Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Literary Cranks of London - The Vagabond Club

The second of a series on 'The Literary Cranks of London' this published in  The Sketch on Aug. 29th, 1894. Written by a member George Brown Burgin (1856-1944), novelist, critic and journalist. There are various photos of him in the National Portrait Gallery collection. He was sub-editor of the humorous journal The Idler from 1895 to 1899. He wrote over 90 novels but there is no Wikipedia page for him. However there is quite a bit online on him including various quotations such as his claim that: 'It is much more comfortable to be mad and know it than be sane and have one's doubts.' The Vagabond Club was founded around the blind poète maudit Philip Bourke Marston and boasted such distinguished members as Jerome K. Jerome, Robert Barr, Conan Doyle, Barry Pain,  and Israel Zangwill. No women. It is interesting that Burgin mentions, without opprobrium, that  it contained 'misogynists'...

The Literary Cranks of London 
The Vagabond Club.

"Our Noble Selves," a la Grant Allen (he ought to be a member), would more adequately describe the august body of which I have the honour to be secretary. When we were vagabonds we did not call ourselves so, but cheerfully used to meet at the late Philip Bourke Marston's rooms in Euston Road after a frugal dinner at Pagani's. There, amid clouds of smoke, people did just what they pleased until the small hours of the morning. Marston had the supreme gift of attracting the most dissimilar men and making them harmonise; he was the only religion some of them had. This circle of friends numbered about a dozen, and the last time I saw Marston before his death was when he attempted to recite a sonnet beginning "I stood amid the ruins of my soul," but was unable to finish it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

1930s Diatribe against wage slavery

The recent Jot reproducing manifestos from The Idler that
celebrate freedom from the corporatist world remind me of a wonderfully invocatory collection of poems from Kenneth Muir called The Nettle and the Flower, which came out in 1933. Muir, then just 26, had, just a few years before, graduated from St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where Geoffrey Grigson was his senior by two years. I seem to recall that Muir, being a rather serious-minded student, took against Grigson ostensibly because he performed a prank in which he dressed up as a ghost. But it is more likely that the freshman of solid Labour convictions felt contempt for anyone of a privileged background (though Grigson, who attended a very minor public school, was hardly in this category) who had broken the General Strike of 1926.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Literary Cranks of London - The Cemented Bricks

I came across this oddly named literary coterie quite recently in a catalogue by the august bookseller and writer John Saumarez Smith in a scholarly note about one of its members - the writer (anthologist) Robert Maynard Leonard (1869 - 1941) who among other things was secretary to the Anti-Bribery League, which sounds like something from a G K Chesterton short story. Members of the 'Cemented Bricks' included Richard le Gallienne, Walter Jerrold, Sir John Parsons, Lord Amulree and Joseph Knight. The web yields very little about them except this page from The Sketch of 13/2/1895 bought for the price of a mocha latte on eBay. It remains unknown to Google books and even Brewster Kahle (praise his name) has not archived it... At the same time we bought another in the series of 'Literary Cranks of London' on 'The Vagabond Club' which will follow later.


The Literary Cranks of London.

The Cemented Bricks.

The Cemented Bricks.! Who or what are they? Is it a new order of Hod-fellows, or is it a building society?

That question, or series of questions, was put to me by a lady three years ago. This article will supply the answer.

About five years ago, four young men in London were drawn together by a certain similarity of journalist-literary tastes and aspirations. They had gravitated together from various places; one from a chemist's shop, via a Hull newspaper; another from a newspaper office in the West of England; the third from a similar centre of 'light and lending' in Lancashire; while the fourth would be penman and present writer was chained, as Lamb puts it, to the "desk's dead wood" in a counting-house near the Strand.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Afternoon Tea with Sherlock Holmes - Peter Cushing interviewed

Found among the papers of Peter Haining this account by him of a meeting with the Hammer Horror film star Peter Cushing. Haining worked with Cushing on several books including Peter Cushing's Monster Movies  (9 macabre short stories  all linked to Cushing's film career) and The Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook both with forewords by Cushing. These contributions were written by Haining and then approved by Cushing (after much correspondence, some slightly  rancorous- he appears to have been a perfectionist although all his communications end "God bless you, Peter Cushing")

Afternoon Tea with Sherlock Holmes
By Peter Haining

It was the perfect place to meet Sherlock Holmes: 'The English Tea Room' in Brown's Hotel, Albermarle Street in the heart of London's fashionable Mayfair district. Long associated with the great English tradition of taking afternoon tea - served with the hotel's own blend, home-made jams and clotted cream and tasty cakes and pastries the Nineteenth Century establishment is also steeped in literary tradition and has been patronised by among others Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie who actually based her novel, At Bertram’s Hotel, on Brown's. Founded in 1837 by James Brown, a former valet to Lord Byron

Mina Hubbard—feminist icon and explorer extraordinaire

Mina Hubbard (1870 – 1956) is not a name that means much in the UK, although this intrepid explorer of Labrador ( the first woman to do so) retired to Britain and ended up in suburban Coulsdon, of all places, where she died rather tragically at the age of 86.
Born in Bewdley, Ontario, in 1870, to a Canadian father and an English mother, there was little in her early years that would suggest that worldwide fame as an explorer would attend her by the time she was 35. After leaving school she spent two years  teaching, then trained as a nurse. It was while nursing that she met the journalist Leonidas Hubbard, then ill with typhus (or typhoid). The couple married in 1901 and within 2 years he had embarked on an unsuccessful expedition to map northern Labrador that ultimately cost him his life.  Such a tragedy would have destroyed some women, but Mina was made of sterner stuff. When Dillon Wallace, a survivor of the expedition, published his account Mina suspected that he had been responsible for her husband’s death through starvation and vowed to revenge herself on him by embarking on her own expedition to achieve what he and her husband had failed to do. Recruiting three guides,

Monday, May 18, 2015

Library Lists

 A piece of pre-Amazonian technology for ordering books from libraries, a rare, ephemeral survival probably from the 1930s...  An attractive little booklet with a carbon at the rear for keeping duplicates of 'library lists'. Inside are the following instructions--

 These lists are made up from Literary Supplements, Publishers Lists of new books, reviews and books recommended by friends.



 The list is torn out at perforation and sent to Library.

 The carbon copy is retained as a check on the books received.

 The carbon copy also becomes a useful record of books read, books to be recommended to friends, and a reminder of the works of Authors you have read. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

John Elliotson---friend of Dickens, champion of mesmerism and vegetarianism

Dr John Elliotson (1791 - 1868 ), though attacked in his own time for his unconventional practices, would have thrived today as a go-to TV doctor on all things to do with alternative medicine.
He was conventional enough as a medical student, but then went on to study phrenology, and afterwards introduced his friend Dickens to mesmerism, on which he became an acknowledged expert. Thackeray dedicated Pendennis to him and based his character Dr Goodenough in his last novel, The Adventures of Philip, on Elliotson. He was a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Physicians and the Royal Society, and was one of the first doctors to advocate the use of the stethoscope. Wilkie Collins called him ‘one of the greatest English physiologists’.  He was also, though the biographical sources don’t mention it, a firm fan of vegetarianism, which in mid Victorian England was still frowned on. In this undated letter, which was found in a collection of autographed material, Elliotson recommends to an unknown correspondent that his brother continue with his non-meat diet:

'He need not take fish--milk & all sorts of vegetable productions, offer dishes without end. Tell him to read the account of the meeting of the Vegetarian Society in the Daily News of this morning. I know members who eat no meat

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Hell Hound

Another tale from a rare folklore book M. H. James's Bogie Tales of East Anglia (Pawsey & Hayes, Ipswich 1891). The setting is almost certainly Aldeburgh, a coastal town in Suffolk, now somewhat gentrified but still with its fisherman on the beach (and in the bars) some of whom still have dogs…

                      The Hell Hound 

At the north end of the town of A--- lie the salt marshes, which are sometimes full, like a lake, after rains or the prevalence of of certain winds, and of which there was a sunset view exhibited in London not long ago.Here a favourite walk of the inhabitants leads across a sort of common, planted with a fir grove; by one or other of two paths, one of which goes through the pine wood and emerges near the station; the other leaves the pine wood on the left, and skirts the mere, crossing the line, and leading into a sandy lane between more pine trees. At the sea end of this waste is a 'kissing gate'...and here it is quite likely that the presiding bogie will meet you, if you walk there after dark.



The bogie is a large black dog, with fiery eyes, and a fierce appearance. Do not, however, be afraid of him, if you keep in the path that leads across the 'line', for all will be well, he will walk 'to heel' as a good dog should, and will only make you feel rather nervous by his odd silent trot; but if you want to go the other way he will show you what he thinks by an awful growling, he will stand in your path and show his teeth,

A Were-Dog Story


Among Peter Haining's books we found this folklore rarity Bogie tales of East Anglia by M. H. James (Ipswich, 1891) - from it comes this slightly  disturbing tale. What the Italian was doing in Lowestoft is anybody's guess.

This tale, which runs as follows, is still common talk among the beach men at Lowestoft. An Italian gentleman, with curly hair and a very dark complexion, asked a fisher-boy of Lowestoft, to become his page, but this the boy refused, as he did not wish to go forge in parts; whereupon the Italian, far from being angry, asked the boy to look after a dog for him, as he was going ways.

Now, the dog had been seen in the town, and its ownership was well known, though, strange to say, the dog and his master had never been seen together. It was a fine dog, a large, curly black retriever, very long and lean.

When the fisher-boy found the gentleman had really gone away, he began to look after the dog, for which he had been very handsomely paid beforehand. Every morning the boy, who was fourteen years old, went out to swim in the sea, and the dog went with him.

James Joseph Sylvester—the mathematical genius snubbed by Cambridge

The rule among the dons of Oxford and Cambridge up to the end of the nineteenth century was that you were permitted to take a degree at these  'august' institutions as long as you weren’t a dissenter or a Jew. At around about the same time, when the first colleges for women were established, similar restrictions were applied to women, who were only granted degrees at Oxford in 1920, and shamefully, at Cambridge in 1948. At the latter University, woman  were palmed off with 'certificates' up to that date.

Today, when we are so aware of discrimination against minorities, mathematicians who admire the astonishing achievements of the Jewish-born James Joseph Sylvester (1814- 97) invariably pick up on the fact that despite being ranked second wrangler in the 1837 Cambridge University Tripos, Sylvester, as someone who as a Jew had refused to take the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, was barred from graduating. Nor was he permitted to compete for a fellowship or obtain a Smith’s prize. A year later, and still without a degree,  Sylvester was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of London, where he had been a student for a short time from the age of 14.

The Eric Parker Story


From the files of Peter Haining this draft of a piece by W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts on the great Sexton Blake illustrator Eric Parker (1898 - 1974). It was published in the early 1980s in the Australian magazine Collector's Digest.

The Eric Parker Story.


By W.O.G. Lofts.

For over twenty years, it was my good fortune and privilege to meet many Directors, Editors, sub-editors, authors, and artists, not only down Fleet Street, but in the home of it all at Fleetway House in Farringdon Street, the home of the mighty Amalgamated Press. I use the expression 'fortune' in the sense, that living in London, it was quite easy for me to make these short trips.

Always firmly believing in sharing information with others not so fortunate, I used to write up many of these events in the various magazines circulating at the time. Nearly all personalities I'm glad to say, freely gave me information not only about themselves, but about the papers they were connected with in pre-war days. Papers that gave so much pleasure to us,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A - Z of Science Fiction words

A useful guide to scientific words for the Science Fiction enthusiast. It first appeared as monthly instalments in Authentic Science Fiction and was printed and published as a booklet by Hamilton & co., in the Goldhawk Road, London W 12. It was compiled by H.J. Campbell. Being 1954 very little is related to computers. At C you will find Cybernetics and at B Betelgeuse...




Absolute. Not relative. Independent of all scale and comparisons. E.g., zero temperature, number, the speed of light.

Acceleration. Rate of change of velocity. Increasing velocity is positive acceleration; decreasing velocity is negative acceleration. The average acceleration of any body falling to Earth in a vacuum is 32 feet per second per second.

Achromatic. Applied to optical apparatus which gives images free from colored fringes. A. lenses have one sense of crown glass and one of flint glass. The flint lens corrects dispersion caused by the crown glass.

Aerolite. (Sometimes called ‘aerolith’). A stony meteorite, as distinct from a metallic one. A meteorite that is a mixture of stone and metal, but preponderantly stone would be called aerolithic.

Albedo. A measure of the brightness of celestial bodies that shine by reflected light. Technically, it is the amount of light a body reflects in proportion to the amount that falls on it. The Moon’s albedo is 7%; that of Venus 65%.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Norman Lindsay Does Not Care - an Outburst

A pamphlet found in a Fanfrolico Press book The Antichrist of Nietzsche illustrated by Australian artist Norman Lindsay. Printed about 1927 it is by his great champion P.R. Stephensen who was a friend of Lindsay's son Jack. Stephensen (1901-1965) was known as 'Inky' and was a curious figure, starter of many presses including Mandrake and something of a left wing firebrand who moved to the far right in his middle years. Here he is in his late twenties ranting in full épater le bourgeois mode:

Norman Lindsay Does Not Care
An Outburst
by
P. R. Stephensen

Fanfrolico Pamphlets No. I
Price One Farthing

Why should Norman Lindsay care if suburbia shudders with a horror which is really terror of his stark and ruthless presentation of the image of beauty? Nothing else could be expected, for at this level criticism remains atavistically moral, tribal; and any artist making a vital expression is likely to be regarded as a spawn of Satan, Antichrist, lewd and wicked, abhorrent to all Right-Thinking People. Norman Lindsay does not care how loudly the Good People howl for his suppression. But the Official Art Mob (or Mobs) also dislike him, with the intensity of a fascination which repels as it attracts. And as these quite sophisticated persons officially disown Suburbia, it is difficult for them to damn the man in Suburbia’s phrasing. Yet they must do something about it,

Two manifestoes from The Idler


At Jot we try to print as many manifestoes as possible. Here are two manifestoes from The Idler. One of them is (or was) available on a tea towel from the Idler's  website. The Idler book from 2014  has a friendly and combative interview with Jeremy Paxman and a good article about the history of attempts to shorten the working week, reminding us how working men once had to struggle to get  a 10 hour day…Now we have the amazing Timothy Ferriss and his 4-Hour Workweek but so far no manifesto. The style of the 'Death to Supermarkets' rant is reminiscent of Blast, the brainchild of that well known boulevardier Wyndham Lewis…




More rants and manifestoes to follow.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Agamemnon Dinner of November 1900

Found among a large collection of menus printed at the turn of the nineteenth century by the high class Cambridge printer W.P.Spalding is this menu for the annual ‘Agamemnon  Dinner’ of the famous Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, which was held at King’s College on 27th November 1900.


A copy of this particular menu, signed by some who attended the Dinner, is in the King’s College archives. It shows that the medievalist M.R.James, a good amateur actor who enjoyed reciting his famous ghost stories at ADC events, was present at the Dinner, along with A.A.Milne, then in his Fresher year. All the menus reflect the high gastronomical standards of the various Cambridge colleges at that time, but the dishes on offer at the Agamemnon Dinner seem particularly delicious.

James and Milne could choose from starters that included Potage Dauphine served with an amontillado, Turbot boulli, sauce crevettes and filet de sole a la Villeroi which came with a liebfraumilch, perdrix aux choux, or petites timbales a la Royale, which were served with a 1894 Champagne Irroy.