Aimed specifically at workers looking forward to the glamorous Coronation of King George VI on May 12th 1937 is this glossy brochure published by the Communist Party of Great Britain. It argues that it is scandalous that a total of £20,000,000 will be spent by the Government in staging the event and by those attending it (new outfits and hotel bills) when that sum might be better spent on new homes, nursery schools and underfed children.
Naturally, the Party denies that it against those with money spending it on whatever they like. What it does argue is that it is divisive for members of the moneyed class to flaunt their wealth before working people. It is also hypocritical for them to spend it on ‘fripperies’ when the ruling class has acknowledged that the Coronation is an occasion for the rich and poor to come together and celebrate the pageantry of this memorable event like ‘ one happy family’.
‘The idea is that you, Bill Smith, miner, fitter, shop assistant, belong to the same happy British family as Lord Nuffield, Mr Selfridge and your own employer—all the King’s loyal subjects together.’
Of course, the pamphlet argues, this is an example of government duplicity. Those in power see the millions as money well spent if the pageantry invokes sufficient feelings of patriotism among the working class to encourage workers to fall in with their ‘ war plans ‘. However, the pamphlet argues that it is up to workers to ensure that the ruling class do not achieve this cosy arrangement.
‘First, make them pay more. If you have to work on Coronation Day, demand holiday rates of pay. Some employers are trying to show how patriotic and generous they are by giving a holiday with pay on Coronation day. If your employer is one of these, demand a proper holiday of at least a week with pay this year and every year—like the French workers get. When they urge you to brighten up your street with flags and streamers, demand that the landlord brightens up your home as well. If they provide a free tea for the children on Coronation day, accept it and see that your children have a good feed and a good time. But demand also, that your children and happy and properly fed during the rest of the year…’ Continue reading →
Found in a copy of Evelyn August’s entertaining Black-Out Book (1939) is a slightly damaged clipping from the Letters page of the Times newspaper published sometime between 1947 and Shaw’s death in 1950.
In it Shaw voices incredulity at the failure by Government to exploit the energy from waves:-
‘ It is now many years since I arrived at the northern edge of Scotland and looked across the Pentland Firth to the Orkneys, estimating the sea journey at about half an hour. When I embarked on the hardy little steamboat with my car I found out what the Pentland tide rush meant. We were swirled away like corks in a millrace to John O’Groats House and back again through Scapa Flow in three hours and a half; and I was told that it would be a fortnight before my car could be taken back to the mainland.
When I at last got back I explored the coast along to the west and found there several flumes like the Kyle of Tongue, ready-made by Nature , through which the tide rushed twice a day carrying thousands of tons of sheer power both ways.Continue reading →
Found in the Jan-Feb 1932 issue of Collector’s Miscellany is this report on a bizarre anti-religion campaign rumoured to have been created by the USSR.
‘It has been extremely difficult to secure definite information relating to the anti-religious match-box labels said to have been issued by the Soviet Government as part of their anti-God campaign. The one illustrated in this issue depicts the crucification of Christ and bears the words “Jesus Christ Safety Matches”. This label is understood to be one of a series, as there are said to be others depicting the Sacred Heart and various other religious subjects.
These matches which have been the subject of much comment in the daily press, are said to have been hawked upon the streets of London by gutter merchants and that a member of Parliament raised the question in the House of Commonsas to whether any action was being taken by the British Government.
One thing is certain, and that is these labels are likely to be rare; I do not know of any collector in this country fortunate enough to secure a specimen. A London correspondent assured me that the matches were never sold in London but were produced by the Krishna Match Co. of India, who also issue of BUDDHA MATCH, and others featuring various Indian religions. Personally, I am inclined to favour this statement, as the box in question, said to have been bought in the New Cut, may easily have been bought from India by some seaman. (JOSEPH PARKS )Continue reading →
On June 12th 1913, sixty years before the UK joined the EEC, and 103 years before it voted to leave it, The New Age, a well-known Socialist weekly, published a prescient article by one of its frequent contributors, Joseph Finn (1865 – 1945), a former tailor who, according to one source, became ‘one of the first Jewish labour leaders in Britain.’ In it Finn put forward a radical economic alternative to the political vision of a ‘United States of Europe’ that Sir Max Waechter had outlined in a recent issue of The Fortnightly Review.
On the eve of a possible war between Britain and Germany Waechter had argued that there were no political, racial or dynastic reasons why the two nations should not join as the prime movers of a larger European Union. Finn, however suggested that the basis for any such federation should not be political, but economic. Germany and Britain were in direct economic competition with one another and therefore were unlikely to cooperate within a proposed political union, but might even go to war in furtherance of their own economic ambitions. Finn continued:
‘If nations were not afraid of competition they would not surround themselves with tariff walls. England is no exception, though she is a Free Trade country. English free trade originated in a period when England was the workshop of the world. On the one hand, she had no rivals; on the other hand, she stood in need of cheap food for her factory hands. Such economic conditions were the natural mother of the political institution of Free Trade. Now, having lost her monopoly in manufacture, and she being compelled to face formidable rivals, we see growing up a political tendency towards Protection. Thus we see clearly the truth of the sociological law, that the political structure of society is the outcome of the economic structure.’Continue reading →
Found – a 1953 Communist Party booklet criticising the amount of money being spent on the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The figure of 20 million pounds is probably about a billion now but it may not be totally accurate. The name Beavermere is a compound of the two major Press Barons of the time- Beaverbrook and Rothermere. The style is that of a contemporary gossip column:
Lord and Lady Beavermere will be staying at Claridge’s during Coronation week. Claridge’s will be more than usually expensive because there are so many people like Lord and Lady Beavermere competing for room. The reason why they are stopping at Claridge’s is because the Beavermeres, like the others, have let their town mansion. Living in Lord Beavermere’s house is the Rajah of Muddlecore who is paying £1000 for the week so as to be on the Coronation route. So, despite the expensiveness of Claridge’s, the Beavermeres can afford to do themselves well.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.
This interesting cutting from the Haining archive tells some of the story of the short-lived Liberty League. Less than three years after the Russian Revolution had erupted, leading figures in public life, alarmed by the progress of its ideas in the West, got together to initiate a counter campaign that would challenge Bolshevism in the UK and throughout the empire. The new force for good was ‘The Liberty League’ and on 3rd March 1920 an open letter declaring its objectives and signed by H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Lord Sydenham, H. Bax-Ironside, John Hanbury Williams, Algernon Maudslay and Lt –Col G Maitland- Edwards, was published in the Times. The signatories began by defining Bolshevism and its aims.
Bolshevism is the reverse of what mankind has built up of good by nearly two thousand years of effort. It is the Sermon of the Mount writ backward. It has led to bloodshed and torture, rapine and destruction. It repudiated God and would build its own throne upon the basest passions of mankind. There are some misguided people of righteous instincts in this country who believe in Bolshevism; there are others who have been influenced by secret funds. There are many who hope to fish in its bloodstained waters.
We, the undersigned, and those we represent, being assured that if it is allowed to conquer it will mean in the end the destruction of individual rights, the family, the nation, and the whole British Commonwealth, together wit the handing over of all we hold sacred into the power of those who stand behind and perhaps have fashioned this monstrous organization...
Found in The Fingerpost: A Guide to Professions for Educated Women, with Information as to Necessary Training (Central Bureau for the Employment of Women,1906) an article about getting work as a female companion. It suggests that the occupation, often found in thrillers and novels up to the late 1930s, hardly existed even in 1906. Vere Cochran, the writer of this piece, says that the profession was at its height in early Victorian times when 'semi invalidism' was a prevailing fashion. 'Who (now) can afford the doubtful luxury of a paid companion?' One of the most notable companions in fiction is the unnamed narrator of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (1938) While working as the companion to a wealthy American woman on holiday in Monte Carlo she meets the rich and troubled widower Max de Winter who whisks her off to his country mansion Manderley...
"Companion, Housekeeper, or any position of trust - I could undertake work of this kind".
If the many seekers after work who open their campaign with these words could gauge their true import, or the effect which they produce, they would not so lightly use them. Few words could more clearly display their ignorance with regard to the conditions of the labour market;indeed, to the ears of those who know and who receive year by year hundreds of such applications, these words almost constitute a badge of incapacity.
Leon Gambetta—‘ the grand orateur et homme d’Etat’.
So reads the printed label stuck on the back of this carte de visite by a French dealer sometime early in the twentieth century. It is indeed a ‘ curieuse piece ‘, as the dealer avers. Gambetta has addressed in pencil, above his printed name, the following remark to an unidentified friend or colleague:
‘Le crise dures toujours, impossible de mettre le nez dehors…’
(The crisis is lasting for ages, impossible to stick ones nose outside…)
Historians might debate what crisis Gambetta is referring to. There were doubtless several in the tempestuous political career of one of France’s greatest heroes. But the date of 12th December that Gambetta adds at the end of his message might offer a clue. In Paris from 23rd November to 15th December 1877 the improbably named President McMahon presided over a ministry that excluded all ‘parliamentary hands‘ like Gambetta and his democratic colleagues. During this period it was felt that MacMahon was planning a coup d’etat and this crisis came to a head around December 10th and 11th. The idea was to deny power to Gambetta, who may have felt that his life was in danger during this time. Excluding Gambetta worked for a few years, but eventually, in 1881, he was asked to form a ministry. This lasted for just 66 days.
Around late November 1882 Gambetta was shot in the stomach, but this was an accident. However, it may have contributed to the stomach cancer that eventually claimed his life, on 31st December 1882.
Here is a signed photo of that amazing woman, Frances Willard ( no relation of Dolf !!), an icon of American feminism, who almost single – handedly organised the suffragist movement in the States from the mid nineteenth century until her comparatively early death (probably partly from sheer hard work) in 1898 aged 58. As a committed proto-Socialist and president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) for 19 years she lobbied on an enormous range of progressive social issues, including the voting rights of all women over the age of 21, federal aid for education, free school lunches, unions for workers, an eight-hour working day, municipal sanitation, national transportation, anti-rape laws and protections against child abuse. On the issue of female suffrage she argued that women could only be safe from male violence in their own homes if they were seen as ‘companions and counsellors of men’ rather than their playthings.
Willard made several tours of the UK to promote her ideals and it was probably on one of these appearances in October 1895 that she signed as ‘your affectionate sister’ this mass-produced photo of herself. Three years later she was dead. [R.R.]
In her sixty six years Constance Smedley (1875 - 1941) managed to pack more into her life than most centenarians would do. Despite being on crutches from her early years and confined from her thirties to a wheelchair (due to some unidentified disability, possibly a hip problem) this Birmingham-born fireball, who married the gay artist Maxwell Armfield, was at various times a crusading feminist, suffragist and journalist, an artist, novelist, playwright, organiser of pageants and folk dances, and perhaps most notably, the founder of the world’s first arts and science club devoted entirely to women.
It is on the notepaper of the London-based Lyceum Club, which the twenty-eight year old Smedley helped to found in 1903, that this featured letter (below) also shows her to be a tireless encourager of talent among women—especially budding musicians and actresses. Here she writes to an actress and fellow feminist Annie Schletter, inviting her to a ‘ semi dress rehearsal ‘where she will witness the enormous promise of a twenty three year old thespian called Gwenol Satow:
‘…I feel Miss Satow has great gifts, but they are entirely undeveloped: her intelligence is far before her technique---& she needs the discipline of training . She is ineffective for lack of technique & is very self-conscious. If she stayed with us & really worked day by day & all day, she might be very, very good.
It is a very hard profession---and she has a great opportunity with us—but I don’t know if she quite realises what a lot of hard work she has to put in, if she is to make good …’
Alas, Miss Satow does not appear to have made the most of her extravagant gifts. In fact, there is no record of her lighting up the professional stage in any way. She became the second wife of the brilliant songwriter David Heneker, also born in 1907, and the composer responsible for such hit musicals as Irma La Douce, Charlie Girl and Half-a-Sixpence. Indeed, Heneker credits his wife for bringing Tommy Steele’s musical into being. According to him she ‘suddenly sat up in bed one night and produced the idea for Half-a-Sixpence ‘. So, in her ninety years perhaps Satow did contribute something to the success of the British theatre, although it is unlikely that Constance Smedley would have been impressed. [RR]
From the L.R. Reeve* collection- this (partly) eyewitness portrait of Jan Smuts, South African and British Commonwealth statesman, military leader and philosopher (1870 - 1950.) His fame may have significantly lessened since Reeve wrote this (about 20 years after Smuts' death).Probably he would no longer be up there with Darwin and Milton..
At least half a dozen books have been written about the late General Smuts, and I am certain that more will continue to be published not only in South Africa, but in England, the United States of America and other countries.
Due to his early, unusual environment and a formidable, but attractive personality, Smuts possessed a unique quality and became one of the most remarkable men of his generation. No one will ever be able to render a comprehensive account of his notable service to mankind. The most that can be done will be to collect the evidence of many writers, and portray a composite figure.
I would select for personal interest, the biographies A Sight of General Smuts at Cambridge, and Sarah Gertrude Millen's Life. He was a brilliant scholar, and certainly brought distinction to a great university. I emphasize brought because I find that college guides quite understandably remember to inform visitors of the distinguished men who have graduated. Continue reading →
A good piece from the papers of *L.R. Reeve on A.J. Balfour, as a former U.K. Prime Minister he is the highest ranking subject so far (along with Lloyd George.) As usual Reeve is good on his subject's voice and oratorical skills. Reeve's frequent presence at congresses and symposiums of 'leaders of thought' shows him as an almost Zelig-like figure...He ends on a joke, that if not true, ought to be.
Despite his deceptively ornamental appearance, the late Earl Balfour was a worker. Although his attractive manner was unperturbed and casual, he must have experienced periods of unremitting labour through many months; otherwise he could never have written so many theses and philosophical books, added to political publications, parliamentary labours, constituency engagements and university visits.
His career as a statesman, philosopher and eminent speaker, is too well known to need emphasizing in great detail, but a few outstanding phenomena regarding his life should never be forgotten. In appearance he was probably the most aristocratic representative of his period, and was the greatest asset to the perpetuators of the class system. When in his seventieth year he was the leader of a mission to America in 1917, he was one of the most popular visitors England could have sent at any time, because he increased our prestige and disarmed criticism. I mention "perpetuators". Let me make it clear I am not suggesting that Balfour was a determined fighter to maintain the contemporary status quo. He seemed to be fully aware that in this world of fluctuations, there must be modifications of the class system, and an acknowledgement that injustices should be eliminated until the rights of all people are recognized. Continue reading →
From the papers of L.R. Reeve*. His account of a major figure, much chronicled elsewhere, but with some unique insights as Reeve saw him speak many times, even in parliament.
DAVID LLOYD GEORGE
In some ways Lloyd George is a difficult subject, as so many people have heard the same stories from various sources, there is always the possibility that many have been heard on previous occasions. I heard him first, in the House of Commons during the First World War, and unexpectedly the topic under discussion was an increase in the charges for alcoholic drinks. I remember little about the speeches except that prices would be increased for the miner who wanted to wash down the coal-dust with many libations, and that for the purposes of the Act Guinness would be in the same category as beer. Continue reading →
Found among the Reeve* papers this short memoir of Lord Haldane - i.e. Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane KT, OM, PC, KC, FRS, FBA, FSA (1856 – 1928) an influential British Liberal Imperialist and later Labour politician, lawyer and philosopher. As with many of Reeve's pieces he had never met the man but had seen him give speeches at congresses and describes his speaking style well. He writes '...many have known have not known me. All of them I have seen, most of them I have heard, and some of them have sought information, even advice from me." For Reeve the unifying qualification all these people have is '… some subtle emanation of personality we call leadership, and which can inspire people to actions unlikely to be undertaken unless prompted by a stronger will.'
When one begins to delve into the pages of great books of reference, such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, there are times one stops at a certain page and reads with an increasing sense of wonder and respect. I was looking for Haldane, and as I read the wonder grew. So this was the man treated so contemptuously by most of us during the First World War! Continue reading →
Mina Hubbard (1870 – 1956) is not a name that means much in the UK, although this intrepid explorer of Labrador ( the first woman to do so) retired to Britain and ended up in suburban Coulsdon, of all places, where she died rather tragically at the age of 86.
Born in Bewdley, Ontario, in 1870, to a Canadian father and an English mother, there was little in her early years that would suggest that worldwide fame as an explorer would attend her by the time she was 35. After leaving school she spent two years teaching, then trained as a nurse. It was while nursing that she met the journalist Leonidas Hubbard, then ill with typhus (or typhoid). The couple married in 1901 and within 2 years he had embarked on an unsuccessful expedition to map northern Labrador that ultimately cost him his life. Such a tragedy would have destroyed some women, but Mina was made of sterner stuff. When Dillon Wallace, a survivor of the expedition, published his account Mina suspected that he had been responsible for her husband’s death through starvation and vowed to revenge herself on him by embarking on her own expedition to achieve what he and her husband had failed to do. Recruiting three guides, two of them Cree Indians, she left for Labrador on June 27th 1905 and by 29th August had completed a trek of 576 miles, beating Wallace, who had embarked on the same day, by seven weeks. Not only did she bring home an accurate map of northern Labrador, but she also made an important photographic record of the native Labradorians she had met.
On her return home Hubbard became an overnight celebrity. Before long she had been sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society to undertake a lecture tour in England. It was while on that tour that she wrote this letter to a Miss Lewis (possibly an admirer) gratefully accepting an invitation to dinner. She also met her second husband, the MP Harold Ellis. In 1908 appeared A Woman’s Way through Unknown Labrador , which became a best-seller. Today this account of her expedition, and in particular the photographs she took of the native tribes, is generally recognised as one of the most valuable anthropological records of the period. More recently, however, it has sparked controversy. In particular, feminist commentators have interpreted the text as a seminal document in women’s studies. Hubbard’s projected persona in the book is seen as that of a woman performing a male role as a conqueror of a hostile environment.
The Ellises produced three children, but the couple parted in the twenties and Mina returned to Canada in 1936. After this she seems to have led a rather conventional life, latterly in poverty. In 1956, while staying with a friend in Coulsdon, near Croydon, she left the house to ‘ explore’ and on her way to the nearby Coulsdon South station she wandered aimlessly over the tracks, was hit by a speeding train and killed instantly. She was 86. What the grizzly bears and below zero temperatures of Labrador had failed to do, a British Railways commuter train had completed. [RMH]
If the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells out of Blackadder was a grotesque fiction—the reign , centuries later, of Henry Philpotts, one of whose letters is reproduced here, is something we might associate more with tyrannous Tudor bishops than with their supposedly anodyne Victorian successors.
Philpotts (1778 - 1869 ) was Bishop of Exeter between 1830 and 1869—the longest episcopacy since the 14th century. One of 23 children of an innkeeper, he is said to have been elected a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, at just 13, and graduated five years later. In 1802 he was ordained and by 1809 had held four livings, cementing in that time a lucrative connection with the diocese of Durham, where he became a Canon. Some idea of his aggrandising nature may be gained by the fact that after his election to the bishopric of Exeter in 1830 he asked that he be allowed to retain his former living of Stanhope, Co Durham which, due to the value of church land in such coal-rich territory, was then worth the enormous sum of £4,000 p.a.—amazingly £1,000 more than his new bishopric. This happy arrangement was refused, but Philpotts was permitted to keep a residentiary canonry at Durham, which brought with it a similar sum to that which he had lost, and which he retained until his death. The distance between Durham and Exeter is around 350 miles, which raises the question as to how often he, as Bishop of Exeter, was able to satisfactorily fulfil his obligations as a residentiary canon at Durham.
From the Reeve* collection this study of Sir Frederick Mander (1883 -1964) headmaster and trade unionist and the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) from 1931 to 1947. He was an important figure in British educational history but there is no photo of him available. He may be in this photo of members of the National Association of Head Teachers taken in Leamington Spa in the 1950s. Teachers are not movie stars and most searches bring up a British moustachioed character actor called Miles Mander who was born in 1884…Reeve is good on detail, especially speaking style - it is useful to know that occasionally Sir Fred 'murmured at the end of a sentence.'
SIR FRED MANDER
The late Sir Fred Mander was at one time a highly successful headmaster in Luton. During that period of his life he was popular with children, staff and parents; the school was throbbing with life and happiness, and when he resigned to labour in a wider sphere, Luton lost a splendid headmaster, although he still continued to exert a great influence in other branches of life in his own town. Continue reading →
Militant ramblers will be familiar with the title of this booklet and perhaps with the name of its author, Phil Barnes, even though it is a hard title to find nowadays, and as far as I know, hasn’t been reprinted since it first appeared in 1934. When he decided to publish at his own expense this polemic on the controversial subject of trespass, Barnes had been a self confessed ‘trespasser’ for many years. From his home in Sheffield he had tramped the wild moorland between here and Manchester but was always aware that in seeking out many of the natural beauties, he was legally limited to using only twelve public footpaths. Those, like him, who strayed from these were intimidated by the presence of signs put up by landlords claiming that prosecution would follow if warnings were ignored. Two years earlier he and fellow militant ramblers had taken part in the famous ‘mass trespass‘ of Kinder Scout in the High Peak. In this stand off between ramblers, gamekeepers and the police, physical confrontation was inevitable with the result that many demonstrators, who included the 28 year old Michael Tippett, now generally regarded as the greatest British composer of the twentieth century, were prosecuted and some landed up in jail or were fined.
In the December 1959 issue of the British magazine Prediction is a remarkable attempt by an astrologer named Katina Theodossiou to predict the political careers of the two contenders for the imminent 1960 Presidential election.
By temperament he will be a pacifist, not a war-monger; but he would not be inclined to veto armaments, nuclear or otherwise, because of this. He has a very realistic streak blended with his well-publicized religious principles. Mr Kennedy will believe that the best way to assure peace is to remain strong.
His capacity for compromise (a Libran trait) would lie in his responding, within limits, to any concessions made by the Communist bloc, but he would not go the whole hog, nor would he initiate concessions…For all his instinctive adaptability, Mr Kennedy’s shrewdness would come badly off if any sudden crisis were precipitated upon him. Taken unawares, he would react over-hastily; the façade of strength, of imperturbability, would disintegrate; his decisions under such strain would tend to rashness…