Sunday, 31 May 2015

Ouida: The Little Earl, Bimbi, and an elegy for Shanklin

The Little Earl is a fable by Ouida (Maria Louise Ramé) telling of a young French earl's 'walkabout' in the Isle of Wight - a kind of 'Prince and the Pauper' experience that teaches him a hard lesson to take on at eight: "I see I am nothing. It is the title they give me, and the money I have got, that make the people so good to me. When I am only me, you see how it is."

Saturday, 30 May 2015

London Society: a Devonshire Savages sighting

The Devonshire Savages: a me-too hatchet job on a Devon rural family from an 1878 edition of London Society, a monthly periodical billed as publishing "light and amusing literature for the hours of relaxation", but which often had features and fiction that were anything but.

At a Month's End: part 1

As a follow-up to Bertha Thomas: bibliography, I decided to rescue one of her less findable stories from archive limbo: At a Month's End: leaves from the diary of a man of the time, told in three parts in London Society magazine in 1887.

Friday, 29 May 2015

A Wren-like Note: important update

I've released my book A Wren-like Note: the life and works of Maxwell Gray (Mary Gleed Tuttiett) on a Creative Commons license, as an electronic version that allows its sharing and copying, without modification and retaining attribution to me as author.

Brinjal dumbdown!

I don't normally peeve about such things, but I'm a trifle disappointed at the decision of Patak's to rebadge their veteran brand of Brinjal Pickle as Aubergine Pickle. I take it they've always assumed that aficionados of Indian cuisine know what a brinjal is, and find resonances in the traditional name. But ...

JSBlog on British Library's UK Web Archive

The British Library UK Web Archive, I'm pleased to report, has accepted JSBlog (Journal of a Southern Bookreader) for archiving in its Literature section. Actually, this happened a few months ago, but it slipped my mind. I thought I'd mention it now, as I'm engaged in a spot of 'posterity management' for the site and other work, such as the Maxwell Gray biography, that seems worth recording.

Devon Garden: RD&E Exeter

Clare and I had a potter around the "Devon Garden" - a sensory / memory garden for dementia sufferers - at the RD&E yesterday. Neither of us is a sufferer; this is more serendipity of the sort that got me to see Yeo Ward's lovely Tree of Life courtyard mosaic in June 2014.

It ain't that kind: three years on

Hwæt ... (well , Seamus Heaney thought it was a good equivalent to "So ...") ... it's been near enough three years. I was first investigated for metastatic cancer of unknown primary (CUP) in June 2012, and "three months ... to three years" was one of the few explicit figures anyone mentioned along the way. I had a scan yesterday and a solid case review today, and the news is far from good.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Mrs. Disney Leith: bibliography

Another annotated bibliography with an Isle of Wight connection: Mrs. Disney Leith is one of the several names in the literature for the Scottish author Mary Charlotte Julia Leith (née Gordon, 1840-1926) a.k.a. Mary Gordon a.k.a. "M. C. J. L." a.k.a. Mary Leith. Her chief route into history is as the first cousin of the poet Swinburne, who she corresponded with, and later recalled in memoirs.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Mrs Harcourt Roe

Ryde, Shaw's Tourist's Picturesque Guide to the Isle of Wight, 1873
"Mrs Harcourt Roe" is another forgotten novelist with an Isle of Wight connection. She's described in an 1893 Isle of Wight Observer review of her novel A Man of Mystery as "a lady, well-known in the Island”, and she lived at Ryde in the 1890s. I just researched a bit (well, more than a bit) on her life and works.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

More Holme Lee children's illustrations

Further to Harriet Parr: bibliography, "Tuflongbo", and a dog's life, here are some more of the off-the-wall illustrations from the handful of 1860s children's fairytale books by the prolific Shanklin, Isle of Wight, novelist Parr (who wrote as Holme Lee).

Saturday, 23 May 2015

"That Figure-Head."

"That Figure-Head." is a short story by Mrs Harcourt Roe that originally appeared in 1901 in the London-based literary magazine Temple Bar. I was interested to read it while researching Mrs Roe's works, but ran into problems: it's not hosted anywhere straightforward, and there's a glitch with Google Books that for some reason makes it impossible to retrieve in full, even via the usual workaround of a proxy server (Poe springs to mind: "er lasst sich nicht lesen"). I couldn't resist the puzzle of hacking it by 'jigsaw method' from the Google Books snippet view.

The Sacrifice of Enid: a Dartmoor melodrama

The Sacrifice of Enid (1909) is a romantic melodrama - one, I think, with a strong thematic hat-tip to The Hound of the Baskervilles - set around a paper mill in the fictional Dartmoor village of Willowbridge. I'm just compiling a bio-bibliography for the author, "Mrs Harcourt Roe", who lived in Ryde, Isle of Wight, in the 1890s and wrote several novels (again, more than appear at first sight). Pending that, here's a sampler of one of them.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Harriet Parr: bibliography, "Tuflongbo", and a dog's life

Harriet Parr
While we're on Shanklin topics: I've expanded the 2014 Harriet Parr in Shanklin post to include a detailed bibliography, and I'm also delighted to say that I've finally found a portrait of her! Parr is another of those low-key writers who've turned out to be astonishingly prolific (in her case mostly as the pseudonymous "Holme Lee"). En route, I encountered her mid-career children's stories such as the odd "Tuflongbo" elf-saga, and the canine tear-jerker The true pathetic history of Poor Match. I'll only inflict the pictures on you.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Shanklin Home of Rest

Further to the previous post, I checked out Shanklin Home of Rest as planned. Its history turns out to be quite well-documented. But I'm always of the opinion that there's never any harm in another take on a topic - especially as this, it turns out, ties in with a previous Shanklin post on JSBlog.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Rambles Through England: Isle of Wight

Rambles Through England: Isle of Wight is a rather idealised description of an 1890s Isle of Wight visit by the uncredited correspondent of the Fleet Street based Ludgate Monthly - launched in 1891 as "a new illustrated threepenny magazine". A deal of it is pretty standard stuff - feel free to skim - but it's a pleasant account of touring the Wight in more genteel days, with a few topics worthy of commentary, such as the uncommon account of the decor of Mrs Harvey's Home of Rest in Shanklin, and the procedures for getting to visit Osborne House when Queen Victoria was alive.

Monday, 18 May 2015

A Vision of Communism

The works of Bertha Thomas (1845-1918) continue to produce a crop of surprises. A while back I mentioned Maxwell Gray's excursion into post-apocalyptic SF, After the Crash; and now I find Bertha Thomas too moved into borderline SF/fantasy on occasion, as in her 1873 A Vision of Communism, which interested me for its strong similarities to a classic 20th century SF story.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

We are not enthused: regional roots of a peeve

A slight sidetrack: I just ran into a bygone usage peeve - or at least one that ought to be bygone - via a review of Bertha Thomas's 1913 Picture Tales from Welsh Hills., in which the Dial reviewer takes umbrage at "enthuse".

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Bertha Thomas: bibliography

A spinoff from the previous post that may be of use/interest to someone. Even a brief search for works by Bertha Thomas (1845-1918) finds she was a greatly more varied and prolific writer than you'd expect from the handful of novels that appear in most credits. I got on the trail, and at the end of an evening I found myself with a detailed bibliography: what she wrote; what about; and where (if possible) to find it.

The House on the Scar: A Tale of South Devon

I offer Bertha Thomas's 1890 The House on the Scar: A Tale of South Devon as a regional curiosity worth reading if you're into Victorian melodramatic romances. I found it syndicated in the Sydney Mail, starting in the Jan 18, 1890 issue, and it turned out to be in the Internet Archive. Set in the South Hams, Devon, it's one of the few - but apparently popular - novels by the Worcestershire-born author Bertha Thomas (1845-1918).

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Isle of Wight: in a series of views printed in oil colours (1874)

The Isle of Wight: in a series of views printed in oil colours is the Victorian  equivalent of a coffee-table book, published in 1874 by Thomas Nelson & Sons of London, Edinburgh & New York. I always like these collections, of which the 19th century Isle of Wight supported a huge industry, and the best of them are lusciously printed, showcasing state-of-the-art chromolithography. This is one of the many lovely and otherwise scarce books now downloadable from the Bodleian Library digital collections.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Ferny Bank House of Rest for Women in Business

Back in 2010 I picked up and ran with the topic of a short piece in the Western Morning News - Holiday retreat offered women a break from urban life – and men (Peter Carroll, WMN, Nov 13th 2010) - where there seemed to be a great deal more to tell. This is the story of the Ferny Bank House of Rest for Women in Business, a holiday home for working women, founded in 1878, that operated on Babbacombe Downs in the last quarter of the 19th century.

JSBlog topic indexes

For your reading and reference convenience, I've compiled post listings for two of the major topic areas on JSBlog:
I chose them as areas where, over the years, I've produced the articles on historical and topographical subjects that I'm most pleased with. You'll find permanent links in the left-hand sidebar.

Isle of Wight: index

In parallel with the Devon history subject list, here's another for the currently some 140 Isle of Wight posts on JSBlog. Like the Devon posts, they're a mix of walk photos, galleries from out-of-print travelogues, looks at at old novels, and a good number of detailed explorations of Isle of Wight historical and topographical subjects.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Lyon's Holt well revealed

A railway station clean-up last year revealed a relatively unsung piece of Exeter local history. At St James Park station, Exeter, if you look to the left from the Exeter-bound train, you can see by the platform 1 access steps a little brick building marking the site of one of Exeter's most important ancient wells.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Coelacanth and the tiger scene

A celebration of a classic movie scene. I don't follow dance as an artform, but this evening Clare was watching the BBC Four Young Dancer competition, and I overheard from my office some music that was very familiar and evocative. It accompanied the duet by Jacob O'Connell and Jason Mabana performed for the Contemporary Final. It took a few minutes to place it - or, it turned out, to place what it was so strongly recalling.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Prickly ash revisited

An elaboration further to my March review of Mitch Cullin's Sherlock Holmes novel A Slight Trick of the Mind: the linguistics weblog Language Log has a very good post and discussion of the "prickly ash" that's central to one of the main threads of the book.

Devon history: index

It never quite registers with me that Clare and I have now been living in Devon for nearly twenty years. I had a reminder this week with my decision to officially retire as website maintainer for the Devon History Society. What I didn't realise - until looking at the Wayback Machine - was that I've been doing that for 15 years. New blood is long overdue! During that time, and particularly since 2010, I find I've also written many more Devon history posts than I realised, here at JSBlog. While they're findable via the devhist label in the sidebar, readers may find the following explicit compendium of interest.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Thomas Dalling Barleé in Dawlish and elsewhere

I just had a spot of déjà vu on seeing Thomas Dalling Barleé's 1837 Miscellaneous Poetry, where I found the address of Lady Watson for the previous post South Devon Railway: 1844 NIMBY list. The subscriber list is quite a nice window on the great and the good of 1837 Dawlish - James 'Sea Lawn Gap' Powell is there - as well as the author's family in Suffolk and social circuit in Bath. But the name Barleé definitely rang bells from somewhere else.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

South Devon Railway: 1844 NIMBY list

A while back I found this interesting list of the petitions objecting to the South Devon Railway Act, 1844, which set up the infrastructure for the building of Brunel's railway link from Exeter to Plymouth, following the now-classic coastal route via Dawlish and Teignmouth. The petitions relate to a number of people and places of historical interest.