The sad news is that the latest series of Only Connect has finished.  What will I do now on Monday evenings?

The good news is that the last programme in the series gave me a splendid word that I had never encountered before. It is ‘Mountweazel’, a fictitious entry in a work of reference. These can then take on a life of their own.

Sometimes these are created deliberately; map-makers put fake towns on a map, and so trap plagiarisers who have not done the surveying work themselves. The makers of the CD-ROM Oxford American Dictionary added the made-up word Esquivalience: the wilful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities.’  Apparently some online dictionaries copied the entry unthinkingly, and so could be challenged as mere copyists.

The creation of such things is not always deliberate. In one of his many books, Malcolm Bradbury offered a list of significant novels about the Great War. Among the works of fiction he included C.E. Montague’s Disenchantment, which is, of course, not a novel.  Read More »


Jutland conspiracy

I’ve recorded the Dan Snow documentary about the Battle of Jutland that was on BBC4 yesterday evening. I assume it will up to his usual clear and informative standard, and when I watch it, it will be with a special interest, because I have just been exploring a very different, and frankly nasty, account of the Battle.
I came across it more or less by chance. I was doing some light research on Rose Allatini’s husband, Cyril Scott. I knew that in 1921 a book of his, The Autobiography of a Child, had been banned by the courts, and I’d gathered that this was at the bequest of Lord Alfred Douglas (Oscar Wilde’s lovely Bosie, now grown middle-aged and vicious) who at the time was editing the magazine Plain English. I googled to find out more, and discovered that the 1921 volume of the magazine is online at I found the review of Scott’s book (denouncing ‘its odour of filth’), but found much more beside.
The magazine is horrible – mostly made up of conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism and denunciations of the modern age’s corruption. This front page advertising books from the same publisher gives you an idea of the general tone. Read More »

R. Allatini, woman writer

Olive Dalcroze, the heroine of R. Allatini’s first novel, …Happily Ever After (1914) is herself a writer, and a determined one, though patronised by her family:

let the poor child play with a bit of paper and a pen if it amuses her.

She writes a novel called Hilary and explains to a sympathetic listener the kind of writer she intends to be:

I’ll never be ‘our popular lady novelist’, photographed for the benefit of readers of Home tattle. I’ll never go into the sevenpenny editions, because Hilary, bless his heart, wasn’t written with an eye to please the British Public. The young person who enters the library and vaguely demands ‘something to read’ won’t like my book, because the heroine neither dies in the snow on Christmas Eve nor marries the eldest son of a peer [….] and to cap it all, my hero ends badly – no, they don’t marry – so you see that in the eyes of the young person I am wholly and completely damned.

She sums it up:

No, Isolde, I want to be a woman writer, not a lady novelist.

Read More »

Rose Allatini and ‘romance novels’


Rose Allatini

The excellent news is that Persephone Books are republishing Rose Allatini’s Despised and Rejected as one of their Spring/Summer selections. This novel, of course, was the one that, published under the name of A.T. Fitzroy, described homosexuals and conscientious objectors sympathetically, and was prosecuted in September 1918 as ‘likely to prejudice the recruiting, training, and discipline of persons in His Majesty’s forces’. The book was suppressed and the publisher, C.W. Daniel, fined. Read More »

Why aren’t You in the Army?

For quite a long while now I’ve been collecting examples of the ‘White Feather’ meme, variations on the situation where a woman (often elderly, always self-righteous) accuses a man of being a coward, and is then shown to be ridiculous because he is already a soldier, or is a wounded ex-soldier, or whatever. This postcard shows a farcical variation I hadn’t come across before:

whyaren'tyouin the army
I read jokes like this were a way of keeping the war in its place – by making fun of the excessive kind of war enthusiasm that bosses other people about and intrudes into other people’s privacy.

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:


Read More »

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.