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.
Found in the vast Jimmy Kanga* collection a signed presentation copy of Robert Lynd's The Sporting Life and Other Trifles. Lynd (1879-1949) is a rather forgotten Irish born essayist. His Gaelic name was Roibéard Ó Floinn, and he wrote essays, often humorous, occasionally under the name 'Y.Y.' (wise.) Lynd settled in Hampstead, in Keats Grove near the John Keats house. He and his wife Sylvia Lynd were well known as literary hosts (Hugh Walpole, Priestley etc.,) Irish guests included James Joyce and James Stephens. The publisher Victor Gollancz reports Joyce intoned Anna Livia Plurabelle there to his own piano accompaniment. Hampstead is the now the haunt of oligarchs and wealthy media types. A customer recalls that even into the 1970s, when he lived in Frognal, cabs were reluctant to venture that far from the West End. Now it is probably a favoured destination…Lynd writes:
HAMPSTEADOPHOBIA is a disease common among taxi-drivers. The symptoms are practically unmistakable, though to a careless eye somewhat resembling those of apoplexy. At mention of the word " Hampstead" the driver affected gives a start, and stares at you with a look of the utmost horror. Slowly the blood begins to mount to his head, swelling first his neck and then distorting his features to twice their natural size. His veins stand out on his temples like bunches of purple grapes. His eyes bulge and blaze in their sockets. At first, for just a fraction of a second, the power of speech deserts him, and one realises that he is struggling for utterance only because of the slight foam that has formed on his lips.
Sent in by a regular from Hertfordshire - Robin Healey.
John Constable -- The Spedding Home
Less than five minutes into an episode of the recently aired Fake or Fortune series I pricked up my ears. Fiona Bruce and her art sleuths were discussing the provenance of a putative Constable painting of Yarmouth Harbour when they pronounced the name of a former owner, Jane Spedding.
That rang a very loud bell with me. You see, about 25 years ago I bought a rather battered dissected map of England and Wales, dating to around 1811, from an eccentric old dealer in the Pimlico Road. It was priced at just only £2, and I assumed that its cheapness reflected the fact that it, like many of these early jigsaw puzzles, had many pieces missing. At home I examined it further and discovered that the handwriting in pencil on the bare wood on the reverse of the lid confirmed my suspicions. There were, according to the writer, six pieces missing---‘ Anglesea, Flintshire and Radnor, Surrey, Middlesex and Isle of Wight ’. But there was more information. The writer had appended two names and two addresses: ‘Margaret and Jane Spedding 23, Norfolk Street, London & Hampstead Heath, near London, Middlesex, England’.