A Kipling bargain

I can’t believe my luck. Some years ago, the Cambridge University Press published Thomas Pinney’s three-volume edition of Kipling’s collected poems. I blogged about the publication at the time, but the price of the set was £225 -beyond the budget of an ageing pensioner such as myself.

A few weeks ago, loitering on Bookfinder.com, as I often do, I came across an offer of the whole set for £25. I couldn’t believe it. Was this for one volume only, perhaps? No – the listing definitely said three volumes, and, I triple-checked, not of any old Kipling collection, but of Professor Pinney’s magisterial Cambridge job.

I had to wait a while. It came from America, by sea (the postage was very cheap, as well as the books). But today it arrived, Three volumes, complete, in excellent condition. And when I look at the Bookfinder site today, I find that the cheapest set on offer there is priced at £197…

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Charlotte Mew

Charlotte Mew when young.

This is just a note to say how much I am enjoying the new edition of Charlotte Mew’s Selected Poetry and Prose, edited by Julia Copus, and recently published by Faber.

The Mew poems that speak most to me are her dramatic monologues, often with a touch of dialect, and the poems about people whose minds are differently shaped from the normal, like ‘Ken’. two of her siblings were in mental institutions, and she had obviously thought deeply about the subject.

But she was, in her own way, a war poet, too. ‘The Cenotaph’ is often anthologised, but I also like this one from June, 1915:

Who thinks of June’s first rose today?
Only some child, perhaps, with shining eyes and
rough bright hair will reach it down.
In a green sunny lane, to us almost as far away
As are the fearless stars from these veiled lamps of town.
What’s little June to a great broken world with eyes gone dim
From too much looking on the face of grief, the face of dread?
Or what’s the broken world to June and him
Of the small eager hand, the shining eyes, the rough bright head?

Carlyle’s Statue

Carlyle’s statue in Kelvingrove, Glasgow, after recent vandalism.

The news last week, suddenly, was all about the toppling of statues. When it comes to the bronze representation of a slave-owner like Colston in Bristol, my only feeling is a mild surprise that it hasn’t been quietly got rid of long ago (which would have avoided its noisy elimination this week).

List of targeted statues. Click it for a larger image.

But when I examined the list of statues that activists want to be demolished, one name caught my eye. It was that of the Victorian essayist, historian and trouble-maker, Thomas Carlyle, who has long been an enthusiasm of mine. His monument in Glasgow has already been daubed with paint, and some, apparently, would like it removed altogether.

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On the Use of Books

People like me sometimes express disquiet about the future of the book. The digital is taking over. Young people prefer their phones to a paperback. And so on.

This week, though, I learned something that suggests the book still has at the very least a certain cultural cachet.

I paid a visit to the workshop of a craftsman, a skilled carpenter who makes excellent furniture. He was in good spirits, because during lockdown his business has not slumped. In fact it has been doing surprisingly well. Businessmen and others are putting in lucrative orders for bookcases, which they need in order to give themselves an impressive and prestigious background during video chats when working at home.

As Anthony Powell’s ‘Books’ Bagshaw might have put it: Books do furnish a Zoom.

War Illustrated

Peter Jackson’s film They Shall Not Grow Old is technically astonishing, but some things about it worry me. One of these is its use of pictures from the magazine War Illustrated, published weekly between September 1914 and February 1919.

I bought some 1916 issues on Ebay recently, and they have made interesting reading.

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‘the word known to all men’

Tom Deveson’s comment on my Y.Y. post reminds us of Joyce and his linguistic taboo-breaking. Robert Lynd was cautious about this:

‘There are things that even hardened war veterans do not like to see in cold print.’

It’s interesting to see the association of swearing and the war. Even civilians like Lynd had gathered that the war was an obscenity-rich environment, where even those brought up carefully might become hardened to the most basic kinds of language.

This reminds me of a theory I’ve been forming for some time. I am not an especially obsessive Joycean, and those who know more about the subject may shoot me down in flames for this, but I might as well explain my idea here, in the hope that it might interest someone.

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On Ebay again, I’ve bought a job lot of David Low caricatures as issued as supplements to the New Statesman in 1926.

Most are named, but one is puzzling me:

The initials Y.Y. are foxing me – though I have an idea that I ought to know who this is. Can anyone enlighten me?

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Tipping a policeman

I’m indulging myself during this tedious lockdown by re-reading Arnold Bennett’s Imperial Palace (1930). At the moment I’m wondering about something that occurs in the episode where dynamic Gracie Savott parks her car outside Smithfield market, and asks a policman to keep an eye on it.
On leaving the market, ‘she resumed her dark cloak, tipped the policeman before Evelyn could do so, and slowly climbed into the car’.
I’ve come across the custom of tipping policeman before in novels of the twenties, especially detective novels.
These days, though, I’ve feeling that I’d be regarded with some suspicion if I offered our local community police officer a fiver for services rendered. So – does anyone know when the custom of tipping policemen ended? My guess would be somewhere about the Second World War. Am I right?

Douglas Goldring, Patrick Hamilton

I’ve just realised that I never mentioned on this blog that I recently wrote a review of Douglas Goldring’s The Fortune (1917) for the Sheffield Hallam Popular Fiction blog.

Goldring’s book is remarkable for its depiction of James Murdoch, a man who objects to war not on religious or political grounds, but because it seems an unnecessary and sentimental enterprise. The scene in which he defends his attitudes to a military Tribunal is very well done. Read the review here.

Goldring’s novel is a dissection of English attitudes, as is another book I’ve recently reviewed for the Sheffield blog, Patrick Hamilton’s Impromptu in Moribundia (1939). You can read about it here.

Max Beerbohm and ‘Tubby’ Clayton

Idle in the lockdown, I did a bit of exploring in Ebay, a site where I’ve not ventured much recently. I bought myself this print, a drawing of Rev. P.B. ‘Tubby’ Clayton by Max Beerbohm, one of a set of lithographs of current notables that Max drew for the Spectator in 1931.

I have a small collection of Beerbohm prints (with a display of his caricatures from Vanity Fair in our dining room, and a few from The Poets’ Corner scattered around the house) and copies of almost all of his books. I’m mostly a haphazard collector of things, but Beerbohm is one of the few authors and artists for whom i’d like to be a completist.

But what I want to ask is – why ‘Tubby’ Clayton? I can’t think of anyone less like Max, a non-religious aesthete who avoided all kinds of earnestness, than Clayton, the humane padre who was the moving spirit behind Toc H (Talbot House) the building in Poperinghe that offered teetotal rest and relaxation to soldiers. There was a chapel upstairs, but soldiers were under no pressure to visit it. It was a place where they could sit, chat and write letters (without the distractions and temptations found in the bars and brothels that were the other main attractions in Poperinghe.)

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