Saturday, 30 May 2015

Females of Note

Dearest Emily,


Now you are four- so grown up with a little sister to look after. I love this pic that Mummy shared when you got Annabel's new shoes.

When people ask me what you are like, it is quite hard not to seem biased seeing as how I'm your Grand-mother. However, I say with all confidence in my partiality that you have all the makings of a Woman of Note. My reasons for this are:-

1.Your sense of humour.
2. The way you address everybody you meet and include them in your world.
3. Your confidence and fearlessness.
4. Your sense of fairness.
5. Your kindness to others.
6. Your generosity.
7. Your appreciation of the efforts of others.
8. Your strong sense of self and doing things your own way.
9. Your whacky take on subjects.
10. Your trust in others who you know love you.

Those are stirling qualities my little one, I trust you shall use them well.

In fact, I could apply each and every-one of those to the lady whose photographs you and Mummy admire so much, and here's the one I have chosen for your birthday. I'm sure you remember- it is called 'The Rosebud Garden of Girls'.


Julia Margaret Cameron is a leading example of a Woman of Note. So much so, Em that there's a little band of us banging a drum to have here as our new £20 note portrait figure. There's her groundbreaking work of course- and you will be one who knows this well, having grown up around it. Wishfully, if the campaign proves successful, so will many more on our own British Isles. It's a sorry state that JMC is known and appreciated better in the States for example, on account of the Getty museum buying up so many of her prints. 
When the legendary Patti Smith played a private gig at Farringford a few years ago- her vocal appreciation of JMC as one of her muses, alongside Rimbaud, made it clear to me how across the Pond many grew up knowing her work as a matter of course.
That all aside Em, what was Julia really like as a person? Well, I shall relate some anecdotes from my studies of her, prompted by the qualities I admire in yourself...

Julia was often observed in letters by contemporaries as having a great sense of enjoying herself, and making others enjoy themselves too. Her 'other favourite poet' Henry Taylor remarked upon this in his autobiography. More-over he described Dimbola as a place where everybody was welcome, and laughter, and enjoyment abounded.
Julia presided matriarchal, commending the beauty around her, be it flower, maid or hat-box.
Dances were held in the 'Ball-room' (euphemistically called Em, and how she fitted in the musicians, and dancers one can only guess.) however, on long full-moon-lit summer evenings, these young guests, laughed and danced and spilled out onto the Down, the girls having been told to let their hair down by Tennyson- who declared it suited them better.
Mrs C was not afraid to speak her mind. A gathering in Mortlake included Tennyson and Ruskin, the latter being most voluble on declaiming that Photography was 'not Art'. This was too much for Julia, who argued the pro case vociferously, and Ruskin as vociferous back. A heated Julia, clumped him on the back, and he turned tail and fled, Julia following, bonnet ribbons trailling behind her.
They both returned arm in arm sometime later.
Anne Thackeray Ritchie gave testament to her sense of the comedic, her benevolence unbounded.
She was considered 'bossy' and her husky voice boomed, and cajoled others to do her bidding.
She once decided that Edward Lear needed a Piano up at Farringford, and promptly despatched hers, carried by several burly men, up Bedbury lane without waiting for agreement.
The Henry Taylor's returned home from holiday once, to find that Julia had been in and redecorated a room as a gift!
Marianne North, admired her cashmere shawl when she stayed with her in Ceylon, so Julia tore it in half and gave one half to Marianne, pulling her remaining half closer around her shoulders.
She nursed the dying Phillip Worsley who lived two doors away, and looked out for the young children of Horatio Tennyson, living at Terrace House, since their mother's death- who appeared to her a pallid colour and needed attention.
She adopted several children, invited her maids to table to dine, and generally threw convention to her bohemian wind.
Dressing in a style confined to her and her society 'Pattle' sisters, who had grown up in colourful India and chic Versailles, she did not fit in with the Crinolined and Corsetted fashion of the day. Ann Thackeray mentions her 'funny red open work shawl' for example. Her dresses were made by hand in the company of her sisters, from vibrant silks. Bright dye had just been invented and Julia loved a bright colour. She marked her waistline simply by a tasseled cord, more normally seen on a curtain.
My last anecdote today, is about her desire to please her adored invalid husband Charles Hay Cameron. Charles appears to have been a semi-invalid most of the time, fruitlessly applying for a governance post- having been a part of Macaulay's fall-out of favour over rule in India. Julia quietly kept the family purse together, with a mixture of extravagant largesse, under-cover earnings from her 'amateur' photography, and money from lodgings in a half of her house. 
Never embarrassing her husband as 'Head of the Family' she earned herself, and an example of her desire to please follows-
Charles liked to walk around the garden, as a semi recluse, he did not go out much, but liked to walk and study the classics.
Julia used stealth and planning, and whilst he slept had a great expanse of lawn laid overnight, to please her older husband whom she heralded as-
'Behold! The most beautiful old man on earth'
Here he is photographed by her,

I reckon she was a rather lovely force of nature Emily,

as I think you are too, birthday girl!

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxx

Monday, 25 May 2015

Telling Tales at the Bookroom- Down the Rabbit-hole again!

Dearest Emily,

Today we held an event in our new Secret Tea Garden. The idea was to hold a 'poetry Speakeasy', where people come along and hop up on the lecturn and read a bit of poetry- whatever they like, or just enjoy complimentary tea and cake.

It has been no mean feat turning a builders yard into a back garden- but as it is a real sun-trap, we thought we'd go ahead. Everything's a bit higgledy-piggledy- but that seems to work too.

We opened with Fraser Munro- who had composed a little verse following a visit one day. Here it is;

Then, I read the Jabberwocky for Hallam and Morgan ( you remember meeting them Em?)

So far so good, and dear old DBH read a scary poem, and Uncle Joe even had written some verses about being a teenager ( he wouldn't let me film him though Em (you know how it is with teenageboys.) A few more people came along, and then it quietened down- until teatime.

Suddenly we were in full-swing. Guests arrived, new ones we didn't yet know, DBH read again- some of his work this time, and a lovely lady called Elizabeth read a charming local story.

Then, all of an instant- everyone started 'story-telling', ghost stories, local stories, snippets of local lives. It was fascinating Em, people unknown to each other swapping tales.

So- we'll do this quite often I think- Tea-time Tales it is!

Maybe you'll be here for one of them, and can tell your own!

Your ever-loving Grand-mother,

GiGi xxx

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Forest of Parody- Tangled Tales

Dearest Emily,

Pricing up some new/olde books for the shop the other day, my attention was diverted from my task by three volumes in separate deliveries. I put them aside to delve into later.

The first caught my eye as you know I love to read anything by Anne Thackeray-Ritchie. This was a volume of Thackeray's works with a Biographical introduction by his daughter.

When I started to read 'The Roundabout Papers' (which were produced in 1861 when Thackeray was not content simply to be the Editor of the magazine,) something Carrollian seemed to be about.

Reading Anne's biography I found that these papers were autiobiographical- and had already read and remembered a journey that Anne had written about in her childhood to Oxford.

It appears from the text, and Dodgson's diary at the time- that Thackeray is referring to the reception at Oxford for him in 1857. Is the Polymath he is referring to- our Dodgson?

A little later he ascribes two similar characters as 'Tweedledumski, and Tweedlestein'.

Here they are-

First, Stuart Collingwood - The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll;

A note in Mr. Dodgson's Journal, May 9, 1857, describes his introduction to Thackeray:—

I breakfasted this morning with Fowler of Lincoln to meet Thackeray (the author), who delivered his lecture on George III. in Oxford last night. I was much pleased with what I saw of him; his manner is simple and unaffected; he shows no anxiety to shine in conversation, though full of fun and anecdote when drawn out. He seemed delighted with the reception he had met with last night: the undergraduates seem to have behaved with most unusual moderation.

And second;


‘Not long since, at a certain banquet, I had the good fortune to sit by Doctor Polymathesis, who knows everything, and who, about the time when the claret made its appearance, mentioned that old dictum of the grumbling Oxford Don, that "ALL CLARET would be port if it could!" Imbibing a bumper of one or the other not ungratefully, I thought to myself, "Here surely, Mr. Roundabout, is a good text for one of your reverence's sermons." Let us apply to the human race, dear brethren, what is here said of the vintages of Portugal and Gascony, and we shall have no difficulty in perceiving how many clarets aspire to be ports in their way; how most men and women of our acquaintance, how we ourselves, are Aquitanians giving ourselves Lusitanian airs; how we wish to have credit for being stronger, braver, more beautiful, more worthy than we really are.’

‘Ask Tweedledumski his opinion of Tweedledeestein's performance. "A quack, my tear sir! an ignoramus, I geef you my vort? He gombose an opera! He is not fit to make dance a bear!" Ask Paddington and Buckminster, those two "swells" of fashion, what they think of each other? They are notorious ordinaire. You and I remember when they passed for very small wine, and now how high and mighty they have become.’

The Roundabout Papers ( Cornhill Magazine from 1860/61 published 1863)

So, dear Em, could Mr Thackeray- as Mr Roundabout- be having a parody-pop at our Dodgson's personality bent for social-climbing? If so, it would not have escaped our wide-reading Don.

If so, would he have recognised the slight? Most probably, I think.

This example at the least, brings to our attention, the fashion for having a go at peers in print was the thing in the mid-Victorian social scene.

Dodgson's legacy is a children's masterpiece that has never been out of print. Something his parodying peers have not equalled.

Game, set and match to Carroll.

We like that idea, don't we Em!

See you soon,

your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx