The Winter Albion features a new editorial direction for us. After the Summer edition we had the idea for a rubric which would allow us to feature other manifestations of culture alongside the more traditional categories of art, books, and so on. Material Culture is the result, and we inaugurate it with Mary’s investigation of that much-maligned fabric, chintz, which, although it signified a certain kind of provincial isolation and tragedy in John Betjeman’s Death in Leamington, was in fact intricately bound up with the world-changing forces of imperialism, industrialisation, and early globalisation. I follow this with something far more parochial, a look at English vernacular furniture in all its regional variety as revealed in Christopher Gilbert’s glorious classic on the subject.
The eighteenth century figures prominently in the art section, in two very different genres: marine painting —which, in Paul’s review of a new book on the subject, reveals itself to be unexpectedly rich, full of technical experimentation and subtexts about England’s status as a naval nation— and at the other extreme the affectedness and politesse of the conversation piece. (There was, after all, not much scope aboard ship for the sort of genteel display that Mark entertainingly skewers in his review of a new book by Kate Retford on the latter). Mark also assesses the career of that difficult character, the artist and provocateur Wyndham Lewis, as depicted in a recent Imperial War Museum North exhibition, and Paul tackles an impressive new volume of art history scholarship by Elizabeth Prettejohn which breaks new ground, in particular with some brilliant research on the Pre-Raphaelites’ influences.
In books, Mark provides a characteristically hilarious and poignant take on an important new post-war cultural history, The Tiger in the Smoke by Lynda Nead, which seeks to investigate the “structure of feeling” of the 1950s. Neil gives an incisive and sympathetic account of two books by the controversial and misunderstood comedian Stewart Lee, best-known, perhaps, for his discombobulating columns in The Observer.
As usual, music is full of new releases reviewed by Em and James, some more mainstream and others quite obscure, but all of them intriguing. Aficionados of English music will find much to interest them.
We wish all our readers a belated Happy New Year 2018, and encourage you to keep your collective peckers up.--The Editor