Delayed by a couple of heatwaves which made turning on the massive Albion desktop computer a somewhat flammable prospect, the summer edition now lands, bursting at the seams with a rich assortment of articles and interviews.
Given the grumblesome and pessimistic state of the world nowadays, we thought that it would be apropos, in the second of our two fifteenth anniversary special editions, to provide an antidote in the form of a generous helping of frivolity. The result is a collection of articles on twentieth-century light and humorous fiction written by women. Here we are delighted to welcome Helen Walasek, formerly of the Punch archive, who joins us to provide some background on E M Delafield’s work and social circle at the famous humorous magazine. Delafield’s canon came out of copyright in 2014, and I have taken the opportunity to republish three of her most amusing wartime sketches concerning the activities of the inhabitants of Little Fiddle-on-the-Green, a typical Southern English village mustering all its resources —and certainly all the village ladies— for the war effort. Paul then provides an appreciation of Stella Gibbons, nowadays only known for Cold Comfort Farm, which is, as he demonstrates, a great shame; Gibbons produced many other absorbing works. Mary takes a witty look at the plot formulas and gender politics of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, while I revisit my childhood in an overview of the delightful Just William stories by Richmal Crompton. To add to the gaiety, Mark reviews a new book on Victorian mass entertainment (Palaces of Pleasure by Lee Jackson), and in an article on the great English comedian Sid Field provides a hilarious blow-by-blow account of the all-singing, all-dancing turkey London Town. The new collection of British Transport films on Bluray from the BFI also contains much to entertain and delight, in a set that will gladden the hearts of train enthusiasts.
However, there is also plenty of serious content in this edition. We lead with an article marking the two-hundredth centenary of the Peterloo Massacre (16 August 1819), the subject of many new books and a film by Mike Leigh. Mark Jones applies a local perspective to the events of that terrible day in his major feature article, examining the buildup and the aftermath, and bringing the various actors to life. The English Gypsy community has traditionally (and for good reason) been somewhat reclusive, so I was delighted to interview Damian Le Bas at length about his superb new book The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain. Both the book and his interview responses are deeply thought-provoking on the subjects of family, tradition, and English working-class culture generally. Paul contributes a major interview with Doreen Fletcher, an artist who produced superb paintings under the radar for decades until discovered by The Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life fame, and she had many intriguing things to say about place, loss and inspiration. He also reviews new offerings on Elizabethan portraiture (Roy Strong) and the St. Ives set (David Wilkinson).
Books contains Steve’s review of the new Unbound anthology of working-class fiction Common People, and Paul looks at a new book about Johnson and his social circle by Leo Damrosch. Neil takes on one of the most interesting New Wave/kitchen sink films, Room at the Top, in a new 60th anniversary edition from the BFI, and in Television/Theatre, I discover just how excruciatingly difficult it is to write about Harold Pinter’s plays in my review of the BFI’s new DVD collection Pinter at the BBC. Finally, in Music, Em evaluates a number of recent classical music offerings by Elgar, Howells, Purcell and Britain.
That’s all from us. Enjoy the edition, and see you in January of 2020.--The Editor