Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beautiful Marble

It's no secret that we have something of a love for beautiful marble bodies on this blog and going through a few old folders on the hard drive this evening I've found photos of three statues, all of surpassing loveliness but all with barely any information attached to them. That's not to say that they never came in a context, just that, in a lazy moment, I right-clicked somewhere on the Internet and left it at that. Now, of course, I've had to go wading through Google to try and find what I can about them so I can share these sweepings from the back of my filing system.

The Statue of A Boy (above) is in the National Museum of Sweden in Stockholm and there were a set of amazing photos of this statue on Flickr by Noriko Stardust. You should check out her other photos as well: she's an amazingly talented photographer of interiors and still life.

This amazingly stylish, I presume 1930s deco statue of a male nude is from the Wadsworth Athenaeum in CT, USA and two photos of it were uploaded to flickr by ZephyrusNYC who, unfortunately couldn't identify the artist.

The image of a the Death of Abel was again posted to Flickr, this time by Alain, and this time with all the information one could possible want: the sculpture is by Vincent Emile Feugere des Fortes (1825-1899), it was made c.1855 and currently resides in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What's in an inscription...?

The Poems of Digby Mackworth Dolben edited and with a memoir by Robert Bridges. (Henry Frowde for the Oxford University Press, London: 1911).
Dolben was a cousin of Bridges, a good-looking young man, a gifted poet and a sensitive religious soul with a bent towards the High Church and, indeed, towards the romantic appreciation of other young men. These are clearly the poems of a young man but Bridges was not wrong in noticing a real promise for the future. Unfortunately, this promise was never to be realised. Dolben drowned during a boating accident at the age of 19 having left an enduring impression behind him on many of his contemporaries.  In particular, meeting with Dolben was to be one of the enduring passionate memories of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
This copy bears the inscription “This book was the gift of my friend Robert Bridges. Ella Coltman. In memory of A. D. Coleridge who passed away Oct 29th, 1913.” with a little research and knowledge of where the book was acquired means that, unusually, I can trace the journey of this book all the way from Robert Bridges' hands, into my own. Arthur Duke Coleridge was best known as the father of the novelist and poet Mary Elizabeth Coleridge and his ownership inscription is also on the endpaper dated 1911. Ella Coltman was the third person in the marriage of the Victorian poet HenryNewbolt and his wife Margaret. It is said that when Newbolt proposed to his wife, she was already in love with her lesbian cousin Ella and would only agree to the marriage if Ella could be a part of the relationship. Thus, the man known as the epitome of Victorian uprightness, the man who wrote the celebrated lines “Play up! Play up! And play the game!” as a plea for wars to be fought with the same spirit as found on an English public-school playing field, became involved in a bisexual ménage à trois for the rest of his life. The book must have remained in Newbolt’s library and been inherited by his daughter who became Celia Furse. Jill Furse, Celia’s daughter, was an actress who married the artist Laurence Whistler. This copy of the book was bought from the Whistler family and owned briefly by another dealer before coming to me. I make that getting on for 10 owners in 100 years!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christian William (Bill) Miller: A Bright Young Thing of the 40s

Christian William Miller (Bill Miller) was a young man in the 1940s, not the 1920s, and he was an American to boot, but if anyone deserves to be thought of as a Bright Young Thing, it might be him. In fact he was a Bright Young Thing of 1940s American literary, artistic and gay circles. He was one of those beautiful young men who become part of a social milleu and gets a mention in the biographies of all the talented and high-achieving people with whom he mixed, in and out of bed: and yet, is likely never to have his own biography written. There are two pieces online which tell the story of Bill's affair with Otis Bigelow, another of the 1940s beautiful people. The account at &Apres and in a longer version at Elisa'a Reviews and Ramblings website both draw heavily on the account given in The Gay Metropolis by Charles Kaiser and include a number of the nude photos of Bill that exist. It's a shame in a way that this is the only significant reference to Bill online as it is really no more than an anecdote and one told from the point of view of a spurned lover so he doesn't come out of it very well. In a way, it is these more minor figures such as Bill whose biographies would interest me far more than those of the great and the good with whom he socialised.

It's nice when things link up. When I found the links above telling the short story of Otis and Bill, I had already seen these photos. They come from the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archive of personal and documentary photos that they have started putting online and that we've dug into before on FFEP.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More on Ralph Chubb's "The Well"

A few days ago I posted a copy of this painting. 'The Well' by Ralph Chubb and mentioned that it appeared to be such a 'mythic' construction, I was sure that someone with more knowledge of Chubb's own mythos would be able to offer more insight. And I wasn't wrong. My friend and colleague Nicholas Elm emailed to say that in Child of Dawn (1948) Chubb talks about this painting, describing it as "various types of the human family around the water spring of life" and in The Book of God's Madness (1928) he preaches the enjoyment of desire "...which wells like water from the spring,/Dam it not up with prudery's false shame ". Thank you Nicholas...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shane Leslie: Young Poet

Shane Leslie is not particularly known for his poetry, and that is probably because it is not in the top rank of a crowded field when it comes to early twentieth century Irish poets and, as it is not without merit, and we've heard some of it here before on Front Free Endpaper, I was pleased to find this book with some youthful examples.

Fleet Street

I never see the newsboys run
   Amid the whirling street,
   With swift untiring feet,
To cry the latest venture done,
But I expect one day to hear
   Them cry the crack of doom
   And risings from the tomb
With great Archangel Michael near;
And see the running from the Fleet
   As messengers of God,
   With Heaven's tidings shod
About their brave unwearied feet.


I dreamt that the heavens were beggared
   And angels went chanting for bread,
And the cherubs were sewed up in sackcloth
   And Satan anointed his head.
I dreamt they had chalked up a price
   On the sun and the stars at God's feet,
And the Devil had bought up the Church,
   and put out the Pope on the street.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Decorations from Young England

I promised you more from the 1901 volume of Young England that I'm currently rifling through and I have been particularly impressed with the decorative cartouches used for the titles of short stories throughout the magazine. Many of them, particularly those with a more obvious Art Nouveau twist, appear to be by an artist signing him or herself "T. Bailie", sometimes T.B. and sometimes just B. I've taken the titles out of each of these so as to better display the designs.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Sometimes one can be innocently flicking through a Victorian magazine and come across such amusement in such an unexpected form that one's tea apt to squirt from the nostrils! As with this rather startling image accompanying a story in the 1901 volume of Young England.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Things That Fall From Books #9: Poems

Continuing our very occasional series on the theme of 'things that fall from books', today I flicked through this unprepossessing copy of the 1992, second edition of Kipling's Barrack Room Ballads published by Macmillan and at three separate points, clippings fluttered out of the book. Each was a poem by Kipling cut from a contemporary newspaper (1899 and 1901). It's quite common to find newspaper clippings in books, usually it is a review of the book or, very often in biographies people seem to like clipping the obituary of the subject and tucking it inside. It's unusual to fins loose clipping quite as old as these though. This kind of use of books as filing cabinets is something that doesn't really have an e-book analogy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Gay Nineties in Gay Paris

Ah... gay Paris! These great images of Paris are from an album in my possession, they are albumen print photos, and could date from anywhere from the 1870s to 1890s. This means that this is the Paris known by Oscar Wilde, Ernest Dowson, Leonard Smithers, Vincent O'Sullivan, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, Toulouse Lautrec and on and on...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Vintage(ish) Swim Mystery

12 years ago I was living in South London and on a viciously hot day in the summer, I was returning home from walking the dog in the park. I cut through an alley and in a small yard that opened out onto our road, there was a suitcase, torn and broken and lots of pieces of paper flapping around in a hot wind. I would have walked straight on by, as one always does walk past the detritus of urban life, if I hadn't happened to look down and see the rather handsome young man above staring up at me from the gravel. It turned out that the pieces of paper were all photos, maybe forty all told, and they had clearly been scattered from the suitcase. I scurried around picking up as many as I could find, they trailed down the pavement and some had made their way into gardens and yards but clearly, this suitcase was the source. The suitcase was completely empty. It was almost as if someone had chucked the suitcase from a passing car and given the photos the opportunity to escape at the same time. I handed them in to the police and after the requisite number of months had passed I decided to go and claim them myself (the suitcase I left behind). And I have had them ever since. They show, mainly, a family yachting holiday, I think in Northern France, but strangely there are almost no clues at all in these photos that could be followed up on. Even the name of the boat completely eludes the lens, despite the fact that the boat features in numerous photographs. All that can be said really is that here is a middle-aged, middle-class couple on holiday with, presumably, their son who is in his late teens or early twenties and the fashions would appear to indicate that this is the mid-nineties. I'm sorry there is no satisfying end to this story... they remain a mystery...

Monday, October 15, 2012

More Ralph Chubb Paintings

The Well. 1920. The Hepworth, Wakefield
About a year ago I discovered that the brilliant Your Paintings website run by the BBC had a selection of paintings online by Ralph Chubb, images that you would never likely have seen reproduced in any other format. I revisited it today and discovered that another five paintings have been added to Chubb's cache on the site and some of them are here.

The stunning piece above is simply titled, 'The Well', and is huge, it measures almost 6' x 4.5'. I'm sure someone with a more complete knowledge of Chubb's personal mythology, which was highly developed and present in all of his print work, would be able to begin to unpack some of the imagery in here much better than I could. The other images are also a delight and the two from The Potteries (below) show him to be a fairly accomplished landscape painter and are certainly suggestive of his hankering for a pre-WW1 Elysian idyll, as is often dreamt of in his poetry.

Reclining Nude in a Field. Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum
The Red Farm. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery

The Country Lane. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery

Sunday, October 14, 2012

W. H. Auden, Christopher Ishewood and Stephen Spender

Following on from yesterday's post which featured the photography of Howard Coster, as held by the National Portrait Gallery, I was delighted to find these portraits of the writers and friends, W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender: all three known for a while as writers of 'The Thirties'. In Lions and Shadows, Isherwood describes Spender's alias character, Stephen Savage, as "an immensely tall, shambling boy of nineteen, with a great scarlet poppy-face, wild frizzy hair, and eyes the violent colour of bluebells." Spender, recalling Auden at Oxford described him with "almost albino hair and weakly pigmented eyes set close together". Auden called Isherwood, "that severe Christopher." It was Auden who first convinced Isherwood to go to Berlin in the roaring thirties when "Berlin meant boys."
I have been reading a number of Isherwood novels over the last few months and a couple of biographical works, and one or two of Coster's photographs appear dotted throughout those books but these are ones I hadn't seen before. These photos seem more than a little stilted, one wonders if they were some of the presumably many shots a photographer would take in a session that ought to have been edited out but somehow have remained in his archive. The strange not-quite-three-ways-gazing between them, not knowing where or how to look at each other is awkward and difficult to look at as a portrait. Even the photograph of Isherwood and Auden alone is disturbing in the way that Isherwood looks directly at us, whilst Auden gazes off somewhere out of frame.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Noel Mewton-Wood

This intense young man is Noel Mewton-Wood (1922-1953), an Australian pianist and composer whose talent was somehow overlooked by the public and by critics during his short life, despite the fact that he was lauded by his contemporary musicians. If you want to make your own judgement on that then there are a number of his performances currently available to listen to on Youtube. There isn't a great deal of information out there about his life, (despite the fact that a novel has been written supposedly inspired by it) but we do know it was tragically short and ended by his own hand. Most modern readers would know how to read between the lines of the newspaper report of the inquest below, references to Noel's "very dear friend" are a very thin code for Noel's lover, whose death, it seems Noel did not recover from.

Benjamin Britten wrote a piece for Noel's memorial concert.

I'm grateful to the ever-brilliant Climbing Down Bokor for pointing me in this direction which has also resulted in discovering the huge collection of photo portraits by Howard Coster at the National Portrait Gallery from whence these to photographs come.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Smoking on the Beach

Still feeling quite below par and feeling fed up with being ill - it's getting to the boring stage. So I'm sorry I can't sit too long at a bright screen and think up intoxicatingly profound things to say (like I normally do, obviously!) so, instead, allow me to share the latest addition to the collection, two adorably gawky-looking, mismatched, smoking pals obviously enjoying themselves...
Who links to my website?