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The Worst Government for 100 years?

This rant on Harold Wilson's Labour Government came from the Wells (Somerset) Conservative Association. It was a one page flyer printed in blue ink and had first appeared in The Daily Telegraph. Anthony Lejeune, a highly competent journalist and author is not gifted with a Wikipedia page but there are traces of his career from a search on the site. He wrote a history of London clubs and has written about Arthur Machen and Fr. Brocard Sewell. He has written about Ernest Bramah in The Tablet which may mean he is a Catholic and almost certainly a book collector…the piece (very slightly  truncated) is very much of its time (circa 1966). Politicians are no longer condemned for wearing the wrong clothes at parties.

The Worst Government for 100 years? by Anthony Lejeune.
Do you remember George Brown on television, flanked by leaders of industry and the trade unions, flourishing his fatuous Declaration of Intent? Do you remember the commentators solemnly telling us that this marked a watershed in the history of British industrial relations? And do you remember any of those commentators apologising to us since for having been taken in by so naive a piece of nonsense? I don't.

Do you remember the National Plan?
I got into trouble with the BBC for treating it, the week it was published, with the disrespect which it soon proved to deserve. I'm still waiting for an apology or even an admission that I was right.

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H.H. Asquith (Earl of Oxford & Asquith)

[More from the papers of L.R. Reeve* who writes:] I remember, somewhere around 1907, reading a wrong prognostication in a Manchester newspaper, the 'Daily Despatch', about Lloyd George, Grey, Runciman, McKenna, Birrell, Samuel, Haldane, Morley and Winston Churchill.
  
Nine names of nine outstanding men who, under Henry Herbert Asquith, formed one of England's strongest cabinets ever known. The cabinet was so powerful, said the prophetic journalist, that Asquith might never be able to control so formidable a group of parliamentarians. We all of course know that he did, and that by 1914 some far -reaching acts of parliament had been passed by the government.
  
  One of the early acts, causing the lengthy, bitter 'ninepence for fourpence' controversy and angry snarls about stamp-licking can never be forgotten by octogenarians, and I cannot believe that widespread antagonism towards individual members of parliament today is as vindictive as that of my young days; and as yet parliament hasn't witnessed the unprecedented scene encountered by Asquith when he rose to speak on the bill abolishing the veto of the House of Lords. For nearly an hour he stood almost unheard against the continuous roar of anger from the opposition. Finally he sat down defeated by the pandemonium. Later the incident was known as 'the Pothouse Brawl'.

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This England

Found -- This England, a patriotic pamphlet from the late 1920s in the Golden Thoughts series. "A Pictorial Memento of the scenic loveliness that lies within the land which the King calls 'our own dear home' as described by the poet Allan Junior."

The four images on the cover show England as an island of lakes and seas - 'this island race.'  A jingoistic magazine of the same name has carried on publishing into this century. The title comes from Shakespeare's King Richard II: "This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle... This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."

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Charles Pearson & James Watt association

Discovered in 1998 on a market stall off Brick Lane is this copy of the exceedingly rare Substance of a Address by Charles Pearson at a Public Meeting (1844). The book is scarce enough (none on Abebooks, nor likely to be in the near future), but my copy also bears an inscription from the author to James Watt, son of the famous Scottish engineer.

Watt (1769 – 1848) who, like his father, was an engineer, but was also a radical political activist in the turbulent 1790s, has his own Wikipedia entry, but there is no mention in it of Pearson. Nevertheless, the two men had much in common. While in France Watt’s support for the French revolutionaries and his friendship with Joseph Priestley, got him condemned in the British Parliament and he remained in self-imposed exile until he felt it was safe to return home. A generation younger, Pearson, as the radical Solicitor for the City of London, was the champion of parliamentary reform who defended radicals in court. He also was in favour of the disestablishment of the Church of England, opposed the system of packed juries and fought commercial monopolies in London. A year after his Substance on an Address appeared, he published a pamphlet which called for an atmospheric railway that would follow the ancient Fleet ditch to Farringdon. This was rejected and I seem to remember that Punch had great fun with the idea. Other railway schemes supported by Pearson were also rejected, but at last in 1854 the Royal Commission accepted a proposal to build an underground railway, using the ‘cut and cover ‘method, from Praed Street to Farringdon. Work began in 1860 and within three years the new line was completed. The world now had its first underground railway. Unfortunately, Pearson had died while the work was still in progress and he never got to ride on the first train.

It would be nice to think that Watt, the consultant engineer behind the building of Fulton’s North River Steamboat of 1807, and the marine engineer who in 1817 was responsible for the first steamship to leave an English port, had something to do with Pearson’s atmospheric railway of 1845. It seems very possible, especially as Watt’s expertise was in steam power and pneumatics. In addition, Pearson’s address of 1844 tackles many of the issues that would have been close to Watt’s radical heart and the younger man would have taken great pleasure in presenting a copy of his book to the septuagenarian former firebrand.

One question remains. Watt died at his home, Aston Hall, near Birmingham, in 1848. So how did his book end up on an East End junk stall in 1998 ?

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Simon Watson Taylor: surrealist, pataphysician & cabin steward

The death in 2005 at the age of 82 of aged hippy and anarchist Simon Watson Taylor went almost unnoticed in the Arts pages and it was left to his friend and former house-mate George Melly to supply an obituary in the Independent in which he pointed out the major contributions of the writer and translator of Alfred Jarry to the Surrealist and Pataphysics movements in Europe during the fifties and sixties. On a personal level, Melly also alluded to his friend’s ‘acid humour ‘, his delight in confronting and dispatching the pretensions of the bourgeoisie, and a determination to remain free of encumbrances. At one point in his early life we are told that he took a job as an airline cabin steward in order to travel the world.Indeed, among all his friends who had some way embraced aspects of the bourgeois life- style, Melly claimed that Watson Taylor stood out as a man ‘truly free’.

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Mornington Crescent – the poem

Found - a slim volume of poetry called Annotations (London: Humphrey Milford, 1922) by 'Susan Miles'' (i.e. Ursula Wyie Roberts 1887-1975 feminist, suffragist and poet). She wrote a pamphlet in 1912 The Cause of Purity and Women's Suffrage. This copy is signed in 1960 to Russell and Letitia Sedgwick. The poem's title is taken from the famous tube station (and later the humorous improvisational radio game) Mornington Crescent. It is slightly reminiscent in sentiment and setting of Ezra Pound's earlier imagist haiku of 1919 In a Station of the Metro - 'The apparition of these faces in the crowd;/ Petals on a wet, black bough.'  Persephone recently republished Susan Miles's  Lettice Delmer, a novel in verse, which had first appeared in 1958. ‘Its simplicities are at a profound level. The theme is a great one and the characters are superb,’ wrote Storm Jameson. Her poetry was also anthologised in the 1920s by poetaster Harold Monro, said to be a hard man to please when it came to poetry...

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Small collection of rock lapel badges (pins) 1

These came with a ton of books on rock and seem to date from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. Truly ephemeral - they relate to some almost forgotten campaigns and acts, although Sex Pistols, The Who and Joni Mitchell are still famous. Not sure what was being defended in Sheffield and what 'The Incredible Plant' was. Johnnie Allan was a 'swamp pop' musician and The Soft Boys were well known in there day but finally disbanded in 2003, Stiff records are still renowned and mono keeps making a comeback ...more to come.

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Russian Jokes (Brezhnev era)

Found - a not unamusing joke book Political Jokes of Leningrad by Arie Zand. (Published by Silvergirl, Austin, Texas 1982 - many thanks.) The jokes are now slightly dated, the best are about Brezhnev. There is a persistent theme of a fear of a Chinese takeover and the Bulgarian joke presumably reflects  the way that Bulgaria was then viewed by Russians. The last joke is not exactly a rib-tickler and is slightly surreal...

A special commemorative stamp with a picture of Brezhnev has been issued. It is a fine likeness, yet there have been many complaints that the stamp does not stick on envelopes. An extraordinary commission was formed to investigate these complaints. Their findings corroborated the widespread suspicion that the stamp would not stick because people were spitting on the wrong side. 

An international group of biologist had just completed a cooperative study of elephants in Africa. Upon their return to their respective countries each member of the group reported their findings. The German scientist wrote 10 volumes entitled: 'A Short Introduction to the Science of Elephants Observed in their Natural Habitat.' The French representative's work: 'The Sexual Life of Elephants.' The Russian: 'The Marxist Interpretation of Elephant Science.' The Bulgarian: 'The Bulgarian Elephant as the Loyal Companion of the Noble Russian Elephant.'

An American and a Russian argue about which country has more freedom. The American says: "I can walk in front of the White House and shout, 'Down with Carter,' and not one thing will happen to me."
The Russian, on the other hand, boasts: "I also can walk in front of the Kremlin and cry,'Down with Carter,' and nothing will happen to me either."

During one of their telephone conversations, Brezhnev confided of President Carter: "Can you imagine that last night I had the strangest dream: A great red banner was flying on top of the White House, and the letters on the banner said, in Russian: LONG LIVE COMMUNISM." Brezhnev laughed and wondered aloud, "What could that have meant."
"I don't know," said Carter, "but I have dreams like that too, sometimes. Why just last night I dreamt that there was a tremendous red banner over the Kremlin, but I couldn't read what the letters said."
"Why not?" asked Brezhnev.
"Well, I can't read Chinese," Carter replied. 

 An artist-modernist walked quickly into the museum. He was followed by two specialists on the arts, plain-clothed.

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Auberon Herbert poet and voluntaryist

Found in Windfall and Waterfall (Williams & Norgate, London 1894) a volume of poetry by Auberon Herbert  - an advertisement for his journal The Free Life - the organ of Voluntaryism. Auberon Edward William Molyneux Herbert (Highclere, 18 June 1838 – 5 November 1906) was a writer,poet, theorist, philosopher, and 19th century individualist. A member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Herbert was the son of the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon, brother of Henry Herbert, the 4th Earl, and father of the 9th Baron Lucas. He promoted a classical liberal philosophy and took the ideas of Herbert Spencer a stage further by advocating voluntary-funded government that uses force only in defence of individual liberty and private property. He is known as the originator of voluntaryism.

The poetry is competent and clean limbed, somewhat of its time but counter to the prevailing decadence of much 1890s verse. We are quoting the tract on voluntaryism and preceding it with a couple of poems. His ideas are still alive, especially in the libertarian fringes of American republican thinking...

THE UNKNOWN SHORE.
It falls on my ear, now faint, now strong,
The thunderous note of the distant roar,

The surf of the sea I have sailed so long - ,
As it beats at last on the unknown shore.

Oh ! how will it be, when the hour has come,-
Unlike all hours that went before, —

Will help be near, or in pain and fear,

Shall I win my way to the unknown shore ?


IN BORDERLAND.
For strange deep longings move us,
As betwixt the two we stand,

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The Potato Man and the MP —a First World War Story

Discovered in the library of descendants of geneticist Dr. Redcliffe Salaman, author of The History and Social Influence of the Potato (1949 ) is the final volume of an Elzevier Press  edition of Lucan’s Pharsalia,  dated 1671.

It’s fitting that the poem treats of the civil war between Julius Caesar and the forces of the Senate headed by Pompey the Great, because it was found among the rubble of Arras, blitzed by the Germans in 1916, by a soldier, Major Daniel Hopkin, MC, who on returning home to England presented it to Salaman’s son Raphael (then aged about 10 ), who just happened to be one of his  private pupils. On further investigation, the friendship between Salaman senior (b 1874) and Hopkin, his junior by 12 years, becomes even more intriguing.

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The McWhirters v. the unions (1974)

Ross & Norris McWhiter, founders of Guinness Book of Records

In the 1970s a phalanx of right-leaning protests groups emerged in Britain antagonistic to the trade unions and overwhelmingly drawn from Conservative voters. The Current Affairs Press was set-up by Ross McWhirter in 1974 with the ‘express purpose of fighting the unions.'  A flyer by McWhirter entitled Standing up to the Unions, reveals working capital of £100,000 and their ability to print three million newspapers a day in the event of a national printers strike. It also describes operation ‘Roadlift’, designed to take effect in the event of a national rail strike. In an experiment in Brighton, two hundred car owners offered 700 seats for more than one thousand commuters who applied for transport facilities. The Current Affairs Press, though officially non-partisan, pledged its support to the new leader of the Opposition: ‘Mrs Margaret Thatcher deserves, and must be given full support not only of the Conservative party but of anti-socialists everywhere.'

Out of it grew The National Association for Freedom (NAFF) possibly the most successful anti-trade union campaign group, attracting some 20,000 members within a year. The flyer, like much political ephemera, is oddly rare but we were sent one by an offshore jotwatcher (PDJ) who found a perfect example in between the pages of an antiquarian atlas. This was a sort of British Tea Party avant la lettre-- the difference with the later American group being that the Roadlift crowd would have  actually drunk tea…

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Forum Club (Grosvenor Place)

Found-- this intriguing bookplate. It can be seen in many books deaccessioned from the club's library. Until I researched the Forum Club I thought it had some occult or theosophical connection, as the women look like priestesses witnessing some sort of vision or apparition. In fact it was a normal London club, but solely for women, with 1,600 members.

It was founded in 1919 as The London Centre for Women's Institute Members, and lasted into the early 1950s. A number of suffragettes and early feminists were members, including Elizabeth Robins, Mary Sophia Allen and Sybil Thomas and Viscountess Rhondda. As well as accommodation for members (and their maids), the club contained a dining room, a lounge, a photographic darkroom, a salon which could by hired for exhibitions, a bridge room, a billiard room, a library and a hairdresing room. Formerly it had been the residence of of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was Prime Minister from 1905 to 1908. A blue plaque commemorates his residency. During World War I it was The Princess Christian's Hospital for Officers - a convalescent home with 35 beds, affiliated to Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital in Millbank. A website in 2012 reported it was now boarded up but it will probably re-emerge as an oligarch's palace or a hotel.