Thursday, 30 September 2010

Big Ali by Harry Carpenter

This short extract was taken from a 'Books and Bookman' issue published in 1972.

Teddy Brenner, a Manhattan cynic who puts fights together at Madison Square Gardens, comes close to
analysing the appeal of Muhammad Ali: "If Ali says that he is going to walk on the East River, you can bet your ass that over 100,000 people will be there to see if it's true."
In the beginning he was easy to assess, when he was plain Cassius Clay, before he got into the Black Muslim, socio-racial scene. In 1963, a year before he was world champion, we met in New York for a filmed interview. "Let's do it on top of the Empire State Building," I said, "so that The greatest can meet The Highest."
He rolled those big eyes in that beautiful black face and said: "Man, you're not as dumb as you look."
He dug those corny ideas, because he was a big, cute Kentucky kid who'd hit on the notion of boasting and predicting rounds ("if he wants to jive, he'll fall in five"). He sold himself to the public by making them livid with his bragging. He told me how, when he fought Archie Moore, a Whitey in the front row kept yelling: "Archie kill that nigger!" Clay laughed: "Man that Archie Moore is blacker than ME!"

Harry Carpenter

Keeping up with the Joneses by Karl Marx

A house may be large or small; as long as the neighbouring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirements for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks into a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighbouring palace rises in equal or even greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls.

Karl Marx

Chapters From A Booksellers Life: Part 2

If you wish to read Part 1 of Chapters From a Booksellers Life Click Here.
This was written by A.L. Humphreys the head of Hatchards the Piccadilly bookshop in 1924 for John O'London's Weekly.

Cecil Rhodes and His Library.

After a few days Mr. Rhodes came again, as he had said he would like to hear how the suggestion had shaped itself in my mind. I did not bother him with tiresome details, nor did I ask him a lot of questions, but I discussed with him, the broad lines upon which the matter might proceed. I remember that upon this occasion he told me incidentally that the "Thoughts of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius" was a specially favourite book of his, and I boldly said it was mine also. He spoke also on that occasion, and many times afterwards, of Van Rieback, the old Dutch governor whose statue he placed on the Quay at Cape Town, and a panel commemorative of him in his house.
The work got well in hand, and I had a large body of men, all first-class scholars - and most of them who were glad enough to co-operate in such a fine scheme. Each author was translated, revised, the MS. typewritten on quarto paper, and then fully indexed and bound in levant morocco of an enduring quality. Mr. Rhodes supplemented his original instructions from time to time, and when the work had only proceeded a little, he decided that although he preferred for his own reading to have everything in English, he thought for the sake of his visitors from England who came to stay with him at Groote Schurr, that he would add to his collection all the original authorities. I therefore obtained fine copies of the well-known sets of the texts of the classics issued by Didot, Lemaire, Panckoucke, Nisard, and others.

Part 3.

That Difficult Second Novel

James Jones second novel
'Some Came Running' is the
perfect example of the difficulty
an author can experience when trying
to follow up a major first novel success.
Even though 'Some Came Running' was
turned into a movie starring Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine,
compared with the blockbuster that was 'From Here To Enternity'
it was seen as a relative failure.

How to Write an Essay: Part 2

To Read Part 1: Click Here

The art of writing an essay or a thesis, or anything more elaborate, is fixed in the truth that writing is a means of communication between man and man. Therefore every good essay is written in collaboration. The collaborators are the writer and the reader. It is true that the reader is not present in flesh when the essay is written. But unless the essayist has dramatized his reader and has, so to speak, domiciled him in his mind from the moment he puts pen to paper, he will fail. Why does so and so bore you to death when he talks? He has, at least, the advantage, or the misery, of seeing you before him, but although he sees your body he does not see into your mind. He talks and talks, and nothing said. It is the tactile apprehension of the reader's mind that matters. A man ought to know when he is becoming vague or tiresome. The art of conversation is mainly the art of listening. When you have listened you may deliver your punch. It is the same in essay-writing: you must be sensitive to your reader's mood and patience. And you must get your message "over the footlights."

To be continiued.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Chapters From A Booksellers Life

Cecil Rhodes and His Library by A.L. Humphreys (Head of Hatchards the Piccadilly bookshop) written in 1924 for John O'London's Weekly.

I was sitting at my usual place at Hatchards one afternoon in 1893 when Mr. J.R. Maguire came in, accompanied by a rather unusual and remarkable looking man, who at first said but little and conveyed to me the instant impression that he was a man none too robust. I already knew Mr. Maguire, and he at once told me that he had brought with him Mr. Cecil Rhodes, whose idea in coming to see me was to discuss a scheme for a library in his private residence in South Africa, and that to begin with he proposed that I should obtain for him a collection of books representing all the authorities which Gibbon must have made use of in writing his "Decline and Fall." After Mr. Maguire had been talking for some time, detailing on behalf of Mr. Rhodes what he had in mind, Rhodes himself began to talk freely, and in a voice which seemed now and again to touch a high falsetto note. All the Rhodes brothers had the same peculiarity of voice, as I found out afterwards. In a few moments I found myself engaged in a very animated talk with Mr. Rhodes over the scheme which he had suggested. It struck me at once, as it would have struck anybody, as being a most original idea, and one of the greatest interest and value.
In the course of that afternoon's talk Mr. Rhodes made certain things very clear to me, and the first was his love for Gibbon's great book, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," and how it had become his companion every time he went to and from London and Cape Town. The second thing he emphasized was his determination to secure in English translations all the authorities used by Gibbon, very many of which had never been translated; and a third matter which remains very clear in my memory is his saying that he realized the magnitude of the undertaking, and he knew that I must get together a body of classical scholars to co-operate. He added that he specially wished that they should be paid for all they did on a liberal scale. He then took out his cheque-book, and although this was the first time I ever had seen him, he left me a large sum of money with which to make a start......

More Chapters From A Booksellers Life.

How to Write an Essay: Part 1

The writing of "essays" has become both a habit and a discipline in our schools, our colleges, our universities, and our self-culture societies; and the ability to write a good "essay" has been made a qualification for early advancement in almost every sphere of specialized work. What is an essay? It is an endeavour, a trial, an attempt. You can essay to do anything. In literature an essay, as defined in Webster's Dictionary, is "a literary composition, analytical or interpretative in nature, dealing with its subject from a more or less limited or personal standpoint, and permitting a considerable freedom of style and method."
This definition is as good as any I require, although I would implore "Webster" to substitute in future editions, the word "kind" for the word "nature." But the definition, good as it is, is hardly abreast of the truth. It would be better if a certain kind of essay - and this the largest in number - were known by the now obsolete term "thesis." A thesis differs from an essay. It is less personal and expansive. An essay is centrifugal in its action, a thesis is centripetal. The essay gives liberty, the thesis demands purpose. The essay may diverge, the thesis must concentrate. The writer of a thesis has to commit themselves to a proposition or, at least, to an orderly statement of facts or opinions concerning a definite matter. Nevertheless, the principles which govern success in producing an "essay" or a thesis are identical up to a certain point. Obviously clear thinking and good English must be found in both. It has happened that the word "essay" has virtually replaced the word "thesis" but the distinction remains. If I am asked how it is possible to write Essays such as were written by Goldsmith, Dr. Johnson, Charles Lamb, and Hazlitt I can impart to you the whole secret and will make you a present of it. All that is necessary is to be a Goldsmith, a Johnson, a Lamb, or a Hazlitt. But I would add that it is much more important, and also much more possible, to be yourself. For a good essay is the trial and expansion of one persons mind and outlook, of their sympathies and emotions. These must be interesting, and the writer's way of conveying them must be magnetic.

Part 2

What's The Bogey?

Rearrange these eighteen letters to form the smallest number of words possible. Each of the eighteen letters must be used, and, of course only once.


We offer a half-guinea book token for the first entry examined which does the round in the minimum number. Answers should be written in the Comments Box below. Good luck.

Monday, 27 September 2010


Nancy was a little boy,
She loved to dance and sing.
His brother Jake was a buxom lass,
Who ran off with the King.

Gary Walker

The Cowboy and the Lady

Old Movie Reviews No.2. The Cowboy and the Lady starring Gary Cooper. Review by Peter Galway in 1939.

The Cowboy and the Lady is a threadbare affair, with the stalest plot in California and nothing to redeem it except Mr. Cooper's unique skill in portraying shy, lanky creatures in the Middle or Far West. Even his charm is severley tested by a scene in which he surveys the house he is building for his wife, and chalks two circles on the floor marked Special Chair For Mary and Special Chair For Me: a fancy which might well incarnadine the cheeks of our own professional whimsy-mongers. Merle Oberon has the thankless part of a lady pretending to be a lady's maid, and there is a horrible old boy of the Nuts-in-May order called Uncle Hannibal, who says, "Dont mind me, I'm only the poor relation," and has a whole lot of senile fun dancing the heebie-jeebies at a night club: "When I think of the time I've wasted teaching political economy," he remarks; but what we think of is the time his unfortunate pupils wasted.

I Am The Law

Old Movie Reviews. This one is from 1939 by Peter Galway in The New Statesman. "I Am The Law" starring Edward G. Robinson.

The cosy code of Hollywood morality is again demonstrated by the latest films of Edward G. Robinson and Gary Cooper. Goodness and domesticity are now all the rage; you're simply not in it unless you posses a whimsical outlook, a cute white terrier, and an appreciation of the Big Simple Things of Life. Robinson who has so often delighted us with his suave villainy, is now a Law Professor with a passion for justice, a dislike of holidays, and a supposedly endearing habit of burning holes in his pockets with a lighted pipe. (As Worcestershire and Moscow well know, there is something about a pipe.) I Am The Law presents the unfamiliar spectacle of Robinson cleaning up a nest of tough folk in his home town, and makes quite an enjoyable specimen of the gangster movie. The plot, if a little too improbable towards the end, always remains ingenious, Wendy Barrie contributes an amusingly intelligent blond doll (school of Damon Runyon), and there is a lovely dog.

The Circus

A review written by the wonderful G.W. Stonier after visiting Bertram Mills' Circus, at Olympia in 1939. Taken from one of our copies of The New Statesman.

What makes the circus? The animals, the acrobats, the clowns? All three? If one had to be dropped, I suppose it would be the clowns; there is not much room in modern entertainment for the comic-pathetic. At Islington, as they totter about between acts, like passers-by after an explosion, as they blow trombones or dangle sausages or unroll incredible lengths of sleeve, they already have a superannuated look; at Olympia (where probably they are better paid), they retain a certain importance and virtuosity. Olympia boasts a woman clown, enough dwarfs to make a Snow White, clowns with electrified noses, clowns riding in palanquins. They are expensive to suit the show. And the best clown of all is at Olympia. It is some time before you are aware of him, a tramp lighting matches among the audience. Once he has fixed you, you do not forget him. The white bears bow, the Liberty ponies bounce round the ring in buxom waves, round and round changing positions: you look to see what has become of your tramp. There he is sitting in some stall or high gallery, striking matches and gazing with anxious attention at giggling lovers or a staid couple in evening dress who look past him in horror. He comes nearer: he is wearing a bowler hat, he has an Assyrian nose, huge white lips, and sad eyes which never flicker. Folding his coat tails he assumes the attitude of Le Penseur on the seat in front of you. From time to time he disappears, to return in another phase of his pilgrimage. I watch him carrying a plank which he tries to affix wherever he sees empty seats adjacent or on opposite sides of a gangway. Late in the evening, before disappearing altogether, he comes round with a broom to sweep up fag-ends; and in moments of inattention - he has a skivvy's dumbstruck admiration of people as he leans on the broom. This anonymous genius, whom I shall remember when I have forgotten everything else about this year's circus, is called, I believe, the American Hobo, ....

Nothing Changes

From a 1939 Daily Express.

Man is the lowest of animals, especially those of the so-called working class.
As for "little children," these are mostly vicious, thieving, destructive pests - you want to go to live in the Hammersmith or North Kessington area and you will soon find out for yourself.

The New Palestine Plan May 20, 1939

This is taken from The New Statesman, May 20, 1939.

The story of Palestine in the last twenty years is one of high hopes, of considerable achievment and of bitter disappointment. In accepting the Mandate we were undertaking a difficult but inspiring experiment - an experiment in nation making. The Palestinian Mandate, like other "A" class Mandates, required the Mandatory Power to fit its wards for self-government. But, unlike any other Mandate, it was complicated by the incorporation of another responsibility - the establishment in the country of  "a National Home for the Jewish people." Nor was that all . We started under the handicap of having during the war given pledges to Arabs and Jews, which, if they were not fundamentally incompatible, were likely to lead, as they have in fact led, to acute controversy and to open conflict. The Arabs objected from the outset both to the Mandate and to the Balfour Declaration. The Jews naturally acclaimed the new project, though there were different views amongst them as to how it was to be carried out and what it was ultimately to mean. The British Government, in the pride and confidence born of victory, entered cheerfully on its duties, and public opinion in general supported it.
The task was, as we saw it then , the making of a united Palestinian nation - the welding of two peoples into one, the harmonising of eastern and western civilisation, the creation of a State in which Arabs and Jews, whilst keeping their own culture, their own language and religion, would have common political and economic interests, ....

Over seventy years on. Depressed?

"John O'London's" Booklovers' Cruise

This piece is from the John O'London's issue of June 9, 1939. It would be fascinating to know if this cruise ever took place.

As at present arranged, the John O'London's Booklovers' Cruise to Gibralter, Casablanca, and Lisbon will take place in the Canadian Pacific liner Montcalm (16,400 tons) during the ten days beginning August 12th next.
It is evident from letters we have received that many of our readers wish to join the party, but are postponing their decision in view of the international situation. We therefore wish to make it clear that the ship will not sail if there is any danger of war, and that all booking fees will be returned in full.
In view of this assurance we hope that all intending passengers will reserve their places at once, as a great deal of organization is involved and time is short.
The cost of the cruise is from £13.2s. upwards, including conference fees. Full particulars can be obtained from The Wayfarers Travel Agency. Ltd., 33, Gordon Square, London, W.C.1, to whom all inquiries should be addressed.

The Ox by H.E. Bates

A short extract from a very rare short story written by H.E. Bates which was only ever published in John O'London's Weekly from June 9, 1939.

The Thurlows lived on a small hill. As though it were not high enough, the house was raised up, as if on invisible stilts, with a wooden flight of steps to the front door. Exposed and isolated, the wind striking at it from all quarters, it seemed to have no part with the surrounding landscape. Empty ploughed lands, in winter time, stretched away on all sides in wet steel curves.
At half-past seven every morning Mrs. Thurlow pushed her great rusty bicycle down the hill; at six every evening she pushed it back. Loaded always with grey bundles of washing, oil-cans, sacks, cabbages, bundles of old newspaper, boughs of wind-blown wood and bags of chicken food, the bicycle could never be ridden. It was a vehicle of necessity. Her relationship to it was that of a beast to a cart. Slopping along beside it, flat, heavy feet pounding painfully along under mud-stained skirts, her face and body ugly with lumpy angles of bone, she was like a beast of burden.
Coming out of the house, raised up even above the level of the small hill, she stepped into a country of wide horizons. This fact meant nothing to her. The world into which she moved was very small: from six to nine she cleaned for the two retired sisters, nine to twelve for the retired photographer, twelve-thirty to three for the poultry farm, four to six for the middle-aged bachelor. She did not think of going beyond the four lines which made up the square of her life. She thought of other people going beyond them, but this was different. Staring down at a succession of wet floors, working always for other people, against time, she had somehow got into the habit of not thinking about herself......

Digitise Your Mum

Music downloads, ebooks, online newspapers, movies on demand. Where will it all end I hear you tweeting? Musicians singing for their cyber supper, great writers left standing in online lines waiting for handouts from publishers that never publish. Will the digital age really give us greater knowledge and more choice? Or will we end with nutters and what sells in Tesco?
Time will tell.

Gary Walker

Friday, 24 September 2010

How To Write Detective Novels

This is a short extract from the chapter entitled 'Plot Construction' from a very rare book published in 1936 by Nigel Morland called 'How To Write Detective Novels'.

A detective novel cannot exist without a plot, carefully worked out and dovetailed together; a straight novel may be written with only the slightest of threads to hold it together. One of the first things to master, then, is the manafacture of plots.
There are two phases of this important procedure. First, the central idea has to be obtained, and, second, this idea has to be developed and expanded so that it will stand being written up to a length of anything from seventy thousand to one hundred thousand words.
Getting ideas for plots is mainly a matter of practice and thinking along productive lines. Inspiration is the resource of the amateur; it plays little part in the work of the professional. Perhaps everyone with an interest in writing could suggest at least one workable plot, but that is of little use when success depends on the ability to sustain a steady output of books as a source of income.

Leisure in a Democracy

A very short extract from the first page of "Leisure in a Democracy" by Viscount Samuel. This was The Sixth Annual Lecture of the National Book League given on November 23, 1948.

The nineteenth century had a poor opinion of the eighteenth; and no doubt, on the whole, its strictures were justified. Yet there was a certain atmosphere about the eighteenth century which we in these days may recall with some regret, even with a little envy. The England of the Vicar of Wakefield and Jane Austen; the London of Canaletto; Georgian architecture and gardens, furniture and pictures, and silver in the candle-light; the prose of Addison and Steele and Gibbon, the poetry of Gray and Cowper; families on Sundays, tranquil and neatly dressed, walking along the footpaths decently to Church. We look around us, and we feel there is something that we are missing.
That way of life could not last. There came the French Revolution, the Terror, the Marseillaise; the armies of Napoleon sweeping over Europe; at one moment poised menacingly close there at Boulogne. La carriere ouverte aux talents; also freedom of thought - opportunity open to ideas. There came science, invention, machines, and the Industrial Revolution: vast, shapeless factory towns, hastily built; millions of working-people, early in the morning, late in the evening, crowding in and out of the gates of the mills, mines, ironworks, shipyards. Afterwards came the Second Industrial Revolution - with electricity, chemical processes, the internal combustion engine, motorcars and airplanes. And now we hear the first rumblings of the Third Industrial Revolution, destined perhaps to be even more subversive than either of the others, tapping for man's service the primal energy of the universe.
We draw breath and look around us, and we are aware of the kind of civilisation that we have. We find in this island six times as many people living as there were in the middle of the eighteenth century. We find cramped homes, congested cities, rush-hour travel, hurry and strain; nature crowded out. As Emerson said;
Things are in the saddle
And ride mankind.

Three Women Diarists

This is a short extract from the introduction from "Three Women Diarists" by Margaret Willy published by the National Book League in 1964. The diarists featured are: Celia Fiennes, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Katherine Mansfield.

The keeping of diaries, as demonstrated by men from Pepys and Evelyn onwards, is by no means a mainly feminine province. Nevertheless there is something in the activity which strongly appeals to female instinct and inclination. The figure of the young girl writing up her private journal in her room late at night is a familiar one in fiction. And in fact, although we might hesitate to go as far as the writer who suggested 'that women make more refreshing, more effective diarists than men', the art of the English diary has been enriched by a good many notable contributions on the distaff side.

"Children of the Silence"

This the preface to "Children of the Silence" by F.W. Kenswil. An account of the Aboriginal Indians of the Upper Mazaruni River, British Guiana. Published in 1946.

In this far-away piece of British Guiana, a most backward and much neglected race of people has been living; living the aimless lives of the hopeless. As we know, we reap, even if we ignorantly sow. This is the inexorable law of life; and, in my observances among these people, I have proved how sadly true this is.
I have been living for twenty-seven years among these Aboriginal Indiansl, I have shared their many sorrows and their few joys, and as the years have rolled by, I have seen many strange, weird, and unbelievable things. I have seen the deep pathos of life, untold suffering, unutterable degredation; but I have also seen those, who in spite of their plight, are looking for the light, and, oh! so wistfully longing for a better chance in life.
Few people have any true knowledge of the life and customs of these Indians, and regarding their origin, no one has been able to advance anything but the most vague hypotheses.
In putting forth this little book, I have tried to show the good that's in the race, necessarily exposing the evil, and the hard fight for existence that has been the lot of these "Children of the Silence".

Thursday, 23 September 2010

New Statesman From 1939

Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti was born in London on 5 December 1830, the fourth and youngest child of Gabriele Rossetti and his wife Frances. Both as a person and as a poet Christia was to be so greatly influenced by her family that in any study of her life and works it is necessary to go into the family background in some detail.
Like his elder son and his younger daughter, Gabriele Rossetti was a poet. He held the position of Curator of Antique Bronzes and Marbles in the Museum at Naples, but his clearly expressed liberal opinions made him objectionable to the government of King Ferdinand and he was obliged to flee the country. Arriving in England in 1824 .....Taken from Christina Rossetti by Georgina Battiscombe SOLD

James Clerk Maxwell

Weird Bookmarks We Find

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Sunflowers (A Village Drama)

Ebenezer Matthews smelled of the soil. His furrowed skin, of a warm tanned colour, gave one a strong suggestion of it. His hands, broad and knotted, never seemed altogether at their ease unless they were gripping a spade, or pressing down the soft earth about tender, newly planted roots.
It was the expression of his eyes which contributed so largely to the atmosphere of something untamed and primal that clung about him. Deep-set eyes he had, bright and penetrating, with an undying sense of space and breadth in their depths. Such a look does one see often in the eyes of captive wild animals. On Saturdays he worked with never failing regularity in the small patch of garden at the back of the house. On these occasions his heart was away, roving on the sinister barren plains of Dartmoor. In the midst of that wild tract of land he had been born and bred. He knew and loved every foot of it. In him had been always a strange, quixotic strain; something of the dreamer and idealist. That was why, when he had been an inarticulate lad of twenty-four, he had married Maisie Gifford.

Maisie was a stupid girl, but the rich red blood of her forefathers flowed vigorously through her veins, giving to her skin a vivid, almost rioutously brilliant colouring. She had "got into trouble" a few months back, and though she refused stubbornly to reveal her lover's name, local suspicion centred largely round a certain "furrin" artist whom her mother had lodged during the previous summer.

Slowly Ebenezer realised, although but dimly, that a living human creature was being deliberately tortured. Much in the same manner as he would have stayed up a whole night in the stable poulticing a horse which had an abscess (and this he had not infrequently done), he asked Maisie to marry him, and she, not fully comprehending his motives, but passionately grateful to anyone who treated her like a human being, married him.

To be continued

Love and Mushrooms

If only one could tell true love from false love as one can tell mushrooms from toadstools. With mushrooms it is so simple, you salt them well, put them aside and have patience. But with love, you have no sooner alighted on anything that bears even the remotest resemblance to it than you are perfectly certain it is only a genuine specimen, but perhaps the only genuine mushroom ungathered. It takes a dreadful number of toadstools to make you realize life is not one long mushroom.

Katherine Mansfield

The Ideal Inn

A big brewery firm has started a new kind of tavern where comfort will be the first consideration. Nothing could be better. The average public-house offers you drink unlimited, but good food never. In this new tavern there will be no bar lounging. There is a flower-decked veranda, dancing if you please, and games of skill. The usual habit of those who know of a perfect inn is not to give the address. This of course, is mere selfishness; the inn I speak of has been started at Bellingham, near Catford. The attributes of a good inn are a good joint of cold roast beef, home-cured bacon, good cheese, and well-flavoured butter. In how many inns in England to-day can these simple things be obtained? I intend to sample the "Fellowship Inn" at Catford.

This was taken from the John O'London's Weekly of July 26, 1924.


I have been gathering wolves' hairs,
The mad dog's foam and the adder's ears;
The spurging of a dead man's eyes.
And all since the evening star did rise.

Ben Jonson

We are lucky enough to have the original publication of this work published in the 17th Century. It is not for sale.

The Cruellest Book In The World?

In 1487 a book was published which gave rise to such human misery and dissension that it might well be termed the cruellest book in the world. Unknown now, save to scholars, the "Malleus Maleficarum," written by a German, was the great authority on witchcraft and contained every possible reference to witches that a vindictive mind could find. Thousands of old women throughout Europe were put to death because of this learned proof that in all probability they were in league with the Devil.
It is amazing nowadays to read of this enormous controversy which raged over a continent and only subsided towards the end of the seventeenth century. We must remember that Shakespeare and Milton, in common with the rest of mankind at the time, believed in witchcraft.

The Credibility Stakes

Belief in the Devil has gone up from 37% to 48% since 1964 in America, with another 20% half persuaded that he exists. Since the proportion of those claiming to believe in God has gone down from 77% to 69% over the same time period, it is now possible that the Devil might one day draw ahead of God in the credibility stakes.

Illustrating Alice

The illustrations to Alice were for Lewis Carroll himself an integral part of the story, and his own weirdly intense drawings in the original manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground throw fascinating light on the subconscious psychological meanings. Tenniel later based his famous drawings closely on these prototypes, with Carroll interesting himself in their progress at every stage until the poor artist was reduced to calling him 'impossible'. It's said that out of the ninety-odd drawings Tenniel did for both Alice books, Carroll only accepted Humpty Dumpty happily - the rest he criticised in practically every detail before requesting the artist to redraw them. The illustrators of Carroll's other books all found him an extremely difficult man to work with as he tried to get them to reproduce exactly his own mental picture of the scene, 'almost as though the artist might photograph Carroll's own imagery', as Phyllis Greenacre aptly puts it in one of the essays in Robert Phillips' enthralling collection Aspects of Alice. In fact her account of his anxious perfectionism includes an absolutely hair-raising story of what the young caricaturist Harry Furniss had to put up with when Carroll, because of his compulsive secrecy, would only send him the manuscript of Sylvie and Bruno after he had cut it into horizontal strips of four or five inches each, then placed the whole lot in a sack and shaken it up. Even though this particular story may be apocryphal, the stammering reclusive Carroll was an obsessional neurotic, who hated unhealthy draughts as much as he loathed little boys, and wrote letters in purple ink all of which had to exactly fill the page, and were then carefully indexed to make up a registry of letters sent and received which at his death numbered more than ninety-eight thousand items.
A complicated man, but without his neurosis it's possible that the wonderful illustrations that brought his stories to life would never have been produced.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Should Poetry Rhyme?

Should your poetry Rhyme?
Should dancers keep in time?
Should should be used again,
Or should I show restrain...t.