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.)
Archive for the 'Britain' Category
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.
In the encounter between the world and the West that has been going on by now for four or five hundred years, the world, not the West, is the party that, up to now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the West that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit – and hit hard – by the West; and that is why, in the title of this book, the world has been put first.
The World and the West, OUP, 1953
From an old post:
The horse-crowded streets of enchanted late-Victorian and Edwardian London had been full of swaggering energy. The streets of the ’30s were also noisy and busy, but in a mechanical, less muscular way, and it was a great age of style in signage, tube stations, posters, shop fronts, the smooth shapes of cars and buses. In the ’20s, on the other hand, the vehicles are still a bit rickety and rackety and square and there’s an in-between feeling: the animals and the pre-war commercial raucousness have left the streets, but no evolved visual modernity has yet taken their place.
Silent movie streetscapes.
Only the first one minute, eleven seconds. This is the first of three YouTube clips, together lasting half an hour, in which John Barbirolli talks to CB Rees in 1960. The sequence is a filler on a CD of his recording of Mahler 3 with the Hallé in the BBC Legends series.
Below, Barbirolli rehearsing, obsessively, the scherzo of Bruckner 7 with the Hallé at the beginning (first few minutes of this first clip of seven) of a 1965 television film for the BBC Monitor series, narrated by Huw Wheldon. We have met Wheldon already here narrating a couple of early films by Ken Russell.
Barbirolli’s 1964 EMI Mahler 9 with the Berlin Philharmonic is a marvellous recording. The third appearance of the “weak heart” motif, the first thing you hear in the symphony (it’s followed by a vaguely Chinese row of four notes), in the latter part of the first movement, is the most shattering sound on record.
“There are no bad orchestras, only bad conductors.”
He was a wonderful Haydn conductor. The last few minutes of the third clip of the Rees talk, not shown here, give an impression of his dedication to his craft. (Is the photograph Barbirolli? It looks more like Tippett.) His music sometimes suffered, towards the end, from the same thing that (sometimes) undermined Bernstein’s: excessive love and care.
Since Hugh Trevor-Roper is a recurring character in this blog, I have to link to the last two, very entertaining, episodes of a reading of Robert Harris’s Selling Hitler on BBC Radio 4 Extra: episodes 7 (available till April 4) and 8 (till April 5).
The story so far:
Over the next two years, Stern secretly pays a mysterious “Dr Fischer” nearly 9 million marks for sixty volumes of “diaries” written in Hitler’s hand for the years 1932-45 and for a supplementary volume about Rudolf Hess. They had been discovered, allegedly, in the wreck of a plane which had crashed in a forest in 1945 while carrying Hitler’s personal archive.
We are in 1983. Rupert Murdoch has acquired the English-language publishing rights from Stern for $1.2 million. In November 1945 British intelligence had commissioned Trevor-Roper to investigate the circumstances of Hitler’s death. He had subsequently written The Last Days of Hitler. Now, on Saturday April 23, having barely glanced at the notebooks in the vault of a bank in Zurich, he pronounces them authentic in Murdoch’s The Times, basing his judgment on circumstantial evidence.
Before his article is published, forensic evidence is released which is at best problematic. The holocaust-denying historian David Irving states in print that the diaries are forgeries. Trevor-Roper starts to have doubts.
On the Saturday, his article open in front of him, he calls The Times to express them, hoping that the editor will prevent Murdoch’s The Sunday Times from publishing the first extracts on the following day. He does not. Publication goes ahead, and very unconvincing the diaries are.
A press conference is called for Monday April 25 in Hamburg to launch Stern’s publication of further extracts. Heidemann and Trevor-Roper sit alongside its bullish editors. Trevor-Roper, for whom this has turned into a nightmare, voices his doubts. Irving speaks from the audience. The event is a catastrophe for all on the panel.
The diaries are revealed as the work of a Stuttgart criminal, Konrad Kujau. Heidemann and Kujau go to jail. Most of the money has gone into Heidemann’s pocket, though not all is accounted for. The forger is full of moral indignation at Heidemann’s dishonesty, having received only a couple of million marks.
This “disagreeable episode” (as he called it on Desert Island Discs; listen here) did not affect the quality of Trevor-Roper’s subsequent work. Its greatest irony was that the reputation of a great historian was undermined in part by a man as disreputable as David Irving. With help, from the other side, from a man as disreputable as Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch, according to Harris, said only three things about the whole affair:
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“After all, we are in the entertainment business.”
“The circulation went up and it stayed up. We didn’t lose money or anything like that.”
Murdoch, Heidemann and Irving are still alive.
A clip from Phoenix about the affair in German, including shots of the press conference:
“Old Time heaved a mouldy sigh from tomb and arch and vault; and gloomy shadows began to deepen in corners; and damps began to rise from green patches of stone; and jewels, cast upon the pavement of the nave from stained glass by the declining sun, began to perish.”
Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870, unfinished, posthumous).
Years ago, I asked some friends in different parts of the world what they thought of the painting at the top, which is called A Woman of the Fields. I didn’t load the question by asking: “What nationality is the woman?”, but they knew the painting was English.
An Englishman said: “She’s not English. She’s certainly French! Look at the face, headdress and shawl.”
A Brazilian emailed: “That doesn’t look English. It is very interesting. I could swear that that woman was a Latin American.” I suppose he meant Amerindian.
A Scot called it a “moving portrait”. He didn’t say: “She’s obviously Scottish”, despite the hint of tartan.
An Egyptian emailed: “That woman looks really like an Egyptian country woman … so strange!”
I haven’t posed the question to a French Algerian friend, but he would surely have said: “She looks like a Berber woman.”
His own grandmother (last picture above) even resembles her.
My mother, who comes from south Germany, emailed: “A Woman of the Fields could most certainly have lived on the Swabian Alb – right up to the time after the war. I have always felt that I know this woman.”
(I know what she means. There’s that Swabian display of folded hands. Veined obduracy. I can even remember peasants in this part of Germany.)
The last painting above (the oil version, not this engraving) was being sold several years ago as a poster by an Australian company which described it, plausibly, but completely inaccurately, as a piece of old Australiana.
Actually, she was an English farm hand.
The paintings are by an English artist called George Clausen, my great-grandfather. Why isn’t he better known? His career was long (seventy years, from the 1870s to the 1940s) and his style evolved continuously. This is discouraging to critics. The quality of his work was uneven, though there are good pieces from every phase. His paintings were quiet and he was personally modest. And there has never been a proper book about him, though Kenneth McConkey, the main living expert on late Victorian and Edwardian painting, is writing one which will be published later this year or in 2013, I hope by Yale. (Kenneth wrote an important catalogue for a Clausen exhibition at the Royal Academy and elsewhere in 1980.)
It has been fun to do some dilettante research of one’s own while in the unusual position (despite Kenneth’s work) of having a subject even somewhat to oneself.
Clausen’s early work has always been admired, especially paintings of the 1880s, but some of the later pieces, until recently, were undervalued. Good work could be bought cheaply.
Van Gogh knew about and admired Clausen, at a time when Clausen could not have heard of Van Gogh. He sends Theo a Clausen print. “Here at last you have something of English art.”
The paintings, from top to bottom, (they all expand) are:
A Woman of the Fields, also known as A Field Hand (1884)
A Moment’s Rest (1882)
December (1882); the workers are topping and tailing turnips for sheep fodder
Day Dreams (1883)
Flora, The Gypsy Flower Seller (1883); she reminds me a little of Picasso’s La Célestine (1904)
Winter Work (1883-4); the girl was painted in after the canvas was finished
Labourers – After Dinner (RA 1884); after the oil painting; The Magazine of Art (check issue and date); scan used with permission of Heritage Images
and at the end of the post
A Field Gang (1883)
and a plate in the possession of the Royal Photographic Society and exposed before April 1884, which shows the same woman cutting a turnip.
She probably appears in some other pictures from the same period.
Clausen painted these pictures at Childwick Green, near Childwickbury, in Hertfordshire. He had studied in London, and then briefly in Belgium, Holland and France. At the end of 1881, he moved to Childwick Green. Between 1882 and 1884 some of his work had a brutal realism which shocked the academicians. He had discovered the work of the French naturalist Jules Bastien-Lepage at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880 and became his main English champion. But A Woman of the Fields goes beyond Bastien in realism.
He had been exhibiting at the Royal Academy since 1876. Of the pictures here, only Labourers – After Dinner was shown there.
A Woman of the Fields was shown at Coutts Lindsay’s Grosvenor Gallery. She was originally called A Field Hand, and the sexlessness of that title must have made the image seem even more disconcerting. Not all Clausen’s paintings of those years were as stark as these. Clausen’s most Bastien-like images were actually done towards the end of the 1880s.
Labourers – After Dinner had the naturalism of A Woman of the Fields, but on a much larger scale. It seemed uncouth. For George Moore and others, it was an entirely inartistic realism, without fantasy or imagination. Leighton must have hated it, though he later became an admirer of Clausen.
Clausen’s 1885 Royal Academy picture was a portrait called An Old Woodman. He then became a founding member, in 1885-6, with Sargent, Steer and others, of the New English Art Club and was absent from the Academy until 1891.
This was the English Secession, though it isn’t called that. Secessions were withdrawals from official academies: independent exhibiting societies, anti-academic, and international in outlook. The Vienna Secession was a seed of extremely radical, but also particularly coherent, thinking about art. It’s hard to call the earlier New English Art Club seminal, though it absorbed and then rejected more radical elements, led by Sickert. But it was a secession.
It is also a mistake to think of the three great secessions in the German-speaking world in the 1890s – Munich 1892, Vienna 1897, Berlin 1898 – as being entirely about avant-garde work. But what a resonance that word Secession has! Clausen himself exhibited at least in Munich.
(Some of the tenets of the Viennese, such as a refusal to make distinctions between art and craft, or high art and low art, or art and life, or art for the rich and art for the poor, had long been explicit or implicit in the thinking of the leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement in England and elsewhere. And in the particular area of reform of the applied arts, we were first. The refusal to distinguish between art and life could lead one, depending on one’s inclination, into the purest aestheticism and the most engaged socialism.)
Since Moore – garrulous Irish literary figure on the London art scene, as Shaw was on the musical one – is remembered now as a follower of Zola and the writer of the first naturalist novels in English (the first, A Modern Lover, appeared in 1883), he might have been expected to approve of Clausen at his most photo-realistic: but he didn’t. He was too strongly connected with the French impressionists. But after Clausen’s style changed in the ’90s, he became an admirer, and spoke about him with real warmth. Perhaps he had approved of a few earlier pieces as well, I’m not sure.
On August 7 1886, after the first New English Art Club exhibition, Clausen, Walter Crane and Holman Hunt wrote a letter to The Times advocating reform of the Royal Academy. The painter Luke Fildes read it and wrote to his brother-in-law Henry Woods, who was working in Venice:
“I suppose you have read the correspondence and articles this last two weeks in the ‘Times’ about the R.A. I am confidentially informed we are all to be done away with. Messrs. Crane, Clausen and Holman Hunt have appealed to give us another chance, but I believe they are very firm, and though they admit they have no personal objection to some of the Academicians, being personal friends of theirs, still they will not raise their hands to stem the torrent of indignation that is sweeping us away […].”
To which Woods replied:
“My God! When I think whilst I have been sweating and trying to work out here, my Academy has been, and is, in danger still, bombarded with rotten eggs. An imitator of the newest French fakements, and painter of corns and dirty nails, a purveyor of affected muck for infant snobs, and worst of all, the painter of the Flight into Egypt. I wonder who has stirred up all this?”
From LV Fildes, Luke Fildes, RA, A Victorian Painter, Michael Joseph, 1968. No dates given. One would like more of this! They sound like a particular pair of stuffed dermots, though Fildes at least had a social conscience. His most famous painting, The Doctor (1891), reminds one of Picasso’s Science and Charity (1897).
The “purveyor of affected muck for infant snobs” was obviously Crane. Clausen was the “imitator of the newest French fakements, and painter of corns and dirty nails”. Holman Hunt’s offence, I assume, had been to apply excessive naturalism to religious subjects.
In 1945, F Gordon Roe wrote in an obituary of Clausen in The Old Water-Colour Society’s Club 23rd Annual Volume: “I look back to days when George Clausen was still regarded by some as a dangerous innovator. It seemed that he broke all the rules. He had ‘no idea of a subject’. He just looked out of window [sic: old locution] and painted whatever he saw there. He has painted young peasant-women with grimy finger nails – this seemed very important [...].”
Caravaggio, who had so shocked his contemporaries with the dirty finger-nails of his Bacchus and the dirty soles of the pilgrim in the Madonna of Loreto, might as well not have lived. And, of course, Caravaggio had almost no reputation among the Victorians. He was a long way from pre-Raphaelite. Clausen’s Royal Academy lectures (delivered 1904-6 and 1913) contained lessons for students from the old masters (they were much admired by EH Gombrich), but in nearly 400 pages Caravaggio gets not a single mention. Joshua Reynolds does not mention him either in his Seven Discourses on Art, delivered at the Royal Academy on its foundation. Yet you would have thought that the Caravaggio of the Cardsharps, especially, would have appealed to artists who were so smitten by Bastien-Lepage.
The grey chest hair of the main stonepicker (the same colour as the stones) in Clausen’s Stonepickers – Midday (watercolour, 1882, V&A) must have been as disconcerting as the corns and nails of the Woman of the Fields would be. Come to think of it, had grey chest hair ever been painted in art before? These pictures were literally not, to use a German word, salonfähig.
Joining the New English did not confirm Clausen in the brutal style of Labourers. After 1884, he sweetened his style overall, while coming even more strongly under Bastien’s influence. He took some of the criticism to heart. That may or may not have been to the long-term advantage of his art. With a young family to support, he no doubt wanted to sell more.
In 1885, he moved from Childwick (where all the pictures shown here were done) to Cookham Dean in Berkshire.
By 1890 he had started to feel that Bastien-influenced realism was a dead end. He returned to the Academy. The Mowers (RA 1892) introduced a new style. His figures came to life. Movement and light were brought into the pictures. Naturalism gave way to a modified impressionism, containing elements of Millet. Paintings were done or finished in the studio. Painting entirely out of doors had had to be done on grey days, when the light was constant. Posing figures had had to stand still.
New as The Mowers seemed, there is a watercolour sketch for it from as early as 1885. Clausen could experiment in watercolour with ideas that he did not yet dare to transfer to canvas.
George Moore was conscious by 1892 that Clausen was developing and Stanhope Forbes was not. He sighed with relief and looked back:
“Realism, that is to say the desire to compete with nature, to be nature, is the disease from which art has suffered most in the last twenty years. The disease is now at wane, and when we happen upon a canvas of the period like ‘Labourers after Dinner’, we cry out, ‘What madness! were we ever as mad as that?’” (Modern Painting, 1893).
In 1891 Clausen left Cookham (it was the year Stanley Spencer was born there) for Widdington in Essex. (Graves’s list of RA exhibitors does not show him in Widdington until 1893.)
He didn’t stop developing. After 1900, his figures are mainly elements in a landscape, rather than subjects in their own right. The last painting I can think of that shows any figures doing field work is Haymaking (RA 1921), and they are distant. At no point had he painted a flourishing countryside. I am not even sure that he tried to give the impression of one.
He was Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy from 1903 to ’06. For this he had to return to London. He bought a house at 61 Carlton Hill in St John’s Wood in the summer of 1905. That was his home until 1940, when he moved again, to live with my grandfather at Cold Ash in Berkshire. Between the wars he had a country house in Essex. “One day in 1917, when he was pushing his bicycle up Duton Hill, Clausen noticed that a house, then called Hillside, was for sale. Having recently sold some pictures to a Japanese client, he was sufficiently well off to purchase the house as a country retreat” (McConkey). Carlton Hill and Duton Hill passed to his children and were sold during or at the end of the war.
A kind of monumentality came into some of his work between about 1908 and 1918, though he had sought monumental effects in some pictures of the 1890s – and in general Clausen’s pictures are smaller in reality than we expect them to be from reproductions, sometimes disconcertingly so. In the 1920s, he became interested in early mornings. Often misty ones. He created what has been called an “Essex arcadia”. There were no cars in it and few people.
Then: “The new canvases of the ’thirties often show stormy skies, or clumps of trees in a midday sun” (McConkey).
The career of his son-in-law, Thomas Derrick, whom I have also introduced here in a small way, also changed abruptly. He became a cartoonist. There are no Derrick cartoons before 1931. He didn’t cease to be an illustrator, but he began to do something new. I am not sure what brought about the change. School fees and family commitments again, no doubt, though the former I believe were paid by Clausen. Perhaps it was his reaction to the newly-urgent Zeitgeist of 1931. His figures, which had been so static in his early work, suddenly sprang to life. Perhaps Clausen’s stormy skies were a similar reaction.
Clausen continued to send paintings to the Royal Academy until 1942. He died on November 22 1944.
I have shown some of his works in earlier posts; the images are not as high-resolution as here:
In writing both the world and the west into my title, and writing the two words in that order, I was doing both things deliberately, because I wanted to make two points that seem to me essential for an understanding of our subject. The first point is that the west has never been all of the world that matters. The west has not been the only actor on the stage of modern history even at the peak of the west’s power (and this peak has perhaps now already been passed). My second point is this: in the encounter between the world and the west that has been going on now for 400 or 500 years, the world, not the west, is the party that, up to now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the west that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit – and hit hard – by the west; and that is why, in my title, I have put the world first.
Let us try, for a few minutes, to slip out of our native western skins and look at this encounter between the world and the west through the eyes of the great non-western majority of mankind. Different though the non-western peoples of the world may be from one another in race, language, civilisation, and religion, if we ask them their opinion of the west, we shall hear them all giving us the same answer: Russians, Moslems, Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, and all the rest. The west, they will tell us, has been the arch-aggressor of modern times, and each will have their own experience of western aggression to bring up against us. The Russians will remind us that their country has been invaded by western armies overland in 1941, 1915, 1812, 1709, and 1610; the peoples of Africa and Asia will remind us that western missionaries, traders, and soldiers from across the sea have been pushing into their countries from the coasts since the fifteenth century. The Asians will also remind us that, within the same period, the westerners have occupied the lion’s share of the world’s last vacant lands in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and South and East Africa. The Africans will remind us that they were enslaved and deported across the Atlantic in order to serve the European colonisers of the Americas as living tools to minister to their western masters’ greed for wealth. The descendants of the aboriginal population of North America will remind us that their ancestors were swept aside to make room for the west European intruders and for their African slaves.
This indictment will surprise, shock, grieve, and perhaps even outrage most of us westerners today. Dutch westerners are conscious of having evacuated Indonesia, and British westerners of having evacuated India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon, since 1945.
That was almost all the imperial evacuation that had happened by 1952, except for the abandonment of concessions in China. Hard as it is to believe now, the British Empire handed over no territory (except the Anglo-Egyptian “condominium”, Sudan; I don’t count Palestine or the military base at Suez) between the end of the Raj on August 15 1947 and the independence of Ghana on March 6 1957. 1952 was also a year of direct British and American interference in the internal affairs of Iran.
British westerners have no aggressive war on their consciences since the South African war of 1899-1902, and American westerners none since the Spanish-American war of 1898. We forget all too easily that the Germans, who attacked their neighbours, including Russia, in the First World War and again in the Second World War, are westerners too, and that the Russians, Asians, and Africans do not draw fine distinctions between different hordes of “Franks” – which is the world’s common name for westerners in the mass. “When the world passes judgment, it can be sure of having the last word”, according to a well-known Latin proverb. And certainly the world’s judgment on the west does seem to be justified over a period of about four and a half centuries ending in 1945. In the world’s experience of the west during all that time, the west has been the aggressor on the whole; and, if the tables are being turned on the west by Russia and China today, this is a new chapter of the story which did not begin until after the end of the Second World War. The west’s alarm and anger at recent acts of Russian and Chinese aggression at the west’s expense are evidence that, for westerners, it is today still a strange experience to be suffering at the hands of the world what the world has been suffering at western hands for a number of centuries past.
The lectures introduced ideas which would be developed in the eighth volume of the Study.
In the encounter between the world and the west that has been going on now for 400 or 500 years, the world, not the west [...], has had the significant experience
is the most striking sentence. These views were shocking, as he says, to many listeners in 1952. They seemed defeatist.
I have taken this from a transcript on the BBC website, not from the printed book: there may be differences. The transcript probably shows what was printed in The Listener. I have made the use of upper case in references to world wars consistent.
The lectures were published in book form as
The World and the West, OUP, 1953
WH Auden, of course, followed the metre of that passage (last post) in the last part of his In Memory of WB Yeats, but without Yeats’s rubato:
“Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.
In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;
With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.”
“Irish poets, learn your trade,
Sing whatever is well made,
Scorn the sort now growing up
All out of shape from toe to top,
Their unremembering hearts and heads
Base-born products of base beds.
Sing the peasantry, and then
Hard-riding country gentlemen,
The holiness of monks, and after
Porter-drinkers’ randy laughter;
Sing the lords and ladies gay
That were beaten into the clay
Through seven heroic centuries;
Cast your mind on other days
That we in coming days may be
Still the indomitable Irishry.”
Yeats, from Under Ben Bulben.
Written in August 1938. The English had conquered Ireland in 1170. This is surely one of his greatest triumphs of rhetoric, whatever you feel about its sentiments. You can hear the thunder of hooves in “Hard-riding country gentlemen”. (In the same way, “the livelong summer day to spend”, in another poem, sets up the sound of bees.)
By Thomas Derrick. I can’t remember where this appeared, but it wasn’t Punch. Circa 1933. I will try to do a higher-resolution image later, but it is copyright. It should be as iconic as Savile Lumley’s guilt-inducing recruitment poster of 1915 “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?”, but is unknown.
The eighteenth-century punctiliousness over fine points of the military game may be illustrated by the famous legend of the encounter between the English Guards and the French Guards at the Battle of Fontenoy in the War of the Austrian Succession. When the Red Line and the White Line had approached one another to within point-blank range, an English officer is said to have stepped forward from the ranks, made his bow to the enemy, and cried: “Gentlemen of the French Guards, fire first!” Obviously the Guards could not have afforded to indulge in these courtesies if a precocious Industrial Revolution had enabled King George and King Louis to equip their toy-soldiers with Bren guns instead of muzzle-loading smooth-bore muskets; but it is equally obvious that, even if the French and English troops had been armed, in A.D. 1745, with weapons that were no more formidable than those of Cortez’s Aztec adversaries, and could thus have exchanged their courtesies with almost complete material impunity, they would not have exchanged them, even so, if they had not been acting as “living chessmen” but had been fighting in deadly earnest for causes which they personally had at heart.
Wikipedia, edited: “On obtaining the summit of the ridge the Allied column found itself facing the first line of French infantry. The French and Swiss guards, together with the regiments of Aubeterre and Courten, rose and advanced towards the crest, whereupon the two forces confronted each other at a distance of 30 paces. The moment was immortalised by Lord Charles Hay of the 1st Regiment of Guards who, stepping forward, took out a hip flask and drank with a flourish, shouting out to his opponent, ‘We are the English Guards, and we hope you will stand till we come up to you, and not swim the Scheldt as you did the Main at Dettingen!’ He then led his men in three cheers. Voltaire’s version of this famous episode has become proverbial. He wrote: ‘The English officers saluted the French by doffing their hats … the French returned the greeting. My Lord Charles Hai, captain in the English Guards, cried, “Gentlemen of the French Guards, fire!” The Comte d’Auteroche, then lieutenant of the French Grenadiers, shouted, “Gentlemen, we never fire first; fire yourselves.”’ In the event, the French were the first to fire. The volley was somewhat ineffective but threw the 3rd Guards into some confusion and wounded George Churchill. Captain Lord Panmure led the unbroken companies of the 3rd Guards to the flank of the 1st Guards. Up to this point the British column had not fired a single musket shot, but now the Allied infantry poured a devastating discharge into the French. The volley of musketry, with the battalion guns delivering numerous rounds of grape-shot, swept away the enemy’s front rank, killing and wounding between 700 and 800 men and reducing the rest to a shambles.”
I haven’t checked the sources of that, not even the Voltaire. Another site has: “Selon Voltaire (Le siècle de Louis XV), lors de l’avancée de l’infanterie anglaise, les officiers anglais saluèrent leurs homologues français et le capitaine Charles Hay cria: ‘Messieurs des Gardes françaises, tirez!’ Ce à quoi le Comte d’Auteroche, lieutenant, aurait répondu: ‘Messieurs, nous ne tirons jamais les premiers, tirez vous-mêmes!’”
Exchanging courtesies; painting by Édouard Detaille
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939
For the [...] assumption that the livelihood of the [English] people at large was dependent upon foreign trade it might be difficult to find chapter and verse that was older than the nineteenth century. An early instance is cited by J. L. and Barbara Hammond in The Rise of Modern Industry, 5th edition (London 1937, Methuen), p 203: “When Fox destroyed the [slave] [bracket in original] trade in 1806 even Sir Robert Peel complained that we were philosophizing when our looms were idle, and George Rose, that Americans would take up the trade, and that Manchester, Stockport, and Paisley would starve.”
At large meaning beyond a merchant oligarchy and its immediate dependents.
The slave trade relied on a large support network of ports, shipping services and finance and insurance companies, but there is doubtless hysteria in those remarks.
Industries were created to process the raw materials harvested or extracted by slaves in the Americas.
The writings of the Hammonds were as far as most people of Toynbee’s education and background got into English economic history. Didn’t the English feel dependent on wool exports in the Middle Ages?
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939 (footnote)
BBC film made at the time of his eightieth birthday. The clip runs twice.
Old post: BBC tribute to Forster after his death in 1970.
Wonderful period piece. Malcolm Muggeridge interviewing Somerset Maugham for BBC television, almost certainly in 1954, the year of his eightieth birthday. His Ten Novels and Their Authors was a set of essays which had begun as introductions to some American reissues of classic novels. Maugham had chosen the novels. Were they abridgements? He refers at one point in the interview to a condensation of Of Human Bondage.
The novels which he identifies as the ten best, not necessarily in this order, are:
Pride and Prejudice
Le rouge et le noir
Le père Goriot
The Brothers Karamazov
War and Peace
These lists are always depressing. Life is about reading more and more, not less and less, Edmund White says somewhere. (I love work lists, but not best lists.)
Muggeridge was editor of Punch when this was recorded. He quotes Shakespeare’s phrase chronicle of wasted time. He says chronicles, and in that form it was the title of his own autobiography some twenty years later.
In a letter of the late ’40s or early ’50s, he writes that there is a “whiff of charlatanism” around Toynbee. (From memory.)
My Mother’s account of her conversation with the disgruntled custodian of the deserted royal palace at Hanover, when she visited it during her stay in Germany in A.D. 1885, made me realize, even as a child, that all was not well under the surface in Prussia-Germany.
We are told no more about this conversation. The palace was deserted because Prussia had annexed Hanover in 1866. The Kingdom of Hanover became the Prussian province of Hanover.
From 1708 to 1803, Hanover had been an Electorate, technically the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, informally the Electorate of Hanover. The first Elector, George, became King of Great Britain in 1714.
In 1813, after the Napoleonic Wars, George III was restored to his Hanoverian territories. In October 1814 they were erected into a Kingdom of Hanover at the Congress of Vienna. The Congress demanded a territorial exchange between Hanover and Prussia in which Hanover increased its area substantially. The personal union with the United Kingdom ended in 1837, with the accession of Queen Victoria, because the Salic Law in Hanover prevented a female from inheriting the title if there was any surviving male heir. William IV’s brother Ernst August became the Hanoverian king.
In the United Kingdom, a male took precedence only over his own sisters. The new Act of Settlement being discussed in 2011 will end even that precedence if it is passed. If the Salic Law had applied in England in 1837, we would have had a King Ernest. He died a few weeks after the close of the Great Exhibition.
Queen Victorian was, nevertheless, a Hanoverian. Her successor, Edward VII, was not: he belonged to the line of his father, Prince Albert, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Ernst August had been created Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Earl of Armagh in 1799. His grandson the 3rd Duke and Earl, the son of the last King of Hanover, George (or Georg) V, had the great Hanoverian (not originally English) delicacy, Cumberland Sauce, named after him, but was deprived of his British peerages for having sided with Germany during the First World War.
The Schloss zu Herrenhausen circa 1890-1905, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. It was destroyed during the Second World War.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
The Music Lovers 1971 (Tchaikovsky)
The Boy Friend 1971 (Sandy Wilson’s musical)
Tommy 1975 (The Who’s rock opera)
Aria 1987 (from Turandot; section in a film by various directors)
I’d watch Tommy again. The Music Lovers was just another trashy biopic, not to be taken any more seriously than Amadeus or Immortal Beloved, though watchable and in the inimitable Russell style. His love of the music was obvious.
Unless one would have preferred British cinema to go on forever dispensing James Robertson Justice, one shouldn’t get too precious about Russell. You need to be British to tolerate some of this.
Mahler was perhaps more serious. In the safe ’90s, nobody wanted his work.
Guardian: “The truth was that, when he deliberately reined himself in, as he did in 1989 with an adaptation of DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow (as a sop to financiers who thought he was too much of a risk), he could be rather dull.”
I think that is going too far. The completely outré Russell of The Devils or Lisztomania couldn’t have crafted the scene in The Rainbow that I mentioned in the last post. That wasn’t a music film. (It had an easy score by Carl Davis and some Victorian-Edwardian dance music.) Still less would that Russell have been capable of Song of Summer.
“An appalling talent”: Dilys Powell on Russell.
The Rainbow didn’t make the splash that Women in Love had made twenty years earlier. (I get rather tired of reading about the nude wrestling scene.) It shows one thing clearly: how outstandingly good Russell was at casting. Every one of the actors in The Rainbow, with the possible exception of Glenda Jackson, was ideal for the role, starting with Sammi Davis as Ursula Brangwyn.
Back to the beginning.
Monitor, BBC television documentary series
Portrait of a Soviet Composer 1961 (Prokofiev)
I embedded Elgar in an earlier post. It was taken down and put back up; I re-embedded it. The cat and mouse game at YouTube never ends. For some reason, it won the nation’s heart and is still often listed among its favourite films. It presented an incomplete view of Elgar, but it was sympathetic and didn’t repeat received opinions. John Bridcut’s recent BBC Four film on Elgar (2010) paid homage to it.
Previously, hard as it is to believe now, the BBC had had a house rule that documentaries could not use actors. In Elgar, it is on the way to being broken: they just don’t speak. According to the Independent, Elgar also “marked the first time that [any BBC] arts programme had devoted its complete running time to one subject rather than short items”. That is how long it took.
The Prokofiev and Bartók films seem to have sunk without trace. They also used the stentorian voice of Huw Wheldon. So did one on Gaudí, which I’ll embed at the end. Wheldon’s voice is like a shield for the world against what was about to break through.
There were some short Russell-directed Monitor films about music between 1959 and ’62: Gordon Jacob, Guitar Crazy, Variations on a Mechanical Theme, Marie Rambert Remembers, Cranko at Work and Lotte Lenya Sings Kurt Weill. The Jacob and Lenya films, at least, had Wheldon as narrator.
Omnibus, BBC television arts series
The Debussy Film 1965
Don’t Shoot the Composer 1966 (Georges Delerue)
Isadora Duncan, The Biggest Dancer in the World 1966
Song of Summer 1968 (Delius)
Dance of the Seven Veils 1970 (Strauss)
One of them – which is “restrained” – is a masterpiece, and for many people Russell’s finest film and one of the best ever made about a composer. Song of Summer dramatises a story which has passed into English legend: that of the pious young Yorkshireman, Eric Fenby, who heard some music by Delius on the radio, learned that he was blind (from syphilis, though Fenby didn’t know that), and went out in 1928 to Grez-sur-Loing, near Paris, to help him write down his last works.
Fenby worked there for extended periods until Delius’s death in 1934 and told the story in Delius As I Knew Him, published in 1936.
Song of Summer, too, is currently on YouTube, starting here. But if possible, get the DVD and listen to Russell’s wonderfully sensitive director’s voiceover in the replay of the film. It is impossible to reconcile the maker of Lisztomania with this.
I wish Russell had dramatised Elgar’s aeroplane flight to Paris in 1933, meeting there with Yehudi Menuhin, taxi ride to Grez and afternoon with Delius while Fenby was away.
It’s strange how often “song” and “summer” come into the titles of Delius’s works: Paris: The Song of a Great City, The Song of the High Hills, Song of Summer, A Song before Sunrise, Songs of Farewell, Songs of Sunset, Summer Evening, In a Summer Garden, Summer Landscape, Summer Night on the River, To Be Sung of a Summer Night on the Water.
South Bank Show, ITV arts series
The Planets 1983 (Holst soundtrack)
Vaughan Williams 1984
Ken Russell’s ABC of British Music 1988
The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner 1990
The Secret Life of Arnold Bax 1992
Classic Widows 1995 (interviews with composers’ widows)
Elgar: Fantasy of a Composer on a Bicycle 2002 (second Elgar film)
Russell fantasies. I have only seen the ABC, and I enjoyed it. In T is for Michael Tippett, I remember him contrasting some formless music in King Priam with the blues theme in the second movement of Concerto for Double String Orchestra. I needn’t say to the advantage of which.
“He once wrote an article entitled The Films I Do Best Are about the People I Believe In. And he made a television programme called Ken Russell’s ABC of British Music (1988) which proved that point absolutely. It won an Emmy for best performing arts programme. Look at that film and at Song of Summer and the Elgar film and you have the best of Russell on television. Look at The Devils and Crimes of Passion – and the first quickfire 20 minutes of Tommy – and you have just about the best of him in the cinema.”
I would like to see the VW and Bax.
I tracked the deaths of various composers’ widows in comments under this post.
The second Elgar film may not actually have been shown on the South Bank Show. In any case it is, by most accounts and from what I have seen, rubbish.
The Mystery of Doctor Martinu 1993 (BBC)
In Search of the English Folk Song 1997 (Channel Four)
BBC radio play
The Death of Scriabin 1995
Live opera productions
The Rake’s Progress 1982 (Florence)
Madama Butterfly 1983 (Spoleto, Houston, Melbourne)
L’italiana in Algeri 1984 (Geneva)
La Bohème 1984 (Macerata)
Die Soldaten 1985 (Lyon, London)
Faust 1985 (Vienna)
Mefistofole 1989 (Genoa?; he also made a film of the production)
Princess Ida 1992 (London)
Weill and Lenya 2000 (London)
Beethoven Confidential 2007 or earlier
Brahms Gets Laid 2007 or earlier
These are not even so bad they’re good.
He made some pop videos. Tommy was, in a way, a precursor of a whole genre. He sponsored recordings of music by Maxwell Davies and Bax. Maxwell Davies composed the music for the 1971 film The Devils.
I may have missed something minor, but the above is a list of Russell’s main music-related projects.
The 1961 Gaudí film in the BBC Monitor series (with music from Villa-Lobos’s preludes, Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler and something familiar that I can’t identify)
Yet more Trevor-Roper Nachlass. Richard Davenport-Hines, editor, The Wartime Journals, IB Tauris, 2011. No reviews yet and I have not read it. The contents range from 1940 to 1947, when he published The Last Days of Hitler. Amazon blurb:
“As a British Intelligence Officer during World War II, Hugh Trevor-Roper was expressly forbidden from keeping a diary due to the sensitive and confidential nature of his work. However, he confided a record of his thoughts in a series of slender notebooks inscribed OHMS (On His Majesty’s Service). ‘The Wartime Journals’ reveal the voice and experiences of Trevor-Roper, a war-time ‘backroom boy’ who spent most of the war engaged in highly-confidential intelligence work in England – including breaking the cipher code of the German secret service, the Abwehr. He became an expert in German resistance plots and after the war interrogated many of Hitler’s immediate circle, investigated Hitler’s death in the Berlin bunker and personally retrieved Hitler’s will from its secret hiding place. The posthumous discovery of Trevor-Roper’s secret journals – unknown even to his family and closest confidants – is an exciting archival find and provides an unusual and privileged view of the Allied war effort against Nazi Germany. At the same time they offer an engaging – sometimes mischievous – and reflective study of both the human comedy and personal tragedy of wartime.”
Piece by Bobbie Johnson at gigaom.com on a visit by startup entrepreneurs to Buckingham Palace. I know what he means.
I’m reminded again of Waugh in Brideshead Revisited (which has a way of being quoted here even though I don’t entirely like it): “‘Charm is the great English blight. It does not exist outside these damp islands. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art [...].’”
It sucks energy out of the country and, in its monarchical guise, Johnson would say, out of startups. But it’s hard to resist charm and you have to believe in your own austere republican virtue if you want to replace a monarchy.
Depression and suicide in startups.
Startup snobbery. Aravind Adiga in The White Tiger: “You should hear some of these Bangalore entrepreneurs – my start-up has got this contract with American Express, my start-up runs the software in this hospital in London, blah blah. I hate that whole fucking Bangalore attitude, I tell you.”
D’Oliveira, centre, in a Coloured team in South Africa, low resolution from basildoliveira.com
Guardian, November 19:
“Though Basil D’Oliveira, who has died aged 80 after suffering from Parkinson’s disease, was one of the greatest cricketers ever to come out of South Africa, he will be best remembered for the dramatic role he played in helping to defy apartheid in sport. As a mixed-race – in South African terms, ‘coloured’ – player of exceptional ability in his native Cape Town, he was denied the chance to play for the country of his birth by the racial segregation of the apartheid regime. When he went to play in England [1960 and permanently from ’61] and became a Test player there, his eventual selection for the 1968-69 England tour to South Africa so offended the warped sensibilities of John Vorster’s government that it refused to allow him to play, and the tour was cancelled. As a result, South Africa was exiled from international cricket until the fall of apartheid in 1994.
“The dignified but determined way that D’Oliveira dealt with the resulting turmoil won the hearts of the British public and, more importantly, proved to be a turning point in the South African attitude to segregated games. Although it took many years for things to change, the D’Oliveira affair ushered in the start of a gradual easing of official segregation in South African sport, and significantly hurt the regime’s world standing.”
D’Oliveira was of Portuguese and Indian descent and thus classified as Cape Coloured. The apartheid system became entrenched after the National Party came to power in 1948 and lasted until 1994.
Below, an appeal for the Defence and Aid Fund (London-based support for black South Africans) published in The Times on January 15 1964. Background on Fund here and here. It had its origins in fund-raising for the Treason Trials.
In December 1956, 156 members of the Congress Alliance, including Nelson Mandela, were arrested. The Alliance was a coalition (1954-60) of anti-apartheid groups, including the ANC, South African Communist Party, South African Congress of Democrats, Coloured People’s Congress, South African Indian Congress and Federation of South African Women. In March 1961 all the accused were found not guilty. In May, after a whites-only referendum, the Union of South Africa (1910-61) was dissolved and South Africa became a republic and left the Commonwealth.
The 1964 appeal was published during the Rivonia Trial (1963-64), in which ten ANC leaders were tried for 221 acts of sabotage. Rivonia was the suburb of Johannesburg where they were arrested. Mandela was convicted in June and would spend nearly thirty years in prison (1964-90).
The sponsors are a fascinating cross-section of the British great and good in 1964. A few of them are still with us. Toynbee is there, next to Michael Tippett (post here). Aldous Huxley is there although he had died several weeks previously. Vicky is the cartoonist.
List of anti-apartheid activists. Trevor Huddleston ought to be there.
Dignity (post here)
The men in white coats, and the newspapers, weren’t always very kind to the victims of shell shock. I don’t know the exact source of this 1915 clip about the results of Ypres. It contains some disturbing images.
There is a 1918 film on YouTube in five parts about “war neuroses” at Netley Hospital, on “Spike Island”, near Southampton, England, starting here. Some of the “cures” seem remarkably rapid. One would suspect ECT, but that was not yet used. Some scenes are shot at a smaller hospital, Seale Hayne at Newton Abbot.
The Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley was built to treat invalids from the Crimean War. It was an impressive building, the world’s longest at the time: Britain’s Invalides. But, as Florence Nightingale (post here) pointed out, it was badly designed for its use. And surely it was too long. Lord Palmerston to Lord Panmure, Secretary of State for War, January 1857, quoted by Lytton Strachey:
“It seems to me that at Netley all consideration of what would best tend to the comfort and recovery of the patients has been sacrificed to the vanity of the [government surveyor and] architect [EO Mennie], whose sole object has been to make a building which should cut a dash when looked at from Southampton River. Pray, therefore, stop all progress in the work [...].”
It was too late. Netley opened for patients in March 1863. D Block (Victoria House, not part of the main building and still in use as a police training college) was opened in 1870 as the army’s first purpose-built psychiatric hospital. Rudolf Hess was examined there when he was captured after his flight to Scotland.
Queen Victoria liked to visit. The hospital was busy during the Second Boer War, in 1944-45 became the 28th US General Hospital, after the war was used for some casualties returning from overseas service, in 1956 accommodated some Hungarian refugees. But gradually it fell into disuse. The main building closed in 1958. Apart from its chapel, it was demolished in 1966.
The lunatic asylum at Aversa (old post)
Part 1 (of 4) of The Story of British Pathé (60 minutes, BBC Four) is on BBC iPlayer until tomorrow. With Andrew Marr and others.
Pathé Frères was established in Paris (Vincennes) in 1896. It quickly went public. It made films and phonograph records and built cinemas. Charles Pathé acquired the Lumière brothers’ patents in 1902. He set up in London in the same year and was soon in other places.
britishpathe.com (not a great site) has 90,000 films, mainly newsreels, from 1896 to 1976 for a fee or – with very low resolution – for free. There are a few higher-definition reels on its YouTube channel.
Pathé has been divided up and restructured many times, but still exists. British Pathé did more than newsreels. I’m not sure what it does now other than license newsreels or whether it is connected with the rest of the company.
Movietone (US) produced newsreels in the UK from 1929 to 1979.
Newsreel category at Wikipedia
Sligger Urquhart and Sikh, Balliol, c 1914; Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart, Album 7; photograph © Balliol College, Oxford; used with permission
Mr Samgrass in Brideshead Revisited, Sillery in A Dance to the Music of Time and Irwin in The History Boys are cited by Jacob Heilbrunn as “overweening” fictional historians in a review of Adam Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2010, in the The National Interest, September-October.
The model for Samgrass (All Souls) is usually said to be Maurice Bowra (Wadham), but he must have had elements of FF (“Sligger”) Urquhart, the snobbish homosexual Dean of Balliol from 1918 to 1934, in him. Some have suggested Isaiah Berlin (All Souls), who was perhaps more of a social snob than Bowra. It is impossible for people now to know what Bowra’s social reputation was based on. The best that can be said of his reported jokes is that one had to be there. But the impression he made on generations of undergraduates and others was deep.
Anthony Powell (Balliol) was a pupil of Urquhart, which Waugh (Hertford) was not. He also knew Bowra, I think, better than Waugh did. He placed Sillery in a setting based on Urquhart’s salon (is a college named?), but denied drawing on him otherwise. He also denied modelling him on Bowra. He seems, rather, to have used Sir Ernest Barker, who wasn’t an Oxford man.
The model for Alan Bennett’s Irwin (teaches at a fictional school in Sheffield, but an Oxford man) seems to have been Niall Ferguson (Jesus and elsewhere).
CRMF Cruttwell, dean of Hertford, gained a kind of immortality by having various dubious and very unacademic characters in several of Waugh’s pre-war novels named after him. Sniggs and Postlethwaite in Decline and Fall are too sketchy to be based on anyone.
Sligger had been a model for Walter Pater’s “imaginary portrait” Emerald Uthwart, published in The New Review in 1892. Waugh even acted him in a silent film, The Scarlet Woman, that he made as an undergraduate, and he draws a portrait of him in his biography of Ronald Knox. Horace Slughorn in the Harry Potter books may be distantly related to him. For Toynbee, Urquhart was the archetypal college-bound historian. The prospect of his own career taking such a path horrified him.
I mentioned Urquhart in a post called Balliol, Trinity Term 1914, one of the better posts here. There are now over 2,000 photos by or of him in the Balliol archive at Flickr (Urquhart albums 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9, more than when I did the earlier post), some taken in Oxford, some abroad, often at the chalet which his father had built in the valley of Chamonix, to which Sligger brought many visitors. It became known as the Chalet des Anglais. There are a few at Balliol College Archives. “Every available inch of mantelpiece and walls [in Urquhart’s rooms] was covered with photographs of previous generations of undergraduates”: Humphrey Carpenter, The Brideshead Generation.
If the overweening Trevor-Roper has not yet been the model for a fictional character, then one day he will be. Alan Bennett improbably acted him in the 1991 ITV half-comic drama-documentary about the Hitler diaries fiasco, Selling Hitler.
Toynbee was not a social climber or snob, but married into the family which owned Castle Howard. As an undergraduate at Oxford, he came to know the Regius Professor of Greek (the chair was at Christ Church), Gilbert Murray, who was married to Mary Howard (1865-1956), daughter of the Earl of Carlisle. In March 1910 he was invited to visit the family seat (Vanbrugh). Lady Mary’s parents were living, but the 9th Earl died in 1911, leaving the Dowager Countess (née Stanley) the head of the family. In September 1913 Toynbee married the Murrays’ daughter Rosalind.
Rosalind’s alcoholic, left-leaning brother Basil is said to have been the model for Waugh’s anti-hero Basil Seal in Black Mischief and Put Out More Flags. And Nancy Mitford writes to Evelyn Waugh on September 12 1964: “Ph Toynbee [Toynbee’s son] [...] seems to be a re-incarnation of old Baz” (Charlotte Mosley, editor, The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, Hodder and Stoughton, 1996).
Trevor-Roper’s snobberies were rampant, but they did not prevent him, as they should have, from mocking Toynbee thus (The Prophet, review of McNeill’s biography of Toynbee, New York Review of Books, October 12 1989):
“There was a good chance, given the countess’s power and whims, that this favorite granddaughter might ultimately inherit Castle Howard and the great estate which went with it. Then the financial circumstances of the Toynbees would change. They would live in aristocratic grandeur, entertaining the great and writing immortal works.”
Toynbee and Rosalind joined the Labour Party in 1918 (they abandoned it around 1922; Toynbee would vote Liberal thereafter). The Khaki election and the eclipse of the Liberal Party were “an intolerable and unexpected turn of the screw” for the Countess. “Those who had abandoned the Liberal cause and joined with Labour counted as nothing less than traitors in her eyes; and, of course, Toynbee and Rosalind were among the guilty.” Quotations from McNeill.
The Countess would write to him on May 2 1919 and rail against “the great catastrophe of the election”. “And after all what have you to do with Castle Howard? This beautiful place so lovable for those who accept it with a simple affection and clear conscience – but such a jarring false note, such a mockery for those who have joined the ranks of the people who have declared war on such as we, who dwell in great rooms filled with private galleries of books and pictures. Is it not anathema to your comrades? Then why come here?”
May 6: “I understand that you and Rosalind enrolled yourselves in the Labour Party last winter: that party is fighting hard the Liberals (sic) and will smash us if they can. … I have been an intense passionate lover of my Liberal creed and party all my life long. … If I were to have as my guests … those who belong to a party that seeks to compass our destruction, there could be no vivid, helpful, comforting talk for me. We should have to keep off political subjects and that would make intercourse very unreal and dry and very different from our old breezy, happy times.”
One is reminded of Forster. Howards End, no less. Who would inherit England? If Castle Howard could be called England.
The Toynbees never did inherit Castle Howard. The teetotal Dowager, who died in 1921, left it to her teetotal daughter Mary, not to her sons or to the grandson, the 11th Earl (1895-1963), who had inherited the earldom in 1912; but the Murrays declined the inheritance. It passed to the Dowager’s only surviving son, Geoffrey Howard (1877-1935), in whose family it has remained. Toynbee and his wife got a smaller house next door, Ganthorpe Hall, and do not appear to have resented the Murrays for their decision.
Castle Howard was made into Brideshead in both the good eleven-hour 1980 ITV adaptation and bad 2008 film adaptation of Waugh’s novel. The description of Brideshead doesn’t match Castle Howard exactly (there is a dome at Castle Howard, but no columns), but it is close enough.
The film is bad because, like many others, it substitutes vague atmospherics for drama and acting. Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain is a kind of short-cut and conveys nothing of the class or period. Matthew Goode is a vacuous Charles Ryder. But the main error is that Julian Jarrold has decided that the story is about “guilt”. “Catholic guilt.” Sebastian’s problem may be “guilt”, but “guilt” is not part of Christian moral thinking and was not in Waugh’s mind. Waugh’s theme was: “the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters”.
Perhaps it is as well that Toynbee did not live permanently in Castle Howard or his
Ambition with a great screaming A
(letter to Robert Darbishire, January 30 1910) might have got out of hand. He might have seemed even more eccentric. Kenneth Clark wondered on television in a gallery in the Vatican whether “a single thought that has helped forward the human spirit has ever been conceived or written down in an enormous room”. He added in the book: “except, perhaps, in the reading room of the British Museum”.
Toynbee to Robert Darbishire, Saturday March 5 1910:
I am going off to-day week with Gilbert Murray to Castle Howard, a fenced city of his parents-in-law, somewhere in Yorkshire. I wonder if Lady Carlysle (is it so spelt?) will be in residence? – like Lady Mary, I am told, plus temperance, raised to the tenth power. It will be very amusing and delightful.
Sebastian drives Charles to Brideshead on a “cloudless” day in June 1923. Toynbee arrived on March 12 1910 in equally sunny, but colder, weather; but
The Sun makes up for all.
Earlier in the same letter to Darbishire:
It is a great and marvellous place, early 18th century style on the vast scale, with pictures and lakes and statues and libraries and all manner of things.
Lady Carlysle is obviously a mighty force, but not, perhaps, so formidable. Would though that I was less entirely at sea about politics [footnote: Lady Carlisle was intensely interested in social causes; cf. West, Gilbert Murray: A Life, pp. 25-27.] – domestic matters, I mean, for I only read the foreign sheet of the Times, while police courts, cabinet crises, football leagues, and such “own dirty linen” I eschew. However, I shall doubtless know plenty about home politics before I go away. Do you like Canalettos? They cover all the walls in the room where we eat [Toynbee on Canaletto] – I won’t call it the dining room, for there are at least twenty like it. There are also Wattses [he describes a Watts in Experiences], and crowds of nice solid books of the eighty years ago kind.
Altogether, it is more peaceful, and less of a “fearful joy” [Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College] than I expected.
In 1913 he would spend his honeymoon there.
1980 music by Geoffrey Burgon.
Apropos the picture at the top: Balliol had Indian connections. In 1853 entry to the Indian Civil Service was opened through a competitive exam. Many applicants passed through Balliol. Toynbee’s uncle, the original Arnold, had been tutor there in charge of ICS candidates. In the early twentieth century (or before?: the first Indian(s) at Oxford had arrived in 1871) Balliol admitted a number of Indian and other Asian students, which strengthened the contrast between Balliol and its more socially conservative rival Trinity. The Boden Chair of Sanskrit (established 1831) has been attached to Balliol since 1880.
Sligger and friend, c 1914; Balliol College Archives, FF Urquhart, Album 7; photograph © Balliol College, Oxford; used with permission
Christian B Peper, editor, An Historian’s Conscience, The Correspondence of Arnold J. Toynbee and Columba Cary-Elwes, Monk of Ampleforth, with a Foreword by Lawrence L Toynbee, OUP, by arrangement with Beacon Press, Boston, 1986, posthumous