Monday, 14 May 2018

20th Century Notts, 1910-1919

With Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature's tour of the 20th Century now into the '20s, it's time to feature part two. This look through the literary lens takes us from 1910 to 1919.


Book of the year: Fortuna Chance by James Prior (1910)

Fortuna Chance was James Prior's last published work (he left two unpublished manuscripts). Prior used the Leen, Erewash and Trent Valleys as his locations, populating them with everyday characters struggling to make ends meet, often contrasted with those of a different class, background or politics. Fortuna Chance is the heroine of this sectarian story which begins in 1725 and is full of rebellion. Keen readers might recognise the Miller & Carter Sherwood Forest pub (also known as Halfway House and Seven Mile Inn).

To the south-east is the ancestral domain of the Byrons and the green valley backed by the hills of Arnold and Mapperley; to the south the park of Annesley, a long incline open to the sun. (from Fortuna Chance)

Nottingham’s first purpose-built cinema, the Victoria Electric Palace, opened on Milton Street in 1910. The 500-seat venue was enlarged several times, becoming the Moulin Rouge in 1960. In 1967 the Krays attended a screening, as did Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton the following year. Glamour, Stephen Lowe’s semi-autobiographical comedy play, was set in this Moulin Rouge era. The venue closed in 1970 and was later demolished. 

Also opening this year was Pringles Picture Palace. Renamed Goldsmith Picture House two years later, it closed as a cinema in 1941 and became the Little Theatre, taken over by the (then) new Nottingham Playhouse in 1948. The first Playhouse theatre in Nottingham was recently home to Spanky Van Dyke’s eatery and bar. The building is now looking for new tenants.



Book of the year: The White Peacock by D. H. Lawrence (1911)

D. H. Lawrence’s first novel went through three rewrites over five years before being published by Heinemann in 1911 as The White Peacock, having had the working title Laetitia after the narrator’s sister. That narrator is Cyril Beardsall but the landscape is the better character and the damage the industrial revolution was having on Nethermere/Eastwood. There are plenty of Notts references.  

Be a good animal, true to your instincts. (from The White Peacock)

Born in 1911, William Golding is perhaps best-known for his 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, widely studied in many a Notts school. Exploring the savage side of human nature Lord of the Flies follows a group of adolescent boys stranded on a deserted island. University of Nottingham Professor Paul Crawford is the author of Politics and History in William Golding: the world turned upside down (2002). This book provides a politicised and historicised reading of William Golding's novels as a counter to previous universalising criticism. 


The Trespasser by D. H. Lawrence (1912)
The second novel from D. H. Lawrence was published in this year. Originally entitled The Saga of Siegmund it drew upon the experiences of a friend of Lawrence’s, Helen Corke, and her adulterous relationship with her violin teacher that ended with his suicide. After reading Miss Corke's diary Lawrence urged her to write her story before receiving her permission to do so himself. Lawrence also urged Corke to publish her diary, which she did in 1933 as Neutral Ground. She also wrote several biographical works on Lawrence.
Feeling him abstract, withdrawn from her, Helena experienced the dread of losing him. She was in his arms, but his spirit ignored her. (from The Trespasser)

In 1912 D. H. Lawrence visited the home of Professor Ernest Weekley at a property on Victoria Crescent (pictured below) in Mapperley Park. He sought advice from his former lecturer about getting a teaching job abroad only to be greeted by Emma Maria Frieda Johanna Weekley whose husband was not home. The 33-year-old woman, who answered to Frieda, impressed Lawrence with her beauty and her foreignness. He was also drawn to her spontaneity, carelessness and directness, traits in evidence as the two quickly ended up in bed together. Extramarital liaisons were not new to Frieda but Lawrence was hooked on her. He wrote that she was the ‘most wonderful woman in all England’ and insisted that she was throwing away her life. They eloped, Frieda leaving behind her comfortable existence and three children. She may have been the daughter of minor German aristocrats but she was not wealthy, and her family were totally opposed to her abandoning her marriage and children for the love of a penniless writer. Lawrence insisted that she tell her husband about them but she repeatedly failed to do so. It was Lawrence who wrote to Weekley, declaring: ‘I love your wife and she loves me ...’. Weekley divorced her and in 1914 she married Lawrence.


Book of the year: Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence (1913)
'I tell you I've written a great book,’ said Lawrence to his publisher on sending a manuscript of Sons and Lovers, adding, ‘Read my novel – it's a great novel.’ Originally titled Paul Morel, Sons and Lovers is a highly autobiographical and compelling portrayal of childhood, adolescence and the clash of generations, all set in Lawrence's native Nottinghamshire. Paul Morel, the centre of his disappointed and fiercely protective mother's world, is torn between his individual desires and family allegiances.
‘That's how women are with me,’ said Paul. ‘They want me like mad but they don't want to belong to me.’ (From Sons and Lovers)

The former office building for the Imperial Fire & Life Insurance Co. became the Reform Club in 1913, designed as a place for Nottingham's new wealthy middle classes to meet and to engage in discussion. Sir Jesse Boot was counted amongst the membership. In the 1960s it became the Victoria Club, one of the country’s finest private members' clubs. It’s now a listed building.


Book of the year: The Prussian Officer and Other Stories by D. H. Lawrence (1914)
Sandwiched by Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow, The Prussian Officer and Other Stories is one of Lawrence’s finest collection of short stories. Published in 1914 by Duckworth in London, its eponymous tale tells of sexual tension and revenge. The twelve-story collection also features Odour of Chrysanthemums and Goose Fair.
Through the gloom of evening, and the flare of torches of the night before the fair, through the still fogs of the succeeding dawn came paddling the weary geese, lifting their poor feet that had been dipped in tar for shoes, and trailing them along the cobble-stones into the town. (From Goose Fair)

Jane Neave of Church Farm/Phoenix Farm in Gedling was an academic with a strong interest in both science and literature. She was also the aunt of J. R. R. Tolkien. It was at her farm in 1914 that Tolkien wrote his poem The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star. Éarendel, who first appears in this poem, later became “an important element in the mythical background of The Lord of the Rings,” according to Morton and Hayes (2008). This ‘Gedling poem’ may well contain Middle-earth’s origin.

Young Tolkien


Book of the year: The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence (1915)
Concerning three generations of the Brangwens, The Rainbow takes place between the mid-19th Century and the early 20th. Tom falls in love with a genteel Polish widow and adopts her daughter as his own. Interfamily relations (the daughter marries Tom’s nephew) produce a child, Ursula, a strong and spirited character who rejects convention. This powerful book is about relationships. The individuals’ desires for self-fulfilment, power and passion are told through their changing roles in an evolving society and landscape.
He worked very hard, till nothing lived in him but his eyes. (from The Rainbow)

In 1915, two months after The Rainbow was published, it was suppressed under the 1857 Obscene Publications Act. Its publisher was prosecuted for its frank treatment of sexual love. The prosecutor said, “although there might not be an obscene word to be found in the book, it was in fact a mass of obscenity of thought, idea, and action.”
The judge said that the book, “had no right to exist in the wind of war.”
After the trial, which Lawrence only heard about via newspaper reports, all copies of the novel were seized and destroyed. The work remained banned in Britain for the next 11 years.


Book of the year: The Sailor by J. C. Snaith (1916)
Nicely illustrated by W. A. Hottinger, the novel opens in a rough part of a Nottingham-esque town. Henry is a small boy crouched in desperate terror against the wall of a blind alley, while his drunken and terrible old aunt stands over him with a heavy lash in her hand, taunting the child before she strikes him. After escaping, he experiences an extraordinary life becoming a mariner.
A large woman in a torn dress stood at the gate of a rag and bone dealer’s yard. The season was November, the hour midnight, the place a slum in a Midland textile town. (from The Sailor)
As Snaith’s The Sailor was published, the Great war continued its destruction. Parcels of books were sent to sailors in the cruiser H.M.S. Nottingham, sunk by three torpedoes from a U-52 boat in the August of this year. It was our city libraries that brought this comfort to the sailors and convalescing servicemen, sending thousands of used books, magazines and periodicals out to them.


Book of the year: The Origins of the War: the testimony of a witness by Alice Zimmern (1917)
Nottingham-born Alice Zimmern’s last published work was a translation of The Origins of the War by the Romanian politician and short story writer Take Ionescu, one of the main politicians who manoeuvred Romania’s entrance into the First World War on the Entente’s side.
Take Ionescu
Boots, the Nottingham based drugs company, produced a staff magazine during the war. Wanting to create an ‘open line of communication’ between his staff and their colleagues serving at the front, Jesse Boot produced the newsletter Comrades in Khaki. The magazine detailed business, marriages, deaths, and featured letters ‘from the lads’. Money raised from the sale of the publication went to a sick and wounded fund for Boots’ staff.

One of the letters from the Front said, ‘anything with the name Boots on it is like a message from home to me. It bucks one up tremendously.’


Pandemic 1918: The Story of the Deadliest Influenza in History by Catharine Arnold (2018)
In the wake of the war, which took 18 million human lives, the Spanish flu pandemic killed up to 100 million more (250,000 in Britain), making it the deadliest natural catastrophe of modern times. Nottingham author Catharine Arnold’s book, Pandemic 1918, uses previously unpublished records, memoirs, diaries and government publications to uncover the human story of 1918.

July 1st saw one of Britain's worst wartime disasters, an explosion at the ammunition factory in Chilwell in which 139 people were killed. Canary Child by Alan Dance and David Field is based on this event. The book is a supernatural mystery drama in which an embittered divorcée has a strange encounter with the apparition of a girl who claims to have died in the explosion at the shell-filling factory.


The Children's Newspaper founded by Arthur Mee (1919)
Arthur Mee launched The Children’s Newspaper, designed to keep young people up to date with the latest in world news and science. Originally priced at 1½d it was designed to look like an adult newspaper.

Arthur Mee
Stanley Middleton was born in Bulwell. An author of 45 novels (at a rate of almost one a year) he wrote about the lives, frustrations and ambitions of Nottingham’s (he called the city Beechnall) middle-class professionals. Middleton studied at University College, Nottingham, and went on to have a long and successful teaching career at his old school, High Pavement. It was during his years teaching English that he wrote many of his books, including his Booker prize-winning Holiday.  
Stanley Middleton

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

20th Century Notts, part one 1900-1909

The Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website is hosting 20th Century Notts, a weekly series looking back at our county’s history and heritage through a literary lens. These articles are, and will continue to be, first featured on the City of Literature website  three years at a time. Once each decade has been completed it will then appear here. So, as they are currently up to 1911, here is the opener, 1900 to 1909.


Book of the year: Willow the King: The Story of a Cricket Match by J. C. Snaith (1900)

In the year 1900, author J. C. Snaith played first-class cricket for Nottinghamshire, the same year in which his novel Willow the King was published. The book, about an annual cricket match between Little Clumpton and Hickory, has been described as ‘the best cricket story ever written’.

A Jack of all genres, Snaith wrote novels of romance, humour, history and crime. He is credited by the Oxford dictionary with the earliest use of the expression ‘street person’.
Between 1890 and 1913 there was an amateur cricket team called the Allahakbarries. This team often featured famous writers, with Arthur Conan Doyle, P. G. Wodehouse, Jerome K. Jerome, A. A. Milne, A. E. W. Mason, E. W. Hornung and Walter Raleigh all turning out for the side set up by J. M. Barrie (pictured bowling). During one of their ‘friendly’ matches, Barrie’s wife took the crease and was promptly struck on the ankle by a yorker from left-hander J. C. Snaith, a ringer if ever there was one. Apparently, Snaith didn’t know whether to appeal for forgiveness or lbw.

It was in 1900 that the poet and playwright John Drinkwater became involved in Nottingham’s amateur theatre scene making an appearance in a performance at the Mechanics. At that time Drinkwater worked on the staff of the Northern Assurance Co. in Victoria Street. The young, cash-stripped office worker used to buy rotten fruit from the Market Place to bulk up his lunch.


Book of the year: Forest Folk by James Prior (1901)
J. M. Barrie commented that James Prior was a ‘fine writer’, and D. H. Lawrence rated him, but Prior never reached the heights his talent warranted.
Forest Folk is Nottingham born Prior’s best-known work. Full of the local vernacular it’s awash with believable characters coming together through the demands of country life, all taking place in North Notts during an eventful period of history that included the Napoleonic Wars and Luddite riots.
The former Forest Folk pub/hotel in Blidworth was one of the few named after a novel. Would Prior, a teetotaller, have approved?  
I were born an’ bred I’ th’ forest, and lay mysen to die here; it’s a fairish ordinary sort o’ soil to live on an’ be buried in. (from Forest Folk)
In 2017 Spokesman Books breathed new life into this lost local literary classic.


Book of the year: The Little White Bird by J. M. Barrie (1902)

It was this adult novel that introduced the character Peter Pan, a magical boy who flies around with fairies. Between 1883 and 1884 Barrie had worked as a writer on the Nottingham Journal. It has been suggested that it was in Nottingham that he developed Peter Pan, apparently after witnessing a street urchin wandering through Clifton Grove. It’s more likely that his inspiration for a boy for whom death would be "an awfully big adventure" is likely to be traced back to the death of his brother who died in a skating accident. Barrie later said that his mother had taken some comfort from the thought that her golden boy would never grow up. Barrie did however take regular walks through the Arboretum which does share a few features with Neverland.
The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings. (from The Little White Bird)

Philip James Bailey died in this year. Nottingham-born Bailey is best-known for his epic poem Festus, initially written at Basford House (pictured) where his father lived. Festus was constantly being added to by Bailey who read his poem to the writers William and Mary Howitt at their Chemist’s shop in Nottingham.
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts not breaths;

In feelings, not in figures on a dial.

We should count time by heart throbs: he most lives

Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.

(from Festus)


Book of the year: The Management of Money by Lucy H. Yates (1903)

The daughter of a lace-maker, Lucy Helen Yates was born in Basford. She wrote for The Girls’ Own Paper, offering fiction and advice on housekeeping and cookery. One of her many books, The Management of Money, was published in 1903. It was a handbook of finance for women. Yates was a suffragist who lectured on 'The Financial Independence of Women’, advising women to read the money column in the newspapers.

Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála "Emmuska" Orczy de Orci (better-known as Baroness Orczy) struggled to find a publisher for her novel The Scarlet Pimpernel so she rewrote it as a play. This was first performed at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal in 1903 where it received a lukewarm reception. However, the play’s stars, Fred Terry and Julia Neilson, had confidence in the play and, with a rewritten final act, took it to London’s West End to some success. This led to the novel’s publication in 1905, a book of influence on the mystery genre, arguably creating the ‘masked hero’ prototype: often a person of wealth with an alter ego who operates in the shadows. Zorro, Batman and other heroes have followed our Pimpernel’s lead.


Book of the year: Recollections of Old Nottingham by Anne Gilbert (1904)
Anne Gilbert’s Recollections of Old Nottingham was based on a lecture she had given three years earlier to a Nottingham literary society. In the book, Gilbert described Nottingham as it was in the 19th Century.
J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up premiered in this year at the Duke of York's Theatre in London. Nina Boucicault took the title role and Gerald du Maurier played Captain Hook. During his time in Nottingham, J. M. Barrie lived at 5 Birkland Avenue.
He worked for the Nottingham Journal on Pelham Street.
He was a member of the Nottingham Sette of Odde Volumes, a literary society that met fortnightly on Victoria Street to discuss and read literature. Barrie was said to have been moved when made an honorary member of the group co-founded by John Potter Briscoe. 


Book of the year: Bypaths of Nottinghamshire History by John Potter Briscoe (1905)
John Potter Briscoe, Principal Librarian of the Nottingham Free Public Libraries from 1869 to 1916, wrote many books on Nottingham, including Bypaths of Nottinghamshire.
Potter Briscoe was an original member of the Library Association and a leading figure in the development of professional librarianship. He extended Nottingham’s services to provide books especially for children, giving birth to the Nottingham Library for Boys and Girls.
‘The Hemlock Stone’ at Bramcote is one of the enigmas of the County, not only to the rank and file of its inhabitants but to the generally well-informed portion of our community. (from Bypaths of Nottinghamshire)

The sister of the writer Henry Septimus Sutton, and daughter of a publisher/bookseller Richard Sutton, Mrs. Eliza S. Oldham died in this year. Oldham was author of The Haunted House (1863) and By the Trent (1864), the latter being an award-winning novel set in a fictionalised Nottingham.
Upon the river the wind rode, and with playful hands turned back the ripples, and carved them curiously, and whipped their edges softy into foam. (from By the Trent)


Book of the year: The Clifton Book (Nottingham) by Rev. Rosslyn Bruce (1906)
The Rector of Clifton’s The Clifton Book (Nottingham) was published in Nottingham by Henry B. Saxton. Recording a thousand years of local history it was compiled by the Notts born writer, clergyman and animal rights campaigner Francis Rosslyn Courtenay Bruce (1871-1956).

Having been an uncertificated teacher at his local chapel in Eastwood, a twenty-one-year-old D. H. Lawrence took up a two-year teacher training course at University College, Nottingham.
‘The big college built of stone,’ at which Lawrence attended, is now NTU’s Arkwright Building. Lawrence was critical of his education here, writing that his professors ‘went on in such a miserable jogtrot, earn-your-money manner that I was startled… I came to feel that I might as well be taught by gramophones… I doubted them, I began to despise or distrust things.’
Lawrence did admit to gaining maturity from the experience, and it was during his time at University College that he began to write Laetitia later to become The White Peacock.

He was assessed as being ‘well-read, scholarly and refined.’ Whilst his professors thought he’d ‘make an excellent teacher of upper classes,’ they added, ‘but for a large class of boys in a rough district he would not have sufficient persistence and enthusiasm.’

The big college built of stone, standing in the quiet street, with a rim of grass and lime-trees all so peaceful: she felt it remote, a magic-land. Ursula Brangwen’s view of University College, from D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow (1915).


Book of the year: Gods and Heroes of the North by Alice Zimmern (1907)

Nottingham born Alice Zimmern was a writer, translator and suffragist whose books made a big contribution to the debate on the education and rights of women. Gods and Heroes of the North published by Longmans, Green and co. tells of the Gods worshipped by our English ancestors.
When the Angles and Saxons invaded Britain and gradually spread their rule over the greater part of this island, they brought with them their own customs and religion. (from Gods and Heroes of the North by Alice Zimmern)

Dudley Dexter Watkins (1907-1969) came to Nottingham as a three-year-old and spent his formative years here. A student at Nottingham’s School of Art, he went on to illustrate the Scottish comics The Broons and Oor Wullie.
He also created strips for The Beano, The Dandy and The Beezer, drawing characters such as Lord Snooty and Desperate Dan. Whilst working on the D. C. Thompson comics Watkins was the only artist allowed to sign his work.



Book of the year: The Children's Encyclopedia originated and edited by Arthur Mee (1908)
Stapleford-born Arthur Mee was a journalist at our Post and our Express, and he edited our Evening News. The founder of the Children’s Encyclopedia, Children’s Newspaper, Children’s Shakespeare and Children’s Bible, he produced over a million words a year. The son of a militant non-conformist, Mee refused an honorary title several times during his life.

His Children’s Encyclopedia broke new ground in its approach to education, aiming to make learning interesting and enjoyable. With clearly-written articles it intended to develop character and a sense of duty.
It is a Big Book for Little People, and it has come into the world to make your life happy and wise and good. That is what we are meant to be. That is what we will help each other to be, Your affectionate friend, Arthur Mee. (from The Children’s Encyclopedia)

The present Albert Hall was built in 1908 (after the first one was destroyed by a fire). The new hall was dedicated in March 1909 and a year later it was officially opened by Lady Florence Boot. This new Albert Hall Methodist Mission was built in the style of an Edwardian Theatre or Music Hall and, in the practice of temperance halls, concerts and other ‘suitable’ events were permitted to be staged in the building. 


Book of the year: God the Known and God the Unknown by Samuel Butler (1909)

Samuel Butler was born at the rectory in the village of Langar, near Bingham. God the Known and God the Unknown, a philosophical work of Butler’s, was published posthumously in this year. First serialised in The Examiner, the author discusses many topics, including spirituality, the existence of God, pantheism, and Orthodox theism. Though anti-Charles Darwin, Butler was not anti-evolution, and he rightly thought that Darwin took much from his grandfather, the Notts-born poet Erasmus Darwin, a man Butler had more time for.

Mankind has ever been ready to discuss matters in the inverse ratio of their importance, so that the more closely a question is felt to touch the hearts of all of us, the more incumbent it is considered upon prudent people to profess that it does not exist, to frown it down, to tell it to hold its tongue, to maintain that it has long been finally settled, so that there is now no question concerning it. (from God the Known and God the Unknown)
The son of a wine merchant, Geoffrey Trease was born in 1909 in Chaucer Street, in the Arboretum area. Trease was educated at Nottingham High School where he was head boy, leading to a scholarship to study Classics at Oxford, only to leave after a year to focus on his writing.

At one time, Trease had more books in print than any other British author. His many titles included children’s books, novels, autobiography, criticism and historical studies, such as Portrait of a Cavalier, the life of the duke who built Nottingham Castle.

Keep an eye on the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website every Friday when the next instalment will be revealed.