Fanfares for Richard III

March 22 2015

The best version of Walton’s Richard III prelude on YouTube – part of his music for Laurence Olivier’s film – is Brazilian.

Richard’s remains are being moved from the University of Leicester to Leicester Cathedral today via local villages, taking in the site of the Battle of Bosworth. The cortège was on its way at the time of posting. He will be buried in the cathedral on Thursday.

The Orquestra Filarmonia of the Theatro São Pedro in São Paulo under Paulo Maron, April 2002, isn’t the best orchestra (like Schoenberg’s music, it is perhaps better than it sounds), but it doesn’t matter, because it does the piece with such verve. The collapse into the big tune at 1:12 is just right. The way to keep Waltonian bombast at bay is to keep the music moving.

Bernard Herrmann with the National Philharmonic Orchestra is lugubrious in the extreme. Walton himself, conducting the Philharmonia, is better, but I prefer the Brazilians.

The prelude was arranged from the film score by the conductor of the soundtrack Muir Mathieson.

Mathieson also arranged a Richard III suite, but the prelude is not part of it. On YouTube with Walton conducting the Philharmonia. There is no funeral music here. There is in Walton’s Hamlet.

Christopher Palmer’s arrangement, Richard III, A Shakespeare Scenario, has music with words and lasts 45 minutes. On YouTube with Neville Marriner, Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields and John Gielgud.

Renato Rocha on why Richard III speaks to Brazilians, Guardian, April 23 2012.

Walton’s Shakespeare films:

As You Like It (1936)

Henry V (1944)

Hamlet (1948)

Richard III (1955)

Paul Czinner directed and Laurence Olivier starred in As You Like It. Olivier directed and starred in the other three.

Tony Palmer’s film about Walton At the Haunted End of the Day used the fanfare which opens the Richard prelude to accompany shots of the Ischia-dwelling Walton arriving at Heathrow for his eightieth birthday celebrations in 1982 and being driven into town in a Rolls Royce. That’s how a grand old composer should arrive.

There are two nineteenth-century orchestral pieces about Richard III, a symphonic poem (1857-58) by Smetana and an overture (1870s?) by Robert Volkmann. Both solid pieces of orchestral furniture. Smetana also wrote some fanfares for Richard (1867) for brass and timpani, presumably for a production of the play. Volkmann quotes, half way through, The Campbells are Coming, in allusion to Richard’s war with Scotland.

Smetana, Czech Philharmonic, Rafael Kubelik:

And the Smetana fanfares, Fanfary k Richardovi III, BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda:

Volkmann, Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart, Carl Schuricht, Stuttgart, September 12 1952:

Until recently there was no opera. But now we have one, by Giorgio Battistelli.

Here is the whole 1955 film:

“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up,
About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes.”

Nought shall make us rue (recent post).


Defeat in the west

March 21 2015

The Achaemenian Rāj in South-Western Asia was no more seriously shaken by the disastrous failure of the Persian invasion of European Greece in 480-479 B.C. than the British Rāj in India was by the even more disastrous failure of the British invasion of Afghanistan in A.D. 1838-42.

A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939 (footnote)


Christian brigands

March 20 2015

The Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, at the end of the Balkan Wars, divided the Macedonian region between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, with Greece getting the lion’s share; a small section went to Albania. The Serbian part ended (from 1946) as a separate constituent republic of Yugoslavia and is now an independent country.

In Macedonia, where the social peripeteia accompanying a transfer of sovereignty from the Ottoman Empire to the Kingdom of Greece had taken place ninety-one years later than in Laconia [with which he has just been concerned], the writer once had the good fortune to obtain a vivid sidelight on it from a living beneficiary. Waiting for an omnibus at Sorovich on the 4th September, 1921, he fell into conversation with a bystander who turned out to be a Slovene, born in Klagenfurt, Carinthia, who had emigrated as a boy to the United States, had come to Macedonia as a chauffeur for the American Red Cross, and was now driving a tractor in the service of three Greek brothers who were joint owners of a large estate in the neighbourhood of Sorovich, besides owning a whole block of houses just across the road from the railway station. Like the property itself, the present owners’ up-to-date Western method of farming was a legacy from their father, who had died only four months since. In answer to a question about his enterprising deceased employer’s antecedents, the Slovene mechanic volunteered: “Well, he hadn’t owned this property for very long. Before ‘the war’ [meaning the Balkan Wars of A.D. 1912-13] [Toynbee’s bracket], when the Turks owned the land, he was just one of those ‘Christians’ – what is the English word for them? … O, now I remember it: ‘brigands’ – up in the mountains. But, when the Greek Army marched in, the Turks cleared out and the brigands came down from the mountains and seized the land. So that is how my employer got his property, and how I got my job.”

There was a tradition in ancient anti-Christian polemic of referring to Christ himself as a brigand.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954 (footnote)


Lee Kuan Yew and the nation-builders

March 19 2015

Lee Kuan Yew is the last great living twentieth-century nation builder, if he is alive.

Who were the others? What defines them? They have to have created a nation where none before existed – and yet one can’t leave out Mandela.

They must have done it through a personal struggle. They must have a certain stature. Their achievement must be solid. One can’t leave out Herzl, although he died forty-four years before the birth of Israel.

At one level, Lee was a reluctant builder. He did not, at least as it appears, wish to leave the Malaysian Federation in 1965.

Norway, Finland, Iceland, the Baltic states, Poland, Belarus, Moldova, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the central Asian “stans”, Mongolia were, before the twentieth century, merged or submerged nations, but when they became independent did not have famous fathers, unless you count Piłsudski. They already, in a sense, existed, especially Poland. But, then, so did the Czech nation. (One can’t exactly call Haakon VII a nation-builder, even if he was a father-figure.)

Ukraine is a half-formed nation. Why am I implying less formed than the other Ruthenia, Belarus? At any rate, no builders.

Hungary achieved nationhood in the nineteenth century. Masaryk was a nation-builder even though the nation he founded was later divided into two.

The Philippines’ founders did their work before, not after, American colonisation. Aung San died before Burmese independence, and his legacy is unclear. So are Ho Chi Minh’s and Sihanouk’s. Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia had once contained powerful states. Burma is the most ethnically fragmented. Thailand was never colonised, so the question of nation-building does not arise.

The Republic of China was declared in 1912, but Taiwan became its last stronghold long after Sun’s death. Sun was the father of a nation that, as a geographical entity, doesn’t even recognise itself, and as a wider entity is China – not a new nation.

So I include him uneasily – or do we believe in the permanence of Taiwan? I can’t leave out Sukarno even if I want to.

Not everyone who led a colony into independence qualifies. In fact, not a single leader from the main years of decolonisation is in my list. I can’t bring myself to include Bourguiba, for example. Or, in a short list, Nkrumah or Kenyatta or Nyerere or Kaunda. Is that because black African countries are, or were, not nations, but tribal or ethnic hegemonies and coalitions? But so are others. So is Burma. So was nineteenth-century Hungary.

Mahathir is a smaller figure than Lee. He did not become prime minister until 1981.

In theory Singapore is a coalition of three ethnic groups, like its one-time role-model Switzerland.

Here is my list, in chronological order of the nation’s birth or the builder’s accession to power if later:

Sun Yat-sen 1912

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk 1918

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 1923

Ibn Saud 1932

Sukarno 1945

Mahatma Gandhi 1947

Muhammad Ali Jinnah 1947

Theodor Herzl 1948

Lee Kuan Yew 1965

Nelson Mandela 1994

Lee’s funeral or public memorial will be as big as Mandela’s and deservedly. [Postscript: I was wrong on that.] You don’t need to have loved someone to feel grief.

The Blairs will be there, collecting cards.

IMG_9663

1946, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

Picture source: Lee Kuan Yew, Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going via mustsharenews.com


Night

March 18 2015

Night

George Clausen


Mirabeau’s warning

March 18 2015

In A.D. 1790 the French National Assembly was warned by the prophetic voice of Mirabeau that a representative parliamentary body was likely to prove more bellicose than a monarch.

[Footnote: “Je vous demande à vous-mêmes: sera-t-on mieux assuré de n’avoir que des guerres justes, équitables, si l’on délègue exclusivement à une assemblée de 700 personnes l’exercice du droit de faire la guerre? Avez-vous prévu jusqu’où les mouvemens [sic] passionnés, jusqu’où l’exaltation du courage et d’une fausse dignité pourroient porter et justifier l’imprudence …? Pendant qu’un des membres proposera de délibérer, on demandera la guerre à grands cris; vous verrez autour de vous une armée de citoyens. Vous ne serez pas trompés par des ministres; ne le serez-vous jamais par vous-mêmes? … Voyez les peuples libres, c’est par des guerres plus ambitieuses, plus barbares qu’ils se sont toujours distingués. Voyez les assemblées politiques; c’est toujours sous le charme de la passion qu’elles ont décrété la guerre” (Mirabeau in the French National Assembly on the 20th May, 1790).

In this matter the statesman Mirabeau showed a clearer vision than the philosopher Volney, whose eighteenth-century complacency on the subject of War was apparently still unshaken in 1791 [he woke up later], to judge by the following passage of Les Ruines, which was published in that year:

“Si les guerres sont devenues plus vastes dans leurs masses, elles ont été moins meurtrières dans leurs details; si les peuples y ont porté moins de personnalité, moins d’énergie, leur lutte a été moins sanguinaire, moins acharnée. Ils ont été moins libres, mais moins turbulents, plus amollis, mais plus pacifiques.” […]]

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939


Pallid parliament

March 17 2015

Julia Langdon on how the blood has been sucked out of the House of Commons since 1970, when – it is hardly credible now – thirty-five MPs were former miners. With Betty Boothroyd and others. BBC Radio 4.


The straw hat and the dressing-gown

March 16 2015

Self-portrait in a straw-hat

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Self-portrait in a straw hat, 1782, normally in the National Gallery, now in the Rubens exhibition at the Royal Academy (which is only 25% Rubens); she died in Paris in 1842; here are her memoirs

Dr Pozzi at Home

John Singer Sargent, Dr Pozzi at home, 1881, normally at the Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, now in the Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery; Dr Pozzi was considered the father of French gynaecology; he was shot dead in Paris by a male patient in 1918; see doctorpozzi.com


Apotheosis

March 15 2015

The end of Stravinsky’s Apollon musagète. Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Yevgeny Mravinsky.


Abandoning Cairo

March 14 2015

I heard a rumour that the capital was moving when I was in Cairo in January. Now it’s announced.

My reaction then, and when I read the story yesterday, was one of anger. It’s easy to build a totally unEgyptian sub-clone of Dubai on a greenfield site, instead of taking responsibility for a city and dealing with the problems which are staring you in the face; instead of planting trees and parks, recycling rubbish, building a subway system and schools, and restoring some charm to the banks of the Nile.

Solidere treatment has not even been given to the early twentieth-century Downtown. Perhaps we should be glad of that, but this is a city with many human needs which have not been met.

Tahrir Square has been a building site for decades because a corrupt state-owned contractor has not paid a corrupt official or vice versa. The traffic was worse in early 2015 than I have ever known it before.

If you ask the Egyptian middle class what it would like for a city, most will, I am afraid, say Dubai. That is how little imagination is in play here. They are embarrassed by Cairo. Let us not draw attention to it by improving it. Let us walk away from the messy place where people died in 2011.

The lower-class inhabitants of Cairo know that the city is not what it was. The narrative here is one which one is heard in other parts of the middle east and is often delivered in spiritual rather than planning terms. “This city was a paradise. People lived with each other. Christians and Jews and Muslims. They helped each other. You don’t understand what it was like. Now people are only interested in money.” A Dubai clone will intensify the holocaust of the human soul.

Sisi likes easy-to-understand announcements. The widening of the Suez canal is at least in an Egyptian tradition of grands projets (pyramids, Aswan dam). And this will be the first new Egyptian capital since the Shiite Fatimids built Cairo in the tenth century.

What will it be called? It will be near Cairo, but there is already a New Cairo. There are, in fact, many new Cairos with a small n, depending on your starting date: Zamalek, Downtown, Maadi, Garden CityHeliopolis, DokkiMohandessinNasr City6th of October City. New Cairo with a big n, east of the city, is adjacent to, or contains, a new business area called the 5th Settlement or 5th District, which takes over an hour to reach. It not so much sub-Dubai as like Delhi’s Gurgaon. And full of fourth-rate regional headquarters with tinted glass.

The city will be in this area. Perhaps it will be no more than an extension of the 5th Settlement and not really a new capital at all, with the rest hype. It will, of course, be “sustainable” (although two hours’ drive from the Smart Village, which is on the Alexandria Desert Road).

How will Cairenes react to the plan? With a feeling of bewilderment, of having been abandoned? Or will a popular élan which collapsed in 1967 return? Why would it? What will this new city have to do with ordinary people?

Then I started to reconsider. Perhaps old Cairo really is beyond repair. Perhaps it is too late, and nobody would invest there. This and the Suez project will at least generate employment. Perhaps having the capital adjacent to Cairo will allow some of its synthetic prosperity to trickle into the old city. What is wrong with turning over a new leaf, which Egypt urgently needs to do anyway? Perhaps this is less inhuman than abandoning Cairo altogether.

I write about Cairo because I have been there recently. I write less about east Asian cities because I no longer visit them often.


Azov and Baltic

March 13 2015

Having realized Russia’s need to acquire a seaboard, Peter began, in A.D. 1695-6, with the relatively easy conquest of Azov from the Turks. It is significant that, after his return from the Western tour of A.D. 1697-8, he addressed himself to the far more formidable task of conquering the Baltic Provinces from the Swedes, and persevered in this arduous enterprise for twenty years (A.D. 1700-21) until he finally achieved his aim. He had come to the conclusion that a seaboard on the Baltic was worth acquiring at any price because it would open the door for direct intercourse between Russia and the West. […] On the other hand, the conquest of Azov was not worth following up, because the further passage from this port to the open sea was blocked by the Ottoman Government’s control of the Straits of Kertch and of the Bosphorus and of the Dardanelles. And even if the Russian ships had been able to run the gauntlet of these three successive “Symplegades”, they would have merely found themselves at large in the Eastern Mediterranean – a sea which, in Peter’s day, before the opening of the short-cut from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, was a sluggish backwater, remote from the principal ocean-highways of the World.

Towards the end of the fifteenth century, Moscow (Ivan III) overcame the Golden Horde, and the Crimean khans (1449-1783), minor successors of the Horde, came under Ottoman protection. Russia did not conquer the Crimean Khanate (“Little Tartary”) until the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-74.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934 (footnote)


Toynbee and Indiana Jones at Versailles

March 12 2015

The image links to the full Indiana Jones episode of which I showed a clip here.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 02.08.05

Background and context are in the old post. Toynbee’s big scene starts at 5:00. His other main appearances are at 26:00 and 33:00. Later the scene shifts to Princeton.

Mistakes and unconvincing portrayals aside (Lawrence is the worst, Gertrude Bell a close second), it doesn’t do such a bad job of bringing history to life. Vignettes of Arabs, Vietnamese, Germans. Woodrow Wilson is shown as comically out of his depth. Indiana is touching, trying to be nice to the Germans.

Toynbee is rather convincing. He never said that those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it, but he had a sharper political mind when he was young than when he was old.


Ivan Roots

March 11 2015

Historian of the Great Rebellion.

Telegraph obituary.

[I have corrected the recent post called Turkey and Poland.]


Soviet composers

March 10 2015

Onno van Rijen’s longstanding page on the composers of the USSR. The work lists are fascinating. Everyone is covered, from Gliere to the now fashionable Weinberg and from Khachaturian to Shchedrin.

Alexander Mosolov, Soldiers’ Songs, c 1958? Marching song – Song of the native land – The song of the young horseman. Conductor Vitaly Gnutov, orchestra not stated.


“I shall not alter a single note”

March 9 2015

Kirill Gerstein on Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto – what a masterpiece it is – first performed 140 years ago, whose “famous opening chords are not, in fact, what Tchaikovsky wrote at all”.

The balance between piano and orchestra at the opening is certainly problematic in many performances.

The New York Review of Books, March 9 (a few weeks before the 175th anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s birth), with four audio samples.

This summary is taken mainly from Gerstein’s piece and from wiki.tchaikovsky-research.net. Links are mine.

At the end of 1874, Tchaikovsky showed a final draft of the first version of the concerto to Nikolai Rubinstein. He wanted advice on the playability and effectiveness of the piano writing. Rubinstein was scathing about both. Tchaikovsky described this occasion in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck (date?). At the end of the meeting, Tchaikovsky wrote, Rubinstein said

that if within a limited time I reworked the concerto according to his demands, then he would do me the honour of playing my piece at his concert. “I shall not alter a single note,” I answered, “I shall publish the work exactly as it is!” This I did.

Tchaikovsky completed this version in February 1875 and dedicated the concerto to Hans von Bülow, who premiered it in Boston that October. “There is such unsurpassed originality, such nobility, such strength, and there are so many arresting moments throughout this unique conception; there is such a maturity of form, such style – its design and execution, with such consonant harmonies, that I could weary you by listing all the memorable moments which caused me to thank the author – not to mention the pleasure from performing it all. In a word, this true gem shall earn you the gratitude of all pianists.”

The nineteen-year old Sergey Taneyev gave the first performance in Moscow in December, with a now less doubtful Rubinstein on the podium.

Pyotr Jurgenson published an arrangement for two pianos in May 1875, the orchestral parts in October 1875, and the full score not until August 1879, when it included revisions by Tchaikovsky to the piano part in the first movement.

From then on, it was the 1879 version that Tchaikovsky conducted, up to and including a performance in St Petersburg on October 28 1893, days before his death.

A new edition “reviewed and corrected by the author” was published in late 1889 or early 1890 by Daniel Rahter in Leipzig. A further version was published in 1894 by Jurgenson in Moscow. I assume it was based on Rahter.

This is what we hear now. It is impossible to know for certain who is responsible for the changes in this posthumous version, but the name of Alexander Siloti, a student of Tchaikovsky’s, is often mentioned.

Buy Gerstein’s premiere recording of the 1879 version here. Is it possible now to play the 1875 version, ie the score before Tchaikovsky abandoned his decision not to alter a single note?


Turkey and Poland

March 8 2015

Turkey in 1914 is sailing in those shoal waters in which Poland foundered in 1795, and if she wishes to avoid Poland’s shipwreck, she must promptly lighten her draught by throwing overboard all superfluous cargo. We shall have eased her course considerably by relieving her of that solid bullion, the Territory of the Straits; but she must reconcile herself to making jetsam of less cherished but bulkier properties as well, if she is finally to clear the reefs and make the open sea.

Four years and some months later, at Versailles, Toynbee and Harold Nicolson argued against the proposal to place Constantinople and the Black Sea straits under international control. Memorandum of April 15 1919, quoted in McNeill:

“We question whether peace would not in the end be served by some less elaborate, if more drastic idea, that is, by cleaving Europe from Asia, and by giving Greece Constantinople and the European shores of the Straits and the Sea of Marmara, and by leaving Turkey in Anatolia and on the southern and eastern side of the water.”

Their proposals were ignored, but the Treaty of Sèvres’ terms for Constantinople were undone by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Eastern Thrace (and Smyrna, both occupied 1919-22) passed from Greek, and Constantinople and the Straits from British, French and Italian, hands back into Turkish.

I’ll write a comprehensive summary of plans for the partitioning of Turkey, and of Allied interventions there, in another post.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

William McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee, A Life, New York, OUP, 1989


Destruction of Hatra

March 7 2015

GuardianBBC. Wikipedia.


Destruction of Nimrud

March 6 2015

Guardian. BBCWikipedia.


The Pony Express

March 6 2015

Mail service running the 1,840 miles from St Joseph, Missouri, across the Great Plains, and over the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada to Sacramento, California, by horseback, using relay stations. At Sacramento, messages were placed on a steamer and sent down the Sacramento River to San Francisco.

Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California. Lake Tahoe is shared between the last two.

During its eighteen months of operation, April 3 1860 to October 24 1861, it reduced the time taken for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about ten days. It was a precursor to the First Transcontinental Railroad, constructed 1863-69, and ceased to operate when the Civil War broke out.

Pony Express

Map by William Henry Jackson, reproduction issued by the Union Pacific Railroad Company in 1960 to commemorate the 100th anniversary; Denver is 200 miles south of Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and not on the route; Library of Congress and Wikipedia


The Rockies

March 6 2015

When […] you are travelling by air from Salt Lake City [Utah, west of the Rockies] to Denver [Colorado, east of the range], the nearest view of the Rockies is not the best one. While you are actually over the mountains, you see nothing but a maze of peaks, ridges, gullies, and crags. It is not until you have left the mountains behind you and are looking back at them as you fly over the plains that they rise up before you in their magnificent order, range behind range. It is only then that you have a vision of the Rockies themselves.

Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948


India’s Daughter

March 5 2015

[Postscript: this is being taken off YouTube as fast as it is put on, but I’ll take its presence there, if and when it lasts, as endorsed by the BBC. It can be seen, by UK viewers, on BBC iPlayer.]

Leslee Udwin’s film, shown on BBC television yesterday and banned in India.

Delhi Noir.


How a corporation replaced the Mughal Empire

March 4 2015

William Dalrymple in the Guardian. Foretaste of his forthcoming The Anarchy: How a Corporation Replaced the Mughal Empire, 1756-1803.

Old post on Dalrymple.


The wise and kindly way of life

March 3 2015

A phrase that needs wider currency. There are only six appearances online.

Winston Churchill at his retirement, April 1955: “And I drink to the wise and kindly way of life of which Your Majesty is the young and gleaming champion”.


Trafalgar Square 1879 continued further

March 2 2015

First post on this. Second. Will open in separate windows. In the second, I linked to Toilers in London; or, Inquiries concerning Female Labour in the Metropolis, By the “British Weekly” Commissioners, Hodder and Stoughton, 1889.

The British Weekly was founded in 1886 to encourage Christian virtue in the lower classes. I don’t know when it closed. Toilers in London was the second volume of two called Tempted London. The first (called what?) addressed young men. No Archive edition, but something less reliable here. Chapters:

Coming up from the Country to London
Life in Business Houses
The Life of City Clerks
Drink
Gambling
A Bird’s-Eye View of London Gambling
Gambling and the Law: An Indictment of the Police
Betting
Music Halls
The Variety Theatres of London
The Evils of Theatres
Dancing-Rooms
Impurity
What the Churches are Doing
What the Churches are Doing (continued)
Christian Associations
The Polytechnic

“The Life of City Clerks”. As examined by George Gissing and others up to EM Forster in Howards End.

The first chapter of the volume on female labour is called Flower-Girls.

“The flower-girl is such a familiar sight to Londoners, that few of us realise what the streets of the metropolis would miss if she were banished.

“‘The world would be a sorry place if it had no flowers in it,’ an old man said to one of our Commissioners, while he was buying some primroses from a girl at the corner of Oxford Street. It was Primrose Day [below], and the old man was fastening a small bunch of primroses in his coat when our Commissioner stopped beside the flower-girl’s basket.

“Fifteen years ago no flower-girls enlivened London thoroughfares. If people wanted flowers they were obliged to find a nursery garden, or to visit a market. At these places flowers were then very expensive; for the people had not at that time learnt to appreciate simple flowers like primroses and daffodils; they only cared for costly exotics.

“Now any one can during the spring season buy enough flowers in the streets to deck a room for sixpence, and a small bunch of violets or a button-hole for one penny. Nothing comes amiss to the flower-girl’s basket […].”

“Fifteen years ago.” That’s 1874. There were flower-girls then. As McConkey told us, Gustave Doré depicted them, huddled like beggars, in his London: A Pilgrimage of 1872.

But we can assume that the phenomenon grew in the 1870s. The article doesn’t account for it, but we have looked at the role of the railways.

The swirl in Trafalgar Square must have provided a hunting ground for sexual exploiters, who were protected by English sexual hypocrisy and by the deference engendered by a class system.

Perhaps obvious street poverty had started to decline by 1913, when Pygmalion had its first performance.

One-Nation conservatism. Urban renewal. A radical Liberal, Joseph Chamberlain, boasted that his three years, 1873-76, as Mayor of Birmingham, had left the city “parked, paved, assized, marketed, gas-and- watered and improved”. Hygiene. Trade unions. Peabody Trust. Forster’s Education ActEmployers and Workmen Act. End of Long Depression of 1873-79. Old-Age Pensions Act. Labour Exchanges Act. National Insurance Act.

___

Clausen’s girl’s flowers have the unmistakeable yellow of primroses, but there was no “Primrose Day” in 1879.

That day was the anniversary of the death of Disraeli on April 19 1881. The primrose had been his favourite flower. Queen Victoria gave him bunches of them, picked at Windsor and Osborne House, and sent a wreath of primroses to his funeral. Had they started to be a symbol of conservatism while he was alive?

Disraeli invented modern Conservatism and revived the previously-moribund monarchy. Primrose Day was associated with the Primrose League, formed in 1883 to take Conservative principles to the masses. Its membership peak was in the 1890s, but it survived until 2004. When did yellow become a Liberal colour? (A Liberal prime minister in the 1890s, the 5th Earl of Rosebery, happened to have the family name of Primrose.)

Frank Bramley, Primrose Day, 1885, Tate Britain; awkward portrait, but with nods to Japan-influenced aestheticism in the arrangement and in the stalks, and with the straw hat looking like something between a mushroom and an umbrella or fan; Disraeli is on the wall:

Bramley, Primrose Day, 1885

Pathé News, Primrose Day, Parliament Square, 1916; a crowd in front of Mario Raggi’s bronze statue of Disraeli:

Further clip of the statue at about the same time. Half the country once had a Jewish hero, if a rather distant and disembodied one. Pathé has clips of Primrose Day pilgrimages to Disraeli’s grave at Hughenden for 1921, 1923, 1926, 1928.


A Victorian

March 1 2015

Alfred George Webster of Lincoln (1852-1916), mentioned in the last post, aged 30. My great-grandmother’s brother, by his brother-in-law aged 30.

Alfred Webster


Trafalgar Square 1879 continued

February 28 2015

Yesterday’s post was supposed to be a few lines about a minor but interesting Victorian painting, and turned into a classroom exercise: “What is going on in this picture, and what has changed between then and now?”

The answer kept growing and is in the comments. Now I’ve checked what Kenneth McConkey says in his book on Clausen.

McConkey tells us that the flower girl theme was “frequently addressed in sentimental potboilers by Augustus E Mulready”. He doesn’t show us any sentimental Mulreadys, but here is one, Little Flower Sellers, from 1887:

Augustus Edwin Mulready, Little Flower Sellers

It was, I suspect, a fashion all over Europe. Not much gritty social realism in Clausen’s picture either, you might say, but it was on the way. (Though it was not to be his permanent manner.) And there is an objective and deadpan quality in the Clausen which was consciously modern. McConkey doesn’t comment on the newspaper shown in The Flower Seller, but I think he’d agree that it is a telling detail.

Trafalgar Square was the very “hub of creation”: McConkey cites AR Hope Moncrieff, London, A&C Black, 1910. Here’s the full passage in Moncrieff (1916 edition):

“Parthians and Medes and Elamites may at every hour of the day be found in Trafalgar Square, along with the pig-tailed Chinaman, the negro, unheeded even by street-boys, the Red Indian stolidly dissembling his amazement, the mild Hindoo jostling sahibs with a new-found strut, the almond-eyed Japanese Jack on shore knocking up against a burly Russian tar, the Egyptian wondering at monuments where no one pesters him for bakshish, the Italian sighing for the sun of dolce far niente, the Alpine mountaineer lost in admiration of so many tall chimney-pots, the Parisian twirling a critical moustache, the German professor studiously conferring with his Baedeker, and, conspicuous among the throng, the frequent figure of Uncle Sam, one eye cocked in complacent comparison with his own sky-scraping Babels, the other moistened by sentiment for the old home of his race.

“Apart from its magnetic character, in Trafalgar Square more foreigners are likely to turn up than in other parts of London, since close at hand, about Soho and Leicester Square, is the headquarters of our Continental colony.”

One wishes artists had painted more of this and fewer flower girls. I commented on two possible tourists in The Flower Seller.

A reporter in The Graphic, McConkey tells us, thought that the proliferation of flower girls was (in McConkey’s words: the date of the piece isn’t clear in his notes, but perhaps June 22 1872) “a direct result of the development of the railways and the fact that fresh flowers could now be brought to the city centre cheaply – creating a new underclass of street sellers, and at the same time, a fashion for buttonholes and posies among city-clerks and shop-workers”.

Whence, I suppose, carnations worn at weddings and, until fairly recently, by shopworkers at Fortnum and Mason and pretentious Harley Street doctors.

He shows an illustration from The Graphic by Frank Holl. Surely this is also about the ambiguity of the flower girl’s profession in that part of London. She might be a prostitute.

I referred to Mayhew in the last post. One can mention also Toilers in London; or, Inquiries concerning Female Labour in the Metropolis, By the “British Weekly” Commissioners, Hodder and Stoughton, 1889.

McConkey doesn’t identify Clausen’s (lower?) middle-class model, used in a series of “street” paintings, saying only that she had “strayed from the leafy precincts of Hampstead and Regent’s Park”. Is that just a guess? Clausen was living at 4, The Mall, Haverstock Hill. McConkey compares her to Tissot’s Mrs Kathleen Newton.

He calls The Flower Seller experimental. It is anyway the first of the street paintings, which were a bridge between Clausen’s Dutch phase and his earliest English rural pictures:

The Flower Seller (1879), private collection (last post)

A Winter Afternoon (1880), private collection

In the Street (1880), private collection

Schoolgirls (1880), Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

A Morning Walk (1881), private collection

A Spring Morning, Haverstock Hill (1881), Bury Art Museum, Manchester.

All oil, the last the largest and most ambitious. All but one, In the Street (which is practically a miniature), show stark class contrasts. In the last two, rural workers seem to have wandered into the city. At the end of 1881, Clausen moved to the country (Childwick Green, Hertfordshire).

McConkey mentions William Logsdail only in passing, as a Clausen contemporary. He was a few years younger than Clausen and died in 1944, a few weeks before him. But a few days ago I saw his St Martin-in-the-Fields (1888) at Tate Britain: another flower girl in Trafalgar Square, with the artist looking towards St Martin’s Place and St Martin’s Lane.

The Tate reminds us that Trafalgar Square had been the scene of Bloody Sunday the year before. Logsdail’s tour-de-force is popular, but he is a limited painter. The girl is Bastien-Lepagish if not Clausenish.

On June 1 1881 Clausen married, at King’s Lynn, Agnes Mary, the sister of a friend, Alfred George Webster, who, from his mid-twenties in 1877 until his death (not in the war) in 1916, was Principal of the School of Art in Lincoln. That is where Logsdail had studied – presumably under the slightly older Webster.

William Logsdail, St Martin in the Fields

Logsdail, St Martin-in-the-Fields

Clausen, In the Street

Clausen, In the Street; she is carrying flowers

___

National Gallery, starting March 4: Inventing Impressionism: The man who sold a thousand Monets, an exhibition about Paul Durand-Ruel. I hope it is pleasanter to visit than their recent crowded, exploitative Rembrandt.

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, on already: Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends.

Durand-Ruel had, from 1870, a gallery in London at 168 New Bond Street under the management of Charles Deschamps, of which Clausen wrote: “Our favourite was Deschamps’ in Bond Street. He was, I believe, the first to show the works of Millet, Degas, Manet and others of that time. There was always something good to be seen there, and we were cordially welcomed for he was really interested in art, and most encouraging to us students.” Autobiographical Notes, Artwork, no 25, Spring 1931.

Old Clausen post: A universal face.


Trafalgar Square 1879

February 27 2015

The Flower Seller

Enjoyable (especially the plinth) early Clausen, painted when he was 26 or 27: The Flower Seller, private collection; the plinth supports an equestrian statue of Charles I by Hubert Le Sueur; they have been there since 1678; George Clausen’s memorial service would take place in 1944 in the church in the background, St Martin-in-the-Fields, James Gibbs, 1722-24


The unchanging West

February 27 2015

… or, A boy from Baghdad

Let us […] construct the intellectual history of a fictitious Baghdadi boy, who has been born since the arrival of the British at Baghdad in 1917 and whose father has determined to give him a thoroughly Western scientific education in order to fit him for making his way in the Westernized East of to-morrow. The father begins by giving the boy some direct insight into Western scientific methods by showing him Western scientists at work in his own country. He takes him to see the archaeological excavations at Ur. Let us assume that the boy is as intelligent as his father, and that this visit arouses in him a general interest in modern Western Archaeology, ranging over the whole field as far as it has been explored by Western scholars. Among other things, the life of the lake-dwellers in the Alps in the “Eneolithic Age” [which we would now call Early Bronze Age] is sure to appeal to the Baghdadi boy for the same reasons which invest the conditions of life on the North Arabian Steppe with a special interest for Western readers of the Book of Genesis. The boy’s interest in the lake-dwellers will broaden out into a study of all aspects of their life, including the manner in which they adapted themselves to the imperious conditions of the local terrain and climate in keeping their cattle. He will follow the ancient lacustrine herdsmen as they drive their cattle up from the lake-side to ever higher upland pastures with the advance of spring and then gradually down again from alp to alp to the water’s edge with the retreat of summer. This study will become his hobby; and when the time comes for him to visit Europe, he will make a bee-line first for Switzerland. There, herded by some tourist agency into Alpine hotels, he will observe, with astonishment and delight, that the pastoral life with which he is familiar from the books about the ancient lake-dwellers which his father gave him to read at home is being lived, apparently unchanged, by the Swiss herdsmen of to-day. With what extraordinary persistence social phenomena perpetuate themselves in this strange and romantic Western World! How different from ʿIraq, where the disinterred vestiges of Ur and Babylon and Nineveh proclaim to any Baghdadi who sets eyes on them that, in his country, Life is a flux and history a synonym for change. And now this Baghdadi has discovered “the Unchanging West”. What a tale to tell to his countrymen when he goes home again!

Of course our intelligent young man from Baghdad would not have rushed into this ludicrously erroneous generalization if the romance of the Alpine pastures had not absorbed his attention to the extent of preventing him from studying with equal thoroughness the histories of those sites on Western soil that are now occupied by the cities of Zurich and Lausanne – not to speak of Paris and London and Berlin and New York and Chicago. If he had studied these likewise, he could not conceivably have imagined that the West was “unchanging” by comparison with Iraq (immense though the changes in ʿIraq have been, on every plane of social life, over the span of five or six thousand years within which we happen to know something about the country’s history). He has been misled by a failure to realize that he has been making a generalization about half the World on the strength of local conditions in a small area with a peculiar character of its own. While the Alps impose upon all human beings in all ages who have the hardihood to be their inhabitants as rigid and as unvarying a way of life as is imposed by the North Arabian Steppe, it is likewise true that the Alps are as small a fraction of the Western World as the North Arabian Steppe is of the East. An extravaganza? Yet quid rides? For mutato nomine de te fabula narratur, [footnote: Horace: Satires, i (i), ll. 69-70.] you Western traveller, whoever you may have been, who first brought home to us the catchword of “the Unchanging East”.

Toynbee was saying this kind of thing before Edward Said, who presumably mocked the phrase. Was its inventor a Scottish Canadian writer named Robert Barr (founder of The Idler) in a book with that name published in 1900?

[Footnote: It may be objected that even an ingenuous and unobservant Oriental traveller who visited the Alps to-day with a picture in his mind of the local conditions of life in the “Eneolithic Age” could not really fail to notice, side by side with many points of correspondence, at least as many and as remarkable evidences of change. It can only be replied that Western travellers have contrived to ignore similar evidences on the North Arabian Steppe, where the conditions portrayed in the Book of Genesis have been changed profoundly, since that portrait was drawn, by at least two far-reaching innovations: the introduction of the horse and the introduction of fire-arms (not to speak of dry farming and motor-cars, which are both still too recent introductions to have had time to produce their full effects).]

The unchanging East (last post but one).

A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934


Peter’s war

February 26 2015

Peter’s declaration of war upon the Byzantine social tradition was delivered in his celebrated gesture of shaving, with his own hand, the beards of the grandees who came to congratulate him on his return from the West in A.D. 1698. A ukase of the 4th January, 1700, made the wearing of Western dress compulsory by a certain date “for the glory and beauty of the State and the improvement of the Army”. This was confirmed in a second ukase of the 20th March, and detailed instructions were issued in 1701. Compare Mehmed ʿAli’s imposition of Western uniforms upon his troops, and Mustafā Kemāl’s imposition of Western dress upon the entire male civil population. [Entire?] (The compulsory change of dress which was carried through by Peter in Russia was confined to the upper class, and the obligation to shave might be bought off by the payment of a beard-tax.) Peter, however, was not content with imposing Western dress. He arranged for the compilation of elaborate manuals of Western fine manners; and in the houses of the nobility in the new capital, Petersburg, “receptions” à la française were organized by the Police.

Were bourgeois manners and behaviour in Tsarist Russia harder than in western Europe to distinguish from aristocratic?

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934 (footnote)


The unchanging East

February 26 2015

“Twenty-two members of the same family would sit around adjoined tables in a café and eat ice cream. ‘Europe’ […] appeared eternal, poor but well-dressed, fiercely macho, Catholic and so little subject to change that all four generations of a family could laugh heartily at the same jokes.”

Edmund White, midwesterner, on the Costa Brava in the mid-’60s in The Guardian, January 17 2004.


Volcanoes and Titans

February 25 2015

[The Nomads’] eruptions out of the Desert into the Sown, like the eruptions of a Vesuvius or an Etna, are the mechanical resolutions of vast but inanimate physical forces. They are not the agonies of an imprisoned Titan who is frantically struggling for liberty and light.

Like the movement of wind between areas of high and low pressure, perhaps.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934


Vesuvius ’44

February 25 2015

I’m not big on disaster movies, but this Pathé newsreel, complete with Finlandia, is quite something; the movie shown after it must have seemed dull. Thanks to Adrian Murdoch for the link.

The ’44 eruption is described by Norman Lewis in Naples ’44.

Wikipedia, edited:

“Mount Vesuvius has erupted many times. The famous eruption in AD 79 was preceded by numerous others in prehistory, including at least three significantly larger ones, the best known being the Avellino eruption around 1800 BC which engulfed several Bronze Age settlements. Since AD 79, the volcano has also erupted repeatedly, in 172, 203, 222, possibly 303, 379, 472, 512, 536, 685, 787, around 860, around 900, 968, 991, 999, 1006, 1037, 1049, around 1073, 1139, 1150, and there may have been eruptions in 1270, 1347, and 1500. The volcano erupted again in 1631, six times in the 18th century, eight times in the 19th century (notably in 1872), and in 1906, 1929, and 1944. There has been no eruption since 1944, and none of the post-79 eruptions was as large or destructive as the Pompeian one.

“The eruptions vary greatly in severity but are characterized by explosive outbursts of the kind dubbed Plinian after Pliny the Younger, a Roman writer who published a detailed description of the AD 79 eruption, in which his uncle, Pliny the Elder, died. On occasion, eruptions from Vesuvius have been so large that the whole of southern Europe has been blanketed by ash; in 472 and 1631, Vesuvian ash fell on Constantinople, over 1,200 kilometres away. A few times since 1944, landslides in the crater have raised clouds of ash dust, raising false alarms of an eruption.”


Wells on Cnossos

February 24 2015

Wells’s A Short History of the World (1922) is not an abridgement of his much longer The Outline of History (1919-20), but (he claimed) a new work. They are no more than period pieces now, but enjoyable in small doses because Wells. This is from the shorter work.

The omissions are of words and phrases that make no sense, but I have left the rest as it is.

“The earliest boats […] must have come into use some twenty-five or thirty thousand years ago. Man was probably paddling about on the water with a log of wood or an inflated skin to assist him, at latest in the beginnings of the Neolithic period. A basketwork boat covered with skin and caulked was used in Egypt and Sumeria from the beginnings of our knowledge. Such boats are still used there. They are used to this day in Ireland and Wales and in Alaska; sealskin boats still make the crossing of Behring Straits. The hollow log followed as tools improved [might it not have preceded?]. The building of boats and then ships came in a natural succession.

“Perhaps the legend of Noah’s Ark preserves the memory of some early exploit in shipbuilding, just as the story of the Flood, so widely distributed […], may be the tradition of the flooding of the Mediterranean basin.

“There were ships upon the Red Sea long before the pyramids were built, and there were ships on the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf by 7000 B.C. Mostly these were the ships of fishermen, but some were already trading and pirate ships – for knowing what we do of mankind we may guess pretty safely that the first sailors plundered where they could and traded where they had to do so.

“The seas on which these first ships adventured were inland seas on which the wind blew fitfully and which were often at a dead calm for days together, so that sailing did not develop beyond an accessory use. It is only in the last four hundred years that the well-rigged, ocean-going, sailing ship has developed. The ships of the ancient world were essentially rowing ships which hugged the shore and went into harbour at the first sign of rough weather. As ships grew into big galleys they caused a demand for war captives as galley slaves.

“We have already noted the appearance of the Semitic people as wanderers and nomads in the region of Syria and Arabia, and how they conquered Sumeria and set up first the Akkadian and then the first Babylonian Empire. In the west these same Semitic peoples were taking to the sea. They set up a string of harbour towns along the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean, of which Tyre and Sidon were the chief; and by the time of Hammurabi in Babylon, they had spread as traders, wanderers and colonizers over the whole Mediterranean basin. These sea Semites were called the Phœnicians, They settled largely in Spain, pushing back the old Iberian Basque population and sending coasting expeditions through the straits of Gibraltar; and they set up colonies upon the north coast of Africa. Of Carthage, one of these Phœnician cities, we shall have much more to tell later.

“But the Phœnicians were not the first people to have galleys in the Mediterranean waters. There was already a series of towns and cities among the islands and coasts of that sea belonging to a race or races apparently connected by blood and language with the Basques to the west and the Berbers and Egyptians to the south, the Ægean peoples. These peoples must not be confused with the Greeks, who come much later into our story; they were pre-Greek, but they had cities in Greece and Asia Minor; Mycenæ and Troy for example [which would become Greek], and they had a great and prosperous establishment at Cnossos in Crete.

“It is only in the last half century that the industry of excavating archæologists has brought the extent and civilization of the Ægean peoples to our knowledge. Cnossos has been most thoroughly explored; it was happily not succeeded by any city big enough to destroy its ruins, and so it is our chief source of information about this once almost forgotten civilization.

“The history of Cnossos goes back as far as the history of Egypt; the two countries were trading actively across the sea by 4000 B.C. By 2500 B.C., that is between the time of Sargon I and Hammurabi [modern dating places Sargon of Akkad around 2300 BC, Hammurabi of Babylon around 1800 BC], Cretan civilization was at its zenith.

“Cnossos was not so much a town as a great palace for the Cretan monarch and his people. It was not even fortified. It was only fortified later as the Phœnicians grew strong, and as a new and more terrible breed of pirates, the Greeks, came upon the sea from the north.

“The monarch was called Minos, as the Egyptian monarch was called Pharaoh; and he kept his state in a palace fitted with running water, with bathrooms and the like conveniences such as we know of in no other ancient remains. There he held great festivals and shows. There was bull-fighting, singularly like the bull-fighting that still survives in Spain; there was resemblance even in the costumes of the bull-fighters; and there were gymnastic displays. The women’s clothes were remarkably modern in spirit; they wore corsets and flounced dresses. The pottery, the textile manufactures, the sculpture, painting, jewellery, ivory, metal and inlay work of these Cretans was often astonishingly beautiful. And they had a system of writing [Linear A], but that still remains to be deciphered.

“This happy and sunny and civilized life lasted for some score of centuries. About 2000 B.C. Cnossos and Babylon abounded in comfortable and cultivated people who probably led very pleasant lives. They had shows and they had religious festivals, they had domestic slaves to look after them and industrial slaves to make a profit for them. Life must have seemed very secure in Cnossos for such people, sunlit and girdled by the blue sea. Egypt of course must have appeared rather a declining country in those days under the rule of her half-barbaric shepherd kings, and if one took an interest in politics one must have noticed how the Semitic people seemed to be getting everywhere, ruling Egypt, ruling distant Babylon, building Nineveh on the upper Tigris, sailing west to the Pillars of Hercules (the straits of Gibraltar) and setting up their colonies on those distant coasts.

“There were some active and curious minds in Cnossos, because later on the Greeks told legends of a certain skilful Cretan artificer, Dædalus, who attempted to make some sort of flying machine, perhaps a glider, which collapsed and fell into the sea.

“It is interesting to note some of the differences as well as the resemblances between the life of Cnossos and our own. To a Cretan gentleman of 2500 B.C. iron was a rare metal which fell out of the sky and was curious rather than useful – for as yet only meteoric iron was known, iron had not been obtained from its ores. Compare that with our modern state of affairs pervaded by iron everywhere. The horse again would be a quite legendary creature to our Cretan, a sort of super-ass which lived in the bleak northern lands far away beyond the Black Sea. Civilization for him dwelt chiefly in Ægean Greece and Asia Minor, where Lydians and Carians and Trojans lived a life and probably spoke languages like his own. There were Phœnicians and Ægeans settled in Spain and North Africa, but those were very remote regions to his imagination. Italy was still a desolate land covered with dense forests; the brown-skinned Etruscans had not yet gone there from Asia Minor. And one day perhaps this Cretan gentleman went down to the harbour and saw a captive who attracted his attention because he was very fair-complexioned and had blue eyes. Perhaps our Cretan tried to talk to him and was answered in an unintelligible gibberish. This creature came from somewhere beyond the Black Sea and seemed to be an altogether benighted savage. But indeed he was an Aryan tribesman, of a race and culture of which we shall soon have much to tell, and the strange gibberish he spoke was to differentiate some day into Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, Latin, German, English and most of the chief languages of the world.

“Such was Cnossos at its zenith, intelligent, enterprising, bright and happy. But about 1400 B.C. disaster came perhaps very suddenly upon its prosperity. The palace of Minos was destroyed, and its ruins have never been rebuilt or inhabited from that day to this. We do not know how this disaster occurred. The excavators note what appears to be scattered plunder and the marks of the fire. But the traces of a very destructive earthquake have also been found. Nature alone may have destroyed Cnossos, or the Greeks may have finished what the earthquake began.”

___

Was the scene at the waterfront ever played out? Perhaps it was. An “Aegean” gentleman (whether or not of the blood and race of “Basques”, “Berbers” and “Egyptians”), presumably dark, from Cnossos meeting an “Aryan” slave-captive from the steppe?

Arthur Evans, William Blake Richmond

Arthur Evans, the man who, from 1900 to 1905, unearthed the Minoan civilisation, by William Blake Richmond, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford


There is no Malta

February 23 2015

Geography was […] a science of which the statesmen and admirals of the Ottoman Empire remained abysmally ignorant. There is a legend of an Ottoman admiral who was sent out with orders to capture Malta and who returned to Constantinople, after cruising round the Mediterranean for many weeks, to report “Malta yoq” […].

In contrast, one supposes, with the Arab statesmen and admirals who had preceded them. Interpolation in a footnote: no source stated.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934 (footnote)


The national idea

February 22 2015

It was a symbolic incident when, in 1798, the armada of the French Republic One and Indivisible, on its way to the conquest and conciliation of an enfeebled Egypt, extinguished the rule of the Hospitallers’ Order in its final refuge, the island of Malta.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915


Britain and Crete

February 21 2015

Eco-historian of both, especially of English forests: Oliver Rackham.

Guardian

Telegraph

Independent.


Hiroshima, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hamburg

February 20 2015

The order of Second World War bombing raids by the number of immediate fatalities is Hiroshima, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hamburg. More people were killed in the March 1945 Tokyo raid than by the atomic bomb in Nagasaki.

And why is Dresden discussed more often than Hamburg?

… A discovery and a question from the post before last.


Church of the Cross

February 19 2015

Not even firebombing obliterates a city. Tokyo is still Tokyo. A European city can’t be rebuilt so easily, but Dresden is impressive, with something momentous about it, seen from the Elbe. Bells of the Church of the Cross:

Old town:

There are no bells in Islam, but church bells are part of western music.

Cage and Stockhausen must have known that. Unsurprisingly, some of the most beautiful are in Germany. Is allowing the sound of church bells but not the call to prayer in a European city discrimination against Islam? If something affects (is heard by) a whole population, don’t the preferences of the majority rule, when in other cases minority rights would rule? Sounds are all-pervasive, sights are not.


Bombing Dresden

February 18 2015

Was the firebombing of Dresden by the British and Americans the worst thing done before Hiroshima? The British had the larger role.

RAF Bomber Command (1936-68) was led by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris from February 22 1942 to September 15 1945. Churchill wrote, after the main raids on Dresden: 

“It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so called ‘area-bombing’ of German cities should be reviewed from the point of view of our own interests. If we come into control of an entirely ruined land, there will be a great shortage of accommodation for ourselves and our allies. … We must see to it that our attacks do no more harm to ourselves in the long run than they do to the enemy’s war effort.”

He seems to have had moral doubts as well, but did not press his intervention.

In 1963, the holocaust-denier David Irving published The Destruction of DresdenThe Queen Mother, on the other hand, who lived for the rest of her days on a reputation gained by a visit to the blitzed East End, admired “Bomber Harris”.

According to onlinemilitaryeducation.org, the ten most destructive campaigns were as follows. The periods in question are of different lengths. In one case, the raids were conducted by Germans. In the other cases by the Americans and/or British. In descending order of total deaths by city (not by raid):

1.  Tokyo, November 1944-August 1945, 100,000 plus killed

USAAF. (Minor raid in April 1942.) Raid of March 9-10 1945 is considered the single most destructive conventional bombing raid in history. 

2.  Hamburg, September 1939-April 1945, 42,600 killed

RAF and USAAF. Most severe raid ever on a European city came from a combined force during the last week of July 1943. The British conducted the night raids, the Americans the day raids.

3.  Dresden, October 1944-April 1945, 25,000 killed

RAF and USAAF. Most destructive raid came from a combined force (RAF majority) February 13-15 1945.

4.  Berlin, 1940-45, 20,000-50,000 killed

RAF and USAAF. 363 raids.

5.  London, September 1940-May 1941, 20,000 killed

The Blitz.

6.  Swinoujscie, March 12 1945, 5,000-23,000 killed

USAAF. Raid on Polish city and port.

7.  Pforzheim, April 1944-March 1945, 21,200 killed

RAF and USAAF. Main raid RAF February 23 1945.

8.  Darmstadt, September 1943-February 1945, 12,300 killed

RAF. Main raid September 11-12 1944.

9.  Kassel, February 1942-March 1945, 10,000 killed

RAF and USAAF. Main raid RAF October 22-23 1943.

10.  Osaka, March-August 1945, 10,000 killed

USAAF. Main raid March 13-14 1945.

So the order is Hiroshima, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hamburg. More people were killed in the March 1945 Tokyo raid than by the atomic bomb in Nagasaki.

And why is Dresden discussed more often than Hamburg? Because Irving wrote a book?

The Germans area-bombed or firebombed parts of London and Coventry in 1940. Bomber Command was authorised before the Blitz, on May 15 1940, to attack German targets east of the Rhine. It began area-bombing Germany in early 1942. This was supposed to undermine the morale of the civilian population and in particular of industrial workers. Factories were no longer the main targets.

The Americans had a policy of precision bombing in Europe and yet firebombed Japan. But on a few occasions, particularly towards the end of the war, they firebombed cities in Germany such as Dresden and Berlin in support of the British. That caused disquiet in the American ranks and was never the general policy as it was in Japan. The double standard was surely racist.

Victor Gregg was born in London in 1919, joined the army in 1937 and served with the Rifle Brigade in India and Palestine and in the Western Desert. He was taken prisoner at the Arnhem and was awaiting execution in Dresden when the raids happened. He is alive and outspoken on the bombing:

Old posts:

Aerial bombing

Bombing Japan

Lie in the dark and listen.


Semitic outliers

February 17 2015

Which Semitic language is written now in Latin script?

Answer: Maltese.

Which Semitic language is written now in a script that is not Hebrew, not Arabic and not Latin?

Answer: Amharic (Ethiopian). Main example.


Bitter Lake

February 16 2015

Adam Curtis’s extraordinary documentary is here on the BBC website. It was produced for iPlayer because of the “rigid formats and schedules of network television”. In other words, it was deemed too long or demanding. Here on YouTube.

The jury is out for me on this: I need to watch it more carefully. An introduction on Curtis’s blog is here. Extract (edited):

“Journalism – that used to tell a grand, unfurling narrative – now […] just relays disjointed and often wildly contradictory fragments of information. Events come and go like waves of a fever. We […] live in a state of continual delirium, constantly waiting for the next news event to loom out of the fog – and then disappear again, unexplained. And the formats – in news and documentaries – have become so rigid and repetitive that the audiences never really look at them. In the face of this people retreat from journalism and politics. They turn away into their own worlds, and the stories they and their friends tell each other. I think this is wrong, sad, and bad for democracy – because it means the politicians become more and more unaccountable.

“I have made a film that tries to respond to this in two ways. It tells a big story about why the stories we are told today have stopped making sense. But it is also an experiment in a new way of reporting the world. To do this I’ve used techniques that you wouldn’t normally associate with TV journalism. My aim is to make something more emotional and involving […].

“The film is called Bitter Lake. […] It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence – and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened – because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance.

“But there is one other country at the centre of the film. Afghanistan. This is because Afghanistan is the place that has repeatedly confronted politicians, as their power declines, with the terrible truth – that they cannot understand what is going on any longer. Let alone control it. The film shows in detail how all the foreigners who went to Afghanistan created an almost totally fictional version of the country in their minds. They couldn’t see the complex reality that was in front of them – because the stories they had been told about the world had become so simplified that they lacked the perceptual apparatus to see reality any longer. And this blindness led to a terrible disaster – support for a blatantly undemocratic government, wholesale financial corruption and thousands of needless deaths. A horrific scandal that we, […] here in Britain, seem hardly aware of. And even if we are – it is dismissed as being just too complex to understand.

“I have got hold of the unedited rushes of almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan. It is thousands of hours – some of it is very dull, but large parts of it are extraordinary. Shots that record amazing moments, but also others that are touching, funny and sometimes very odd. These complicated, fragmentary and emotional images evoke the chaos of real experience. And out of them I have tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan.”

His statements about politicians may explain why they all (certainly in Britain, except for Farage) wear such puzzled expressions on their faces now. They are no longer sure what to say to us.

The Bitter Lake is a saltwater lake through which the Suez Canal flows. On Valentine’s Day 1945, after Yalta, President Roosevelt met King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia on board a warship there. A remarkable photograph was taken, which I saw consciously for the first time last year in the King Abdulaziz Memorial Hall in Riyad. The kneeling figure is the ambassador to the Kingdom, William Eddy. It’s hardly less historically important than the Yalta photograph.

Charlie Beckett presented a programme on our bad news diet (Good News Is No News) on BBC Radio 4 recently (producer Simon Hollis), asking, intelligently, what sort of reality modern journalism is presenting. It plays into Curtis’s points. Listen here. (BBC iPlayer Radio must be the worst-designed site on the web.)

Great Bitter Lake

Picture: fdrlibrary.tumblr.com


Nought shall make us rue

February 16 2015

Shakespeare doesn’t mention Magna Carta in King John, which is about the king’s legitimacy, not his barons’ rights.

King John in music? I can only think of the King John overture (1941) by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, one of many that he wrote on Shakespearean themes. It takes as its motto the final words in the play, uttered by Philip the Bastard:

“This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them: Nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true.”

Patriotic music for 1941, perhaps, but not at the level of Walton’s for Henry V of three years later. Shakespeare also wrote the greater play three years later.

Below, conducted by its dedicatee John Barbirolli, with the New York Philharmonic, presumably its premiere (unsearchable on YouTube because said to be by “traditional”). Vaughan Williams dedicated an orchestral Flourish for Glorious John to Barbirolli in 1957, but that term of endearment does not refer to anyone in Shakespeare, but to Walter Scott’s epithet for Dryden in The Pirate.

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