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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Letters from a debauchee

The exuberant truffle hound returns! A previous book: Evan, Lord Tredegar, Selected Letters, Prose and Quotations: The Mystic Muse of Evan Frederick Morgan now has its natural sequel: Evan, Lord Tredegar: Further Letters and Prose Pieces with Anecdotes about Evan.

This book is a relatively slim volume but one which illustrates the level of detective work involved in sniffing out long forgotten letters to and from Evan Morgan. Like all the letters William Cross has unearthed in his various books, they provide glimpses into a highly febrile world of privilege and debauchery. And for those with google at their fingertips, the index references will take you down the rabbit-hole into long forgotten worlds. 

The Introduction begins with a quote from Oscar Wilde, ‘The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your heart grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.’ Evan Morgan yielded to everything and exhausted unimaginable wealth in the process. The nineteen-page introduction provides a brief account of Evan Morgan’s life, useful for those who know nothing about him. One quote sums it up, a warning from a father to his son:
‘You are old enough to know that there exists a man named Evan Morgan…and I tell you here and now that should you ever find yourself in the same room you are to leave immediately.’ Alan Pryce-Jones ‘The Bonus of Laughter’

 The letters that follow shed some light not only on Evan, but such interwar luminaries as Aldous Huxely, Ottoline Morrell and Lloyd George’s mistress, Frances Stevenson – who saw through Evan almost immediately.

There are anecdotes of Evan in Oxford’s Randolph Hotel opening the door to rooms service completely naked. It was likely he did this in most hotels, either from carelessness or in the hope of an obliging bellhop.

Whatever other letters remain, it is probable Will Cross will unearth them. He haunts Kew Gardens, sleeping between stacks in his hammock – when he’s not riffling through obscure archives of old country houses or haunting ancient dowagers. For those interested in what some of the great houses would prefer to forget you can check out his books on:

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Dogs and gorillas

When I was small I longed to have a dog, a wish never fulfilled. There were others in a similar boat and we competed with each other to walk the dogs of housebound old ladies. I don’t know if we were a blessing or curse, knocking at random doors and offering to take whatever dog they had for a walk. Sometimes we got paid, but that wasn’t the point. Nor were we being charitable. We were dogless and desperate.

I took every kind of dog, collies, terriers, alsatians— never a dachshund though. There’s always a line not to be crossed. Even now I can still feel the pull of the lead, becoming an extension of the dog pulling it.

But why wasn’t I born four or more decades earlier, born in small Glouceshire village of Uley. Dogs? Pshaw! Those kids played with a 200lb gorilla called John Daniels.

It was an orphan, its parents killed by French officers in the Gabon. A sailor brought it to London, where it ended up in the window of Derry and Thoms Department Store with a price tag of £300.  It was sold to a British Major who gave it as a present to his sister, Alyce Cunningham.

Alyce Cunningham took its training in hand.  The animal made his own bed, helped with the washing up and partook of afternoon tea. He was a versatile creature at home in town and country. Alyce Cunningham dressed him as a boy from very early on and allowed him to play with her niece and her friends. Occasionally he accompanied her in a taxi to London Zoo, where he’d ogle the ladies and urinate in front of male challengers. At night he was allowed three large whiskies to ease his melancholia.

The highlight for John Daniels, was his annual trip to Miss Cunningham’s home village of Uley in Gloucestershire where he learned to appreciate cider, rose bushes and playing with children, sometimes accompanying them on long walks—stopping at cottages he knew to have cider.
Eventually John Daniels grew too large for the aging Miss Cunningham and she sold it to Barnums circus who dispatched it to America where it sickened and died in 1921

Friday, 3 February 2017

The Future begins with F

Damnit to hell, have I missed a trick! Publishers, who are supposed to know about these things, have discovered that inserting a profanity in their book titles increases sales. The profanity has become a marketing tool. Apparently those titles using the F… word have increased threefold. The mere insertion of ‘Shit’ in a title will see sales double. So we see such books as ‘The Life Changing Magic Of Not Giving a F…’ ‘The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck (A sequel perhaps but pushing the boat out with just the one asterisk) Even grammar has become sexy, given that extra bit of swagger with titles like ‘F…ing The Apostrophe.’ And colouring books, too, are getting in on the act. with titles such as ‘Color Me F*cking Calm.’  Mercifully the Victorians were immune from this madness, though then again, some new editions of Dickens or Austen could possibly be sexed up. I'll leave you to consider the possibilities.  I certainly am, with my own work.
I can't afford to miss out on such marketing wisdom and am busy considering my options. 
‘Cheyney F…ing Behave,’ might work.  And if there is to be a sequel to Murenger Tales, it will likely be ‘More F…ing Murenger Tales.’

Yes, I have seen the future and it begins with F. In the immortal words of Country Joe McDonald and the Fish: 'Give me an F. ..