The English-Speaking Peoples

It’s always interesting to see what books looked like when they first appeared. Here’s Churchill’s masterpiece of popular history, the History of the English-Speaking Peoples

There are two abridged versions, the handsome The Island Race (1964) with copious illustrations, and History of the English-Speaking Peoples (abridged). They’re said to be just a bit dry, with a lot of Churchill’s personality and wit removed. Those who balk at the length might do better to try the four-volumes unabridged, in a good audiobook version.

Churchill’s set of books came to a halt as the year 1900 dawned. But a later masterly updating was accomplished with the further book A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900 by Andrew Roberts. Roberts is coming to speak in Stoke-on-Trent this summer, at the city’s literary festival.

Incidentally there’s now a book which calmly and systematically rebuts all the myths and sly slurs about Churchill, Winston Churchill: Winston Churchill, Myth and Reality: What He Actually Did and Said.

Doff Bros., 1905

Early examples of photomontage from “Doff Brothers, Manchester”, both postmarked 1905. They show that early commercial photomontage for printed postcards wasn’t just something confined to the agricultural grassroots in America. The Americans were also making folksy cards like this at about the same time, but showing things like giant corn cobs, giant chickens and fish.

Major new Oscar Rejlander exhibition

I’m pleased to hear that the Wolverhampton photographer Oscar Rejlander has a major exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, of all places. It appears to have travelled from its 2018 debut in Canada, so let’s hope it eventually crosses the Atlantic and reaches Birmingham. His work is far more human and warm than the cold and aloof psychotica made by Julia Margaret Cameron, with whom he’s commonly compared, and it should be a popular show.

Oscar Rejlander: Artist Photographer, on view 12th March – 9th June 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles. … The exhibition features 150 photographs”

“Mary Constable and Her Brother”, 1866.

“The Scholar’s Mate”, c. 1855 exhibited 1856. The governess-tutor appears pleased and amused that her clever girl scholar is about two moves from checkmating her brother at a game of chess, and she seems to be quietly warning the girl to remain ladylike about it and not to gloat and snook when she wins. (Boys were commonly dressed as girls until they were abruptly “breeched” into trousers, in those days, thus one assumes she’s playing her brother even though he wears skirts).

One wonders if his pictures titled “Wolverhampton Fair” and “The Fortune Teller”, of the same 1855 date, survived. Also how many other Wolverhampton pictures have survived. He spent about 15 years in Wolverhampton before fame hit. He’s said to have employed the fairground sideshow girls of Wolverhampton as models (“Madame Wharton’s Pose Plastique Troupe”), which probably added to the scandal around his famous breakthrough pictures known as Two Ways of Life.

The new show is billed as “the first major retrospective on Rejlander”, and there’s a sumptuous Yale University Press book to accompany it. Which might make the West Midlands curators pause for thought, about why we couldn’t have got there first and are instead being beaten to a major show on ‘the father of art photography’ by distant Canada and Los Angeles.

War in Cheshire

Now we know something about the locations for one of the Tolkien bio-pics. Not quite my own Staffordshire, but somewhat near-ish in what’s technically Cheshire. A south Manchester suburb stood in for the battlefield scenes….

“Tatton Studios was one of their key locations, with war scenes being filmed on one of its 24-acre backlots … played host to a cast of 150 First World War soldiers, 30 cavalry horses and a 300-strong crew, which included a dedicated SFX team to manage activity such as night shooting and also construction experts, who spent three months building the battlefield.”

This is a useful behind-the-scenes movie-making article, though there also seems to be a great deal of mindless legacy media blather in advance of this first movie. Such as dismal headlines like: “The Untold Truth of JRR Tolkien” and “Will ‘Tolkien’ bring the Lord of the Rings trilogy back to life?”.

Er, when did it die…?

But there are also currently some good thoughtful articles arising from the New York exhibition, such as the new “You’ve Read Tolkien’s Books — But Have You Seen His Paintings?” and “Tolkien’s drawings reveal a wizard at work”.