Now and Then

This was a literary magazine published sporadically by Jonathan Cape to promote their own new books.

The idea of such a magazine is unusual, to say the least. Your Jotter is not familiar with any other periodical of this type ( though doubtless there must be one or two) , and it is certainly sneaky to design a magazine to look almost exactly like an independent  literary review, rather than a book promotion. The name of the publisher does appear on the cover of the Winter 1936 issue, which we found in our archive at Jot HQ, and in the case of The Book of Margery Kempe, the name ‘ Jonathan Cape’ appears under the blurb in an advertising panel in this issue , but in every other advert in the magazine  the publisher’s name is absent, as indeed it is in every review of the books. This is surely misleading to everyone reading the magazine except those who were familiar with it and its aims. A casual reader picking up  a copy of Now and Then from a bookstall back in 1936 would conclude that here was yet another literary review and only on close inspection would he or she perhaps be suspicious of its independence. The inclusion of the words ‘Jonathan Cape’ on every advert and in every review would have immediately given the game away. However, any reader sufficiently impressed by a review to seek out the books in a store might easily be offended at being taken in by a blatant piece of puffery. I wonder if Jonathan Cape lost any customers this way. Few would have expected a reputable and long established publisher, such as John Murray, to indulge in such chicanery. But the comparatively recently founded Jonathan Cape, which had begun in 1921, was evidently keen to boost its sales.  

The trick, which  probably began in the company’s marketing department, originated with the first issue of Now and Then in the 1920s, but was further enhanced in the ‘thirties when it adopted the art deco cover style of  Geoffrey Grigson’s New Verse, with its trendy sans serif font. Up to this point Now and Then had used the conventional roman font for its cover. However, the main text and back cover remained resolutely Roman throughout its existence. 

To their credit, the people at Jonathan Cape did not choose many of their own authors as reviewers. In this Winter 1936 issue, only Muriel Stuart could be classed as such. Most of the others were under fifty, although there were few older , well-known authors , such as Winston Churchill, William Beach Thomas  and Grant Richards.  Most were well known literary figures , although one or two, such as short story writer and novelist L. A. Pavey, James Curtis, a screenwriter and novelist, best known for ‘They Drive by Night’, and Muriel Stuart, a poet and writer on gardening, were less eminent.

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The Complete Philanderer

Jot 101 Rex Stout picPart one

We have seen in a recent Jot how that great Sci-Fi pioneer and social satirist, Philip Wylie, was at base a misogynist. Here is the detective writer  Rex Stout (1886 – 1975) writing in the same Bedroom Companion offering tips on how a young tyro amorist could  achieve a series of notches on his bedpost.

Stout divides his advice into four categories: Equipment, Method, Raw Material, and Keeping Score.

As for equipment, the first rule is, travel light. Keeping your baggage at a minimum increases your mobility, helps to maintain financial solvency, and prevents your abanding valuable stores and ammunition to the enemy in case of emergency evacuation…I knew one fellow, a Lithuanian who operated on the Grand Street sector, otherwise a sound technician, who went so far as to advocate carrying one’s own mattress….and a man out west somewhere ( I never met him) who suggested an air mattress was obviously an impractical dreamer. Had he ever, I wonder, outraged his lungs—indeed his entire diaphragm—by inflating an air mattress to the required buoyancy? If he had, what was he good for then? He might reply that he also carried an automobile tire pump. I retort, what are we, gallants or garage mechanics?.

After stipulating the quality and colour of the amorist’s clothing ( a suit in grey, a shirt of whatever colour  and shoe laces that don’t have food spilt on them) Stout then suggests that no hat be born, though if the wearer does take one it must on no account bear the amorist’s initials. Rings are also strictly forbidden. Continue reading

Conscious and unconscious erotica

Mark twain pic

Some writers knowingly produced erotica; others unknowingly published smutty material. Here are a few examples


Pietro Aretino (1492 – 1556), Sonnetti Lussuriosi(1524)

The Sonnetti Lussuriosiof this poet, gossip and writer of witty plays was a collection of verses and erotic drawings that, like the Kama Sutra, demonstrated positions for sexual intercourse. Though the book proved very popular, it earned the wrath of the Pope, an erstwhile patron of Aretino, along with Emperor Charles V. Aretino lost his papal patronage, but he also was taken to task by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dr John Donne, who objected that some of the sexual positions were missing.

Norman Douglas (1868 – 1952), Some Limericks(1928)

The author of Old Calabria and South Wind, also compiled Venus in the Kitchen, a collection of aphrodisiac recipes, and the privately printed Some Limericks. The latter, which has been described as ‘ irreverent, scatological and erotic ‘ , was accompanied by ‘ scholarly ‘ notes that sent up the sort of po-faced critical apparatus so beloved of Ph D candidates.

W S. Gilbert ( 1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan ( 1842 – 1900) . ‘ The Sod’s Opera’.

The humorous double act that gave us so many wonderful operettas also composed The Sod’s Opera , among the characters of which are Count Tostoff and the Brothers Bollox ( a pair of hangers on) and Scrotum, a wrinkled old retainer. Oddly, there are no records of a public performance, though it would be refreshing if some village Opera society put on their version of it.


Anais Nin ( 1903 -77 ) The Delta of Venus.

The friend of pornographer Henry Miller got together with Nin and an army of hard up writers to form a sort of porn factory which turned out several erotic works, some commissioned by an anonymous tycoon. Ms Nin was also a novelist and a prolific diarist.

Felix Salten aka Siegmund Salzmann ( 1869 – 1949) Josefine Mutzenbacher.

The apparently wholesome author of Bambi(1929), a children’s story which recounted the struggle of an orphaned deer, which was later immortalized by Walt Disney, also penned an extremely well received erotic novel that painted a very accurate picture of  the life of a prostitute among the petit bourgeoisie in fin de siecleVienna. Today it is regarded as equal in status in the German-speaking word to our own Fanny Hill. Continue reading

Patience Strong

Jot 101 Patience Strong Calendat pic 001Found amongst a pile of books at Jot HQ, the pocket-sized ‘Patience Strong ‘Quiet Corner ‘calendar for 1955 with its sepia photographs of ‘ picturesque ‘ spots in England. We had almost forgotten that publishers still used sepia photographs as late as this, but then remembered the lifeless and dispiriting photographs of landscapes and empty streets in Arthur Mee’s ‘King’s England’ series of county guide books. No wonder the county   guides  published by Shell from 1934 were regarded as such a welcome change from these  dreary volumes. Mee’s totally predictable descriptions of towns and villages in each county were matched by Strong’s trite and cliché-ridden verse formatted as prose in her calendar and exemplified  in ‘ The Sunlit Way ‘which accompanied a traffic-free photo of a ‘ quiet corner of old Warwick ‘ on the page for January 1955.

The Sunlit Way

‘May the way that lies ahead be lit with sunny gleams—and prove to be the road to the fulfilment of your dream…And may it lead you to the place where lost hopes are restored—where love is true and life is good and faith has its reward.’

Tumpty-tum …tumpety tum

England’s Treasures (October)

‘All along the roads of England treasures can be seen. Little old world villages with church and pond and green . Gems of beauty—cherish them and guard them jealously—and let no vandal touch the sacred scenes of history.’

Not sure about the scansion there, Patience.


The Glorious Month (May)

May is the month of bloom and blossom.

     May is the month of song and light.

Of tulips by the garden path

      And hawthorn hedges, snowy white.

May brings the bluebells to the wood

      And paints the cowslips by the stream.

May makes this sad old bad old world

      As lovely as a poet’s dream.


Which poet would that be?
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An intriguing  letter from an unidentified  friend of W.H.Davies to Ivor Brown

Betjeman mentioned letter 001Found in a pile of papers around a year ago at Jot HQ is this draft of a barely decipherable ( hence the gaps and possible misreadings of words ) and incomplete letter written in pencil on the back of a typed Roneoed page headed ‘ The Association of British Chambers of Commerce/5thOctober, 1942/Parliamentary Bulletin No 462A/Information by question and answer. The draft letter is addressed to ( Ivor ) Brown, author of A Word in your Ear( 1942), a book that explores the history of certain words. The writer cannot be identified from any clues in the letter , though what clues there are might open up paths for Jot fans who are familiar with Cheltenham and the Cotswolds. Any with information are welcome to write in.


Dear Mr Brown,

Allow one old Cheltonian some 15 years your senior to thank you for the pleasure I have got from A Word in your Ear  in addition to the pleasure  from many similar examples  of lexical intercourse. There is much I should like to refer to, one; the fact that Nesh is a not uncommon word amongst the poor country people. As to clout too, my father, a Cotswolder from Daglingworth & like my son, an old Cheltonian , never spoke of Cleeve Hill, but always of Cleeve Court. I much enjoyed the quotation from Betjeman, but have never come across Silver ( ? ). Cheltenham has however produced one fellow poet (  ).Frederick Myers is much underrated for his poetry which is swamped by his Psychical fame. It should be remembered, if only for the lines originally on a grave at Grindelwald , but also on the memorial in Wasdale churchyard on the four men killed on Scafell Pinnacle some 30 years ago:-


           On moment stood they as the angels stand

           High in the stainless imminence of air;

           The next they were not, to their fatherland

           Translated unaware.


I do not see my book & my son’s as a classic to rank near him, being myself too ( ?  ) in verse to be under any illusion. If you can spare a moment with them you may amused by my ( ?   ) jingle & by The Dear Inn, which laments the closing of the great coaching inn above Naunton on the Cheltn. – Stow road, done, so it was said, by the squire of Guiting, who disliked his farm labourers frequenting it. My son’s little book was written originally as a Gunner before he got his commission in the R.A. He was my partner here & is now in Egypt. You may like my poem to our dear old friend W. H. Davies, the Welsh poet & ‘Super-tramp’. (I had to do most of his affairs & attended his cremation) as we saw him so often sitting surrounded by his beloved pictures– mainly portraits of himself & his magnificent Epstein hair.
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Books do furnish a room: Philip Gosse on book collecting

Gosse go to the country jacketThe twentieth century writer Philip Gosse  was one of those many British physicians    who changed direction into literature. Others, including Oliver Goldsmith, Thomas Smollett, John Keats, Samuel Warren, Robert Bridges, Francis Brett Young, and Somerset Maugham, took up poetry or fiction, but Gosse began with books on pirates. In the collection of essays entitled Go to the Country(1935) we learn that by the time he had given up medicine Gosse had managed to acquire a large country house called ‘Crossbows’ that was spacious enough to have threeguest rooms, which for a bibliophile like him ( his wife also collected) was the ideal environment. Moral: if you are a seriousbook collector make sure that you make enough money to acquire a home large enough to house your collection.


Gosse succeeds in making every less fortunate collector envious by writing glibly about all the space he owned in which to shelve his huge library, and then shocks us by mentioning that while a GP he was momentarily tempted to pocket perhaps the only book in the house of the patient he was visiting—a work entitled Fancy Mice for Pleasure and Profit.Gosse is good on the way books should be housed and displayed –scattered around on tables or on open shelves which allow air to circulate, rather than in caged bookcases, where damp and mildew are encouraged to thrive, although he later rather puzzlingly admits to owning ‘ three tall bookcases with glass fronts ‘ in which his rare association copies were housed.


Gosse’s four works on pirates grew out of his own mania for collecting books on this subject, which luckily for him was not one for which he had any rivals among collectors. Because of this he was able to buy nearly every edition of the two works published by the mysterious eighteenth century chronicler Charles Johnson, and by so doing brought out a Johnson bibliography. Continue reading

The 1971 Bookbang—a damp squib?

The_Sacred_Mushroom_and_the_Cross_coverHalfway through its run Guardian journalist Alex Hamilton visited the much vaunted Book Bang (see earlier jot)  in Bedford Square and discovered many disappointed people . One of these ( presumably a writer ) had scrawled on a litter-bin: ‘ Publishers are rich, writers poor, people poorer’. A bookshop owner called Eddie Pond complained about paying good money to be bombarded with promotional shows. There was much else to complain about, according to Hamilton:

‘You can’t see work from the private presses, because their shows start elsewhere on Monday. You can’t be drawn by Felix Topolski for £3 because he has now gone back to his studio under the arches. You can’t see underground gigs because the Bedford Settled Estate would not permit a concrete base to be sunk in their turf…You can’t smoke in the tents. You can’t drink till six, because the square businessmen objected to the echoes of saturnalia they caught on the breeze…You can’t see many heads of the publishing industry, because they have bigger fish to fry, and didn’t all want the Bookbang in the first place…’

In fact, so lukewarm were the bigger publishers that two of them underwrote the Bookbang to a derisory extent—Penguin and Weidenfeld both donated a measly £250. Nor did the book industry help much with staffing. Those few staffers who did arrive were grossly overworked. A frustrated Bookbang supreme Martyn Goff was quite willing to admit to Hamilton that ‘of all the publishers who promised me help, only one turned up’. Continue reading

Thomas Augustus Trollope—the famous novelist’s forgotten brother

While many admirers of Anthony Trollope are busy celebrating the great novelist’s bicentenary, spare a thought for his older brother, Thomas Augustus Trollope (1810 – 92), who was always in his shadow, but who as a novelist, prolific travel writer and biographer in his own right, may have eclipsed Anthony in the word stakes.

In a long literary career Thomas published around sixty books, having begun a writing partnership with his mother while still at Oxford? In addition, he was a prodigious contributor to magazines. His friendship with Dickens, for instance, led to a long association with Household Words. Much of his work was achieved while living in some style in Italy. He moved to Florence in 1843, creating with his first wife a salon for expatriates at the Villino Trollope, which was expertly decorated and whose  sumptuous furnishings included a library of 5,000 books.
From here he migrated to Rome, where with his second wife, the writer Frances Trollope, he established another refuge for the expatriate  community.

In this short undated letter Trollope apologises  to a Mr Cutbill for not being ‘ able to remain at home’ to see  him, and suggests that he  instead  delivers a ‘ packet ‘ to number  193, Piccadilly, ‘ otherwise the advantage of the scarcity would be lost ‘.As the address in question was that of Trollope’s publishers, Chapman and Hall, and if the letter dates from the period before he left for Italy, this packet may have contained some literary material of interest to the writer, but equally,  it could have been something perishable which may have spoiled if Cutbill, who was away from home at the time, had waited until his return to present  personally to Trollope.

This latter possibility seems unlikely. We simply don’t know what Trollope meant by ‘the advantage of the scarcity’, but if the package did indeed contain a perishable gift from Cutbill, perhaps Trollope felt that his publishers would be best placed to look after it until he returned to claim it.

The Table Talk of T.S. Eliot

Eliot was at a fashionable dinner party of London intellectuals where the conversation was rather stilted because everybody felt they had to say something profound in front of the great man (who said very little.) Eventually after an awkward silence the wife of an academic complained about her high electricity bills. The other guests were a little shocked that such trivial matter was being discussed, however Eliot suddenly came to life. "Are you on the night tariff?" he asked the woman and proceeded to discourse knowledgeably about reducing household bills.

Another instance where Eliot succeeded in flummoxing high minded intellectuals was at the Wednesday Club in 1956 - the writer Paul Bloomfield reported the following. Asked for his favourite passage of English prose, the great poet at once replied, assisting his performance with the appropriate gestures:

'Well,' cried Boss McGinty at last, 'is he here? Is Birdy Edwards here?' 
'Yes,' McMurdo answered slowly, 'Birdy Edwards is here. I am Birdy Edwards.' 

After a bemused silence, in which none knew, or cared to admit they knew, the source, Eliot pleasantly revealed it: Conan Doyle's The Valley of Fear.

Rushdie blurb for T.C. Boyle

Salman Rushdie (billed here as winner of the 1981 Booker Prize) blurb on the back cover of the jacket of T. Coraghessan Boyle's Water Music (Gollancz, London 1982):

"Water Music goes over the top and also round the bend. It is a book in the worst possible taste, serves no useful purpose and is crammed with disgusting, filthy ideas. Its title will make Handel turn in his grave. It stinks of gin and Africa. It also bubbles, or should I say Boyles, with life, language, comedy, energy and other forms of weirdness.Gulp it down, it beats getting drunk."