Monday, 11 June 2018

20th Century Notts, 1920-1929

From the series featured on the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website (every Thursday)


Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence (1920)

Privately printed in 1920 (published commercially in 1921), Women in Love was considered by Lawrence to be his masterpiece but it was met with disgust upon its release. A sequel to The Rainbow, we continue to follow the stories of Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen. Their love lives and emotions are used to prompt much philosophical discussion about emotion, as the meaning and value of relationships is explored through Lawrence’s experimental techniques in a story that resembles a Greek tragedy. Critics at the time failed to see Women in Love as it was, a sharp response to a culture and world in crisis at the hands of 'progress'.

When Constance Penswick Smith (1878–1938) learned of the American Anne Jarvis's plans to introduce Mother's Day into the UK, she was alarmed. Smith felt that this would detract from the religious significance of the tradition of Mothering Sunday and so devoted the rest of her life to campaigning for the re-establishment of the more traditional observance. Smith founded the ‘The Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday’ and, in 1920, she published The Revival of Mothering Sunday.


An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English by Ernest Weekley (1921)
Ernest Weekley (see 1912-14) had a dictionary published in this year. It was published for lovers of our language and those with ‘an intelligent curiosity as to words origins and earlier senses.’ From the point of view of vocabulary, it was the most complete etymological dictionary in existence. By the author’s own concession, dictionaries are out of date within a month of publication but with many slang words and expressions historically explained it’s a worthy addition to any bookshelf. 

One of our grandest cinemas opened in 1921, The Elite Cinema, designed by Adamson & Kinns of London. It opened with the Mary Pickford film Pollyanna. One of the first of Nottingham’s ‘super-cinemas’ the exterior and interior were equally as stunning, plus there was a grand concert organ and a full orchestra, a Georgian Tea Room, a French Cafe (in Louis XVI style), a restaurant and a large ballroom. The first ‘talkie’ in Nottingham was shown here on Upper Parliament Street, Lucky Boy starring George Jessel. It closed as a picture house in 1977; the last film to appear being the ‘X’ certificate Take an Easy Ride. The building now has a Grade II listing.


The Rainbow Cat and Other Stories by Rose Fyleman (1922)
The story of a fairy cat with a violet nose, indigo eyes, pale blue ears, green front legs, a yellow body, orange black legs and a red tail, thus it is known as the rainbow cat and it lives in fairyland where it has lots of adventures. The Princess Who Could Not Cry, Why Pigs Have Curly Tails, Mellidora, A Goblin Lives in Our House and other short stories make up this fantasy collection for children.

In 1922 work began on the new University College buildings (the University of Nottingham’s present University Park campus) on land donated by Sir Jesse Boot who had purchased the Highfields Estate two years earlier. The plan for the East Midlands University included a new road system and parkland setting to the south.


Kangaroo by D. H. Lawrence (1923)
Lawrence wrote the first draft of Kangaroo in 1922, during forty-five days of living near Sydney, and it was first published a year later. Set in Australia, the work describes the country’s physical landscape, making political reflections and interpretations. Loosely based on the real people and events Lawrence witnessed, it’s mainly an account of a visit to New South Wales by the English writer Richard Lovat Somers and his German wife Harriet. ‘Kangaroo’ is the fictional nickname of the character Benjamin Cooley, ex-soldier, lawyer and leader of a secretive, fascist organisation. 

Highfields Park opened in 1923. The Grade II listed park was opened by businessman and philanthropist Sir Jesse Boot and was one of the first manmade, large-scale parks of the 20th century. Later in the decade, after the University had moved to its current University Park campus, D. H. Lawrence wrote a somewhat sardonic poem entitled Nottingham's New University to ‘commemorate’ the occasion. 


Byron and Greece by George Gordon Byron, Harold M. Spender (1924)
To mark the centenary of Byron’s death, there were several republications of the poet’s work, including The Works of Lord Byron (Volume 1-6), The Selected Poems of Lord Byron and Byron and Greece, the latter being an adopted text of the great classical edition of Byron's works, with chosen letters from his correspondence. The occasion also inspired Charles Richard Cammell to write a poem addressed to the Fathers of the Armenian Mekhitarist Convent (at the Isle of S. Lazzaro near Venice), which ended with these lines:

If England holds his body, Greece his heart,

You surely of his spirit hold a part,

Perhaps the highest, for with you remain

The Friendship and the Peace, but no the pain. 

A. H. 'Henry' Whipple was appointed Nottingham's first Director of Education in this year having held a similar post in Blackburn. He re-organised the city's education system by dividing the schools into three classes: Infant (up to 7 or 8 years), Junior (with boys or girls from 7 or 8 to 11 years) and Senior (11 and up), and the city into 16 districts. Whipple was also a strong advocate for the education of women. The appointment had a hidden benefit for Nottingham as the director’s wife, Dorothy Whipple (1893-1966), wrote several bestselling books whilst living in Mapperley Park. Between the world wars Dorothy Whipple was Nottingham’s best-known novelist, and the ‘Jane Austen of the 20th Century’, according to J. B. Priestley.


Thus Far by J. C. Snaith (1925)
Nottingham born John Collis Snaith (1876-1936) wrote a varied collection of novels, from whimsical comedy to poignant satire. Published by D. Appleton and Company (and Hodder and Stoughton), Thus Far depicts the creation of an enormously powerful, amoral, telepathic superman, created with rays, chemicals and elements from the ‘missing link’ in our evolution from apes. It questions whether or not science has gone too far, becoming dangerous. 

Graham Greene began at the Nottingham Journal in November of 1925, working as a trainee in the evenings. He later said, “It was the furthest north I had ever been, the first strange city in which I had made home, alone, without friends.” He wasn’t quite alone (he lived with an aging, sickly dog), or friendless (he was pally with Cecil Roberts), but it’s fair to say that Greene didn’t see Nottingham at its best, with polluted air and freezing temperatures commonplace during his four month stay. It was, however, a hugely important period. It was at this time that Greene converted to Catholicism, and from his digs and landlady, to the sights and sounds he witnessed here, Nottingham can point to many influences on his writing. “I don’t know why a certain wry love of Nottingham lodged in my imagination,” wrote Greene, who later set a novel in a version of the city.


The Plumed Serpent by D. H. Lawrence (1926)
Kate Leslie, the widow of an Irish revolutionary, discovers the intrigues, passions, and pagan rituals of Mexico in this imaginative and unsettling novel. Set in Mexico at a time of political post-revolution turmoil, it features a revolutionary mission, to revive the old religion and rid Mexico of capitalism and Christianity. First titled Quetzalcoatl, after one of the gods the movement wanted to revive, its main theme is the colonialist eradication of indigenous religion.

Lawrence’s wife, Frieda, said of the novel, “All of Lawrence is in that book. Two years he spent writing it, one winter in Chapala and the next winter in Oaxaca.”

Your gods are ready to return to you. Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, the old gods, are minded to come back to you. Be quiet, don’t let them find you crying and complaining. (from The Plumed Serpent)

Lord Byron’s 1821 epic poem Don Juan inspired an American romantic adventure film in 1926. The first feature-length film to utilize the Vitaphone sound-on-disc sound system - with a synchronized musical score and sound effects - it stars John Barrymore in the title role and is reputed to have the most kisses in film history, 127 of them.


A Princess Comes to Our Town by Rose Fyleman (1927)
In this Nottingham fairy-tale, The Fairy King and Queen have chosen the man they want their daughter to marry, but Princess Finestra doesn’t want the prince, not yet anyway, life would be far too boring, she wants to have real adventures first. To that end, the princess’ godmother has her transported to real-life Nottingham’s Market-place. Many adventures ensue including the bringing to life of our (then) statue of Queen Victoria. 

It was in 1927 that the Nottingham Writers' Club was founded at a meeting at the Black Boy Hotel in Long Row. The grand hotel has been replaced by what’s now a less grand Primark but the writers’ club is still going strong. Among the founding members was the published writer Arthur E. Ashley, who wrote under the pen name Francis Vivian, author of the Brother Ignatius and Inspector Knollis series’. It’s well-known former members include Alan Sillitoe (born a year after the club opened) and Helen Cresswell.


Goose Fair by Cecil Roberts (1928)
Cecil Roberts’ novel Goose Fair was first published in the USA in 1928 (also published in England as David and Diana, after the main characters).

Every first Thursday in October, following the custom of centuries, the good people of the city whose Sheriff was so soundly abused by Robin Hood, take leave of their senses. (From Goose Fair

D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was privately published in Florence in 1928. The last of his full-length novels it was famously banned in the UK for more than 30 years due its sexually explicit nature and profane language. The history of its many publications became befitting of a plot in itself. 

The year also witnessed the birth of Alan Sillitoe, “…in the front bedroom of a red-bricked council house on the outskirts of Nottingham." Alan was the second of five children all growing up in poverty. He failed his eleven-plus twice and gained much education from reading books whilst recovering from TB with the RAF in Malaya. One of Nottingham’s greatest authors, Sillitoe is best remembered for his first two books. He was, however, a prolific writer who remained committed to political causes and social justice throughout his life.


By Dancing Streams by Douglas McCraith (1929)
Sir Douglas McCraith was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1928 and President of the Nottingham Incorporated Law Society in 1930. He later served as Chairman of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee for Nottingham and was Chairman of the Nottingham Bench. In 1929 he published the novel By Dancing Streams, which was followed by Dancing Streams in Many Lands in 1946 (published by Bromley Press). McCraith was born in Nottingham on New Year's Day 1878. The solicitor, Conservative politician and sportsperson, was educated at Harrow and Cambridge. 

Sapper’s character Bulldog Drummond, a World War I veteran who advertised for excitement and adventure, came to Nottingham in 1929. The stage version of Bulldog Drummond played at the Theatre Royal, with the Irish actor Hamilton Deane in the title role. Deane is famous for adapting Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the stage, re-imagining the Count as someone that could plausibly enter society and coming up with the idea of his tuxedo, stand-up collar and flowing cape.

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