Tag Archives: AC

Theatrical connections: Gertrude Kingston and George Bernard Shaw

In 1941, Kingsman Judge Edwin Max Konstam C.B.E. donated to the College a collection of books and papers from the library of his late sister, the acclaimed actress Gertrude Kingston (1862–1937).

Portrait of Gertrude Kingston

Gertrude Kingston (1862–1937) Portrait by Sidney Starr, 1888

Kingston (born Gertrude Angela Kohnstamm) had many strings to her bow. Passionate about art from an early age, she studied painting in Paris and Berlin, going on to publish three illustrated books. She developed an interest in lacquer  work and exhibited her creations in this medium in New York in 1927. She was a popular public speaker, using this talent initially on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement, and later in life also for the Conservative Party.  She taught public speaking to others, and wrote many journalistic articles.

However, it was as an actress that Kingston was best known. Her acting career moved from amateur involvement as a child to professional work after her marriage in 1889, necessitated by deficiencies in her husband’s income.  Adopting Kingston as her stage name, she made a reputation for herself on the London stage, acting in Shakespearean and classical as well as contemporary roles. One of the most notable of these roles was as Helen of Troy in Euripides’ The Trojan Women. Kingston undertook this role at the suggestion of playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950).

Kingston appeared in a number of productions of Shaw’s plays, and seems to have been highly regarded by him. The pair were in regular correspondence, as the large number of letters from Shaw to Kingston amongst the papers given to the College by her brother testify. Kingston also owned several copies of early published editions of Shaw’s plays, some of which are likely to have been her working copies, since they contain performance annotations.

One of the earliest of Shaw’s plays in Kingston’s collection is a first edition of Press Cuttings dating from 1909. This play is a satire of the anti-suffragist lobby, so is likely to have appealed to her feminist sensibilities. The cover has a label proclaiming “Votes for women”:

Cover of the play "Press cuttings" by George Bernard Shaw

Cover of the first edition of George Bernard Shaw’s play Press cuttings London, 1909. Shelfmark N.28.5

The title character of Shaw’s play Great Catherine was written specifically for Kingston,  and in November 1913 she duly starred in its first production at the Vaudeville Theatre in London.

Great Catherine cast note

Note detailing the cast of the first performance of Great Catherine in 1913, with Gertrude Kingston in the starring role. From the flyleaf of Great Catherine, London, 1914. Shelfmark N.28.4

Shaw’s inscription on the half-title page of Kingston’s copy of Heartbreak House, Great Catherine, and playlets of the war identifies her closely with the lead role and underlines the high regard he had for her:

Inscription by George Bernard Shaw

Half-title page of Heartbreak House, Great Catherine and playlets of the war, London, 1919. Shelfmark N.28.2. Shaw’s inscription reads: “To Gertrude Kingston, Catherine the second, but also Catherine the first (and the rest nowhere) from Bernard Shaw. 10th Oct 1919”

Kingston’s personal copy of Great Catherine is an early unpublished rough proof:

Rough proof copy of "Great Catherine" by Bernard Shaw

Great Catherine, London, 1914. Unpublished proof copy. Shelfmark N.28.4

This is one of the volumes containing pencil annotations within the text, likely to have been made by Kingston in order to help guide her performance:

Textual annotations

Annotations to page 5 of Great Catherine, London, 1914. Shelfmark N.28.4

In 1921 Gertrude Kingston joined the British Rhine Army Dramatic Company in Germany. She reprised the role of Lady Waynflete in Shaw’s 1901 play Captain Brassbound’s Conversion, having first played this character in 1912. The front cover of Kingston’s copy of this play gives instructions in several languages on where it should be returned if she should happen to misplace it:

Front cover of Captain Brassbound's conversion

Front cover of Captain Brassbound’s Conversion, London, 1920. Shelfmark N.28.6

Tucked inside the play is a leaflet advertising this production and other forthcoming “Army amusements” at other theatres:

Theatrical leaflet

Front cover of Army Amusements leaflet, 1921

Theatrical leaflet

Centre-page spread of Army Amusements leaflet, 1921

Collections such as these provide a fascinating glimpse into a long-vanished theatrical world.

AC

References

Kate Steedman, “Kingston, Gertrude [real name Gertrude Angela Kohnstamm] (1862–1937), actress.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.

Friendship across the ocean: Mark Twain and Sir John MacAlister

A recent foray into one of our rare book storerooms for the purposes of cataloguing has brought to our immediate awareness a wonderful collection of books by Mark Twain, many of which feature inscriptions and quotes in the author’s own hand. These volumes were originally owned by Sir John Young Walker MacAlister (1856-1925), a close friend of Twain, and were given to the college by MacAlister’s son, Kingsman Donald MacAlister (1875-1968).

Photo of Sir John Young Walker MacAlister

Sir John Young Walker MacAlister  (1856-1925) Portrait photo courtesy of Wellcome Trust

Portrait of Mark Twain

Portrait of Mark Twain (1835-1910) from the frontispiece to Innocents abroad, London, 1899. Classmark: N.28.55

John MacAlister belonged to a profession dear to our hearts: librarianship. He was instrumental in building up the fledgling Library Association from a small London-based group into a large professional nationwide organisation, worthy of obtaining a Royal Charter in 1877. Editor of The Library Journal for many years, he wrote extensively about the principles of librarianship, developing many of the ideas which still underpin the profession today.

MacAlister had a wide circle of friends in intellectual spheres, including Mark Twain, with whom he corresponded regularly. They also socialised during periods when Twain was living in England, often getting together to chat and smoke. In June 1899, MacAlister took Twain to his gentleman’s club: The Savage. With very little prompting, the club committee duly elected Twain an honorary lifetime member. Noted caricaturist, Phil May (1864-1903) was also present and produced a cartoon to commemorate the occasion, which shows both Twain and MacAlister. The date of 1900 on the cartoon is thought to be May’s idea of a “prophecy” for the following year. It is unclear who the gentleman with the saw is supposed to be.

Cartoon of Twain and MacAlister at the Savage club

Cartoon by Phil May commemorating the Savage Club dinner on June 9th 1899. Illustration from: “The Savage Club: a medley of history, anecdote, and reminiscence”  by Aaron Watson: London, 1907

Twain was liberal in inscribing and adding pithy quotations to those volumes of his works which he presented to MacAlister. Featured below are just a  small selection of these:

Inscription by Mark Twain

“To MacAlister. “Truth is mighty and will prevail – the eternal years of God are hers” Bryant. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it Ain’t so. Truly yours Mark Twain. London, Feb. 19, 1900″ Inscription on the flyleaf of Innocents abroad, London, 1899. Classmark: N.28.55

Mark Twain quote

Inscription by Twain: “The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it he knows too little” On a sheet interleaved in a bound volume of chapters from Twain’s serialised autobiography. Classmark: N.28.57 

Mark Twain quote

“We often feel sad in the presence of music without words: & often more than that in the presence of music without music”. From another interleaved sheet in the volume of autobiography. Classmark: N.28.57

Several of the volumes are first or limited editions, including this copy of the first edition of the novel The man that corrupted Hadleyburg, with its colourful front cover:

Cover of "The man that corrupted Hadleyburg"

Cover of The man that corrupted Hadleyburg, by Mark Twain. London, 1900. Classmark: N.28.56

The signed edition statement of Innocents abroad identifies it as one of only 620 copies published:

Signed edition statement

Edition statement from MacAlister’s copy of “Innocents abroad” London, 1899. Classmark: N.28.55

Mark Twain was diligent in recording the story of his life whilst he lived it, but was determined that no memoirs be published in book form during his lifetime. In 1906 however, he did agree to allow some chapters of his autobiography to appear in serialised form in the North American Review. John MacAlister took it upon himself to collect these chapters and have them bound together into one volume. When informed of this, Twain, far from being cross, caused a special title-page to be printed for this unique volume, which he sent to MacAlister. The imprint states: “The only copy – MacAlister’s”.

Unique title page

Unique title page created by Mark Twain for John MacAlister. London, 1906-7. Classmark: N.28.57

Tucked inside this volume is the envelope in which the title page was sent. It is addressed in Twain’s own hand:

Envelope addressed by Mark Twain

Envelope addressed by Mark Twain, tucked inside N.28.57

The volumes of Twain’s works from MacAlister’s library clearly reflect the warm and longstanding friendship between the two men, which spanned many years and an ocean.

AC

References:

Death of a Librarian  by Lynn Macalister, accessed 24/04/2020

Mark Twain Day by Day by David Fears, accessed 24/04/2020

The Savage Club: a medley of history, anecdote, and reminiscence  by Aaron Watson, London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907.

 

Demonology!

On this, the spookiest day of the year, we thought we’d share some images and text from books which tackle the subject of demons, devils, spirits and witches; all creatures regarded as a serious threat to body and soul in times past.

Our first tome is The hierarchie of the blessed angels, a long didactic poem by  the playwright Thomas Heywood (ca. 1570-1641) which also features Lucifer and his fallen angels, and includes many folkloric anecdotes and tales of demonic creatures engaged in spreading dread and devilment. Note the tumbling angels falling towards a demonic mouth on the right hand side of the title page below.

Keynes.C.10.01 title page

The hierarchie of the blessed angels. Their names,orders and offices. The fall of Lucifer with his angels by Thomas Heywood: London, 1635. Keynes.C.10.01

One illustration within the volume depicts the Archangel Michael standing victorious over the defeated Satan and his minions:

The Archangel Michael
Page 494 of Keynes.C.10.01

A detail from another appears to show a court of horned demons in hell:

Demons in hell. A detail from Keynes.C.10.01 page 406

Elsewhere, men of God try to ward off the forces of evil:

Detail from page 462 of Keynes.C.10.01

The poem has many evocative descriptions of various creatures up to the kind of  mischief and mayhem you might associate with Halloween:

Pugs and hob-goblins disturbing people’s sleep with their revels. Extract from page 574 of Keynes.C.10.01

Spooky inhabitants of church yards. Extract from page 505 of Keynes.C.10.01

Another passage vividly describes the marks by which evil creatures may be identified, including hooked noses and flaming eyes:

Extract from page 581 of Keynes.C.10.01

One of the anecdotes later in the text tells of a German illusionist who performed an aerial display with a woman and child in tow, only to end his life being burned at the stake as a witch:

Extract from page 613 of Keynes.C.10.01

Other works on demonology held in the Library include a late 16th-century Latin tome by a German theologian, Peter Thyraeus (1546-1601) and an 18th-century pamphlet by theologian William Whiston (1667-1752):

Title page of Daemoniaci, hoc est: De obsessis a spiritibvs daemoniorvm hominibvs by Peter Thyraeus, Cologne, 1598. D.8.5/1

Title page of An account of the daemoniacks, and of the power of casting out demons … by William Whiston: London, 1737. Keynes.F.10.14/8

The latter work describes the manner in which demons were cast out in the early years of Christianity:

Extract from page 56 of Keynes.F.10.14/8

Whatever you are doing this Halloween, stay safe out there, and watch out for things that go bump in the night!

AC

A summer holiday in the Lakes

The ongoing project to catalogue the Library’s Bicknell Collection of books relating to the Lake District [see earlier blog post] continues to uncover fascinating items, not least among them being a small leather-bound, handwritten journal, documenting a family holiday in the Lakes in late August and early September 1877.

Cover of journal

Cover of Bicknell.148

The journal was written by one of Peter Bicknell’s uncles, Claude Lynnford Bicknell (1860-1882), who would have been 17 at the time. He travelled by train from his home in Beckenham, Kent, with his parents and his sister, Kathleen. Gentle sibling rivalry is suggested by a note on the back of the title page of Claude’s journal, which aims to dissociate it from his sister’s diary, referred to as “… the establishment round the corner.”

Note about Kathleen's diary

Bicknell.148 “N.B. I beg to state this journal has no connection with the establishment round the corner, viz. a journal edited by Miss KE Bicknell.”

The family were initially based at Cloudsdale’s Crown Hotel, in Windermere, moving after a week to the Borrowdale Hotel, Derwentwater.  Tucked into the journal are various travel ephemera, including this leaflet advertising the Crown:

Hotel promotion leaflet

Bicknell.148 Leaflet advertising Cloudsdale’s Crown Hotel

Claude has an engaging style of writing, and much of the pleasure to be derived from reading the journal is contained in his wry (albeit often rather snobbish) observations regarding the people he encounters, and his grumbles and gripes about topics such as the weather and the quality of the hotel food.

Observations on dinner in the hotel

Bicknell.148 page 2: “Dinner was so so, and the company decidedly seedy consisting of 4 old men, 4 old women; 3 young women with an old one in charge and […?] N.M’s: nearly all Yanks or Lancashires. After a very good desert, by far the best thing in the dinner, an old man got up & said a long and disjointed grace which of course sent Kathleen and myself into convulsions.”

Observations on a coach trip

Bicknell.148 page 14 “…all the rest of the seats were filled with Lancashire people, the men looking like farmers and the women like cooks … The coach is a very seedy turn out, drawn by 4 frightful screws.”

Occasionally Claude’s complaints veer into outright hyperbole, as seen most clearly in his reaction to heavy rain spoiling plans to go fishing on the first day of the holiday. With a wonderful turn of phrase he writes “Well, of all the horrid, disgusting, inhuman, blackguard days that were ever invented, to-day has been the very worst”.

Complaints about the weather

Bicknell.148 page 4. A very wet day

Better weather eventually allowed the family to make several fairly successful fishing trips, and to enjoy walks and excursions to local beauty spots. Claude took a turn rowing the boat during one fishing trip, and seems to have been very pleased with his performance:

A fishing trip

Bicknell.148 page 9: “My rowing was a very superior article and I caught a good many shell fish (crabs) & ducked every one in the boat several times.”

In typical teenager fashion however, he bemoans the decision of his mother to forbid him from going swimming:

Forbidden to bathe in the lake

Bicknell.148 page 12: “Bye the bye I wish to record here that during this day she refused to allow me to bathe in the lake. I think she imagines I shall drown in 20 or 30 feet of water because I am only accustomed to about 7.”

Illustrations in the journal are provided by engravings that Claude has repurposed from books or tourist pamphlets, and he is careful to note where artistic license has been employed:

Illustration of a hotel

Bicknell.148 page 18 “Something like only it is really much further from the lake”

The journal ends rather abruptly on Sunday the 2nd of September, with no indication as to whether this was actually the end of the holiday or simply the point at which Claude got bored with writing an account of each day. The final paragraph is slightly bizarre, featuring as it does, four alligators that apparently resided at the hotel!

Visiting the alligators

Bicknell.148 page 66 “During the day the number of people flocking to see 4 seedy little alligators which belong to the hotel was wonderful. They came in a string from morning to night.”

Claude went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, matriculating in 1879. That same year he was awarded a silver medal for political geography by the Royal Geographical Society. Sadly, he only lived a few more years, dying in 1882. It appears he was struck by a cricket ball at Fenner’s cricket ground in Cambridge. It seems likely that his untimely demise made his journal a treasured keepsake for his family, ensuring that it was preserved for posterity.

AC

 

Tales from the Script: Late Night Gothic Horror in the Library

Last weekend we put out an exhibition in King’s Library on the theme of gothic horror, marking two hundred years since the publication of the iconic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1797–1851) in 1818. We are delighted to share some of the treasures of that exhibition with you here.

Bony Tony, King’s Library’s skeleton, let loose on the world at large . . .

It all started with Kingsman Horace Walpole  whose 1767 novel The Castle of Otranto is considered to be the first gothic novel. It initiated a genre which became extremely popular in the later 18th and early 19th century, inspiring authors such as Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson. The aesthetics of the book continue to influence modern-day gothic books, films, art, music and the goth subculture.

Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Parma, 1791), sixth edition (Shelfmark: Keynes.E.3.23), title page and frontispiece

“The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate cloysters; and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to find the door that opened into the cavern. An awful silence reigned throughout those subterraneous regions,  except now and then some blasts of wind that shook the doors she had passed, and which grating on the rusty hinges, were reechoed through that long labyrinth of darkness.”

Horace Walpole, A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole …at Strawberry-Hill, near Twickenham (Strawberry-Hill, 1786) (Shelfmark: Keynes.E.1.15), title page

Walpole was so interested in medieval history he began building a gothic-style castle in Twickenham in 1749 which he called Strawberry Hill. The world-famous house and gardens are open to the public today. In 1786 Walpole published a description of the villa which included an engraving of what it looked like at the time, as well as an inventory of the furniture, pictures and curiosities it contained.

It is well known that Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey (published just after Austen’s death in 1817) is a satire of gothic novels which were very popular in the late 1790s. The character Catherine Morland has a passion for reading gothic novels, but gets into difficulties when applying their concepts to everyday life. Here is the famous scene in which Catherine’s friend, Isabella Thorpe, reads to her the titles of the ‘horrid novels’:

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (London, 1817) (Shelfmark: Thackeray.J.57.12-15)

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, title page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regina Maria Roche, Clermont (Dublin, 1799) (Shelfmark: Warren.D.1.Roc.Cl/1-2), title page

One of those novels, Clermont, was written by Regina Maria Roche (1764–1845), who is considered today to be a minor writer of gothic novels, but she was a best-selling novelist during her life. Originally published by the sensationalist Minerva Press, Clermont first appeared in 1798. It tells the story of the beautiful Madeline, who lives in seclusion with her father (the Clermont of the title) until they are visited by a mysterious Countess from his past.

 

Just after Jane Austen’s death in 1817 arguably the most famous gothic horror story of all time was published: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley began writing her novel about the young scientist who creates a grotesque but sapient human creature when she was only 18. It was published anonymously on 1 January 1818 when she was 20. Her name first appeared on the second edition, published in France in 1823.

The three volumes of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The modern Prometheus (London, 1818) (Shelfmark: Keynes.E.5.46-48), first edition.

“I beheld the wretch—the miserable monster whom I had created”

Famously, the story of the monster had its origins in a horror-story competition held in the Villa Diodati near Geneva, where Mary, her lover and later husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and others whiled away the evenings in 1816. Mary Shelley’s story has inspired countless comics, pop-up books, plays and films and continues to do so to this day.

Frankenstein, first edition, title page

Victor Frankenstein is repulsed by the monster he has created.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1832, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) also included in Faust Part II the creation of an artificial man, a ‘homunculus’, created in the lab by Faust’s assistant Wagner. Goethe was tapping into an older science, that of alchemy, for his story. The ability to make this small human or homunculus was often discussed in alchemical writings of the seventeenth century. The homunculus can also be symbolic of the creation of a spiritual being or of the philosopher’s stone itself. Below we see Heinrich Khunrath, a Christian kabbalist and alchemist. On the left hand side he kneels in prayer in his Oratorium, on the right hand side is his Laboratorium. Khunrath described the making of the homunculus with the aid of malign spirits as ‘Desperatio.’ This copy was owned by John Ruskin.

Plate from Heinrich Khunrath, Amphitheatrum sapientiae divinae solius verae (Hanau, 1609) (Shelfmark: Keynes.Ec.3.1.1.)

Below we see an engraving by Matthaeus Merian (1593–1650) which represents symbolically the text of the Latin Emerald Tables, a foundational work of transmutational alchemy attributed to the legendary Hermes Trismegistus. The layers of meaning in the Emerald Tables have been associated with the creation of the philosopher’s stone.

Musaeum Hermeticum reformatum et amplificatum (Frankfurt, 1678) (Shelfmark: Keynes.Ec.3.2.13), engraved plate

Probably the most famous alchemist was Isaac Newton (1642–1727), who had a laboratory in Trinity College, Cambridge. John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) wrote a celebrated paper on Newton, ‘Newton the Man’, published only after Keynes’s death in 1946. In it he described Newton’s alchemical writings, of which he had formed the outstanding collection (now at King’s), and explained how historians had contrived to ‘hush up’ this side of Newton’s activities. Newton, said Keynes, was ‘the last of the magicians’.

Newton’s translation into English of the Emerald Tables, (c.1678) (Shelfmark: Keynes Newton MS 28)

Back at King’s we have our own twentieth-century tradition of horror stories, starting with former King’s Provost M. R. James (1862-1936), who is most famous to the wider public for his published ghost stories which he would read to students at Christmastime (a tradition reinstated by our current Provost). Tim Munby (who was Librarian at King’s from 1947 to 1974) continued along this path with his collection of ghost stories The Alabaster Hand.

A.N.L. Munby, The Alabaster Hand (London, 1949) (Shelfmark: KL MUN 1), first edition and photograph of Munby

An overview of part of the exhibition

JC/PJ/AC

Pirate treasure (and other ill-gotten gains)

Interest in tales of outlaws, brigands and pirates is perennial, and recent cataloguing work has uncovered several volumes in the Thackeray bequest which provide early accounts of some of these fascinating and colourful characters, both real and fictional, including such luminaries as Blackbeard, Captain Avery and Robin Hood.

Perhaps most significant amongst these works is a large tome published in 1734, the title-page of which is pictured below.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 titlepage

Title-page of “A general history of the lives and adventures of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers, &c : to which is added A genuine account of the voyages and plunders of the most notorious pyrates…” (London, 1734) Thackeray.Q.29.9

This book contains selections from one of the most famous early works about pirates: Captain Charles Johnson’s 1724 work: A general history of the robberies and murders of the most notorious pyrates. Interspersed with these piratical histories are selections from Captain Alexander Smith’s The history of the lives of the most noted highwaymen, which was originally published in 1714. The book, which delights in embroidering and exaggerating its accounts of criminality, is also full of wonderfully evocative engravings depicting pirates, highwaymen and other assorted villains going about their dastardly business.  Possibly the most striking illustration is this image of the notorious pirate Blackbeard.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 facing page 203 Blackbeard

Edward Teach (c. 1680–1718) alias Blackbeard. Illustration facing page 203 in Thackeray.Q.29.9

An accompanying description in the text elaborates upon his fearsome appearance.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 page 207 Blackbeard's beard

Description of Blackbeard. Extract from page 207 of Thackeray.Q.29.9

Captain Avery, a sailor who turned to piracy after taking part in a mutiny, is shown against a backdrop depicting one of his most famous exploits: the taking, in 1695, of the Ganj-i-Sawai, a treasure ship belonging to the Mughal emperor of India. Having secured a vast haul of silver and gold, Avery and his crew went their separate ways, and Avery’s eventual fate is unknown, although Johnson’s account suggests he died a penniless beggar, having frittered away his loot.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 facing page 197 Avery

Captain Avery (c.1659-1696?) Illustration facing page 197 from Thackeray.Q.29.9

One of the highwaymen featured in this book is James Hind (c.1616-52), a royalist sympathiser who once tried (and failed) to rob Oliver Cromwell. Hind had the reputation of being a gallant and generous thief, who went out of his way to avoid bloodshed wherever possible and “was distinguished by his pleasantry in all his adventures”. However, his penchant for targeting rich republicans during the Protectorate meant that when he was finally caught he was hanged, drawn and quartered for treason.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 facing page 89 Hind

Captain Hind engaged in robbing Colonel Harrison. Illustration facing page 89 from Thackeray.Q.29.9

Criminal women are not absent from these pages. Pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read both get biographies, and there is a fascinating account of the exploits of Ann (or Nan) Holland, who robbed several families she worked for as a servant. After a spell as the wife of a highwayman, she teamed up with a hoodlum called Tristram Savage to rob an astrologer. The illustration below depicts this robbery. For reasons which are not explained in the text, Savage is dressed as a woman. Note the devil peeping out from beneath the tablecloth!

Thackeray.Q.29.9 facing page 372 Holland

Illustration facing page 372 from Thackeray.Q.29.9

Captain Johnson is a pseudonym. For many years, the true author was believed to be Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), the author of Robinson Crusoe, but more recently this theory has been disputed. However, Defoe did write several works about pirates, and the Thackeray bequest also contains a copy of the first edition (1720) of his novel:  The life, adventures, and pyracies, of the famous Captain Singleton. This contains numerous descriptions of the protagonist’s piratical activities. The title-page provides a neat summary of the novel’s plot.

Thackeray.VIII.11.11 titlepage

Title-page of “The life, adventures and pyracies, of the famous Captain Singleton …” (London, 1720) Thackeray.VIII.11.11

Singleton is kidnapped as a boy and eventually carried off to sea. After many adventures in the East Indies and Africa, he heads to the West Indies and takes up a life of piracy. This is done with great enthusiasm, as is related in the extract below.

Thackeray.VIII.11.11 page 182 extract

Extract from page 182 of Thackeray.VIII.11.11

Singleton and his piratical associates range far and wide, from the Indies to the coast of Africa and even into the Pacific ocean, taking ships belonging to a variety of nations and gleefully availing themselves of their valuables.

Thackeray.VIII.11.11 page 213 extract

Extract from page 213. Thackeray.VIII.11.11

So successful are they that in time their lust for treasure is sated, and Singleton and his crew trade piracy for the merchant life, using their ill-gotten gains as capital. Singleton eventually returns home to live a quiet life in England.

Thackeray.VIII.11.11 page 241 extract

Extract from page 241 of Thackeray.VIII.11.11

Finally, we have a two volume compilation of ballads, poems and songs about Robin Hood, dating from 1795. This includes attractive illustrations depicting scenes from the outlaw’s many adventures, like that pictured below, in which Robin tricks a bishop, and liberates him of his gold.

Thackeray.J.65.4 page 19

Page 19 of volume 2 of “Robin Hood: a collection of all the ancient poems, songs, and ballads, now extant, relative to that celebrated English outlaw …” (London, 1795) Thackeray.J.65.4

Perhaps George Thackeray’s habit of keeping two pistols at home to protect his household from thieves (see our earlier blog post “Who was George Thackeray?”) was fostered in part by reading sensational stories of crime and villainy like these!

AC

“Only connect”: Laura Mary Forster and Charles Darwin

Amongst our fascinating collection of books from the personal library of E.M. Forster (1879-1970) are some which were passed down to him by relations. These include a number of volumes which once belonged to his aunt, Laura Mary Forster (1839-1924):

Laura Mary Forster's bookplate

The bookplate of Laura Mary Forster (1839-1924)

In his biography of Marianne Thornton, Laura’s aunt, E.M. Forster provides a brief outline of Laura’s character:

“Miss Forster never married … she followed the Thornton pattern of intellectual and philanthropic activity, but she could be censorious of her elders, and is constantly taking them up and dusting them before she replaces them, with a word of c0mmendation, on their shelf. In her later life she changed – became gentler, wiser, greater.”

Some of the volumes formerly owned by Laura are especially interesting, since they feature bindings with blind-tooled and stamped leatherwork of her own design. These include a volume by John Ruskin on the medieval Italian artist Giotto, which has a design based around circles, making reference to Giotto’s reputed ability to draw a perfect circle freehand without the aid of a compass.

Binding of Ruskin's work on Giotto

Front cover of: John Ruskin “Giotto and his works in Padua …” (London: Arundel Society, 1854. Forster.RUS.Gio.1854)

It is possible that Laura’s designs were influenced by her association with the arts and crafts designer William Morris (1834-1896), with whom she is known to have corresponded and sent samples of her work. The Arts and Crafts Exhibitions Society exhibit for 1889 featured several of Laura’s book-bindings and also embossed leather chair seats produced by Morris and Co. from her designs.

Another work, a three volume set of “The life and letters of Charles Darwin”, which was given to Laura by the editor, Darwin’s son Francis, features a floral design based on poppies.

Binding of volume 2 of "Life and letters of Charles Darwin"

Front cover of volume two of: Francis Darwin (ed.) “The life and letters of Charles Darwin…” (London: John Murray, 1887. Forster.DARW.Lif/2.1887)

This set is one of the jewels of the Forster collection, since attached inside the front cover of the first volume is an autograph letter from Charles Darwin himself, addressed to Laura and thanking her for allowing him to stay at her house in Surrey in 1879. A transcript of the letter appears in a footnote on page 224 of the third volume.

Darwin letter page 1

First page of a letter to Laura Mary Forster from Charles Darwin, written in 1879

Forster.DARW.Lif1.1887 letter page 02

Second page of Darwin’s letter to Laura

Transcript of Darwin letter

Transcript of Darwin’s letter, from volume three of “The life and letters of Charles Darwin”

Laura was a lifelong friend of Darwin’s eldest daughter Henrietta, with whom she conducted a lively correspondence. Many of these letters survive, including some which convey Laura’s leaning towards Darwinism. Whilst stating that: “it is against one’s taste to come from furry animals, tidal or otherwise”, and remaining steadfast in her Christian faith, she nevertheless believed that: “it is of practical use to get a just estimate of one’s place in creation”. Other relations regarded Darwinism with horror, and Laura relates wryly that one family acquaintance: “…expects every time he comes down to see me hung up on one of the large oaks opposite our house…”

Bibliography:

Forster, E.M. Marianne Thornton (André Deutsch, 2000)

Kelvin, N. (ed.) The collected letters of William Morris, Volume II, Part B: 1885-1888 (Princeton University Press, 1987)

AC

 

 

Clashing inscriptions

Front pastedown of J.75.17 from the Thackeray collection

Front pastedown of J.75.17. From the Thackeray collection

This amusing exchange appears on the front pastedown of a 1794 edition of “The conduct of understanding” by John Locke. The inscriptions read: “C. Sturges K.C.C.  Recommended by Dr Glynn 1794” and: “You lying scoundrell Sturges. Dr Glyn does not recommend any such book”

1794 was the year the book’s first owner, Charles Sturges (1776-1802) joined the college as an undergraduate, and, as a newly minted scholar, he appears to have been eager – perhaps too eager – to show that his book purchases were guided by the advice of his betters. Being labelled a “lying scoundrell” seems to have done him little harm, as he later became a fellow of the College and also a clergyman, acting between 1800 and  1802 as curate of St. Mary’s Church in Reading, where his father was the vicar.

The author of the second inscription is thought to have been Dr Glynn himself.  Robert Glynn (1719-1800) was a colourful character in every respect.

Dr Robert Glynn. An engraving of a drawing by the Rev. Thomas Kerrich

Dr Robert Glynn. An engraving of a drawing by the Rev. Thomas Kerrich

A prominent and well respected Cambridge physician and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, his  habit of wearing a scarlet cloak and a three-cornered hat and carrying a gold-topped cane must have made him an easily  recognisable figure around the town. A Kingsman, Glynn lived in College and ran his practice from his rooms there.

Described in the Rev. Augustus Austen Leigh’s history of the College as: “the most active, eccentric, and benevolent of doctors”, Glynn’s popularity stemmed in part from his generosity and kindness towards the people of the malaria-ridden fens, who were encouraged to come to him for free medical advice. Fees were also waived for Cornishmen (Glynn was Cornish by birth), clergymen and old Etonians. A man of firm opinions, Glynn always avoided prescribing opium, advocated fresh air as one of the best remedies, and never bled his patients, despite this being a common medical practice at the time. He avoided regular mealtimes, preferring to snack on cold mutton kept in his rooms.

Memorial tablet in the College chapel

Memorial tablet in the College chapel

Eccentric to the last, Glynn stipulated that he should be buried in the College chapel  late at night, by torchlight, and that only College members were to attend.  He is memorialised by a tablet on the wall of one of the side-chapels. The name Clobery was adopted by Glynn after he received a large inheritance from a maternal uncle.

The book made its way into the collection of George Thackeray (1777-1850), who was Provost of King’s between 1814 and 1850. Most of Thackeray’s books were passed to his daughter  Mary Ann (1818-1879), who in turn bequeathed them to the College.

Sources: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,  “King’s College” by Rev. A. Austen Leigh, and Venn’s “Alumni Cantabrigienses”

AC