams has managed to include a number of bad poets who were new to me. One ( but by no means the worst ) is Edward Newman, a noted entomologist, whose collection, The Insect Hunters, was undated when a second edition of it appeared around 1855. Here is an extract from the title poem:

Take my hat, my little Laura,

Fix it by the loop elastic;

Let us go to Haddo Villas,

Passing by the church and churchyard,

Now so bright with shortlived flowers,

Apt mementos of the buried;

Passing hand in hand together,

Passing, old and young together,

Gravely walking, gaily tripping,

Continue reading

Advice from an editor

Holbrook_Jackson picFound in a copy of the literary periodical Today for August 1919 is this advice for aspiring authors from its editor, Holbrook Jackson (pictured):

  • Typewrite your copy or handwrite it clearly
  • Write you name and address clearly on the back of last page of typescript or manuscript.
  • Enclose not a loose stamp, but a stamped and addressed envelope
  • Don’t write a letter of explanation to the Editor. But if you do write—
  • Don’t tell him your stuff is good—he won’t take your word
  • Don’t tell him it is bad —bad writing needs no bush
  • Don’t tell him your friends like it—he doesn’t care
  • Don’t say that another editor advised you to send it along—that would make him suspicious
  • Don’t say you want to earn money by writing—he is not out to help you, but to edit his paper and pay those who help him.

Continue reading

Barbara Lea – a forgotten Fenland poet

IMG_1875

Found – a copy of The Urgent Voice: and other poems by Barbara Lea  (Fortune Press, London 1948.) She lead a short but productive life and is unknown to Wikipedia or any online database apart from Peerage.com who have a good factual entry* on her as, unusually for a Fortune Press poet, she was an aristocrat. The foreword is anonymous and it is just possible it is by Reginald Caton, the founder of the press but is more likely to be by a friend or family member. We append a good East Anglian poem by her after the foreword.

Barbara Lea (nee Pell) was born at Wilburton Manor in the Isle of Ely in 1903. She never lost her early passion for the Fenland, nor for the house in which she was born; indeed, she loved houses and places, before people, witness her poems ‘East Anglia Revisited’, ‘In Time of Trouble’, ‘First Visit’.

She married in 1924 and had five children, the last being born in 1934, and in spite of all the ties of home life, she became increasingly interested and active, in politics and the Women’s Institutes.

When the war started in 1939 she was on the Executive Committee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, as well as the Worcestershire Committee, and Chairman of the Woman’s Land Army in Worcestershire; a member of the County War Agriculture Committee, and was occupied by a large number of less onerous activities, such as Justice of the Peace, Guardians’ Committee, Parish Council, Parochial Church Council, District Nursing Association, and others too numerous to mention. In 1943 she was awarded the O.B.E. Continue reading

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

Clifford Bax on Edward Thomas

Edward in 1913 by Clifford BakFound among the papers of Joan Stevens (1933-2015) the feminist bookseller and expert on the Powys Brothers and Edward Thomas this piece, apparently unpublished, by  Clifford Bax on the poet Edward Thomas.

Clifford Bax (1886 –1962) was an English writer, known particularly as a playwright, a journalist, critic and editor, and a poet, lyricist and hymn writer. He also was a translator (for example, of Goldoni). The composer Arnold Bax was his brother, and set some of his words to music. Between 1922 and 1924 with the mystic painter Austin Osman Spare he edited The Golden Hind, an important and collectable periodical. The photo of Edward Thomas was taken by Clifford Bax in 1913 (many thanks to the Edward Thomas Fellowship.) Bax’s piece was probably written in the 1930s when Edward Thomas’s reputation was much less than it is now – the reference to him not having the status of Patmore could not be made now and for the last 60 years… Only 2 typed pages were present but Bax seemed to be near the end at the point it is cut off..

At intervals during the three years that I lived there (Wiltshire), Edward Thomas, breaking the long journeys on foot of which he wrote so well, stayed with me for a month or more. I had become acquainted with him in the previous winter and as I learned to know him better I realised how raw was my literary sense by comparison with his. The swiftest and happiest way of putting a keener edge upon our perceptions is to associate with a friend of maturer taste. Imperceptibly because we do not understand them. In the end we are astonished that we could ever have made such crude mistakes. Continue reading