Walter Greenwood – New Blog on the Block

Anyone interested in inter-war fiction should take a look at the new blog Walter Greenwood – Not Just Love on the Dole.

It’s by Chris Hopkins, who has just published a book on Greenwood.  The book is a thorough study of Love on the Dole, the novel for which Greenwood is famed, but the blog sets out to show that he was more than just a one-book man.

By the way, this week’s TLS reminds us of another Manchester author, with a review of a new edition of Howard Spring’s Fame is the Spur, which shows the gradual corruption of a working-class socialist politician. Both Spring and Greenwood deserve readers.


Seven Pillars

How seriously was Lawrence of Arabia taken in the mid-thirties? I ask because one of the running jokes in Alan Melville’s detective story Death of Anton (1936) about the unreadability of Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

The novel is set in a circus, and one of the clowns carries a copy of the book around to impress others, but never manages to actually begin reading:

Not reading, merely turning the pages. Mr. Mayhew (for that is his name in real life) has been looking for a suitable place to begin reading the book ever since he bought it, but up to now has failed to find one.

Was this a private joke of Melville’s, or a reflection of a common opinion? Maybe the opinion was only common in the rather camp theatrical circles where Melville thrived. Maybe people like him found it hard to take Lawrence seriously (if only because Lawrence took himself so very very seriously).

Death of Anton is republished in the British Library crime Classics series.  It’s quite a good detective story – better as such than Melville’s Quick Curtain, published in the same series – though that is more entertaining (to me, anyway) because of the theatrical in-jokes.


More pictures

Since the well-informed readers of this blog were so helpful in identifying the ‘Wounded Soldiers’ painting, Rod Beecham asks if anyone can help with some more images, which may be more difficult.

In his book he wants to reproduce this image of J.M. Keynes by Roger Fry:


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Rhythm and Reaction

This is just a note to recommend the exhibition Rhythm and Reaction, at Two Temple Place in London. It tells the story of the introduction of jazz music into Britain before and after the Great War.
From the banjo-playing of the minstrel shows and productions like In Dahomey (1903), via the groundbreaking Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1919) to the absorption of jazz into the repertoire of dance bands, it’s a good story, and told well here, with photos, paintings and artefacts.
The exhibition has much to say about the cultural anxiety caused by jazz in the uncertain postwar years, and highlights the story of John Bulloch Souter’s The Breakdown, a painting that was selected for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1926. Read More »

Wounded Soldiers arriving

Rod Beecham is getting near to publishing his book on First World War prose.  He still has some rights issues to clear up, though.

wounded at station

He would like to use this painting of wounded soldiers arriving at a station (Victoria?) as his cover image, but does not know who painted it, who owns it, or who owns the rights. Can anyone help?

John Hobson Lobley has been suggested as the artist, but Rod isn’t convinced.

Writing Disenchantment

A book I’ve been meaning to read for a while is Andrew Frayn’s
Writing Disenchantment: British First World War prose, 1914–30.

I’ve met Andy at several conferences, and he’s always interesting, though we tend to disagree about plenty of things, especially Richard Aldington.

Alas, his book cost £85 and my time for reading in libraries is limited. Happily, though, Manchester University Press are, until Jan 31st, offering it in their sale, at only £15.

My copy has now arrived, and it looks very good. I like the distinction he draws between disenchantment and disillusionment. But definitely, there are some issues I’d argue about…

I’ll post a review of the book on the blog within the next couple of weeks, but thought I’d mention it now, so that others can take advantage of the generous offer.

MUP are having quite a sale, and there are other promising books on sale at a much-reduced price.

Gibbs list updated

A few weeks ago I posted a checklist of the novels of Philip Gibbs. Several readers kindly sent in suggestions for additions or corrections. I have now incorporated these, and the list is updated.

At the Sheffield Hallam popular fiction reading group, we have been reading Gibbs this month. I read The Winding Lane, his 1931 study of a middlebrow novelist caught between, on the one hand, the pretensions of the intellectual coterie who write the book reviews, and on the other, the vulgarity of the mass market. It’s an interesting study in the sociology of literature, though not a very good novel. My review is online here.

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Looking through the 1915 edition of BLAST (which you can find in its entirety online here).

I was struck by the article by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (‘Written from the Trenches’), and especially by its conclusion:


Whenever I go to an exhibition of British modernist art, it is always Gaudier’s sculpture that most lifts my spirit.

By the time this issue of BLAST appeared, Gaudier was dead.

Philip Gibbs and the war-book boom

The novelist hero of Philip Gibbs’s 1931 novel The Winding Lane is an ex-soldier rather ill at ease in the literary world. At the Pen and Palette, a bohemian club catering for the artistic set, he notes the taste of some of the members:

Some of these middle-aged women praised with rather hysterical enthusiasms the grossness of certain war novels which had lately been the vogue.

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A yawning poet

John Smart has left an interesting comment/question on the Parodies of Modernism page of this blog. Since the list of comments on the right hand side for some reason only lists comments on recent posts,  I’ll repeat his question here so that more people will see it .

In 1917 Elizabeth Asquith held a Poets’ Reading for charity. Eleven poets read: W J Turner, Drinkwater, de la Mare, Belloc, Owen Seaman, Harold Monro, Yeats, Hewlett, Binyon and Squire.

The journalist writes ‘one of the greatest living poets who has written some of the best war poems was not invited to read, but yawned effectively.’

He asks if I’ve any idea who the poet was. I haven’t. Maybe one of my readers has.

Since the poet is labelled ‘one of the greatest living poets’ I don’t think it’s one of the young soldier-poets who were just beginning to make their name. I’ll put a tentative bet on Thomas Hardy.
Probably the only way to find out for sure is to check diaries of the period. Mr Smart, do you have an approximate date in 1917? I’ll take a look at Margot Asquith’s diary. Also Arnold Bennett’s journal, since he records several readings of war poetry.