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Stevens (1933-2015) the feminist bookseller and expert on the Powys Brothers and Edward Thomas this piece, apparently unpublished, by  Clifford Bax on the poet Edward Thomas.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

The Book Bang of 1971

Book Bang 001Rescued from a pile of magazines is this programme of events for The Book Bang, which has been called ‘the first literary festival ‘. I doubt whether it was, but it was certainly a memorable event in 1971, and I seem to recall it being advertised widely in London. Held in, appropriately, the middle of Bedford Square, in the heart of Bloomsbury, between May 28 and June 11, it was organised by the National Book League under the direction of its Chairman, the former bookshop owner Martyn Goff.

The seed for this event had been planted in the mind of Goff in 1965, when he read a letter in an issue of The Bookseller from Desmond Briggs, of the publishers Anthony Blond, hoping that in the future a book fair might become a sort of circus and be held in candy-striped tents. When he was appointed Chairman of the NBL Goff knew that such an idea was feasible and he promptly went about preparing the ground by consulting experts and sponsors.

In his introduction Goff shows prescience in warning about the threat that ‘new media ‘posed to books:

‘Expansion of the number of hours and channels of television broadcasting: the arrival of video cassettes: microfilms and microfiches, to name but some of the competitors, will blot up hours and money that might otherwise have gone to books…’ 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

Iona – a minor poet sings

IMG_1597Found – a copy of Ionica – a book of  verse by Eton master William Johnson Cory  – this edition published anonymously by George Allen in 1891. It has been bound in an expensive full leather binding with gilt decorated inner dentelles. The book was presented by minor poet Arthur C James* to one Iona F Robinson on whom he appears to have been very keen given the title of the book, its sumptuous binding and the poem he has written to her on the front endpaper. Ironically Johnson Cory, a fellow master at Eton, is known for the gay themes in some of his poems.

Jan 16th. To Iona F Robinson

Not from those violet isles of western Greece,

Nor from the statelier cities which of yore

Looked into sunset from the Aegean shore

O’er varied tracts of bay and Chersonese

Home of the muse whose grace shall never cease;

-But from that northern Island which upbore

Columbus’s cross our Britain to explore, 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 E.M. Forster

IMG_1569Found among the papers of the mathematician Norman Routledge (1928-2013) this affectionate memoir of E.M. Forster. Routledge  had known Forster in the 1950s when he was a Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. He went on to become a distinguished  teacher of mathematics and was a close friend of Alan Turing, inheriting some of his books. The second half of his working  life was spent teaching maths at Eton. These notes were probably for a talk he gave to the boys there (mid 1960s) with a sound recording of Forster talking (probably this piece from YouTube) and some reading from his books. The notes are written on the back of the maths  homework of one Hope-Jones minor…

I wish I was going to tell you about a great hero- figure, spouting brilliant and amusing things, and combining an amazing literary  fertility (an earth-shaking novel every year) with great and noble deeds -what should they be? – fighting injustice and involved in passionate love affairs? But he is none of these.

He happens to have lived since the war in the college, Kings, where I was an undergraduate, and so one would occasionally meet him on social occasions. He’s rather non-descript in appearance – has a moustache and rather dowdy clothes and speaks very little but listens a lot. Very gentle eyes. Is greatly loved by all who know him– has indeed the air of always having been loved without having had to strive for it. Can be very amusing if he wishes, but you have to listen carefully– I’ve seen people quite fail to notice that he has been making fun of them. 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

Exactly who wrote ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’?

Baskerville Addington Peace book cover
The title page of the 1902 first edition bears just one name—Arthur Conan Doyle. And if you believe Conan Doyle’s son Adrian and just about every Sherlockian you’ll ever meet, only one man wrote the famous detective story. But in a newspaper cutting from the Daily Express dated March 16 1959 in the Haining Archive, the journalist Peter Evans tells how he met an 88 year old man from Dartmoor who swears that another writer of detective stories, Bertram Fletcher Robinson (1870 – 1907), the author of The Chronicles of Addington Peace (1905) contributed some material to the book. That man was Harry Baskerville and he had worked as the coachman to Fletcher Robinson’s father.

According to most accounts, Fletcher Robinson’s only contribution was to tell his friend Conan Doyle about the West Country legend of a ghostly hound and to borrow the name of the family coachman for Sir Henry Baskerville. Indeed, the octogenarian even showed Evans the inscribed first edition of the book in which Fletcher Robinson acknowledges as much. But Baskerville claimed much more for his employer’s son:

‘Doyle didn’t write the story himself. A lot of the story was written by Fletcher Robinson. But he never got the credit he deserved. They wrote it together at Park Hill, over at Ippleden. I know, because I was there.

According to Baskerville, long before Conan Doyle arrived at Park Hill, Fletcher Robinson had confided:

“Harry, I’m going to write a story about the moor and I would like to use your name”.

Baskerville then continued:

“Shortly after his return from the Boer War, Bertie (Robinson) told me to meet Mr Doyle at the station. He said they were going to work on the story he had told me about. 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

An album of Oscar Wilde letters

oscar_wildeFrom a 1946 catalogue of ‘scarce and interesting original autograph letters manuscripts historical documents’ from London dealer Winifred Myers.  She was a major player in the field of autographs into the 1960s. These were listed at £80. After 70 years it would be a safe bet to say they have gone up by over 2000 times …Fortunately they were bought by a collector who let them be published in Rupert Hart- Davis’s collection of Oscar’s letters that appeared in 1962. Are they still in the ‘choicely bound’ Riviere album?

WILDE (Oscar). 1856-1900. Author. 9 Autograph letters signed, with original envelopes, 38 pp., 4to. and 8vo., and one autograph post card signed O.W. (some letters are signed in full, some “Oscar” and some with initials), Paris, Dieppe, Naples, etc., 1897-99, to his publisher Leonard Smithers, chiefly regarding his “Ballad of Reading Gaol.” A very fine collection of letters of the utmost importance. The first letter written from Berneval only three months after his release from prison, expresses the hope that he will finish the Ballad within a few days, begs Smithers to get an answer from Beardsley about doing the frontispiece; a long letter from Naples deals fully with the title-page and his pseudonym C.3.3.; speaks affectionately of Robt. Ross; were all his friends like Ross he would not be “the pariah dog of the nineteenth century.” Refers to Lord Alfred Douglas who is staying with him, “He has also ruined my life, so I can’t help loving him,” his wife’s letter of reconciliation. “In questions of the emotions and their romantic quality, unpunctuality is fatal.” “I am going to try and find a place near Genoa!… The chastity of Switzerland has got on my nerves,” asking for money, “I have no money at all. I am in a dreadful state… I am nearly in the gutter,” mentioning “The Importance of Being Earnest,” etc. Probably the most important and moving collection of Wilde letters ever offered for sale, mounted with typescripts in an album, choicely bound, green morocco gilt, g.e. lettered in gold on spine, by Riviere.

A train spotter writes…

Sherlock Holmes CushingWe all know about the nerds who post online corrections to errors or omissions in books, films, dramatisations and the like. Well back in 1987 , before the Internet made it all too easy, there were people like R. Lujer, who typed their complaints to—in this case—the publisher of Peter Haining’s The Television Sherlock Holmes. Haining, who was doubtless royally entertained by this particular letter, kept it in his Archive. Here it is in full.


Dear Mr Haining,

I received a copy of your book last Christmas and have thoroughly enjoyed dipping into it before embarking upon a more orthodox read, until I reached page 179 and “The Mystery of Watson’s Dog”. I remember the review by Nancy Banks Smith and thought at the time that she had resurrected a non-event. The real mystery is the TRAIN, not the dog.

Bulldogs experience, as a rule, shortish lives, the result of overweight front ends and convolutory respiratory passages. Trains, or more exactly steam locomotives, generally had working lives of 50 or more years. Even some of the G.W.R. “Bulldog” class of 1901, transformed into “Earls” in the 1930s, were still running in the 1960s. Surely Watson’s dog simply died an early, natural death; and he found it convenient or prudent (or both) not to secure a replacement.But what of the locomotive in “The Copper Beeches”? Continue reading

Virginia Woolf – An Appreciation (1941)

4e2b6da99ff0d5c9f24dfefdfec9abfcFound- a press-cutting from The Observer – April 6th, 1941 a week after the suicide by drowning of Virginia Woolf. This ‘appreciation’ accompanied a memorial poem by Vita Sackville-West. It was by the now slightly forgotten critic Basil de Sélincourt.  Virginia Woolf notes in her diary how she was heartened  when he praised her novel The Waves (1937). It was said to be her favourite review. There is a good photo of Selincourt at the National Portrait Gallery by Lady Ottoline Morrell.

An Appreciation – Basil de Selincourt

The loss of Virginia Woolf is not only a grave blow to English letters, but will also be widely felt by many who had no personal acquaintance with her. It was not for nothing that she collected her brilliant, or radiant, studies in Criticism under the title “The Common Reader”. The originality of her mind and the acuteness and range of her perception never isolated her, never led her to forget that the foundation of the literary art is sympathy, that we write to be understood, to make our vision carry. True, the reading of her novels can be a strenuous exercise, but it is an exercise in intimacy. The greatest of them, “The Waves,” most of us must be content to wonder at; we can hardly hope to comprehend it. But however we may be baffled by work of hers, we have never been offended. Its elusiveness is the elusiveness of nature. Her waters are limpid as the sea’s on a solitary shore; her phrase has the decisiveness, the crisp outline of a shell. Her horizons only are unfathomable. She has preferred to keep here even for herself a quality of mystery, as if the greatest communication a writer has to make were the sense of an incommunicable infinite, of a truth always present wholly, and therefore never seizable in any part.  Continue reading

The creator of Perry Mason with two of his team of secretaries

Erle Stanley Gardner 001When Erle Stanley Gardner( 1889 – 1970), the famous American crime novelist, began contributing stories to pulp magazines in the twenties, he used his own two fingers to type. However, realising that self-imposed targets of 1,200, 000 words a year were unlikely to be achieved in this primitive way, he took on what eventually became a ‘ team ‘ of secretary/typists. In this press photo of 1943 from the El Mundo archive we see two of them, Jean Bethel and Henriette Trilling, on either side of the ( ) year old novelist. The two women seem to be performing different tasks. Bethel is possibly taking notes on plots and characters for the novel that her partner is typing out from Gardner’s dictation, for future novels or for the travel books that the prolific writer also published. Gardner’s secretaries also acted as temporary corpses—assuming positions on the floor for added verisimilitude.

Over the years Gardner must have become very attached to Jean Bethel in particular. In 1968, following the death of his first wife, he took his ‘ faithful secretary’, then aged 66, as his second. At his death in 1970, aged 80, Jean became his literary executor and twenty years later, at 88, she was still administering his estate, which included a huge archive. [R.R.]

The Herlock Sholmes Parodies, 1915 – 1940

Frank_Richards_Smoking

The contribution of W.O.G. Lofts ( 1923 – 1997) to the history of boys’ fiction in the British periodical press is immense. ‘Bill’ Lofts, a mechanical engineer by training, but a fact-collector by inclination (why did he never enter BBC’s Mastermind ?), was also interested in detective stories. Sexton Blake and Sherlock Holmes were two creations on which his skills as an astonishingly assiduous researcher were exercised to great effect. Years spent among the riches of the British Museum Periodical Library at Colindale on projects which probably no-one else had either the energy or commitment to pursue produced what turned out to be invaluable guides to the more obscure purlieus of popular literature. One such study was The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes: a History and Bibliography, a pamphlet co-written in 1976 with the owner of the Dispatch Box Press, Jon Lellenberg, an expert in the history of Sherlock Holmes in parody and pastiche.

According to Lofts and Lellenberg, the story of the Herlock Sholmes parodies was also the story of their creator, Charles Hamilton (above)  the most prolific writer in the English language, who as the mainstay of Amalgamated Press, is estimated to have written around 72 million words in his whole career , the equivalent of a thousand full-length novels. Using the pen name ‘Peter Todd’, which was the name of a pupil at Greyfriars School, which Hamilton had dreamed up for The Magnet, Hamilton made Todd a contributor of Sherlock Holmes parodies to The Greyfriars Herald, the school’s own newspaper, which Amalgamated Press brought out as a separate publication.

Continue reading

In Memoriam Virginia Woolf (1941)

Unknown-1

Found - a press-cutting of an 'In Memoriam' poem written by Vita Sackville-West and published in The Observer on 6 April 1941 a week after her friend (and lover) Virginia Woolf had drowned herself in the River Ouse. It is odd that this version of the poem is not online (except possibly at a cash-for-knowledge site which reprints a version from the Winnipeg Tribune from May 17 1941 which may or may not be the same.) There is some suggestion that the free version available online was found at Sissinghurst in Vita's tower/study. From that version, presumably a later revision of the Observer poem (or just possibly an early draft) I have printed the changed words in square brackets. The word 'smell' in the tower version is surely wrong...'Mrs Brown' must be taken as representing 'unknown people.' The  lines:

How small, how petty seemed the little men

Measured against her scornful quality.

the same in both versions, have been praised as being particularly acute.

IN MEMORIAM VIRGINIA WOOLF

Many words crowd, and all and each unmeaning.

The simplest words in sorrow are the best.

So let us say, she loved the water-meadows,

The Downs; her books; her friends; her memories;

[her friends; her books;her memories]

The room which was her own.

London by twilight; shops and unknown people;

[shops and Mrs Brown] 

Donne's church; the Strand; the buses, and the large

Swell of humanity that passed her by.

[Smell of humanity]

I remember she told me once that she, a child,

Continue reading

Books we must not read. Part Two

Lady-chatterleys-lover-701x1024

Recently, following the lead of an article by William Mason-Owen published in a 1951 issue of The Colophon magazine, Jot 101 looked at some of the manuscripts and typescripts in the British Museum Library that were then withheld from publication due to the sensitivity of their contents. In part two we examine the banned printed books mentioned in the article.

First on the Colophon list is Cantab, by the otherwise respected Irish writer Shane Leslie, which appeared in 1926. This was ‘withdrawn under threat of legal proceedings for obscenity’. Your Jotter hasn’t examined the novel, which recounts the adventures and misadventures of a Cambridge undergraduate, but those in the know have maintained that any indelicacies it contains are inoffensive and certainly do not justify the ban.

D.H.Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were also regarded as dangerous to public morality. Around half the first edition of the former was burned in 1915, hence its comparative rarity. Moreover, if you can find a copy in the original rather sensationalist dust wrapper you will get a few thousand pounds for it.

Ulysses (1922) was another on the list. The Little Review, in which excerpts appeared, was prosecuted in the US and the whole book remained suppressed here until 1934.The Egoist, which published parts of it in the UK was also the subject of court action. The first edition of the book appeared in Paris in 1922, but copies of this and subsequent continental editions were subject to seizure by British customs until a ban was lifted on its publication in the thirties.

Continue reading

Author’s rejection list

wilson-1-2This was sent by Edmund Wilson (or his secretary) to people who wrote to him. It is a measure of his fame at the time (1950s?) He is now remembered more for his association with other writers, especially Vladimir Nabokov and Scott Fitzgerald. G.B. Shaw used to send out something similar and also Evelyn Waugh. Apparently people would write to Wilson just to get a copy of the slip. The note on it reads: “I don’t [do] live readings either unless I’m offered a very large fee. EW”. These type of generic rejection/ fob-off lists have now graduated to email…any examples welcome.

Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him to:
Read manuscripts,
Write articles or books to order,
Write forwards or introductions,
Make statements for publicity purposes,
Do any kind of editorial work,
Judge literary contests, give interviews,
Take part in writers’ conferences,
Answer questionnaires,
Contribute to or take part in symposiums, or “panels” of any kind,
Contribute manuscripts for sales,
Donate copies of his books to libraries,
Autograph works for strangers,
Allow his name to be used on letterheads,
Supply personal information about himself,
Or supply opinions on literary or other subjects.

Ian Fletcher

Victor Plarr cover

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.

Continue reading

Firework Poems from Turkey

IMG_1446

Found- a copy of a rare book: Poems from Turkey (Taylor and Co., London, 1872). The author is anonymous but is known to be William Platt Ball (born 1844). Loosely inserted is a note giving info about him (see below*.) Of interest is the fact that he was in Turkey advising the Sultan about fireworks and while there seems to have put on a few shows. The frontispiece illustration shows a display over water with the fireworks being launched from a raft or jetty. There are poems about fireworks in the book one of which  ('Pyro's Pilgrimage') is quoted after his preface:

These poems (except a few pages on Turkish subjects added since my return) were written during a stay of fourteen months in Constantinople. During this period I superintended (under His Excellency Halil Pasha)  the Sultan's firework displays, organised a firework factory, and taught the complete art and mystery of firework making to a set of forty Turk soldiers, and English (in the mornings) to a class of four Efendis.

Continue reading