Friday, December 19, 2014

'Lines on the Loss of the Royal Charter'

At least 800 lives were lost in the seas around the shores of Britain in the violent storms on the night of 25-26 October 1859. 223 vessels were wrecked: the biggest disaster of all was the loss of the Royal Charter off the coast of Wales, in which almost 450 people died. The ship was returning from Australia and the passengers included many gold miners, some of who had struck it rich at the diggings in Australia and were carrying large sums of gold about their persons. A consignment of gold was also being carried as cargo; it was insured for over £300,000 - about half a billion pounds in todays money. Many of the passengers were killed by being dashed against the rocks by the waves rather than drowned. Others were said to have drowned, weighed down by the belts of gold they were wearing around their bodies. The survivors, 21 passengers and 18 crew members, were all men, with no women or children saved. This poem on one side of a small  card was probably sold for a halfpenny or farthing just after the disaster. The address 'Trafalgar, Neyland' is nearby in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire. Of Maria Roberts nothing is known…

We also have a more accomplished poem about a gold ring washed up on the beach (to follow)but this poem was probably composed very shortly after the fateful night:

'Lines on the Loss of the Royal Charter.' Inscribed to Messrs Gibbs, Bright & Co., Liverpool

The mornings breeze came rushing o'er the bay,
Marshalling the sea-weed into proud array;
The towering billows, capped with shining foam
Like snow-clad summits on a Highland home.

The noble Charter – like a bird she flew;
Our sea-girt isle she made and kept in view;
Nearing the coast, from whence there came no sound,
But the high raging waves on ocean's bound.

She ploughed the surge, she combatted the wind
Her foaming furrows stretching far behind;
The spray though cordage, and o'er the boat,
Leapt like a charger to the trump's high note.

No moon lit the waters to smile on their scorn,
Nor triumphal arch the sea to adorn;
The tear fell unseen, the sigh fell unheard,
And the cries of the Seamew extended abroad.

But alas! wave the banners with Jack union down,
And cries of distress on the ocean abound;
The husband and wife clasping each to their breast,
In life they had loved, and in death they are blest.

The anchor of hope was the joy of their heart,
Till the foaming tornadoes the Charter did part;
Hundreds then sunk 'neath the sea's faithless breast,
O! shun not the place with the Emigrants rest.

Together they lie in the oceans caress,
Together they'll rise their Saviour to bless;
The gold from the mines, or the banners that wave,
Will be lightly esteemed when they rise from the grave.

Trafalgar, Neyland.   Maria Roberts.

There  are many legends about the gold on the ship. It is claimed that many Welsh locals became rich from finds on the beach. The aftermath of the disaster is described by Charles Dickens in The Uncommercial Traveller. He had visited the scene and writes of the sheer force of the storm:

So tremendous had the force of the sea been when it broke the ship, that it had beaten one great ingot of gold, deep into a strong and heavy piece of her solid iron-work: in which also several loose sovereigns that the ingot had swept in before it, had been found, as firmly embedded as though the iron had been liquid when they were forced there.

One member of the crew, Joseph Rogers,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Some curious changes in book titles

Found - an article by Ellery Queen -Some curious changes in book titles in the omnibus Carrousel for bibliophiles, a treasury of tales, narratives, songs, epigrams and sundry curious studies relating to a noble theme by William Targ (Duschnes, New York 1947.) The book is a late example of one of those bibiophilic tomes that were published in such numbers at the end of the 19th century (Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, Autolycus of the Book-Stalls, Shadows of the Old Booksellers, The Souls of Books, Book Song, Behind my Library Door, The Romance of Book Collecting etc., etc.,) and are now almost unknown. Queen's article is about changes of title of British editions of (mostly) detective fiction when published in America.

Thomas Burke. The Pleasantries of Old Quong (Constable 1931) became A Tea-Shop in Limehouse (Little Brown 1931)

W. W. Jacobs. Sea Urchins (Methuen 1899) became
More Cargoes (Copp, Clark 1899)

R.Austin Freeman. Dr. Thorndyke's Casebook (Hodder 1923) became The Blue Scarab (Dodd, Mead 1924)

Arthur Morrison The Green Eye of Goona (Eveleigh Nash, 1904) became The Green Diamond (Page, 1904)

J.S. Fletcher Paul Campenhaye: Specialist in Criminology (Ward, Lock 1918) became, 21 years later, The Clue of the Artificial Eye (Hillman-Curl 1939)

E.W. Hornung The Black Mask (Grant Richards 1901) became
Raffles:Further Adventures Of The Amateur Cracksman (Scribner's Sons, New York, 1901)

E. Phillips Oppenheim The Game of Liberty (Cassell 1915) became An Amiable Charlatan (Little, Brown 1916)

Baroness Orczy The Old Man in the Corner (Greening 1909) became The Man in the Corner (Dodd Mead 1909). A change of which Ellery Queen says "only a slight change…but to those  who cherish the memory of the first true armchair detective of detective literature that 'slight' change makes all the difference in the world."

Edgar Wallace The Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder (Hodder 1925) became The Murder Book of J.G. Reeder (Doubleday 1929)- another lamentable change according to EQ as  it emphasises sensationalism which is not actually in the book and a 'phase' of writing at which Wallace " was - surprisingly - inept."

Arthur B. Reeves The Black Mask (Eveleigh Nash 1912) was published, slightly  earlier, in America as The Silent Bullet (Dodd, Mead 1912)- demonstrating that British publishers were not immune to sensationalism.

'Waters' (William Russell) Recollections of a Detective Police Officer (Brown, 1856) rated by John Carter as 'the most important of the early yellowbacks' became in an America re-issue The Secret Detective: or One Night in a Gambling House.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Michael Holliday, British crooner

Snapshots of British 1950s Michael Holliday (1924 - 1963) found in a junk shop in Leiston, Suffolk. His version of the Burt Bacharach song 'The Story of My Life' reached number one in the British charts in 1958 and is still sung. His style of singing was influenced by that of Bing Crosby, who was his idol, he was even known as 'the British Bing Crosby'.

A biography with the punning title The Man Who Would Be Bing, written by Ken Crossland, was published in 2004. He is seen in these shots in happy times, enjoying the fruits of his success. Sadly he had an ongoing problem with stage fright, and had a mental breakdown in 1961. He died two years later, from a suspected drug overdose. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A call to the 'Revolution of the Spirit' by The Grand Duke of Russia

Found in Hartman's  International Directory of Psychic Science and Spiritualism  for 1931 this proclamation from Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia - then a refugee from the Russian revolution and staying at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York. He appears to have been giving lectures on spirituality and spiritualism in America.

 The book itself comes from a time when 'psychic science' was at its height and many famous names were involved. Among others the directory lists Oliver Lodge, C.K. Ogden, Count Louis Hamon ("Cheiro), Swami Yogananda, G.R.S Mead, Hannan Swaffer, Anna Wickham, Henri Bergson, Lady Jean Conan Doyle (with an address in Queen's Gardens W2 - her husband Arthur, very much a believer had died in 1930) Eric Dingwall, Earl Balfour etc.,




His Imperial Highness, Alexander, The Grand Duke of Russia

I have decided to write a few explanatory words to those of my friends who have heard and have shown more than a general interest in my ideas.

In my lectures I was bound by the request of my Manager to speak primarily about the experiences and incidents of my life and have only been able to insert in the history of it, my basic outlooks on human life. But in truth the only thing which interests me and the sole reason for my coming to America is to explain my deep convictions, which are the results of the lesson which my long eventful life has taught me.

I had in life everything which, according to the current idea, represents the greatest happiness. I had power, limitless means,

Sunday, December 14, 2014

This England


Found -- This England, a patriotic pamphlet from the late 1920s in the Golden Thoughts series. "A Pictorial Memento of the scenic loveliness that lies within the land which the King calls 'our own dear home' as described by the poet Allan Junior."

The four images on the cover show England as an island of lakes and seas - 'this island race.'  A jingoistic magazine of the same name has carried on publishing into this century. The title comes from Shakespeare's King Richard II: "This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle... This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."

Homosexuality and Its Cure (1936)

Sexology : The Magazine of Sex Science was a magazine founded by Hugo Gernsbach ('the father of Science Fiction') and seems to have flourished in the 1930s. It had many anatomical diagrams and articles about 'female inverts', pregnancy, infibulation, venereal disease etc. It probably sold well. This letter is in the 'Questions and Answers' column and has to be assumed to be typical of its time, regarding homosexuality as a sickness to be cured by determination and the love of a good woman. Autre temps, autre moeurs. What is slightly strange is that the 'doctor' providing the answer suggests physical violence if the other man persists in his attentions - 'beat him up.' Odd advice from a doctor. The reference to drink - 'you got drunk and became intimate' may refer to other matter in an abridged letter or simply be an assumption…again, curious.

Editor, Sexology.

 My pastor, a newly ordained priest, has advised me to present my case to you,  in the hope that you may be of help.  I am 25 years old and, for four years, have indulged in homosexual practices with a younger man. It began when I, who had given up studying for a clergyman, in the belief that it was not my vocation went with this young man to pique the girl with whom I had been keeping company.  He professed love for me; but, when we went to confession, we had the wrongful nature of our acts pointed out, and had to promise not to see each other again. It was much easier to promise this than to do this.  He protested love for me, and when he was ill, sent for me, and begged  me "not to let any girl get me."  But now he's keeping steady company with a girl, to drown suspicions people may have of us. I hate to give him up, though I know it is the right thing to do, so far as society and the church are concerned.  But I want to have a home of my own, a wife and children. Will I ever be a will to do this, in spite of years of the wrong kind of activities?  My pastor  says he believes that your answer, as a physician, will be valuable to me, as well as his, as a priest. He tells me "Suffer if you must, but be pure."  You can see how little it helps. Can this other man possibly make a success of marriage?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pulp fiction art

This original artwork was one of three covers created for a number of 1940s pulp magazines published by a British company. The series was called the ‘Headline series’ because each story was built around a newspaper headline-- to be found sketchily depicted at the bottom left hand corner of each cover. The other two pieces of artwork were for Road to Nowhere and Road to Revenge—both stories by someone called Max Foster. There seem to have been at least 20 tales in this particular series.

In the ultimately futile three hundred year old debate that has raged regarding ‘high ‘ and ‘ low art’, such ‘ low’ art as these pulp fiction covers, is often derided for the poor quality of the  draughtsmanship, whereas the simple truth is that for pure draughtsmanship, as opposed to piercing originality or ‘ vision’, this art is often more impressive than that of many ‘ high’ artists. Next time you visit Tate Britain wander around the many rooms devoted to Turner and study the groups of figures that inhabit the foregrounds of his huge oil landscapes. You might be surprised at how inept our greatest painter could be at depicting the human figure.

Then return to the work of ‘low’ book illustrators and marvel at how well most of them could draw. [RMH]

Fat Mary’s brother, a royal sex scandal and a precedent created

As a follow-up to a very recent Jot on Princess Mary of Teck, whose biography was called The People’s Princess, here is a short letter from her brother, found amongst a pile of old letters acquired a few years ago.

 Prince Francis of Teck seems to have followed the age-old career path of minor royalty—public school, Sandhurst, and action abroad -- only this particular royal seems to have been a philanderer and gambler. He had an affair with the beautiful Ellen Constance, wife of the 3rd Earl of Kilmorey, and this together with his ruinous gambling got him sent to India. In the letter, dated March 20th 1893, written when Francis was a lieutenant in the 1st Royal Dragoons, he thanks someone called Mowbray for sending him an ‘ excellent photograph’ but regrets that due to an ‘ exam’ that he is obliged to take on the 4th May, he cannot accept an invitation to visit him. This exam may have been for the rank of captain, and though he probably failed it on this occasion, he was promoted the following year. After India he served in Egypt, and later saw action in the Boer War, eventually retiring in 1901 with the rank of major.

In 1910 Francis died suddenly at Balmoral of pneumonia, aged 39.When his will was read it was discovered to his family’s horror that he had bequeathed to his mistress Ellen the famous Cambridge emeralds, which were part of the family jewels. It was then left to his sister, now Queen Mary, to have this will sealed, thus creating a legal precedent. Previously, royal wills could be publicly examined. The Queen also  negotiated to buy back the emeralds, reportedly paying £10,000 ( around £600,000 today ) for them. Mary then wore them at the coronation of her husband in 1911.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Early Books on Television: 1926 – 1939

British techies will boast that the origins of television can be traced to a room above a shop in Hastings ( blue plaque ) where John Logie Baird constructed the first TV receiver—generating moving images on a mechanical principle. Americans, however, will argue that their man, a certain C. Francis Jenkins, who was also involved in cinema technology, was doing almost the same thing six months earlier in 1923. Unfortunately, neither of these pioneers can be said to have invented the television that we tune into today. Most of the credit for that probably belongs to Philo Farnsworth, the farmer’s son from Utah who in 1927, aged 21, produced the first electronic image. So, whatever way you look at it, the Americans invented television, just as they invented rock music.

Most of the collected works on early TV appeared before 1930. The first book on TV alone was Alfred Dinsdale’s well-known Television, or Seeing by Wireless (1926). A book that although not uncommon is sometimes seen at prices into 5 figures. The second significant work, which appeared a year later is Television for the Home by Ronald Tiltman, whose frontispiece show the author being televised by John Logie Baird himself. If you hanker for a Dinsdale and can’t afford his Seeing by Wireless you could target a copy or a run ( if you can find one ) of his genuinely rare Television Journal (6d a month), whose July 1929 cover rather hopefully looks ahead to a time when the family might gather around the box of light on a winter evening--an extraordinary image for 1929, when radio was still in its infancy and TV broadcasting was several years away.

The more common Book of Practical Television (1935) by G. V. Dowding, an electrical engineer, is a pretty comprehensive technical exposition of 320 pages and many fascinating illustrations, which compares the mechanical

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Nixon at the BBC (Face to Face)

Found among the papers of Hugh Burnett,producer of the Face to Face series of television interviews with John Freeman shown between 1959 and 1962, this amusing slightly tongue-in-cheek memo to BBC friends sent out well after the event in 1973. The show was and is (6 set DVD available) memorable for the probing style of its charismatic interviewer John Freeman (more than once causing interviewees to break down..) and also for the importance and variety of its guests. They included Lord Birkett, Bertrand Russell,Dame Edith Sitwell, Lord Boothby, Nubar Gulbenkian, Adlai Stevenson, John Huston, Carl Jung, King Hussein of Jordan, Tony Hancock, Henry Moore, Dr Hastings Banda, Augustus John, Sir Ray Welensky, Stirling Moss, Evelyn Waugh, Gilbert Harding, General von Senger und Etterlin, Lord Reith, Simone Signoret, Victor Gollancz, Adam Faith,Otto Klemperer, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Jomo Kenyatta, Sir Compton Mackenzie, John Osborne, Cecil Beaton, Danny Blanchflower and, of course, Richard Nixon, then (1959) the Vice-President…


The secret service agent who came to Lime Grove before the Vice President's visit was short, wore a snap-brimmed hat and coat with the collar turned up.  His main preoccupation appeared to be assassins in the Art School overlooking the hospitality room. His immortal lines were: "Did you say a drink Mr Burnett?  I don't think that's a very good idea. A drink might impair his workability."  

Monday, December 8, 2014

The People's Princess

The phrase 'the people's princess'  was not made up by Alastair Campbell for the famous Blair soundbite on the day Diana died but, rather, recycled… This 1984 book found in a box of slow-selling royalty books shows the original 'People's Princess' - Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck (1833- 1897). She was not quite as good-looking as Diana (indeed she was also known as 'Fat Mary') but like Diana she had a knack for popularity. She was also one of the first Royals to patronise a wide range of charities. She is the current Queen's great grandmother. Elizabeth II seems to have thrown off the Hanoverian look…(although Lucian Freud's small portrait has some suggestions of it.)

An interesting piece of tiara trivia… the lavish two tiered tiara that was created for Princess Mary has made its way down the family via the Queen Mother to the Duchess of Cornwall (i.e. Camilla). It has been modified but  was originally a 'diamond diadem' featuring three wild roses separated by 20 crescent shapes and was assembled from various jewels Princess Mary inherited from her aunt, Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Charles Pearson & James Watt association

Discovered in 1998 on a market stall off Brick Lane is this copy of the exceedingly rare Substance of a Address by Charles Pearson at a Public Meeting (1844). The book is scarce enough (none on Abebooks, nor likely to be in the near future), but my copy also bears an inscription from the author to James Watt, son of the famous Scottish engineer.

Watt (1769 – 1848) who, like his father, was an engineer, but was also a radical political activist in the turbulent 1790s, has his own Wikipedia entry, but there is no mention in it of Pearson. Nevertheless, the two men had much in common. While in France Watt’s support for the French revolutionaries and his friendship with Joseph Priestley, got him condemned in the British Parliament and he remained in self-imposed exile until he felt it was safe to return home. A generation younger, Pearson, as the radical Solicitor for the City of London, was the champion of parliamentary reform who defended radicals in court. He also was in favour of the disestablishment of the Church of England, opposed the system of packed juries and fought commercial monopolies in London. A year after his Substance on an Address appeared, he published a pamphlet which called for an atmospheric railway that would follow the ancient Fleet ditch to Farringdon. This was rejected and I seem to remember that Punch had great fun with the idea. Other railway schemes supported by Pearson were also rejected, but at last in 1854 the Royal Commission accepted a proposal to build an underground railway, using the ‘cut and cover ‘method, from Praed Street to Farringdon. Work began in 1860 and within three years the new line was completed. The world now had its first underground railway. Unfortunately, Pearson had died while the work was still in progress and he never got to ride on the first train.

It would be nice to think that Watt, the consultant engineer behind the building of Fulton’s North River Steamboat of 1807, and the marine engineer who in 1817 was responsible for the first steamship to leave an English port, had something to do with Pearson’s atmospheric railway of 1845. It seems very possible, especially as Watt’s expertise was in steam power and pneumatics.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Arthur Augustus Tilley francophile and academic

Found in a copy of The Romantic Movement in French Literature - Traced By a Series of Texts (C.U.P. 1924) this obituary of A.A. Tilley by his co-author H.F. Stewart - also a distinguished Cambridge academic and francophile, but so far rather neglected on the web. It appeared in The Cambridge Review 6/3/1943. It is a model of its kind and gives a glimpse into a vanished world..


Arthur Augustus Tilley - December 1, 1851 - December 4, 1942.No one who visited Arthur Tilley in the evening of his long life but must have felt himself standing on hallowed ground, in the presence of a veteran who, having fulfilled his course, was quietly, serenely, awaiting his call. "Le vent de l'éternité le frappait au front." Not that there was anything pietistic about his conversation. He would speak with grave simplicity of things deep and high, and pass easily to current events upon which he commented with shrewdness and vigour, or to the sometimes affectionate, sometimes caustic, review of men and their doings in the past. And what a range, and how varied, his memory covered! He was the favourite nephew of Anthony Trollope, whom as a boy he adored and as a mature critic he greatly admired. He had known everyone worth knowing i the University for 70 years, and his recollections were sometimes starling. A propos of a picture card of the Puy de Dôme he said to me the last time I saw him, "I took Bradshaw up there; I shouldn't have done so if I had known his heart was bad."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Simon Watson Taylor: surrealist, pataphysician & cabin steward

The death in 2005 at the age of 82 of aged hippy and anarchist Simon Watson Taylor went almost unnoticed in the Arts pages and it was left to his friend and former house-mate George Melly to supply an obituary in the Independent in which he pointed out the major contributions of the writer and translator of Alfred Jarry to the Surrealist and Pataphysics movements in Europe during the fifties and sixties. On a personal level, Melly also alluded to his friend’s ‘acid humour ‘, his delight in confronting and dispatching the pretensions of the bourgeoisie, and a determination to remain free of encumbrances. At one point in his early life we are told that he took a job as an airline cabin steward in order to travel the world.Indeed, among all his friends who had some way embraced aspects of the bourgeois life- style, Melly claimed that Watson Taylor stood out as a man ‘truly free’.

Some aspects of Watson Taylor early slant on life can be found in this short article that appeared in the Spring 1947 issue of Film Survey when its author was just 24. Ostensibly a 'dissertation' on the comic genius of Laurel and Hardy, whom he saw as subversive individualists battling albeit unsuccessfully against forces of a harsh reality in which authoritarian power rules, it is also a hymn of praise to the anti-bourgeois values of Surrealism and the power of dreams to create an alternative reality.

- The fact is that ‘reality’, as the dictionary conceives it, does not by any means  circumscribe the whole of our possible mental perceptions of existence ; there is also dream , chance, illusion, desire---and the ridiculous, the fantastic. Perhaps these latter are even more valid and certainly they are equally permissible, for ultimately we create our own reality (“ man creates God after his own image “)—the fantastic is real if we decree it so. We have no accomplices more inspiring in this plot to turn this world upside down than were Swift, Blake and Carroll. Today we cannot do better than allow Charles Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy to be the sometimes silent, but always lucid spokesmen of out discontent ---the ambassadors of the unprivileged...

Watson Taylor saw Laurel and Hardy

‘Come on, Daddy O.’

It was the first visit of Jazz legend Lionel Hampton to England and one of his gigs was seemingly at Hanley Town Hall in north Staffordshire, according to G. A. Roberts, who captured the occasion in an article that appeared in the December 1956 issue cum grado, the student magazine of what was soon to become Keele University.

Photo by William Gottlieb
According to Roberts, the band played one number without Hampton and when the great man was introduced to the audience there was a:

Deafening  roar from the audience, deafening noise from the band. A lean light grey suited  negro ran onto the stage acknowledging his reception. With a wealth of gesticulation, he stopped the band and then led them into another hectic number—loud, driving, swinging. We were away---from the beginning, Hampton’s tactics were clear ---he was going to produce such a dynamic, hypnotic, driving, compelling, metronomic beat that the audience would be goaded  into a frenzy of excitement and enthusiasm…but twice on the evening Hampton sacrificed sheer beat for artistry.
He used the vibroharp to produce sounds of real beauty which even the band could not drown ; caressing the instrument so that its strange tones filled the echoing hall. But then, as though ashamed of his lapse of taste, he returned to the repetition of fast mechanical tunes. The audience loved it…