When policemen first started to look ridiculously young, I can’t say it bothered me (besides, it’s good for them to be younger – fitter, keener, less cynical). I found the problem came when airlines began employing pilots whose voices hadn’t yet broken. There you are, huddled in your seat, trembly with fear and booze, and instead of being greeted by unflappable, grey-haired Captain MacIntyre, noted survivor, you get the reassurances of someone who graduated only last week from Lego to a 747 cockpit simulator. At such moments time moves with a charmless jerk. It did the same the other week while I was reading the personal ads in Private Eye. In what we may as well call ‘the old days’ there used occasionally to be coded pleas from girls needing money for an abortion. Nowadays they’re advertising for everything, and requesting sums it’s less easy to unravel. In this issue of the Eye, for instance, there was a ‘handsome’ student seeking £1,999 o.n.o.; a ‘desperate’ ex-RN officer wanting £10,000 sponsorship for a degree; a similarly ‘desperate’ Kate also needing £10,000; a ‘good-looking, tall, slim, erudite gentleman, 28’, trying to raise £20,000 to save himself from the effects of the Wall Street Crash; a musician who had fallen over his drums requiring £450 for a ‘new mouth’ (this was the only one that made me feel briefly Gettyish); and £300 wanted – sex and precise reason unstated – to ‘save face’.
[*] The Location Register of 20th-century English Literary Manuscripts and Letters: A Union List of Modern English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh Authors in the British Isles, edited by David Sutton, was published by the British Library on 25 March 1988 (1054 pp., £95, 1 870 773 03 9).
Vol. 10 No. 15 · 1 September 1988
From Montagu Bream
To bring a prosaic note to Julian Barnes’s brilliant account of the recently published location register of manuscript ‘material’ (LRB, 7 July), may I point to an instance indicative of the volumes’ ad hoc compilation. Stimulated by the recent World’s Classics edition of John Meade Falkner’s The Nebuly Coat, I looked up his entry only to find that the remarkable manuscript memoirs – drawn upon by Christopher Hawtree in his introduction – were not listed, despite his assertion of their being held by a public institution not famed for its obscurity. Incidentally, wasn’t E.M. Forster in Coventry at the time Andrew Motion’s letter arrived at King’s? Who knows: had he returned to read it, he might have been stimulated to write the long-awaited seventh novel.
Vol. 10 No. 22 · 8 December 1988
From Montagu Bream
I am glad to think that my ‘piece of information’ has been logged by David Sutton (Letters, 13 October). I am not exactly sure, though, what he means by future editions of the Register being available ‘online’; I suspect that this will be of little benefit to those of us out in the sticks. In the meanwhile, readers might like to hear somewhat sooner of another ‘piece of information’ that’s come to light since I last wrote and which, again, is not in the two volumes as published. Indeed, scores of pieces. It perhaps says something for literary – and even political – history that company records should receive scant attention. Among the Armstrong Whitworth papers in the Tyne and Wear archives are brilliant ones by John Meade Falkner which touch on matters not entirely business; and even those show all the sense of human nature and its strange workings which makes his fiction remarkable.
Vol. 11 No. 6 · 16 March 1989
From Frederick Barker
The correspondence about the papers of John Meade Falkner not listed in the Location Register (Letters, 8 December 1988) prompted me to see whether the volumes contain reference to his material among the Blackwood’s files at the National Library of Scotland. They do not. Whether it is a comforting thought or not, these papers show that publishers have always been dilatory in their habits. It is extraordinary that The Lost Stradivarius sold scarcely two thousand copies in the first fifty years of its existence. But, then, the Great War drew a veil over so much Edwardian fiction. There is surely a thesis to be written on the Nelson Library, which gives a marvellous survey of that world.
Newbold Heath, Leicestershire
Vol. 11 No. 17 · 14 September 1989
From Charles Welldon
The correspondence about John Meade Falkner (Letters, 16 March) prompts me to note that the 100 volumes of Bishop Hensley Henson’s journals, in the Dean and Chapter Library at Durham, are not listed in the Register. Was an atheist in charge?
Not only do these contain vivid glimpses of Falkner. They provide an unusual perspective on life towards the end of the last century and during the first half of this one. There is surely a need for a re-edited selection: the three volumes published in the Forties, though highly entertaining, do not contain all the colourful anecdotes. The Journal begins at much the same time Trollope stopped, and could be said to continue his spirit.