In London recently buying a small collection of books near Palace Gate I spotted three Bentley Bentaygas parked casually along the neighborhood streets. The one pictured can reach 190 mph and will leave little change from £150K. The ultimate SUV, 4 by 4, ‘Chelsea tractor.’ On showing this photo to a colleague, something of a ‘petrol head’,he informed me that there were certain areas of London that (young) tourists visit just to see rare and expensive supercars in the flesh – Mayfair, Chelsea, Belgravia mainly. He said that the visitors sometimes encourage the owners, often young Middle Eastern guys, to rev them up. In one instance the driver forgot he was in gear and shot forward into another supercar wrecking both. I blame Jeremy Clarkson..
I see him at night with his head low down
And his terrible eyes ablaze,
He takes at astride the long street of the town,
Like a dragon of older days
The throb, throb, throb of his heart I hear,
And the throb of my own replies
As he booms and bounds from the darkness near,
And into the darkness flies.
And I long to leap out on his back and away,
Away, in the night, alone,
Any where out of myself and to-day,
To drown in the deep Unknown.
This little poem by J.H.Goring—a minor versifier of the early twentieth century—was discovered in The Odd Volume (1910). It is not the best or earliest car poem,but it is powerful enough and perhaps deserves a place in an anthology of motoring literature for its evocation of the romantic allure of early motor vehicles.
The opening stanza also recalls that famous engraving of 1845 by George Cruikshank entitled ‘The Railway Dragon’ which shows a locomotive as a fire breathing dragon consuming everything in its path. The difference, of course, is that in 1845 passenger locomotives had only been around for about 15 years and were genuinely feared by many of the older generation, especially farmers, who were terrified that their crops would be destroyed by sparks from a locomotive’s chimney. However, in 1910 motor vehicles were more commonplace. In fact, the first had taken to the road around 1885, and by 1910 around 100,000 were in existence in the UK. That is not to say that in south Essex, where Goring lived, the sight of a motor car did not have to power to thrill and excite the imagination. [R.M.Healey]
Rescued from a copy of The Odd Volume, a one-off literary miscellany published in 1910 to raise money for the National Book Trade Provident Society, is the following poem by Norman Davey entitled “Aerial Survey (no 3498 K).”
Back from Sahara’s sun-scorched sand,
With its dome of shimmering blue:
Back from beyond Van Dieman’s Land
Where the pack-ice breaks the view :
Back from the glow of the sun-kissed snow
On Fuji Yama’s crest;
We have fled from the grey of the dawning day
—Fleeter than falcon for its prey—
Home to the winsome West,
Back to the winsome West! Continue reading
Found in The Ocean as a Health-Resort (A Handbook for Tourist and Invalids) by William S Wilson (London 1880) this guide to shipboard games. The author start by saying that study on board a ship is nigh impossible and recommends light reading. Is Cricket still played on cruise liners? Certainly there will no longer be shooting or climbing the rigging…
Those who expect to be able to study in the sense of reading hard will almost always be disappointed. There is something in a sea life that seems to be antagonistic to work of this kind, and it is generally seen that those who started with high resolves in this respect very soon subside into light literature or idleness. There are of course exceptions, but they are rare. The prevailing inability to study is, however, scarcely to be regretted in the case of invalids, who cannot do better than provide themselves with a supply of light literature, and direct all their energies towards deriving the greatest possible benefit from their voyage.
There are several open-air games which can be played on board ship, and which furnish a capital means of obtaining that exercise, the want of which is one of the drawbacks of being shut up within such narrow limits. Continue reading
From the ever-giving El Mundo archive is this quite astonishing Fox Photos pic of a multi-storey garage housing what appear to be bran new, high-class, automobiles. Along with the press agency stamp and the date 6 Feb 1930 is a description in Spanish of the scene. Here it is in full:
Un “garage” moderno, ofrece a los ojos un aspecto fantastico y desconcertante .El automovil ha reemplazado definitivamente al caballo como elemento de transporte y las grandes ciudades se preparan par albergar la avalanche de coches que diariamente sugen de las fabricas e inundan las callas. Este “garage” , que pareciera el producto de una fantasia, ha sido construido en Paris.**
I have yet to see a photo that better expresses the visual impact of the Art Deco era. [R.M.Healey]
**A modern "garage " offers a fantastic and baffling appeal to the eyes. The car has definitely replaced the horse as a transport medium and big cities are preparing to host the avalanche of cars daily coming out of factories and flooding the streets. This " garage " which seems the product of a fantasy , has been built in Paris .
Found - a city guide book from 1948 - the year of the London Olympics. The tone is upbeat. There is no mention of the war or austerity, there is even talk of one businessman commuting to work by helicopter. The guide was put out by a long defunct car hire company called Walter Scott, possibly named after the novelist…the guide book is a good snapshot of late 1940s London. The letters of appreciation from aristocrats and a 'world famous actress' are especially amusing.
GAD ABOUT GUIDE
busy people get about London quickly.
The second and last part of an article on Sangorski's ill-fated Omar Khayyam binding. It was found in Piccadilly Notes: an occasional publication devoted to books, engravings and autographs (1929). A contemporary eyewitness account talks of Sangorski's Omar with its 'gold leaf blazing and the light flashing from hundreds of gemstones studding the tails of the peacocks on the cover..' Less commonly known is the odious role played by New York customs officials in the affair and that the magnificent book was, in fact, making its second trip across the Atlantic when it was lost forever beneath the waves. J.H. Stonehouse writes:Continue reading
|The Great Omar*|
It was in 1907 that I first met Sangorski, when he brought a letter of introduction from a church dignitary, and asked to be allowed to show me a lectern bible which the Archbishop of Canterbury had commissioned his firm to bind, previous to its presentation by King Edward VII to the United States in commemoration of the tercentenary of the established church in America. I recognised at once the justice of his contention that there was something more in the design and execution of the work than was usually to be found in an ordinary piece of commercial binding and that the appreciation of it which had been expressed in the press was fully justified.
The effects of the First World War were wide and long lasting, not just for those who were directly involved in it, one way or another , but for the architectural heritage of Britain. The deaths of so many sons of the upper class meant that estates that had been run so successfully up to 1914 were plunged into uncertainty. Great mansions were sold off or demolished. A different fate befell one great house and its astonishing gardens in Essex, as some clippings found among the papers of the late Peter Haining, who must have passed the site regularly on his route to and from his Essex home, tell.
|Kinfauns Castle (Ship's Nostalgia site)|
Found - a list of the entire inventory of a ship's library - Donald Currie & Co's Royal Mail Steamer "Kinfauns Castle"(South African Service). An interesting list, possibly intended to be comprehensive. There is a curious amount of William Black, then at his height, a sort of Victorian Dan Brown (so popular that in America his works were bootlegged.) Likewise there are 3 works of Norman Macleod, editor of the immensely successful Good Words and now so forgotten than he is not even known for being forgotten - although Sutherland covers him well in The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. He is part of a slight Scottish bias to these books (the list was printed by David Bryce & Son, Glasgow.) There is little for children, not many thrillers and not a lot of humour, although Twain and Brett Harte both make the list. Conspicuous by their absence are Trollope, Gibbon, Poe, Milton, Fielding, Wilkie Collins, Swinburne and R.L. Stevenson. Children had to make do with Froggy's Little Brother and possibly German Popular Stories. There is very little religion and no Holy Bible, possibly shipping magnate Donald Currie thought there was enough of that on land or that most people would have a bible if they needed one. The Kinfauns Castle started sailing in 1879 and this is probably from early in its life (it seems to have still been afloat in the late 1920s.) The list was pasted into book 10 Carlyle's Heroes and Hero Worship, attractively bound in full green leather lettered gilt at the spine with the words 'Castle Packets' at the foot -possible all the library was bound thus..Continue reading
A correspondence on Zeppelins in the letters column of the Times Literary Supplement prompted a visit to a local Suffolk church where 17 German airmen were buried after crashing their Zeppelin in 1917. The letters have the slightly leaden header 'Led by a Zeppelin' and concern a remark of Katherine Mansfield's about how she was so attracted to the sound and sight of a Zeppelin during a raid on Paris that '…she longed to go out and follow it…' This reminds the correspondent of G.B. Shaw's reaction to a Zeppelin over Potter's Bar in October 1917 -'… the sound of the engines was so fine, and its voyage through the stars so enchanting, that I positively caught myself hoping next night there would be another raid…'
This letter (from the American writer Stanley Weintraub) prompted a riposte about the metropolitan bias of the T.L.S. letters from Suffolk beer baron Simon Loftus (26/9/2014). He notes that Zeppelin raids were relatively common on the East Coast - "...towns such as Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Southwold were bombed more or less ineffectually by these strange Leviathans of the skies…" He then alludes to the Zeppelin shot down near Theberton, noting that pieces of the aluminium structure, salvaged from the wreckage were auctioned in aid of the Red Cross. The 17 German airmen were buried in the peaceful graveyard at Theberton. Also buried there is the author of Arabia Deserta Charles M. Doughty. The airmen's bodies have since been moved to a central burial ground in Staffordshire, although a memorial can still be seen in the cemetery across the road from the church.
Aw Boon Haw was the founder of the Tiger Balm fortunes. His splendid sports car is shown in Carveth Wells 1940 book North of Singapore. 75 years later it is on display in the Tiger Balm mansion Haw Par Villa in Singapore. Aw Boon Haw used to drive the car (a customised Humber) around Singapore, a tiger head on the radiator, fangs protruding, wire whiskers. Red bulbs were in the eyes, and the horn sounded like a tiger’s roar. Great publicity - way before Shell's "tiger in your tank."
There is a story of a road rivalry between Boon Haw and Sultan Ibrahim of Johore. Sultan Ibrahim was a sportsman and hunter. The incident took place when the Sultan, enraged at being overtaken by Boon Haw in his famous Tiger Car. Sultan Ibrahim shot at the Tiger Car on Bukit Timah Road. It was considered lese-majesté to overtake royalty even on foreign roads*. Notwithstanding, the British colonial administration forbade the Sultan thereafter from visiting Singapore ever again except for purpose of going to and from the Singapore airport.
* This tradition of royal road rage still persists among plutocrats - for example Aristotle Onassis's biographer notes that he detested anyone who overtook his Porsche...