Welcome to the Summer edition of Albion, which appears in the midst of what has so far been an unsettling season. Various attempts at writing other versions of this editorial came up against the paradox identified centuries ago by Fulke Greville, “Silence augmenteth grief, writing increaseth rage,” and so I eventually decided to abandon attempts at topicality —of which there are certainly more than enough in the mainstream media—and retreat into Albion-land. Twenty-five editions in, it is a very nice place, and despite the distracting news this is a pleasingly full edition.
In Art, Mark entertainingly examines the kaleidoscopic brilliance of Georgiana Houghton, a Victorian medium whose art anticipates Modernism, and relates some bizarre episodes from the nineteenth-century Spiritualist scene (involving the wonderfully-named Mrs Guppy). The appearance of a new collection of essays on Hogarth provides Paul with an opportunity to examine some of the artist’s less well-received works and discuss their place within his career trajectory. David Solkin’s new book on British art from 1660-1815 is an important new contribution to art history and places English art and artists in their wider European context. In his review, Paul discusses how English artists in this period consciously imitated new modes from the Continent.
Books contains a sensitive review by Paul of Michel Faber’s poems of bereavement, while Steve turns his attention to the short-lived career of that most stereotypically glorious of English monarchs, Henry V, who is the subject of a new offering by Anne Curry. In the process he examines how literary and film portrayals of Henry have shaped our perceptions of him.
Cinema contains a clutch of articles on a very diverse range of films. To begin with, Mary compares the new Jane Austen film Love and Friendship with its source material, Lady Susan, one of Austen’s early works, which is intriguingly rambunctious in comparison with her later novels. Neil provides a poignant assessment of the latest film from Andrew Haigh, 45 Years, which portrays the slow disintegration of a marriage under psychological strain and features brilliant performances by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. He also evaluates a new British Film Institute release of the radically imaginative Penda’s Fen by Alan Clarke, one of those inventive, challenging films that the BBC used to show in its seventies Play for Today series. I hugely enjoyed the BFI’s beautifully restored collection of Charlie Chaplin’s short movies for Mutual Films, which allows modern viewers to experience the great comic genius in unprecedented clarity, with delightful music from Carl Davis. The BFI also continues its interesting Flipside project, and I found some arresting moments in the 1960 B-picture Beat Girl.
Music, in folk/rock and classical, contains prolific reviews from James and Em. James provides extended reviews of The Move and Barclay James Harvest, among others, while Em delves into some of the more obscure corners of English music —the Essex composer Sorabji, for example— but also covers new releases of well-loved favourites.
In difficult times poetry is usually the best recourse. Apart from John Donne’s most famous sermon, some lines from the cautiously hopeful Upon Eckington Bridge, River Avon by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1921) have recently been turning in my mind. The poem expresses a characteristic English mood that can be traced even further back, to the Anglo-Saxon lament Deor, a catalogue of suffering in which every verse ends with the reserved, stoical observation “Þæs oferéode, ðisses swá mæg” —“As that passed away, so may this.” When said out loud, the original language contains the swish of the sea’s ebb and flow, and conveys a sense of calm in the face of trial from which we can probably all benefit this summer.