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, Winter, A 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.
Archive for the 'Britain' Category
July 21 1921: Edward Elgar opens the first HMV store, at 363 Oxford Street.
“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.
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:
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).
“It is terrible, this plebeian culture that celebrates itself.”
VS Naipaul, quoted in The Guardian, July 11 2000.
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:
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
Who in England (presumably in the seventeenth century) used this phrase to describe coffee?
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.
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
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).
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.”
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
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).
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.
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.
The Brazilian Girl from Ipanema, Garota 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.
In Russia it was Podmoskovnye Vechera, Подмосковные 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):
Tetralogy, or trilogy with sequel:
The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991 (UK title) 1994
Editor, with Terence Ranger, and contributor, The Invention of Tradition 1983
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:
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 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.”
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.
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.
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
“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.
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.
Bridge, Scherzo Phantastick (quartet), 1901
Bridge, Phantasie String Quartet, 1905
Ireland, Phantasie Trio, 1906
Bridge, Phantasie Piano Trio, 1907
Bridge, Phantasie Piano Quartet, 1910
Bowen, Phantasie Trio, c 1910
Vaughan Williams, Phantasy Quintet, 1912
Goossens, Phantasy Quartet, 1915
Holst, Phantasy Quartet on British Folk Songs, 1916
Bowen, Phantasy for Viola and Piano, 1918
Bax, Phantasy for Viola and Orchestra, 1920
Stanford, Phantasy for Horn and String Quartet, 1922
Goossens, Phantasy Sextet, 1923
Coates, The Selfish Giant, Phantasy (orchestra), 1925
Coates, The Three Bears, Phantasy (orchestra), 1926
Bax, Phantasy Sonata for Viola and Harp, 1927
Coates, Cinderella, Phantasy (orchestra), 1930
Bowen, Phantasie Quintet, 1932
Britten, Phantasy Quintet (WoO), 1932
Britten, Phantasy (quartet) (opus 2), 1932
Arnold, Phantasy for String Quartet “Vita Abundans”, 1941
Dunhill, Phantasy Suite for Clarinet and Piano, 1941
Goossens, Phantasy Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, 1942
Moeran, Phantasy Quartet, 1946
Bax, Phantasie in Four Pieces for Piano, 1947
Doubtless others. Nothing by Delius, who preferred fantasy. York Bowen was a good composer, at least when writing on a small scale. Arnold later wrote fantasies. I don’t think anyone has made this (not entirely pointless) list before.
Did the fashion come from Walter Willson Cobbett’s chamber music competitions, established in 1905, for works in one movement reflecting the spirit and structure of the Elizabethan fancie or phantasy? Were Bridge’s and others’ early pieces submitted to Cobbett? The answer to that seems to be yes. Did he start the revival of interest in Elizabethan music? Did Tippett and Britten discover it for themselves?
Britten, opus 2, Gernot Schmalfuß, oboe; Andreas Krecher, violin; Niklas Schwarz, viola; Armin Fromm, cello
Three things I’d have painted if I had been a British artist in the ’70s and ’80s:
The Queen sitting on what we take to be the throne. Crushed Ribena carton on ground in front of it. Style of Lucian Freud.
R Vaughan Williams besuited surrounded by a couple of hundred shirtless dancers: Vaughan Williams in Heaven.
Magnetic tape tangled up in a tree.
Sir Herbert Maxwell, in his Sixty Years a Queen, “The Story of Her Majesty’s Reign, Illustrated Chiefly from the Royal Collections”, [footnote: London 1897, arranged and printed by Eyre & Spottiswoode, published by Harmsworth Bros.] revealed to me, in his panorama, the achievements of Victorian England.
One of the Acknowledgments in the tenth volume of the Study which were so comprehensively ridiculed by Trevor-Roper.
Toynbee had referred to the same book in the preceding volume.
“History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London  [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century.
“To me it is a matter of indifference whether he read some unimportant book in the library of the Athenæum Club or in No. 45 Pembroke Square, in the summer of 1907 or in September 1952.” Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium, Encounter, June 1957.
But he misses the point of those Acknowledgments. There is a larger humility and delight behind the apparent self-centredness. And Toynbee is a romantic. Moreover, if you have a critical mind, it doesn’t matter what you read, since all history is two histories anyway: the subject purportedly being handled and the viewpoint of the historian. The meaning is in the synthesis, as you, a further element, perceive it.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Mid-way through the twentieth century of the Christian Era the Western Society was manifestly given over to the worship of a number of idols that had been the bane of other civilizations in the past; but, among these, one stood out above all the rest, and this was the cult of the institution of Parochial Sovereignty embodied in parochial states that were being worshipped by their respective subjects as very gods [footnote] and that were demonstrating their demonic power over their devotees by exacting from them human sacrifices of ever greater enormity in cycles of fratricidal wars of a violence that was increasing in a geometrical progression.
At some date during the latter part of the breathing-space between the general wars of A.D. 1914-18 and A.D. 1939-45, the writer of this Study heard the presiding officer of one of the livery companies of the City of London bear testimony which was convincing, because it was unselfconscious, to the primacy, in his Weltanschauung, of one of these tribe-worships. The occasion was a dinner at which the company was entertaining the delegates to an international congress that was in session in London at the time, and the presiding officer had risen to propose the toast “Church and King”. Having it on his mind that a majority of his guests were foreigners who would not be familiar with an English tribal custom, the president prefaced the toast with an apology and an explanation. No doubt, he said, the order in which he had rehearsed the two institutions that were to be honoured conjointly in the toast that he was about to propose might seem to a foreigner not only quaint but perhaps even positively unseemly. He apologized for abiding, nevertheless, by the traditional order, and explained that he did so because it was the pride of the city companies to be meticulous in preserving antique usages, even when these had become so anachronistic as to be open to misconstruction by the uninitiated.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
It’s hard to make some historical points about the two Diamond Jubilees, 1897 and 2012, without seeming to inflate the importance of the subject and join a media stampede. (I’ve changed my June 8 post.)
I have quoted this before. Toynbee associates the growing prestige of the Crown in the twentieth century with the decline of British power.
The prestige and popularity which the British Crown was enjoying in the year 1937 would have astonished even the most sharp-sighted observer of the politics of the United Kingdom in 1837, on the eve of the accession of Queen Victoria – supposing that our imaginary observer could have returned to life after the lapse of a hundred years. It is true that in 1937 the Crown performed a practical service for which there had been no demand a hundred years back – as a personal link between the several fully self-governing members of the British Commonwealth of Nations [...]. Yet a contemporary English observer would not be disposed to believe that the twentieth-century revalorization of the Crown had been wholly, or even mainly, due to any such utilitarian constitutional consideration. The deeper reason why the British Crown was now once more attracting to itself the affections and the hopes of its subjects in the United Kingdom was because the English in this generation had a feeling – which was not the less strong for being unacknowledged – that England had now passed her political zenith. It was this feeling that was sapping the prestige and popularity of Parliament – the master institution of England in her maturity – and was restoring the prestige and popularity of the Crown, which had been the master institution of an age of political adolescence to which the twentieth-century Englishman was now wistfully looking back.
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939 (footnote)
“Take up the White Man’s burden –
Send forth the best ye breed –
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild –
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
The savage wars of peace –
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper –
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard –
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light: –
‘Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?’
Take up the White Man’s burden –
Ye dare not stoop to less –
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
Have done with childish days –
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!”
Kipling. See last post but one, including first comment. The Times, February 4 1899; Wikipedia says McClure’s magazine with no exact date; The Five Nations (1903). The text here is from The Five Nations.
“To veil the threat of terror.” That word already.
Jan Morris’s phrase for the late British Empire, last post.
I forget what historian said, in a memorable passage, that England after 1895 no longer, to him, felt like England: something febrile had come into the atmosphere.
Was it Élie Halévy?, who wrote at the beginning of the Epilogue of his History of the English People:
“I will conclude my [principal] narrative about the year 1895, that is to say, about the time when Gladstone disappeared from political life. Neither Chamberlain with his exploitations of the warlike passions of the democracy, nor Lloyd George, author of the budget of 1909, the Insurance Act of 1911 and the programme of land reform of 1912, were men of the Victorian age. The period between 1895 and 1914 does not belong to the British nineteenth century, as I understand it. It is at most the epilogue of that century, as it is the prologue of the century which opened with those four [fourteen, surely] years of tremendous upheaval, both military and social.”
Or am I half-remembering something more substantial in Halévy? Or in GM Young’s Portrait of an Age? Or in George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England? Dangerfield was writing more about the years immediately before 1914.
Halévy’s great book is called History of the English People in my Pelican edition, but is really History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century. It was published in France between 1913 and 1932 and in translation in England in 1931-32. The first volume – three in the Pelican series, perhaps it was divided in the French too – was on England in 1815. The second took the story to 1830 (an English date, too: accession of William IV, end of Wellington). The third to 1841 (second Peel ministry). The fourth, taking it to 1852, was never completed. The Epilogue on 1895-1914 is three more volumes in the Pelican series. I have never seen the intervening volumes in Pelicans.
The unfinished fourth volume was published in English in 1961 as Victorian Years, with a supplementary essay commissioned from RB McCallum to link it to the Epilogue. I own the six Pelicans (collectors’ pieces), published between 1937 and 1940.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee comes in the middle of that closing lustrum of the nineteenth century. Imperial events punctuate the years like gunshot reports.
Jameson Raid 1895-96, Transvaal Republic
Siege of Malakand 1897, North West Frontier Province
Fashoda Incident 1898, Sudan
Siege of Ladysmith 1899-1900, Natal
Siege of Mafeking 1899-1900, Transvaal Republic
None of them was a happy event or foregone conclusion, though this was the time of the greatest imperial ebullience. The scenes of hysterical celebration in England at the relief of Mafeking shocked many contemporary observers.
But the heady year 1897 produced Kipling’s Recessional, whose prescience is so remarkable that it hardly sinks in on one reading even today. (It is also a Hamlet, so full is it of quotations.)
“God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine –
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law –
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word –
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
Recessional was published in The Times on July 17 1897 and collected in The Five Nations (1903). The text here is from The Five Nations. Kipling had intended his Jubilee poem to be The White Man’s Burden, but that was published later (The Times, February 4 1899; Wikipedia says McClure’s magazine with no exact date; The Five Nations), when it was made to apply to American expansionism and given the subtitle The United States and the Philippine Islands. It, too, has its complexities.
Kipling, taking his whole achievement together, was surely one of the four fin-de-siècle English and Irish geniuses – with Elgar, Yeats and Chesterton. Wilde is a runner-up. Shaw, Wells and others are in the B list. Most of Elgar’s œuvre was a kind of recessional.
The musical hit of 1897, which reflected, perhaps helped to make, the public mood, was an Imperial March by the still little-known Edward Elgar. BBC Philharmonic, George Hurst.
Boult does it with a degree more urgency. It’s an Imperial summons, a pre-echo of the Pomp and Circumstance marches; there was also the Empire March of 1924 for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. The image is an unwrinkled Queen Victoria’s official Jubilee photograph.
The ninth symphony of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music (“Sir?, symphony?, Master of what?”) is dedicated to the Queen for this Jubilee and has its premiere tomorrow with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko. Then it will be heard in the Proms. PMD writes about it here. There are anti-imperial things in the work. He had told us that the Antarctic symphony would be his last. One hopes that he is not inviting the curse of the ninth.
The music at the Jubilee service in St Paul’s on Tuesday contained a sub-Ruttersque piece by Will Todd. Why? Vaughan Williams’s Old 100th was taken too slowly.
The 1897 Jubilee was the culmination of a rehabilitation of the monarchy which had been started by Disraeli during his second ministry (from 1874), if not during his first. The monarchy had become a marginal institution, hardly in the public consciousness, and in aristocratic terms was in any case irrelevant. It had a constitutional function, but there was no pomp. Victoria, in perpetual mourning, never appeared in public. (She disliked ceremony to the end of her life. She hardly dressed up for the Jubilee.) Republicanism was far stronger in England than it is now. Bagehot had defined constitutional monarchy in modern terms in The English Constitution in 1867, but he cannot have foreseen what was about to happen to it.
Disraeli saw that the new global empire which was taking shape, and the industrialised democracy at the centre of it, now semi-educated (Education Act 1870), with the yellow press round the corner, needed a new unifying institution. Victoria was susceptible to flattery and Disraeli set to work on her. (She liked outsiders: her German husband Prince Albert, her Scottish servant John Brown, her Jewish prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, her Indian servant Abdul Karim. Brown made romantic Scotland flesh for her, “the Munshi” romantic India.)
In 1876 Disraeli pushed through a Royal Titles Act to make her Empress of India. She was proclaimed at the Delhi Durbar of 1877. The title was available. It had been in abeyance since the deposition of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur II, in 1858. The Mughal dynasty had ruled over most of the subcontinent from the sixteenth century, but had used the title Badshah (whence Pādeshāh, considered in the West to be equivalent to Emperor) without geographic designation. During the Indian rebellion of 1857, the rebel sepoys had proclaimed Bahadur II as Badshah-i-Hind or Emperor of India.
The emotional hold Disraeli had over Victoria in this came from the fact that her eldest daughter, Victoria, had in 1858 married the future Friedrich III of Prussia. In 1871 his father, Wilhelm I, had become Kaiser or Emperor. So Victoria’s daughter was an empress in waiting. For the daughter to upstage the mother wouldn’t do. (She was not an empress for long, as it turned out. Friedrich inherited the title in 1888, but died of natural causes in the same Year of Three Emperors, to make way for Kaiser Bill.)
Jan Morris in a 1997 BBC television documentary about the 1897 Jubilee (Jonathan Stamp; David Cannadine a consultant), on iPlayer here until tomorrow: “Powders, gold, palm trees, strands [...]. The whole image of India, then as now, had a romance to it, so for the British to feel that they were masters of this almost legendary, almost fictional, landscape on the other side of the earth was something that was very easy for an astute politician like Disraeli to exploit.”
The same elevation of monarchy to suit a modern, militaristic society occurred in Japan after the Meiji “restoration” of 1868, one of the many ways in which Japanese history has, at various times, strangely paralleled English. Here, too, the monarchy was brought out of abeyance, dusted down and given new ceremonies over which to preside.
Between 1876 and 1897, even as Britain’s relative industrial decline began, the image of Victoria as mother to a global family was perfected. (A youngish taxi driver in Dar es Salaam referred to the present Queen to me this year as “our mother”. How long can this go on?)
Her name was on the map from Victoria Falls to the city of Victoria in western Canada to the state of Victoria in Australia to Victoria on Hong Kong island. She never travelled in her Empire. India was the only part of it that lived somewhat in her imagination. (Her son visited India as Prince of Wales, just before she was made Empress.) But in 1897 the Empire came to London.
In 1877, 1903 and 1911, there were imperial durbars in Delhi. (George V attended the 1911 durbar. Edward VIII visited India as Prince of Wales. George VI, as far as I know, never did. Nor was there a durbar for him.) The last, judging from film of it, looks inflated to the point of vulgarity. Many (including Elgar and Chesterton) would find the Empire Exhibition of 1924 at Wembley, where the Duke of York struggled to make a speech, vulgar, though it wasn’t a royal event.
But on the whole, royal ceremonies have avoided inflation. George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 was a high point for the monarchy, and the king, rather than aggrandising himself, was famously humbled by it. Anyone looking at the 2012 Jubilee celebrations, whatever their views on the monarchy, would have to agree that Britain has a talent for this sort of thing, a sureness of touch which we hardly, any longer, show in anything else. Where does it come from? I suppose partly from a memory of medieval pageantry, partly from experience in constitutional ceremonies and ceremonies necessary in the running of an empire. I am sure that some of it comes from Mughal India, with its pomp and its processions, its colours and its swaying elephants. The British must have learned something from this. I don’t know whether Cannadine makes this point in his Ornamentalism. The point of that book, according to the Amazon blurb, was to show how “the British Empire was based on a conscious effort to export a model of class hierarchy and status from home out to overseas possessions. The Indian Raj and the tropics of Africa were run as though they were the ornate stately homes or broad-acred landed estates of southern England.” (“Ornate”!) An influence, in other words, in the opposite direction.
Simon Schama in the generally feeble BBC television coverage: “We must remember how extraordinary it is that the problems of Empire morphed into the genuine community of affection of the Commonwealth.” The Jubilee was not merely a British event. London this week was full of Commonwealth representatives, and doubtless some Gurkhas. London in 1897 was full of loyal, foreign Imperial regiments. Some of those soldiers must have died subsequently in France, Mesopotamia and elsewhere. But to one blogger, James Bridle, the present Jubilee is “false memory”.
In my early childhood I saw imperial flag-lowerings on television. Churchill’s funeral. Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in Whitehall. Images of endings. More recently, we have seen weddings and jubilees. Another funeral in 1997. An unhealthy amount of attention has been given to some of this.
It’s moving to hear old people in the film remembering their youthful pride in the Empire. The exhilaration of 1897 has proven hard to shake off. Many in Britain are still living, in some degree, under the spell of that year. In the last night of the Proms we have (to quote the film) “an echo of that distant euphoria”. After many soccer matches, we have an echo of Mafeking night.
Within a couple of years of 1897, the Second Boer War had begun, whose difficulties were a shock to the British, as those of the Vietnam war were to be to the Americans. They learned new, inhumane techniques of warfare, as the Americans did in Vietnam. Jan Morris in the film (how nice it always is to listen to her):
“Almost at once, looking back on it, it began to crumble [...]. Almost at once this vast and marvellous illusion turned out to be an illusion after all. Almost immediately the Boer War happened and there was the humiliation of the Empire, which it never quite got over. And after that, of course, came the much worse tragedies, the First World War, which perhaps made the British feel that they weren’t the masters of their fate, as they had fondly thought they would always be, and that things were not so certain, nothing was quite so bold and straight and square as the crowds watching the Diamond Jubilee going by had thought they were.”
Queen Victoria with Indian servants, Windsor Castle, 1895
The outlook prevalent among people of the middle class in Great Britain at the earliest date in the last decade of the nineteenth century of the Christian Era at which the writer had begun to be aware of the psychological atmosphere of his social milieu was something that was best conveyed in caricature. In this milieu in the eighteen-nineties the feeling was:
“History is now at an end; this history is therefore final”;
[footnote: Sellar, W.C., and Yeatman, R. J.: 1066 and All That (London 1930, Methuen), p. viii.] and at this date this Weltanschauung was shared with an English middle class by the children of the German and the Northern American victors in the latest bout of Modern Western wars (gerebantur circa A.D. 1848-71). The beneficiaries from this aftermath of the General War of A.D. 1792-1815 had not, by then, begun to suspect, any more than their English “opposite numbers” had, that the Modern Age of Western history had been wound up only to inaugurate a post-Modern Age pregnant with imminent experiences that were to be at least as tragic as any tragedies yet on record. At the close of the nineteenth century even a German middle class, that was then still permitting itself to indulge in criminally irresponsible day-dreams of more frisch fröhlich six-weeks’ wars, was of the same mind as its North American and English “opposite numbers” in its workaday sober senses. In these three provinces of a post-Modern Western World an unprecedentedly prosperous and comfortable Western middle class was taking it as a matter of course that the end of one age of one civilization’s history was the end of History itself at least so far as they and their kind were concerned. They were imagining that, for their benefit, a sane, safe, satisfactory Modern Life had miraculously come to stay as a timeless present. “History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London  [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century. The assumption that the final product of those sixty years A.D. 1837-97 had come to stay was patently contrary to reason, considering that the pictures with which the text of Sixty Years a Queen was copiously illustrated presented a fascinatingly fast-moving pageant of change in every department of life, from Technology to Dress, in which change could clothe itself in visual form. In A.D. 1952 it was manifest in retrospect, even to the dullest eye, that this visual evidence had portended, not a perpetuation of the fleeting circumstances of late-nineteenth-century English middle-class life, but a revolutionary transformation of the ephemeral Victorian scene along the grim lines actually followed by the course of History within the next half-century. An oracular foreboding of the future was, indeed, uttered at the time by the Subconscious Psyche through an incongruous poetic medium. Yet Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional made little impression on the contemporaries of a Late Victorian poet who had found himself writing these ominous lines at an imperious Muse’s dictation. In the United Kingdom, as in Germany and in the Northern United States, the complacency of a post-Modern Western bourgeoisie remained unshaken till the outbreak of the first post-Modern general war in A.D. 1914.
English middle-class Conservatives for whom the Millennium had already arrived, and English middle-class Liberals for whom it lay only just round the corner, were, of course, aware that the English working class’s share in the middle class’s economic prosperity was shockingly small, and that British subjects in most of the colonies and dependencies of the United Kingdom were not enjoying a self-government that was the privilege of their fellow subjects in the United Kingdom itself and in a few other dominions of the British Crown; but these political and economic inequalities were discounted by Liberals as being something remediable and by Conservatives as being something inevitable. Citizens of the United States at the North were similarly aware, for their part, that their own economic prosperity was not shared by their fellow-citizens at the South, and that the fathers of these Southern contemporaries of theirs had seceded from the Union and had been brought back into it only by the force majeure of the North’s crushing victory over the South in a terrible civil war. Citizens of the German Reich were aware that the inhabitants of a “Reichsland” annexed from France after her crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of A.D. 1870-1 were still French at heart and that the rest of a French nation which had not yet ceased to be a Great Power was still unreconciled to the amputation of the ceded departments. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries France was still entertaining thoughts of a revanche, and the subject population in Alsace-Lorraine was still dreaming the same dream of an eventual liberation as other subject populations in Slesvik, Poland, Macedonia, and Ireland. These dissatisfied contemporaries of a sated German, British, and North American bourgeoisie were nursing national grievances and national aspirations which did not permit them to acquiesce in a comfortable belief that “History” was “at an end”; indeed they could not have continued, as they did continue, to keep alight the flickering flame of a forlorn hope if they had succumbed to a Weltanschauung which, for them, would have spelled, not security, but despair. Yet their unwavering confidence that a, to them, intolerable established régime must be borne away, sooner or later, by Time’s “ever rolling stream” made little impression on the torpid imagination of “the Ascendancy”. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth”; [footnote: Isa. liii. 7.] and, though “the Ascendancy” was under a delusion in mistaking for an intimation of consent a silence that was inspired by the watchword “N’en parlons jamais, y pensons toujours”, [footnote: The watchword suggested for the guidance of members of the rising generation in France, on the morrow of her loss of Alsace-Lorraine in A.D. 1871, by a French statesman of an older generation (? Paul Déroulède).] [unusual question mark ... it seems to have been Gambetta who said this] there was in A.D. 1897 no living man or woman, even among the most sanguine-minded prophets of a nationalist or a socialist revolution, who dreamed that a demand for national self-determination was going to break up the Hapsburg, Hohenzollern, and Romanov empires and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland within the next twenty-five years, and going to spread, within another twenty-five years, from a few sore spots in Western Europe and in Orthodox Christendom to the uttermost parts of the Old World, or that a demand for social democracy was going to spread from the urban working class in a few precociously industrialized provinces of the Western World to the peasantry of Mexico and China. Gandhi (natus A.D. 1869) and Lenin (natus A.D. 1870) were then still unknown names; and the word “Communism” then commemorated a lurid event in the past that had been the last eruption of History’s now extinct volcano. This ominous outbreak of savagery in a Parisian underworld in A.D. 1871 was written off by optimistic post-Modern Western minds as an abnormal atavistic reaction to the shock of a startling military disaster, and there was no discernible fear of the recrudescence of a conflagration that had been smothered now for longer than a quarter of a century under a bourgeois Third Republic’s wet blanket. In 1897 a Western bourgeois gentilhomme’s sleep was not being seriously disturbed by prophetic nightmares.
Victorian pennies were current until 1971, the year Britain completed its withdrawal from most of its bases east of Suez
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
[Footnote: Watts, Isaac [...].]
We are in Glenn Gould territory at the beginning of the clip below. I don’t think Gould played William Croft, and I don’t know who is playing here, but Croft is a seriously underrated composer. His St Anne is one of the great tunes.
Croft was organist at St Anne’s Church in Soho. Watts and Croft were of the same generation, born in the 1670s. Handel used St Anne in one of his own anthems. Bach may have borrowed it in a fugue.
St Anne, in Christian and Islamic tradition, was the mother of the Virgin Mary.
After the piano, Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. Then a further recording by an unnamed organist.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
If you have even a grain of sympathy with the person (quoted in a comment here somewhere) who described Britten’s War Requiem as classy kitsch, then Jarman’s 1989 film may not be for you. But while it is on YouTube, here it is. The requiem is still a twentieth-century masterwork. The film uses the original recording with Fischer-Dieskau, Vishnevskaya, London Symphony Orchestra, Melos Ensemble, Bach Choir and Britten conducting. Wikipedia:
“It was shot in 1988 by the British film director Derek Jarman with the 1963 recording as the soundtrack, produced by Don Boyd and financed by the BBC. Decca Records required that the 1963 recording be heard on its own, with no overlaid soundtrack or other sound effects [or interjections?]. The film featured Nathaniel Parker as Wilfred Owen, and Laurence Olivier in his last acting appearance in any medium before his death in July 1989. The film is structured as the reminiscences of Olivier’s character, the Old Soldier in a wheelchair, and Olivier recites ‘Strange Meeting’ in the film’s prologue.”
Actors, in other words, but the entire Decca soundtrack that follows the prologue is unadulterated.
(Addendum to baby bottles.)
The Town Taking on China, episode 2, BBC2 television, May 15, is on BBC iPlayer until May 25. The town is Kirkby. BBC: “Tony Caldeira is a man on a mission – to create a British workforce who can defeat the economic might of China – using only cushions!”
My comment yesterday was not based on some ridiculously snobbish idea that if you talk to business or industry to gauge economic confidence, it should be to big companies. It came from the fact that people in London are disconnected from the world of manufacturing. They don’t know about it or take it seriously. Their friends work in media and service industries. Factories are somewhere else. The gap exists in all developed economies, but is wider in the UK than in Germany or Japan, and amounts to a cultural and social schism.
There was a snobbery about industry in Britain, a disdain for people who worked with their hands, with or without machines. The proletariat in English cities lost its rural roots early in the industrial age. (While the bosses set their hearts on retirement in the country.) Modern city-dwellers have, in turn, lost their industrial roots. Hence the shallow cosmopolitanism of a Tony Blair.
Related schism: science vs humanities. CP Snow’s two cultures thesis may have been questionable in all kinds of ways, but was interesting. He condemned the British educational system for having over-rewarded the humanities, especially Latin and Greek, at the expense of science and engineering. We never had a Prussian system. Toynbee was an example of a man who knew everything about Latin and Greek and nothing about science. The modern political establishment in Britain knows nothing about science or the humanities. And British politicians never sound less convincing than when they speak of skills-training. I heard an echo of some of this in those BBC reports.
Snobbery: third-world governments accuse publishers of showing poverty in photographs instead of their pet infrastructure project or the new airport road (airport roads being propaganda statements in their own right).
What comes into British journalists’ minds when they hear the word engineer? Probably the man who fixes your boiler. What comes into their minds when they think of industry? As the economic sky was darkening in summer 2008, the editors of BBC Radio 4’s “flagship” lunchtime news programme The World at One sent out a reporter to gauge the mood of “industry”.
Where did he go? To a pharmaceutical company? An aircraft manufacturer? A biotech lab? No. He went to a company that made whistles.
I recorded this at the time in a post. Today, in an equally ominous time, the same programme sent out a reporter to judge the mood of a small manufacturing company in the light of vague policy announcements just made in the Queen’s Speech. The segment was introduced with “Let’s move on now to the economy”. What did the company make? Solar panels? Electronic components? Automobile parts? No. Baby bottles.
This is not (in case you assume this) the quirky editorial tradition of one news programme. Nor did the Queen’s Speech mention babies or children, except in relation to custody and care. It illustrates something about British awareness of industry which could be illustrated in other ways.
The other main business story today was the near-demise of Clinton Cards, a chain of shops which sells only greetings cards. This was important as a human story as it has 8,000 employees.
The programme is online for the next seven days.
Lueger was Mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910. Hitler paid tribute to him in Mein Kampf.
Lueger is pronounced Lu-eger, not Lüger.
Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz remains. So does the Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Gedächtniskirche (memorial church) in the Zentralfriedhof (central cemetery). There is sycophancy in these chains of hyphens.
AJP Taylor in The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918, Hamish Hamilton, 1948 edition:
“The ‘Austrian idea’ in its last version – an idea which in shaky form survived dynasty and Empire – was of Roman Catholic manufacture. The Christian Socialist party organised by Lueger was the first real attempt of the Church to go with the masses, more democratic – and more demagogic – than the Centre, its German counterpart. Christian Socialism appealed to the traditional clericalism of the peasant and yet freed the peasant from dependence on the landowner; more, despite the peasant’s hostility to the town, it brought the peasants into alliance with the shopkeepers and artisans who were threatened by the advance of great industry. In fact, the Christian Socialist party was the Austrian version of the Radical party in France (or even of Lloyd George radicalism in England), except that it worked with the Church instead of against it. It aimed to protect the ‘little man’ from limited companies and trade unions, from banks and multiple stores, and also from great estates and mechanised farming. It sought to divert the rising political passions into channels not dangerous to the Church: it was anti-liberal, anti-Jewish, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist. The leaders of the movement knew exactly what they were about: though they appealed to base passions, especially anti-Semitism, they supposed that they could always control the passions which they evoked. Lueger declared, ‘I decide who is a Jew,’ and firmly protected any Jew who kept clear of liberalism and Marxism. Seipel, a later leader, said of his party’s anti-Semitism: ‘That is for the gutter.’ He had no inkling that the gutter would one day murder his successor [Dollfuss]. Christian Socialism was an attempt to touch pitch and not be defiled. As the party of the ‘little man,’ it was Imperial ‘by appointment’; its supporters knew the value of the Archdukes’ custom. Traditional Austrians were at first shocked by the Christian Socialist demagogy; and, in the ’nineties Francis Joseph four times refused to confirm Lueger as Mayor of Vienna. In 1897 he was accepted; and the dynasty acknowledged that it had found a new ally.”
Mahler’s reign at the Hofoper was nearly coterminous with Lueger’s at the Rathaus: 1897-1907.
I learned at the tram stop shown in the BBC story, as it happens, of the death of Arnold Toynbee, through a copy of The Times that I bought at its kiosk on October 24 or 27 1975. “A great historian” was the obituary’s headline.
Schadenfreude is an English word, wellness a German one.
Talking about Germans and Austrians in England (post before last), below, in three stages, is Nikolaus Pevsner – who became the learned authority on the Buildings of England for the post-war owners and occupiers of the buildings and for car-drivers and other explorers of the countryside – talking about Constable and English ideas of landscape in the penultimate of his 1955 BBC Reith Lectures.
“Outdoor life [...] required moderate weather: too warm not to want to be outdoors, too cool to be idle outdoors. Hence sports, hence gardening. And surely such weather turns up for some time on nearly every day in England, however much moisture there may be in the atmosphere, lying in wait to condense into rain and to drip off your sandwiches which you have taken to enjoy the sunshine on top of Bowfell or the Gog Magogs or Porlock Hill.” Hence, one could say, exploring England with your Pevsner.
His Reith lectures were called The Englishness of English Art. They are fairly demanding for radio, unless you know the artists. You can hear all of them here, but we really need a YouTube illustrated version. There is an illustrated book.
The Geography of Art
Hogarth and Observed Life
Reynolds and Detachment
Blake and the Planing Line
Constable and the Pursuit of Nature
Architecture and Planning: The Functional Approach
Alexander Cozens as the first abstract expressionist. Impressionists in the 1860s?
I associate Pevsner with the early post-war years. A certain exiguousness in those years suited the style of English country houses, but encouraged an unhealthy preference for the threadbare, for buckets catching leaks, over the vulgarity of a place “done up”. A fear developed that doing a place up to modern standards would urbanise it, make it turn in on itself, alienate it from the landscape.
Over-restoration, the removal of the effects of time on buildings, is, in fact, a German habit. Perhaps Pevsner enjoyed rural England’s comparative immunity from it.
Urban buildings can also lose their history. When the oldest restaurant in London, Rules, installed halogen “downlighting”, it immediately lost all its feeling of age. It is hard to say why that small change seemed such a serious offence against history, but it did.
Simon Schama talks to the 94-year old Eric Hobsbawm at Hobsbawm’s house in Hampstead. At BBC iPlayer until April 21.
When I was growing up, there was much more of this kind of thing on BBC radio, because more of these educated central Europeans, exiles and children of exiles, were still living. They lent a certain flavour to postwar English life, and to the BBC itself, as staff and as subjects. Many lived in Hampstead. Hobsbawm and Alfred Brendel must be the last two still there. I lived for a time in my twenties in part of the Hampstead house of one of them, Fred Uhlman.