A fascinating sale of duplicates (as I understand it) of some of the best, most talented and ... that terrible word .... iconic posters commissioned and used by London Underground and London Transport in the past will be held on October 4 at Christie's in South Kensington and the pre-sale exhibition will be held there from September 28 to October 3. A number of the best graphic artists were given their first outlet or made successful by the remarkable policy of commissioning the best.

The three examples are respectively by George Sheringham, Andrew Power and Annie Gertrude Fletcher.

Curiously, the Daily Mail article gives no examples of Edward McKnight Kauffer, possibly the best of the artists whose career was made by London Transport. Here is one example.

We have just had Open House week-end in London and Tory Historian tried to visit a new place or two. Only one new place was managed: the fascinating and gorgeous Apothecaries' Hall.

Time was short so the second visit was to the Guildhall and the Roman Amphitheatre beneath the Art Gallery, both thoroughly recommended.

Naturally, there was a good deal of explanation of what the amphitheatre was used for and how it fitted in with Roman British life. Interestingly, the actual amphitheatres across the Roman empire were built out of public funds but the entertainment in them (if you can call events that involved the slaughter of hundreds of people and animals entertainment) was provided by rich nobles or even by the Emperor, especially in Rome itself. This was a way of bribing the populace, bread and circuses (panem et circenses) being a great Roman invention, much in use to this day.

Tory Historian, naturally, thought of the bread and circuses that were provided this summer by way of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, both descendants of certain ancient entertainments. There is, however, a great difference: they are still bribes to keep the populace happy but these days the bribes are paid for by the populace. They bribe us, thought TH, with our own money. In the case of those Games with our children's money as well.

Browsing through the internet Tory Historian came across this site: British History Online and found the London page of especial interest. The links read to a large selection of primary sources.

The US Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 17, 1787 and ratified by Conventions of eleven States. The first ten Amendments, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights (shades of the earlier English Bills) were adopted in 1791.

There was a time when every school boy and girl knew the name of the first railway casualty. William Huskisson, MP for Liverpool and former Cabinet Minister was attending the opening of the Manchester-Liverpool railway on September 15, 1830. He got out of his carriage and went to another one to speak to the Duke of Wellington (yes, yes, him again). As he climbed in he slipped and fell into the path of the Rocket, Stephenson's great engine, which ran over his leg and caused severe bleeding of which he died though he was immediately taken to a hospital by Stephenson himself.

That is all one mostly knew about him though Huskisson did have quite a distinguished career.

160 years ago, on September 14, 1852 died the 1st Duke of Wellington, one of this country's great military commanders and no mean politician. In fact, he is one of the few exceptions to the rule that military commanders do not make good politicians even though as they rise to the top they have to play at politics more and more.

His was the last heraldic state funeral held in Britain.

For a number of reasons, not unconnected with recent events, Tory Historian decided to look up the comment, ascribed to General Sir Charles Napier in William Napier's History of Sir Charles Napier's Administration of Scinde, published in 1851, on the subject of sati or suttee or, in plain words, the habit of burning of widows on their husbands' funeral pyre (prohibited by Sikhism, incidentally).

This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.
It seems that no suttee took place then or afterwards while the General remained in charge.

There is a strong possibility (though at present no more than that) that the archaeological dig in Leicester has, apart from making all sorts of other interesting discoveries, may have uncovered the body or, rather the skeleton of Richard III.

The University of Leicester has made a statement about it in which they explain:

We have exhumed one fully articulated skeleton and one set of disarticulated human remains. The disarticulated set of human remains was found in what is believed to be the Presbytery of the lost Church of the Grey Friars. These remains are female, and thus certainly not Richard III. The articulated skeleton was found in what is believed to be the Choir of the church. The articulated skeleton found in the Choir is of significant interest to us. Dr Jo Appleby has carried out a preliminary examination of the remains.
So this could be the remains of the last Plantagenet king and the statement proceeds to give reasons why that is very possibly so. What of that crucial question: was he a crookback or not? The fifth point made states:
The skeleton found in the Choir area has spinal abnormalities. We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance. The skeleton does not have kyphosis – a different form of spinal curvature. The skeleton was not a hunchback. There appears to be no evidence of a “withered arm”.
Before we all start rejoicing in our mighty victory over Tudor propagandists we need to point out that the skeleton will be subjected to rigorous scientific, including DNA tests. Apparently, the two Henries managed not to eliminate all those related to the York family and there are descendants of Richard's mother's family around. Results are expected in 12 weeks or so.

I have been reading a book by S. K.Romanyuk, called Russian London (Русский Лондон), the only guide to the London various Russians lived in. It goes through various themes: first contacts, the royals, the church, emigrés, ambassadors and so on.

Mr Romanyuk is the complete Anglophile. To him there can be nothing wrong with Britain and if there is a dispute he takes the British side, even attempting to exonerate the British authorities in the somewhat dubious story of Nicholas II and his family to whom Britain apparently refused to give shelter. A muddled story, as Mr Romanyuk rightly says and in his opinion if anyone needs to be blamed it had better be David Lloyd George.

Naturally there are a few pages about Peter the Great and his stay in London, particularly in Deptford but in other parts as well. Bearing in mind recent comments about London being put on the map in the last couple of weeks, I was interested to read that "at the time [Peter's arrival in 1698] London was Europe's largest city: with a population of 675,000 at the beginning of the eighteenth century".

After some description of the devastation caused by the Great Fire and of the rebuilding that was going on, Mr Romanyuk adds that London was also a great sea port. In the year of Peter's arrival 13,444 ships had visited it.

Tory Historian remains convinced that this is the most exciting news story of the last few weeks: archaeologists are close to finding the body of Richard III in Leicester, where he was buried after the Battle of Bosworth Field.

The dig to recover the body of the king, who was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth by Henry Tudor in 1485, has already unearthed the long-lost Franciscan Friary where he was buried.

The church, which is also called Grey Friars, was known to be where Richard III was buried but its exact whereabouts had become lost over time.

Now archaeologists say the dig will move into the third week and say they are getting ‘tantalisingly close’ in their search for the body.
The article gives a more detailed description of the finds already made, all of them of great importance to anyone who cares about England's (and Britain's) history, though why should an article, published on September 10 be giving information about an open day on the site that took place on September 8, is something only sub-editors of the Daily Telegraph can elucidate. The BBC, one may add, had it right: they reported that 1,500 people queued to see the exhibits and part of the site.

As a matter of fact, quite a few detective novels hide interesting ideas, particularly political ones with those that display them for all to see being the least readable ones. I was alerted to a little known writer of the thirties, R. C. Woodthorpe, by Martin Edwards, who is considerably better known as a writer and a critic. The particular book he mentioned was Silence of a Purple Shirt or, as it is known in the United States, Death Wears a Purple Shirt.

Dorothy L. Sayers was very complimentary about Woodthorpe's books and rightly so: they are highly amusing and the writing is sly, witty and polished. The plot of this particular one is, on the other hand, a little lame. The beginning is excellent in a Buchanesque way. Thee events coincide: the Leader (always referred to with a capital L) of a rather noxious movement, Keep Britain Free, whose members sport purple shirts, has been arrested for no apparent crime; a young boy has disappeared with his nurse and, almost certainly, it is a case of kidnapping; and an important member of the Purple Shirts has been murdered with another, less important member, being arrested on serious circumstantial evidence. The latter happens to be the estranged husband of the niece of Nicholas Slade, a writer whose satirical output is considerably less well known than his first, somewhat romantic novel, The Gods Are Just.

Nicholas Slade and his confidential clerk, Alfred Hicks, start an investigation into the murder as they both assume that the nephew by marriage could not have committed the crime.

Thereafter the plot disintegrates despite some very funny descriptions and episodes as well as a few barbed comments about the literary world. The solution to the crime(s) is neat though not altogether surprising but the holes in the plot are too big to overlook. Several important characters's behaviour remains unexplained; the reason for so much of the action in the past and the present taking place in a strange but delightful hotel on an island is not given; hints about certain people being possibly connected to the Purple Shirts are never followed up.

Most frustratingly we never find out how it is that a ridiculous organization that is full of self-important and childish characters, has no money and cannot impose discipline on its members despite the sub-military behaviour manages to build up a superb intelligence service. Whatever the Home Secretary does, wherever he goes, whatever instructions he gives, the Purple Shirt leaders know within the hour. Is there somebody close to the HS, or A Certain Person, as he is variously referred to, who is a member of the organization? If so, we never learn the truth.

There are, however, some interesting aspects to the novel. Nicholas Slade goes to the headquarters of the Keep Britain Free movement in Hampstead and finds that he dislikes them more than he had done before. Though the movement is a clear reference to Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists (founded in 1932 and the book came out in 1934) the political ideology that is propounded at their headquarters are similar to those one would have heard in various Communist organizations of the period. (Well, it's not like there is that much difference between national and international socialism.) The Leader's comment about writers becoming as important as dustmen, no more but no less so, in the new order remind one of Lenin rather than Mussolini or Hitler and the notion of the corporate state being of far greater importance than the individual is central to all those isms and ologies.

Listening to the mildly insane burbling of the Purple Shirts, Nicholas Slade manages to formulate to himself what it is he does not like:
Slade, feeling that the more he heard of the Purple Shirt programme the less he liked it, sat on. He sat patiently, and gloomily envisaged the promised new State, which would deprive him of his cherished Times, employ him in writing propaganda, and, if he jibbed, or incautiously made a joke at its expense, hand him over to a soft of drumhead court-martial and have him put against a wall and shot. It was a dismal prospect. 
Slade was not over much in love with the established order of things. Indeed, he had satirized it in many of his books. But there you were ... That was exactly where the shoe pinched. Slade could satirize the existing State, cartoonists could caricature it, the writers of funny columns could lampoon it ... and no one seemed to mind. 
Slade and Woodthorpe can see the difference in the basics but, for all of that, can also see that not everything is rosy in the garden.

After all, the plot is triggered off by a stupid and, probably, illegal order by the Home Secretary, not a man to be admired, to arrest the Purple Shirts' Leader, who bears the unlikely name of Duke Benedict (this was four years before P. G. Wodehouse's glorious creation, Roderick Spode) for nothing at all. Eventually, after several months in prison, he is charged with making seditious speeches. The only immediate outcome is that the Purple Shirts suddenly become quite popular as they are seen to be victims of the Establishment.

Slade is shocked but nor surprised to find that the political establishment that includes the Home Secretary and Scotland Yard is prepared to pervert the course of justice and to let an innocent man go to the gallows in order to protect the real killer's identity. In the end, the innocent man is released but the real killer goes unpunished except, possibly, in his own conscience. This is not a novel that supports the powers that be or the existing order of things. What it does support is the idea of how they ought to be.

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