Sister acts

Female collaborations in the Alport Collection

Despite the predominance of male writing circles elsewhere in this exhibition, the Alport Collection also incorporates some fine examples of collaborations between women, and, more specifically, sisters.

Univ’s Domestic Bursary team looking at some of the Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell collaborations in the Alport Collection.

The Cuala Press

Three types of men have made beautiful things…and the artists have made all the rest because Providence has filled them with recklessness – William Butler Yeats (Poetry and Ireland, 1908)

Lolly (Elizabeth) and Lily (Susan) Yeats started their own business together in 1908. They named their embroidery workshop and printing press Cuala Industries after the Old Irish name for Dundrum where they were based.

Title page and text from Poetry and Ireland: Essays by W. B. Yeats and Lionel Johnson. Cuala Press: Churchtown. 1908

Title page and text from an early production by the Cuala Press, Poetry and Ireland: Essays by W. B. Yeats and Lionel Johnson. Churchtown : Cuala Press. 1908

Over the 32 years it ran, the Cuala Press published the work of many contemporary writers, all but two of whom were Irish. This was in contrast to other fine presses of the time which produced beautiful versions of old texts. The Alport Collection offers five of the sixty-six volumes published by Cuala Industries including writing by Lolly and Lily’s brother, William Butler Yeats.

Title page overlaid with the poem "Galway" from Wild Apples: by Oliver Gogarty ; with a preface by William Butler Yeats. Dublin : Cuala Press. 1930

Title page overlaid with the poem “Galway” from Wild Apples by Oliver Gogarty ; with a preface by William Butler Yeats. Dublin : Cuala Press. 1930. Alport’s copy is one of 250 printed.

Lolly Yeats’ work at the Cuala Press was influenced by the styling of the Dove Press, established in 1900. The Cuala books exhibit a uniformity of design corresponding to the ideal of 14 point Caslon old style font printed on high quality rag paper made locally, near Dublin. This design is beautiful in its simplicity which allows the text to be read without distraction.

Title page and opening lines from Seven Winters by Elizabeth Bowen. Dublin : Cuala Press. 1942

Title page and opening lines from Seven Winters by Elizabeth Bowen. Dublin : Cuala Press. 1942

The Stephen Sisters and the Hogarth Press

Brown cliffs with deep green lakes in the hollows, flat blade-like trees that waved from root to tip, round boulders of grey stone, vast crumpled surfaces of a thin crackling texture… – Virginia Woolf (Kew Gardens, 1927)

Across the Irish Sea at around the same time, Vanessa and Virginia Stephen were collaborating to produce modernist texts with arresting cover design and illustrations. These sisters are better known to history as the artist, Vanessa Bell and the writer and printer, Virginia Woolf. Many of Woolf’s works were published by the Hogarth Press which she ran with her husband, Leonard. Bell provided the striking cover designs that gave the Press a distinctive house style. She also illustrated some of Woolf’s work more extensively.

Montage of Vanessa Bell's cover designs for Virginia Woolf's texts

Some of Vanessa Bell’s cover designs for Virginia Woolf’s texts, clockwise from the top left: The Haunted House and Other Stories. London : Hogarth Press. 1943; The Captain’s Death Bed and Other Essays. London : The Hogarth Press. 1950; The Moment and Other Essays. London : The Hogarth Press. 1947; Kew Gardens. London : The Hogarth Press. 1927; A Writer’s Diary. London : The Hogarth Press. 1953; The Waves. London : The Hogarth Press. 1931.

Many artists, writers and critics of the early twentieth century acknowledged the impact on the reader of the design surrounding a text. This put more emphasis on the production of books. Accordingly, it was a period that saw the foundation of many private presses such as the Cuala Press and the Hogarth Press.

Vanessa Bell was greatly influenced by the work of the critic, Roger Fry. His 1927 essay “Book Illustration and a Modern Example” argued that illustrators could provide a visual, critical framework for the reader. Illustration could be marginal notes that did not muddy the waters by introducing words that did not belong to the author.

The opening page of Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell.

The opening page of Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927. Alport’s copy is number 478 of a limited edition of 500.

This approach is reflected in the 1927 edition of Kew Gardens illustrated by Bell and written by her sister. The margins of each page are decorated with strong black line motifs which do not directly portray the action on each page but do interact with the ideas in the text. On many pages there is a literal interaction between the words and the pictures which in some cases seem to fight for precedence. Sometimes the pictures win. On the other hand, Woolf’s text uses the vocabulary of the visual arts, words describing colour, shape and texture.

On this page the illustrations grow up into the text, pushing it out of the way. Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927.

On this page the illustrations grow up into the text, pushing it out of the way. Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927.

The original 1919 edition of Kew Gardens was an early collaboration between the sisters. Bell provided drawings for the beginning and end of the text but she was not happy with the quality of the Hogarth Press’ production. She threatened not to illustrate any more of Woolf’s work if it did not improve. For the 1927 edition Woolf hired an external printer.

Illustration from Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927.

One of the more literal illustrations in Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927.

If you would like to find out more about Virginia Woolf in the Library browse in class mark YIK/WOO. For the Yeats family go to class mark YIK/YEA.
Other sources used in this post were:

Bowe, Nicola Gordon. “Yeats, Susan Mary [Lily] (1866–1949).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman.  OUP : Oxford. Accessed 30 Nov. 2012 <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/61425&gt;

Gillespie, D. F. The Sisters’ Arts: the writing and painting of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. Syracuse University Press : Syracuse, N.Y. 1988. [YIK/WOO,G]

Lee, H. Virginia Woolf. Vintage : London. 1997. [YIK/WOO,L]

Lewis, Gifford. The Yeats Sisters and the Cuala. Irish Academic Press : Dublin. 1994. [YIK/YEA,L]

All images on this page are copyright of University College.

This post is for the curator’s inspiring sister, Mary Herbert.

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‘Contemporary Gothic to read in bed’

Paul Bowles and Erich Alport

The Lemon by Mohammed Mrabet ; translated from the Moghrebi and edited by Paul Bowles. London : Peter Owen. 1969

Rob, from the Univ Development Office, reading The Lemon by Mohammed Mrabet ; translated from the Moghrebi and edited by Paul Bowles. London : Peter Owen. 1969

“For Erich Alport after thirty-nine years of friendship,” wrote Paul Bowles in the last book he gave to Erich Alport just a year before Alport’s death in 1971. Their long friendship is reflected in Alport’s ownership of first editions of nine of Paul Bowles works: novels, short stories and translations.

Up Above the World. London : Peter Owen. 1967.

Cover and extract from Up Above the World. London : Peter Owen. 1967. Inside Bowles wrote, “For Erich (a bit of contemporary Gothic to read in bed.) Paul, Tangier, 5/II/68”. Excerpt from ‘Up Above the World’ by Paul Bowles. Copyright
1967, Paul Bowles. This is used with permission of the Paul Bowles Estate. Not for reuse.

Paul Bowles started writing young. His poem ‘Spire Song’ appeared in the Parisian, Avant-Garde literary journal Transition when he was 17. Born in New York, he later made his base in Morocco and travelled widely. He was a prolific musical composer, collaborating in the theatre with Tennessee Williams among others. He increasingly turned towards writing and inspired authors of the American Beat Movement including William S. Burroughs. Jane Bowles, nee Auer, with whom he shared an unconventional marriage, was also an innovative writer.

Cover and extract from Jane Bowles' Plain Pleasures. London : Peter Owen. 1966

Cover and extract from Jane Bowles’ Plain Pleasures. London : Peter Owen. 1966. Excerpt from ‘Plain Pleasures’ by Jane Bowles. Copyright 1966, Jane Bowles. This is used with permission of Rodrigo Rey Rosa. Not for reuse.

Cutting about Jane and Paul Bowles from The Observer, 12 October 1959.

Cutting from The Observer, 12 October 1959. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C6/9].

Bowles and Alport kept up a correspondence, some of which was found in Alport’s books and is now kept in the College Archives. They stayed in touch, despite both being often on the move, and sometimes met on their travels. In his letters, Bowles often mentions his friend, the painter Ahmed Yacoubi, whose work Alport collected.

Letter from Bowles to Alport, undated

Letter from Bowles to Alport. It is undated but probably from the 1950s as it was found with other letters of that date in Alport’s copy of Bowles’ novel, The Sheltering Sky. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C6/3]. Materials from the Paul Bowles archive. Copyright 2012, Paul Bowles. This is used with permission of the Paul Bowles Estate. Not for reuse.

Letter from Bowles to Alport dated 26 October 1954

Letter from Bowles to Alport dated 26 October 1954. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C6/4]. Materials from the Paul Bowles archive. Copyright 2012, Paul Bowles. This is used with permission of the Paul Bowles Estate. Not for reuse.

 

Paul Bowles and Gertrude Stein

Paul Bowles knew of Gertrude Stein from childhood. In an interview with Florian Vetsch he recalls that in High School his English teacher told his class that they must write properly as they were not James Joyce or Gertrude Stein. This made him wonder who Gertrude Stein might be and led him to her ‘A Wife Has A Cow’ in a second hand copy of Transition magazine. He read it and thought it made no sense. Then he thought, “That’s wonderful. There [in Paris] you can publish things that don’t make sense at all and not even in proper English”.

Text and illustrations from 'As A Wife Has A Cow A Love Story'

Extract and illustration from A Book Concluding With As A Wife Has A Cow A Love Story by Gertrude Stein with artwork by Juan Gris. Paris : Editions De La Galerie Simon. 1926.

 

At twenty Bowles made his second trip to Paris and met Gertrude Stein in person (he didn’t meet anyone on the first visit as he was too shy). This and subsequent interactions with Stein had a great impact on Bowles’ literary career. It was she who suggested that he go to Morocco, a place which was to inspire him.

Bowles was among the young male friends Stein made after WWI with whom she had sexual as well as artistic nonconformity in common.  Others included Virgil Thomson, Bernard Faÿ, and Francis Rose. The National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian has an excellent exhibition of images of Stein which includes more on these friendships.

Gertrude Stein in the Alport Collection

…the creator of the new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he is a classic – Gertrude Stein (Composition as Explanation, 1926)

Biographically speaking, Erich Alport overlapped with Gertrude Stein. Both were from German Jewish backgrounds, both were gay, both collected contemporary art. Perhaps this explains why Alport acquired several of her books. They also had acquaintances, such as Paul Bowles, in common. So perhaps Stein’s work was recommended to Alport by his friends.

Page from A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Ready. Paris : Editions de la Galerie Simon. 1926.

Page from A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Ready. Paris : Editions de la Galerie Simon. 1926. Alport’s copy is 31/100. The lithographs are by Elie Lascaux.

Stein’s work in the Alport Collection includes her experiments with language such as A Book Concluding With As A Wife Has A Cow and A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Yet, both published by Andre Simon in signed, limited editions of c. 100 copies. It also encompasses her bestselling books about herself, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, written by Stein from the point of view of Alice her life companion, and Wars I Have Seen, about her experience of living in occupied France.

Cover and publishers 'blurb' from Wars I Have Seen. London : B. T. Batsford. 1945

Cover and publisher’s ‘blurb’ from Wars I Have Seen. London : B. T. Batsford. 1945. The cover design is by Cecil Beaton who was better known for his society photographs.

In Composition as Explanation, published in 1926 by Virginia and Leonard Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Stein talks about her writing. She touches on the effect of the World War on the reception of literature.

Cover of Composition as Explanation. London : Hogarth Press. 1926

Cover of Composition as Explanation. London : Hogarth Press. 1926. The cover design is by Vanessa Bell, sister of the printers.

Stein posits that War broke the trend that art needs time to become socially acceptable (“classic”). War “made every one not only contemporary in act not only comtemporary in thought  but comtemporary in self-consciousness made every one contemporary with the modern composition” (Composition as Explanation, p. 26). The literary world that Alport and his friends inhabited was one where those “who created the expression of the modern composition were to be recognised before we were even dead some of us quite a long time before we were dead” (Composition as Explanation, p. 26).

You can borrow some of Paul Bowles work from the Library:

The Sheltering Sky (YLM/BOW)

Collected Stories (YLM/BOW)

Other sources used in this post were:

Birch, Dinah (Ed.). The Oxford Companion to English Literature. OUP : Oxford. 2009. (ZC)

The Authorised Paul Bowles Website. Accessed 21 Nov. 2012 http://www.paulbowles.org

Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories. Online exhibition from National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Accessed 21 Nov. 2012 http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/stein/intro.html

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‘The complete sculptor’

Henry Moore’s drawings

Henry Moore was primarily a sculptor as defined by Herbert Read:

The complete sculptor…will be prepared to use every degree in the scale of solids, from clay to obsidian, from wood to steel – Herbert Read (Introduction to Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1944)

Drawing, however, was integral to Moore’s artistic practice throughout his career, albeit with a changing relationship to his sculpture over the years. Drawings feature in all the books about Moore in the Alport Collection. Alport also owned at least one of Moore’s sketches.

Colin reading Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Colin, one of Univ’s Porters, looking at Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940. Colin is standing beside one of the sculptures to be found around the College, The Shelley Memorial. It was created by Edward Onslow Ford in the late nineteenth century.

Early work

The first book dedicated to the work of Henry Moore was published in 1934 at a relatively early stage in his career (he attended art school after serving in WWI). In his introduction Herbert Read praises Moore unreservedly as at “the fullness of his powers” and offering “the perfected product of his genius”.

Henry Moore. A. Zwemmer : London. 1934.

The cover of Henry Moore. A. Zwemmer : London. 1934, with part of Herbert Read’s introduction (p.16)

Between the wars, Moore lived in Hampstead. He had friends nearby among whom were other artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson; architects like Walter Gropius; and writers including Alport’s acquaintances, T.S. Eliot and Stephen Spender.  Stephen Spender also collected work by Moore. The picture below, from Stephen Spender’s collection, exemplifies Moore’s use of drawing to inspire sculpture at this stage in his career.

Sketch belonging to Stephen Spender from Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings. London : Lund Humphries and Company. 1944.

Ideas for Stone-Seated Figure, 1934, 22 x 15 ins., charcoal and pen, from the collection of Stephen Spender, featured in Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings. London : Lund Humphries and Company. 1944.

Shelter Sketch Book

It is the human figure which interests me most deeply – Henry Moore (‘Notes on Sculpture’ in Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1944)

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 brought a halt to Moore’s production of sculpture. As the War progressed the materials he needed became harder to obtain and he made no sculptures between September 1940 and June 1942.

From Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Moore continued to draw during the War and, as Herbert Read wrote, his output during this time allowed “a far larger number of people…to enjoy and possess some example of the artist’s work than would otherwise have been the case” (Introduction to Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1944).

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

One night in September 1940, Moore and his wife had to stay on the platform at Belsize Park underground station during a bombing raid. Moore was fascinated by the figures of the Londoners, men, women, and children who were spending the night there sheltering from the Blitz. Within a few days he produced the first of his shelter drawings.

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Moore’s shelter drawings of 1940–41 were exhibited at The National Gallery during the War. They transformed Moore’s public reputation. He went almost overnight from an avant-garde artist to one whose work Londoners could identify with.

Festival of Britain

In 1951, Moore was commissioned to produce a sculpture for the Festival of Britain (organised by the government to promote a sense of recovery after WWII and to celebrate British achievements in the arts, science and technology). The outcome was the bronze Reclining Figure: Festival, a cast of which is now held at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The Arts Council also arranged Moore’s first London retrospective, at the Tate Gallery, to coincide with the Festival.

The year before this exhibition Alport went to see Moore at his studios in Perry Green, Hertfordshire. His visit prompted Moore to write asking for photographs of the examples of his drawings in Alport’s collection. Moore also mentioned that the Arts Council might be interested in borrowing the works for future exhibitions.

Letter from Henry Moore to Alport written on 10 October 1950

Letter from Henry Moore to Alport written on 10 October 1950. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C24/1].

Letter from Henry Moore to Alport written on 15 January

Letter from Henry Moore to Alport written on 15 January 1951. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C24/2].

Some ‘Rocking Chair’ sculptures, like the one referred to in Moore’s second letter, can be seen in action in a documentary about the artist produced by the BBC also in 1951. One of the drawings that Alport owned can be traced as it has been sold at auction several times since Alport’s death. Its title is Three Seated Figures: Ideas for Sculpture. It was produced by Moore in 1941 using wax crayon, coloured crayon, chalk, pastel, charcoal, watercolour and pen and ink on paper. Its dimensions are 11 x 14 7/8 in. (27.7 x 37.5 cm). Similar sketches appear in the 1944 overview of Moore’s work.

Drawings featured in Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings. London : Lund Humphries and Company. 1944.

Drawings of three seated figures featured in Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings. London : Lund Humphries and Company. 1944.

Later drawing

By the mid-1950s Moore’s drawings were no longer his means of generating ideas for sculpture. Instead he took inspiration from natural forms such as bones, shells and stone, from which his sculptural ideas evolved.

Moore returned to drawing when he took up print making later in life. By then drawing, for him, was a separate activity from sculpture. From 1970 he produced an great number of drawings, particularly during the early 1980s when he was too ill to work on his sculpture. Many of his drawings are exhibited alongside his sculptures at his former house and studios in Perry Green, Hertfordshire, which are now the home of the Henry Moore Foundation. They are well worth a visit.

Other sources used in this post were:

‘Henry, OM, CH Moore – 1898-1986’. Accessed 5 Nov. 2012 at http://www.artfact.com/auction-lot/henry-moo-5xy5t6owvf-13-m-ec6de58c4c

Wilkinson, Alan. “Moore, Henry Spencer (1898–1986).” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. OUP : Oxford. Accessed 5 Nov. 2012 <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/39962&gt;

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‘visions and revisions’ : T. S. Eliot and Alport

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table

– T. S. Eliot (‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ in Prufrock and Other Observations, 1917.)

In 2003 a Univ finalist researching an extended essay on the prose of T.S. Eliot came across the rich seam of Eliot material in the Alport Collection. Whilst looking through the first editions, many of them with inscriptions to Alport from Eliot, Rachel Oakeshott discovered a copy of Poetry magazine from June 1915 in which appeared Eliot’s first published poem, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’.

Looking through the fragile pages of this ephemeral publication, she noticed that Eliot’s poem had been corrected in black ink. The annotations included the excited exclamation, ‘damn!’ next to the misprint ‘spot’ where the poem should have read ‘soot’. Rachel’s research led her to meet with the poet’s widow who confirmed that the corrections were T. S. Eliot’s own.

Poetry, vol. VI, no.III. Seymour, Daughday and Co. : Chicago. June 1915.

Cover and the beginning of ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ with Eliot’s corrections in Alport’s copy of Poetry, vol. VI, no.III. Seymour, Daughday and Co. : Chicago. June 1915. Click image to have a closer look.

‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ was dedicated to a medical student, Jean Verdenal, with whom Eliot lodged during his postgraduate year at the Sorbonne in Paris, and who died age 26, a casualty of WWI. It was the title poem in Eliot’s first collection of poetry, Prufrock and Other Observations (The Egoist : London. 1917). Only 500 copies of this book were printed, one of which Alport acquired.  

Prufrock and other observations. The Egoist : London. 1917.

Peter one of Univ’s accountants examines Alport’s copy of Prufrock and Other Observations outside the Treasury; dedication and lines from ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ in Prufrock and Other Observations. The Egoist : London. 1917.

The number of inscriptions from Eliot in Alport’s collection implies that the two men knew each other, but where they met, in Oxford, Germany or London, and how they became acquainted, through friends, perhaps, or literary interests, remains unknown.

Ariel Poems

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands

What water lapping the bow

And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog

What images return

O my daughter.

– T. S. Eliot (Marina, no. 29 of The Ariel Poems.)

Some of the most attractive objects in the Alport Collection are the five poems that Eliot contributed to Faber & Faber’s Ariel Poems series. The thirty-eight pamphlets in the first Ariel Poems series combined the work of authors and illustrators with striking effect.

Marina, no. 29 of The Ariel Poems. Faber & Faber : London.

Illustrations by E. McKnight Kauffer and inscription from Eliot to Alport in Alport’s copy of Marina, no. 29 of The Ariel Poems, by T. S. Eliot. Faber & Faber : London.

Each pamphlet has more or less the same simple, fragile structure; one sheet of paper folded and sewn inside a coloured paper cover. A black and white artist print on the cover and a coloured print inside are followed by a poem. T. S. Eliot’s poems are illustrated by Gertrude Hermes (Animula, no.23) and E. McKnight Kauffer (Journey of the Magi, no. 8; A Song for Simeon, no.16; Marina, no. 29;  Triumphal March, no. 35).

Animula, no. 23 of The Ariel Poems. Faber & Faber : London.

Illustrations by Gertrude Hermes and text from Alport’s copy of Animula, no. 23 of The Ariel Poems, by T. S. Eliot. Faber & Faber : London.

Eliot worked for Faber as their Literary Editor as well as a writer. He left his job in a bank in 1925 to join the publisher where he was successful in signing and promoting new writers from W. H. Auden to Ted Hughes. His entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography goes as far as to see his work at Faber as ‘defining the next forty years of British poetry’.

Triumphal March, no. 35 of The Ariel Poems. Faber & Faber : London.

Illustrations by E. McKnight Kauffer and inscription from Eliot to Alport in Alport’s copy of Triumphal March, no. 35 of The Ariel Poems, by T. S. Eliot. Faber & Faber : London.

Thoughts after Lambeth and Four Quartets

…it is not to anybody’s interest that religion should disappear. If it did, many compositors would be thrown out of work; the audiences of our best-selling scientists would shrink to almost nothing; and the typewriters of the Huxley brothers would cease from tapping. Without religion the whole human race would die…solely of boredom. – T. S. Eliot (Thoughts After Lambeth. Faber & Faber : London. 1931.)

After his baptism into the Church of England in June 1927, which took place at Finstock, not far west of Oxford, Eliot placed religion at the centre of his life. In 1931, Eliot gave Alport a pamphlet in which he reflects on the outcomes of a Report of the Church of England’s Lambeth Conference. Some of the issues Eliot was discussing in the 1930s seem very current today. Substitute Richard Dawkins for Aldous Huxley and passages about the perceived differences between older and younger generations and the relationship between science and religion could almost have been written yesterday.

Thoughts After Lambeth. Faber and Faber : London. 1931.

Front cover with inscription, and text (p.8-9) from Alport’s copy of Eliot’s Thoughts After Lambeth. Faber and Faber : London. 1931.

Religion, in a broad sense,  permeates Eliot’s later poetry. In the Alport Collection are early printings of three of the poems that make up Four Quartets. Alport kept the second poem in the series, East Coker both as it appeared in the 1940 Easter number of The New English Weekly and as it was published (as a stapled pamphlet) by Faber and Faber in the same year.

Four Quartets montage

Three of Eliot’s Four Quartets from the Alport Collection: ‘East Coker’ in The New English Weekly, vol. XVI, no. 22. Easter number 1940 ; East Coker. Faber and Faber : London. 1940 ; ‘The Dry Salvages’ in The New English Weekly, vol. XVIII, no. 19. 27 Feb 1941 ; Little Gidding. Faber and Faber : London. 1942.

You can hear T. S. Eliot reading his poems (including passages from Four Quartets) on The Poetry Archives website.

If you’d like to find out more about T. S. Eliot or read some of his poems look on the first floor of the Library at class mark YIK/ELI.

Sources used in this post were:

Bush, Ronald. “Eliot, Thomas Stearns (1888–1965).” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. OUP : Oxford. Accessed 23 Oct. 2012 <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32993&gt;.

University College. ‘Leading the Field’ in Univ Newsletter. Issue 16. Michaelmas 2003.

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‘crass, hairy and evergrim life’

Alport’s science fiction

When Hugo Gernsback coined the term ‘science fiction’ in 1929, he defined it simply as ‘a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision’. Fascinating may be a better word than charming for some of the science fiction in the Alport Collection. The examples of the genre that Erich Alport bought and read span the best part of the century and demonstrate that the genre has been used not only to write about ‘scientific fact and prophetic vision’ but also to make social commentary and explore the human condition in unusual circumstances.

The Invisible Man

You are the only man…who knows there is such a thing as an Invisible Man… Help me – and I will do great things for you. An Invisible Man is a man of power. – Griffin (The Invisible Man : a grotesque romance, H.G. Wells, 1897)

Alport probably bought his first edition of The Invisible Man whilst he was in Oxford for ten shillings and six pence. It still bears the signature of its original owner, the sociable Orientalist and Freemason, Arthur Cowley, who was Bodleian Librarian from 1919 until his death in 1931.

H.G. Well’s story of an inventor who discovers a way to make his body reflect no light has ancient roots in Book II of Plato’s Republic. Plato uses the story of ‘The Ring of Gyges’ (a ring that gives its wearer the power of invisibility) to consider whether people would be moral if they did not fear detection and punishment. Griffin, the anti-hero of Well’s story, uses his invisible state to commit theft and, through fear of detection, murder.

The Invisible Man : a grotesque romance by H.G. Wells. Pearson : London. 1897.

Cover, bookseller’s price, signature of A. Cowley and extract from p.75 of Alport’s copy of The Invisible Man : a grotesque romance by H.G. Wells. Pearson : London. 1897;

 

Transition Stories

The attempt to arrive at a complete denial of reality by way of a consistent and dogmatic exploration of the subconscious remains one of the important actions of our creative life. – Eugene Jolas (Preface to Transition Stories: twenty-three stories from ‘transition’, 1929)

This selection of stories from the early twentieth-century literary journal Transition looks to modern eyes like a 60s production rather than the 1920s artefact it is. This is partly thanks to the mechanical design printed on the boards, created by typographer Albert Schiller who combined pre-cast metal type elements to make his image.

Transition Stories : twenty-three stories from “transition” selected and edited by Eugene Jolas and Robert Sage. Walter V. McKee : New York. 1929.

Extracts from the Preface and James Joyce’s ‘A Muster from Work in Process’, title page and front board design from Transition Stories : twenty-three stories from ‘transition’ selected and edited by Eugene Jolas and Robert Sage. Walter V. McKee : New York. 1929. Click on the image to read the texts on a larger version.

Transition’s editors published poetry, prose and artwork by contemporary avant-garde movements such as surrealists, Dadaists and modernists. The preface to Transition Stories explains their mission to reject bourgeois forms of literature including purely descriptive writing and challenge the domination of pure reason.

Among the writers published in Transition Stories are Gertrude Stein and Franz Kafka. Perhaps the most famous work to appear in the magazine was Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, which appeared in segments under the title ‘Work in Progress’.

Toborrow and toburrow and tobarrow! That’s our crass, hairy and evergrim life! We may come, touch and go, from atoms and ifs but we’re presurely destined to be odd’s without ends. – James Joyce (‘A Muster from Work in Progress’ in Transition Stories: twenty-three stories from ‘transition’, 1929)

Brave New World

But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin. – the Savage (Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932)

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World questions the scientifically managed future societies of H.G. Well’s utopian novels. In Huxley’s dystopian world state human beings are given their social status before birth and conditioned from then on, by a mixture of drugs and nurture, to accept their place. The inhabitants of Huxley’s novel are content but when a ‘Savage’ is brought to London from his home on a New Mexican Reservation his outsider perspective reveals the incompatibility of individual freedom and a scientifically created trouble-free society.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Chatto and Windus : London. 1932.

Chris from Univ’s Development Office going back to the future with Alport’s copy of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Chatto and Windus : London. 1932.

 

The Naked Lunch

The study of thinking machines teaches us more about the brain than we can learn by introspective methods. Western man is externalizing himself in the form of gadgets. Ever pop coke in the mainline? – Doctor Benway (The Naked Lunch, William Burroughs, 1959)

In his dedication to Howl and Other Poems Allen Ginsberg named William Burroughs as the author of Naked Lunch for the first time in print. He described Burroughs’ book as “an endless novel which will drive everybody mad”.

Howl and other poems by Allen Ginsberg. City Lights Books : San Francisco. 1956 (14th printing, 1965)

Cover and dedication from Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg. City Lights Books : San Francisco. 1956 (14th printing, 1965)

 The ‘endless novel’ was a long time in gestation. It circulated in manuscript fragments between the author’s friends, correspondents, publishers and editors, and appeared in periodicals before finding a publisher. This communal writing process may have had some influence on the organic, mosaic nature of Burroughs prose which is picked up on by a contemporary review:

The literary notion of time as simultaneous, a montage, is not original with Burroughs; what is original is the scientific bent he gives it and a view of the world that combines biochemistry, anthropology, and politics. It is as though Finnegans Wake were cut loose from history and adapted for a cinerama circus titled “One World.” – Mary McCarthy (‘Déjeuner sur l’Herbe’ in The New York Review of Books, 1 February 1963)

Alport bought a copy of The Naked Lunch first published in 1959 in Paris by The Olympia Press. This edition has a cover designed by Burroughs himself and a ‘the’ in the title which Burroughs did not intend. Naked Lunch was controversial in both subject matter and language. Its American publisher, Grove, waited until 1962, and the favourable outcome of a court battle over the censorship of another of their authors, to publish it.

The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. Olympia Press : Paris. 1959

Cover design and extract from The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. Olympia Press : Paris. 1959.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Naked Lunch Columbia University Libraries have created an online exhibition of their Burroughs collection which includes recordings of Burroughs reading from his novel.

The library has reading copies of some of the novels mentioned:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (YIO/HUX)

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (YIK/JOY)

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (YIK/WEL)

Other sources used in this post were:

Ashley, Mike. Out of This World: science fiction but not as you know it. The British Library : London. 2011.

Birch, Dinah (Ed.). The Oxford Companion to English Literature. OUP : Oxford. 2009. (ZC)

Cloud, Gerald W. ‘Naked Lunch’ : the First Fifty Years. Online exhibition from Columbia University Butler Library, Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Accessed 16 Oct. 2012 <https://exhibitions.cul.columbia.edu/exhibits/show/nakedlunch&gt;.

Tomlinson, Steven. “Cowley, Sir Arthur Ernest (1861–1931).” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. OUP : Oxford. Accessed 16 Oct. 2012 <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32598&gt;.

Wikipedia contributors. “The Invisible Man.” in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 Oct. 2012 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Invisible_Man&gt;

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‘Because I love you so’

 Stephen Spender and Oxford Poetry

Six solitary numbers of the oldest dedicated poetry magazine sit in the Erich Alport Collection. They echo with traces of Alport’s relationship with its one time editor, Stephen Spender.

The Magazine
Oxford Poetry was started in 1920 by the University’s undergraduates. It was published by Basil Blackwell, son of the first owner of Blackwell’s bookshop in Broad Street. The Alport Collection includes copies for the years 1917-19, 1923, 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932.

Oxford Poetry 1930

Begina from the Norrington Room at Blackwells reads Stephen Spender’s poems published in Oxford Poetry 1930 ; Cover and contents page of the same volume.

Oxford Poetry from the 20s-30s is a simple yet striking production. A white rectangle of card bears the title in dark blue ink. This is pasted onto board and blue paper covers, punctuated by a cream spine.  Inside thick paper pages sewn together hold verses by young writers such as Louis MacNeice and Laurence Whistler.

The Relationship
It seems strange that Alport should have collected only six volumes from seemingly random dates in the early twentieth century, especially as his collection contains longer runs of other literary magazines. The marks of ownership in each volume create a trail of clues, but a little external information is needed to understand their possible significance.

In January 1930, Stephen Spender signed a copy of Oxford Poetry 1929, which he co-edited with Louis Macneice. He dedicated it to “Erich Alport with best wishes from Stephen Spender”.

Oxford Poetry and inscription to Erich Alport from Stephen Spender

Oxford Poetry 1929 with inscription from Stephen Spender to Erich Alport; Stephen Spender in 1932 from his autobiography.

Spender and Alport met in 1929, introduced by University College’s Dean, John Maud. Maud had read one of Spender’s Marston poems, about his admiration for another student at Univ, and passed it on to Alport. For his part, Alport took an immediate interest in Spender and invited him to stay at his parents’ house in Hamburg over the summer. Spender seized the opportunity to experience Germany’s more tolerant social scene, but their relationship that summer was not a happy one.  Alport was in love with Spender; Spender was not attracted to Alport. Spender eventually left Alport’s company to go travelling with new friends.

Alport’s collection of Oxford Poetry suggests that he retained a fondness for Stephen Spender after the summer of 1929. He acquired the 1930 magazine containing five poems by Spender, who was again co-editor. On the contents page, Alport wrote ‘Ernst’ and ‘Arnold’ next to the titles of two of Spender’s poems: ‘Now You’ve no Work, Like a Rich Man’ and ‘Because I Love You So’, perhaps in reference to Ernst Curtius and a Hamburg boy called Arnold, both of whom Spender formed friendships with in 1929.

Erich Alport's annotations on the contents page of Oxford Poetry 1930

Alport also got a copy of the magazine in 1931 and 1932, and obtained second-hand copies from 1923 (in which he pencilled ‘E.A. 1931’) and 1917-19 (which has a humorous book plate belonging to a former owner).

Bookplate of John Douglas Errington Loveland from Alport's copy of Oxford Poetry 1917-19

Perhaps these later acquisitions were out of an attachment to Oxford Poetry rather than Spender, but why then didn’t Alport buy the 1933 edition or any subsequent ones?

In 1932 T.S. Eliot sent Alport the manuscript of Spender’s new novel, The Temple, which he was considering for the publisher Faber & Faber. The novel was based on Spender’s experiences, including an unflattering portrait of Erich Alport as the character Ernst Stockman. An infuriated Alport replied to Eliot that he would sue for libel anyone who published the book. The Temple was not published until 1988. Did Spender’s cruel caricature dampen Alport’s interest in Oxford Poetry with its personal associations? It’s speculative, but other Spender material in the Alport collection also bears marks of their relationship.

Because I love you so

I cannot taste, even the taste of care.

I may not lie with you, and I must go

Far from this town to-morrow. – Stephen Spender (From ‘Because I love you so’, Oxford Poetry 1930)

More Univ Connections
Other Univ contributors in Alport’s six volumes of Oxford Poetry include E. R. Dodds, later Regius Professor of Greek, President of the Society for Psychical Research and literary executor of Auden and MacNeice; R. M. S. Pasley, who went on to be a Headmaster in Barnstaple and Birmingham; E.E. Smith; Geoffrey Curtis, who became an Ecumenical Monk and friend and confessor of T.S. Eliot; Paul Lucas, a Scholar of the College 1928-32 who died in 1935, aged 25; and Stephen Spender himself who came up to Univ. in 1927 but left, without taking a degree, to seek Germany’s more tolerant social scene. In 1974, he renewed his links with the College, becoming an Honorary Fellow and a regular visitor.

E.R. Dodds' poem 'Measure' published in Oxford Poetry 1917-1919.

E.R. Dodds’ poem ‘Measure’ published in Oxford Poetry 1917-1919.

You can read Stephen Spender’s poems in the Library:

Spender, S., Brett, M. (ed.). New collected poems. 2004 (London : Faber). [YIO/SPE]

You can also listen to him reading his poems at poetryarchive.org

More information about Stephen Spender can be found in the Library:

David, H. Stephen Spender: a portrait with background. 1992 (London : Heinemann). [YIO/SPE, D]

Leeming, D. Stephen Spender: a life in modernism. 1999 (London : Duckworth). [YIO/SPE, L]

Spender, S. The Temple. 1988 (London : Faber and Faber). [YIO/SPE]

Spender, S. World Within World: the autobiography of Stephen Spender. 1951 (London: Hamish Hamilton). [YIO/SPE Alport Collection]

Sutherland, J. Stephen Spender: the authorized biography. 2004 (London : Viking). [YIO/SPE,S]

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Welcome to Oxford

Erich Alport was an Oxford fresher in 1926. He arrived at Univ as an international student from Germany.

Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint…her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days…exhaled the soft vapours of a thousand years of learning. – Charles Ryder (Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945)

Zuleika Dobson
Before his journey to Oxford, Alport was given a copy of Max Beerbohm’s novel Zuleika Dobson, a fantastic distillation of Beerbohm’s time at Merton College in the 1890s. Fr. Hanepen or R. Hanepon (the unidentifiable giver with an illegible signature) may have wanted to give an aspiring student an idea of the University he was joining. It would have been a strange one

In Beerbohm’s only novel, Zuleika, the supernaturally attractive heroine pays a fatal visit to an Oxford where the University’s undergraduates drown themselves en masse in the Thames for unrequited love of her. The novel opens at Oxford station where Zuleika’s grandfather, the Warden of Judas College, welcomes her to Oxford. As they proceed by carriage to his College they pass the “high, grim busts of Roman Emperors” outside the Sheldonian Theatre. The stones sense the impending tragedy.

A moment later, a certain old don emerged from Blackwell’s, where he had been buying books. Looking across the road, he saw to his amazement great beads of perspiration glistening on the brows of these Emperors. – Max Beerbohm (Zuleika Dobson, 1911)

Zuleika Dobson montage

Verity, Univ’s Academic Officer, reads “Zuleika Dobson” on Broad Street; inscription in Alport’s copy; part of title page; excerpt from Alport’s copy (note that the Ashmolean referred to in the passage was housed in the building that is now the Museum of the History of Science).

Whether or not Zuleika Dobson was good preparation for Alport’s first year at Oxford, Zuleika waltzed back into his life in 1952 when he was invited to the opening of The Randolph Hotel ballroom freshly painted with 12 scenes from the novel by the cartoonist Osbert Lancaster.

Brideshead Revisited
Alport did not fall foul of any real life femmes fatale, instead he met Stephen Spender who arrived at Univ in 1927 to read PPE. When Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited was published in 1945, Alport may well have found resonance with Charles Ryder who meets the mesmerising Sebastian Flyte during his third term in Oxford. (Waugh was a near contemporary of Alport’s at Oxford, matriculating from Hertford College in 1922).

I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognised apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city. – Charles Ryder (Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945)

Alport’s well-read copy of Brideshead Revisited has his name pencilled inside the front cover.

Brideshead Revisited

Bruce, Univ’s Head Gardener taking a short break from his work in the Master’s Garden to read Alport’s copy of Brideshead Revisited; Alport’s signature in his copy; the contents page of the novel.

Letter to Oxford
It is difficult to tell whether Alport read his copy of T.H. Harrison’s polemical, self-published, Letter to Oxford. He may have picked it up on the streets of Oxford where its author sold copies from a barrow (wearing sandals with his toenails painted red).

Letter to Oxford

Cambridge University refugee and Oxford resident, Tom Harrison at 21 years old berated Oxford undergraduates for their lack of action and risk taking. This after the Oxford Union voted against the motion that the house would fight for king and country, twice. Harrison’s 1933 pamphlet accuses undergraduates of preferring masturbation to sex, indolence to activity and cowardly intolerance to full bloodied hatred.

It is unthinkable that these vile boys in Univ. should beat up Stephen Spender…But I am for intolerance. I am for beat ups. I am for good red hate. Put the miserable little man in the river. Put everyone in the river.– T. H. Harrison (Letter to Oxford, 1933)

Harrison would have approved of the actions of Zuleika Dobson’s admirers. After penning this damning piece of social observation, Harrison continued his career in an anthropological vein, founding the Mass Observation Project and gaining notoriety as The Barefoot Anthropologist.

The Masque of Hope
Univ appeared in a better light in Neville Coghill’s The Masque of Hope which was performed in Radcliffe Quad to H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth when she visited in 1948.

The Masque of Hope montage

David, one of Univ’s Porters holds the Masque of Hope in Radcliffe Quad where it was first performed; Costume designs for Fear and Gloom; Dedication in Alport’s copy from the Author.

Hope and her children overcome Fear and its minions (including Gloom, Rumour and Black Market), in action that is strangely resonant with today’s popular concerns, particularly those about the economy.  Notable among Hope’s children is Health; the NHS was founded the same year the masque was performed.

Though I’m their mother, do not be surprised

I took good care to have them nationalised.

– Hope (The Masque of Hope, Neville Coghill, 1948)

The Masque of Hope programme

The Masque of Hope programme front cover and acknowledgements.

In Alport’s copy, an excited Coghill exclaims, “Wishing you could have seen it!” Perhaps it’s time for Univ Players to give The Masque of Hope a revival. It might be a tough job to source the pigeons though unless the Oxford Premier Flying Club still exists (see picture of acknowledgements from the programme above).

Welcome to Oxford!
The Alport Collection boasts other Oxoniana. Here are some of the most colourful:

Oxford Folly and Pi in the High

The library has reading copies of some of the novels mentioned:

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (YIK/BEE)

Bridehead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (YIO/WAU)

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