Sayings of Good Hope

When the Morning Post —a newspaper to which Coleridge had contributed in the early nineteenth century—began publishing ‘ heartening sayings’ in 1927 under the title ‘The Trivet of Great Thoughts’ ( taking this title from a medieval book reputed to be in the library of St.Victoire in Paris ) and paying half a guinea to readers whose contributions it published– it’s unlikely that any at the Post believed that this feature would prove as popular as it did. Yet six years later five anthologies had been published, including this second pocket edition of 1933, which we at Jot HQ found in the archives.

 Screen Shot 2022-11-18 at 7.03.45 PM

The Morning Post was the leading Tory newspaper of its day ( in 1937 it was gobbled up by The Daily Telegraph).and was edited by the notorious Tory troublemaker , H. A. Gwynne . Geoffrey Grigson—a socialist —called it  a ‘ gentlemanly Fascist paper .and was possibly persuaded to join its staff as the putative Literary Editor when an offer came from one of its journalists, partly by the generous salary offered and partly because of  Coleridge, who was then one of the ‘heroes ‘ of his pantheon. The editor of the five anthologies, who called himself ‘Peter Piper’, was possibly E.B. Osborn, who though nominally the Literary Editor, was old and lazy and apparently did little or anything in this role, leaving all the work to Grigson. Incidentally, no copy of Osborn’s autobiography, E.B.O., which according to William Matthews was published in 1937, can be found anywhere in global public collections, the only feasible explanation being  that all copies of it were destroyed in a fire. If any in the Jottosphere can find a copy would they please contact Jot 101 urgently? Continue reading

An Englishwoman writes home from a Rhodesian goldfield in 1936

Black and white lantern Slide of a Gold Mine. Part of Box 288, British South Africa. Boswell Collection. Slide number 43 Gold mine Date: circa 1890s

Black and white lantern Slide of a Gold Mine. Part of Box 288, British South Africa. Boswell Collection. Slide number 43 Gold mine Date: circa 1890s

During the early years of the twentieth century the goldfields of southern Rhodesia, like those in California in the 1840s, attracted prospectors from all over the world but chiefly from the Commonwealth. The mine at Mahaka, abutting the border with South Africa, was one of the biggest and best known and its history is well documented among official papers. What is less well documented is the experience of the gold diggers from Britain who found themselves camping in hostile territory with no guarantee of success. Among an archive of poems and other material at Jot HQ is an entertaining account by a young woman named Jo, who wrote home to her family on June 26th1936 about her life as a prospector.

Dear Mummie, Uncle Bill, Coo, Tom, Basil, John, Jimmy, Ronnie and the Rest of You !!

It is Sundowner-time 1) , and I am writing this in our little thathed ( sic) hut on he hill in the Mahaka valley—to the tune of the un-ceasing Mill—crushing—crushing on and on, to give men GOLD!!! It sounds good, but oh! Wouldn’t it be lovely to have lots of it in our pockets—little pieces to jingle and say—“ Well—I have the means and the world is MINE—LETS GO !!! “

            But I do not care two hoots at the moment, for my days have lately have been a dream; I suppose by now you have heard of our trekking into Lawley’s Concession 2)—into the wilds of wildest Rhodesia. We started off with the lorry loaded with fifteen black n—–, –picks, shovels, axes, guns, dynamite , windlass ( for going down the mines ), Mealie meal ( boys food)3) petrol, oil—oh, and a hundred and one things , then came Oliver’s Doge vanette—with Oliver driving—me and the head of the mining engineers , old Mr Taylor –at the back balanced Tozer—two other mining engineers—my personal boy ( who’s special job is ME ) –all on top of boxes of Gin, Whiskey, Brandy, Orange and Lemon crush, Beer, Stout and- oh, Ginger ale too—for the Brandy !! Also stacks of food –Guns & Ammunition—WHAT A PARTY !!! We had to make the road as we went along –coming to one empty river-bed, Oliver’s car gave up the ghost —we had to sit for over an hour in the boiling sun until by some stroke of luck someone touched a little gadget and off she started again. During that time Tozer was directing the gang of boys in road making in his best Kaffir—really he is a scream !! —but somehow seems to make the natives understand. He really is getting on splendidly and might have been an old Pioneer !! Continue reading

The World in 1943 according to Everybody’s Pocket Companion

Jot 101 Everybody's Pocket companion cover 001

The world has certainly changed since 1943.  Everybody’s Pocket Companion, a handy paperback of some eighty pages compiled by someone called A. Mercer during the Second World War, dishes out a variety of ‘ useful ‘ facts on astronomy, geography, chemistry and sport, among other topics. While some things remain the same, the world’s political geography has altered considerably since the booklet was published. Here are a few examples:


Albania was annexed by Italy in  April 1939. It became a communist state after the War and is now a sovereign nation again.

The Irish Free State was designated a Dominion governed by a Governor-General. It later became a Republic with a President.

Lithuania’s, capital was Kovno. It is now Vilnius and the old capital is now spelt Kaunus.


Alexandretta’s,capital was Alexandretta. This now forms a part of modern SE Turkey.


China’s, capital was Nanking, which is now spelt Nanjing. Beijing is the current capital, thanks to Mao Tse Tung.


Malaya’s capital was Singapore. The capital of the ‘ Malay States ‘in 1943 was Kuala Lumpur. Malaya and the Malay States were amalgamated and became Malaysia, with Kuala Lumpur as the new capital. Singapore is now a separate entity. Continue reading

A working class household in early twentieth century Norwich


Found among the O’Donogue papers at Jot HQ is a long letter dated 3rd August 1977 from 1, Chalk Hill Road, Norwich by a certain Elsie Grint. We do not know the exact circumstances of the letter, but it seems likely that O’Donoghue placed a letter in a local paper asking if anyone who grew up in Norwich in the early years of the twentieth century could write to him with their Oak Street 1938reminiscences.

Elsie replied and her memories of that time are particularly detailed:

I lived at 109 Midland St ( off Heigham St) from 1917 to 1934…We lived at the end of a row of houses ( I think the rent was 10/- weekly) but we always paid 6d. extra because of the gable end & the very small piece of garden which ran alongside it. Our house had 2 small rooms downstairs & 2 upstairs, with a very tiny kitchen which held a copper & sink. A small ( & we had gas lighting before electricity was installed ) door in the living room opened onto the steep stairs to the 2 bedrooms. Another small door in the living room opened to the coal house under the stairs & the other door in this small room was the larder. All the houses were built like this & we had a small yard at the back, opening onto a passage which led to about 8 other houses, & in this yard was a toilet, which had a wooden seat from wall to wall ( very inconvenient if needed during the night).  

 I went to Heigham St School , which I think was demolished after the war & my first memories of the infant school was a sand tray, which we all had & made pictures in the sand with our fingers. We moved up to the junior school & then at the age of 11 years were separated—the boys to the boys school & the girls to the girls school until about 2 years later when we were moved to Wensum View School because of a new policy of education. If naughty we were made to stand in the corner for long periods & the cane was given if we were very naughty. Our heads were looked regularly for fleas & nits & we also visited the school dentist. Many poor children attended this school & did not have adequate footwear. Many wore odd shoes belonging to adults, which didn’t fit at all & school uniform was never thought of . Wensum View School sold berets for girls & caps for boys in around 1930 of the school colours , but they were not compulsory ( 2/- was a lot to pay for a school hat I was told). Next to Heigham St School was a large tannery which at times smelt awful. The owner had a large family & one of the daughters told me none were even allowed to speak at meat times. Continue reading

Max  Beerbohm and The Age of Improvement

In a recent Jot we looked at the way Sir Max Beerbohm ‘ improved ‘ certain books in his library by adding illustrations to them or altering their printed illustrations to make a point about the authors. Some of these books were inscribed to him by the authors, but that didn’t seem to bother Beerbohm. On occasion he would also add false inscriptions from famous people, such as Queen Victoria.

The source of information concerning these amusing interventions may have been the catalogue of ‘ The Library and Literary Manuscripts of the late Sir Max Beerbohm ‘that Sotheby & Co issued to accompany the sale of the author and artist’s library on 12 and 13thDecember 1960. Beerbohm had died in (  ) and his widow followed him on (  ).

Anyone wishing to obtain some idea of Beerbohm’s literary likes and dislikes could hardly do better than to study this catalogue, which is profusely illustrated. It is quite obvious that he didn’t take to Rudyard Kipling and the feeling was probably mutual.

Jot 101 Beerbohm Kipling improvement 001

Here is a description of Lot 136.

KIPLING ( RUDYARD) BARRACK-ROOM BALLADS and other verse; the illustration on the title-page altered by Max Beerbohm  into a portrait of Kipling, blood dripping from his red fingernails; signature of Beerbohm and an inscription: ‘H.M.B. from F.H.H. on fly-leaves, original cloth.                                                                                                                            8vo 1892

And here is Lot 137.

KIPLING (RUDYARD)  A Diversity of Creatures , Max Beerbohm has introduced a pen-and-ink caricature portrait of Kipling, behind bars, into the design facing the title-page, and under the author’s name has written: ‘the Apocalypic (sic) Bounder who can do such fine things but mostly prefers to stand ( on tip-toe and stridently) for all that is cheap and nasty’; pen-scoring on last page, original limp red calf gilt                                                                                                                                                                                                               8vo Macmillan and Co., 1917

And Lot 139

Le Gallienne (Richard) RUDYARD KIPLING, A CRITICISM, inscribed on fly-leaf by the author : ‘ For Max from Dick. June 1900’, the portrait of Kipling altered by Max Beerbohm into a bitterly satiric caricature, and the title changed from ‘ Rudyard Kipling ‘ to ‘Rudyard Kipling’s soul’, original cloth, the leaf bearing the portrait detached and fore-edge frayed. 8vo 1900.

And lot 239

To the frontispiece of Frederick Whyte’s A Bachelor‘s London(1931), which features a drawing by Josephine Harrison entitled ‘ The House of the Light that Failed ‘, Beerbohm has added a pencil caricature of Kipling and four lines of verse parodying the poet:

Fred Whyte ‘e done me bloody proud,

So to Je’ovah Thunder-browed

Says I, “ O Jah, be with me yet,

Lest I forget, lest I forget.” 
Continue reading

The Lost Art of Advertising fliers

Found, among some papers at Jot HQ is this very long and thin flier for The Bookseller advertising pic 001Beauchamp Bookshop of 15a Harrington Road, which was once located by South Kensington station in SW London. Its most striking quality is the boldness of the two colours ( red and black) used for the various period typefaces on display. To someone who grew up in the Swinging Sixties, when designers took inspiration from Victorian (and even older) typefaces and decorative flourishes, it could date from that time. However, the telephone number featured (KEN 6904) might quite equally suggest a slightly earlier date, though the fact that the all-number system began in London in 1966 doesn’t help us much. Some specialist magazines devoted to design, such as Signatureand the Penrose Magazine, were experimenting with typefaces in the forties and fifties. Indeed, the fact that the Beauchamp Bookshop wished to buy books on  bibliography and printing suggests that the owner, Mr Philip Pearce, had an active interest in book design. It is telling too that his special need to acquire ‘ late 18thand early 19thcentury books ‘ betrayed a fondness for well printed and well designed books from this pioneering era of fine printing.


As to the bookshop owner, we at Jot 101 must confess an ignorance of Mr Philip Pearce and his shop. South Kensington has always been a haven for book collectors of large and small purses, but the Beauchamp Bookshop has long gone. Nor does the Net record anything about it or its owner, who seems not to have made a mark on the world outside of selling books. We at Jot HQ have asked a leading rare bookseller in the district, but he cannot remember  Mr Pearce. Perhaps some collectors in the Jottosphere might recall bookshop and/or owner. If they do, we’d like to hear from them.   [RR]

Fluxus Manifestos of 1966


Manifestos Paik Laser TV 001Found— a copy of Manifestos, the eighth Great Bear Pamphlet published by The Something Else Press of New York in 1966.

The Something Else Press was an avant gardeAmerican publisher of writers associated with Fluxus, an international, interdisciplinary community of artists, designers, composers and poets inspired by the composer John Cage. Many, including Yoko Ono, whose Grapefruit ( see Bookride blog )   had appeared in 1964, were dedicated to Performance Art and ‘Happenings’. The double pamphlet Manifesto, described as a ‘call to arms ‘, was edited by Dick Higgins (1938 – 98), a leading figure in the movement. It contained material by many of the authors of the nine other pamphlets in the Great Bear list—including Alison Knowles ( Higgins’ wife),  Al Hansen, Jerome Rothenberg, Allan Kaprow and Wolf Vostell.

All those who wrote for Manifestoswere significant in their own way, but a few were more pioneering than others. Nam June Paik was one. Born in Korea Paik was a Buddhist whose Zen-like vision permeated much of his work, which included  pioneering experiments in video art. He was also interested in the possibilities of cybernetics. By 1966 he could declare in Manifestosthat ‘As the Happening is the fusion of various arts, so cybernetics is the exploitation of boundary regions and across various existing sciences’. He went on to declare that he is ‘video-taping the following TV programmes to be telecast March 1, 1996 A.D.’ The speculative programmes on this ‘ Utopian Laser TV Station ‘ feature many of his fellow Manifestos contributors, but also such influential figures as John Cage and  Dadaist Marcel Duchamp. Most of the programmes described by Paik recall real Performance Art (‘Confessions of a topless cellist by Charlotte Moorman’; others may be satirical (‘ Baby care by Diter Rot’). One programme for 11a.m., ‘ Jackson Mac Low’s 1961 film in which a standing camera focuses on a tree for many hours, looks forward to Warhol’s  five hour long Sleep. Paik went on to explore variations on video art, most notably with ‘TV Buddha’, a video installation depicting a Buddha statue viewing its own live image on a closed TV circuit. Continue reading

A West African Diary (195) part three

West African diary ghana mapOur visitor to West Africa (see previous Jots) in 1954 travelled by ship from Freetown to Takoradi on the Gold Coast ( now Ghana) in late February. On the 21stof this month he recorded his impressions of his fellow passengers.

At sea

Dinner  time. Is the African a snub? Observations of my fellow third-class passengers reveals it—because I boarded the boat at Freetown, and they from the UK, they are aloof. A Yoruba woman boasted to me that my journey from Freetown to Takoradi was short; and that I should go to England to experience the roughness of the bay. What arrant nonsense! Afternoon of us Africans are sweating profusely. An English woman—Rev! Paterson travelling to Ashanti to stay with Prempeh, king. Gave the sermon this morning. Although I did not attend I hear that she was very frank British Colonial policy. Racial strife in South Africa. Australia’s white only policy ; the erudite class of China and India; and the teeming thousands of these two countries. After supper discussion. Mr ( blank) a law graduate returning home to Nigeria told the story of a young Nigerian doctor who returned home with an English wife. His father did not know of the marriage and therefore resented it. During the party held in the honour of the new arrival, the father refused to mix with the young couple and drank alone. Pretty soon he walked up to his daughter-in-law and called her names. Her husband held her hand. She looked pleasantly on. The doctor’s mother had taken to her grandchild. Meanwhile the news of the Doctor’s marriage spread like wild-fire. And the town resented it. But the wife proved herself capable, and with the help of her husband she won all the women, young and old, on to her side.; old men too were soon admiring her qualities. She is the most popular woman in the town –an Ebo town.


By 2ndMarch he had reached his destination. On this day we find him witnessing the usual rowdy local elections.


March 2, 1954. Municipal Elections .

Ward 5.

I arrived on the scene at 6.30 a.m. The queue was large—polling starts at 7 a.m. Enthusiastic crowd. C.C.P. vans plough the whole area of ward 5. A van is playing Yoruba records in the Yoruba quarters ; a woman propagandist is really telling the women why they as women should vote C.C.P. The political machinery of the party is efficient—most of the men & women queuing are illiterate, esp. Hausa’s & Fantis…A C.C.P. propagandist speaking Hausa, shouting slogans …C.C.P. candidate’s name—Atta Housaine. Continue reading

A Victorian joke book

victorian joke book index page 001Found at Jot HQ the other day a small scrapbook containing pasted in humorous cuttings from magazines and newspapers that once belonged to the late prankster Jeremy Beadle (1948 – 2008). The date 1897 on the cover was very likely the year in which the compilation was begun, since many of the jokes and anecdotes are clearly of a later date. The high quality of much of the material strongly suggests that the compiler may have been a comedian of some sophistication who was prepared to devote a long period in search of the best gags.


The jokes are classified into several groups thus:

Ugly faces, dress-makers and milliners, photographers, tailors, bicycles, tramps and beggars, servant-girls, Irishmen, small boys, babies, mean people, love and love-making, mashers, teachers and scholars, country bumpkins, cats, dogs and other animals, singers and musicians, weddings and parties, married men & women, soldiers and the army, ‘tall’ stories, railways, ships & seasickness, conundrums, puns,   ‘new ‘ women, comic rhymes, watches and clocks, definitions, boosey jokes, doctors, shops and shopkeepers, bits of advice, deaf people, hotels and lodgings, actors and the stage, fat people, girls and their doings, ‘ catch ‘ jokes, football, hairdressers , churches & clergymen, mothers-in-law, prisons & prisoners, man & his doings, or unclassifiable jokes, hens and eggs, restaurant, Jews, jokes for twoperformers, swimmers, country yokels, fish tales, patriotic, sailors & ships, dentists.


Some favourites


George III wondering how the apple got into the dumpling is nothing to the small boy who, looking between two uncut leaves of a magazine, said” Mammy, how did they ever get the printing in there?” Continue reading

A Party for Tony and Marcelle Quinton

Quinton and Marcelle party list 001Found among papers at Jot HQ ( heaven knows where it came from ) is this printed list of the good and great ( some not so good) who were invited by a friend or friends to attend a party for the philosopher (Lord) AnthonyQuinton and his American-born wife Marcelle ( nee Weiger), a sculptor.


We don’t know who drew up the list or when the event took place, although it must have been in or before 2003, the year in which one of the invited died. Nor do we know where it happened, although one must assume that since most of the invited were Americans, the venue was in the US, most probably in the home of the host and hostess. This could have been in New York City, where the Quintons had one of their  homes. This philosopher had four homes around the world! Diogenes made do with a barrel, Wittgenstein with a bedsit furnished mainly with deck chairs.


Quinton taught philosophy at Oxford and is credited with having a rigorous intellect, but he was hardly a Wittgenstein or even an A. J. Ayer. The fact that he was a Tory and the intellectual force behind the political movement that propelled Margaret Thatcher to Downing Street, couldn’t have recommended him to the young who were reading PPE or PPP at his University in the 1980s. In the tributes that followed his death in 2010 friends and colleagues praised his bonhomie. Much of his clubbable personality came across when he presented the popular and long-running radio series ‘ Round Britain Quiz ‘, a truly challenging quiz show in which a  panel of high powered intellects ( as opposed to some of the nitwits that perform on ‘Celebrity Mastermind’ ) try to make connections between seemingly unrelated people, concepts and texts. Luckily, despite the general ‘dumbing down’ of broadcasting, the show has survived and, thank goodness, remains as challenging as ever it was. Continue reading

‘Every woman with stockings is a whore’ and other scurrilous entries in an early nineteenth century common place book

Here is a dual purpose thick octavo notebook bound in calf with a clasp. Nineteenth century diary & common place book 001The front part is a short record of travels in Germany and Belgium in which the anonymous male diarist, who is accompanying his mother, at one point tells us that he was born in 1802, is very scathing about the appearance of most of his travelling companions. In one instance he remarks that the young son of the parson in the party ‘seemed to be as ugly as his father and as vulgar as his cousin’. He is singularly unimpressed by most of the foreigners he encounters along the way. For instance, he notes that his fellow diners at the Table d’Hote, were ‘12 disgusting looking Germans who luckily eat enormously & spoke little ‘. The following evening diners at the same table were’ rather more disgusting in their appearance & manner of eating than the day before ‘. Predictably, he is also critical of the meals he is obliged to eat and the inns that serve and accommodate him. In one inn he accuses the landlord of serving him a dish of greyhound puppy.  Our diarist certainly places himself above the common lot. He seems knowledgeable about art and is a little snooty regarding the collections he views, suspecting that most of the paintings were copies from the masters. More positively, he is often ecstatic about the scenery and buildings he encounters and he particularly praises cathedrals and castles. We yearn for more, but unfortunately, the diary stops abruptly after thirty pages.


The back pages of the volume is devoted to anecdotes, jokes of dubious taste in English and French and snatches of Arabic —in ink and pencil and in different hands. The passages in Arabic may also be indecent, of course.

Here is a selection of the more publishable remarks from this section of the volume:

Gold and Paper

At a fashionable whist party, a lady having won a rubber of 20 guineas, the gentleman who was her opponent pulled out his pocket book and tendered £21 in bank notes. The fair gamester observed with a disdainful toss of her head.“ In the great houseswhich I frequent, Sir , we always use gold “. That may be so, replied the gentleman, but in the little houseswhich I frequent we always use paper.”

Appropriate text.

Mr Sterne (possibly the author of Tristram Shandy), the day after his marriage took for his text: “ We have toiled all night and caught nothing”

Royal Favour.

A low frenchman boasted in very hyperbolic terms that the king had spoken to him; & being asked what his Majesty had said, replied” He bade me stand out of the way “. Continue reading

My Book of Confessions…

Benn June confession page 001Here’s an oddity that turned up recently at Jot HQ. The Querist’s Album: a Book for Confessions and Autographs (Glasgow, n.d., but c 1880) is a pocket-sized tome comprising several sets of pages meant for autographs together with questions addressed to the person supplying the autographs. All the questions are the same.

The questions are obviously addressed to young people—perhaps those in their late teens or early twenties. In this particular copy only around half the pages are filled and many responses date from the late Victorian or Edwardian period. One of those from this era was the actual owner of the book, one M.E.Laxton, who was given it by her aunt.

Most of those supplying an autograph have also answered the questions. However, Miss Laxton dodged many of them and appears to have found some impertinent, including one asking if she was ever in love.   A few have merely signed their names, but have left the question pages blank. One anonymous male has only answered a handful of the questions. When asked what is the most beautiful thing in Nature he has replied ‘ Woman ‘, and when asked at what age should men and women marry replies 45 for a man and 60 for a woman. This person also confesses to having been married twice and been in love thirteen times. Another male, a Mr Grant Miller, replies to the questions in what appears to be a ballpoint pen, even though he dates his answers to 1910. His ideal woman is Sophia Ridsdale. Then we have ‘Edith Broughton’, who also uses a ball point pen for her answers dating from April 1905. A further respondent is ‘Clement Bartholomew’.

Continue reading

Diary of a Nobody (Part 3)

Innsbruck 1957On 4thJuly 1957 our gardening civil servant and his wife Madge left London for their fortnight in Austria and Italy. Rather unusually ( but perhaps not so unusual for 1957 ) the couple cycledto town, deposited their rucksacks at the Air Terminal ( was this near Victoria coach station back then?) and then left their bikes at his place of work. They then caught a bus to London Airport, from where they flew by Swissair Metropolitan to Zurich, arriving at dawn. From here they took a train on a very hot day to Innsbruck and by early afternoon were settled in their hotel, the Weisses Kreug.

Being British our gardener devotes time to recording the weather ( from ‘Hot—jolly hot’ to ‘rains all morning’ and ‘rains slightly  in afternoon’) , praising good meals and complaining about not so good meals,  briefly mentioning sights visited and photos taken. Most of the holiday was spent among the mountains of northern Italy—in places like Cortina, Vigo di Fasso, and Bolzano, where they exalt in finding a restaurant that offers ‘ 2 courses incl. meat for 360L’. One of the main reasons for choosing this part of Austria and Italy is the prospect of locating Alpine flowers to photograph. They do find ‘ a fine meadow of alpine flowers ‘ and later our gardener leads Madge up Mount Marmolata in search of Entrichium, but fails to locate any. However ‘we do find other nice plants to photo…’ They also bump into the Olympic stands that were used in the previous February for the ‘Cresta Run’ and skating. Continue reading

Vote! Vote! Vote!

IMG_5565Found – a one page  leaflet from the Fabian Society urging people to vote no matter what political party or candidate they supported :

‘…be sure you use your vote somehow. The right to vote was won for you, not by the great statesman whose names are connected with reform bills… but by the persistent agitation of generations of poor political workers who gave up all their spare time and faced loss of employment, imprisonment and sometimes worse, in order to get you a share of the government of the country. Now is your chance to use what cost so much to win. A political battle is about to begin. Choose your side according to your conscience; strike the one blow that the law allows you. There is no excuse for not voting. Even when there is no candidate worth voting for, there is always a candidate worth voting against. Even if you think that both candidates are fools, make the best of it by voting for the opponent of the bigger fool of the two. Whatever you do, don’t stay at home and waste your vote.

 …If you want to be protected from unjust legislation use your vote. You owe it to your fellow citizens and to yourself not to lose your opportunity. It is the selfish, indifferent, the shortsighted, the lazy man who cannot see why he should trouble himself to vote. No sensible man throws away a weapon which has won so much for those who’ve learned how to use it. For all you know, the election maybe decided by your vote alone. How will you feel if you neglect to vote, and find, the day after the poll, the candidate who best represents your interest is beaten by one vote?’

Although the message is ‘just get out there and vote’ it is likely that Fabian  backed radical candidates would profit from a higher turnout as the middle classes, traditionally conservative, were more likely to vote anyway. In an era of gentleman MP’s, some very silly indeed, the advice to vote for the least foolish candidate would have been useful too. Note the way it assumes the voter is a man. Nothing sexist here – the leaflet dates from 1893 and it was not until 1918 that women (over 30) got the vote. Full voting rights came in 1928.

The Skimmers- a book club of the 1920s

The pastedown of Best Short Stories of 1925 has this large book club notice for  “The Skimmers.” This is almost certainly an American women’s reading club very possibly one found at the Louisiana University site for ‘wives of the Louisiana State University faculty, and operated in the Baton Rouge, La. area as a social group and unofficial book club.’ It was formed in January 1927 and its archives are at Louisiana. They note “…although the Skimmers’ membership occasionally grew to 20, the club has traditionally limited itself to a maximum of sixteen persons. In addition to regularly reading and trading books, the club’s activities included entertaining the members’ husbands as well as themselves with special dinners, bridge, afternoon teas, outings, and luncheons. The club also participated in World War II service projects. Now comprised of residents throughout Baton Rouge, as well as faculty wives, the club continues its traditions of literary activities, luncheons, dinners, and outings.”

If the above Skimmers are indeed the Louisiana academic’s wives, the part  about 20 members is slightly worrying, as there are 35 names here. Also there is no mention of auctions on the site. It is just possible to work out the curious rules of the club and the way the books were passed on but it is likely by the time they were auctioned they had been rather well read… The illustration is familiar and may come from a turn of the century American illustrator and poster artist whose name escapes your humble jotter. As far as can be ascertained The Skimmers are still going  as  a book club.



A Common-Place Book for the 21st Century

Common Place book cover 001Most of the Common-Place books you find in auctions or second-hand bookshops date from the nineteenth century—usually before about 1860—and are dull, dull, dull! They invariably contain passages from history books, books of sermons, and extracts from poems by Felicia Hemans and Robert Southey. Often they are illustrated by amateurs who like to think they can draw. Occasionally there are exceptions to this rule, but these rarely surface. So it’s nice in this Age of the Internet to find a Common –Place book that contains some information that is not always easy to find using Google. Such is the volume that we at Jot HQ discovered in a box of ephemera the other day.

This item in question is an orange, octavo sized HMSO indexed book containing entries in ink and biro and clippings from magazines, the latest of which dates from 2007 check. The writer may be someone called Michael Revett—because under ‘ Anagrams’ we find three offerings, namely Vertical Theme, Three Malt Vice and Three Claim Vet. There is a Michael C. Revett who in 1975 married the printmaker Eileen Revett in Suffolk, and he seems to be the only real candidate. This Revett is interested in computing and other aspects of science and technology, because one of the cuttings comes from the New Scientistand many of the Common-Place book entries have a scientific theme.

Here are some of the more entertaining facts in the book:


Some profound observations by Mr Yogi Berra, the famous American baseball player.

‘You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there’

‘You can observe a lot by just looking’

‘There are some people, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ‘em’.

‘You don’t hear much about born-again Buddhists’. Continue reading

The London Illustrated Police Budget—an unrespectable scandal sheet

police budget pic 001In the first few years of the Edwardian era, before soft porn was widely available to the masses, a lot of men bought for a penny the London Illustrated Police Budget. Here one could find, alongside church news and politics, pictures of attractive, tightly corseted, young ladies in various forms of peril. So if you were turned on by the sight of a maid being tied to a table by a powerful man, a wasp-waisted young lady being grabbed by the hair in a train carriage, a woman being pushed onto a railway line by an angry husband, a newly-wedded woman being yoked to a plough, or a ‘pretty girl ‘being violently assaulted in Peterborough, then this was the magazine for you.

But in its defence, it cannot be said that the Police Budget was invariably misogynistic, though there was always a covert sexual element to most of the scenarios. Some of the incidents featured women hitting back (literally sometimes) at their tormentors. In one picture dated January 1903 a young American lady with connections to the boxing fraternity then based in  Chipperfield, Herts, is depicted whipping the backside of her husband having first lassoed him to a tree, Wild West style. His crime—-the dastardly one of perhaps deliberately ‘missing‘  his last train home from Euston. In another scene a woman is shown violently hitting her husband with an umbrella in Boulogne, having made the journey from London to do so. It would seem that she suspected him of transferring his affections to a woman named Lucy. Another, more unusual assault by a female, also involved an umbrella. In 1900 this weapon was used in Regent’s Park by a certain Louisa Venables on a hapless retired army officer who she had seen ‘ interfering ‘ with children , on one occasion offering them money to  ‘ tumble over ‘. In the absence of strong evidence against the alleged pedophile his assailant was convicted of assault and fined 20 shillings.

Continue reading

Eliza Lynn Linton —the first salaried female journalist

Eliza Lynn Linton letter 001Found—a letter dated February 22nd 1889 from the journalist and novelist Eliza Lynn Linton (1822 – 98). Before she arrived on the scene in the 1840s women who wrote for magazines and newspapers were freelancers. E.L.L., as she became known, was the first salaried female journalist in Britain, and perhaps the world—and one of the best paid, at one time receiving an annual salary which today would be the equivalent of over £50,000.

Lynn came from a conventional middle class background in Crosthwaite, Cumberland. Her father was a parson and her grandfather Bishop of Carlisle. Attractive and gregarious, she might have married into one of the professions, but instead educated herself in the ancient and modern languages and literature ( her father was too ‘ indolent ‘ to do so himself, she later wrote) and in her early twenties left her comfortable home for London, determined to make a name as a novelist. Her first two novels failed to impress, but undaunted in 1848 she turned to journalism, joining the staff of the highly respected Morning Chronicle. She continued to write short stories and novels and eventually found a degree of success. However, her reputation in literary circles was founded less on her novels and more on her popular journalism, which appeared in All The Year Round, the Monthly Review and the Saturday Review. In perhaps another gesture of defiance she married the woodcut artist, writer and Chartist W. J. Linton , and moved into his ramshackle Lake District house named Brantwood, later to become the home of John Ruskin. The marriage failed and Linton returned to London, where her home became a sort of literary salon. Continue reading

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]   

A right hanky-spanky ad, and no mistake !

harriss-slap-up-shop-advert-001Discovered in that garden of visual delights, The Saturday Book (1960 ) is this quite extraordinary advert concocted by a working man’s outfitter by the name of Harris sometime in the mid nineteenth century. The copy is almost entirely composed of contemporary slang and cant terms. Harris’s three shops were all in central London   locations, which might suggest that some of the colloquialisms were Cockney rhyming slang, or at least slang that was restricted to the capital and its environs. A few of the terms have survived to this day ( ’ slap up ‘, is excellent, as in slap up meal; ‘no-go’, as in not accepted ; cords, for corduroys; ‘grabbed the chance’; ‘out and out ‘; ‘tick’ for credit; ‘crib’ for home; ‘swag’ for booty), while others have been lost for ever. Who the hell are Tea Kettle Purgers and Head Robbers? What was the Swan Stream and the ‘Melton Mowbray style ‘? Something to do with fox hunting, perhaps? Are ‘Trotter Cases’ shoes?

Some items of clothing advertised are self-explanatory ( moleskins, doeskins ),but others must be hunted down. I almost gave up on ‘broady’ until I found it online as meaning broadcloth. My reprinted Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence (1811) was slightly more useful. The word ‘Quid ‘, meaning a a sovereign, dates from around 1688; to a Regency buck, however, it was a guinea, as was a ‘canary’ ; a ‘bob’ was a shilling and a ‘kick’ was a sixpence, though pluralised it meant breeches or trousers, as did kicksies. But the Slang Dictionary made no mention of Mud Pipes, Box Cloths, Plushes, Pilots, and Upper Benjamins. Perhaps these were of Victorian or purely Cockney origin. [RR]