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Edward Fitzgerald buys a Constable and conceives Alice (1841)

Found in  A Fitzgerald Medley (Methuen, 1933) an excerpt from a letter by Fitzgerald (the translator of Omar Khayyam) that he sent to his friend Frederick Tennyson in January 1841. Charles Ganz, the editor of the anthology, includes this in the introduction to a piece Fitzgerald wrote for children - a version of Dickens's Little Nell in simple language for children. The letter reads:

I have just concluded, with all the throes of imprudent pleasure, the purchase of a large picture by Constable*, of which, if I can continue in the mood, I will enclose you a sketch. It is very good:but how you and Morton would abuse it! Yet this, being a sketch, escapes some of Constable's faults, and might escape some of your censures. The trees are not splashed with that white sky-mud, which (according to Constable's theory) the Earth scatters up with her wheels in travelling so briskly round the sun; and there is a dash and felicity in the execution that gives one a thrill of good digestion in one's room, and the thought of which makes one inclined to jump over the children's heads in the streets. But if you could see my great enormous Venetian picture you would be astonished.

Does the thought ever strike you, when looking at pictures in a house, that you are to run and jump at one, and go right through it into some behind-scene world on the other side, as Harlequins do? A steady portrait especially invites one to do so: the quietude of it ironically tempts one to outrage it: one feels it would close again over the panel, like water, as if nothing had happened.

Ganz comments: "This fantastic idea reminds us of Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there. Carroll wrote his story. Fitzgerald played with the idea and let it slide. One cannot  help regretting that he never wrote an original story for children, but we must rejoice that Little Nell's Wanderings, the result of the efforts of two men of genius is left to us."

*Not sure what this picture was. I can find no paintings of Venice by Constable. It would of course be excessively valuable now. He is known to have bought two Constables in 1842 that sold for healthy sums when he died in 1876. The cover of the book is by Frank Brangwyn.

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The Dealer in Images

Found - in London Cries Illustrated for the Young (Darton & Co, London, circa 1860). 11 charming hand-coloured plates depicting street vendors each composed of their wares, i.e. the brush maker is made of brushes and the image seller, above, is made of prints and images. A rather rare collectable juvenile book of some value. Marjorie Moon's slightly used copy sold at Bloomsbury Auctions in London for £500 in 2005. The text is aimed at quite young persons - for the image seller it reads thus:

Poor Pedro! what a strange load he bears! He has become one mass of images from top to toe. Well may he cry "images", in hopes that some one will ease him of his burden. They are very cheap. There is the head of Shakespeare, and of our gracious Queen; Tam o'Shanter and Souter Johnnie; Napoleon, parrots and I know not what besides, all made out of plaster of Paris, by poor Pedro in his little attic, which serves him for bed-chamber, sitting room and workshop. Have you ever seen these poor Italians at their work? I have, and very poorly are they lodged and fed, I can assure you. One would wonder what can make them leave their sunny Italy, where fruits hang thick as leaves upon the tress, to come and toil in darkness and dirt in our narrowest streets. But I suppose they little know what London is till they are settled down with very distant prospect of return. They hear of it as famous city, paved with gold  - that is the old story, you know - where every one can make his fortune; and they come to try. Poor Pedro, he had a happy home once, too; but a terrible earthquake shook that part of Naples which contained his little hut. The earth shook so violently that houses and walls tottered and fell, nay, in many parts whole streets not only fell but were swallowed up by the gaping earth, which opens at these times just like a hungry mouth, and closes again over all that falls in.  

The Seller of Songbirds

It was in the night this earthquake came; and Pedro, than a little boy, was roused by the cries of his father and mother, who felt their house shaking round them. Out into the open air they all rushed, with nothing but a few clothes they had on. The streets were full of people, who knelt and prayed aloud to God to spare their lives. The bells in all the churches clashed wildly, as the towers rocked to and fro. It was a dreadful day, and Pedro will never forget it. By morning many of the houses were buried in the earth, and others lay in heaps of ruin on the ground. Amongst these was the poor hut of Pedro's father. It has been a shabby little home, but still it was their home and held all their wordily goods, and sorely they wept over it destruction. The little garden, too, was all laid waste. Some kind people gave money to build up once more the ruined houses; but, whilst this was being done, there was sore want and famine, and many left their native lace to try their fortunes elsewhere. And so it was that Pedro came, with many more, to earn his living by selling images in London streets.

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Minor Symbolists 2 (Nicholas Kalmakoff)

More from  this article Unisex, 1910-Style found in a forgotten antiques bulletin The Four in Hand Letter from May 1970.

It was in 1962 that the work of a rather more bizarre artist, Nicholas Kalmakoff, was newly discovered in the Paris Flea Market. Kalmakoff was born in Russia in 1873 and the earliest influence on his life was a German governess who taught him to believe in the Devil -- a recurring theme in his paintings. He studied painting in Italy and returned to St. Petersburg in about 1903. He became immersed in all sorts of strange mystical and sexual cults and probably even attended the satanic meetings that Rasputin was holding at the time.

In 1908 he was commissioned to do the costumes and decor for Wilde's Salome and his interpretation was so shockingly extravagant (the interior of the theatre was designed to closely resemble the most unmentionable part of a woman!) that the production was taken off on the first night.

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Minor Symbolists

Found - this article Unisex, 1910-Style in a forgotten antiques bulletin The Four in Hand Letter from May 1970. It billed itself as The Fortnightly Guide to Collecting for Profit (Art Antiques Junk Valuables). Very much for the intelligent dealer and stall holder of the time with its eye on prices and trends. It tips the fringe PRB painter Simeon Solomon as an artist to watch, a painting of his recently made a 6 figure sum but he could then be bought for less than a £1000 for an oil. The artists mentioned here are still quite obscure with no art books or Catalogues Raisonnées available ...[in 2 parts with the first mostly on Eric Robertson and the second on Nicholas Kalmakoff]

Unisex, 1910-Style

Eric Harald Macbeth
Robertson (1887-1941)
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