E.S. Turner

E.S. Turner wrote his first article for the Dundee Courier in 1927. He contributed to Punch for 53 years, and wrote more than eighty pieces for the London Review. His last social history was Unholy Pursuits: The Wayward Parsons of Grub Street. He died in 2006.

A multi-volume Anthology of Huntingdonshire Cabmen (‘sure to be the standard work on the subject’) was a running gag in J.B. Morton’s ‘Beachcomber’ column in the Daily Express. Compare and contrast, as the examiners used to say, with the anthology of Wednesfield trapmakers which occupies more than a hundred pages (with 70 more pages of non-Wednesfield trapmakers)...

In Finest Fig: The Ocean Greyhounds

E.S. Turner, 20 October 2005

The great ocean liners were the landmarks, grace notes and sometimes the agents of history. Born as I was in the Belle Epoque, admittedly in its dying days, I was well placed to marvel at the mightiest moveable artefacts of that time: the ‘floating cities’ of Cunard’s four-funnelled, five-syllabled fleet, Lusitania, Aquitania and Mauretania. They were the civil equivalent of...

When John Wesley visited Bath in 1739 to inveigh against the follies that flourished at hot springs, he was challenged by a fleshy, domineering figure in a white beaver hat, who demanded to know by what authority he was preaching. Wesley’s retort (or so he claimed) was ‘Pray, sir, are you a justice of the peace, or the mayor of this city? By what authority do you ask me these...

In Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall the society woman who ships girls to Rio is called Lady Metroland. Her husband, Viscount Metroland, takes his ‘funny name’ (as Paul Pennyfeather sees it) from a fantasy fiefdom of the London Metropolitan Railway, an advertising man’s conceit which tickled the imagination of the public in the 1920s. Metroland was the commuter catchment...

“With improved design was rekindled the passion for speed; road racing might be illegal but the solo ‘speed merchants’ were getting away with it. That early Lanchester which ‘sang like a six-inch shell across the Sussex Downs’ contained (in the back seat) Rudyard Kipling, a bit of a road-hog who had the nerve to proclaim that the car had at last brought a major blood sport to Britain … speed worship began to infect hard-headed urban councils, as one town after another began holding Grand Prix round-the-houses races, or even round-the-houses-and-into-the-trees races.”

Hating

Frances Donaldson, 16 October 1980

Britain lost three times as many combatant lives in the 1914 war as in the 1939 and, by the end of 1916, more than in all wars since the Plantaganets. (France lost twice as many as we did in the...

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