Saturday, 29 August 2015

A Collection of Edwardian Postcards

I'm quite glad I don't have the collecting old postcards gene. I imagine it's like Pringles (as in, you just can't stop...). Even curtailing yourself to a very small 'manageable' area, postcards of one town say, will lead to misery/frustration when you realise that it would still be impossible to 'collect them all'.

Anyway, Withnail Books has a collection 94 of mostly Edwardian postcards currently on eBay, and here they are... Mostly comic, with a few WW1 ones, a few foreign ones, and a few frankly rather politically incorrect ones...

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Withnail & I is the 13th Best Film Of All Time, According to a Bunch of Thespians

Recently Time Out New York published yet another one of those '100 Best Movies Ever' lists, but this time with an interesting twist: it was compiled from top ten lists sent in exclusively by 'dozens' of actors. Withnail and I came in at number 13.

It's perhaps not surprising that a film about a couple of turns is beloved by actors. (It's no surprise either that another film about an actor, Tootsie, came first.)

Time Out also printed the lists from the various celebs, so I looked up who had voted for Withnail...

First up, Patrick Kennedy. He's been in Atonement, War Horse and Mr. Holmes, though it's as Richard Carstone in that brilliant BBC adaptation of Bleak House (the one with Gillian Anderson) that I remember him. He supplied his top ten alphabetically rather than in order of preference, but Withnail was one of them.

John Bradley, best known as Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones, had Withnail at number 4 in his top ten, beaten only by Being There, The Long Good Friday (admittedly a bloody brilliant film, also a HandMade production, like Withnail) and Raining Stones.

John Gallagher Jr., the Tony Award-winning American thesp best known for playing Jim Harper in Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom, had Withnail at number 2. For some reason, he prefers Ron Howard's OK-but-not-classic The Paper, which was his number 1.

No messing for son-of-Edward, brother-of-Emilia, star-of-Cucumber Freddie Fox though: Withnail & I was his number 1 film. Top Italian film directors would no doubt approve!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Discovered: Is This The Original Publication Of What Became The Folk Song The Horn Of The Hunter?

In Cumbria, "D'ye ken John Peel?" is not a question about your knowledge of the late bearded DJ.

This John Peel was a huntsman from Caldbeck, who died in 1854, and passed into legend as the subject of several local folk songs. The most famous of these is called 'D'ye ken John Peel', with words by his friend, John Woodcock Graves. In the years after Peel's death, many 'imperfect' versions of the song lyrics made their way into print, but its first 'official' publication came in 1866's The Songs and Ballads of Cumbria, a first edition copy of which has just arrived in the Little Shop...

Another song about John Peel is 'The Horn of the Hunter', attributed to his contemporary Jackson Gillbanks, of Whitefield. Like 'D'ye ken John Peel', and indeed most traditional folk songs, various versions of the lyrics are in circulation. Here's one of the best known recordings of it, sung by a pre-Steeleye Span Maddie Prior and Tim Hart.

Tucked into the aforementioned copy of The Songs and Ballads of Cumbria was a small newspaper clipping, credited to 'J G' and dated January 1st, 1863. It's titled 'Lines in Memory of the Late John Peel', and it's the lyrics to 'The Horn of the Hunter', but a variation of those lyrics different to the version Maddie and Tim sing, and indeed different to any of the others I can find online. Is this the first published version, the 'urtext' that all the subtle variances sprang from? Some of the differences are minor (presumably later tweaks made the lines easier to sing), but there are a few entirely different lines, including in the penultimate verse: 'the heart-stirring scream of old Peel' indeed! 

You can read more about the history of the song, and the more commonly known version of the lyrics, here. Below is the newspaper clipping, with the alternate (and earlier?) words:

It's not possible to tell from the clipping which newspaper it's from. On the back are marriage notices mentioning 'this city', which would perhaps suggest a Carlisle paper. In chapter four of his book Foxhunting on the Lakeland Fells, Richard Clapham includes a short pen-portrait of Peel by Gillbanks, and mentions that he was also author of a poem printed in the Wigton Advertiser (he doesn't mention a date). He then quotes the poem, and it's 'Horn of the Hunter' alright, but it's not the same version as on this newspaper clipping... So, until I'm told otherwise, I'm plumping for this clipping as the first publication!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

224 Year-Old News From London's General Evening Post

Back in June 1791, William III was King (as in Madness of...), and William Pitt the Younger was PM. Leafing through a recent arrival in the Little Shop, a rather well-preserved copy of the London newspaper The General Evening Post, gives a fascinating glimpse into the past.

News stories include:

Mr. and Mrs. Bellamy, returning home after 10 o'clock were "stopped by three footpads near Morden turnpike, who robbed them of two gold watches, 90l. in bank notes, &c and used them in the most brutal manner." (I daresay the same thing might well happen in 2015 if you're swanning around in Morden late at night...)

Mr. Henry Phillips' Powder for Destroying Insects back in production, after his "peculiar Misfortunes, well known to the public" had suspended it. I wonder what those Misfortunes were?

The court report is a cracker, not least because you can hear the words of the snooty defence lawyer...

"Useless piece of antiquity" indeed! Good on her for winning. Fifty quid was a decent chunk of cash back then.

There's also good news from China, as the Chinese were evidently happy to pay good money for any old crap the West shipped over there... Heh, the West would never fall for that if the tables were turned, eh?

There are also a few adverts for books coming out that week...

Clara Reeve is well worth a google. Her previous novel, The Old English Baron, was apparently an influence on Frankenstein. She also wrote a well-regarded history of prose fiction, The Progress of Romance. Nothing much Gothic about The School for Widows though. Apparently it 'tells the stories of childhood friends Frances Darnford and Rachel Strictland, both of whom have lived hard lives as the virtuous wives of improvident and immoral husbands, and of another tragic widow Isabella di Soranzo.' There's more on her life here.

Individual copies of newspapers this old which aren't completely knackered are hard to come by. I'm rather pleased to have this one in the shop, until it finds a new owner...