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]


Homo — the periodical (1901)

Homo magazine cover 001Found on the front cover of the Boston- published bibelot The Cornhill Booklet of July 1901 is this advert for ‘HOMO, A Periodical for Men and the Women who look over their shoulders’. The advert tells us that the magazine was issued once a month at one dollar for the twelve numbers of the year and that the address in all cases was HOMO, BEVERLY, NEW JERSEY.

That’s it. The advert tells us nothing about the nature of this new venture—whether it was literary or otherwise—or who the contributors might be. The Net is quiet on the subject too, apart from informing us that the magazine lasted no more than a year, which speaks volumes, one supposes. So here’s a challenge to all in the Jotosphere. Would anyone who has seen a HOMO please report back to JOT 101 HQ with a full description of it?  [The word did not have pejorative overtones at this stage, Partridge in his Dictionary of the Underworld dates its use as ‘homosexual’ from 1937.]  RR


A bookseller meets T.E. Lawrence

IMG_0006Found among  the books in the working library of the actor Peter O’Toole (1932 – 2013)  his copy of Letters of T.E. Lawrence (Readers Union, 1941.) O’Toole had surprisingly few books on or by Lawrence considering that this  was probably his greatest role and the film that made him an international star. In the Reader’s Union edition was loosely inserted  a one page wartime broadsheet keeping members of the book club informed about new publications. It was from an address at Wray Common, Reigate. This broadsheet / flier was dated February 1941and  has a good piece (“T.E.”) on Lawrence by his friend and bookseller  K.W. Marshall.

I have more reason to feel grateful to T.E. Lawrence than most booksellers. When I was unemployed years ago, he loaned me Clouds Hill his Dorset cottage, where I stayed for just over three months. Later, my wife and I spent a honeymoon holiday there. On my first  visit I was in “possession” of the cottage, and Lawrence would ask permission to stay the night on the infrequent occasions that he managed to pay a visit. He was very proud of the cottage and spent some considerable effort and time in gradually planning a comfortable retreat for his retirement. Unfortunately, when he died he had not enjoyed Clouds Hill for as long a period as I had; and during his short term of possession he was harassed by news reporters. Continue reading

Spoof/ Nonsense handbill

IMG_1532Found at the Ephemera Society fair– this spoof April Fool’s day handbill/ poster. It probably dates from the late 19th century. It is in the tradition of British nonsense that goes back past Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll and was carried on with J.B. Morton’s ‘Beachcomber’, The Goons, Monty Python, Bonzo Dog, John Lennon and Professor Stanley Unwin and The Mighty Boosh. There is a West Derby Road in Liverpool. The reference to the young woman’s dress being composed of ‘spare ribs of pork’ is reminiscent of a costume recently worn on stage by the the singer Lady Gaga…

Missing from the neighbourhood of Black Rock Street, West Derby Road, about the first of April last, a short, middle-sized, and very tall young woman… had on when last seen a fashionable dress, composed of spare ribs of Pork with sage and onion trimmings; a double-breasted bonnet with Rattlesnake feathers – on her neck Dick’s hat-band that went nine times round and wouldn’t tie; a Chignon made of Shandy Gaff; Cast Iron stockings; Papier Mache drawers; Jack the Giant killer’s seven leagued boots, recently repaired, with holes in the soles; wears the Roman fall in the protuberance of the breast; must be recognised by her lovely piebald eyes, turned up Grecian nose, and a dew drop at the end of it, with savoury duck lips; has a splendid Carriage but no Horses; is supposed to have gone in search of the “Man in the Moon,” and will be known by looking two ways at once on Sunday’s; generally walks on her hands for the sake of cooling her heels, and always taking one step forward and one back, laments that she’s stationary in the world. Has been subjected to brutal treatment by her parents, having been born without father or mother, and wears mourning for a brother that never was in existence, being a son of her uncle Polly’s!

BY TELEGRAM. – When last seen was carrying a Satchel made of Boiled Cabbage, and was in a fearful state of exasperation, having too much of her own way in everything.

N.B. – She lives in Nim Nam Street, and is a Pan Mug Weaver.

Venereal Disease wall poster

An uncle used to talk about films shown in the army to the troops about the perils of Venereal Disease during WW2. They were pretty graphic and designed to discourage soldiers from putting themselves at risk…This wall poster may date from about that time and was probably displayed in a clinic where the dreaded silver and yellow tubes were dispensed. Medicine has moved on. Note the touching faith in soap - with 5 minutes lathering recommended 'from belt to knees.'

French bicycle poster – Durex ‘en vente ici’

Found! Actually the gift of an American colleague and dealer in ephemera- this hanging wall card for cycle parts from the French company Durex. Probably from the early 1950s, the company appears to be now defunct.... This poster may amuse some Brits as Durex is the pre-eminent maker of condoms in Britain. Durex is practically synonymous with condoms there in the way Hoover is with vacuum cleaners.

In the USA it is Trojans which, although not unknown in Britain, is also the name of several different companies on the sceptered isle including an electronics company, an arms dealer ( Trojan Group) and a timber crating company.

The arms dealer Trojan sells assault rifles  with this quote from Voltaire: 'God is not on the side of the big battalions but  on the side of those who shoot best.' Exactement.

A flier for The War of the Worlds (1897/1898)

"...across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."

Found - a review slip or pre-publication publicity (a flier) in a first edition of H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds (Heinemann, London 1898) one of the greatest Science Fiction novels of all time.  The novel had previously appeared in serialized form in 1897, published simultaneously in Pearson's Magazine in the UK and Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. The reviews are from magazines and newspapers of the time including one from a French paper Mercure de France which says that Wells surpasses Jules Verne.

Continue reading

Stephen Crane and a Sussex Ghost

What is it about young ex-pats writing single performance plays performed by amateurs at Christmas? A recent Jot told the story of The Princess and the Pauper, a drama by the 24 year old British humorist Harry Graham, which was performed by amateurs at Christmas 1900 in Government House, Ottawa. Exactly a year earlier, a one-off performance of The Ghost, written mainly by the 27 year old American Stephen Crane, best known for The Red Badge of Courage, was acted out by amateurs, at Brede, near Rye in Sussex.

In 1899 Crane and his wife Cora were renting Brede Place, a crumbling mainly late medieval manor house, a mile from the village, with huge fireplaces but no indoor plumbing.

Though the Cranes were enchanted by its old-world charm and maintained an open house for all and sundry, some visitors were less enamoured. One was Karl Edwin Harriman, who in print complained of the ‘chill, damp and draughts of the old house ‘, and of the wind ‘which whistled through the casements every moment of the day and night ‘. Ford Madox Ford described it in Mightier than the Sword as ‘ an ill-fated mansion…full of evil influences ‘.

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The Cry of Starving Men by Edwin Drew (1908)

A small hand bill, a one page poem, sold for a penny in 1908 to raise money for the poor by the 'Hyde Park Relief Movement for the Unemployed' with The Cry of Starving Men written by the author, elocutionist and poet Edwin Drew. He appears to have been a correspondent of Dickens (the name Edwin Drood was inspired by his name.) He flourished between 1870 and 1915. There is Pathe News footage of him as 'the last survivor of the Dickens society' - placing a wreath on the novelist's tomb. Drew's last published work was The Chief Incidents of the 'Titanic' Wreck (1912). Of the Hyde Park Relief Movement for the Unemployed very little is known*,apart from the information on this hand bill.

* There may well be much more information in libraries, online research reveals this one note at Open Library - 'The Labour Bureau was established in consequence of Drew's founding of the Hyde park relief movement following his speeches on unemployment, in Hyde park in September 1908.' This poem is dated October 1908...