More on the mysterious Frances Mundy-Castle

 

Democrats Chapbook cover 001In 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]

 

Frances Mundy-Castle: a neglected poet

Democrats Chapbook cover 001The 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

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The Secret Places XXI & XXII

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.

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The Secret Places XIX & XX

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.

XIX

OLD CRACKPOT

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.
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The Secret Places XVII & XVIII

Two more 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.

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Secret Places XV & XVI

Two more 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.

Continue reading

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The Secret Places XIII & XIV

Two more 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.

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The Secret Places XI & XII

Two more 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.

XI

THE FRIARY IN THE HILLS

It chanced that I had to go over into Surrey hm Sussex to pay a visit to the Franciscan Friary whence we had started on our wanderings. Leaving Longshanks, therefore, in an inn at Chidding in the fold country, whither we had gone in search of a man who claimed to be a direct descendant of Earl Godwin–though what he was doing here in the south I do not know–I went through the gap in the hills to Guildford and, being weary, took a ‘bus thence to Chilworth.
  Because I was stupid with sleep I left that ‘bus at the wrong place, and, being unfamiliar with the country west of the Friary, I sought direction from a butcher and a queer man who carried a lighted lantern, though it was yet mid-afternoon. Thereafter I walked two miles, as I had been told, I came at last to a large crucifix by the roadside and entered the Friary grounds.
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The Secret Places IX & X

Two more 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.

IX

MY LADY OF THE MIST

To tell of the incidents of every day of our wanderings would be monotonous and wearisome, and so I make no effort to do so. Moreover, what is of interest, or gives happiness, to Longshanks and myself is not necessarily entertaining to anyone else. And because we had no aim but aimlessness–which is good for men sometimes–we wandered from county to county as the spirit moved us, having no regard for even a daily itinerary or for a settled account when our adventures should be written down.
  It was at Small Dole–which is in Sussex–that we discussed, the relative merits of hot and cold shoeing with the big blacksmith, and when we had worked him to a passion of rage at our obstinacy, so that he stuck out his big fan of a beard at us and cursed us with a strange oath, we were minded to continue our journey to the Downs. It was not long after dawn, and October rime still lay where the sun had not yet thawed it.
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The Secret Places VII & VIII

Two more 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' 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 WOOD OF MYSTERY

Leatherhead used to be famous for its "nappy" ale, as King Henry the Eighth's laureate knew, for he wrote a song about the mistress of the Running Horse Inn and praised the brew, as a man should. And the Mole, which chatters its way half round the town, was famous for its trout. Alas! in these days the ale there is no better than it should be, and of trout there are none–at least Longshanks and I were not served with any.
  But Leatherhead has its distinction even now, and you shall mark it whether you proceed thither by train, by car, or on foot. For at Leatherhead the rather threadbare rusticity of the country south of London ends, and when you have climbed the steep hill beyond the bridge on the Guildford road you are in a new land. In the little rectangle of which one side is the main road between Leatherhead and Dorking, and the opposite side an imaginary line running through Little Bookham and Effingham and ending roughly five miles due ; west of Dorking, you may get lost an hundred times.
  I scruple to say how this may be done, for when a horde of people get lost together there is no mystery nor any fear; only paper bags and bottles left on the eternal hills and in the secret places of the woodland. And so I shall be vague.
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The Secret Places V & VI

Two more 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' in Sussex, Kent and Surrey. See our posting of the first chapters for more on Foster and this book.

Continue reading

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The Secret Places III & IV

Two more 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' in Sussex, Kent and Surrey. See our posting of the first chapters for more on Foster and this book..

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The Secret Places

Ashdown Forest* 

These are the first two chapter 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' in Sussex, Kent and Surrey. One of those magical walking/ rambling books that appeared in the 1920s and 1930s while, to quote Waugh, 'the going was good' despite ribbon development and the ubiquitous motor car. It was probably aimed at urban and suburban dwellers who got away to the country at weekends or when they could. Foster  was a jobbing journalist who also wrote books on the countryside and how-to-write  books. Most of this book had appeared in the Evening News in the late 1920s. He also wrote detective fiction. Between 1924 and 1936, according to Hubin, he produced 11 mysteries, some featuring a detective called Anthony Ravenhill (The Dark Night, The Missing Gates, The Moat House Murder etc.,) This contemporary review of The Secret Places in The Tablet gives a flavour of the work. There follows the first two chapters…(more to come)

We like The Secret Places. Mr. R. Francis Foster knows where treasure lies hid, and would gladly share his secret with those worthy of the trust. But he fears the barbarian motorist, "with soul so dead" that he is to be stirred only by speed records until the love of country cannot touch him. Therefore he compromises by describing byways where the demon speed cannot go : quiet, ancient ways to be trodden only by the feet of the humble pilgrim in quest of peace and beauty. The author himself trod these paths with a fitting companion, setting out in the autumn along the Pilgrims' Way and wandering through the counties of Surrey, Sussex and Kent until Spring, bringing alas, a plague of cars in her train, drove the travellers from the roads ! Then they ended their journey at Chilworth Friary, where it had begun, convinced that cars are a curse of the devil, and that "the limit in permissible inventions should be the bicycle, foot propelled." This little volume, although perhaps rather self-conscious in the writing, will please lovers of the English countryside and leave them with many delightful things 'pleasant to think on.' We should like to know more of Zebedee, the Zebra, a strange gift-horse to the pilgrims whose fate, after his total disappearance by night, they never seem to have found out.

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John Hayward—‘the most malicious man in London’

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

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

According to CelebRiot she was 5 foot 7 inches but this is a site more about Lady Gaga than V.W. so it may be inaccurate. Tall for a woman but not "Very Tall."
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Christmas advice from 1932

The Perfect Christmas by Rose Henniker Heaton was a companion volume to the same author’s Perfect Hostess and Perfect Schoolgirl. Published in 1932 by the eighty something Australian-born widow of an illustrious Conservative MP, its distinctly barbed humour has hardly dated. In addition to the many jokes and riddles (one of which defeated Professor Einstein) are some handy hints. The following still has value today.

How to Ruin Christmas

Grumble at everything and everyone.
Moan at the mention of presents.
Scramble wildly at the last moment for people you dislike, rather than be left alone.
Do nothing for anyone, and expect everyone to wait on you.
Eat too much, and drink far too much. 
Spend too much, and grumble while spending it.
Spend too little, and grudge even that.
Leave everything to the last, and sit up until 4 a.m., tying up parcels, and decorating madly.
Start a family quarrel. 

[RMH]

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Homosexuality and Its Cure (1936)

Sexology : The Magazine of Sex Science was a magazine founded by Hugo Gernsbach ('the father of Science Fiction') and seems to have flourished in the 1930s. It had many anatomical diagrams and articles about 'female inverts', pregnancy, infibulation, venereal disease etc. It probably sold well. This letter is in the 'Questions and Answers' column and has to be assumed to be typical of its time, regarding homosexuality as a sickness to be cured by determination and the love of a good woman. Autre temps, autre moeurs. What is slightly strange is that the 'doctor' providing the answer suggests physical violence if the other man persists in his attentions - 'beat him up.' Odd advice from a doctor. The reference to drink - 'you got drunk and became intimate' may refer to other matter in an abridged letter or simply be an assumption…again, curious.

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The earliest reference to television in literature

Sent in by loyal jotter RR. Interestingly we recently catalogued a literary magazine edited by Lawrence Durrell 'International Post' (1939) -- it had a TV critic and was full of promise but went to just one highly elusive issue. Our copy sold immediately at a substantial premium.

One strong contender ( I would welcome more examples from readers) must be this poem which appeared in Poems (1936) by Michael Roberts. We don’t have a date for this composition, but it was doubtless written when very short experimental broadcasts using the Baird process were being made late each evening from Alexander Palace during the period 1933- 36.My Christmas 1934 issue of The Radio Times lists these in the radio section. They consisted mainly of a series of dances performed by an elegant lady who was obliged to wear a special designed TV- friendly costume that emphasized stripes and zig-zags. There were also vocal recitals and other simple performances that would easily fit into the twenty minute slot.

When, in 1936, the largely unsuccessful and decidedly clunky, Baird method was replaced by the electronic EMI-Marconi process, a greater flexibility in programming was possible. The time allocated to television was greatly extended and in the three years in which it operated, television gave broadcasters like John Betjeman, John Piper and Geoffrey Grigson, opportunities to become well known to an albeit ( the broadcasts only  reached London and parts of the Home Counties) limited audience.

Alas, all this growing potential came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the Second World War. [RR]