Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (6)

This the final part of this amazing series. Many thanks David Redd.

APPENDICES

Assorted background and peripheral information on Bear Hudson and others.

Appendix 1 

Norah C. James 

Her 1939 autobiography I Lived in a Democracy is good on reminiscences of Victorian childhood and early grass-roots politics, but then becomes sketchier, mainly due to James’ determination “to avoid my emotional life”. Love affairs with “C” and “Y”, and indeed the obscenity trials of The Well of Loneliness and James’ own Sleeveless Errand, receive only brief treatment, as (with more reason) does a phase of subsequent writing covered by “I decided to write some more books, and used a pseudonym for some of them.” However James’ many cameos of social attitudes are revealing, and the reader can discern the mood which made “Jimmy” write Sleeveless Errand the way she did. The appearance of her Straphangers as a Cub Book is just one of the minor mysteries which must lie behind so many Bear Hudson activities.

Appendix 2

Bernards’ Fiction Series

Bernards contained mysteries too. This sub-series seems to have consisted of just two thin paperbacks, Nos. 27 and 29 within the general wartime numbered series otherwise labelled “Bernards’ Technical Books”. Continue reading

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The Accompaniments of Wine

bordeaux chateau bottled 1934The great oenophile and gastronome T. Earle Welby had sound and sensible, if occasionally harshly expressed, views on what to eat with wine. Here are some of his opinions taken from the brilliant Cellar Key (1933).

‘With the exception of Champagne, which is never better than when taken in the forenoon, and Sherry, which is highly adaptable, all wines need, for full enjoyment, to be accompanied or immediately preceded by food. It is thus an important part of connoisseurship to know the affinities and antipathies between particular wines and food.

To begin with the enemies of all wine whatsoever, almost all hors d’oeuvres are inimical. To a great extent they consist of smoked, pickled, or highly condimented articles, and are therefore bound to blur the palate. But there is nothing to be said against plain melon, caviare, or oysters. Genuine Chablis is proverbially most enjoyable with oysters; and all the fine white Burgundies…will accord excellently with oysters, as indeed with crab or lobster or fish of any kind. But unless melon or caviare or oysters be selected, it is wise to eliminate hors d’oeuvres on a serious vinous occasion, and simply have Spanish olives in brine put on the table as a preliminary, and kept there till the meal is at an end.

Egg dishes are usually not favourable to the enjoyment of wine, for eggs very often have more a less a sulphurous flavour, and though this may hardly matter when one is drinking the baser, over-sulphured white wines of Bordeaux, it is very harmful to all delicate wines. Continue reading

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An attack on Oscar Wilde and Yeats

Yeats picFound, in the June 12, 1913 issue of a famous review is this scalding attack on two famous Irish writers.

In his “Oscar Wilde: a Critical Study “…Mr Ransome remarks that he cannot understand why the Oscar Wilde period (with Mr Yeats, I may add, as its tail-piece) was ever called decadent. Surely, it is either disingenuous or incompetent to fail in such an easy matter. The school was called decadent because it was decadent; and the decadence consisted in the usual feature of decadence, namely the elevation of the part above the whole in value. Pater, I verily believe, never had an idea in his life. In consequence he spent the whole of his energy in concealing the fact in his style. On his style he spent enormous pains as if he knew that he would live by that or nothing. That, I say– the over-attention to style—is decadence. Wilde again was never even a man of letters. Mr Ransome in my opinion utterly fails to present Wilde as he was –an Irish causeur and wit, a born blarney, a talker. In his conversation Wilde was as nearly natural as a self-conscious Irishman in England can possibly be ; that is, he talked to the English as if they were an exotic Frenchman, never by any chance, aiming at the truth, but aiming always at producing in us a pleasant gaping admiration of his cleverness. There are plenty of such Irishmen in England today, only their vogue is past and they no longer surprise us. Too clever for his intellect I called one of them a few weeks ago. Mr Ransome, however, takes Wilde seriously, if critically, as a writer, as a literary man. But as a writer, if you like, Wilde was a poseur. With a pen in his hand he was no longer Wilde but a sort of figure which I can only describe as Turveydrop on paper. He finicked among the words and phrases of the language as if he was playing court to them and was expecting a rebuff from the English genius at any moment. I never saw a page of Wilde that had not “ amateur “ in the vulgar sense written all over it , in vocabulary, in phraseology , and in construction. That also, when the writer is unaware of it, is decadence. It is not mastery of the language, but service under it, as under a mistress. And our language, thank goodness, hates the man who treats it as if it were the Lady of Shallot or Isolda. It is a queen, and its best courtiers are Prime Ministers. Continue reading

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Frances Mundy-Castle: a neglected poet

Democrats Chapbook cover 001The identity of the ‘ quiet woman‘ who wrote A Democrat’s Chapbook (1942), a hundred page long commentary in free verse on the events of the Second World War up to the time when America joined the Allied forces, was only revealed when Anne Powell included two passages from it in her anthology of female war poetry, Shadows of War (1999 ). However, those who had read her volume of Georgian verse entitled Songs from the Sussex Downs ( 1915), a copy of which was found in the collection of Wilfred Owen, might have recognised the style as that of ‘Peggy Whitehouse’, whose Mary By the Sea also appeared under this name in 1946. All three books were the work of Mrs Frances Mundy –Castle (1875 – 1959).

Thanks to her son Alistair, we now know a little more about Mrs Mundy-Castle. We know, for instance, that she came from a wealthy family and that at the age of sixteen she published a volume of her poems. She then married Mr Mundy-Castle, who managed a local brickworks, and the family settled down at Cage Farm, an early eighteenth century house on the eastern outskirts of Tonbridge. Here she seems to have held a sort of salon for local writers and artists, among whom was the cult artist and writer Denton Welch, who lived a mile or so away and was friends with her daughter Rosemary. In his later years, according to his biographer, she was ‘a frequent target of his malicious humour ‘, despite the fact that it was she who had given him the idea of writing his first book. Continue reading

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Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (5)

Some of the other things?

On 8 June 1956, Abraham Assael (“known as Albert Assael”) was granted a Certificate of Naturalisation according to the London Gazette, 17 August 1956. His origin was given as Turkey. His occupation was given as Company Director (Printers, Publishers and Stationers), probably a standard category rather than a full and accurate description.

This led into my other question. What was Bear Hudson doing after its Forties publishing wound down?

If your interest is only in the pulp fiction, the following may not appeal. Please flick down past the reading-bear logo, and resume when it reappears.

Bear Hudson after publishing

One clue as to the firm’s further activities appears in, of all places, the Chemist and Druggist, 11 July 1953:

“REPRESENTATIVE required by established house to carry an attractive and original line. Non-competitive with present lines carried. Liberal commission. Apply: Bear Hudson, Ltd., 63 Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush, W.12.”

I wonder what that “attractive and original line” could have been. Perhaps something like the “Key-lite” device advertised in Motor Sport for December 1964?

(web image)

Technical Suppliers Ltd.? At the same address? Oh, yes. See a brief mention in the Jewish Chronicle for 24 June, 1966:

“… our Managing Director, Mr. B. Babani, Technical Suppliers Ltd., Hudson House, 63 Goldhawk Road, London, W.12.”

Babani. Hudson House. Again. Technical Suppliers Ltd. had evidently moved from W.6 to W.12. along with Bear Hudson. Parts of the jigsaw puzzle are starting to fit together. I find another piece, a 1964 half-page advertisement in Practical Wireless for Bernards Books’ radio manuals. They are available by mail from Bear Hudson Ltd. of 63 Goldhawk Road.

So the close link to Bernard Babani continued for decades. In 1944 Technical Suppliers Limited was printing booklets for Bernards and for Bear Hudson. In 1953 it was printing the Hudson House Classics. In 1964 it was operating from the same building as Bear Hudson, as presumably it always had. Continue reading

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The Worst English Poets—number 4—Rev Edward Dalton

Jot 101 Worst poets cover 001The Rev Edward Dalton was a Victorian cleric and leading light in the Protestant Association. Here is an extract from his sublime effusion, ‘The Railway Journey’ (in The Sea, the Railway Journey and other Poems, London c1875)

The last friends part,

And off we start,

The engine pants and snorts and blows,

The carriage doorways slam and close,

The broad and ponderous wheels are rolled

By thick-set arms of iron mould,

While streaming from the sprouting side

The steam escapes in hissing tide.

Cranch, crunch, thud, rud, dubber-dub-rub.

Thudder, rubber, dub-dub-dub- a- rub-rub.

 

Startled at starting, for our nerves are weak,

We gasp for breath,

Grow pale as death,

As one long piercing, shrill, unearthly shriek

Rings thro’ ears, and stops the power to speak,

The cry of anguish, or vindictive yell

Of baffled imp, or vanquished fiend of hell,

The death-shriek of some monstrous beast,

We’ve smashed a million pigs at least.

Ah no! no sucking pig has lost a bristle,

The shriek was but the starting railway whistle,

Our speed increases as we rattle down

And reach the suburbs of the outer town;

And there, yes, there

On the look-our slope of the garden sward

I caught a glimpse of my darling Maude… Continue reading

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An artist among the Charing Cross Road bookshops

IMG_3272Found in the art instruction magazine The Artist (London, November 1934) an interview with the artist and art therapist Adrian Hill about his recent oil painting ‘In Charing Cross Road.’ Here are a few extracts -most of Hill’s talk is about  technique, but there are some insights on the choice of subject:

… there were some who questioned the impulse behind the work, and wondered whether the scene was worth the skill and discernment that the artist had brought to the task

I admit that I shared a little of this feeling. Charing Cross Road is a central and important thoroughfare, but it must rank in the C3 class amongst London highways. Indeed, there is so little of the beautiful or the picturesque about the neighbourhood that I asked Adrian Hill if the idea of sitting down to paint it came to him suddenly, or if he had deliberately hunted for such a subject.

“No, I wasn’t looking for it,” he said. “It came to me. It was a gift from the London traffic. I was waiting to cross the road when I suddenly found it in front of me, complete in design and detail, asking to be painted.”

“As far as size is concerned, did you see it as a 24″by 20″?”

“No, I thought at first of making it bigger – about 40″ by 30″ – but it was an experiment in the ay of subject, and I decided to go modest. If ever I do a similar scene, I shan’t hesitate to paint it on a grander scale!”

“You had no misgivings about tackling it inside the studio?”

“None at all. I believe I should have painted it mush less spontaneously and confidently if I had had the subject in front of me. The details would have been so insistent that I should have been led into making a still life study of books instead of an impression of a bookshop, which was what I was after.”

“But I suppose you had to use a model for the books?” Continue reading

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Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (4)

John Lane, the London publisher of Eudora Welty’s classic story-collection The Golden Apples, decided in 1952 that sales had slackened too much to justify keeping the work in print. According to Noel Polk’s Eudora Welty – a bibliography of her work (1994), “1175 unbound sheets were sold to “Bear Hudson[?].” How very odd. Perhaps across the world there are copies of John Lane’s edition of The Golden Apples in unusually basic binding.

Did Bear Hudson do that kind of thing often? Apparently, yes. Or at least, it did in 1952. The Reading University literary archives include records from publishers George Allen & Unwin Ltd; in 1952 there was correspondence with “Bear Hudson Ltd who buy remainders from A&U”. Interesting.

A year later, though, Bear Hudson made one last attempt at an orthodox publishing venture.

The Hudson House Classics

After the gap, in 1953-54 there materialised the “Hudson House Classics”. These were five hardcover books reprinting safely out-of-copyright children’s stories such as Treasure Island.

Despite the statement “Published by Hudson House, London” these were clearly Bear Hudson productions. The 1953 dust-jacket spine of Kidnapped carries the familiar logo of the reading bear, and the books were printed by Technical Suppliers Ltd., known to be located at 63, Goldhawk Road, as was Bear Hudson Ltd. itself. Untitled19

Not all Hudson House Classics were dated (or indeed showed the bear anywhere). I found a 1954 date for Treasure Island hiding behind the frontispiece, inexplicably avoiding the title and back-of-title pages. Some books may have been reprinted or only bound-up intermittently; their boards can be either red or green.

Then, after these five, nothing. (More Hudson House Classics were said to be forthcoming, but naturally I can’t find any, not even Little Women despite the HHC Good Wives being its sequel.) So there are still questions.

What was Bear Hudson doing after the Forties? Who were the people behind it?

I looked for the people first. Continue reading

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Dining with the famous in the early 1960s (2)

Hampshire


The high-flying Oxford graduate Robert Fearnley-Whittingstall visited Burley Manor in the New Forest a few months before he married gardening writer Jane in 1962. Three years later, celebrity chef Hugh, of River Cottage fame, was born. According to those who approved the hotel, the owners used their own ‘vegetables, cream, poultry and pigs ‘. So doubtless, the merits of locally sourced produce were passed onto the River Cottage presenter. However, it is unlikely that Hugh’s cooking skills were inherited from his Dad, because, according to Jane, the only dish her husband could cook for the young ladies he entertained as a bachelor was devilled kidneys!John Arlott pic

John ‘the Voice of Cricket’ Arlott, who started his career as a policeman in Basingstoke before being discovered by poet and BBC producer Geoffrey Grigson, was a oenophile and gastronome who enjoyed great hospitality at the White Horse Inn, Droxford, which just happens to be a few miles from the ‘Bat and Ball ‘pub in Hambledon, where cricket began in the eighteenth century.

In the early sixties ‘motels ‘ were becoming popular, although one doesn’t expect to find many in the Good Food Guide. However, there are at least two, one of which, ‘The Royal Oak Motel’ at Newington, near Hythe, offered, according to the approvers a delicious, though expensive selection of continental and English dishes, including escalope in Marsala ( 14/-) and frog’s legs ( 10s 6d). It is not known whether one of the approvers, Geoffrey Finsberg, a Tory councillor at just 24, who became a senior government minister in the seventies, dined here on expenses. Continue reading

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Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (3)

Bear Hudson authors

Much could be written about “Elmer Elliot Saks”, better known as F Dubrez Fawcett or as the main “Griff” of many near-the-knuckle paperbacks. With short page counts and fast typing he could breeze through a book a fortnight and still take afternoons off.

The House of Fear by “Frank Richards” reminds us that Charles Hamilton had years of wartime struggles, scraping along in low-paying marginal markets before his post-war resurgence with Billy Bunter in books, theatre and TV.

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

Frank Griffin in Nos. 525 and 538 may have been the F. Griffin who wrote Bear Hudson’s factual No. 518, Women’s Legal Problems. However, he was more obviously the Frank Griffin who wrote pulp action paperbacks for Mellifont, Hamiltons and others.

Pure non-fiction contributors also intrigue. No. 515 The 20th Century Guide to London was by Vernon Sommerfield, a pre-WWII transport writer who had broadcast as early as 1925 on “The Human Side of Railways” from 2LO, the forerunner of the BBC; his son was the noted political activist/novelist John Sommerfield.

And who was W.T. Baker, author of the atypical polemic I Speak to the Workers, No. 503? A review of his book mentioned that “Under the pen-name of “Benchfitter” he has contributed frequently to house-organs published by the staffs of factories.” Clearly Mr Baker had spoken to the workers before. Did his proposed next book, ‘Two-tenths of a thou’ from Nazi domination, ever appear? Apparently not. Continue reading

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Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (2)

Bear Hudson numbered booklets

The first Bear Hudson booklet was Be Clever with Leather, numbered 501. (No doubt the numbers 1 to 500 were left clear for Bernards.) The highest Bear Hudson number I know of was No. 555, How to Make Rugs, by F.J. Christopher. Some titles carried both the general number and a subset number within a “Model Engineering Series”.

Incidentally, the first few titles were published from 14 The Broadway, Hammersmith, W.6, before the firm settled down at Goldhawk Road, W.12. (A reprint of Be Clever with Leather had the old address on its front cover and the new address on its back, before a further reprint saw 63 Goldhawk Road reach the front cover at last.)

(web image)

(web image)

The Bear Hudson publishing story had several twists and turns. Omitting various oddities of 1946-48 for now, I would place the numbered booklets into three main phases:

1943-5             mostly craft/DIY subjects

1946                mainly pulp fiction

1947-50           returning to crafts

Booklet prices and formats

The prices ranged from 1/- to 2s.6d (5p to 12½p in modern money), with a very few at 6d or 3s.6d. This may have seemed expensive at the time for small stapled pamphlets, but in wartime the printers often controlled the scarce paper stocks and could negotiate a high cover price to increase their own profits. The flimsy pink interior paper just visible in the early printing of Be Clever with Leather above may have been an attempt to imitate home pattern paper, or may have been simply what was available; later impressions saw variations in paper, printers and even the number of staples. (Wartime shortages may explain why, for example, Bernards’ booklet No. 42 used eye-straining dark red paper, while No.51 was slightly more legible on blue.) Most Bear Hudson titles were printed on ordinary white paper. Continue reading

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Dining with the famous in the early 1960s

Norman Painting diningA copy of Raymond Postgate’s pioneering Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 is a real eye-opener for the 21st century foodie. Forget steak, mushrooms and chips followed by Black Forest Gateau at the nearest Berni Inn—- here were restaurants where high quality and innovative dishes were served. Postgate asked those who were members of the Good Food Club to fill in the report page at the end of each guide, ‘approving’ a particular restaurant. If he liked the comments the names of the ‘approvers’ were added to the end of the restaurant entry. Most of these approvers were just ordinary people who liked good food, but a number turned out to be amongst the great and the good of the time, including writers, academics and showbiz types. It is likely that Postgate recognised these names and deliberately selected them out as a way of attracting diners who also recognised these ‘ celebs’. Here are some examples.

London

Eternal bachelor Norman Painting, who played the patriarch of long-running radio series’ The Archers’ for a record number of years after leaving an academic career at Oxford, where he fell out with his B.Litt tutor, the lazy and apathetic Lord David Cecil, was an enthusiastic diner at Bertorelli’s in Shepherds Bush, just round the corner from the BBC. He also enjoyed the food at several other good restaurants scattered over the country. A serious gastronome, it seems.

Antiquarian book legend Anthony Rota, a great diner-out, appears to have enjoyed Mediterranean cuisine at the Tavana restaurant in Heddon Court Parade, Cockfosters. He also approved the cheap ’n’ cheerful Romano Santi bistro in Greek Street, Soho, and the more traditional Foxley Hotel in Bishop’s Stortford. Continue reading

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Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (1)

Sent in by  David Redd this original history of London publisher Bear, Hudson Limited. For which much thanks. Here is the opening part– the rest will follow over the next few weeks..

Introduction

This is the book which caught my eye:

The Terror of Timorkal by Festus Pragnell

(Image courtesy of Brian Ameringen and the SF Encyclopedia Gallery)

It was small, old (1946), oddly-shaped, and from a publisher new to me, Bear Hudson Limited of London. Over a few years I acquired this and other slightly strange little books from the same firm. Bear Hudson, I discovered, had a bafflingly varied mixture of titles and writers:

  • Dames Spell Trouble!
  • Say It with Violence!
  • Model Railway Construction!
  • Make Your Own Motors!
  • Women’s Legal Problems!
  • N Wesley Firth!
  • Eudora Welty!
  • Frank Richards without Billy Bunter!
  • Bob Hope!
  • The Curate Finds the Corpse!
  • The Case of the Indiana Torturer!
  • and a possible relationship with “Bernards’ Radio Manuals”.

Forgive my lack of title-differentiation and excess of exclamation marks. I have tried investigating to make sense of the wide variation in publications, but Bear Hudson seems to have been the original moving target.

I hope my limited findings may intrigue or amuse – and I hope that someone more knowledgeable may fill in at least a few of the many gaps.

–David Redd, 5th February, 2017.

Continue reading

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Collecting Nudist Literature

Nudist magazine GermanFound in the December 1935 issue of The Collector’s Miscellany is this extract from Nudelife, a magazine devoted to Naturism.

To the astonishing number of hobbies, quaint, varied, cheap, expensive, voluminous or requiring very little space of time, already practised by countless numbers of all ranks, sexes, ages and colour throughout the whole world, may be added this new one—thanks to nudism—that of collecting nudist magazines, either for pride of possession, or scientific, art or educational adjuncts. The field is a new one, and provided a spice of novelty, not to say thrills or even risk, inasmuch very many foreign publications, particularly German, have been prohibited or suppressed. To collect these latter publications is no crime, but they must be kept private and for the purposes above mentioned to be absolutely on the safe side. The number of German magazines have been many and varied and of comparatively short duration except in the case of an outstanding two or three. They are marked chiefly for their frank portrayal of free-body culture between the sexes in the open fields or nudist camps, with a few indoor nude studies sandwiched in between, in the matter of half-tone illustrations, which are noted for their beauty of form, relation to natural surroundings, valued instruction in sex hygiene, the value of sunlight in health . The word obscene has crept in with regard to these magazines, which are displayed for sale or are sold for a purpose other than as necessary adjuncts to the culture of science, art or specific education. In this case it would be most advisable to earmark the collection under one or more of these headings and mark strictly private and personal. In our case they become included in our Nudelife dossier for the relativity of the movement. Some other nudist countries, or better still, some other countries having a nudist movement within its confines, have at one or two publications which will eventually be more accessible and obtainable perhaps than was the case of Germany, for collectors.

So here we have a justification, on the grounds of their educational or scientific value,  for collecting what, in a recent Jot, R. Edynbry argues are merely obscene “ art “ magazines, fit only for the stupid and ignorant. Despite the fact that the anonymous author of this piece emphasises the legality of collecting nudist magazines, the whole defence is set about with cautions and suggestions as to how such material might be kept away from the prying eyes of the censor. [R.M.Healey]   

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Margaret Rutherford and Patience

Found – Illustrated Games of Patience a reprint (Frewin, London 1968)  of Lady Adelaide Cadogan’s  IMG_32051870 edition, this with an introduction by the actress Margaret Rutherford (memorable as an early Miss Marple). Her piece has a  quirky style  and a good glimpse of the older actress Marie Tempest playing Patience back stage:

They call it Patience– you play patience and, often enough, when you play if you put yourself for all practical purposes into a condition or persuasion of patience. I suppose we have all, at sometime or other, laid out the cards, in our Nursery, in sickness, or at one of those desperate moments of suspense before action, when all preparations have been made, every step been taken, and all that remains is to wait the call.
One of many my most vivid recollections, at the very outset of my career, passing down the corridor on my way to the stage was to see, through an open door, the great Marie Tempest at a table with the cards spread out. She was supreme, glittering and efficient, yet at repose, collected and ready to spring.
But one is not alone when one plays patience. There is an invisible opponent– Yet a comrade! This book presents a picture of him. From lonely palaces in The courts of idleness? Who can say? From some hidden corner of Royal anxiety? From some bereft  age when loved ones were a-far in battle?
I feel a history in this book, and yet it is a picture of a formal, little, courteous Comfort, a quiet, inner Amusement.
Margaret Rutherford

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Leavis’s ‘life enhancing’ piano shop

Leavis pianos pic 001Found in the May Week 1914 issue of the Cambridge student magazine Mandragora is this full page advert for the Regent Street piano shop run by Frank Leavis’s father Harry. Pianos figured very large in the lives of the Leavis family. Harry’s brother ran a piano shop in Mill Road and their father was a piano tuner in another part of the city. According to his biographer, Dr Leavis admired his father, apparently a cultured man, very much. It is not known whether Leavis, or his simian-faced wife, Queenie, played the piano.

Leavis was in his first year studying history at Emmanuel College when the advert appeared. When war broke out a few months later he signed up, but after a year was permitted to resume his studies at Cambridge—this time in the newly formed English department. Apart from short spells teaching at York, Wales and Bristol, Leavis spent his whole academic life in Cambridge, setting up home in Bulstrode Gardens–then an enclave of ‘thirties villas off the Madingley Road on the edge of the city, but now next door to both the Cavendish Laboratory and the Institute of Astronomy. How Leavis would have loathed this juxtaposition.

Interestingly, his dad’s piano shop lay almost opposite Downing College, where Leavis was to spend much of his time brain-washing vulnerable students. It is now a ‘Pizza Hut ‘fast food restaurant. He would have hated that too.

[Sent in by a loyal jotwatcher – opinions are his, although the tide seems to have turned against the Leavises this century. Take it or Leavis..]

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Haunt of the sixties jet-set—The Bell at Aston Clinton

Good food guide Bell Aston clintonA few days ago we heard on the radio that there was much more violence during the Great Train Robbery of 1963 than has been reflected in the over-romanticised films about it. We also learnt that the notorious Leatherslade Farm, where the robbers held out, is no more.

Luckily, ‘The Bell’ at Aston Clinton, the pub frequented by the prosecution at the trial down the road at Aylesbury, is still around. Here’s what the Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 had to say about this very popular inn just a year before the robbery took place:

Gerard Harris now has his own company and controls the inn; perhaps his brow will become less furrowed. The Bell is no well known to our members now that it is difficult to find anything new to say about it. Its menu is large, but not gigantic and the cuisine rises to a level of real distinction…creamy pate, 3/-; Arbroath smokies in cream,3/6; coq au vin, 9/6; beef Avignon, 8/6; sweetbreads chasseur,8/6; entrecote marchand de vin, 11/-; blackcurrant sorbet,2/-;crème brule,2/6…The menu is supported by a long and a remarkably chosen wine-list. The strongest section is probably the clarets: at one end is a Haut Medoc at 10/6, at the other ‘28’s and ‘29’s—chateau bottled wines between 32/- and 45/-, which are now not at all easy to get, even from wine merchants. Ordinaires at 9/6. Often crowded, and service sometimes overtaxed ( especially the wine service); but meals are served until quite a late hour. Open all year. Bed and breakfast, 19/6; no full board (App by too many members to list .) Continue reading

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Up and coming authors in 1895

William-Pett-RidgeFound in The Album for August 19th, 1895, are these encouraging words for aspiring fiction writers:-

Let no boy or girl, ambitious of literary fame, fear nowadays that they will be denied a hearing. The one thing necessary is merit—something to say and the power to say it. Granted so much, and industry, success is certain.

Take the case of two young men who have fought their way into success, and with whose careers I happen to be familiar. They are Mr W Pett Ridge (above) and Mr H. G. Wells. Neither had any influence; neither, when they began to write, had friends in the literary world; neither had the advantage of a ‘Varsity education; and yet these two young men have six books between them on the eve of publication. Moreover, the stories and articles and dialogue that make up these books having already appeared in serial form, these authors have already made incomes out of them which barristers or bank-clerks of the same age would consider exceedingly handsome.

How was it done? Just by choosing fresh subjects, by looking at those subjects with fresh eyes, and by having the gumption to know what journals those subjects would suit. Mr Pett Ridge is a London born and bred, and a Londoner who was blessed by nature with a most observant eye, great patience, and quite an abnormal sense of humour…Hardly a day passes but the writes a short story or a dialogue and hardly a night passes but his shrewd brown eyes peer into some corner of the London he knows as well as Mr Gladstone knows Downing Street…
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Cabaret, Chinese food and national anthems in Yorkshire’s most eccentric pub

Showers John StanhopeAn entry in the 1961- 62 edition of The Good Food Guide describes the exuberant John Showers and his’ inn’, the Stanhope in Calverley Lane, Rodley, south east of Leeds, thus:

‘He fills out the nightly menus with his own essays, and he has written two books about it. Foreign visitors, of which there are many, are liable to be welcomed in their own tongue (Mr Showers’circular green notepaper has Cheerio on it in thirty languages) and escorted to their tables to the sound of their own national anthem. There is a nightly cabaret, by no means undistinguished and not ‘blue’ for which he sometimes writes the script. The dining-room is very small, and serves some English dishes but ignore them ( except for no. 80 ’curried octopus’—so English, don’t you think?) and go for the Chinese food. Try, divided among a party, the Sea Salad (9/-), inkfish with bean sprouts (8/-), Stanhope Special ( based on chicken , pork and water-chestnuts, 8/ 6) or ask for some advice…

Reading the two books in question one will discover that before he opened The Stanhope, the Essex-born Showers was, among other things, a male manikin, bus conductor, and a banana planter. In 1937, inspired by the example of the new king and his consort playing darts publicly he installed a board in his saloon, hoping to attract the upper middle class. Alas, only the local proletariat came to play, and eventually the board was relocated to the tap-room. All of which recalls Basil Fawlty’s disastrous ‘gourmet night’ ! Continue reading

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C. K. Scott Moncrieff – The Ideal Translator

Found- a press cutting from The Bookman, March 1932 by one De V. Payen-Payne, a good evaluation of the life and work of C. K. Scott Moncrieff – in a review of a posthumous book by him. It may be a myth or an exaggeration but I heard that Scott-Moncrieff was working on his monumental Proust translation while on the staff at The Times and occasionally when he was stuck for the English mot juste (as it were) he would consult the entire office and everything came to a halt while the right word was found – world news be damned!

Edward_Stanley_Mercer_-_Charles_Kenneth_Scott-Moncrieff

Painting of Scott Moncrieff by E S Mercer

It is a moot point whether a mother or a wife or any near relative can write the ideal biography. Not that this book pretends to be a biography, although it contains many details that only a mother can give, and will prove invaluable when the ideal biographer appears, and Scott Moncrieff’s work is assessed critically and compared with the lit he led. Some may think that too much space has been given to his experiences in the War and to the letters that he wrote to his family and friends when on service. Since 1918 we have a large number of such accounts, and Scott Moncrieff’s adventures, although most creditable to himself, were not very different from those of many other intellectual men thrown into the cortex of combat. Others too may think that the postscript is too personal for inclusion. Instead of it, an index would have been a desirable adjustment.  Continue reading

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