Happy New Decade to everyone! As I have mentioned before in this space, one surprise of running this magazine for more than fifteen years has been the discovery that we have a lot of enthusiastic and engaged readers on the European Continent, as well as in India, Australasia, and South America, who often use the magazine in their own research. I would like to take this opportunity to send you all our best wishes.
This edition contains a balance between the serious and the frivolous. It opens with Paul’s examination of London eighteenth-century coffee house culture, containing some delightful contemporary descriptions of their daily bustle and surprising revelations about the origins of various well-known national institutions. In Fiction, Mary contributes an appreciation of the Ashford sisters’ delightful literary oeuvre, with its many disquieting and hilarious observations of adult shibboleths as recorded by two very bright little girls.
I have been mentally grappling with Brownlow and Mollo’s It Happened Here for some time, an alternative history film which, despite the intervening fifty-plus years, still has the power to shock and disturb — a psychological time capsule from a period of recovery—and Cinema contains my attempt to understand it from a contemporary perspective.
Interestingly, this edition contains more articles than usual on music (perhaps because it hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak?) I vastly enjoyed unearthing the postwar piano recordings of Winifred Atwell, the Trinidadian superstar adored by a tired public eager for cheering up. Also in music, Mark examines a new and entertaining biography of New Wave figure Nick Lowe, while Em provides reviews of new releases, including many world premiere recordings, of lesser-known English classical music. James evaluates the latest offering from Pet Shop Boys (who, it appears, are still combining irony and warmth to great effect) and the debut album by country artist Gozer Goodspeed.
In Art, Paul reports on his visits to the recent blockbuster Antony Gormley exhibition, with its challenging installations, and Pre-Raphaelite Sisters at the National Portrait Gallery, which, he finds, fell somewhat short of its intention to highlight these artists as individuals in their own right.
There’s a heavy focus on English history in this edition, courtesy of Mark, who finds a surprising amount of mischievous humour in Westminster Abbey’s back-story. He also reviews a monumental new biography of the notorious Richard III, fifty years in the making, which answers your most burning questions about Richard’s character.
We hope that reading this edition has the same fortifying effect on you as a very large cup of strong, sweet builder’s tea. We look forward to seeing you all again in the summer.--The Editor