Compton Mackenzie on his ‘tricks of the trade ‘

Whisky_Galore_film_posterCompton Mackenzie is not a writer who raises much interest among readers nowadays. Few literary people today could name more than two of his many novels, the most famous of which, Whiskey Galore, was made into a hit film. However, back in the early fifties,  readers of his article, Tricks of the Trade ‘, which appeared in the January 1953 issue of The Writer, would have lapped up this very frank account of his daily writing routine, which retains its interest today.

 Mackenzie begins his account by declaring that due to the loss of one eye, he may soon face the possibility of having to dictate his words, something he dislikes. For the moment, however, he still writes ‘every word’. He then reveals some surprises:

 ‘ I wake about noon…drink a cup of coffee and read my letters…I answer about 4,000 a year, which if you figure it out, means at least six weeks of eight-hour days. Too much! After the letters come the papers, but there’s not a great deal on which to waste time there. I get up about one, and if it’s fine take a stroll round the orchard with a glass of milk at the end of it. Then I dictate answers to those letters and with luck settle down by 3 p.m. to work at whatever book I’m writing. I always have to work in chairs because for over forty years I have had to fight with sciatica. A break of a quarter of an hour for tea, and then work goes on until nine, sometimes later. At 9p.m.a very light meal, and then, in a different chair from the one in which I have been writing my book, I write any article or broadcast I have rashly promised to do. Music on gramophone or wireless until midnight, and then sometimes under pressure I work on without music until one or one-thirty. As soon as I’m in bed I enjoy the longed for recreation of doing The Times crossword puzzle. If I do it in under an hour I win: if I’m longer The Times wins. If I’ve failed to finish in an hour The Times is allowed a walk-over and I put the puzzle aside. Then I read until 4 or 5 a.m., sustained by a bar of chocolate and a glass of milk.’

 Mackenzie then reveals that he writes using a ‘ very thick Swan pen with a very broad nib ‘ and that he avoids writers’ cramp and developing a large corn on the middle finger by holding the pen ‘ very lightly ‘. He is very particular (one might argue, rather obsessive) about the paper he uses and how he creates the physical book. Continue reading

‘At Homes’, tea parties, and tea dances: social etiquette in 1939

ADN-Zentralbild/ Archiv Berlin 1926 Im Garten des Berliner Hotels "Esplanada" spielt zum 5 Uhr-Tee eine Jazzband. 17187-26

The always informative and entertaining Everybody’s Best Friend (n.d. but c 1939) devotes many pages to modern etiquette, some of which reminds us today of how much has changed over the intervening years.

Take, for instance, the etiquette of social occasions. ‘ At Homes ‘ were once common. Here is some advice.

I am attending a formal “At Home “ shortly. As this will be my first experience of this event, what may I expect the procedure to be?

Unless you receive a card stating a particular hour, do not arrive at the house earlier than 3.30 p.m., nor later that 5.30.A heavy coat or a rain-coat should be left in the hall, but the hat is not removed. You will be greeted by your hostess and introduced to other guests.

Usually the hostess will offer a cup of tea and a morsel of bread and butter or cake.

A visit on an “ At Home “ day normally lasts for twenty minutes to half an hour. You should not stay longer unless especially asked to do so by your hostess. Take your leave quietly. Friends who arrive later will not be leaving at the same time, so you do not want to interrupt the proceedings by your departure. Shake hands with your hostess and just smile and bow to the others.

There were specific rules for tea parties too.

I am thinking of asking to a little tea party some of the girls in the office where I worked before marriage. What sort of invitations should be issued and what should I put on the table?

Invitations to a tea-party take the form of little notes something like this:-

“ Dear _____,

“ I am having a few friends to tea on Saturday next, December18, at 4.30p.m., and should be happy if you would join us.

                                                                                “Yours sincerely,

                                                                                  ______________”

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The ‘’Best’ in 1974, according to two Americans, one of whom had been a child prodigy

 

The best Champagne

‘,…Short of the best—which some may find an extravagance at eight pounds—it doesn’t make sense to buy champagne. The five pound variety is rarely worth the price. Since competitive alternatives can be had for half as much. From France, the dry sparkling wines of Seyssel are often the equal of medium-priced champagne. California “ champagne” ( the long arm of the French labelling law does not reach across the Atlantic ) can also be quite decent; the best are Korbel Natural and Hans Kornell.

The best college at Oxford

Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 12.06.52 PM‘Magdalen, both the most beautiful and the most intellectually diverse. Christ Church is an unreconstructed sanctuary of the worst in British snobbery; Balliol is like an American law school, full of politics and ambition. Magdalen has everything : class warfare on even terms, superb tutors, an immense spectrum of interests and tastes’.      Other colleges are available…

The best diet

‘The crashing bore of it all. Everyone knows what the best diet is…Lean meat, cottage cheese. Skim milk, an occasional slice of bread or a baked potato, fresh fruit and veggies; no skipping breakfast, apples and carrot sticks for snacks, plenty of leafy greens to prevent the inevitable…The only thing wrong with the diet—besides the fact that no one in his right mind would stick to it –is that calorie recommendations are too generous, even for the intended audience… Continue reading

Coffee and Kafka, anyone?

In an issue dated June 4th1954 of Desiderata, the weekly publication ‘providing a direct link between library and bookseller‘ we find the following news snippet from the back page:coffee machine 1950

A Sussex bookseller has set up a coffee-bar at the back of his spacious shop with a counter, decorated in red and gold and equipped with the latest type of coffee machine, fitted into a tall bookcase. He claims, no doubt correctly, that it is the only coffee-bar to be found in any bookshop in the country and says, according to a press report, that in installing it he had in mind the coffee-houses of the 18thcentury “ at which it was customary for people interested in books to meet to discuss literature”.

A  good idea, perhaps, but not our cup of tea.

The report does not state whether the unnamed bookseller/barista sold second hand books or new ones, or both, but since most of the content of Desideratais devoted to the ‘wants‘ of provincial libraries and second hand booksellers (the eminent dealer Charles Traylen is featured in this particular issue), we can reasonably suppose that the bookseller in question dealt in second hand books.

We have absolutely no idea why this dealer should be so certain that his shop was a pioneer in providing coffee, but the tone of the report seems to suggest that to the journalists who covered this story such a service was a great novelty. Nor are we told whether this coffee was offered free to customers as a sales gimmick, or had to be paid for. We at Jot 101 pose this question because we remember well back in the 1990s a certain book dealer in Hitchin, Hertfordshire ( alas now gone) who supplied comfy seats on which customers could drink their free cup of very good percolated coffee. This most welcome bonus only lasted a few years, but at the time your Jotter felt it to be a rather clever way of establishing good relations with the clientele. Before then and since coffee, when it featured at all in bookshops, which was rare enough, it had to be paid for.

We looked in vain on the Net for book dealers of the 1950s who might have emulated the Sussex dealer’s example, but good ideas in marketing are almost always copied in some form or other by rivals, so there must have been a few takers for this coffee ‘n’ books scheme. Certainly many dealers over the years have tried to inculcate in their premises an informality akin to that found in a private library. In the 1980s the legendary Shakespeare & Co on the Left Bank in Paris positively encouraged customers to become literary flaneurs by providing sofas for them to lounge around on. And an earlier Jot featured a certain bookseller in the USA who made her small shop a simalcrum of a some arty person’s back parlour, with tasteful bric a brac jostling for attention with rare books. [R. M. Healey]

 

Literary drinkers

roy_campbell

The actual book being discussed is entitled ‘More Literary Drinkers’, but as we at Jot 101 haven’t read Pete Bunten’s ‘Literary Drinkers’, we will start with this sequel.

Bunten assembles the usual suspects in alphabetical order rather than in their degrees of bibulousness, which in some cases is not why they are in his book. They are: the Brontes, Roy Campbell (left), J.P.Donleavy, Ian Fleming, John Fothergill, Oliver Goldsmith, W.W.Jacobs, Jerome K Jerome, D.H.Lawrence, C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkein,Norman McCaig, Julian Maclaren Ross, Thomas Nashe, Eugene O’Neill, Dorothy Parker, Joseph Roth, Shakespeare, R.S.Surtees, Graham Swift , and Evelyn Waugh.

The book is well written, as it should be, considering that Bunten, who is ( or was ) a schoolteacher, is a graduate in  English from Cambridge. And there are some amusing pen portraits. One of the best concerns the belligerent South African poet Roy Campbell, who comes across as a near-alcoholic, quite capable of downing 4 ½ litres of wine a day. Bunten is right to see him as a victim of his own determination to project himself as macho through reckless physical activity and alcohol. His fiancee’s father warned her against marrying a ‘dipsomaniac‘, but she ignored his advice and paid the price. The discovery of her affair with Vita Sackville West sent Campbell off on a lengthy bender, which seems to us the sign of an emotionally weak person, rather than a manly one. And is it manly, one asks, to physically attack an unarmed Stephen Spender and Geoffrey Grigson, who Bunten calls ‘ timid ‘,with a knobkerrie ?  To evade such a drunken assault, as Grigson did, after having learnt that Spender had already been hit by Campbell, is hardly the action of a timid person. Later, Anthony West commented on the encounter   with the gruff ‘ You should have kicked him in the balls ‘.In his brilliant Recollections (1984) Grigson recalls being  a witness to another example of  Campbell’s boorish behaviour.

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The Great British Tea

Found in Old Inns of Suffolk, an often consulted work by local historian 440px-Customers_enjoying_afternoon_tea_at_Lyon's_Corner_House_on_Coventry_Street,_London,_1942._D6573Leonard P Thompson, is a complaint about the ‘catchpenny ‘afternoon teas served up by typical road houses and other mediocre eating places.

Writing in 1948,Thompson argues that excellent and value for money teas can still be found in Britain, but that the ones offered by hotels and similar outfits are invariably unimaginative, mean and ridiculously expensive.

Thompson begins his complaint with a eulogy to a tea he once had at The Fleece, Boxford, near Sudbury, once the home village of the late Peter Haining, the doyen of paste and scissors anthologists, from whose archive ( now owned by Jot 101) Old Inns of Suffolk may have come.

It was a Tea of an essentially home-made order. There was plenty of bread-and-butter. There was potted meat and home-made jam. There were biscuits, there was cake. And there was a pot of refreshing, honest to-goodness tea. The price was extraordinarily reasonable. And it all pointed to this moral: if one country inn can observe the ancient traditions of its proud place in England’s social history, so can others. Some, indeed, do, but they are all too few; and of that few, the majority are completely unimaginative. Hotel Teas display the least imagination; two or three wafers of rather dry bread, lightly smeared with a mixture of margarine and butter; perhaps a couple of diminutive sandwiches of indefinable and often dubious content; a piece of dry cake, or an equally dry and hideously plain bun. Such is the usual composition of the average Hotel Tea . Continue reading

Food products named after writers

IMG_4443Spotted in California at De Luxe Foods this American/ Irish cheese named after Oscar Wilde. Aged two years. Probably very decadent. There are not that many commercial foods and beverages named after writers and artists. Plenty of dishes, however, like Omelette Arnold Bennett, Peach Melba, Chateaubriand etc.,- Wikipedia has an extensive list.)  I have also seen a Jack London wine (a Cabernet Sauvignon with a wolf motif  on the label) and a Conradian coffee called ‘Heart of Darkness.’ Back in Europe there is a very more-ish chocolate biscuit called Leibniz, the name taken from the great thinker and mathematician. Jerry Garcia was the inspiration for Benn and Jerry’s ‘Cherry Garcia’ and in France there is a champagne named after the Marquis de Sade- at 35 euros a bottle it is not cruelly expensive.  The Wildean cheese was $6 for just over half a pound. News of any other such products would be welcome. Why isn’t there a small sponge cake with a distinctive shell-like shape named after Proust?  Or a Balzac coffee (did he not sometimes drink 50 cups a day?)

Help the Spanish cause – don’t drink Port (1936)

spanishFound in a pamphlet called Spain and Us. (Holborn and West Central London Committee for Spanish Medical Aid, London 1936) this contribution by  Louis Golding suggesting a boycott of the drink Port. Quite early in the history of political boycotting of products. Other contributors to this rare booklet included J. B. Priestley, Rebecca West, Stephen Spender, Ethel Mannin, Francis Meynell,  T. F. Powys, J. Langdon-Davies, and Catherine Carswell.

Drink no port.

The aeroplanes are still entering Portugal for the assistance of the gallant Generals, Franco and Mola. So are the shells, the rifles. Perhaps the poison-gas bombs are on their way by now.

And Port is still leaving Portugal.

We must drink no Port.

I know that the Port we might deny ourselves tonight is not the Port which left Portugal a fortnight from now is not likely to be balanced on adept palates for another ten, twenty, fifty years. Ten years from now there may be no docks at Oporto for the disembarkation of its Port, nor docks on the Thames for its reception. Continue reading

The Riviera Revisited (1939)

FullSizeRenderFound — a 30 page holiday brochure by Charles Graves – The Riviera Revisited. [London], [1939]. Probably written in 1938 and portraying a relaxed lifestyle, with plenty of good food and booze. Olive oil is not recommended as sun protection! After WW2 Charles Graves wrote 2 longer books on the Riviera – The Royal Riviera and (again) The Riviera Revisited… The picture of bathers at Eden Roc is from the booklet.

A Summer’s Day.

Juan-Les-Pins is the only resort I have ever visited four years in succession. I can think of no greater compliment. It has an admirable beach. It has a summer and winter season, like practically every other place on the Riviera. But whereas six or seven years ago the clientele was mainly English and American, it is now largely French, which I find charming. Somehow the prettiest girls from Paris go there for their summer holidays, and the restaurant of the casino has indubitably the best hors-d oeuvres in the world. The man who makes them is worth a fortune to any London restaurant or hotel. He stuffs everything with everything else. Pimentoes, aubergines, sardines, olives, tunny fish and so on. The casino is famous for the light-hearted character of its gambling. In the summer you wear white flannels or anything else. The croupiers smile (a distinct rarity). The champagne cocktails are first-class. The lobsters are as fresh as God made them; so are the crayfish. Let me quote from “And the Greeks”: Continue reading

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

White or Red ?

Jeff Koons has become the latest in a long line of illustrious artists to produce a label for the equally celebrated wine of Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Here is passage from The Cellar Key (1933) by T Earle Welby* which everyone who dines out should commit to memory.

‘…The corks of the opened bottles have been carefully examined, and smelled, after cutting off the tops, which may seem mouldy without the rest of the cork or the wine in any but a sound state. A spoonful of each wine has been tasted, with an olive-cleansed palate. The host is satisfied: the guests will be.

   But let the guests know, by inscription in the margin of the menu or by word of mouth, what wines are to be offered them. I appeal, in the divine name, to hosts and hostesses not to let a maid wander around a table asking, “White or Red?” White what? And red what? Is the choice between an honest white Graves and an equally honest red Graves, or between the former and Kangaroo Burgundy? In any event, why should such a choice be offered one? No vinously educated person can possibly want to drink red wine of any kind with the fish, or, having therefore chosen white, to be condemned to white for the whole meal.

   However, the crimes against wine committed in the house are as nothing to those in which the unconscious criminal does his horrid deeds at a restaurant. To ask guests what they will drink is a stupid abdication of the position of host, a position with higher duties than that of paying the bill. They may know what they would severally take to drink, though in an average English party three-fourths of them will not; but, even if they do, they each will hesitate to avow a preference which might send the host beyond his estimate. It is for the host to choose, and in advance of the arrival of his guests. He knows, as his guests cannot, on what scale he had conceived of the entertainment; or, if he does not, he should have bidden his friends to some restaurant with which he was better acquainted. It is for him to take complete charge; to order both food and wine before his friends arrive ; to spare the party the evil ten minutes during which its members would otherwise gape at menu and wine- list…’

*See an earlier jot on Welby – author of  the classic food book The Dinner Knell (1932).  [RR]

Two John Fothergill letters

IMG_1595Found – two signed handwritten letters from John Fothergill author of An Innkeeper’s Diary.  He was the proprietor of The Spreadeagle in Thame, the ‘inn’ he managed to make a cult destination during the 1920s and 30s. To quote travel blogger Ian Weightman:

‘In its heyday, The Spreadeagle near Oxford became a mecca for holiday makers, and the great and the good of the country. Many people booked to stay or dine there, purely because of Fothergill’s notoriety. But many others – including a “glitterati” of writers, actors, artists and heads of state – arrived as a result of the hotel’s widespread reputation as one of the best in the land… Fothergill was not only an illustrious innkeeper, but also an outstanding chef, connoisseur of wine, and an early campaigner for “Real Food”’.

The letters are to the writer Guy Chapman (author of the WW1 account A Passionate Prodigality and husband of Margaret Storm Jameson, English journalist and author.) They were associated with the writer’s organisation PEN – hence Fothergill asking for advice about republishing a gardening book he had written in 1927 (The Gardener’s Colour Book -now quite collectable.) The first letter is from the Spreadeagle and the second from his inn in Market Harborough which he ran from 1934 to 1952. Anybody writing a biography of Fothergill in the future would appreciate these letters, but when they are sold they tend to disappear – so following the original Jot mission we are recording them here. Continue reading

Cuppa in the City

51Y+-eY-sUL._SL500_SX317_BO1,204,203,200_From the Good Cuppa Guide by Jonathan Routh (1966) in the ‘Tea in the City’ section. Jonathan Routh (1928-2008) was a hoaxer and practical joker, most famous as the presenter of ITV’s Candid Camera. Previous to this he had successfully invented a fictitious 18th Century poet, gaining him a mention in the TLS. As well as his guide to tea shops in London he produced the Good Loo Guide (1968); the New York version was called the Good John Guide. He was also a prolific, and eccentric, painter – Queen Victoria was depicted trying to lose weight using a hula-hoop. Some of his paintings occasionally turn up in auction..
 

The Leadenhall Tea Room and Billiards Salon

(Licensed for Billiards and Tobacco)

21 Lime Street

This vast subterranean arena which hasn’t changed one iota since 1880 is one of the weirdest sights in England. In it are maybe two hundred men drinking fivepenny cups of tea – which is all that’s served for their refreshment – watching another fifty on the billiard tables. It seemed only right that, in purchasing my cup, I should have received change for my 6d with an Edwardian penny. I felt, too, that at last I’d stumbled across what that ‘Something’ is that people who are ‘Something in the City’ do. As I say, it’s weird; and it goes on from 10 in the morning to 9 at night. Just the click of cue on ball and spoon on cup. An absolute must for those who like to take their tea in surroundings that are different.

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Medicinal Virtues of Strong Coffee

Typical London coffee house in the 18th century

18th Century Coffee House*

Among the astonishingly varied contents of the very scarce Family Receipt Book (undated but c1810) is this incredible piece of PR on behalf of strong coffee:

‘Strong coffee, in the proportion of an ounce and a half to a pint, and particularly when made by infusion, is not only truly grateful to the palette, but wonderfully fortifies and strengthens the stomach, as well as the whole nervous system. It adds, maintains one of its warmest panegyrists, or gives spirits to the body, on any sinking, faintness, weakness, or weariness, of mind or body, and that beyond whatever the best wine can effect; conveying, as it were, life and strength to the whole frame. It is, doubtless, very good against consumptions, vapours and hysterics, and all cold and moist diseases afflicting the head, brain etc; it prevails also, on being long and plentifully used, against the scurvy, dropsy, and gout , as well as all manner of rheumatic pains ; absorbing all acidities in the human body, and destroying the congelative powers by which those diseases are chiefly generated; while, by it’s(sic) diuretic property, it carries off all those heterogene and morbific humours, after a very singular manner. “

It may be, says Salmon, the medical writer here in part quoted, “that I have said a great deal in commendation of this strong coffee, but I can truly assert that  I have said nothing but what I know myself, and that in my own person, to be truth, and have had confirmed by manifold and daily experiences for a great many years, to my exceeding satisfaction. I was also cured, about ten years since, of a rheumatic pain in my shoulder; which was so vehement that, besides the perpetual pain, I could not as much lift my arm or hand up to my head, not put it behind my back , for nearly two years , in which I received no benefit by a long application of vesicatories, and continual use of opiates. Of this vehement rheumatism, I was perfectly cured by drinking a full quart of strong coffee at a time, and continuing it some days together, nor have I since the smallest return. The like relation I have had from two other persons, particular patients of mine, who were much more grievously afflicted, by their own accounts, than even I was; who by an extravagant drinking of strong coffee, to use their own words, were perfectly cured, and freed from their deplorable lameness, after manifold applications, and the use of many other things, both external and internal, had for some years past been tried in vain.”

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Oswell Blakeston on Drinking in the City

Posted by jotter HB this piece by Oswell Blakeston – of whom his partner Max Chapman said- “.(he had) a quick eye for the bizarre and the outrageous”. The portrait of him is by fellow avant-garde film maker Bruguiere.

george-eastman-house-bruguiere-series-1379746538_bBut of course ‘drinking in the City’ means different pleasures to different people. One can drink the whole fascination of a nation’s trade with the gentlemen who (say) leave their bowler hats on the mantelpiece in The Capataz in Old Broad Street. They may look ‘ordinary’, these quietly cultured men, but they have much strange lore, and maybe one deals in tea leaves which have been grown on a mountain called ‘The Thousand Acres of Cloud’ and another in furs caught by trappers in a landscape that is so chill that words turn into icicles. One may imbibe in the City in tall rooms with one great sheet of mirror behind the bar and stand next to dark-suited clerks who know all about jungles where the vegetation gasps for air or about Arctic wastes that exist as fables agreed upon.

Oswell Blakeston, the pen name of Henry Joseph Hasslacher (1907-85), was an editor, travel writer, film critic and poet. He also wrote cookery books, including Edwardian Glamour Cooking Without Tears (1960).  – lib.utexas.edu

The Book of the City, a collection of essays, was published by Ian Norrie (d. 2009), the owner of the High Hill Bookshop in Hampstead. (We have more from Ian Norrie in recently purchased archives.) [HB]

Tea Room Management

From - The Fingerpost: A Guide to Professions for Educated Women, with Information as to Necessary Training. (Central Bureau for the Employment of Women. 1906.) A useful guide to the practicalities and economics for women considering opening a tea room at the dawn of the 20th century. A persistent dream, in one Agatha Christie story (Miss Marple?) a woman is willing to bump off several relatives to get the money to open a tea room..

Tea-Room Management. Gertrude Limb.

In choosing a suitable place for a tea-room, it is wise to bear in mind two things: position, and the number of residents and visitors who may by customers. Even if an extra outlay of capital is required, I am convoked that it is well spent on a good position. The old adage, "Out of sight, out of mind", is especially applicable to a tea-shop. Then it is "the number that pays," and it is best t choose a place favoured by tourists as well as residents, and if it is place by the sea where boards call, so much the better.

To open a tea-shop without previous experience and training will in all probability spell failure, for to be able to make tea charmingly in one's own drawing-room does not necessarily mean that one has all the many gifts necessary for success in business. Embryo pupils write to me - "I am considered attractive socially." "I have made cakes at home for year." "I have good taste, with a correct eye for form and colour," and probably when the socially attractive pupil enters she has no idea that flower glasses require to be washed, that coffee must be ground, that chairs and tables must be policed, and, for the girl who has made cakes at home, she has yet to learn that cake making as a business is a very different matter.

Then how many girls who think they can run a tea-shop can keep the simplest accounts correctly?

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Frances Willard—nineteenth century American feminist extraordinaire

Here is a signed photo of that amazing woman, Frances Willard ( no relation of Dolf !!), an icon of American feminism, who almost single – handedly organised the suffragist movement in the States from the mid nineteenth century until her comparatively early death (probably partly from sheer hard work) in 1898 aged 58. As a committed proto-Socialist and president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) for 19 years she lobbied on an enormous range of progressive social issues, including the voting rights of all women over the age of 21, federal aid for education, free school lunches, unions for workers, an eight-hour working day, municipal sanitation, national transportation, anti-rape laws and protections against child abuse. On the issue of female suffrage she argued that women could only be safe from male violence in their own homes if they were seen as ‘companions and counsellors of men’ rather than their playthings.
Willard made several tours of the UK to promote her ideals and it was probably on one of these appearances in October 1895 that she signed as ‘your affectionate sister’ this mass-produced photo of herself. Three years later she was dead. [R.R.]

The Agamemnon Dinner of November 1900

Found among a large collection of menus printed at the turn of the nineteenth century by the high class Cambridge printer W.P.Spalding is this menu for the annual ‘Agamemnon  Dinner’ of the famous Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, which was held at King’s College on 27th November 1900.


A copy of this particular menu, signed by some who attended the Dinner, is in the King’s College archives. It shows that the medievalist M.R.James, a good amateur actor who enjoyed reciting his famous ghost stories at ADC events, was present at the Dinner, along with A.A.Milne, then in his Fresher year. All the menus reflect the high gastronomical standards of the various Cambridge colleges at that time, but the dishes on offer at the Agamemnon Dinner seem particularly delicious.

James and Milne could choose from starters that included Potage Dauphine served with an amontillado, Turbot boulli, sauce crevettes and filet de sole a la Villeroi which came with a liebfraumilch, perdrix aux choux, or petites timbales a la Royale, which were served with a 1894 Champagne Irroy.

The main courses consisted of Boeuf pique a la Godard, Oison Roti, sauce aux pommes, celery a l’Espagnoles, haricots verts, pommes de terre en croquettes et Oakley.

Or they might prefer Langue de Boeuf a la Ecarlate with puree d’Epinards.

Dessert number one came in the form of ‘Pouding A.D.C.’ or Bavarois au Curacao.

Then there were liqueurs offered with Glace au pain bis a la Jamaique..

Then, rather bizarrely, came Croutes d’ Anchois ( marinated fish towards the end of a meal; I wonder if this was ever popular). And finally, another  Dessert (not specified), after which came port and coffee.

Personally, I could happily scoff the lot—apart from the anchovies, obviously, although I’d want to know what potato croquettes ‘et Oakley’ exactly meant. [RR]

Cherry Cake by Enid Blyton, Mulled wine by Evelyn Waugh

From "As We Like it" Recipes by Famous People edited  by Kenneth Downey  (Arthur Barker, London 1950.) Famous people included Joyce Grenfell, Georgette Heyer, Leslie Charteris, Douglas Fairbanks, Christopher Fry, Celia Johnson Vivian Leigh, Richard Mason, Charles Morgan, Ivor Novello Laurence Olivier, Wilfred Pickles, Freya Stark, Richard Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt ,Katherine Hepburn, Enid Blyton and Clementina Churchill. The book has a forward by Edwina Mountbatten of Burma and she writes that every penny from the sale of the book will go to the funds of the Returned Prisoners of War Association. There is much mention of rationing and tinned food  but Evelyn Waugh goes for an extravagant and slightly incapacitating mulled wine in full Brideshead fashion.

Mulled Claret (for six persons)

Take six bottles of red wine (it would be improper to use really fine Bordeaux, but the better the wine, the better the concoction.)  Any sound claret or burgundy will do. 1 cup full of water; 2 port glasses of brandy; 1 port glass of ginger wine; 1 orange stuffed with cloves; peel of two lemons; 3 sticks of cinnamon; one grated nutmeg.

Heat in covered cauldron. Do not allow to simmer. Serve hot and keep hot on the hob. Should be drunk at the same temperature as tea. To be drunk during and after luncheon in February or after dinner on any winter evening.

Enid Blyton's recipe is for a fairly simple and economical  Cherry Cake for the children…

This is a cake my own children love, and is easy to make when children come to tea.

Ingredients:

Half pound of margarine. 3 eggs. 6 ounces castor sugar.6 ounces cherries. 6 ounces flour. A few drops of vanilla essence.

Method: Beat the margarine and sugar till soft and creamy, drop in eggs one by one and beat well in between each. Add flour gradually, and lastly cherries and flavouring. If too stiff, add a little milk. Bake in a moderate oven to start, and then drop to Regulo 3. It takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to bake.

This is just as nice with fruit instead of cherries, or ginger cut up it is excellent.

Half the quantity makes a nice little cake for tea, but only takes 3/4 to 1 hour to cook.


How many molecules in a drop of whisky?

From R. Houwink's The Odd Book of Data (Elsevier, Amsterdam 1965) obtained from the amazing library of Jeremy Beadle MBE (1948 -2008) British entertainer, television star,  hoaxer, quizmaster, book collector and philanthropist (with his blind stamp reading 'Property of Beadlebum OK?')

It's a curious ur geek book full of data such as 'the light now reaching the star Pollux tells us about Hitler's rise to power, whilst a star in the Andromeda Nebula brings us, as it were, a visual greeting from the period when Homo Sapiens made his engravings in caves (15000BC)...' Here is a piece about the number of molecules in a drop of whisky:

Peter looked askance at John who was just polishing off his umpteenth glass of whisky.
'Steady on, old man… leave a drop for the stragglers!'
'Shteady on?'  echoed John, ' Why , theresh heapsh of the shtuff…hic.  Tell you what, shport, I'll dish out a thousand molecules per second to every living soul for the next 30 odd years…hic'.
John upturned his glass and shook a single drop on to Peter's palm. 'Take care of dishtribution old shport!'