Dangers of Infatuation

Cougar couple by Cranach

Some sensible advice from Real Life Problems and their Solution (1938) from the ever reliable R.Edynbry.

One can truly ascribe it to a loss of balance when a woman in the “ forties “ or “ fifties “ falls madly in love with a youth young enough to be her son; or even with a son-in-law. Sometimes he happens to be an employee or even a close friend of the family. The problem in the home is a terribly distressing one. To reason with her is useless, and kindly restraint with pacification is the only available remedy. With great good luck this dangerous phase may soon pass over and leave a wife full of contrition and shame —a condition often to be feared almost as much as the former. A wise family doctor may also be of great help by explaining to her how the change of life can affect both the mind and the emotions. One the phase has passed, never reproach the woman, or make her unhappy about it. Just show your happiness at her return to normality, and if possible, arrange for her to take a holiday or a change of some sort.

Unmarried woman of middle age are equally liable to these emotional outbreaks. Sometimes they take the form of persecuting a public character by sending anonymous letters or by waylaying him. Women of hitherto unimpeachable morals may try to seduce much younger men, or even bring charges against a perfectly innocent stranger. All these cases need the skilled care of a trained physician who will understand the real basis of the situation. Unreserved condemnations and punishment serve little purpose and can be cruel. To understand all may not be to forgive all, but, when it is recognised that the great majority of these women are mentally and emotionally sick, the otherwise harsh judgment passed upon them will often be softened.  [RR]

(Painting by Cranach)

My wife is uncultured—can I improve her? (1938)

19744241506Another ‘solution’ to ‘real life problems’ from the pen of the redoubtable ( and mysterious) R.Edynbry, who doesn’t seem to have published any book other than this little volume (Real Life Problems and Their Solution) of 1938 from Odhams Press, London.

I realized when I married that my girl had few brilliant mental attainments. She had no interest in literature, nor had she even a parrot-knowledge of the names of writers or the classic books of the past. She is a product f the film era, and I have come to the realization that I have married one who comes within the category of the lightheaded. She cannot be serious for more than one minute at a time, and I get no intelligent response to my suggestions. Do you think that, with careful handling, I could introduce her into the ways of thought; to good literature; to an appreciation of the best things of life—-wean her, so to speak, from the dross? The thought that I might be ashamed of her one day appals me. What do you advise ?

‘The best thing for you to do is to concentrate on some of your wife’s good qualities and help her to develop these to the full. It is extremely unlikely you will ever be able to ‘cultivate’ her in the way you wish. There is a very large class of women who take no interest whatever in what men call culture. Even when they do appear to be interested in art, literature or classical music, it is usually to further some scheme at the back of their minds. Or, as has been said by a wit,” When women talk of astronomy, they are thinking of the astronomer “.A love of good books and literature and the fine things of life is inborn and cannot be superimposed like a coat of varnish. A fact that many psychologists have noted is that when a young girl has had her interests centred mainly on the emotions, there is little prospect of intellectual things making any appeal to her. Continue reading

Books we must not read. Part One

In issue number 11 ( January 1951) of the book miscellany Colophon someone called W. Mason- Owen describes some of the literary material that remains locked away in two departments of the British Library ( or British Museum Library as it was then known). Incidentally, didn’t unfashionable novelist Angus Wilson work in the Manuscript department of the BM around this time? I bet he had a peek at these banned items.

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Henry Campbell-Bannerman ( James Guthrie)

In 1951 the first and most important of these departments was the Copyright Department, in which ‘ neatly packed away in brown paper parcels ‘ could be found ‘ politician’s diaries , books, letters and documents of scientists, inventors, poets and literary men, Court gossipers and King’s Messengers’. According to Mason-Owen, many of these writings wouldn’t be available to read for another fifty years---some perhaps would never be read. Owen then describes a few examples of the material locked away:-

  • Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s private papers. Apparently, according to Mason-Owen, Campbell-Bannerman was Prime Minister in the early part of ‘ the nineteenth century’ , which should of course read ‘ the twentieth century ‘. Never mind. The reason they’re hidden away was because this particular politician was ‘famed for his caustic outbursts ‘against his more intransigent opponents. It’s hard to imagine that many of these MPs would have been alive forty or fifty years on, but there you are. I suppose war hero Winston Churchill might have been one of them.
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The sex life of Marie Corelli—-a revealing letter

Marie Corelli (thanks Timprasil)
It cannot be denied that Marie Corelli (1855 – 1924) was an enormous success as a writer of science fantasy and romance. She sold more books than H.G.Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling put together and her fans were as loyal as the literary critics were dismissive.

But was she a lesbian, as many modern commentators have alleged, or did the fact that for forty years she shared her life with a certain Bertha Vyver, an irrelevancy? It has been rightly pointed out that it would be ridiculous to ascribe any homosexual leanings to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson based merely on the fact that they shared a flat in Baker Street. And the same could be said of many literary figures, both real and fictional. In the case of Corelli, it could also be argued that she was passionately attached to the painter Arthur Severn for many years, but that her feelings were not reciprocated.

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Norman Lindsay Does Not Care – an Outburst

A pamphlet found in a Fanfrolico Press book The Antichrist of Nietzsche illustrated by Australian artist Norman Lindsay. Printed about 1927 it is by his great champion P.R. Stephensen who was a friend of Lindsay's son Jack. Stephensen (1901-1965) was known as 'Inky' and was a curious figure, starter of many presses including Mandrake and something of a left wing firebrand who moved to the far right in his middle years. Here he is in his late twenties ranting in full épater le bourgeois mode:

Norman Lindsay Does Not Care
An Outburst
by
P. R. Stephensen

Fanfrolico Pamphlets No. I
Price One Farthing

Why should Norman Lindsay care if suburbia shudders with a horror which is really terror of his stark and ruthless presentation of the image of beauty? Nothing else could be expected, for at this level criticism remains atavistically moral, tribal; and any artist making a vital expression is likely to be regarded as a spawn of Satan, Antichrist, lewd and wicked, abhorrent to all Right-Thinking People. Norman Lindsay does not care how loudly the Good People howl for his suppression. But the Official Art Mob (or Mobs) also dislike him, with the intensity of a fascination which repels as it attracts. And as these quite sophisticated persons officially disown Suburbia, it is difficult for them to damn the man in Suburbia’s phrasing. Yet they must do something about it, because his work is by contrast a continual exposure of their own artistic ineptitude and moral vacuity. So they seek to explain him away, ostrich principle.
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Sexology – Confession, Jealousy, Marriage

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. 80 years later it appears highly dated and sexist but the  question of 'confession', jealousy and former partners, covered  in this article, is inherently problematic - Julian Barnes deals with it in his 1982 novel Before She Met Me and in an interview he referred to John Lennon having problems about former lovers of Yoko Ono. The story towards the end of the lawyer with the revolver and poison tablets is straight out of Hitchcock..We had another posting from Sexology on 'Homosexuality and its Cure' last year.

Sex Confessions of Wives

"I simply must make a clean breast of it, and tell • my husband." Here is an expression which, I am sure, must have been heard many times by every physician. What is there in the feminine make-up which insists that they bring drama–even tragedy–upon themselves? I know of so many homes that have been blasted and lives wrecked, through a wife’s insistence that she “unburden her soul,” that I hardly know where to begin.
  An explanation for this feminine characteristic takes us back across the centuries. The annals of history reveal quite plainly that all such ideas of bringing the old skeleton out of the closet date from the beginning of masculine dominance. The sacred archives of many lands disclose what may be a very astonishing fact to the regal male of today; namely, that he was not always the ruler. Goldenweiser asserts:
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Frank Podmore—the scandalous private life of a ghost hunter

In his autobiographical Everyman Remembers ( 1931), the litterateur Ernest Rhys recalls his friendship with Frank Podmore, one of the more colourful members of the late nineteenth century Spiritualist community, a co-founder of the Fabian Society and the author of a fat biography of the proto-socialist Robert Owen.

Like Anthony Trollope, the Oxford-educated Podmore, was a writer who held down a day job with the Post Office. But unlike the Victorian novelist, he was, to quote Rhys, ‘unimaginative’ and  ‘practical to a degree, but cultured and full of intellectual curiosity ‘—ideal qualities for a paranormal investigator. But although Rhys touches on his friend’s investigations, he seems more interested in the odd personal lives of Podmore and his wife Eleanor. Here, for instance is his impression of the odd couple in their Hampstead home:

They set up house in Well Walk, and furnished it with extreme taste and a touch of virtuosity.

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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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Tales from the Second Hand Book Trade 7

A few last stray tales of strange house calls, some straining belief…  A dealer is called to a house full of books in North London. When he arrived he realised there was a noisy afternoon party going on that had developed into an orgy and he swears he had to tread on the odd buttock as he made his way to the desirable book collection. The call had come through his ad in Time Out and he noted many of the participants were not young. Being a dealer he did not make an excuse and leave but made a good offer and returned to clear the books after the last reveller had left.

Legendary book scout Martin Stone swears he bought a great collection of modern firsts from an adult bookshop in Liverpool after the owner was shot dead one lunchtime by a crazed gunman. There were a dozen new copies of Clockwork Orange - first editions, fine in fine jackets - the trouble was that most were slightly flecked with the late owner's blood.

At another house the owner of the books, a Rachman type landlord, refused to part with some of the books after accepting the money in cash from a mild mannered book dealer. Half of the books had been loaded into to the waiting Volvo when he cried 'you've had enough.' During an argument he struck the dealer's brother, an unwise move as said brother had a fiery Irish temper. The altercation became heated, further violent blows were exchanged and the police were called by one of his tenants. None of his rather cowed tenants would witness against their landlord and they never got the other half of the books that they had paid for. One of the police remarked 'I thought bookselling was a quiet sort of job.'

Another dealer (actually the same chap who bought books during an orgy, and now a very upmarket antiquaire) found himself getting arrested during another house call. His patch was South London - which explains it. He was at the apartment of some fallen posh boys, like something out of the movie Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He was up a ladder looking at some pretty decent leather bound sets (not just Scott, but Wilkie Collins, Hardy, Le Fanu, Austen etc.,) the last gasp of a country house library. Suddenly the police burst in and arrested the half dozen upper class layabouts and hauled them off with our friend - who was ordered to come down off the ladder and shut up. He protested vehemently about having nothing to do with it all. Later that day he was released with an apology, his father being some kind of Q.C. Apparently the lads had been importing hashish from Morocco. He never got the books.

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John Osborne observed in 1959

Reading Which of Us Two? The Story of a Love Affair (Viking, London 1990).It is the record of a 'youthful, illicit and intense' relationship between John Tasker (1933 – 1988) the theatre director and Colin Spencer (born 1933) artist and writer. Spencer uses a  collection of letters the lovers wrote to each other (his were returned after John Tasker's death) and considers the relationship and why he 'murdered its future'. Spencer makes acute and amusing comments on literary figures including John Osborne (whose library we bought last year). This entry was starred by Osborne in his copy:

17.iii. 59. Yesterday I began drawing the great Mr Osborne, tall, thin, spectral: in black skin-tight trousers that showed a cute bottom and a huge lunch. And camp, my dear – not 'arf.  And the musical, my dear, cor that's a queer dish too, everybody changes their sex halfway through and deliciously lovely Adrienne Corri grows hair on her chest. Most peculiar: he was moving about so much, it's only the second week of rehearsals...though I did some lightning things with a brush, it just won't do so I'm going back after Easter and try some more. He has a curiously camp voice and he appears to stare at one with his teeth...

Colin Spencer says of this letter:

The John Osborne musical was of course The World of Paul Slickey, soon to become the only commercial failure of his early years. [We]admired Look Back in Anger, our generation felt that Osborne encapsulated the rage we all felt over the limitations of the British theatre.Yet like so much of the later Osborne the play now seems an hysterical diatribe, the characters thin and invalid,the plot negligible..it was brilliant journalism.. masquerading as theatre.

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Djuna Barnes ‘The Ladies Almanack’ (1928)

Found in one of our catalogues from 2002 a very limited and exquisite edition of Djuna Barnes's The Ladies Almanack. It was found by Martin Stone in Paris and was catalogued by him for us. It sold fairly easily to a high end London dealer for £5000.

Djuna Barnes 'The Ladies Almanack' (Privately published, Paris 1928)

Small 4to.  pp 80. Illustrated. Number 4 of  10 copies on Verge de Vidalon with illustrations hand coloured by Djuna Barnes. The  complete first edition  was 1050 copies  In full vellum wraps with highly attractive hand coloured cover. Signed on the limitation page in Djuna Barnes hand as 'A Lady of Fashion' and also on fep presented  to Lady Rothermere signed  'Djuna Barnes, Paris 1928.' Lady Rothermere was married to the press baron Viscount Rothermere (Lord Harmsworth) and was  the patron of various writers most notably T.S. Eliot who was able to give up his bank job due to her financial assistance. 'Ladies Almanack'  was printed by Darantiere in Dijon and has a curious publishing history - it was originally to be published by Edward Titus at the Black Manikin Press in Paris. However when Djuna Barnes found out how much Titus was charging her she decided to publish and distribute the book herself with financial help from Robert McAlmon. The name Edward Titus is blacked out on the title page in all copies. The ordinary edition was $10, the hand coloured one of 40  $25 and the ten hand coloured and signed copies were $50 a sizeable sum in 1928. The work, a celebration of female sexuality and a rebuke to heterosexual patriarchy, portrays in disguised form, many of the cultural and artistic elite of the Parisian avant garde of the time- epecially the Lesbian circle which was gathered around Natalie Clifford Barney - Janet Flanner, Romaine Brooks, Solita Solano, Dolly Wilde ('Doll Furious') Lady Una Troubridge ('Lady Tilly Tweed-in-Blood') and Radclyffe Hall. Janet Flanner called her 'the most important woman writer we had in Paris.' In fine  fresh condition - an exemplary copy of this beautiful expatriate book; in tirage de tete the black orchid of Lesbian literature.

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C.S. Lewis and women

Found in a slim volume of verse a letter by the poet Herbert Palmer about an evening spent with C.S.Lewis. The book was A Sword in the Desert: a Book of Poems and Verses for the Present Times (Harrap 1946.)

It is a signed presentation copy: 'With best Birthday wishes to Edgar from Bert August 1946.' Edgar is unknown (so far.) Tipped in at the front is a handwritten signed letter from the author to Edgar written on a Tuesday (probably 1946). It reads thus:

Dear Edgar. I think I have remembered your birthday to date this year.

I spent very exciting evening with Lewis (in) the middle of June.He is not the ascetic people think – but a convivial Irishman. Looks something between a jolly priest and a country publican with a dash of St Francis thrown in. A very good poet too. Which means he has his feet very firm on the ground. We sat up till midnight reading our poems to one another. He doesn't like women - says all the women he knows are either 'saints or devils, – chiefly devils.Hell. I presume from his standpoint, is chiefly populated by women.

Love to Mary & Winifred, Bert.'

On the verso of the letter is a signed typed note from Lewis to Palmer written from Magdalen College, Oxford and dated 9th May 1946  consisting of about 20 words in which he confirms the day they are to meet. Palmer has CROSSED OUT the signature and the typing in ink, although they are still very legible. In about 1945-46 Palmer was responsible for introducing Lewis to Ruth Pitter, of whom Lewis said that if he was the kind of man who got married, he would have wanted to marry her. The book's printed dedication is to Robert Gathorne-Hardy, poet and botanist.

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I once met….Sir Felix Dennis

The sad recent death of amateur poet, multimillionaire media mogul, and manic tree planter reminds me of the day I interviewed him back in 2008. Preparation is everything and knowing that this most eligible bachelor was rather fond of attractive young ladies, my magazine sent me to meet him with a pretty Dutch photographer in her twenties whose dress of choice was a very clinging all-leather cat suit. I can’t for the world think why she chose this particular outfit, but there you are.

In the Forest of Dennis
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French bicycle poster – Durex ‘en vente ici’

Found! Actually the gift of an American colleague and dealer in ephemera- this hanging wall card for cycle parts from the French company Durex. Probably from the early 1950s, the company appears to be now defunct.... This poster may amuse some Brits as Durex is the pre-eminent maker of condoms in Britain. Durex is practically synonymous with condoms there in the way Hoover is with vacuum cleaners.

In the USA it is Trojans which, although not unknown in Britain, is also the name of several different companies on the sceptered isle including an electronics company, an arms dealer ( Trojan Group) and a timber crating company.

The arms dealer Trojan sells assault rifles  with this quote from Voltaire: 'God is not on the side of the big battalions but  on the side of those who shoot best.' Exactement.

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Mona’s 440 Club – dancing at the Lesbian Bar

Found, folded into an American thriller from the Donald Rudd collection of detective fiction, this napkin - a memento of Mona's 440 Club generally credited as being the first lesbian bar in the United States -'Where Girls Will be Boys.'

James R. Smith's San Francisco's Lost Landmarks (2004) says the following about Mona's:

Mona's 440 Club was another [club] that took advantage of the city's tolerance and tourism. Opening in a Columbus Street basement in North Beach in 1936, Mona Sargeant's tavern quickly hit the travelsheets as a place "where girls will be boys." The first openly lesbian club, Mona's female waiters and performers wore tuxedos and patrons dressed their roles. Within a couple of years, Mona's moved to 440 Broadway and took the address as part of the club's new name, Mona's 440 Club. Great entertainment, first local and later national talent, made a night at Mona's an event.

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Stephen Tennant – a note on a scrap of paper

Found - a scrap of paper from a book on America maritime history - this note by the eccentric /decadent writer and artist Stephen Tennant (1906 -1987.) He often used pages of books for notes, poems, rants and observations. He made many hundreds of pages of notes for his projected novel Lascar; A Story of the Maritime Boulevard but it remained unfinished at his death. He produced a few slim volumes and some superb drawings. The writer mentioned is anonymous but being rich and eccentric and talented ST knew many writers including Willa Cather, Siegfried Sassoon (a former lover) V.S. Naipaul (a neighbour) and W.H. Auden (who praised one of his poems.) The scrap reads thus:-

There is no element or trait in human nature that a writer can ignore - But to give prominence to the Noble profound, to the calm, the wise, the Beautiful- the exquisite, the sacred is surely his proudest need? June 1976 S T

But he is no prude or evader of odious things.

ST with David Hockney
at Wilsford Manor
Design for a cover
for 'Lascar'

'Ah, Marseille, - c'set le Vrai.'
A writer said this a propos my novel Lascar.

Stephen Tennant's possessions were dispersed in a big Sotheby's sale at his home Wilsford Manor, Wiltshire in 1987.

This was bought there in a van full of books. Some of the books appeared to be scented, some had letters loosely inserted including one from Willa Cather. The catalogue itself is sought after, at Ebay a copy recently made £100 although it is not uncommon...