More questions of etiquette in 1939


Jot 101 etiquette doffing a hat picIf Everybody’s Best Friend ( 1939) is to be believed, people were still debating the propriety of men giving up seats to women, whether or not it was necessary to doff a hat to a lady or where a man should walk on a pavement when accompanying a lady, as they had done for centuries before and perhaps still do. On the question of who should pay on a night out, to an earlier generation brought up before the advent of Women’s Liberation,  there is no question that a man should pay for everything. Notice that it is tacitly assumed that once the man and woman are married, it is certainly the husband who must pay for a meal and for seats in a theatre or cinema, even though the wife may have an income from her job. But have things changed that much ?


1 ) Giving up your seat to a ‘lady’.


There seem to be mixed views now on the question of whether a man should give up his seat to a woman in a crowded conveyance. Some men do, others consider it unnecessary. Has the custom changed ?


Custom in this respect has not changed and a courteous man has no hesitation in standing so that a lady may be seated. The exception is that no would desire an elderly man to give up his seat to a girl. A young man should be ready to offer his eat to an elderly man as well as to a lady. Similarly, in a crowded bus  or railway compartment in which only the women present are seated, a young woman may well offer her seat to an elderly woman, to a woman with a child in her arms, or to an old man.


When offered a seat a woman should always accept it readily, with a smile and word of thanks. To decline the offer is to slight a man who is doing the right thing. If a lady accompanied by a man is offered a seat, the man should utter a word of thanks for the courtesy shown his companion.


An interesting little point arose recently when my fiancée and I were travelling in a bus. The bus was full and men were standing down the centre. A lady got in. I offered my seat and had to go along the bus, with the result that my fiancée had really to travel the journey alone. Did I do right in offering my seat in these circumstances? Continue reading

Life in a Rhodesian Gold Mine in the 1930s (part 2)

‘…One morning we found we had nothing for breakfast—so Oliver had a bright idea—he tied some dynamite to stones—and then complete with boys—a basin and guns ( for shooting obstreperous crocodiles ) we waded half a mile up the River to a deep pool—sometimes the water coming up to our necks but others just mud and sand!! When we got there Dowie and I were posted behind rocks with guns ready for crocs—and the boys damned the river at one end—and Tozer and Ove got ready to dive in for dead fish—Oliver then threw in his dynamite bombs—bang !!—bang!!—bang!!—But no white tummies of dead fish floated —but after a while we began to wade in –and behold—there were lots of Tiger fishes swimming lazily about as if bedrugged–so Oliver pushed his bowl under them and threw them  onto the rocks—Oh, it was funny, more often than not he fell flat on his face in the mud and water –we must have looked funny sights in wet khaki trousers and the men in dripping shirts —I had a green handkerchief round my topand all the colour came off onto my skin and it wouldn’t even come off with soap and scrubbing brush—so now I am half green !! However, we got five fish and swam our way back to camp and breakfast –by that time it was 11 A.M. So we went without lunch that day!! Oliver and I called each other Dumpledum and Dumpledee because every morning we used to tell each other stories about the nonsence (sic)  land of milk and honey !! And the Three Bears! But in spite of our unconventionality —Oliver insisted on us sticking to the old code of writing “ bread and butter “ letters—So this is my letter to him : written this morning from here . We arrived back last night :–

TO Dumpledum

Dump Mine

Dump ‘ all



(There follows 35 lines of humorous doggerel beginning “ OH ! Dumpledum what did I do ? )….


…’WELL —-WELL—-WELL—we do not always play in this valley—for the men DO work——and thousands of pounds (£!) are at stake—I even take samples of Reef and pan them myself—but today another joy was in store, or I should say, “stable” , for me—I now own a real LIVE RACE HORSE—he only cost £15-0-0, ( which I borrowed and am hoping to pay back when I hear from my Bank-manager)”TURN-ABOUT is his name—he is well known all over Rhodesia and has won lots of races—he is 16-2 in height and a lovely bay—9 years old—–at the moment he is rather sore on his pins because to get here he had to walk 180 miles and had no shoes on—But wait for a weak (sic) or so and there will be no holding him  and Oliver’s newly made aerodrome ( which has not bee passed by the government ) will make a splendid gallop ! Well, my dears I think this letter is about long enough—I ought to pass it on to my secretary to type out ; for I hear from Tozer that you often could not read most of my letters, so you burnt the page and just guessed it !! Oh wait a moment, I have a poem I want you to read too—a real one—a serious one—but don’t cry—for I always laugh with the world !!   Continue reading

The BBC Christmas Schedules for 1932

9-1932-Dec-23--500x643Following on from a recent Jot exploring what the BBC were offering as TV entertainment for Christmas 1932 — half an hour from 11 pm onwards showing either a singer crooning into a microphone, female dancers prancing about in special costumes, or a short poem or play – we at Jot HQ thought it might be interesting to examine what listeners could expect to enjoy throughout the rest of the festive season.

First, we should explain that in the ‘thirties the Radio Times, though ostensibly a guide to radio schedules, was also a kind of feature magazine in which along with the programme information  could be found other entertainment in the form of short stories or feature articles. In this particular issue we find material by well-known authors which, in most cases, had little or anything to do with the actual programmes. For instance, in this special Christmas number we find a tale by Compton Mackenzie entitled ‘ New Lamps for Old ‘, a new Lord Peter Wimsey story  from Dorothy L. Sayers called ‘ The Queen’s Square, a satirical skit by Winifred Holtby entitled ‘ Mr Ming Escapes Christmas’, a memoir from popular travel writer S. P. B. Mais , a comic confection by D. B. Wyndham Lewis and a rather tiresome  faux medieval dramatic piece by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon. There were also a couple of ‘poems ‘and some similarly light features by a handful of lesser known writers.

It must be said that while the writing sometimes fails to impress, the illustrations that accompany it are usually charming in the best traditions of the Radio Times. For instance the cover ( see earlier Jot ) of the magazine is  characteristic art work from book illustrator Edward Ardizonne, while some superb illustrations from the gifted illustrator John Austen , who was to become a favourite of the Radio Times, decorated the borders of the Farjeon piece. Other notable illustrators included Mervyn Wilson,  Roland Pym and Clixby Watson. It goes without saying too that the adverts ( some full page) are no less captivating, most notably the wonderful back cover colour advert for Bovril by Alfred Lees featuring the ghost of Jacob Marley. Continue reading

Tenure or no tenure: a case from 1972

O'Donoghue Manitoba pic.

‘Publish or perish ‘ has long been an accept truism among academics; those University staff  hoping for promotion will only achieve it if they are judged to have published a sufficient amount of published research to justify it. After all, university teachers are expected to researchas well as teach.

There must be many examples of University teachers failing to progress along the road towards a professorship, but your Jotter can think of two glaring cases. At my own University a certain expert in textual criticism, who was taken on by the department of English on the strength of a degree and a B. Litt in English , from Oxford University and who proved to be a popular teacher among his students ( his classes on bibliography and his lectures on Bob Dylan as a poet were highly appreciated) , failed to climb the greasy pole of academic promotion mainly because he published little or anything throughout his forty or so years in the department. He began as a Lecturer and retired (I believe) as one.

Another better known example was Monica Jones, the lover of Philip Larkin, who while a Lecturer in English at the University Of Leicester, failed to publish a single research paper or book, although she was regarded as a well-respected teacher with a particular interest in Sir Walter Scott. While her colleagues were promoted she remained firmly ensconced in the position as Lecturer, and retired holding that post. In her case, it wasn’t a lack of energy or intellectual capabilities that held her back. Like Larkin she left Oxford with a first class degree in English, but like Larkin, who in .’Vers de Societe’ resented having to ask an ‘ ass about  his fool research ‘, didn’t see any point in publishing learned papers or books within her field. She preferred teaching, and according to those who attended her lectures and classes, was a gifted communicator. Continue reading

Fifty Works of English and American Literature We Could Do Without (2)

Brigid Brophy (right)Brigid Brophy pic, Michael Levey and Charles Osborne let rip in their iconoclastic 1967 book.

Extracts chosen by publisher Nicholas Parsons in his Book of Literary Lists (1985)

‘ The Hound of Heaven’, Francis Thompson ‘…all the teasing femininity suggested by romantic films, or illustrated by advertisements for high quality soaps and shampoos, is caught in the lines:

With thy young skyey blossoms heap me over

From this tremendous Lover!

Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see.


The History of Mr Polly, H.G.Wells ‘The History of Mr Polly may be Wells’ revenge for having to serve an apprenticeship in a draper’s shop.’


The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy ‘…a thoroughly middle-class substitute for real literature.’


South Wind, Norman Douglas ‘A good book is not automatically written by composing a Platonic dialogue of un-Platonic length, spicing it with pastiche history and would-be witty hagiography and assembling a cast of sub-intellectual speakers.’


The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham ‘ One gets from reading this book, not the portrait of a genius but merely a string of theatrically cynical refection on life and human behaviour, tacked onto an unconvincing story. ‘


To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf ‘ We are all conducting Virginia Woolf novels inside ourselves all day long, thinking how sunset clouds look like crumbling cheese, wondering why the dinner party guests don’t go, puzzling about children growing up, noticing for the first time the colour of a bus ticket. This famed sensitivity is everybody’s birthright, and probably Virginia Woolf was applauded first by those who were delighted to find literary expression of their own commonplace sensations. To have those put in a book and called a novel…only dots can do justice to their delight.’ Continue reading

The Gaits of Memory: the way they walked. Part two

carringtonIn part one we looked at the way John Thaw tried to disguise a leg injury he had sustained as a teenager. Later on in his audition for RADA he had played Richard III with a limp and as Morse he had tried to disguise his limp. But some actors can easily affect a certain gait for dramatic affect. Both Alec Guinness and Laurence Olivier maintained that once they had got the walk right the rest of the role fell into place. In an adaptation of Ivy Compton Burnett’s ‘A Family and a Fortune’ Guinness had to leave a room to get out into the cold. The way he flung a scarf round his neck and trod stutteringly before leaving told you everything you needed to know about the climatic conditions and preparing to brave them.

Gielgud was once seen coming out of L’Etoile in Charlotte Street. His grey Rolls Royce awaited him. He had to cover about three metres. The only word for what he did is ‘process’. There is a funny scene in ‘Cage aux Folles’ ( the American version is better in this instance ) when one of the guys does the ‘John Wayne Walk ‘ in order to appear a proper heterosexual. He does it perfectly—but somehow it is very camp. At least one burglar  has been arrested because  his distinctive John Wayne style swagger  had been caught on CCTV. Cowboys also walked with bow legs, which is obviously an occupational distinction like that of sailors, with their ‘rolling gait’. The TV detective Hercules Poirot, as played by David Suchet, affected a rather silly short-paced walk  and we all know how John Cleese played the civil servant at the Ministry of Silly Walks. Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) , CIA head in Homeland affects a memorably fast and determined walk with plenty of arm movement.. The actor Richard Beckinsale, well known for his parts in ‘Rising Damp’ and ‘Porridge ‘, used hardly to pick his feet off the ground. He shuffled.

We’d surely all like to know a little more about how certain writers and artists walked. Unlike most ‘ celebs ‘ they are generally invisible to the public, unless they take part in literary conferences, symposia and arts festivals. Does anyone know how Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin or Martin Amis walk ? The novelist Frederick Raphael is very tall and affects what might be called a don’s stoop, though why fellows of Oxford and Cambridge colleges should be more likely to stoop while walking hasn’t been explained. Perhaps it’s just the tall male ones who stoop. A few writers may have had disabilities which affected the way they walked. Bruce Cummings ( aka ‘W. B. Barbellion’) developed disseminated sclerosis early in his life, so his gait must have been unusual. Alex Pope’s scoliosis must also have been reflected in his walk, though there are few, if any, references to it. As for Charles Dickens, the last five years of his life were blighted by the extreme pain he suffered in his left foot through what Dr Chris McManus describes in a recent article in the Lancetas a ‘right parietal temporal disorder ‘, which might have heralded  the stroke which eventually killed him at the age of 58. Many of his friends had diagnosed gout, but the symptoms that affected other parts of his left-hand side, such as his hand and eye, suggest otherwise. The gait of Dickens must have been severely affected by this affliction and indeed those with something similar or who suffered with gout, would have had distinctive ways of walking. Continue reading

Little known historical facts

(for use in pub quizzes)


Henry the First was drowned in the wreck of the Channel Steamer called the White Star Line


When Englishmen on one side fight Englishmen on the other it is called a General Election.


Another name for Tories is Preservatives.


Karl Marx is a character in “The Third Round “by Sapper


The chief work of the British in Egypt since 1880 has been the extermination of the sphinxes and the evacuation of old caves


When Wolsey was young he was the son of a butcher.


The Battle of Trafalgar was fought on sea, and therefore it is sometimes called Waterloo


“ Bring out your dead”, was what the judges said when a prisoner was brought from his cells for trial.


Childe Harold was defeated at Hastings by William the Conqueror.


Garibaldi was a maker of biscuits


Henry the Seventh did not allow retainers to have livers


William the Second met his death by stepping on a hot coal while riding in the New Forest


Mussolini is a type of material used for ladies’ stockings


James the Fourth of Scotland afterwards became James the Fourth of England because his mother, Margaret of Norway, had died childless.


After the Battle of Worcester, Charles the Second fled disguised as a pheasant


Nelson was born a weak and sickly man. He grew up to be a weak and sickly boy. Unfortunately the had his eye shot out by Napoleon. He is now a statue in Trafalgar Square, and he has his hand out saying, “Lest we forget “. Continue reading

The Gaits of Memory: The Way They Walked

2-P21-W1-1910-7 (125401) 'Wandervögel stimmt die Saiten / lasst uns wacker vorwärtsschreiten (...)' Jugendbewegung / Wandervogel. - 'Wandervögel stimmt die Saiten / lasst uns wacker vorwärtsschreiten (...)'. - Bildpostkarte nach Aquarell von Paul Hey (1867-1952). Nr.77 der Serie: Volksliederkarten von Paul Hey, Dresden (Verlag des Vereins für das Deutschtum im Ausland) o.J. E: 'Wandervögel stimmt die Saiten, lasst uns wacker vorwärtsschreiten (...)' Education / Youth Movements / Wandervogel. - 'Wandervögel stimmt die Saiten, lasst uns wacker vorwärtsschreiten (...)', Song lyrics. - / Postcard after a water colour by Paul Hey (1867-1952). No.77 of the series: Folk song cards by Paul Hey, Dresden (Verlag des Vereins für das Deutschtum im Ausland), undated.


The way famous people in history walked—their gaits—is not given as much attention as the subject deserves. Why did people walk in a particular way? Was it something to do with their legs—their ankles—since surely ankles do play a major part in how we move ourselves around. Is a limp being disguised? Is one leg shorter than another? Do two short or two long legs require one to move in a certain way? Or—more likely than any of these—is one’s gait determined by one’s personality? Why do some men ‘ mince ‘ ? Is there really something called the ‘ Mancunian swagger ‘, most famously seen in the walk of pop singer Liam Gallacher. If so, why do people from Manchester have more cause to swagger than, say people from Southampton or Bristol? It was said that William Morris ‘ rolled ‘, as if he were drunk. Wyndham Lewis, who characteristically for a satirist who relied on caricature, memorably described G. K. Chesterton as a ‘ great foaming Toby jug ‘, may have watched him ‘ roll’ out of a room after a drinking session. We don’t know, but someone of Chesterton’s physical dimensions could hardly walk in any other way. Edgar Wallace, very rich and very unfit, is said to have employed a couple of men to prop him up on both sides on his journey from his limousine to a club or restaurant and back. He could not be bothered to walk…

People sometimes put on a walk for effect, but it is hard for most to sustain this for long.‘ You forgot to limp ‘, someone reminds a friend who wishes to appear mildly disabled for a certain reason. Instead we revert to our usual gait. Walks are divided into certain types, as we shall now see:

The skip

The very beautiful Mavis de Vere Cole, once the young wife of the famous practical joker Horace de Vere Cole, captured the heart of archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who noticed that she moved with a very pronounced skipping motion. The couple married, but it is not known whether the skipping motion persisted during their years together, which were not long, as Wheeler was not a faithful husband.

The glide

Very few men ‘glide’, it would seem. It appears to be confined mainly to women. ‘She glided out of the room ‘, is one novelistic convention that conveys very fast movement without apparent effort. But some real women have been noticed gliding. The servant girl Sarah Walker, with whom poor William Hazlitt —almost old enough to be her father—was smitten for over two years moved with a strange gliding walk which Hazlitt found entrancing but others thought sinister. Here is Hazlitt, writing on Walker’s gait in Liber Amoris ( 1823), which unflinchingly records the whole sorry infatuation:

“Your ordinary walk is as if you were performing some religious ceremony; you come up to my table of a morning, when you merely bring in the tea things as if you were advancing to the altar. You move in minuet time: you measure every step, as if you were afraid of offending in the smallest things.’

But Hazlitt’s friend Bryan Waller Proctor was less entranced:
‘Her movements in walking were very remarkable, for I never observed her to make a step. She went onwards in a sort of wavy, sinuous manner, like the movements of a snake…’ More recently Michael Jackson’s Moon Walk had the effect of gliding… Continue reading

Visionary Speech by Earl Russell (part 3)

Found – a small folding pamphlet illustrated by Ralph Steadman and published in London by IMG_1869Open Head Press about 1980 at 50p. It came from the estate of the Dutch radical Simon Vinkenoog whose  birthday (18th July)  was the same day as this revolutionary (not to say crazy) speech was given. It has the full text of Earl Russell’s 1978 maiden speech to the House of Lords. John Conrad Russell was the son of Bertrand Russell. After the speech he left the House of Lords and was prevented from re-entering it by ushers. It is said to be the only speech given  in the Lords that is not fully recorded by Hansard. His proposal to give three quarters of the nation’s wealth to teenage girls had some coverage in the papers the next day, but the speech has never appeared in full, apart from in this rare pamphlet, this is the last part: –

Such is the present position of the United States after the war in Vietnam: the whole human race can accuse it every day. The helpless, which were physically or spiritually imprisoned, can then stand up and point the finger; revealed injuries to mankind can now stand up and accuse, with whatever rebuke pleases them. The State authorities of Europe and the United States must now admit that they have done these deeds and practice no longer the harm they have wrought. 

“Let them grant the gift of gifts, the gift of life, and not wait until death has shown his hand. People who have been imprisoned by the CIA in Latin America, or are so imprisoned today, cannot stand up and answer for themselves. It is meaningless to ask them to be gifts, the gift must proceed from you to them. If you want a man to stand up and be a man, and not be a figleaf or a shadow of himself, you have to grant him the spiritual gift to be able to do so, for the American nations of Latin America this is a genuine reality. And the same goes for all classes of oppressed persons in Europe. Reproof, or the concept of rebuke, guilt, and morality, are no use to him. Accused all the time by the pride of life and vigorous gentlemanliness which governs him, the man is all but paralysed. And the young people are accused by older persons, or older established institutions which will not remove themselves, of being pitiless pride of life to older persons, the same law applies. Rebuke, guilt, morality are no use to them. Get the pitilessness removed: and do not cause the older person, or the police, in the name of the older person, to prostitute the younger person out of unforgiveness. The punishment for such conduct is the guillotine. Cause this murder of young people to cease: abolish all institutions or spirits which cause such things. What is not granted at present is the gift of life. The older person is not granted the gift of life to be generous, kind, forgiving, or merciful to the younger person, and the younger person is forced in self-defence to defend himself against the older person. This spirit will have to leave Europe, and Latin America; and so will all the institutions which exemplify it. A relationship of extreme cruelty results, delightful to all those who relish the experience of sadism. The older person can continue at his pleasure to prostitute the younger person unless the younger person can find a way of answering him and get out of the trap. This spirit or happening is confined to England, and to the English spirit. It does not happen to Free Americans who are not subject to the powers of envy ingrained in the British Class System, which gives such spirits power. Free Americans banish the spirit, and when Americans complain of the British Royal Family for being pampered decadent and snobbish, are they not right? The Police Doll which prostitutes people is probably the responsible author of these evils: the Doll of Love, which says to a person: You are excited from Love: you must prostitute yourself. It is the British Doll, which praises and cherishes the British Jesus Christ, which is all right so long as He is praised, but not so funny if he is condemned or out of grace. Continue reading

Visionary Speech by Earl Russell (part 2)

This small folding pamphlet illustrated by Ralph Steadman and published in London by IMG_1869Open Head Press about 1980 at 50p has the full text of Earl Russell’s 1978 maiden speech to the House of Lords. John Conrad Russell was the son of Bertrand Russell. After the speech he left the House of Lords and was prevented from re-entering it by ushers. It is said to be the only speech given  in the Lords that is not fully recorded by Hansard. His proposal to give three quarters of the nation’s wealth to teenage girls had some coverage in the papers the next day. This is the second part of 3 and we have found it  is actually in Hansard. The next part, coming soon, after the interruption by Lord Wells Psestell (who apparently only ever spoke in the Lords about model railways) has never appeared apart from in this rare pamphlet –  found by us un ths collection of Dutch poet and radical Simon Vinkenoog.

The full prospects of industrial civilisation ought to he realised: it is a boon, it should be called a boon, it should be used as a boon. The free spirit in school should be preserved, so that Sir Isaac Newton returns to us. Sweden and France have modernised themselves; all other nations in Europe, including Britain, should follow their example. A nation with industrial power should use it for benefit. There are other points in which a modernising nation modernising itself could improve its administration. For instance, lunatics could he looked after individually, and it could be found out what is missing from them, and the world which is missing from them could be 277 restored. The madness of the Cold War could also be removed by the whole human race, since it is quite evident that neither Communist not American exists, but only persons. What makes it abundantly clear is the saying of “little Audrey”, who laughed and laughed because she knew that only God could make a tree. Mr. Brezhnev and Mr. Carter are really the same person: one lunatic certifiable, or, in American terms, one nation, indivisible, with prisonment and lunacy for all.

In a word, the entire human race can banish the Cold War, with one word, by simply saying: “You don’t exist.” This fact ought to be recognised in practice, with logical recognition by the statement concerned, so that the aims of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament can be realised, and there can be disarmament throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Insight into the truth of this statement must be acknowledged, so that logic may take hold of the mind.

The CIA should be banished from Western Europe, and Euro-communism should be substituted for the present bosses of the Common Market as the prevailing social and economic system in Europe. The Portuguese Revolution should be defended and emulated throughout Western Europe. President Carter should be brought to a full halt in his “Fulton Speech” programme for Europe, in which he mentioned Paris, Rome and Lisbon by name. There should be revolutions throughout Latin America, in accordance with the wish of His Holiness the Pope; and the CIA should be driven out from every nation of Latin America. The original Indian nation should be restored to sovereignty. It goes without saying that all prisoners throughout all these areas would be released and are released from prison and are no longer whipped and tortured. Continue reading

Visionary Speech by Earl Russell (part 1)

Found – a small folding pamphlet illustrated by Ralph Steadman and published in London by IMG_1869Open Head Press about 1980 at 50p. It has the full text of Earl Russell’s 1978 maiden speech to the House of Lords. John Conrad Russell was the son of Bertrand Russell. After the speech he left the House of Lords and was prevented from re-entering it by ushers. It is said to be the only speech given  in the Lords that is not fully recorded by Hansard. His poposal to give three quarters of the nation’s wealth to teenage girls had some coverage in the papers the next day, but the speech is rather forgotten (until now). Here is the first part. More to follow.

My Lords, I rise to raise the question of penal law and lawbreakers as such and question whether a modern society is wise to speak in terms of lawbreakers at all. A modern nation looks after everybody and never punishes them. If it has a police force at all, the police force is the Salvation Army and gives hungry and thirsty people cups of tea. If a man takes diamonds from a shop in Hatton Garden, you simply give him another bag of diamonds to take with him. I am not joking. Such is the proper social order for modern Western Europe, and all prisons ought to be abolished throughout its territories. Of course the Soviet Union and the United States could include themselves in these reforms too. Kindness and helping people is better than punitiveness and punishing them, a constructive endeavour is better than a destructive spirit. If anybody is in need, you help him, you do not punish him. Putting children into care and other forms of spiritual disinheritance ought to be stopped. Borstal ought to be stopped and the workings of the Mental Health Act which empowers seizure of people by the police when they are acting in a way likely be harmful to themselves or others or to be looked into.


What are you? Soulless robots? Schoolmasters who are harsh with schoolboys who later as a result burn down the schoolhouse ought to be more human. Schoolboys in any case are present treated with indescribable severity which crushes their spirits and leaves them unnourished. The police ought to be totally prevented from ever molesting young people at all or ever putting them into jails and raping them, and putting them into brothels or sending them out to serve other people sexually against their wills.

The spirit ought to be left free, and chaining it has injured the creative power of the nation. The young unemployed are not in any way to have become separate from governmental power, but ought to have been given enough to live on out of the national wealth to look after themselves and never ask themselves even to think  of working while there is no work to be had. Continue reading

All Souls Stories by AL Rowse

by Lady Ottoline Morrell, vintage snapshot print, June 1926

A L Rowse (centre), Roger Makins and Evelyn Baring  photographed in 1926 by Lady Ottoline Morrell,

We found some pages cut out from an undated issue of The Contemporary Reviewin the Jot 101 archive the other day. These seven pages contain an article by A. L. Rowse entitled ‘All Souls Stories’, and like so many of the historian’s writings on his old college, mix amusing gossip with valuable reflections on academic bad behaviour.


All Souls, as Rowse admits, has always aroused curiosity and astonishment from outsiders, including those from the University itself.  Why are some graduate contenders elected and others rejected? Is success in a formal examination the sole route to a life fellowship? What part did the legendary cherry stone problem play in the process? If fellows are the crème de la crème of academic excellence at the University and beyond it, why is it that some Fellows are evidently not of this calibre ?

Rowse gives an example of one particular Fellow whose behaviour suggested that he was not up to the job, Sir ( later Viscount) John Simon. For some reason this nitwit managed to be appointed Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Chancellor, while being ‘ not much good’ in any of these posts, according to Rowse, who obviously knew the man well enough to make this judgment. Rowse recalls him addressing the Junior Fellows in an attempt at bonhomie, while managing to get their names all wrong. Then there was the time that the newly married Simon and his wife arrived at what they thought was the home of Lord Courtney, a pro-Boer politician, only to find that they had come to the home of W.L.Courtney, then editor of The Fortnightly Review. There was also the time that Simon found himself talking in ‘ labourious’ French to the French Ambassador, who turned out to be Frederick Kenyon, Director of the British Museum. Simon, according to Rowse, also made a mess of handling Hitler and Mussolini. Rowse charitably called this incompetence examples of Simon being   ‘ accident prone ‘.Most non-All Souls men would see them as acts of blithering idiocy. Continue reading

The scented novel: early twentieth century book publishing in the USA


Jot 101 perfume book Brentano's_Booksellers_1916In the May 1909 issue of Bookman,the correspondent ‘ Galbraith ‘ in his ‘ American Letter ‘ compares the brash exploits of American publishers to the more sedate efforts of their British confreres.

American publishes and booksellers are remarkable in that they apploy the same ingenuity and audacity to book advertising that it is customary to use in the selling of soap and breakfast foods. Where the English publisher inserts in the newspaper a genteel announcement to the effect that “ So and So is Mr Such and Such ‘s finest book , and is really a remarkable story, the American publisher charters a full page in a popular daily, and prints upside down in the middle of it, something well near as striking as this:


                                               “YOU ARE A LIAR

                                               if you deny ‘So and So’

                                                    is the finest Novel

                                                        Ever Printed !”


Moreover, Galbraith contends, publishers don’t miss a trick when it comes to marketing gimmicks. When the American edition of Gaston Leroux’s The Perfume of the Lady in Black (published originally in France in 1908) appeared in 1909, the  publishers Brentano’s , decided to perfume ( it was not said how they did it) ‘ every copy of the book with an almost overpowering fragrance so strong…that one may handle the book at a shop with gloves on, go back through the air of the streets to find one’s fingers still smelling strongly…’ Continue reading

Marie Corelli in 1909


Jot 101 Bookman Corelli 001Winston Churchill, Queen Victoria, Tennyson and William Gladstone admired her; Mark Twain and most of the Press did not. She is said to have outsold Dickens. Some of her novels went into twenty-five or more editions. In an era when writers like H. G. Wells were promoting the  New Woman, she reviled this modern phenomenon, and yet some of her heroines could be said to have embodied the virtues—a sense of adventure, a resoluteness and a curiosity– of this type . She promoted Christianity and yet wrote about occultism and transcendence. In her private life she dressed as a rather twee lady, but was a hard-nosed businesswoman in her dealings with publishers and the Press. She had a reputation for ostentation. Owning the grandest house in Stratford-on-Avon ( now an outpost of the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute ), she had  acres of trim garden, a tower for writing and a gondola on the river. Her readers adored her, so why, nearly a hundred years after her death is Marie Corelli, arguably the best-selling female author of all time, now almost totally forgotten ? If you wish to buy a first of her many novels today, you need not part with more than a tenner—often much less. From being a former Queen of the subscription libraries Corelli has become a literary curiosity, fit only for examination in academic studies on the cult of celebrity and the role of the popular novel in society.

Corelli sold millions of books, but was she ever any good ? The Bookman, a serious middlebrow literary journal, certainly saw her  as a significant writer. In May 1909, at the height of her fame, a whole issue was devoted to an appreciation of her life and work by A.St John Adcock, the magazine’s editor, who called on various admirers to support his view of her greatness. Firstly, Adcock takes aim at those ‘cocksure’ critics who set themselves up as the final arbiters of good writing: ‘ There are a thousand times as many critics who have never written a line of criticism, but are not therefore the less cultured, impartial, competent.’ Adcock then turns to the ‘ superior ‘ critics of Marie Corelli:

No living author has been more persistently maligned and sneered at and scouted by certain members of the Press—by the presumptuous and struttingly academic section of it particularly—than has Miss Marie Corelli; and none has won ( by sheer force of her own merits, for the press has never helped her) a wider, more persistently increasing fame and affection among all classes of that intelligent public which reads and judges books, but does not write about them… Continue reading

Autograph Collecting hints

Unknown [Found at Bookride 2010 -our first site, this wise piece about autographs.] Try to avoid forgeries! To my mind the ‘blink’ test is a good start in testing for authenticity. If on very first seeing it the autograph doesn’t feel right don’t touch it. As Malcolm Gladwell details in over 300 pages of his book Blink. The Power of Thinking Without Thinking the unconscious mind often delivers a better answer than more deliberate and protracted ways of thinking. If the seller doesn’t pass the blink test either, drop it like a hot brick. Kenneth Rendell, purveyor of manuscripts to the great and the good, advises avoiding the kind of dealer who brushes you off when probed, he adds: “The real expert will bore you with answers.” I also like what he says about how forgers often fail to get the feel of a signature right -the “flying starts and endings of the pen”.

Avoid signatures that look more like a drawing than writing and ones that seem to have stops and starts. Also signatures in cheap editions of books can be suspect, most forgers will not risk screwing up a signature in a four figure book. Forgers often stick to a plain signature so a date or sentiment is useful (belying the tiresome ‘flat signed’ schtick.) Also beware the desirable signature that is seriously underpriced, you may be lucky but it is often a sign of a grifter at work. If it is very cheap, of course, it may be real but unrated or unrecognised. Age is no guarantee of authenticity, forgers have been around since Heraclitus stood in the river. Ebay is a minefield. Bad Salinger forgeries appeared there after the writer’s death and usually made a few hundred dollars. Like the curate’s egg they were ‘good in parts’ but if it is wrong it’s worthless, if it’s right it’s a few thousand. In one of the online signatures Salinger appeared to have misspelled his own name…a bad start. Continue reading

Who are you aiming at?

Someone emailed asking ‘for whom is this site intended?’ Not entirely sure -we are still finding our way. One of our jots gets 200 visitors every day An A-Z of Science Fiction words and contributions have come in- e.g.  Barry Cox (all glories to his name) and others, sure  but sporadic. Not a problem as we have unlimited reserves…this is a scintilla of HG Wells’ World Brain, a drop in the vast ocean of knowledge… Short answer – we are aiming at:

Enthusiasts, scholars, readers & re-readers, polymaths, historians, beatniks, robots, bibliomaniacs, collectors, academics, curators, archivists, scientists, botanists, gourmets, goths, gurus, gossips, geeks, pataphysicians, hipsters, bores, geniuses, diarists, pedants, intellectuals, flaneurs, ramblers, boulevardiers, bluestockings, hoarders, quizmasters, know-alls, art dealers, theorists, philosophers, jesters, occultists, walking encyclopaedias, antiquarians, millennials, autodidacts, autobiographers, nuns, monks, eggheads, child prodigies, analysts, data miners, savants, renaissance men and women, revolutionaries, obsessives, omnivores, the sincere, the pretentious and the intuitive, disrupters, contrarians, entrepreneurs, engineers, sophisticates, somnambulists, arguers, inventors, lexicographers, burners of the midnight oil, keepers of the flame, seekers of the Grail, Utopians, topographers, voyagers, travellers, explorers, perpetual students, poets, princesses, pundits, punks and pamphleteers…


… World Brain of H.G. Wells, an olla podrida, a rag bag of information, trivia and factoids. The conception of a sublime, leisured future. A hotch potch, a mélange, a farrago, a salmagundi.. Knowledge is power. Truth is beauty. Need to know this (and much more) on earth. A coming world of creation and idleness where time is spent in pursuit of knowledge and robots empty the waste paper basket. A dream of no work, all play and jack not a dull boy any more.

The oddest collection, passing strange, a saga, a fantasy, a dream…enter Captain Cuttle and the pedant Casaubon (a maligned man, Madam George). Keeping some sort of record with factoids, footnotes, ephemera, factbooks and essential trivia preserved. An information bank, an interest bearing investment. An index of all knowledge, no less, laid out in the lost monograph – A proposal for an information sharing galaxy.

An amazing expanding archive, beyond the algorithmic dream, post Mass Observation, many beautiful things no longer lost, bringing forth the mind of God, the all seeing eye – the library of Babel, Alexandria, far Antioch and the lost library of Zembla, the loot of cities. Universal access to all knowledge [A2K]. A vanished world recaptured. Notes and Queries honoured: New Encyclopaedists [Encyc2]. Nothing lost or forgotten. Time spent in research, curiosity and scholarship (the daring to be dull) the Renaissance ideal, the Victorian vicarage – just  4 hours a week of money yielding work. By Timothy! The answer is written on the wind, on the wall of the world. So much to know. Sums are not set as a test on Erasmus, all glories to Aaron Swartz, Brewster Kahle – respect… “He had a tale to tell.” Madam, I’m Adam. Exit, pursued by a bear.

Snobs in the Arts

Portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll circa 1931 Gerald Leslie Brockhurst 1890-1978 Presented by Tate Patrons 2009

Portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll circa 1931 Gerald Leslie Brockhurst 1890-1978 (Tate Patrons 2009)

Here are some more selections from Jeremy Beadle’s own copy of The Book of Total Snobbery (1989) by Lynne and Graham Jones. The quotes bearing asterisks were marked in ink by Beadle.

Actor Michael Hordern on Glyndebourne
*There’s not the quality of audience today. The stalls should be in dinner jackets or tails, and they’re in singlets and bomber jackets. Quite awful! They come from places like Milton Keynes…
Sir Michael Hordern, Sunday Express Magazine.

Socialite Margaret, Duchess of Argyle. on opera singer Luciano Pavarotti
*Would you ever invite to your party people who weren’t “society”, but stars from another world—Luciano Pavarotti, say?
‘—Oh you wouldn’t ask a dancer. I mean, he can contribute nothing. All he can do is dance…’
Margaret, Duchess of Argyle, Sunday Express Magazine.

And on novelist Graham Greene.
‘Graham Greene? But he’s just a writer, isn’t he?’
Margaret, Duchess of Argyll.

Howard Jacobson on himself.
‘I’m not talking about Tom Sharpe or David Lodge. I’m talking about Shakespeare. That’s the kind of writer I should be compared with.’
Novelist Howard Jacobson, interviewed by Cherwell.

*Actor Robert Morley on Bertolt Brecht.
‘Brecht has not only never had an original thought, he takes twice as long as the average playgoer to have any thought at all.’

* Gore Vidal on Truman Capote.
‘A republican housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices’.

*Thomas Carlyle on John Keats.
‘His poetry is the fricassee of a dead dog. ‘

*Oscar Wilde on George Meredith.
‘As a writer he has mastered everything except language; as a novelist, he can do everything except tell a story; as an artist, he is everything except articulate.’

*George Orwell on Jean Paul Sartre
‘A bag of wind.’

T.S.Eliot on Arnold Bennett
When Bennett joined Eliot’s circle at a Bloomsbury party he left for another part of the room, bristling at the novelist’s “ lower middle-class accent “.

Janet Street-Porter on her TV image.
‘I hate being this “Cheery Janet” character on the Six O’Clock News. It wasn’t me at all. I don’t shop down the street market and I’m not riveted by the price of bloody fish. I go to the opera. My friends are artists. I live in a big house.
Janet Street-Porter, Q Magazine

Radio personality Gilbert Harding at an engagement in Hounslow in 1953.
‘I have been dragged along to this third- rate place for a third- rate dinner for third-rate people’.


Laurence Olivier’s Stage Fright


Laurence Olivier_with Joan_Plowright in ‘The Entertainer’

Sorting papers recently I found an EPCA Newsletter (European Personal Constructs Association - PC Psychology deals with personality and attitude change) from 1998.  It had a book review quoting Laurence Olivier on his stage fright.

"With each succeeding minute,  it became less possible to resist the terror.  My cue came, and I went in to that stage where I knew with grim certainty I would not be capable of remaining more than a few minutes ...".

The book itself  The Person Behind the Mask: a Guide to Performing Arts Psychology  (London, Ablex 1997)  was written by Linda H. Hamilton.  She had been a ballet dancer from age 8 to 26, then became a Clinical Psychologist.  Her book cites research conducted over one year at the University of California's Health Program for Performing Artists, when 25% of patients had psychological problems including "severe anxiety and/or depression, personality disorders somataform disorders, psychoses and suicidal behaviour (p84)".  The reviewer goes on to say that the book "deals in some detail with the characteristic problems of public self-display e.g. unrealistic weight requirements, debilitating injuries which hamper performance or prevent it altogether, and stage fright and points out that it is time the professions themselves woke up to the need to pay attention to their own occupational realities".

The Man who sold Alton Towers

Charles Chetwyn Talbot, 20th Earl of Shrewsbury (1860 – 1921) was this man, and it turns out that he was a bit of a cad. Having inherited the title at the age of 16, he proceeded at the age of 19 to elope with an older, wealthy, married woman, by which he had two children. As a commoner his wife was never accepted by the aristocracy, whereas the Earl went on to receive several honours, including one from the Queen. The couple separated in 1896, a few months after this letter was written, and Shrewsbury decamped to Ingestre Hall, twenty or so miles south of Alton Towers.

Perhaps Lady Shrewsbury felt her husband was spending more time with his sporting passions and business interests than he was with her. He was, after all, potty about  polo and the letter addressed to ‘ B ‘ was probably sent to Algernon Burnaby, one of his regular polo pals at Alton Towers. When he moved to Ingestre he established the Staffordshire Polo Club there. He also owned a hansom cab service—the vehicles being emblazoned with ‘ S. T ‘ for Shrewsbury and Talbot. He was the first to have those cabs that operated in London and Paris fitted with noiseless tyres. In addition, he was a motoring pioneer. In 1903 his company, Clement Talbot Ltd, began to import from France what became the ‘Talbot ‘car.

According to the official History, Alton Towers was sold to a group of local businessmen in 1920. A year later, The Earl died and the title was inherited by his grandson, his own son, Viscount Ingestre, having died during the War. In 1924 the grounds began to be developed as a tourist attraction and the dowager Lady Shrewsbury was booted out of the house she had known for 44 years and re-housed, probably at Ingestre. She lived on, possibly more accepted by now, until 1940.

After the Second World War Alton Towers fell into decay, but by now the vast grounds had become a popular resort. It was only after 1973 that the Alton Towers amusement park, with its terrifying rides and spectacular features, came into being. The ruins of the house are now part of the Alton Towers Experience.[RR]

What Man Would be Without a Woman

This penny ballad (no printer/publisher named and no date, but circa 1840) was found among the archive of the late Leslie Shepherd, expert on catchpenny ballads etc., and connoisseur of the paranormal and bizarre.

It is laughably non PC, as you would expect ('she’s man’s best friend, for him she’ll wash and mend'), but generally is very appreciative of the female sex, is pro-marriage, and strongly against bachelordom.

'So lads if you’re not silly, you will quickly go and wed;
A single life you’ll find to be a bitter pill…'

The use of the word 'molly' is interesting. I had always thought it referred to a gay or effeminate man, but in this context the line 'What man would be a molly all his life?' suggests that to be an unattached male who must ‘ mend his own clothes , must wash his shirt, and molly coddle too’ was to be per se effeminate, which is a notion that has persisted  right up to the present, though the general acceptance of 'house husbands' today suggests that it is slowly dying out.  The use of the term 'molly coddle' is also instructive. According to the O.E.D. it was coined in 1833, and meant (and still means ) to treat like an invalid. Did it therefore follow that in the early Victorian period being treated like an invalid was linked with being effeminate ?

Thoughts on this are welcome. [RH]