Found, a letter dated 6th December 1990 from someone called Rudi to the playwright John Osborne, whom he addresses as ‘ Colonel’, presumably a reference to Colonel Redl, the protagonist of Osborne’s controversial play A Patriot For Me (1965).
The letter accompanies a copy of Billy Bennett’s Third Budget of Burlesque Monologues (c1940), which Rudi had sent Osborne as a sixty-first birthday present. The Music Hall star Bennett ( 1887 – 1942), a unique comic presence on the stage and on radio from 1919, was a great favourite of Osborne’s, as indeed he was of Tommy Cooper, Ken Dodd and Eric Morecambe. Bennett’s billing as ‘ almost a gentleman ‘ was used by the playwright as the title of his second volume of memoirs. Here is the letter in full: Continue reading →
Few American publishers can boast that they have printed 300 hundred million books. Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1889 – 1951), however, was one who could. An atheist and socialist who believed that the average American had a right to own a library of enlightening, useful and entertaining texts for a few cents a volume, Haldeman-Julius established the Little Blue Book series in the 1920s. Pocket-sized and ranging in subject matter from ancient culture and classic literature to self-help books and handbooks on making your own candy, the Little Blue Books sold in their millions each year, figured in the early education of such American writers as Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel, and anticipated in some respects the very popular ‘Dummies’ of today, though they were very much cheaper.
Rejecting the idea that a sensational cover would sell a book, Haldeman-Julius believed that it was the book’s title that did the trick. One journalist writing in John O’London’s Weekly dated December 8th 1928 described the publisher’s practice of re-branding books thus:
‘He…has found that those ‘pull ‘ best which suggest either sex, self-improvement, or attacks on respectability and religion….Whenever one of his reprints fails to sell 10,000 copies in a year he sends it to his ‘hospital’ , where it is someone’s job to discover the reason why . The text is analysed. If it is found wanting in sex, self-improvement or attacks etc., it is dropped. If the title is deficient in pep it is scrapped and another put in its place.Continue reading →
Found – a rather battered copy of Siegfried Sassoon’s early book The Daffodil Murderer (1913) published under the pseudonym ‘Saul Kain.’ In decent condition it has auction records like this from Bloomsbury Book Auctions in April 2009:
[Sassoon (Siegfried)], “Saul Kain”. The Daffodil Murderer First edition of the author’s first book not to be privately printed, pseudonymous prefatory note by “William Butler” [the poet/publisher T.W.H.Crosland], original orange-yellow wrappers printed in red, light dust-soiling and rubbing, otherwise very good, housed in an envelope with inscription in Sydney Cockerell’s autograph: “The Daffodil Murderer by Siegfried Sassoon Very Rare”, 8vo, John Richmond Ltd, 1913. Scarce. Sassoon’s parody of The Everlasting Mercy by John Masefield, apparently written during a moment of tedium, then sent off to Edmund Gosse who in turn forwarded it to Edward Marsh, editor of the Georgian Poetry anthologies. Masefield was as impressed by the work that he hailed the then 26-year-old Sassoon as “one of England’s most brilliant rising stars”. £150
The publisher’s name ‘John Richmond’ was itself a pseudonym for the great contrarian T WH Crosland, whose sardonic introduction, under the name ‘William Butler’ we publish here. It is so far unknown to any digital medium. The Everlasting Mercy, the poem parodied (with some skill) can be found here.
Preface by William Butler.
I have read ‘The Daffodil Murderer’ nineteen times. It is with our doubt the finest literature we have had since Christmas. The fact that it has won the Chantrey Prize for Poetry speaks for itself. Of course, readers of this noble poem will, after wiping their eyes, wish to know something of the personality of the author. I may say at once that he resembles Shakespeare in at least one respect: that is to say, no account of him is yet to be found in ‘Who’s Who’. It is possible that in early life he was a soldier, and fought for his country on many a bloody field; but becoming tired of the military life, he retired to the country on a meagre pension and there interested himself in the rural sights and sounds and bucolic workings of the human bosom which are so admirably portrayed for us in the present pathetic ‘chef d’oeuvre’. Continue reading →
In an earlier Jot we told the story of Frances Mundy-Castle, the undeservedly neglected poet, novelist and mentor to cult writer Denton Welch. At that point we confessed that we knew little if anything of her literary career between the wars. But now, thanks to a tiny notice in the December 15th issue of John O’London’s Weekly for 1928, we discover that in this year she published A Young Woman Grows Up and furthermore that her two previous novels—both appearing under her given name of P. Whitehouse—were Stairs of Sand and Oscar Strom.
The Net is silent on what these three novels were about, so we at Jot HQ appeal to the Jotosphere for information on them. More needs to be known about this interesting lady—a rather fetching photograph of whom depicts her as a bit of a twenties ‘flapper’ . [R.M.Healey]
The identity of the ‘ quiet woman‘ who wrote A Democrat’s Chapbook (1942), a hundred page long commentary in free verse on the events of the Second World War up to the time when America joined the Allied forces, was only revealed when Anne Powell included two passages from it in her anthology of female war poetry, Shadows of War (1999 ). However, those who had read her volume of Georgian verse entitled Songs from the Sussex Downs ( 1915), a copy of which was found in the collection of Wilfred Owen, might have recognised the style as that of ‘Peggy Whitehouse’, whose Mary By the Sea also appeared under this name in 1946. All three books were the work of Mrs Frances Mundy –Castle (1875 – 1959).
Thanks to her son Alistair, we now know a little more about Mrs Mundy-Castle. We know, for instance, that she came from a wealthy family and that at the age of sixteen she published a volume of her poems. She then married Mr Mundy-Castle, who managed a local brickworks, and the family settled down at Cage Farm, an early eighteenth century house on the eastern outskirts of Tonbridge. Here she seems to have held a sort of salon for local writers and artists, among whom was the cult artist and writer Denton Welch, who lived a mile or so away and was friends with her daughter Rosemary. In his later years, according to his biographer, she was ‘a frequent target of his malicious humour ‘, despite the fact that it was she who had given him the idea of writing his first book. Continue reading →
In 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 →
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]
Rescued 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).”
Found 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 →
Rescued 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 →
This 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.
Today, a hundred years on, most historians find it difficult to justify the carnage that was the Great War. Back in 1919, many were morally divided on the issue. One man who saw the fight against German brutality as a wholly justified, glorious crusade, was the poet and playwright Henry Newman Howard (1861 – 1929). On reading The Paths of Glory, an anthology of anti-war poetry, he sent a scathing letter to its pacifist editor, Bertram Lloyd. A typewritten copy of this letter was recently found, tucked in with a batch of press cuttings relating to the offending book, in a copy of it , which may have been Lloyd’s own, that ended up the library of Maria Assumpta College, Kensington and was subsequently de-accessioned into the secondhand book trade.
Here in full is Howard’s letter to Lloyd:
29 Jan 1919
25, Charlbury Road,
Your’ anthology ‘of War Poems is a crime. I grieve that the publishing house fathered by noble John Ruskin should be Sponsors to this execrable publication. Never again will I purchase a book bearing the stamp fouled by the guilt of this sinister booklet. Other books there are one recalls as foul things. Il Principe, possibly John Davidson’s Testament; Nietzsche—these last, like the German Empire, died mad of their guilty thoughts. Your book, garbage from end to end—if not in the individual poems, assuredly in their bringing together—carries the sickly unction of a spurious humanitarianism.
Found — a slim volume of poetry from 1927 Lodequest: A Ballad of the Grail (Ancient House, Ipswich 1927) by Herbert Hudson. His wife produced the illustrated cover and also contributed one of the poems. She was Joan Abbay an East Anglian artist, and this is the only example of her work currently online, although it is possible some of her paintings are occasionally sold at auction.
The introduction to the book places the Grail legend in context, quoting from Jessie L Weston’s The Quest of the Holy Grail (1913)- (also an influence on a somewhat better known poem*):
“Every student of mediaeval literature will bear witness that there were strange current stirring in those days, that more was believed,that more was known than the official guardians of faith and morals cared to admit; that much, very much of this undercurrent of yearning and investigation was concerned with the search for the source of life; life physical, and life immortal. I contend that the Grail romances were a survival that period of unrest….The secret of the Grail I hold to be above all a human problem. When seekers after Truth will consent to work together in harmony, doing full justice to each other’s views, then,and not till then, the secret of the Grail will cease to be a secret.”Continue reading →
An excerpt slightly abbreviated, from Student Magazine issue (January 1963.) Quite prophetic as almost all the books mentioned in it are now valuable, especially the Orwell. Edmond Romilly's Boadilla is almost unobtainable as a first edition and copies of his scurrilous magazine Out of Bounds are thin on the ground. Frederick Grubb, who was a friend of radio pundit Fred Hunter -whose estate of books we bought, was a poet and literary critic much admired in the 1960s.
ENGLISH LITERATURE AND THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
They clung like burrs to the long expresses that lurch
Through the unjust lands, through the night, through the alpine tunnel;
They floated over the oceans;
They walked the passes: they came to present their lives.
Found- a British paperback 144 Piccadilly (NEL, London 1973) a novel by the American film director Samuel Fuller. It concerns a group of London hippies who barricade themselves inside a decaying Mayfair mansion and resist all efforts to evict them. One cataloguer notes that the American edition rather obscures the fact that it was based directly on an actual event — “ripped from the headlines,” as Fuller might have put it. In September of 1969 a radical group known as The London Street Commune, formed to highlight concerns about rising levels of homelessness in London, took over a large house at the corner of Piccadilly and Park Lane (just across from Hyde Park); they occupied the building for six days before being forcibly evicted by the police. Fuller’s literary conceit was to insert himself into the situation, “playing” the narrator, a cigar-smoking American film director (in London for a BFI retrospective of his films) who gets involved with the squatters by accident. Unlike most of Fuller’s books, it’s not just a novelization of one of his own film treatments; as he tells it in his posthumously -published memoir, he actually had been in London when the occupation was taking place, had witnessed the initial break-in while out on a late-night walk, and with his “newspaperman’s nose,” had contrived to have a chat with the occupiers. “The disheveled squatters invited me to stay on,” he wrote ‘(if)…I hadn’t had prior commitments, a wife, and a flight back to the States the next day, I would have.” He subsequently got “damn mad” about the treatment accorded the squatters by the British media and the police, and knocked out a novel in which “an American film director very much like me participates in an illegal entry in London, then tries to bridge the generational gap by becoming the group’s mascot and witness. The fictional ‘me’ does what I was tempted to do but couldn’t, abandoning his hotel suite for a mattress on the floor with the flower children.” He never made a movie of the book.
Loosely inserted in the book is a typed postcard (27/11/71) from Fuller “Am writing ‘Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street’ which I’ll shoot here in Feb. My book 144 Piccadilly just came out… Am at Senats Hotel 5 Koln 1 – Unter Goldschmied”. Fuller has not signed the card but the words ‘Mit Luftpost’ are handwritten in red ink, presumably by the great man… At the front of the book is the ownership signature of Phil Hardy, the recipient of the card- he wrote a book on Fuller published by Praeger ( N.Y. 1970)
Found among a collection of modern first edition catalogues this offering from Bradford Morrow in a catalogue entitled John Steinbeck: A Collection of Books and Manuscripts, Formed by Harry Valentine of Pacific Grove, California (Bradford Morrow Bookseller: Catalogue 8/1980). Morrow has subsequently become a distinguished novelist. Hopefully this was bought by a library but it could also have gone to a wealthy private collector. It does not appear to have ever been published. Many such items, especially letters and association copies sometimes disappear completely, and the only record of the item is a catalogue entry…
Manuscript of Unpublished Novella
289. ‘The Wizard of Maine’. Original holograph manuscript written on 30 folio leaves and laid into original three-quarter cloth and marbled paper binder, of an unpublished novella by Steinbeck. Each sheet is written on recto only in Steinbeck’s distinctively cramped and neat hand, and the length of the text amounts to well over 15000 words. The novella begins with the following passage:
In a time not so very long ago, an ancient creaking, complaining caravan squeaked and grumbled through the hamlets and towns of Eastern America. From Maine it went to the cool lakes of Wisconsin and, by-passing Chicago, too itself to the fabulous meadows of Kentucky. It smooth [sic] oak tongue and ancient harness were shared by a succession of horse rescued for a time from glue and fox feed factories. And it was a good life for these horse for the caravan did not go far nor fast in a day and it stopped where there was pasturage…
‘The Wizard of Maine’ is divide into six sections,and is the story of a travelling elixir salesman and magician who has set out from his home in Maine and travels across the country in hope of being discovered, so that he can perform his tricks on stage as a professional. Composition date for the manuscript is unknown, but would seem to date from the 1940s based upon the style of the binder housing the paper. The manuscript has numerous alterations and is in need of minor editing. It is, however, a highly diverting and typical Steinbeck story which should be published…Needless to say, Steinbeck manuscripts of this length and importance, which are still unpublished, are virtually gone from the market place. Enclosed in folio custom morocco slipcase. Further details available to interested parties. $27500.00
Found in a copy of New & Selected Poems by Donald Davie (Wesleyan University Press, 1961) a handwritten letter from the author. A good newsy letter that gives a snapshot of the Oxford and transatlantic poetry scene of the early 1960s. It is to Fred Hunter founder of Independent Radio News, teacher of journalism and something of a poetaster and friend of many of the Sixties and Liverpool poets. He also had a poetry record label (Stream Records) which in 1967 put out an L.P. of the American poet Dorn reading from his North Atlantic Turbine. The letter reads:
[Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge]. June 18th 1963.
Dear Mr. Hunter,
I was touched and pleased to have your request from yourself and Mr. S. Raut Roy. I have today dispatched the books to you - don't send them on to India before taking out your own two copies!
I know Jonathan William, by name of course and I believe he was lately entertained by my young colleague Jeremy Prynne, to whom I am chiefly indebted for my knowledge of the Projective Verse poets, who seem to me to represent the only plausible growing-point for Anglo-American poetry. Olson I esteem chiefly as a theorist, Duncan's work I hardly know, but Creeley's I admire very much. We would link with him Edward Dorn whose very distinguished collection in typescript we are at present (Prynne and I) trying to place with a London publisher - but with predictably little success.
I am having great difficulty about completing a new collection of poems which will represent in some degree the sympathy I feel for some of the Projective Verse methods. But this business of doubling up as poet and don is quite hopeless!
The last two chapters of The Secret Places (Elkin Mathews & Marrot London 1929) - a chronicle of the 'pilgrimages' of the author, Reginald Francis Foster (1896-1975), and his friend 'Longshanks' idly rambling in Sussex, Kent and Surrey. See our posting of the first chapters for more on Foster and this book, including a contemporary review in The Tablet.
The penultimate two chapters of The Secret Places (Elkin Mathews & Marrot London 1929) - a chronicle of the 'pilgrimages' of the author, Reginald Francis Foster (1896-1975), and his friend 'Longshanks' idly rambling in Sussex, Kent and Surrey. See our posting of the first chapters for more on Foster and this book, including a contemporary review in The Tablet.
All day we had laboured southwards into the Kentish Weald, our clothing plastered in front with the sleet that drove upon us and our boots squelching at every step. In many miles we had not spoken. Longshanks sucked dismally at an inverted pipe which had long since grown cold. In the end of such journeyings is a deeper content than of those made in fair weather. When the light failed over the eastward hills and the shifting wind brought a greater cold, we came upon a barn, and entered it as men who come to their last rest. As we heaved the door into place the day died over Sussex. Continue reading →
A letter from the Peter Haining collection unsigned but certainly from Steve Holland, a fellow British pulp enthusiast who wrote a definitive book on the subject - The Mushroom Jungle and later a book on pulp writer Dail Ambler The Lady Holds a Gun! Both books can be bought at Amazon, the latter only as a Kindle download…Among many works written under pseudonyms Dail Ambler (a.k.a.Danny Spade) also wrote the screenplay for the cult film Beat Girl (1960) starring the amazing Gillian Hills.
Dear Peter, Many thanks for your letter, and for the offer of some Janson's on loan... THE MUSHROOM JUNGLE: well, you've certainly come to the right person to ask, as this is the working title of my book on the fifties publishers! I dreamed up the title years ago when I started, a sort of play on The Asphalt Jungle, with mushrooms chucked in because of how these publishers seemed to pop up overnight. The bulk of the bibliography (which runs to 250 pages} is written, but I'm adding to it all the time… Continue reading →