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L. R. Reeve – a Village Hampden, a Zelig

We have posted many portraits of the famous people that L.R. Reeve (1895? – 1980?) had met or seen. Sadly there are no more. He appears to have been a Zelig-like figure, a witness to many important events, an attender of meetings and addresses by the movers and shakers of his day. He was a great connoisseur of oratory and an excellent eyewitness. His writings proclaim his decency and lack of self importance; he was probably a good committee man, certainly a great observer, recorder, and witness. One of Thomas Gray’s Village Hampden

His book Among those Present appeared in 1974 published by Stockwell (a vanity publisher- L.R. Reeve probably had to pay for its publication- he had tried earlier to find an agent.) The preliminary notices in the book read:

AMONG THOSE PRESENT
VERY EXCEPTIONAL PEOPLE [title]
 

Educated at Goldsmiths’ College, London, L.R, Reeve very ably recounts his appreciation of, and interesting and revealing anecdotes about, some of the tutors, lecturers and exceptional people
he came to know both during his student days and in the course of his teaching career, many of whose names are now known in almost every household and whose influence him been felt far beyond the boundaries of the U.K.

AUTHOR’S NOTE


More than anything else the Second World War made us realize that there are thousands of men and women in our country whose ability is never appreciated until there is a national crisis. Then the real leaders and organizers emerge, and if any example is needed I can give evidence that County Hall, London, was more than a little surprised to find that many teachers, generally unknown, were able to adapt themselves to unforeseen crises; and this applied to members of every profession and occupation.
We know many people in high places are not natural leaders. They need the promptings, research, and the frequent advice of wise people, many of whom proceed through life unknown to anybody apart from relatives, acquaintances and friends. Few have reminded us of unsung heroes better than that remarkably intelligent poet Thomas Gray.
I should like to read more about men and women who are natural leaders. Their acquaintanceship would be a privilege, since their lives have done much to raise the standards of human dignity and happiness, and have left a rich heritage for mankind. Lady Violet Markham has written such an appreciation in Friendship’s Harvest, in which she refers to Dr Thomas Jones, CH., the Haldanes, Mary McArthur, John Buchan, and Robert Morant. Naomi Jacob has written a book in praise of some of her women friends.
My aim is somewhat different. I have tried to present men and women from all classes of society who possess some subtlety of personality which we call leadership, and who can inspire other people to actions unlikely to be undertaken unless prompted. I have known many who had not known me, but most of them I have seen, or heard, and some have sought information, and even advice from me.
With few exceptions my impressions are not intended to be comprehensive. They are simply • fleeting glances of some exceptionally interesting, influential, and inspiring men and women, whose lives will never be forgotten by those who knew them.
I am not suggesting my gallery of outstanding people is unusual as I am sure a multitude of adults have lived in a similar environment to mine. I must also emphasize that I have seen and known many fine people whom I have not mentioned, since their distinctive personal qualities have not been sufficiently strong, impressive, or compulsive enough to be publicly included in this type of appreciation.

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Fashionistas (1789)

[raw]

Found – a scrapbook of press-cuttings mostly from the Irish newspaper the Cork Gazette. This cutting dates from about 1789. They are mostly taken up with oddities, strange wagers (can a walking man cover 20 miles faster than a walking horse?*) horrible executions, feats, obituaries, a letter from Dean Swift, marriages of royals etc., This piece about current extreme fashions is an example of the  slightly sensational journalism of the time…

Fashion

This most whimsical of all human inventions has undergone, within these few years the most unaccountable changes imaginable, nor is she yet at rest but, with Protean wantonness, every day affirms the new form, leaving a gaping world in pursuit of her. One no sooner catches her, than she escapes, then presents herself under a different form, still more seducing and irresistible than the former.

One time she lets her head grow to the length of a cows tail, then cocks it – it sometimes flows loosely, and others nicely plaited and made into tresses – she soon prides in frizzing, and after that falls down by the ears, hanging like a pound of candles – her  present frolic is a crop, which for aught we know be soon metamorphosed into a shorn head.

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The irresistible Samuel Foote

Found- in the The common-place book of literary curiosities, remarkable customs, historical and domestic anecdotes, and etymological scraps by Rev. Dr. Dryasdust, of York. (London: John Bumpus 1825) these amusing anecdotes about Samuel Foote (1720 – 1777) the British dramatist, comic actor and theatre manager. Probably the best known quotation associated with him is a put down of an unnamed ‘law lord’. Foote said of him- ‘What can he mean by coming among us? He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dullness in others.’ Dr. Dryasdust provides six anecdotes about Foote. The first concerns Samuel Johnson, who tried very hard not to be amused by him..the last, where he messes up his lines in Hamlet, has the spirit of Tommy Cooper or Stanley Unwin. His Othello was apparently a ‘masterpiece of burlesque..’

1. Life's a poor player.

"Dr Johnshon said, 'The first time I was in company with Foote, was at Fitzherbert's. Having no good opinion of the fellow, I was resolved not to be pleased; and it is very difficult to please a man against his will. I went on eating my dinner pretty sullenly, affecting not to mind him; but the dog became so irresistibly comic, that I was obliged to lay down my knife and fork, throw myself back in my chair, and fairly laugh out. Sir, he was irresistible!"

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Smatterers or Scholars?

Found – an obscure book by a forgotten journalist. In the 1920s and up to the early 1950s his short ‘thought pieces’ were syndicated in the UK and as far as Australia. This tradition of coffee break columns is still with us – now it’s Robert Crampton rather than Robert Power. His ideas are oddly prescient given the plethora of information now available. The answer to the second part of Dr Johnson’s question is known by everybody – and it’s not the Encyclopaedia Britannica! This is from Two-minute talks. Second volume. Robert Power. London: S. W. Partridge [1925] pp.45-46.Other ‘talks’ have titles such as ‘Poppy Friendships’, ‘Blistering Tongues’, ‘In the W.P.B.’, ‘Rich Poverty’, ‘Are you Popular?’, ‘Poachers’ and ‘Rubbernecks.’

Smatterers.

Time was when we used the word “smack” to mean “taste,” and thus a taster became known as a “smacker”. It is not difficult for a generation of slovenly talkers to corrupt a word, and thus “smacker” or taster has become “smatterer,” one who has only a slight, superficial knowledge, a sciolist.

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