Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Leslie Shepard on Charles Fort

Although Leslie Shepard (1917 – 2004) was a passionate devotee of early cinema, he  is probably best known today for his books on Dracula, Indian mysticism, the supernatural, paranormal  and British street literature, on which he was a world expert. He was a born collector who amassed a huge library of books and ephemera, much of which is now in academic libraries. The portion  which escaped this fate seems to have been sold at auction over a period of years and it was at auction a couple of years ago that I acquired a large box containing part of his penny ballad archive—possibly the detritus.

It goes without saying that Shepard was a fan of Charles Fort, that indefatigable collector of facts concerning the paranormal, and probably in the 1960s, as he reports in this typed article of 1974, which may have appeared in INFO, a successor to Doubt, the house journal of the American-based Fortean Society, that Shepard was recruited into the latter. Shepard had relished the early issues of Doubt, but in the article he complained that in the later numbers natural skepticism towards scientific dogma was transformed into something:

...almost paranoid , to the extent of suggesting that  reports of successful space travel might be an elaborate hoax.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Vampires in Literature 1

Found in the extensive Peter Haining book and ephemera collection - a xerox of The Vampire in Literature: a Critical Bibliography (edited by Margaret L. Carter, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.: Umi Research Press 1989.) Principally a bibliography of vampire fiction in English, but also covering drama, anthologies, nonfiction studies of vampires in literature, and including a checklist of non-English vampire stories readily available in translation. It follows Bleiler in using an alphabetical key to the different types of literature. The most disappointing is category H - '...Vampirism...explained away as a hoax, delusion, or misunderstanding.' Books with  'rationalised' plots are generally avoided by collectors of the supernatural. M.L. Carter does not seemed to have missed a trick, except possibly a genre that occurred more recently - the retelling of a classic story with vampires added…

Al - Vampire as member of a separate species, whether originating on Earth or not. Frequently the text leaves the point of origin unrevealed.  
Examples: Baker, Scott. 'Nightchild'. 1983.
Dicks, Terrance. 'Doctor Who and the State of Decay'. 1981. 

AlH - Alien, humanoid.
Examples: Asprin, Robert Lynn. 'Myth-ing Persons'. 1984.
Baker, Clive. 'Human Remains'. 1984.

AlN - Alien, nonhumanoid.
Examples: Huson, Paul. 'The Keepsake'. 1981. 

An - Vampire animal, as opposed to a human vampire who merely takes animal shape.
Examples: Quiroga, Horacio. 'The Feather Pillow'. 1907.
Dow, Packard. 'The Winged Menace'. 1931. 

Bat - Intelligent bats or bat like or bat-winged humanoids.
Examples: Bradbury, Ray. 'Uncle Einar'. 1947.
Delaney, Samuel R. 'They Fly at Ciron'. 1971.

Bl - Blood-drinking, which qualifies a story, even if not supernatural, for entry if this act is central to the plot.
Examples: Caraker, Mary. 'The Vampires who Loved Beowulf'. 1983. 
Carew, Henry. 'The Vampires of the Andes'. 1925.

C - Vampire has a "cameo" role in a work that is not primality a vampire story.
Examples: Howard, Robert E. 'Conan the Conqueror: The Hyborean Age'. 1950.
Koontz, Dean. 'The Haunted Earth'. 1973. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

F. H. Shapland

From the Reeve collection.* This is a fascinating character (especially from a bowling point of view) and although manager for Team England (as it was not known then) for the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games bowls team and a superb and noted player of the game he is unknown to Wikipedia and turns up online mostly in club lists. But all has changed, changed utterly, thanks to fellow Devonian L.R. Reeve's writings…

English Team, Commonwealth Games 1958


I have met a good many busy men in my long life, but cannot believe anyone could be more active than Harold Shapland. Yet he seems to thrive on his multitudinous commitments, and to the world he appears to be one of the happiest men alive, with his ready wit, ready smile and readiness to chat with any bowler who happens to be near him when watching a thrilling encounter.
He must be an exceptionally good organizer to be able to fit in his numerous engagements. I saw him take an ample diary from his pocket one day. It seemed to me when he opened it that at least two pages were full of reminders. But what else does one expect when a man is a successful farmer, was twice a Mayor of Tiverton, an ex-president of the English Bowling Association and an ex-president of the Devon County Bowling Association? And as for various agricultural, urban, rural and bowls committees I am sure if asked, he couldn't immediately answer an inquirer as to the number of committees which claimed him as a member.
It is obvious that engagements sometimes clash. I have known him to be well ahead in a game of singles at the Torquay Bowling Tournament and to withdraw before making a winning shot, thus enabling his opponent to play next day while he himself had to attend a council meeting.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

D.W. Brogan

From the Reeve* collection. D.W. Brogan's books have become somewhat hard to sell but he is here recalled as a great lecturer by a connoisseur of lecturers (and Dons.)

© National Portrait Gallery, London


From what I had read and heard I hoped to see an attractive man, when I attended a lecture at King’s College, in London. I was not disappointed. He must be one of the most interesting lecturers in Cambridge; and his memory, particularly concerning American history is certainly uncanny: a phenomenon which must have been apparent to millions of people who have heard his ready responses to questions from America which surprised the American questioner, who had evidently expected to puzzle the Cambridge don with unusual questions.
Few at the lecture had seen him previously;

Hampsteadophobia / Jimmy Kanga

Found in the vast Jimmy Kanga* collection a signed presentation copy of Robert Lynd's The Sporting Life and Other Trifles. Lynd (1879-1949) is a rather forgotten Irish born essayist. His Gaelic name was Roibéard Ó Floinn, and he wrote essays, often humorous, occasionally under the name 'Y.Y.' (wise.) Lynd settled in Hampstead, in Keats Grove near the John Keats house. He and his wife Sylvia Lynd were well known as literary hosts (Hugh Walpole, Priestley etc.,) Irish guests included James Joyce and James Stephens. The publisher Victor Gollancz reports Joyce intoned Anna Livia Plurabelle there to his own piano accompaniment. Hampstead is the now the haunt of oligarchs and wealthy media types. A customer recalls that even into the 1970s, when he lived in Frognal, cabs were reluctant to venture that far from the West End. Now it is probably a favoured destination…Lynd writes:

HAMPSTEADOPHOBIA is a disease common among taxi-drivers. The symptoms are practically unmistakable, though to a careless eye somewhat resembling those of apoplexy. At mention of the word " Hampstead" the driver affected gives a start, and stares at you with a look of the utmost horror. Slowly the blood begins to mount to his head, swelling first his neck and then distorting his features to twice their natural size. His veins stand out on his temples like bunches of purple grapes. His eyes bulge and blaze in their sockets. At first, for just a fraction of a second, the power of speech deserts him, and one realises that he is struggling for utterance only because of the slight foam that has formed on his lips.

Hampstead Heath by Gerald Ososki (thanks A.T.G.)

As one catches the first words of his returning speech, it is borne in upon one that he is praying. One cannot make out from the language of his prayers whether he is a Christian or a devil worshipper

Friday, February 27, 2015

I once met…Eric Korn

Eric Korn (1933-2014) seems to have been a much admired man, if all the many recent tributes in the Letters pages of the TLS to the polymath, ex-marine biologist, bookseller and brain-box star of Round Britain Quiz, are any indication.  All these encomia remind me of a visit I paid to his home over fourteen years ago.
Eric in Red Square (from ABA Newsletter )
Having been impressed for years by his performances on Round Britain Quiz on which the current less demanding TV show  Only Connect  is loosely based, and having some notion of his special areas as a book dealer, I was curious to discover how he had become so well read in so many disparate subjects. Locating him was easy enough. Like so many dealers nowadays, his home was also his shop, and this turned out to be a rather conventional looking Edwardian terraced house in Muswell Hill. I’ve interviewed a few booksellers in my time but not one of them  answered the door wearing scruffy jeans and a T shirt. I took to him immediately.

The voice, of course, was immediately recognisable

The Duchess of Atholl

How and where does one begin when describing such an exceptionally experienced public woman as the Duchess of Atholl?
I* might do worse than start at a meeting held in Essex Hall, Strand, when she was Parliamentary Secretary to the old Board of Education. Appointed by the Prime Minister, Mr Stanley Baldwin, and under the leadership of Lord Eustace Percy who, she said, was no shirker, she admits to feeIing honoured to be the second woman in English history to be a Minister, and she soon made it evident in her public life that she was never afraid to join the ranks of a minority group of people.
I had better not mention the number of years of my regular attendance at meetings at Essex Hall. I spoke there at a conference; I made reports there monthly during one period; I witnessed many exciting arguments; but never was any other meeting in that historic building so memorable to me as one at which the Duchess delivered

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The man who gave his name to Sydney, Australia

It’s a long way from East Anglia, to Sydney, New South Wales, but Thomas Townshend, who was born in Raynham, Norfolk, in 1733, and who became Viscount Sydney in 1789, was the Home Secretary who gave his name to the growing coastal community which later became Sydney Town.

Here we have his bookplate, probably printed soon after his elevation to the Upper House. It depicts a coronet over a shield that features the scallop shell symbols of his branch of the Townshend family. The son of a minor aristocrat, Townshend   attended Clare College, Cambridge and in 1754, not long after graduating, entered the Commons as Whig member for Whitchurch at the age of just 21.He subsequently held offices in various ministries until Shelburne appointed him Home Secretary in 1782. Not long afterwards he was elevated to the Upper House as Baron Sydney and under Pitt the Younger continued as Home Secretary until 1789. In office he declared his intention of reforming convicted felons by sending them to make a fresh start in New Holland, as Australia was then known. His policy proved so successful in New South Wales that the Governor, Arthur Phillips named the tiny community of Sydney Cove after him. Subsequent Australian historians, however, have been less enthusiastic

The Magnetor

The Magnetor, according to this advert placed in the Winter 1958 issue of Tomorrow, the quarterly review of psychical research, is a 'stunning device' and an 'admirable conversation piece' which 'demonstrates dramatically reality of the non-material.' Apart from having an aversion to the definite article, the person who placed this advert from the office of a distinctly dodgy outfit in Woodstock, New York, called ‘the Far-A-Field  Co’, also seems a trifle unforthcoming about the actual powers of the Magnetor.

The phrase ‘conversation piece ‘is usually a warning sign that what you are urged to buy is a load of old tat disguised as something extraordinarily fascinating. In the case of this particular device, the word Caution inscribed on a label tagged to the base of what seems to be some sort of electrical apparatus, is a direct invitation to the adventurous among the Tomorrow readership to do something dangerous.

It’s all appears rather fraudulent,

Quest for Fire 'undeserving of translation'

Found with the press cutting about Anthony Burgess inventing a grunt language for the 1980 movie Quest for Fire, this reader's report for Souvenir Press about the possibility of publishing an English translation of the original 1911 book. The report is by the distinguished translator Eric Mosbacher (1903-1998) who had translated Freud and Silone and at the time of the report would have been working on Pitgrilli's novel Cocaine. Not noted is the fact that J.H. Rosny's book  had already been translated by one H.Talbott and had appeared in America in 1967 under the Pantheon imprint. The mention of 'strip cartoons' is fortuitous as the book had appeared in France more than once in this format.

La Guerre du Feu. 
By J. H. Rosny Aine.
Published by Bibliotheque-Charpentier, 11 Rue de Grenelle Paris (1911)

This remarkably uninspired story is totally undeserving of translation, and the Souvenir Press Ltd. should firmly decline it.
It was obviously written many years ago and half-heartedly masquerades as literature, but belongs to a genre which has long since been overtaken by the strip cartoon. The time is prehistoric, thousands and thousands of years ago, when the aurochs and the mammoth still flourished.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quest for Fire & Burgess (1980)

Found- a press-cutting from 9th November 1980 about Anthony Burgess and the making of the movie Quest for Fire - which came out in 1981. Burgess created a primitive language which is spoken in the movie by the Ulam tribe. The article is joshing in tone. It was published in the 'Public Eye' section of The Observer, possibly a sort of gossip column.

Anthony Burgess Back to Basics

Remarkable things have come off the typewriter off the author Anthony Burgess; but none so odd  as two hours of grunts for a £4 million film about the Stone Age.' Hell of a lot of work creating a language on basic principles', he says.

The grunting, Burgess-style,  has been going on around Aviemore in the Scottish highlands. 14 elephants, heavily disguised as woolly mastodons are also playing their parts, trumpeting as they fancy without literary guidance.

 On the telephone from his home in Monaco, the distinguished grunt writer seemed astounded  that the film Quest for Fire was not being shot in Iceland. 'I thought they'd sent the elephants up there'  said Burgess.  'The lights good in Iceland.'

Wilfred Owen - 'A Cribber'?

Has it ever been acknowledged that the memorable and now iconic line of Wilfred Owen- ‘the pity of war’ is actually the title of a novel from 1906, that happened to be written by his close friend and fellow soldier-combatant Conal O’Riordan?!
The Pity of War. F. Norreys Connell ( i.e. Conal O’Riordan) 1906. Henry J Glaisher, London. [Sent in by ATSJ - for which thanks]

Friday, February 20, 2015

Japanese Rupees in Burma 1944

Fell out of a book - this curious souvenir of what is now known as The Burma Campaign - which raged from 1941 to 1945 with the Japanese in the ascendant much of this time. The tide was turned (with heavy losses on both sides) in early 1945 and Mountbatten staged an elaborate victory parade, at which he took the salute in Rangoon on 15 June of that year. This took place despite the fact that thousands of Japanese were still fighting hard behind British lines - as they tried desperately to escape across the Sittang river into Thailand, losing heavily as they went. This 100 Rupee note printed by the Japanese was issued under their 'puppet government' lead by Dr Ba Maw in early 1944.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Meaning of the Missiles

The Meaning of the Missiles---a Cold War warning from American peace organisations.

If the cease fire in Eastern Ukraine fails and the US government votes to arm the Ukraine forces, some experts predict that this dangerous escalation could create a situation similar in its ramifications to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

This 'Survival Leaflet no 6', which was issued in 1958/59 by three American peace organisations, possibly  directed by Quaker pacifists, but acting in concert, seems deliberately alarmist in its predictions of a push button nuclear war in which American cities are atomised by Soviet H bombs and cities in the Soviet Union are destroyed by rockets from European installations under the control of the Pentagon. But this destruction was quite feasible in 1957, when, according to the leaflet there were 'precise plans to erect in Europe some fourteen rocket positions in each of which will be emplaced perhaps fifteen missiles.'

The antidote to such warmongering, according to the authors of this pamphlet, is love and pragmatism overcoming political ideology. Public opinion in favour of a build up of missiles must be changed and the way to do this was for American lovers of peace to write to their representatives, talk to those in positions of power, organise local meetings and distribute copies of this leaflet, which cost $1 for 50. [RR]

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gladstone at Dollis Hill

One of the most crass and insensitive planning decisions made in 2012 was the demolition of Dollis Hill House in NW London. The fact that this semi-ruinous building, which began as a farmhouse in 1825, was once the country retreat of four-times Prime Minister William Gladstone and the home for a while of American novelist Mark Twain, couldn’t  save it from the philistines on Brent Council or, for that matter English Heritage. It has been argued that too much money was required for its restoration and back in the middle of the post 2009 recession, no entrepreneur was willing to come forward with a viable plan. A museum with a café or restaurant attached would have been a perfect use for this building. As it is, Dollis Hill Park now has a razed platform where the historic house once stood, and although there are plans for some sort of reproduction of Gladstone’s bolt hole, it is  not, dare I say, quite the same…

On the evening of 3 May 1892 the G.O.M of Victorian politics once more left his home at Carlton Gardens, in the heart of Westminster, for Dollis Hill House. Just before his departure he wrote the following letter (discovered in a collection of autographs) to a friend, possibly Lord Rendel, an old Liberal comrade.

I send herewith the Life of Manning. He was Roman, and he was ultra Roman : no man more so. But he was a great Christian, in respect of detachment from the world,