Archive for the 'Britain' Category

The Boyhood of Raleigh

June 17 2013

The Boyhood of Raleigh 1870 by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896

John Everett Millais, The Boyhood of Raleigh, Royal Academy, 1871, Tate Britain; click for better resolution

The young Walter Raleigh and his brother. I presume his full, older brother Carew. Influenced by an essay by James Anthony FroudeEngland’s Forgotten Worthies, in Short Studies on Great Subjects, First Series, 1867, and perhaps by a contemporaneous biography which imagined Raleigh’s boyhood.

Background painted at Budleigh Salterton, near Exeter, close to where Raleigh grew up. According to Millais’ biographer, Marion Spielmann, the sailor, a professional model, was intended to be Genoese. He perhaps points to the Spanish Main. Millais’ sons modelled for the boys. There is a model ship in the foreground.

If Millais had been a more imaginative painter, he would surely have included a still-life element to hint at or predict his subject’s execution. Is there something?

The phrase “Go west, young man” is about crossing land – the American continent – not the Atlantic and is attributed, with some uncertainty, to the founder and editor (1841-72) of the New-York Tribune, Horace Greeley.

Charles Kingsley’s novel Westward Ho!, 1855, was about Francis Drake. The title was derived from the call of boat taxis on the Thames (eastward ho!, westward ho!) and is also a nod towards the play Westward Hoe by John Webster and Thomas Dekker, written circa 1604, on the perils of the westward expansion of London.

The tobacco and cloak anecdotes are Raleigh, the game of bowls anecdote is Drake. Drake was another Devonian, born at Tavistock.

Britten’s addresses

June 13 2013

Britten 2013. More here later. Tyler Cowen yesterday. I agree with Cowen on Cello Symphony and Winter Words, not on War Requiem and not on Peter Grimes.

This is mainly from John BridcutThe Faber Pocket Guide to Britten, Faber and Faber, 2010.

1913-30 21 Kirkley Cliff Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk

1930-33 London addresses while at RCM

1933-35 21 Kirkley Cliff Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk

1935-38 London addresses (and Peasenhall Hall, Saxmundham, Suffolk while converting the Mill)

1938-39 The Old Mill, Snape, Suffolk (and London addresses)

1939-40 Amityville, Long Island

1940-41 Brooklyn Heights

1941-42 Amityville, Long Island

1942-47 The Old Mill, Snape, Suffolk

1947-57 Crag House, Aldeburgh, Suffolk

1957-76 The Red House, Aldeburgh, Suffolk (and, from 1970, Chapel House, Horham, Suffolk for composing)

Various London addresses after return from US


So The Old Mill, Crag House, The Red House.

Aldeburgh Festival:

1948-66 Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh

1967- The Maltings, Snape



Emily Davison at the Derby

June 5 2013

100 years ago yesterday. As presented by Andrew Marr in his television History of the World shown last year: not recommended on the whole. The song in the middle of the clip is Ethel Smyth’s The March of the Women (1911).

In the following year, a less-known suffragette, Maude Smith (alias Mary Spencer), slashed a nude, Primavera, painted by my great-grandfather, George Clausen, while it was hanging in the Royal Academy. I’ll do a post on that one day, and on the more famous slashing of the Rokeby Venus in the same year by Mary Richardson.

I like Ethel Smyth’s description of Brahms, whom she revered, in her memoirs Impressions That Remained (1919):

“His ways with other women-folk [than Lili Wach, and Clara Schumann and her daughters] – or, to use the detestable word for ever on his lips, Weibsbilder – were less admirable. If they did not appeal to him he was incredibly awkward and ungracious; if they were pretty he had an unpleasant way of leaning back in his chair, pouting out his lips, stroking his moustache, and staring at them as a greedy boy stares at jam-tartlets. People used to think this rather delightful, specially hailing it, too, as a sign that the great man was in high good humour, but it angered me, as did also his jokes about women, and his everlasting gibes at any, excepting Lisl [von Herzogenberg] of course, who possessed brains or indeed ideas of any kind.”

Foreign fields

June 3 2013

Anglican and partly-Anglican cemeteries in non-English-speaking countries:

Bangkok Protestant Cemetery

Bilbao British Cemetery

Bornova Anglican Cemetery, Izmir

British Cemetery, Callao

British Cemetery, Madrid

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Cheras Christian Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur

Christian Cemetery, Dhaka

English Cemetery, Florence

English Cemetery, Malaga

English Cemetery, Naples

First Cemetery of Athens

Gora Kabristan, Lahore

Feriköy Protestant Cemetery, Istanbul

Mount Zion Cemetery, Jerusalem

Old English Cemetery, Livorno

Old Protestant Cemetery, George Town

Old Protestant Cemetery, Macau

Protestant Cemetery, Rome

Protestant Cemetery, São Paulo

Yarborough Cemetery, Belize City

This, of course not complete, is everything relevant in a Wikipedia list of Anglican cemeteries generally. Apart from Lahore and Dhaka, it has nothing from British India, but it mentions the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia.

The rather user-unfriendly BACSA site says: “People sometimes think that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission [my link] cares for all graves in Britain’s former Empire, but in fact the Commission only deals with the graves of soldiers [of all Commonwealth countries] killed in World War One and World War Two. The graves of European civilians, and soldiers who died before World War One, and between the two World Wars, generally have no-one to protect them, or to record their inscriptions, which is where BACSA comes in.

“BACSA – the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia – was set up in 1977 to bring together people with a concern for the many thousands of British and other European cemeteries, isolated graves and monuments in South Asia. There is no one body or agency responsible for looking after these last resting places in the area from the Red Sea to the China Coast – wherever the East India Company and its rivals from France, the Netherlands and Denmark set foot. An estimated two million Europeans and Anglo-Indians – mainly British administrators, soldiers, merchants and their families – are buried in the Indian sub-continent alone. Without our support many of their graves and monuments – witnesses to centuries of European residence in the area – would disappear.

“We record the locations of cemeteries and monuments, and the inscriptions on headstones. We publish cemetery and church records containing names, inscriptions and biographical notes on individual tombs and gravestones. We support local people active in the restoration and conservation of European graveyards.”

It is run by volunteers and has a membership of 1,400 in the UK and elsewhere.

Another site,, “is attempting to preserve the images of graves and monuments before they disappear. It covers the area which used to be British India and includes present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Entries are not limited to British citizens. Monuments cover many nationalities. All information comes ad hoc from volunteers, therefore it is not an exhaustive and accurate survey.

“When I [John, site owner] started looking around cemeteries, I was shocked by the state of neglect of most of them. Monuments of British men, women and children, who had sometimes died in the most tragic ways, were crumbling into the dust. Some of the local people had a genuine interest in these cemeteries and were trying to get something done, but much of the money which is awarded for renovation work does not reach the people doing the work.

“The British Government, I was told, contributes nothing. [It does only in so far as it is a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.] If this is true, then it is indeed a disgrace.

“This site is a photographic record of those cemeteries and churches which I visited, along with transcriptions of the memorials and gravestones. They are not an exhaustive survey, as time did not permit. Since this site started it has continued to grow as contributions are sent in by other people.”

Quotations edited.

Old English Cemetery overview

The overgrown Old English Cemetery at Livorno

Carillon de Westminster

May 19 2013

À mon ami Henry Willis, facteur d’orgues à Londres.

From Louis Vierne, 24 Pièces de fantaisie: troisième suite, opus 54 (four suites each have six pieces and a separate opus number), 1927, Ben van OostenCavaillé-Coll organ, Church of Saint-Ouen, Rouen. The image is of the blind Vierne.

Another good performance, more volume in the recording, smaller instrument, less spacious: Christopher Keenan, Holtkamp organ at Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins.

Westminster Quarters (old post).

On the Tombs in Westminster Abbey

May 14 2013

Mortality, behold and fear!
What a change of flesh is here!

No attribution, but Francis Beaumont.

“Mortality, behold and fear
What a change of flesh is here!
Think how many royal bones
Sleep within these heaps of stones;
Here they lie, had realms and lands,
Who now want strength to stir their hands,
Where from their pulpits seal’d with dust
They preach, ‘In greatness is no trust.’
Here’s an acre sown indeed
With the richest royallest seed
That the earth did e’er suck in
Since the first man died for sin:
Here the bones of birth have cried,
‘Though gods they were, as men they died!’
Here are sands, ignoble things,
Dropt from the ruin’d sides of kings:
Here’s a world of pomp and state
Buried in dust, once dead by fate.”

The poem is in The Golden Treasury.

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

Bacon and the Jabberwock

May 9 2013

Unless I am googling lazily, this hasn’t been said, but surely it’s obvious. Francis Bacon was influenced by Tenniel’s illustration of the Jabberwock in Through the Looking-Glass.

Even Wikipedia’s detailed dedicated page on influences on Bacon doesn’t mention Tenniel. It mentions Eisenstein, and to see what they mean, go to their main Bacon page.

See Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) and others.

My grandfather was fond of saying that Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice were the best ever made for a book, or books.

The nineteenth century (old post).

All quiet on the European front

May 8 2013

Earl Granville, on succeeding to the foreign office, on the death of Lord Clarendon, on 27 June 1870, stated in the House of Lords, on the assurance of Hammond, that the world had never been so profoundly at peace, or the diplomatic atmosphere so serene.”

This was in Gladstone’s first ministry, 1868-74. Hammond, the permanent under secretary, had strolled into Granville’s office and remarked that “he had never during his long experience known so great a lull in foreign affairs” and that he was not aware of any important question that demanded his new chief’s attention.


George Clement Boase, article on Edmund Hammond in the original Dictionary of National Biography (first quotation).

CJ Bartlett, Clarendon, the Foreign Office and the Hohenzollern Candidature, 1868-1870, The English Historical Review, Vol 75, No 295, April 1960, quoting Sir John Tilley and Stephen Gaselee, The Foreign Office, GP Putnam’s Sons, 1933 (second quotation). 

They sound like Jeeves.

The European ideal

May 7 2013

Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it’s worked so well?

Hacker: That’s all ancient history, surely?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it’s just like old times.

Hacker: But surely we’re all committed to the European ideal?

Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.

Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?

Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It’s just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.

Hacker: What appalling cynicism.

Sir Humphrey: Yes. … We call it diplomacy, Minister.”


Yes Minister, The Writing on the Wall, series one, episode five. I might have been remembering this when I said something similarYes, Minister ran for twenty-two episodes on BBC 2 television from 1980 to ’84. It was followed by sixteen of Yes, Prime Minister from ’86 to ’88. They were an essential part of the Thatcher years, but are a little dated now.

Cast: Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker, Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby, Derek Fowlds as the minister’s principal private secretary Bernard Woolley. Scripts: Antony Jay, Jonathan Lynn. Sources: included cabinet diaries of Richard Crossman. Text here: Wikiquote.

Namier’s eyes

May 6 2013

One of Namier’s eyes was a rabbinical scholar’s. He was proudly conscious of his descent from the Gaon of Vilna. The other eye was a Polish landowner’s. His family were Roman Catholic (Latin rite) landowners of Jewish origin in the eastern part of Galicia [post here]. Galicia was at that time one of the crown lands of the Empire of Austria. It is divided to-day between two Communist republics: Poland and the Ukrainian constituent republic of the Soviet Union.

Namier’s hereditary rabbinical eye for minutiæ is surely part of the secret of his success in applying the prosopographical method to the study of 18th-century British politics. After he and I had each struck out our different lines of inquiry, Namier once said to me that at least we resembled each other in dealing with history differently from the way followed by most contemporary historians.

“You,” he said, “try to look at the whole tree. I try to dissect the tree’s texture, leaf by leaf. Most of the others break off a branch and try to cope with that. You and I agree,” Namier added, “in not favouring that method.”

Namier’s vein of Jewishness was, of course, not exclusively intellectual. He had also inherited a Jewish emotional intensity and even fanaticism. [Toynbee has a habit of equating Jewish with fanatical. Namier’s Zionism led to a temporary rift with Toynbee.] So, when he discovered the 17th-century English Puritan writers, their spirit struck an answering chord in him. They, and not their Laodicean 18th-century successors, were Namier’s first love in his wooing of England past and present.

Meanwhile, Namier’s other eye – his Polish Roman Catholic one – was also making penetrating observations of English life; and here, too, Namier saw things to which our native English eyes had been blind, because we had taken these things for granted. I remember his excitement over his discovery of the emotional timbre that is given to the English language by the use of Biblical quotations and allusions. This was a stop which the organ of the Polish language did not possess, and which therefore caught Namier’s ear when he listened to the music of English speech. The Biblical note was lacking in the Polish language, for Roman Catholics of the Latin rite the Bible was imprisoned in the Latin of the Vulgate. There was no consecrated and familiar translation in the vernacular which could influence the living language, as King James I’s authorised version of the Bible has influenced the English language ever since it was published.

Lewis Namier, Historian, Encounter, Vol 16, No 1, January 1961 (more from this in yesterday’s post)

The Foreign Office’s ignorance about Europe

May 5 2013

One day, a week or two before the armistice of 1918, [Lewis] Namier staggered into my room in the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office, where we were both then working as temporary Foreign Office clerks. He had a look of stupefaction on his face, and could hardly describe to me coherently what had just happened to him.

What had happened was that Lord Robert Cecil had sent for Namier to learn from him something about Austria-Hungary. Cecil needed to know something about her now, as he had just been appointed head of the League of Nations section of the British delegation to the forthcoming peace conference. Namier had come into the Minister’s room with a map of the Dual Monarchy in his hand. He had chosen a simple map in three colours: Austria red, Hungary yellow, Bosnia-Herzegovina green (the map was still in Namier’s hand, and I have remembered those colours to this day).

“This map must be wrong,” Lord Robert had said, putting his finger on Namier’s native Galicia, of all places. “This piece ought to be yellow, not red, oughtn’t it?”

“No,” Namier had shyly instructed him, “Galicia is part of Austria, not of Hungary.”

There had been a moment’s pause, and then Lord Robert had added meditatively: “What a funny shape Austria must be.” And this from a man who had lived through the war as Minister of the Crown in charge of the blockade of the Central Powers.

Such British ignorance as this was shattering for Namier. I expect, every time that he recollected the incident, it gave him, ever after, an undiminished shock. Yet there was one pertinent point which probably escaped Namier’s notice, because it needs a native-born Englishman’s prosaic mind to appreciate anything so absurdly practical. Lord Robert’s ignorance of Austria-Hungary was indeed as colossal as only an Englishman’s could be. But it was colossal without being detrimental; for, after all, Lord Robert did not really need to know much about the Monarchy’s curious structure in order to do his two successive jobs of blockading her while she was still in being and launching the League of Nations after she had ceased to be. This is, of course, a typically English defence that Namier could not ever have accepted. He could never have become naturalised to that degree.

So there I will leave him, a fully naturalised Englishman at heart, but never quite naturalised intellectually – and thank goodness for that. If he had succeeded in becoming one hundred per cent English in mind, he could never have done the great things that he has done for English historical scholarship.

Contrast the quality of our knowledge of parts of the world with which we wished to be permanently involved.

Lord Robert Cecil (1864-1958), the son of Salisbury, the prime minister, was a lawyer, became a Conservative MP in 1906, and served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from May 30 1915 to January 10 1919 (second Asquith ministry and Lloyd George ministry) and in the cabinet as Minister of Blockade from February 23 1916 to July 18 1918.

In September 1916, he circulated a memorandum making proposals for the avoidance of war, which he said was the “first document from which sprang British official advocacy of the League of Nations”.

At the Peace Conference, he was the British representative in charge of negotiations for a League of Nations. From 1920 to ’22, he represented the Dominion of South Africa in the Assembly. In 1923 he toured the US, explaining the League to American audiences. He was raised to the peerage as Viscount Cecil of Chelwood at the end of that year.

In the Conservative administrations of 1923 to ’24 and ’24 to ’27, he was the minister responsible, under the Foreign Secretary, for British activities in League affairs.

He was president of the British League of Nations Union from 1923 to ’45, and in 1936 joint founder and president, with a French jurist, Pierre Cot, of the International Peace Campaign or Rassemblement universel pour la paix. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937.

In the spring of 1946, he participated in the final meetings of the League at Geneva, ending a speech with: “The League is dead; long live the United Nations!” He lived another dozen years, occasionally going to the House of Lords, and was honorary life president of the British United Nations Association, which succeeded the LNU without achieving the same public support.


Lord Palmerston said, I assume c 1863, when Prime Minister (he had been Foreign Secretary), that only three men had ever known the answer to the Schleswig-Holstein Question (post here): Prince Albert, who was dead; a German professor, who had become insane; and Palmerston, who had forgotten it.

Lord Goschen, First Lord of the Admiralty, invented the phrase “splendid isolation” during a speech at Lewes on February 26 1896, paraphrasing a remark which had been made about Britain by a Canadian politician earlier that year.

Neville Chamberlain, movingly for all his disgrace, in 1938 on the radio on the eve of Munich: “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood by Sir William Orpen

Lord Robert Cecil by William Orpen, 1919, National Portrait Gallery

Toynbee tells the story about Namier and Cecil again in Acquaintances, OUP, 1967.

Another case of British ignorance:

The revelation of Thucydides

Floor games

Laughter in the quad

Lewis Namier, Historian, Encounter, Vol 16, No 1, January 1961

After 1453

May 4 2013

The other significance of 1453 was the de facto end of the Hundred Years’ War. Territory in Europe won by Britain thereafter, other than brief occupations, amounted only to





the Ionian Islands and


Is that complete? Essentially, islands.

For an entertaining late-Victorian account of lost possessions around the world, see Walter Frewen Lord, The Lost Possessions of England, Richard Bentley and Son, 1896.

The book purports to show:

“1. The advantage to a sea Power like Great Britain of an extended Empire – an advantage very bluntly pointed out to Sir William Draper in the secret instructions furnished to that officer prior to his departure for Manila.

2. The value in Imperial policy of the sound business principle of not throwing away rubbish – as illustrated by Tangier and the present situation in Morocco.

3. The necessity of listening to the advice of the man on the spot – by not doing which we lost Java.

4. The paramount importance of studying local climatic conditions – a neglect of which precaution cost us five thousand men in Cuba.

5. The folly of entrusting important expeditions (even against incompetent enemies) to untried leaders – a folly which cost us five thousand men and the province of Buenos Ayres.

6. The disastrous effects of a weak course of action in equivocal situations – as in the Ionian Islands.”

The essays, which were revised by Sir John Seeley, are:


Transition Period – Dunkirk






Buenos Ayres and Montevideo


The Ionian Isands


Saving England

April 29 2013

David Cameron on Margaret Thatcher between 1979 and 1990: “She didn’t just lead our country; she saved our country.”

Below, Saving England, piece by Toynbee, Encounter, Vol 18, No 1, January 1962, section called Spectrum. A number of writers had been invited to comment on the spirit of the previous decade.

He argues that England’s future is in the Common Market or EEC. See also:

1. Television broadcast on Englands Rolle in der Weltgeschichte, Third Programme of Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, winter 1961-62, heard in both English and German (with him speaking in both cases?); revised text published in German in England deutet sich selbst: 12 prominente Engländer über Politik, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Kultur, Hamburg, Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, 1962.

2. Article on Going into Europe, Encounter, Vol 20, No 2, February 1963.

3. Article on Europa, der Gemeinsame Markt und England, Merkur, Vol 17, No 12, December 1963.

4. Letter to The Times, Gesture to European Unity, February 28 1967. Signed also by Edward Beddington-Behrens, George Buchanan, Maurice Cranston, Barbara Hepworth, Julian S Huxley, Jan Le Witt, Henry Moore, Laurence Olivier, Roland Penrose, Herbert Read, Ceri Richards, Patrick Trevor-Roper, Bernard Wall and dated February 25. Probably not written by Toynbee, but he is first signatory and the others are alphabetical. Asks for an exhibition of contemporary European art in London “to dispel lingering doubts and to demonstrate urbi et orbi that the notion of ‘little England’ is a thing of the past [...]”. A curiously insular gesture even for 1967.

5. Television broadcast über das Verhältnis Großbritanniens zum europäischen Kontinent, presumably in German, Südwestrundfunk, Baden-Baden (?), February 10 1969.

6. Article, Key to the European Super State, The Times, October 12, 1971. Argues that entry into EEC need not damage relations with Commonwealth.

7. In Morton’s incomplete list of articles sent to the Observer Foreign News Service for syndication to unidentified media here and there around the world, we have Why De Gaulle Will Fail, about France as an agricultural country (1963), Britain’s Place in the World (1966) and Why Britain Must Join Europe (1970 and, presumably different, 1971). In her list of articles written for the Central Office of Information for use in unidentified ways overseas is Historical Reasons behind Britain’s Entry into the E.E.C. (1972).

Churchill had spoken about a United States of Europe in a speech at the University of Zürich on September 19 1946.

The Common Market or European Economic Community was established by the Treaty of Rome in 1958. Britain (and Norway, Denmark and Ireland) applied to join in 1961-62, under another Conservative, Harold Macmillan.

The spread of one’s spectrum depends on one’s age. If one is old enough to have been just grown-up before 1914, the far end of one’s spectrum will include a glimpse of Victorian-Edwardian England seen with a grown-up person’s eyes; and that glimpse, however brief, will abide in one’s memory as a foil against which all later events will stand out in sharp relief. If the accident of age has given one this perspective, that ought to be a help in trying to size up what has been happening in England in this last decade. The main feature of this decade has been a radical change in England’s position in the world; but it was the outbreak of war in 1914 that brought this change to the surface and gave it a momentum that was still unspent in the 1950s. This change is difficult for the English to cope with because the century that ended in 1914 was, for England, a time of rare greatness – and this in many different fields. Such a floruit was bound to be transitory. It is remarkable that England’s time of greatness should have lasted for a whole century; and, indeed, its full bloom did not last later than the 1870s. Anyway, it is over now, and England is having to find a new place for herself in a formidably changed world. In our own time, perhaps only one other country of the same stature is passing through the same ordeal, and that is France. The ordeal is a severe one, but, after all, it is the common lot. France and England are merely the latest of the many countries that have experienced it in the course of history up to date.

Sources of greatness: a landscape; a complex and detailed rural culture; the medieval Church; a Protestantism that encouraged people to think about their religion; a scientific tradition that went back to Francis, or Roger, Bacon (will we be reading obituaries of Sir Robert Edwardeses a century hence?); literary and scholarly traditions; political experience; individuality forged in idiosyncratic schools; privacy, from which vice came too; self-improvement among non-privileged urban people; humanitarian and social reforms.

In the past the English have avoided the awful mistake of crying over spilt milk. They have quickly found and milked new cows, instead of standing still and wringing their hands. They stopped grieving over their defeat in the Hundred Years War in the exhilaration of discovering and colonising a New World. They stopped grieving over the loss of the thirteen American Colonies in the exhilaration of making the Industrial Revolution and acquiring a new empire in India. In our day we have had recourse to this simple but effective British philosophy once again in meeting our own generation’s ordeal. Recognising, as we did in good time, that the days of colonial rule were numbered, we decided to make the liquidation of our 19th-century Empire into a festival instead of a funeral. We christened it the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth, and this has been no mere face-saving word-play; for, in the act of coining a new word, we managed to create a new reality. We also discovered that the maturing Commonwealth was not our only compensation for a fading empire. Simultaneously we found another new world to win within the coasts of our own island. If the 19th century was a golden age for England, it was not one for the great majority of her inhabitants. England’s century of economic and naval supremacy abroad was a century of shocking social inequality and injustice at home. In our generation we have won not only the Commonwealth but the Welfare State. (The name may be still controversial, at any rate in American mouths, but the thing itself has been accepted in England by all parties as a good thing which has come to stay.)

The Welfare State and the Commonwealth are obviously two of those exhilarating enterprises that are England’s traditional prescription for easing the painfulness of change. In both enterprises we have given ourselves an extra shot of exhilaration by contriving to be the pioneers and by doing promptly and with a good grace what we realised that we should have had to do, anyway, willy-nilly, sooner or later. Our good sense here is illustrated by the case of the French, who have done much the same things in the end but have done them belatedly, kicking miserably against the pricks and harvesting a minimum of credit, gratitude, and satisfaction. In contemplating their French contemporaries, the English of our generation are tempted to feel smug. The English can no more forget June 1940 than the French can, and the contrast between our respective performances in that year has, ever since, been making both nations awkward to deal with, particularly for themselves. The consciousness of having once been heroes can be as great a handicap as the consciousness of having once failed to rise to the occasion.

Fortunately to-day England is putting her childish pride in her pocket and is knocking at France’s door to ask for admittance to the Common Market. Within twenty-one years of the Battle of France the roles of the two countries have been reversed – and why? France is in a relatively strong position again to-day because she has discovered for herself the British remedy for the painfulness of change. On her overseas front France may be incorrigible. She seems to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing as a result of her successive fiascos in Syria, Indo-China, and Algeria. General de Gaulle seems still to be dreaming of conjuring back to life the military power of Napoleon’s France or Louis XIV’s. But, since the end of the Second World War, most Frenchmen have been busy over something else. They, like us, have found a new world to win within their own home territory. They have been putting France, for the first time, through a thoroughgoing industrial revolution, and, on this economic plane, they have begun to think of French prosperity in the new terms of a united Europe, instead of going on brooding over past French glory in the antique terms of the Rhine frontier.

The post-war French have been making this new vision of theirs effective by translating it into reality through hard work. The French have always been hard workers in good times and in bad times alike; and on this point they might well feel smug to-day in contemplating us. The need to work hard now is one from which the English cannot be absolved by any past achievements; not by our victory in the Battle of Britain, not by our transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth, not by the bloodless social revolution that has produced the Welfare State [the further Glorious Revolution, we might have been tempted to call it]. Achievements are wasting assets, and nothing but unremitting hard work can ever renew them. This truth ought to be obvious; for the post-war fruits of French hard work are only one example out of a multitude in the world around us. In a world in which Americans, Russians, Chinese, and Japanese, as well as Continental Europeans, are all working like beavers, can any nation afford to sit back and rest on its oars?

While the English have been prompt in making over the Empire into the Commonwealth and in narrowing the gulf between the former “two nations” on this island, we have been late in the day in accepting the fact that England is a part of Europe. The proper verdict on this English acceptance of geography is the one that Tennyson pronounced on the lady who told him that she accepted the universe: “By God, madam, you had better!” “How England saved Europe” was the title of a popular history of England’s role in the Napoleonic Wars that was published when I was a child. The author’s thesis was the conventional one that England saved Europe by keeping Europe divided. This may have been a service to Europe at times when unity was being forced on her by one Continental European country’s trying to conquer the rest. England once again saved Europe in that way in 1940; but the occasion will not recur; for to-day, when Europe has been dwarfed by the United States and the Soviet Union towering up on either side of her, that chapter of European and English history has been closed. On this point the Continental European countries have been quick in reading the signs of the times, and they have risen to the occasion by setting out to unite with each other by peaceful agreement. England has not, of course, dreamed of opposing this peaceful unification (she could not prevent it, even if she wished to). She has, however, dreamed of staying outside. This dream of England’s maintaining a self-contained sterling area next door to a united Continental Europe is about as crass an anachronism in our day as General de Gaulle’s dream of France’s regaining her Napoleonic military stature.

If England has now awoken from this dream of hers in time to gain admittance to the Common Market the title of the next chapter of the story may be “How Europe saved England.”

What is the Tennyson anecdote about? Does it have something to do with his proto-Darwinian preoccupations in In Memoriam?

The author of How England Saved Europe, four volumes, London, Smith, Elder and Co, 1899, was a Methodist emigré to Australia, William Henry Fitchett.


A year after this, on January 14 1963, de Gaulle vetoed the British application to join the EEC at a press conference at the Elysée Palace.

“England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her exchanges, her markets, her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has in all her doings very marked and very original habits and traditions.”

L’Angleterre, en effet elle est insulaire, elle est maritime, elle est liée par ses échanges, ses marchés, ses ravitaillements aux pays les plus divers, et souvent les plus lointains; elle exerce une activité essentiellement industrielle et commerciale, et très peu agricole. Elle a dans tout son travail des habitudes et des traditions très marquées, très originales.

That was the first of his “Nons”, though, unlike Thatcher, with her reiterated Nos in the House of Commons, he did not use the word. October 30 1990: “The President of the Commission, M. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community, he wanted the Commission to be the Executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate. No. No. No.”

The four countries reapplied in 1967. At a further press conference at the Elysée Palace on May 16, de Gaulle again made it clear that he would veto Britain’s application.

A few weeks later, the European Coal and Steel Community (1951, Treaty of Paris) and European Atomic Energy Community (1958, Treaty of Rome) were brought under the umbrella of the EEC. These were the three European Communities, often henceforward called European Community. The ECSC expired in 2002. The EAEC still exists. Would joining the EEC in 1962 have meant a fortiori joining the other two communities as well?

The transition to Pompidou in 1969 allowed the subject to be reopened. Negotiations began in 1970 under Edward Heath. Accession was on January 1 1973 under Heath (with Denmark and Ireland) without a referendum. The original six members became nine. Britain’s membership was confirmed in a referendum held on June 5 1975 under Harold Wilson. Thatcher won a permanent UK budget rebate in 1984. The EEC was renamed EU when the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993, to reflect its wider range of operation.

De Gaulle thought in old-fashioned terms (he also saw in British membership a Trojan horse of American imperialism in Europe), but was right about Britain fundamentally. Cameron said similar things in his Bloomberg speech in London on January 23 2013, fifty years, nearly to the day, after de Gaulle’s. “It’s true that our geography has shaped our psychology. We have the character of an island nation: independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty. We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel. And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional. For us, the European Union is a means to an end – prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores – not an end in itself.”

Britain had seemed a semi-detached if not disruptive member. Thatcher never got past the idea that Germany had to be contained. Britain’s support of any proposal for expansion of membership masqueraded as pro-European, but came also from an instinct that the more members the Community had, the less likely it was to agree on anything or become monolithic. British political parties have ducked and woven through the decades to appease this or that side of a divided electorate. The Maastricht Treaty, though Thatcher had signed up to it (John Major signed it), left Britain more uneasy than ever.

The prospect, after the scale of the debt crisis became apparent in 2009, of a much tighter and more centralised fiscal régime in the EU concerned even a member that had opted out of joining the Euro (which was introduced in physical form in 2002). Cameron, op cit:

“At some stage in the next few years the EU will need to agree on treaty change to make the changes needed for the long-term future of the euro and to entrench the diverse, competitive, democratically accountable Europe that we seek. I believe the best way to do this will be in a new treaty, so I add my voice to those who are already calling for this. My strong preference is to enact these changes for the entire EU, not just for Britain. But if there is no appetite for a new treaty for us all, then of course Britain should be ready to address the changes we need in a negotiation with our European partners. The next Conservative manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next parliament. It will be a relationship with the single market at its heart. And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms, or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.”


Toynbee had suffered an incapacitating stroke by the time Thatcher became Leader of the Opposition in February 1975. What would he have thought of her? He and his wife joined the Labour Party in 1918 and voted for it at the Khaki election, to the disgust of the Countess of Carlisle. McNeill: “His attraction to the Labour Party [...] dimmed after 1922 almost as swiftly as it had arisen, and Toynbee retreated from political activism towards a nonparty, vaguely liberal point of view in domestic and foreign affairs.” He would vote Liberal in later years.

More than one piece of journalism by him in the ’60s and ’70s expresses alarm at the trade unions’ abuse of their power. He lived to see the nadir of postwar economic morale in England, the Three-Day Week in the first quarter of 1974 under the Conservative government of Heath, though not its reprise, the Winter of Discontent of 1978-79 under the Labour government of Jim Callaghan which led to Thatcher’s victory. See:

1. Letter to The Times, Backing Britain, February 10 1968 about Wilson’s I’m Backing Britain campaign and the secret union trial and condemnation of four shop stewards who did back Britain by working an extra half-hour a day without pay (he calls himself a Liberal in this letter). This seemed a tawdry and tired campaign even at the time, but was much-noticed in an age of few media outlets and gave a pop-art twist to use of the national flag.

2. Article on The English Sickness, The Observer, November 10 1974. I remember in the ’80s looking at a pile of letters in an attic in which was a letter from early 1974 from one inhabitant of educated Hampstead to another. The writer, who had lived though the war in England, wrote that he had never known morale in the country so low.

3. Article on A State within the State, The Observer, October 26 1975. This was four days after his death and is presented in Tomlin’s anthology as evidence that “Toynbee’s mastery of historical analogy remained with him until the last”. The Observer introduces it as “this last article [...] before his death”. But it cannot have been written after his stroke in August 1974 – which begs the question why it was presented thus. Perhaps it was about to be printed and withheld because of his illness. Its reference to Mr Healey’s budget must be to his first budget in March 1974.

4. In Morton’s incomplete list of articles sent to the Observer Foreign News Service for syndication here and there around the world, we have The English Sickness (1966) and The Second Battle of Britain, about the 1972 coal miners’ strike (1972).

I think he would have welcomed Thatcher, with reservations. He loathed the attitude to work of the trade unions. Thatcher introduced legislation to limit their powers and beat the miners in the endgame, the 1984-85 strike. Heath had been brought down by the miners’ strikes of 1972 and ’74.

He welcomes the Welfare State in its original conception, but would have despised the dependency culture. He believed in self-reliance and thrift. His sympathy for his rural Yorkshire neighbours’ reaction to proto-underclass-sounding city visitors in the late ’30s who

“don’t know how to cook and [...] don’t know how to sew and [...] don’t know how to cure a ham; and [...] can’t even sit at home and talk, because they have nothing in their heads to talk about”

would have been shared by Thatcher in her reminiscing-about-Grantham mode. The reform of the welfare state, which Cameron is now tackling, is Thatcher’s unfinished business.

Not that the work of the welfare state is done. See the return of soup kitchens and food banks in Britain and across swathes of Europe and the US since 2009.

His reservations would not have come from snobbery. But he might have been torn between some of this and a compassionate social conscience, which his uncle, Arnold Toynbee, the economic historian, had had in rich measure and which his own granddaughter, the very unThatcherite Polly Toynbee, would inherit.

He had an equally low opinion of the standard of universal education that Britain had achieved since 1870. The Yorkshire countrywoman’s

view was a tragic commentary upon the social effects of our present half-baked system of Universal Education.

The popular press degraded people.

The bread of Universal Education is no sooner cast upon the waters of social life than a shoal of sharks rises from the depths and devours the children’s bread [footnote: Matt xv 26] under the philanthropists’ eyes. In the educational history of England, for example, the dates speak for themselves. Universal compulsory gratuitous public instruction was inaugurated in this country in A.D. 1870; [footnote: The system of universal direct compulsion was not made complete until 1880, and the practical establishment of free education not until 1891.] the Yellow Press was invented some twenty years later – as soon as the first generation of children from the national schools had come into the labour market and acquired some purchasing power – by a stroke of irresponsible genius which had divined that the educational philanthropist’s labour of love could be made to yield the newspaper-king a royal profit.

So did advertising. So did nearly all manifestations of modern popular culture in Britain. He disliked the professionalisation of sport. Television was

a form of escapism which I arrogantly despise [...].

Not everything was bad. He liked the hippies. But

“Recreation” in the present-day Western sense has always seemed to me to be an unhealthy regression to childishness. I have therefore despised it, and I believe I have been right. But does not this judgement commit me to condemning, with it, my own trick of keeping myself preoccupied by a continuous agenda of work all round the clock? This discomfort that I am feeling now that my half-century-long agenda is at an end suggests that, for me, this was serving the same perverse purpose as the infantile philistine’s radio and television. It was making it possible for me to avert my mind from “other business” [spiritual business, and looking inward] from which I shrink [...].

Thatcher achieved her reforms at the cost of a certain barbarising of society. Wasn’t she a kind of Diocletian?

Nowadays we don’t think of the welfare state as an “exhilarating enterprise”, we think of it as a social and fiscal problem. We don’t think of the French as hard-working either.

The problem for Britain now is: what is the next great enterprise? The fig-leaf on the world stage of the great liar Tony Blair was to “punch above our weight”. It was a Conservative, Douglas Hurd, who had first used the metaphor, in 1993 (I am not saying it is an impossible thing to do). The Yorkshirewoman was right. The entire challenge is to develop private, and civic, life. Ecological and other change will follow from that.

If that article were to be written today, “education” would have to be mentioned in place of “Welfare State” and “challenge of creating a stable, well-integrated multicultural society” in place of “Commonwealth”. We encouraged immigration to give ourselves a shot in the arm. We showed more enthusiasm in internalising our empire than in merging ourselves with Europe.

Morale is sometimes high during a war and collapses after it. That had happened to England by 1979, whatever Toynbee says about making festivals instead of funerals. Strikes offered a kind of perpetuation of the feeling of heightened living, as if we had become addicted to that in 1940. The Ealing comedies (1947-57) were in large part a celebration of mediocrity. The Suez fiasco in 1956 humiliated the ruling class. (In the same year, the literary establishment suffered a collapse of credibility with the Colin Wilson affair, in which Philip Toynbee was one of the duped.)

A superficial prosperity allowed the mock-Edwardian Macmillan to assure the working class that they had “never had it so good”. The stranglehold of the trade unions became tighter under Wilson, Heath and Callaghan. Middle-class morale picked up under Thatcher. Some sections of the industrial working class suffered from her policies and haven’t forgiven her.

BBC story today about a return to “east of Suez”, from which Britain had supposedly completed its withdrawal in 1971.


Young, possibly homeless, man on Great Russell Street, central London; photograph by Nicola Albon, posted February 21 2012 on her excellent blog Slice of London Life; copyright, used with permission; click for better resolution

Saving England, Encounter, Vol 18, No 1, January 1962

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

Gropings in the Dark, essay, September 1973, in An Historian’s Approach to Religion, second edition (previously unpublished), with new Preface, May 1978, by Veronica Toynbee, OUP, 1979, posthumous

Experiences, OUP, 1969

The bachelor kings of England

April 19 2013

Who were they?

Agnes Strickland reminds us, and the answer is not surprising, because two were boys:

William Rufus

Edward V

Edward VI

Can twelve- or fifteen-year olds be bachelors? The mystery is William Rufus, who was succeeded by his younger brother Henry. Frank Barlow’s book must be the one to read.

Strickland would be good comfort or ’flu reading except that she is such a dull writer. I have tried. What about Anglo-Saxon kings?


The industrious Strickland’s œuvre:

Lives of the Queens of England, 12 vols, 1840-48

The Letters of Mary Queen of Scots, 1842-43

Lives of the Queens of Scotland and English Princesses Connected with the Regal Succession of Great Britain, 8 vols, 1851-59

Lives of the Bachelor Kings of England, 1861

The Lives of the Seven Bishops Committed to the Tower in 1688, Enriched and Illustrated with Personal Letters, Now First Published, from the Bodleian Library, 1866

Lives of the Tudor Princesses, Including Lady Jane Gray and Her Sisters, 1868

Lives of the Last Four Princesses of the Royal House of Stuart, 1872

She was helped in much of this by her sister Elisabeth. Both were spinsters.

Agnes Strickland by John Hayes

Portrait by John Hayes, National Portrait Gallery, London, not my cropping

She wasn’t beautiful: NPG images.

The Road at My Door

April 18 2013

“An affable Irregular,
A heavily-built Falstaffian man,
Comes cracking jokes of civil war
As though to die by gunshot were
The finest play under the sun.

A brown Lieutenant and his men,
Half dressed in national uniform,
Stand at my door, and I complain
Of the foul weather, hail and rain,
A pear-tree broken by the storm.

I count those feathered balls of soot
The moor-hen guides upon the stream.
To silence the envy in my thought;
And turn towards my chamber, caught
In the cold snows of a dream.”


Yeats, The Road at My Door, from Meditations in Time of Civil War in The Tower (1928).

The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 led to the Civil War of ’22-’23. The Irregular belongs to the Irish Republican Army. The Lieutenant to the Irish National Army which fought for the pro-Treaty Irish Free State. The poet watches the moor-hen and her brood.

Huguenots and Nonconformists

April 12 2013

The evils of religious fanaticism in a seventeenth-century Western Christendom were, naturally, felt the most sharply and detested the most heartily by the people who suffered from them the most severely. These were the religious refugees (especially the Huguenot refugees from France after the revocation in A.D. 1685 of the Edict of Nantes) and the religious minorities which were allowed to remain in their homes at the price of political and social penalization (e.g. the Nonconformists in England after A.D. 1662). The penalty of political disfranchisement forcibly prevented the English Nonconformists from putting any of their treasure into the worship of an idolized parochial state, and so constrained them to put into Economics, Technology, and Science all of their treasure that did not go into their Free Churches. Thus it was no accident that the father of the eighteenth-century Western anti-religious philosophical Enlightenment should have been a seventeenth-century French Huguenot refugee in Holland, Pierre Bayle, or that the pioneers of the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution in England should have been the eighteenth-century English Nonconformists.

Which may be true, but needs more examples.

1598-1685. The Edict of Nantes, issued on April 13 1598, by Henry IV, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France (Huguenots) substantial rights. It was revoked by Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715) in 1685 in the Edict of Fontainebleau.

1685-1787. The stringency of policies outlawing Protestants was relaxed under Louis XV (reigned 1715-74) and was opposed by the Catholic (quasi-Calvinist) Jansenists. Prominent thinkers, including Turgot, argued in favour of religious tolerance. On November 7 1787, Louis XVI (reigned 1774-92) signed the Edict of Versailles, the pre-revolutionary Edict of Tolerance, which was registered in the parlement. This gave followers of all faiths – Calvinist Huguenots, Lutherans, Jews – civil and legal recognition and the right to form congregations. The Edict of Nantes had referred only to Protestants (including Lutherans?). Had any other edict governed Jews? Full religious freedom came with enactment of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789. Once Revolutionary armies got to other European countries, they followed a consistent policy of emancipating persecuted or discriminated religious communities (Catholic in some countries, Protestant in others, Jews in virtually all).

1662-1828. The 1662 measure against Nonconformists (non-Anglican Protestants) was the Act of Uniformity. (Puritans and Presbyterians who violated the 1549, 1552 and 1559 Acts of Uniformity may retrospectively be considered Nonconformists.) The term “dissenter” came into use particularly after the Act of Toleration of 1689, which exempted Nonconformists who had taken the oaths of allegiance and supremacy from penalties for non-attendance at services of the Church of England. In England, Nonconformists were restricted from many spheres of public life until the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828. The Roman Catholic Relief Act followed in 1829. What was the position of substantially-Nonconformist Wales under each of these measures?

An Historian’s Approach to Religion, OUP, 1956 (footnote)

Architecture and health

March 5 2013

The research just published in The Lancet on the health of people in the UK compared to other places isn’t a surprise. Has a proper study ever been done on the connection between health and architecture? Health and urban planning? Many people hesitate to own a bike because they have nowhere to put it. I suspect the connections are many and complex. New buildings are worse than old. I am talking about architecture, not carcinogenic materials. This will take a long time to turn around.

Irish and Africans

March 4 2013

“Irish writers, how they saved our language, when it was worn thin and colourless by the use of centuries, and kept thin and colourless by the habits of journalism; kept thus for ever, it must have seemed, like Byzantine Greek; for the English didn’t care; it was easier to knit in one colour than in many, especially now that only one shade of wool was to be had in the market. But there came others in those days, foreigners who looked on our language and literature from without, Yeats and Synge, George Moore and James Joyce, for whom those simple Saxon words had a freshness and a mystery forgotten by their native users, and unrolling the worn and faded tapestry of the past, they uncovered fresh, gay patches, and making themselves material thereof, and going about the country to gather the dying art of speech, they wove according to their own native designs coloured stuffs that put all the former workmen to shame. And therefore though strangers, let them have a niche in the Temple of the English Tongue; like those Africans, Apuleius and Augustine, who recreated their Latin language in its long sterility.”


Richard Davenport-Hines, editor, Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Wartime Journals, IB Tauris, 2012.

Britten and Pears in Purcell in Tokyo

March 3 2013

February 9 1956.

The first song is an aria, usually for soprano, from the semi-opera The Indian Queen, libretto by by John Dryden and Sir Robert Howard.

“I attempt from love’s sickness to fly in vain,
Since I am myself my own fever and pain.
No more now, fond heart, with pride no more swell;
Thou canst not raise forces enough to rebel.
I attempt from love’s sickness to fly in vain,
Since I am myself my own fever and pain.
For love has more power and less mercy than fate,
To make us seek ruin and love those that hate.
I attempt from love’s sickness to fly in vain,
Since I am myself my own fever and pain.”

The second is a setting of Peter Anthony Motteux.

“Man is for the woman made,
And the woman for the man;
As the spur is for the jade,
As the scabbard for the blade,
As for digging is the spade,
As for liquor is the can,
So man is for the woman made,
And the woman for the man.

As the scepter’s to be sway’d,
As for night’s the serenade,
As for pudding is the pan,
And to cool us is the fan,
So man is for the woman made,
And the woman for the man.

Be she widow, be she maid,
Be she well or ill array’d,
Be she wanton, be she stayed,
Princess or harridan,
So man is for the woman made,
And the woman for the man.”

Those are the sung words. The original texts are slightly different. The keyboard arrangements are Britten’s.

Atatürk and Churchill

February 24 2013

The only incidents in the two world wars to which posterity might perhaps be able to look back without being abashed at the spectacle of human wickedness and folly were the Turkish people’s resistance in 1919-22 to the recent victors in the First World War and the British people’s resistance in 1940-1 to a temporarily victorious Germany. These two peoples had the spirit to resist though they were facing fearful odds and though they had no apparent prospect of escaping defeat and destruction. Both peoples were fortunate in finding leaders – Mustafa Kamal Atatürk and Winston Churchill – who inspired them to rise to the occasion.

A case of a historian respecting victors. What about all the unsuccessful resistance to Germany, Russia and Japan?

Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous

William Dunbar

January 28 2013

I that in heill was and gladnèss
Am trublit now with great sickness
And feeblit with infirmity:
Timor Mortis conturbat me …

That strong unmerciful tyrand
Takis, on the motheris breast sowkand,
The babe full of benignitie:
Timor Mortis conturbat me …

He spairis no lord for his piscence,
Na clerk for his intelligence;
His awful straik may no man flee:
Timor Mortis conturbat me …

He has done petuously devour
The noble Chaucer, of makaris flour,
The Monk of Bury, and Gower, all three:
Timor Mortis conturbat me …

He has tane Rowll of Aberdene,
And gentill Rowll of Corstophine;
Two better fallowis did no man see:
Timor Mortis conturbat me …

Sen he has all my brothers tane,
He will nocht let me live alane;
Of force I mon his next prey be:
Timor Mortis conturbat me …

From William Dunbar’s Lament for the Makaris, written in Scots c 1505.

Dunbar was associated with the court of James IV, who was killed at Flodden Field in 1513. Makar meant maker, ie poet or bard. The phrase in the refrain comes from a responsory of the Office of the Dead in the third Nocturn of Matins and was often used in late medieval Scottish and English poetry. The two Rowlls are unidentified. There are twenty-five verses, but only these are quoted.

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

Rott Alba: Dugald Buchanan

January 26 2013

Dugald Buchanan: The Bard of Rannoch, The Complete Works. Adrian Murdoch, editor.

Rott Publishing, 2012, for Kindle. Illustrated. £2.05.



Dugald Buchanan (1716-68) of Perthshire published eight notable poems – laoidhibh spioradail or spiritual hymns – in Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic bardic language of the Highland clans, when it was barely a literary medium.

The first printed book in Scottish Gaelic had been the Church of Scotland’s Book of Common Order in 1567, translated by Séon Carsuel (John Carswell), Bishop of the Isles. (The Episcopacy was not abolished in the Church of Scotland until 1689. Gaelic, of course, is not Scots, the English dialect of the Lowlands in which Burns wrote.)

Buchanan was the son of a farmer. His pious mother died when he was six. He attended a local school established by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the Anglican mission founded in 1698 whose Scottish wing – the SSPCK (Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge) – had been formed by royal charter straight after the Union and charged with founding schools “where religion and virtue might be taught to young and old” in the uncivilised Highlands.

The SSPCK worked with the Church of Scotland, not against it, especially in areas where there was a growing Jacobitism and where Catholic missionaries might have achieved a landslide to Rome. But Buchanan’s friends and relations took up arms for Prince Charlie.

Buchanan had been distracted in his young manhood, he tells us, by frivolities. From 1741 to 1750 he kept a diary in English which records the struggle which led to his religious awakening. His autobiography, based on the diaries, was published in Edinburgh in 1836 (edited by whom?). Part of his spiritual journey in the 1740s was towards forgiveness of the English.

He preached, and was deeply impressed by the Methodist George Whitefield, who visited Scotland for the second time in the summer of 1742. In 1749, he married.

Adrian Murdoch and Rott Publishing have published the only Kindle edition of Buchanan: Lachlan MacBean’s translations of the poems and his text of the Confessions. They are preceded by Adrian’s Introduction and a short anthology of writings about Buchanan. It’s an entertaining and interesting book. Skip this post, unless it helps as an orientation, and read it.

In 1753 (DNB chronology), Buchanan was appointed by the SPCK as a teacher (subsequently catechist) at a school at Kinloch Rannoch in the (forfeited?) estate of Duncan Robertson of Strowan. Rannoch’s clans had fought in both Jacobite uprisings and had suffered the reprisals of the Redcoats. Buchanan, in his teaching and preaching, brought education and religion to the wild men of Rannoch.

The Spiritual Hymns were published in Edinburgh in 1767, two hundred years after the Gaelic Book of Common Order. English prose translations appeared in 1843 and ’75, MacBean’s verse translations in 1884 (his edition of the Confessions came later): The Greatness of God, The Skull, The Sufferings of Christ, The Day of Judgment (“the Dies Irae of the Scottish Gael”), The Dream, The Hero, WinterA Prayer.

I suppose Buchanan was a kind of antidote to Ossian. John Reid (1808-41 or ’2), Scottish bookman and member of the Secession Church, called him “the Cowper of the Highlands”. Isaac Watts, Edward Young and Robert Blair were influences.

But he was more than a poet. In the same year, 1767, the first Scottish Gaelic New Testament appeared. Buchanan had been recruited by the SSPCK to help the Rev James Stuart of Killin in the translation. Stuart worked from the Greek, Buchanan improved the Gaelic. An Irish Gaelic translation dating from the Elizabethan period (both testaments?) had been in use in Scotland before this. A Scottish Gaelic Old Testament largely by Stuart’s son, John Stuart of Luss, followed in 1801.

We see him trying to improve himself (he met many of Edinburgh’s celebrities, including Hume), but he was apparently not considered educated enough to become a minister in the Church of Scotland.

Buchanan’s costume changed after 1745. MacBean in Sketch of the Author’s Life, in his edition of the Spiritual Songs, Edinburgh, MacLachlan & Stewart, 1884:

“Our Author was a tall, black-haired man, dark-complexioned, and large-eyed. In his younger days he wore the ordinary Highland costume, but after 1745 he had, like the rest of his countrymen, to discard the kilt, and during his residence in Rannoch his usual attire consisted of knee-breeches, a blue coat, and a broad Highland bonnet.”


Rott Publishing is an exercise in Kindle publishing by Adrian and me (my role is still rather theoretical). A while ago, I wrote about our Latin edition of Eugippius’s Life of St Severinus. We announced it as the start of a series, Rott Classics. Pressure of other work has meant that Eugippius, alas, stands on his own. But Dugald Buchanan launches Rott Alba, and that is more likely to be a series, since there is already a second book in it, poems by Alexander Robertson, about which I will write soon.

Rott Buchanan

Death of HMV

January 15 2013

July 21 1921: Edward Elgar opens the first HMV store, at 363 Oxford Street.

Manchester Guardian:

“A great deal was heard at the opening of the fine new headquarters of the Gramophone Company in Oxford Street to-day about the artistic mission of the gramophone. Sir Edward Elgar, who opened the building, is a great believer in this mission. What musicians want, he said, is more listeners, and he thinks that the dissemination of good music by the gramophone will give us a new public which, while knowing nothing about the technical side of music, will know how to listen to music with true appreciation. He would like to see a gramophone with a selection of good music in every school. He recommended the modern gramophone with its superior technical accomplishment to the ‘wild and virulent piano playing’ so painfully popular in the suburbs.

“The new building is spacious and attractive, and altogether an interesting example of the super-shop of to-day. The novelty will be the first school for shop assistants in the country. The bright young men from the country will come to Oxford Street to learn all the fine shades and nice feelings of their profession – how to satisfy varying music tastes, how to pronounce the names of foreign musicians, and generally to understand what they are selling and the idiosyncrasies of those who buy.”

BBC television, January 1988: history of the gramophone. Broadcast at the height of the CD era. First few minutes are missing. As it begins, Fred Gaisberg’s assistant is talking. Elgar and Menuhin, of course, appear later.

Rackham in 1939

December 27 2012

Have only just noticed this letter, dated August 18 1939, by Arthur Rackham to George Clausen, my great-grandfather. It might have been the last Rackham ever wrote.

Rackham was at his house, Stilegate, at Limpsfield, Surrey, Clausen at 61 Carlton Hill in St John’s Wood.

“The times are tragic. [...] I feel overwhelmingly for our young people, who can see nothing in front of them. We thought, we late Victorians, that we had got past all such criminal folly & expected that those after us would have finer & wiser lives than we had had. And now! … If by any good fortune we did tide over without a hideous conflagration there is one thing that seems more and more ‘in the air’ – the realisation that the supremacy of the machine, which is rapidly making robots of humanity, must be faced. And the machine must be put in its place as a servant to do the servile work only, freeing humanity to exercise its birthright of imaginative creative work. One hardly takes up a thoughtful journal without seeing that the danger is at last recognised. That, I think, is the main charge to be laid against the wonderful Victorian days – when the world was so elated at ‘conquest of nature &c’ that it was not seen [sic] [my bracket] what the penalty must inevitably be of this eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

“Art may indeed be under a cloud. But if it is not the spirit of the Creator working in us I do not know what it is. And it cannot be eternally killed.”

Quoted in James Hamilton, Arthur Rackham, A Life with Illustration, Pavilion Books, 1990. The book is beautifully produced, but calls Clausen President of the Royal Academy: he was never that and can hardly have been at the age of eighty-seven.

Rackham died less than three weeks later, three days after the declaration of war.

See comments after these posts:


Before 1914

Rackham, Götterdämmerung

Brünnhilde throws herself on the flames in Rackham, Siegfried and The Twilight of the Gods by Richard Wagner (1911)

This volume followed The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie by Richard Wagner (1910).

New Labour’s Britain

November 17 2012

“It is terrible, this plebeian culture that celebrates itself.”


VS Naipaul, quoted in The Guardian, July 11 2000.

Tea Making Tips (1941)

November 6 2012

Two Cooks and a Cabbage (1941)

November 6 2012

An immersion in clear, cool and still waters

October 30 2012

“The reading of it has been like an immersion in clear, cool and still waters.” – Church of England Newspaper on GM TrevelyanAn Autobiography and Other Essays (1949). On dust jacket.

He died fifty years ago. The Telegraph had a piece on the day by David Cannadine, who wrote his biography. There is a book about the family by Laura Trevelyan. GM’s father was George Otto Trevelyan.

P.T.: What about Trevelyan?

A.T.: I admire him very much, for one thing because he writes in a wonderful way and is such a pleasure to read. Secondly, he has a very comprehensive all-round view: he will really give you a picture of all sides of life and activity. He has got right away from that purely political, military, old-fashioned kind of narrative history. When I was at school, the first of his series of Garibaldi books came out, and that was absolutely fascinating to me. I admire him very much.

He had a highly-developed sense of English landscapes. (So did AL Rowse at his early best.) Beginning of Grey of Fallodon, the biography of the British Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916:

“Fallodon has no rare and peculiar beauty. It is merely a piece of unspoilt English countryside – wood, field and running stream. But there is a tang of the North about it; the west wind blows through it straight off the neighbouring moors, and the sea is visible from the garden through a much-loved gap in the trees. The whole region gains dignity from the great presences of the Cheviot and the Ocean. Eastward, beyond two miles of level fields across which he so often strode, lie the tufted dunes, the reefs of tide-washed rock and the bays of hard sand; on that lonely shore he would lie, by the hour, watching the oyster-catchers, turnstones, and dunlin, or the woodcock immigrants landing tired from their voyage.

“Close at hand to the south, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle surround the top of a sea-girt promontory, save where the high basalt cliffs are washed by the tide. Into that ample enclosure the cattle of Fallodon used in old days to be driven for safety in time of Scottish invasion. [Footnote: Grey told me that when, in 1882, he succeeded to the Fallodon estate, he found it still burdened with a payment of half-a-crown a year to the owners of Dunstanburgh in return for this old-world privilege. Dunstanburgh was a favourite place with him, from boyhood to the end.] Eight miles to the north, the keep of Bamburgh rises against the sky, and on the ocean’s bosom lie the Farne Islands – still the greatest of British bird sanctuaries, as when Saint Cuthbert lived there alone among the eider duck and tern.

“And on the other side of Fallodon, to the west, rise the heather-moors, crowned by Ros Castle Camp, Grey’s favourite point of view, closely overlooking Chillingham Park with its white cattle and the castle where his family had borne rule in the old border times. Beyond Chillingham, the green, rounded, Cheviot range hides Scotland and shelters this outpost strip of England between hills and sea. All North Northumberland is visible from Ros Camp, now dedicated as a memorial to Edward Grey.

“In no part of the island are the distant views more spacious, nowhere else are the glories of cIoudland more constantly unveiled. The sense of freedom and vastness, thus purveyed to the eye, is enhanced to the spirit by the tonic air, to a greater degree than in flatter lands or mountain-girdled dales. Stone farms and cottages, solidly and seemlily built, are scattered over the open country, which is protected from the Northumbrian wind by many plantations and strips of beech, ash, and other trees. The denes, hollows and streambeds hold wild vegetation that luxuriates wherever there is shelter. Outcrops of rock form lines of tall, fantastic cliffs, facing inland, and clad in bracken and wild growth. Such is the land that moulded the character of Grey, consciously ere long; unconsciously during his boyhood of rod and gun.”



England in the Age of Wycliffe 1899
England under the Stuarts 1904
The Life of John Bright 1913
Lord Grey of the Reform Bill 1920
British History in the Nineteenth Century 1922
History of England 1926

England under Queen Anne:

Blenheim 1930
Ramillies and the Union with Scotland 1932
The Peace and the Protestant Succession 1934

Sir George Otto Trevelyan: A Memoir 1932
Grey of Fallodon 1937
The English Revolution, 1688-1698 1938
Trinity College: An Historical Sketch 1943
A Shortened History of England 1942
English Social History: A Survey of Six Centuries, Chaucer to Queen Victoria US 1942, UK 1944; illustrated edition in four volumes 1949-52


Garibaldi’s Defence of the Roman Republic 1907
Garibaldi and the Thousand 1909
Garibaldi and the Making of Italy 1911
Scenes from Italy’s War 1919
Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848 1923


The Poetry and Philosophy of George Meredith 1906
Clio: A Muse and Other Essays 1913
The Recreations of an Historian 1919
An Autobiography and Other Essays 1949
A Layman’s Love of Letters (Clark Lectures delivered at Cambridge October-November 1953) 1954


With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

Bitter Mohammedan gruel

October 25 2012

Who in England (presumably in the seventeenth century) used this phrase to describe coffee?

Toy missiles

October 22 2012

P.T.: Have you ever talked to the real fire-eaters, to any of the Pentagon generals?

A.T.: Well now, I was once invited to give a talk in the Pentagon to a roomful of staff colonels, and the wife of the then Secretary for War got up and attacked me for saying that we ought to recognise China. She was a real fire-eater. She had no business to be there, I suppose, but she didn’t hesitate to throw her – or perhaps it was her husband’s – weight about in the presence of all those distinguished professionals. I got a horrible feeling when I went into the Secretary for War’s office. It was full of little cardboard models of missiles. They were all over the tables and chairs and everywhere, and he was delighting in them – like a child surrounded by its toys. Now that was alarming.

He presumably means Secretary of Defense, who replaced the Secretary of War (office abolished; established 1789) in the US cabinet in 1947.

In Britain a Minister of Defence separate from the prime minister replaced the Secretary of State for War (office established 1794; the “War Office”) in the cabinet in 1946, but the office survived as a non-cabinet post. It was abolished in 1964, along with that of First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for Air, and the cabinet minister was restyled Secretary of State for Defence.

Nixon visited China in 1972. The US recognised China on January 1 1979. Russia and China had been diverging ideologically since 1956. The Sino-Soviet split came into the open in 1961 and was never repaired.

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

The scum of the earth

October 21 2012

Philip Stanhope (5th Earl Stanhope) tells us in Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington, 1831-51 (1886, posthumous) that Wellington said to him at Sudbourn Hall in Suffolk on November 4 1831:

“The French system of conscription brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth – the mere scum of the earth. It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them afterwards.”

He says it again at Deal Castle on November 11:

“A French army is composed very differently from ours. The conscription calls out a share of every class – no matter whether your son or my son – all must march; but our friends – I may say it in this room – are the very scum of the earth. People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling – all stuff – no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children – some for minor offences – many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.”

The phrase is in 1 Corinthians 4:13, but the King James version says “filth of the world”. The OED shows the first use of Wellington’s version as being 1712, by John Arbuthnot in his History of John Bull: “Scoundrels! Dogs! the Scum of the Earth!”. Or is it from a different translation of the Bible?

Ian Hislop quotes Wellington in the second part of his BBC television Stiff Upper Lip, An Emotional History of Britain, to show how sensibilities had changed a generation later, when, for the first time in Britain, a monument was built to the common soldier. John Bell’s Crimean War Memorial (1861) in Waterloo Place shows three anonymous guardsmen surmounted by a female allegorical figure of Honour.

The Victoria Cross was introduced in 1856 to recognise acts of valour by ordinary soldiers during the Crimean War. The French equivalent was the St Helena medal (post here).

Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die

The officers had been discredited by the disasters of that war, as they would be by those of the Boer War and First World War. The first tombs of an unknown soldier were unveiled in London and Paris in 1920.

I reviewed the first part of Hislop’s series in a post called Wellington’s violin. Television history always simplifies, but Hislop doesn’t produce rubbish, for all his lightness of touch.

Passing thought: Tchaikovsky’s direct musical appeal to the emotions was disturbing to some Victorians. See Hubert Parry’s remarks on him.


Other Wellington quotations in Wikiquote (I have checked all the Stanhope quotations here and the Hardy).

Postscript to a letter to his brother Henry Wellesley, May 22 1814, published in Supplementary Despatches and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur, Duke of Wellington (1862) by Arthur Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington:

“I believe I forgot to tell you I was made a Duke.”

Exchange said to have occurred at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18 1815 after Lord Uxbridge lost his leg to a cannonball, as quoted in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004):

“Uxbridge: By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!
Wellington: By God, sir, so you have!”

Thomas Hardy, portraying the incident in The Dynasts, Part III, Act VII, Scene viii:

“Uxbridge: I have lost my leg, by God!
Wellington: By God, and have you!”

Wellington in 1824 to John Joseph Stockdale, who threatened to publish anecdotes of Wellington and his mistress Harriette Wilson, as quoted in Elizabeth Longford, Wellington – The Years of the Sword (1969):

“Publish and be damned.”

This has often been recounted as a response to Wilson’s own threat to publish her memoirs and his letters. The story seems to have started with Confessions of Julia Johnstone in Contradiction to the Fables of Harriette Wilson (1825), where she states that his reply had been “write and be damned”.

Philip Stanhope tells us in Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington, 1831-1851 (1886, posthumous) that Wellington said to Croker at Sudbourn Hall on November 3 1831 (anticipating FDR):

“The only thing I am afraid of is fear.”

Allegedly in notes by Wellington dated September 18 1836 quoted by Stanhope; the notes are in Stanhope, but I can’t find the quotation:

“Circumstances over which I have no control.”

Napoleon’s unheard-of action

October 7 2012

Even after the French Revolution, even after the advent of Napoleon, it was regarded as an outrage when, upon the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens and the consequent resumption of war between England and France, Napoleon decreed, on the 22nd May, 1803, that all British civilians between the ages of eighteen and sixty who happened to be travelling in France should be interned. Napoleon defended his action not, as any Government would defend the same action at the present day, on the simple ground that war had broken out. He admitted that the internment of enemy citizens in war-time was a breach of the rules of the game; and he defended his action as reprisals for the alleged seizure of two French merchantmen by the British Navy before war had been declared. Yet Napoleon did not “get away with it”. His action was condemned not only by contemporary public opinion but also by posterity. It is still described as “his unheard-of action, which condemned some 10,000 Britons to detention”, in a book published as recently as A.D. 1904 [footnote: Rose, John Holland: The Life of Napoleon I (London 1904, Bell, 2 vols.), vol. i, p. 426.] – only ten years before “enemy aliens” were being interned wholesale, as a matter of course, by all belligerent Governments, upon the outbreak of the Great War of our generation in 1914.

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

Wellington’s violin

October 6 2012

The first part of Ian Hislop’s three-part series on BBC2 television Stiff Upper Lip, An Emotional History of Britain may have used a cultural stereotype to make superficial television history, but it had a good script. I’d have suggested as a subtitle Or, When Did England Become Brazil? if that did not imply that the so-called stiff upper lip had been a national characteristic of the English for a long time. In fact, as Hislop reminds us, people in the eighteenth century had aspired to feeling, not self-control. Sensibility may not always have been demonstrative, but it wasn’t impassive.

Nelson said: “Kiss me, Hardy” to his captain as he lay dying on HMS Victory. Wellington’s face was a mask, and he had burned his violin when rejected in love as a young man, rededicating himself to a military career. That contrast of temperaments symbolises a historical change.

(I can’t remember whether Hislop says that those were Nelson’s last words – they were not, quite – but he does tell us that some Victorians were unhappy enough with them to suggest that he had lapsed into Turkish and actually said “Kismet, Hardy”.)

Title of Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility. Then, in Emma: “John Knightley made his appearance, and ‘How d’ye do, George?’ and ‘John, how are you?’ succeeded in the true English style, burying under a calmness that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of them, if requisite, to do every thing for the good of the other.”

Hislop didn’t say this, but according to Wikipedia “the idiom [stiff upper lip] seems [...] of American origin; its earliest known example is in a publication called the Massachusetts Spy for 14 June 1815: ‘I kept a stiff upper lip, and bought [a] license to sell my goods.’” The source says: “[The phrase] is well recorded throughout the nineteenth century in works like Thomas Haliburton’s The Clockmaker of 1837, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin of 1852, and in works by Horatio Alger, Petroleum V Nasby, Mark Twain, and others. It was only near the end of the century that it started to appear in British publications.”

Nevertheless, there was a change in manners in England. It was a reaction to the displays of the violent emotion unleashed in the French Revolution. Hislop visits the wonderful Zoffany exhibition at the Royal Academy which ran earlier this year. Intimate, elegant, ironically-observed scenes of men and women of sensibility in the main part of Zoffany’s work. Then the horror of Plundering the King’s Cellar at Paris (1794).

One of the talking heads is Thomas Dixon at the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions, University of London. There is a History of Emotions blog.

The first part of the series is on iPlayer until October 23. The rest follows. I hope it doesn’t parody the Victorians. The end will obviously show the arrival of the new emotionalism. I wonder whether he will mention Mafeking Night, the display of unrestrained jingoistic emotions by the masses in 1900 which aroused feelings of dismay, in the educated classes who observed it, almost as strong as those which had been aroused by the French Revolution – and guaranteed, perhaps, several more generations of class-snobbery and the continuation of the stiff upper lip.

Hits of 1962

October 5 2012

The first Beatles single and the first James Bond film – Love Me Do and Dr No – were released 50 years ago today in the UK.

More 1962:

The Brazilian Girl from IpanemaGarota de Ipanema. Far too well known to post.

The cosmic Telstar (released August 17 in UK):

The Japanese Sukiyaki (not quite 1962: released Japan 1961, arrived UK and US 1963):

In Japan it was Ue o Muite Arukō, 上を向いて歩こう, I Will Walk Looking Up. Sukiyaki was a meaningless title used in the West. Sakamoto died on Japan Airlines Flight 123 on August 12 1985.

The Russian Midnight in Moscow (released USSR 1955-56, hit in the West 1961-62); the famous version in the West was an arrangement by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen:

In Russia it was Podmoskovnye VecheraПодмосковные вечера, Evenings in Moscow Oblast.

Here’s Van Cliburn doing it in Moscow:

Cliburn was the young Texan who won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958. It was one of the great cultural episodes of the Cold War, like Gould’s visit (1957), Nureyev’s defection (1961) and Stravinsky’s return visit (1962 again). Cliburn’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s first concerto and Rachmaninoff’s third gave him an eight-minute standing ovation. The judges asked permission of Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Then give him the prize.” It was the year after Sputnik. Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York. This clip may be from his visit of 1962 for the second competition. The first prize then was shared by Vladimir Ashkenazy and John Ogdon.

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was held first in 1962 in Fort Worth.

The real Telstar (launched Cape Canaveral July 10; note mention of Toynbee):

Eric Hobsbawm

October 3 2012


Guardian sketch.




Tetralogy, or trilogy with sequel:

The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848 1962

The Age of Capital: 1848-1875 1975

The Age of Empire: 1875-1914 1987

The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991 (UK title) 1994

Some others:

Bandits 1969

Revolutionaries, 1973

Editor, with Terence Ranger, and contributor, The Invention of Tradition 1983

Uncommon People: Resistance, Rebellion and Jazz 1998

A final book, Fractured Spring, sent to the publisher a few months ago, will appear in 2013.

Schama meets Hobsbawm (conversation last year, post here).

Interview with Silvia Lemus, wife of Carlos Fuentes, perhaps for Mexican television and presumably from circa 1994:

Saint-Saëns conducts Henry VIII

September 24 2012

This is film of Saint-Saëns. It’s by Sacha Guitry and appears in his Ceux de chez nous of 1915, which was about the great men of his time (was it filmed in 1914?).

A German film at the time could have shown a similar anachronism, Max Bruch. Saint-Saëns’s dates are 1835-1921, Bruch’s 1838-1920.

S-S is conducting part of the ballet music from (I think) Act 2 of his opera Henry VIII, imagining the orchestra, with Cortot playing a piano reduction in front of him. The film, of course, is silent. Guitry tells us (1952) that they could not assemble an orchestra of eighty musicians during the war, and the irascible Saint-Saëns finally agreed to do it with only one.

Saint-Saëns wrote some hits, but is also a connoisseur’s composer. Everything is beautifully-crafted. There are surprises, often charm, but rarely mystery, and always restraint. He’s an emotional bucket that never slops over, as un-German in his way as Debussy. But there’s joy in the Organ Symphony (as of someone who has had a weight lifted from his mind).

Like Tchaikovsky and Dvořák, he never stopped writing operas and most of them, like most of theirs, have not travelled well. Henry VIII was premiered in 1883, a few years after Samson and Dalila. The libretto was by Léonce Détroyat and Armand Silvestre and was based on a seventeenth-century play, El cisma en Inglaterra (The Schism in England), by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. It deals with the discarding of Catherine of Aragon in favour of Anne Boleyn.

Act II ballet. Danseurs: Dominique Khalfouni, Jan Broeckx. Chorégraphie: Pierre Lacotte. Orchestre lyrique français (dir. : Alain Guignal). Direction artistique, mise en scène et réalisation : Pierre Jourdan. Théâtre impérial de Compiègne, 1991.

Divertissement: Fête populaire dans le parc de Richmond

N° 1. Introduction : Entrée des clans
N° 2. Idylle écossaise
N° 3. La fête du houblon
N° 4. Danse de la gitane
N° 5. Scherzetto
N° 6. Gigue et finale

Gypsy dance in the reign of Henry VIII? Actually, yes. The first gypsies are said to have arrived in England, in their odyssey from India, during his reign.

Saint-Saëns wanted the French to stop playing all German music during the war. He travelled to San Francisco in 1915, conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a world fair celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal, and produced a cantata, Hail California!

He had made recordings of various of his works (and some Chopin and perhaps other music) at the piano. There are gramophone recordings from 1904 and 1919, some Welte-Mignon piano rolls from 1905, a Duo-Art piano roll from 1915. Complete list as far as I know.

In 1908 he had become the first established composer to write for a film, L’assassinat du Duc de Guise (by agents of Henri III in 1588). Here it is. Somebody comments: “This music is TERRIBLE, the scoring alone being slipshod and annoying. I honestly wonder if someone else did it and passed it off as being by Saint-Saens.” I don’t know what they are talking about, though recording and performance are not ideal.

The gaiety of nations

September 23 2012

The phrase is by Samuel Johnson, referring to David Garrick in his essay on Edmund Smith in Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1781):

“I am disappointed by that stroke of death, which has eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the publick stock of harmless pleasure.”

Marching men

September 22 2012

Victims of corrupted power, drilled into passivity.


C. R. W. Nevinson, Marching Men; gouache, 1916. Imperial War Museum, London

Nevinson was one of the conduits between the futurist continental avant-garde of the second decade of the twentieth century and English illustration and commercial art of the ’30s. A twenty-year assimilation of futurism into popular art. He served as a war artist in France. My summary of him.

With Jane Caplan, A Study of History, new one-volume abridgement, with new material and revisions and, for the first time, illustrations, and with a Foreword by Toynbee, Thames & Hudson, 1972

The book has a black and white image. Caption probably by Caplan.

An English thing

September 21 2012

A riffle of laughter travels round an English audience when a short piece of classical music has a throwaway ending. It rippled the silence at the end of the scherzo alla marcia at the premiere of Vaughan Williams 8 in 1956 and at the end of Brahms’s Der Schmied with Alice Coote and Graham Johnson at Wigmore Hall last night.

VW, Previn, LSO. There’s a weightier performance with Handley and the Royal Liverpool Phil here which might not have got it. Is he alluding to the equivalent movement in Beethoven 8?

Met Howard Hodgkin at Wigmore. His pictures are poems and memories. I can see them as being in an English tradition, but, even though the effect may depend on them, I find his frames, two- and three-dimensional, kitsch.


July 22 2012

One of the features of the Christian liturgy was a recurrence of its ritual in both annual and weekly cycles. The Christian liturgical week was modelled on a Jewish prototype; and, though the Christian copy had been differentiated from the Jewish original by making the first day of the week the holy day instead of the seventh, the Christian adaptation still followed the pristine Jewish dispensation in retaining the Jewish name for the eve of the Sabbath. In the Greek Christian vocabulary, Friday continued to be called “the preparation” (Παρασκευή) [Paraskevi, which is still the word in modern Greek] – in accordance with a Jewish usage in which this elliptical term explained itself. In the psychological atmosphere of a post-Exilic Judaism, in which a stateless diasporà maintained its esprit de corps by a common devotion to the keeping of the Mosaic Law, “the preparation” sans phrase could mean nothing but “the preparation for the Sabbath”.


in the psychological atmosphere of a pre-Alexandrine Athenian sovereign city-state whose citizens worshipped their own then still potent corporate political power under the name of Athena Poliûchus [Athena Protector],

the word had had a merely political connotation.

In the usage of Thucydides, writing for an Athenian public for whom politics were the breath of life, and whose political-mindedness was being accentuated in the historian’s generation by the military ordeal of the Great Atheno-Peloponnesian War, the word Παρασκευὴ could be used as elliptically as it was afterwards to be used in the Septuagint [Greek Old Testament] to convey, just as unmistakably, an entirely different meaning. Thucydides uses the word to signify what a generation of Englishmen, overtaken unawares by a world war in the year A.D. 1914, learnt ruefully to take to heart as “preparedness” when they found themselves within an ace of defeat owing to their pre-war neglect to emulate the Germans in building up a stock of armaments to stand them in good stead in a fight for their national existence.

Is he referring to the 1915 shell crisis? Britain is considered to have won the naval arms race.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

The Last Survivor of a Dead Epoch

July 18 2012

“By the death of the Third Earl Russell (or Bertrand Russell, as he preferred to call himself) at the age of ninety, a link with a very distant past is severed. His grandfather, Lord John Russell, the Victorian Prime Minister, visited Napoleon in Elba; his maternal grandmother was a friend of the Young Pretender’s widow. In his youth he did work of importance in mathematical logic, but his eccentric attitude during the First World War revealed a lack of balanced judgment which increasingly infected his later writings. Perhaps this is attributable, at least in part, to the fact that he did not enjoy the advantages of a public school education, but was taught at home by tutors until the age of 18, when he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, becoming 7th Wrangler in 1893 and a Fellow in 1895. During the fifteen years that followed, he produced the books upon which his reputation in the learned world was based: The Foundations of Geometry, The Philosophy of Leibniz, The Principles of Mathematics, and (in collaboration with Dr. A. N. Whitehead) Principia Mathematica. The last work, which was of great importance in its day, doubtless owed much of its superiority to Dr. (afterwards Professor) Whitehead, a man who, as his subsequent writings showed, was possessed of that insight and spiritual depth so notably absent in Russell; for Russell’s argumentation, ingenious and clever as it is, ignores those higher considerations that transcend mere logic.

“This lack of spiritual depth became painfully evident during the First World War, when Russell, although (to do him justice) he never minimized the wrong done to Belgium, perversely maintained that, war being an evil, the aim of statesmanship should have been to bring the war to an end as soon as possible, which would have been achieved by British neutrality and a German victory. It must be supposed that mathematical studies had caused him to take a wrongly quantitative view which ignored the question of principle involved. Throughout the war, he continued to urge that it should be ended, on no matter what terms. Trinity College, very properly, deprived him of his lectureship, and for some months of 1918 he was in prison.

“In 1920 he paid a brief visit to Russia, whose government did not impress him favourably, and a longer visit to China, where he enjoyed the rationalism of the traditional civilization, with its still surviving flavour of the eighteenth century. In subsequent years his energies were dissipated in writings advocating socialism, educational reform, and a less rigid code of morals as regards marriage. At times, however, he returned to less topical subjects. His historical writings, by their style and their wit, conceal from careless readers the superficiality of the antiquated rationalism which he professed to the end.

“In the Second World War he took no public part, having escaped to a neutral country just before its outbreak. In private conversation he was wont to say that homicidal lunatics were well employed in killing each other, but that sensible men would keep out of their way while they were doing it. Fortunately this outlook, which is reminiscent of Bentham, has become rare in this age, which recognizes that heroism has a value independent of its utility. True, much of what was once the civilized world lies in ruins; but no right-thinking person can admit that those who died for the right in the great struggle have died in vain.

“His life, for all its waywardness, had a certain anachronistic consistency, reminiscent of that of the aristocratic rebels of the early nineteenth century. His principles were curious, but, such as they were, they governed his actions. In private life he showed none of the acerbity which marred his writings, but was a genial conversationalist and not devoid of human sympathy. He had many friends, but had survived almost all of them. Nevertheless, to those who remained he appeared, in extreme old age, full of enjoyment, no doubt owing, in large measure, to his invariable health, for politically, during his last years, he was as isolated as Milton after the Restoration. He was the last survivor of a dead epoch.”


Russell didn’t die at ninety, of course, but at ninety-seven. This was written by Russell himself for publication, or not, in The Times on June 1 1962 and was actually published in The Listener on August 12 1936. The anticipatory reference to the Second World War is startling. The Germans had reoccupied the Rhineland in March.

Text taken from a Bertrand Russell Society web page. In 1959 he reads part of the piece at the start of his interview with John Freeman on BBC Television, posted here.

Wellington and some French veterans

July 16 2012

I hadn’t realised there was a photograph of Wellington: a daguerreotype by Antoine Claudet from 1844, eight years before his death. Click for better resolution.

Below, photographs of Napoleon’s soldiers taken in the third quarter of the century. Has to be seen in full screen. The pride and élan of the earlier days is still in their faces. Some of the uniforms are Second Empire, ie not of the original period. I can’t tell you about the music.

The pictures follow the creation in 1857 of the St Helena Medal by Napoleon III. Its designer was Albert Désiré Barre. The obverse bears the effigy of Napoleon I, surrounded by the inscription NAPOLEON I EMPEREUR. The reverse has A SES COMPAGNONS DE GLOIRE SA DERNIÈRE PENSÉE STE. HÉLÈNE 5 MAI 1821, surrounded by CAMPAGNES DE 1792 A 1815. Accents as shown.

I once saw a man, Bertrand Russell, who had heard a first-hand account of Napoleon.