Certain anniversaries both astound and delight. Can it really be fifteen years (to the very day, the 20th of January) since an extremely young version of myself timidly took the first edition of Albion live and was relieved to find that it did not explode? Yes, apparently it can, and the jubilation here at HQ is unconfined. We demonstrate this with a bumper crop of articles in this, the first of two special commemorative editions.
If I may first indulge in a purely personal reflection, I would like to say how very grateful I am for all my extraordinary collaborators at Albion, past and present. The magazine’s longevity, and the many friendships that I have made along the way, have enriched my life in countless ways. There can be few online publications that bring quite so much happiness to those involved, and Albion has become a warm and solid rock in all our lives. I am also delighted by its continuing and growing impact, particularly in the world of academic research, and its surprisingly large overseas readership.
For this anniversary edition we decided on two special dossiers. The hundredth anniversary of the Great War Armistice took place last November, so we planned a retrospective feature. Mark relives Armistice Day itself in his review of a new book by Guy Cuthbertson detailing how it unfolded, Paul provides an appreciation of the remarkable grit and humour evidenced in The Wipers Times, and I analyse the ways in which England, and in particular localised Englands, were portrayed in literature of the War.
We also felt it apropos to devote a special dossier to the topic of expatriate literature, ‘The English on the Continent,’ taking in travellers and soldiers, adventurers and settled families. Mary assesses Patrick Leigh Fermor’s travel classic A Time of Gifts, of which the main theme is the great kindness shown by local people to a young English vagabond during his ramble from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. In Homage to Catalonia, Orwell speaks for many other Englishmen who fought in the Spanish Civil War, and Steve evaluates the book’s reliability as an historical source. I revisit a beloved book from my childhood, My Family and Other Animals —which captures expat life on an Ionian island before the Second World War— and review Forster’s unusually light-hearted study of English travellers (mostly) misunderstanding Italy, A Room with a View. The churning cauldron of Berlin in the 1930s as witnessed by a visiting young Englishman is captured by Christopher Isherwood’s novels, and Paul examines the first of these, the unnerving Mr Norris Changes Trains. Books also contains Neil’s review of the first volume of memoir by Suede frontman Brett Anderson, Coal Black Mornings, and Mark evaluates the latest offering in Arthurian scholarship, King Arthur: The Making of the Legend by Nicholas J Higham.
In Art, Paul examines new books and exhibitions on two wildly different artists, Victorian dreamer Edward Burne-Jones and Quentin Blake, whose fizzily energetic illustrations we all remember from our childhoods, but who has been pursuing a parallel interest as a figurative painter. Film contains Neil’s take on the ruralist (and quite disturbing) new film Arcadia by Paul Wright, while I enjoy the inventive and occasionally quite bonkers creations of the Children’s Film Foundation. Finally, in music James examines the output of two former Strawbs members and the legacy of prog rock band Gryphon, while Em reviews releases of music by Rawsthorne, Holst, and Vaughan Williams, among others.
As a final note, I would like to mention that we are ready to recruit again: we’re looking for 2-3 new contributors from amongst our readership. There are openings in (but not limited to): reviewing contemporary English fiction; covering the long and fascinating tradition of English photography; and English social history. Either a relevant university degree or an enthusiastic autodidact background is required, along with a CV and a writing sample. Please send your expressions of interest to albion.magazine.online at googlemail.com.
Michael Lowe’s beautiful picture of Ludlow town is not entirely seasonable, but as it matches our mood, we couldn’t resist it. After all, spring is coming (eventually). Now I am off to raise a glass to the past fifteen years, to our much-missed absent friends Alex Flux and Fred Donnelly, and to the years to come. Thank you for all the joy.--The Editor