Girl of Good Family by ‘Lucian Wainwright’

I have really enjoyed reading Girl of Good Family (1935) by ‘Lucian Wainwright’, a pen-name of Rose Allatini. It was written nearly twenty years after her notorious banned novel Despised and Rejected, but returns to the war years described in that book. This novel is at least partly based on Allatini’s own life, but disguises characters and situations, and sometimes skates away from things better left unsaid.

The heroine, Sacha, is born in Vienna, to a Jewish family (the Montadores) whose roots are in Spain. This is very like the situation of Rose Allatini herself, also born in Vienna in 1890, but to a Jewish family whose nationality is Italian. A major theme of the book is Sasha’s sense of belonging both to Vienna and to England.

The first chapters show Sasha as a young girl in Vienna, attending the the arranged marriage of one of her female relatives to ‘the strange gentleman with the short legs and the long beard’, whom none of the intrigued young female guests consider any kind of a romantic figure. It is implied that some such arrangement will be her future, too. A few years later (in perhaps 1908) she is back for the Season in Vienna, and all her female relatives are matchmaking on her behalf. Read More »

Allatini after Fitzroy

Rose-Allatini

Thinking about C. W. Daniel has revived my curiosity about Rose Allatini, whose novel Despised and Rejected got him into so much trouble.

She lived until 1980, and apparently wrote forty-odd novels, under a variety of pseudonyms, including Lucian Wainwright, Mrs Cyril Scott, and  Eunice Buckley. I can’t find out much about them, though. Are any as remarkable in their treatment of sexual themes as Despised and Rejected?

Out of curiosity, I’ve taken a look at bookfinder.com and have plumped more or less at random for Girl of Good Family (1935) by ‘Lucian Wainwright’. I’ve only just started it, but the opening chapter is intriguing, about a Jewish arranged marriage. I think there may be some Great War material later in the book.
I’ll report back when I’ve finished with a review of the book. Meanwhile, though, I’d be very glad to hear from anyone who has read any other Wainwright or Buckley or Allatini or Scott or Fitzroy novels.

Murderous Tommies

murdtom

The Manual of Military Law published by the War Office in 1914 explicitly stated:

The object of military law is to maintain discipline among the troops and other persons forming part of or following an army.

Inevitably there were occasions when this objective clashed with what today we think of as the human rights of soldiers. The executions of those found guilty of cowardice or desertion have caused a great deal of disquiet over the succeeding century, but when Defence Minister Des Browne got himself some easy political kudos in 2006 by issuing a blanket pardon to these victims of the military machine, he did not extend his gesture of historical mercy to include the soldiers who had been executed for murder.
In Murderous Tommies, Julian Putkowski and Mark Dunning examine court-martial records of thirteen men who were tried and executed for murder while serving in France or Belgium. I am grateful to Julain Putkowski for sending me a copy of the book, which I found absorbing.
Most of these cases were briefly discussed in Cathryn Corns and John Hughes-Wilson’s Blindfold and Alone, but the fuller accounts in this book give reason to question the judgement of Corns and Hughes-Wilson that:

If we review the trial transcripts of the men executed for murder, there seems little doubt that they received a fair trial and were guilty of the offence as charged.

In at least one case, that of Lance Sergeant Arthur Wickings, who was accused of murdering a French prostitute in Le Havre , there is definitely room for reasonable doubt. The evidence against Wickings was confused and circumstantial, depending upon not entirely dependable identifications. Read More »

C. W. Daniel, radical publisher

I spent Tuesday afternoon pleasantly, bookshopping in Sheffield, and bought something of a rarity from Rare and Racy, the books-and-music shop on Devonshire Street.

danielcover
It is a small pamphlet issued as a tribute to pacifist publisher C. W. Daniel, shortly after his death in 1955.
I’ve written about Daniel here before, especially after my research session a few years ago exploring his firm’s archive in Amsterdam. He’s the pacifist publisher who went to jail rather than pay a fine when the anti-war pamphlet he wrote was published. He was prosecuted again when he published the astonishing novel of pacifists and sexual polymorphs, Despised and Rejected by Rose Allatini (alias A. T. Fitzroy).
This pamphlet is anonymous, but gives a short biography of Daniel.

Born in 1871, he was 12 years old when his father, an employee of the Frederick Warne & Co. publishing house, died. Young Charles therefore soon had to earn his living, first as an office boy in Hatton Garden, and then in the office of an advertising agency. Eventually he became an employee of the Walter Scott publishing company in Paternoster Row.
This company published the works of Tolstoy, a thinker in whom Charles was already interested. He was strongly influenced by the Tolstoyan lecturer J. C. Kenworthy, and eventually he started the Sunday discussion group that eventually became the London Tolstoyan Society. At this stage, Daniel had the nicknames ‘Beethoven’ (because he resembled the composer’s portrait) and ‘the pale young curate’. One of the visitors to these meetings was Florence Worland, whom he married some years later.

cwd1902

C W Daniel in 1902

In 1902 Charles Daniel started his own small publishing business in Cursitor Street (off Chancery Lane, between Fleet Street and Holborn). Read More »

Churchill on the Kaiser

‘At every crisis he crumpled. In defeat he fled; in revolution he abdicated; in exile he remarried.’

The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands

coronel and f

This is the latest DVD release from the BFI, and it’s very good indeed.
The Battles of Coronel and the Falkland Islands were the first sea battles of the Great War. At Coronel in November 1914, Admiral Graf von Spee’s German force, led by armoured cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, picked off the smaller British cruisers Monmouth and Good Hope. There were no survivors from these sinkings; 1,600 British officers and men were killed, including Admiral Cradock. A British task force was hastily put together to avenge these losses, including the Inflexible and the Invincible. Intelligence revealed that Germans were heading to capture the Falklands, which the British used as a coaling station; the British fleet got there before them, and this time they had superiority of craft and guns. The two big German ships were destroyed.

shipsonfire

The BFI have just published the DVD of a new, digitally remastered version of Walter Summers’s 1928 film The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (and it’s an excellent remastering, looking sharply  different from some of the muddy-looking versions of silent films  currently available.) This was the third war film that Summers made for British Instructional Films. Read More »

Gertrude Harris

A remarkable lady died on Tuesday, at the age of 101. Gertrude Harris campaigned for many years to clear the name of her father, Harry Farr, who had been executed by firing squad in 1916. Eventually her efforts, and those of others, persuaded Des Browne, then Minister of Defence, to issue a blanket pardon for all those charged with desertion or cowardice.

My own prejudice is against blanket pardons, which mostly seem to be about current politicians trying to ingratiate themselves by distancing themselves from the past and claiming ‘We’re not like that any more.’ There was definite injustice done to Harry Farr, though, and I greatly admire his family for their spirit in leading the campaign.

There is a letter from Julian Putkowski in today’s Guardian that pays a personal tribute to Gertrude Harris.

Adventures of War: With Cross and Crescent

balkans

It was early in September of 1912 that Europe became alarmed by the menace of war [….] Macedonia, that vague and troublesome territory which for centuries has been the theatre of guerrilla warfare, of vendettas, of massacres and murders between Christians and Turks, was to be the cause of quarrel…

Adventures of War: With Cross and Crescent (1912) is, as I remarked a few days ago, the work of two British journalists who travelled eastwards to see the war. Philip Gibbs, later to be one of the most notable correspondents reporting the Great War, was with the Serbians and Bulgarians, and sending reports back to the Daily Graphic; Bernard Grant was a photographer for the Daily Mirror.
As the introductory chapter acknowledges, the book gives ‘but meagre descriptions of the battles which were fought with such startling rapidity by the Bulgarians and their allies […] with that irresistible courage and genius which has destroyed the power of the Turk in Europe.’
On the other hand, the book gives a very good idea of the problems, frustrations, comedies, excitements and occasional moments of terror that were part of the war correspondent’s life in the early twentieth century. There is a great deal about his battles with censors and bureaucracy. Correspondents were welcomed in principle, but kept as far from the action as possible, and were not trusted.
This was a war of fast and murderous movement. The ill-prepared Turks (see Gibbs’s description of the poor quality of their weapons and equipment) were no match for the formidable Bulgarians. The war was won, according to Gibbs, by the peasant reservists who

flung off their heavy coats, and threw down water bottles, knapsacks and all impedimenta, so that they might have free play with the bayonet; and again and again, reckless of death, charged with fierce exultant shouts, only to be swept back by a withering fire. Seven times the Bulgarians swept up to the Turkish position and seven times they were driven back by the enemy’s battalions. When for the eighth time the Bulgarians began to storm the positions, the Turks, whose far-extended artillery was almost silenced, were so shaken that only a crippled resistance was offered.

Read More »

War correspondents in the First Balkan War

There has been much discussion here recently about the (sometimes good, sometimes awful) paintings of C. R. W. Nevinson. By chance, the book I’m currently reading has a photograph of his father, Henry Nevinson, the distinguished war correspondent.

nevinson and gibbs

Here he is with Horace Grant and Philip Gibbs and two unknown Serbians, getting ready to report on the Balkan War of 1912.

The book is Adventures of War: With Cross and Crescent, by Philip Gibbs and Bernard Grant. Gibbs was reporting the war for the Daily Graphic, and Bernard Grant was a photographer for the Daily Mirror. Gibbs was with the Serbians and Bulgarians, and Grant was with the Turks, so the book reports both sides of the struggle, and is something of a marvel of instant history; its publication date is proudly stated as December 19th, 1912, just a month after the last calamities recorded in the book. The war itself did not actually end until well into 1913.

The Balkan Wars are now rarely remembered outside the territories affected, but they were of immense historical importance, since they meant the ejection of Turkey from eastern Europe, and the end of the last vestiges of the Ottoman Empire.

I’ll write a fuller report of the book later, and describe some of the horrors that Grant saw among the defeated Turks. For now I shall just quote some of Gibbs’s reflections after Turks had fled a battle in panic: Read More »

W. Pett Ridge and the future war

I knew, of course, that before 1914 there were plenty of Future War novels and stories, making the British public’s flesh creep with the prospect of invasion.
Still, it was a surprise to come across this in the middle of W. Pett Ridge’s rather cosy family saga: Thanks to Sanderson (1912). heading for work, Mr Sanderson chats with the station bookseller:

Bookstall clerk, rather anxious concerning the intentions of a foreign gentleman whom he calls William, occasionally becomes so apprehensive that one can almost hear the tramp of German soldiers marching past the church and over the bridge, with Messrs. Smith’s wooden shelves and their contents as the principal objective.

James and his acquaintances discuss the topic briefly on the train, but they soon

find in flower-gardening a more acutely interesting matter for discussion, and specimens are taken from buttonholes and passed around for discussion.

Pett Ridge obviously doesn’t take the war threat very seriously, but this vignette is still an interesting little snapshot of pre-war public opinion.
W. Pett Ridge is one of those turn-of-the-century bestsellers who were famous in their time, but now almost entirely forgotten. Read More »

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