Anthony d’ Offay ( b. 1940) was once one of London’ s leading dealers, with a reputation as a specialist in late nineteenth and twentieth century art. He opened his first gallery in 1965 aged 25, but closed it in 2001.The third catalogue he issued was entitled Art and Literature, 1870 – 1920. We found this lip smacking treasure house of goodies lying about Jot HQ the other day. Undated, though probably published sometime in the late sixties ( evidently, d’Offay’s London telephone number was Welbeck 7566), the catalogue is a miscellany of drawings, designs, posters ,original artwork, a few printed books, the occasional literary manuscript and collection of letters from prominent British and continental writers and artists. Some items stand out
On the literary front, there is an unpublished holograph manuscript of ‘an important ‘ poem by Mary Shelley on the death of her husband Percy B. Shelley, who drowned in 1822. The price of £350 seems on the face of it a bit steep (for the time) for a mere three stanzas, until one thinks of how highly rated the author of Frankenstein is today. According to D’Offay, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that the poem was published. In 1876 the critic H. Buxton Forman published Mary Shelley’s ‘ The Choice ‘, which was a tribute to her late husband, but this was a much longer poem. The D’Offay MS may have been a draft of this work, but until its present whereabouts of it is revealed we won’t know.
There is also a holograph manuscript of a draft novel entitled L’Amour Parricide by Charles Baudelaire dated c 1864. According to D’Offay, ‘ the holograph drafts… were lost until recently when they came to light after more than seventy years obscurity.’ D’Offay wanted £75 for this rarity, which certainly doesn’t seem outrageous.
Of the printed items we find The Fairies Wood ( c 1899) by the cult writer Ronald Firbank, who at this time signed himself Arthur Firbank. According to D’ Offay, this is ‘the first copy to be offered for sale in sixty-five years ‘ though he somehow neglected to mention that this example of the first printed work by Firbank was basically just a piece of card printed on one side only. The stanzas themselves are hardly more rewarding than greetings card ‘ verses ‘ which even the most ardent Firbank collector would shrink at paying the £105 asked for. Nevertheless, that same piece of card is currently on sale at an eye watering £3,500.
I am indebted to John Adlard’s book “Stenbock, Yeats and the Nineties” (Woolf 1969) for information on Lambart and any quotes emanate from him. Lambart was related to the Earls of Cavan and appears not to have followed any particular profession. He was “improvident, intelligent and amusing”. Apparently he thought he was rather like Byron. He seems to have spent most of his time abroad, he had friends in the literary and artistic world and he knew Max Beerbohm who drew a caricature of him. Max says he was always very correctly dressed and one surmises he was part of the Florence ex-pat community, a world depicted in Maugham’s Up at the Villa. This caricature can be seen in Hart-Davis’s “Letters of Max Beerbohm to Reggie Turner” (1964–opposite page 284.) He was married twice and divorced twice. His second marriage, to Lady Mexborough “seems merely to have been for his own maintenance”. It seems, in the end, that Lady Mexborough settled him in some comfort at her villa near Florence while she instituted costly divorce proceedings. It is known he was a friend of the decadent poet Count Eric Stenbock (1860-1895) who left him £200 in his will. I surmise, as they were both about the same age, that they were at Oxford together. However a preliminary search of Oxford records reveals no Lambart. Stenbock was up at Oxford in 1879 at the same time that Gerard Manley Hopkins was living there. Adlard says “we know that (Lambart) was a crony of Eric’s only from Eric’s will. He was a tireless correspondent and kept almost all his letters; but when he died his daughter burned the lot. It seems a very great pity.”
One wonders why his letters were burnt, although it was and still is a not uncommon practice. His connection with the 1890s decadents may have been deemed shameful. Even in the 1950s Oscar Wilde was spoken of in hushed tones. Any further information would be appreciated.
A final deep search revealed that Lambart was first married to one Constance Green in June 1897 and married again in June 1920 to Anne Belcher (Lady Mexborough) who died in 1943. He is also to be found at a website devoted to heirs of William the Conqueror and he was also, presumably, an heir of the Emperor Charlemagne.
Found—a programme for the seventieth birthday party of Sir Max Beerbohm (1872 – 1956), the well known caricaturist, parodist and all-round wit.
It was held on August 24th 1942 and organised by the Players Theatre, which during the war had moved to a ‘basement ‘ in Albemarle Street. The seventy-strong Maximilian Society, had been created especially for the event, and it was decided that a new member would be added each subsequent year that ‘ the incomparable Max ‘celebrated his birthday. The chairman was ‘Sir’ Desmond MacCarthy, the Bloomsburyite literary critic.
All we can gather from the programme is that much of the entertainment comprised seven Music Hall singing acts who trilled such raffish ditties as‘ Milly’s Cigar Divan ‘, ‘ Sweethearts and Wives’, and ‘ Driving in the Park’ . Beerbohm, who began his career in the 1890’s at the height of the Music Hall era, would have known these songs, and might even have chosen them.
Some of the performers were big names themselves. The actor Frith Banbury ( 1912 – 2008) would star in the classic film ‘The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp’ the following year. Hedli Anderson (1907 – 90), the singer and actress, was associated with the Group Theatre and had previously starred in plays by Auden, Isherwood and MacNeice, whom she married that same year. In fact, ‘Funeral Blues ‘was specially written for her by Auden and put to music by Britten for the Group Theatre’s production of ‘The Ascent of F6’. As we all know, the poem later became the star turn in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. Continue reading →
Found in the Peter Haining archive, an Independent obituary by Peter Mendez of the fin de siecle scholar Ian Fletcher (1920 – 88). As the obituarist remarks, Fletcher’s vertiginous rise in 1955 from humble book-stamper in Catford Public Library to University teacher was extraordinary and may be unique in the history of modern British academic life. Today, when the possession of a Ph D is obligatory for entry into academia, and when many with this qualification are either unemployed or in low-grade jobs, the idea that someone with no degree at all could be elevated to a lectureship in English Literature would be laughed out of court.
But this was Fletcher’s position in 1955. Not only did he lack a higher degree, but he had never attended a University. However, in compensation he became a prolific contributor to such neo-Romantic post-war magazines as Tambimuttu’s Poetry London, Peter Russell’s Nine and Wrey Gardiner’s Poetry Quarterly. In 1948 Tambimuttu published a volume of his poems entitled, Orisons. He also brought out an edition of Lionel Johnson’s Collected Poems in 1953. Fletcher’s passion for the aesthetic movement and the literature of the eighteen nineties had begun early. His book-hunting excursions in that golden age of the forties and early fifties, when rare titles could be had for under ten shillings, led him to assemble a large collection which became a valuable resource. At the same time his growing reputation as a poet and scholar attracted the attention of Professor D. J. Gordon of Reading University, who saw that the young librarian might be a valuable addition to his staff. And it soon became apparent that Gordon’s trust in him was well placed.
An excellent introduction by Edmund Gosse to Louis Couperus's 1891 novel Footsteps of Fate ('Noodlot') translated from the Dutch by Clara Bell. Gosse corresponded with Couperus but he wrote well informed introductions similar to this to every book in Heinemann's long series of European novels. They show great scholarship and an enthusiasm for the emerging movements in writing in the last decade of the 19th century. While Britain had its aesthetic 1890s movement and the Celtic Twilight and the French their decadent writers the Dutch had the 'Sensitivists'…There are interesting references to the Dutch Browning (the poet Potgieter) also resident in Florence and also to Netscher the Dutch George Moore, a singular honour.
THE DUTCH SENSITIVISTS
In the intellectual history of all countries we find the same phenomenon incessantly recurring. New writers, new artists, new composers arise in revolt against what has delighted their grandfathers and satisfied their fathers. These young men, pressed together at first, by external opposition, into a serried phalanx, gradually win their way, become themselves the delight and then the satisfaction of their contemporaries, and, falling apart as success is secured to them, come to seem lax, effete and obsolete to a new race of youths, who effect a fresh aesthetic revolution. In small communities, these movements are often to be observed more precisely than in larger ones. But they are very tardily perceived by foreigners, the established authorities in art and literature retaining their exclusive place in dictionaries and handbooks long after the claim of their juniors to be observed with attention has been practically conceded at home.