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MAGAZINE SPRING 2010 / ISSUE 7

£3.50

THE ART OF CHANGE The Library’s new spaces revealed

MOCK THE WEAK John O’Farrell on the state of contemporary satire

LAST WORDS James Fergusson traces the evolution of the obituary


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THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE / ISSUE 7

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Where was the Spitting Image of the Noughties? John O’Farrell offers an insider’s view of modern satire and examines why politicians today manage to escape attack

CONTENTS 5 EDITORIAL LETTER 6 CONTRIBUTORS 9 OVER MY SHOULDER

© Spitting Image

Fortnum’s archivist Andrea Tanner on how she uses the Library for her research

16

James Fergusson celebrates the sometimes obscure delights of the newspaper obituary, and the threat the genre currently faces

10 READING LIST Writer and broadcaster Alex Bellos selects some mathematical gems from the Library’s collections

12 MOCK THE WEAK John O’Farrell examines satire under New Labour

16 LAST WORDS James Fergusson on the golden age of the newspaper obituary

20 HIDDEN CORNERS

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The Library’s German collections have built up over the years into a fascinatingly diverse selection, from Goethe and Stefan Zweig to Günter Grass. Chris Schüler reveals his personal favourites

Chris Schüler describes the highlights of the Library’s German collections

24 THE ART OF CHANGE The new spaces created during Phase 2 of the building works are revealed and discussed

33 MEMBERS’ NEWS 36 THE HAY FESTIVAL 38 RESTAURANT LISTINGS

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39 DIARY

With Phase 2 of the Library’s building works now drawing to a close, Inez Lynn discusses the significance of the changes, and architect Graham Haworth talks about the complexities of the brief

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EDITORIAL LETTER

FROM THE LIBRARIAN As promised last time, this issue turns the spotlight on the Library’s building development project, revealing what has been achieved so far from two different perspectives: I was asked to explain what the physical changes will mean to the Library and its members; and, in conversation with Eric Parry, our architect Graham Haworth reflects on the challenges of designing for such a well-loved institution and the team’s approach to meeting them. Phase 2 of the project will be completed this summer and I hope many of you will be able to join us for some guided exploration of the new spaces and a celebratory drink. Your invitation is enclosed – do please remember to respond if you wish to attend as it is vital for us to have an idea of numbers beforehand. Summer is also the time for our Annual Lecture, which this year moves to Hay-on-Wye where it will form part of the Hay Festival, providing us with a much-needed opportunity for promoting the Library to potential members and for meeting current members in a relaxed setting. The lecture takes place on Saturday 5 June at 4pm and will be given by Sir Max Hastings. For more details and information on how to obtain tickets, please see p.36.

Cover Image Phase 2, Art Room. © Paul Raftery.

For those who find a certain fascination in observing the lives of others we reveal in this issue two very different approaches: John O’Farrell muses on the current state of political satire and the ways in which it has changed since his early days writing for Spitting Image and Have I Got News for You, while James Fergusson looks back on the history of writing and publishing newspaper obituaries. Finally, may I draw members’ attention to p.33 on which you will find our annual call for trustee volunteers and an outline from the Chairman of what is involved? Your Library Needs You!

Inez T.P.A. Lynn Librarian Correction: copyright of the George Finch photograph of Howard Somervell, Arthur Wakefield and George Mallory, printed on p.22 of issue 6 of the magazine, was mistakenly attributed to the Royal Geographical Society. We are happy to clarify that copyright is held by the family of the photographer.

Published on behalf of The London Library by Royal Academy Enterprises Ltd. Colour reproduction by adtec. Printed by Tradewinds London. Published 19 March 2010 © 2010 The London Library. The opinions in this particular publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The London Library. All reasonable attempts have been made to clear copyright before publication.

Editorial Publishers Jane Grylls and Kim Jenner Editor Mary Scott Design Joyce Mason Production Jessica Cash Researcher Emily Pierce

Editorial Committee David Breuer Miranda Lewis Harry Mount Peter Parker Christopher Phipps Erica Wagner

Advertising Jane Grylls 020 7300 5661 Kim Jenner 020 7300 5658 Emily Pierce 020 7300 5675 Development Office, The London Library Lottie Cole 020 7766 4716 Aimee Heuzenroeder 020 7766 4734

Magazine feedback and editorial enquiries should be addressed to development@londonlibrary.co.uk

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CONTRIBUTORS

Andrea Tanner

JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 2007

Andrea Tanner has worked as a professional genealogist at the College of Arms and as a historical researcher. Her Ph.D. thesis took her into medical history, which led to her creation of a website detailing patients in Victorian hospitals for Great Ormond Street Hospital. She has looked after the archive at Fortnum & Mason since 1996.

Alex Bellos

© Michael Duerinckx

JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 1993

C.J. Schüler is a freelance writer and journalist specialising in literature, travel and the arts. His work has appeared in the Independent, the Financial Times, the Tablet and the New Statesman, and he blogs about books on the Independent website. Co-author of The Traveler’s Atlas, he is currently Chairman of the Authors’ Club.

JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 2008

Alex Bellos was formerly the Guardian’s correspondent in South America and is the author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, and the ghostwriter of Pelé: The Autobiography. He has a degree in mathematics and philosophy, which provided him with the inspiration for his latest book, Alex’s Adventures in Numberland.

John O’Farrell

© Tim Goffe

C.J. Schüler

JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 1998

John O’Farrell was a TV comedy writer for ten years before the publication of his political memoir, Things Can Only Get Better. His published works also include three bestselling novels. An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain is published in paperback next month.

Graham Haworth Graham Haworth is a founding partner of architects Haworth Tompkins, whose projects in addition to the Library include the Hayward Gallery and the Royal Court Theatre. He has featured in several TV programmes on architecture, including The Art Show, Dreamspaces and Buildings That Shaped Britain.

Eric Parry James Fergusson

JOINED THE LIBRARY IN 1977

James Fergusson is a writer and antiquarian bookseller. His book catalogue Ahasuerus the Bookseller celebrated his first employer, Robin Waterfield. His next will be of Scottish books. He was founding obituaries editor of The Independent, 1986–2007.

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Eric Parry RA founded his award-winning architectural practice in 1983; its portfolio includes 5 Aldermanbury Square, and the restoration of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar Square. He currently serves on the Royal Academy Architecture Committee, among others.


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OVER MY SHOULDER Andrea Tanner, archivist at Fortnum and Mason, explains why the resources on offer at the Library are essential for her research

How frequently do you use the Library? Several times a week. I work in Piccadilly, and it has become my own private reference world. A quick change of shoes (am I the only person to trap an unsuitable heel in the metal flooring?), and there is heaven. What distracts you from your work? The stacks, especially during the Phase 2 work, when the resulting diversions meant I often got lost. It’s rather delightful when you are in the wrong aisle and something catches your eye.

Fortnum & Mason summer catalogue (1958), illustration by Edward Bawden.

I’ve used the Library to study ocean liners, chocolate, and

pigsticking in India

How do you use the Library? Do you study books there or take them home? What is your routine when you visit the Library? If I have checked something online, I usually make a beeline for the volume, then I look around, as there is always something useful nestling nearby. My usual habit is to browse the latest editions of learned journals, then the Biography, Topography, and English Literature sections. Although I mostly study at the Library, my desk at home has a healthy pile of books with the distinctive London Library label on them.

Do you generally use books on your particular subject from the Library, or do you explore other subject areas? Do you borrow books for pleasure as well as research? As Fortnum’s is more than 300 years old, research can lead almost anywhere. Recently, I’ve used the Library to study Everest expeditions, ocean liners, the botanist Frank Kingdon Ward, chocolate, the singer Al Bowlly, the history of winter sports, Mayfair in the Second World War, and pigsticking in India. I was researching a project on Fortnum’s Expeditions Department in the 1920s and 1930s, and also answering enquiries from customers on products sold to their families in the past. Most of the books I take out are for work, but I have begun borrowing novels that have long been on my ‘must-read’ list.

Do you have any favourite parts of the Library that you tend to go to? The third floor, where there is usually a free table. My secret vice is the old Country Life section in the basement.

What do you think is special about the Library? What does it mean to you? Where to begin? I came to the London Library rather late, after a lifetime of working in reference libraries, university

libraries and archives (now the noisy arena of genealogists: where do they think they are?). The London Library is a centre of exquisite civilisation. I’m not sure if it is the sense of ownership, the atmosphere, the wonderful staff or the freedom to browse in the stacks and allow curiosity to take the lead. It feels like home, and I am only sorry it took me so long to find it. Is there a Library neighbour you dread? Grunters, coughers? (No names!) Yes, but when one’s neighbour has a heavy cold, an irritating cough or a Johnsonian attitude to personal hygiene (you know who you are, gentlemen), it is easy to move. Thank goodness there are no numbered tables to keep one as trapped as St Teresa. Have you made friends or useful contacts through the Library? Yes to both, and I trust it will always be so. Has the London Library had any particular influence on your work? The Library gives me a degree of research freedom, and has certainly speeded up my output. Recently, I undertook an urgent public project on the history of Piccadilly. If it were not for the resources at the London Library, it would have turned out a half-cooked pudding, and Fortnum’s reputation (and that of its archivist) might have suffered as a consequence. THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 9


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READING LIST

BEHIND THE

BOOK © Michael Duerinckx

The writer and broadcaster Alex Bellos describes the titles he has found useful while researching his forthcoming book

My latest book, Alex’s Adventures in Numberland: Dispatches from the Wonderful World of Mathematics, is published by Bloomsbury next month. The London Library may have more stacks devoted to history and literature, but its maths shelves also contain much rewarding material. Number, the Language of Science by Tobias Dantzig (London 1962). S. Mathematics. First published in 1930 and still in print, this is a masterpiece of popular science writing. Written in unusually eloquent prose – not just because he was a mathematician, but because he was born in Latvia and only emigrated to the US in his mid-20s – Dantzig explores the cultural context behind mathematics and meditates on the power of numbers. It is aimed at the highbrow reader, but this shouldn’t put you off. Albert Einstein was a fan, calling it ‘perhaps the most lucid history of the number concept ever written’. The Universal History of Numbers by Georges Ifrah (London 1998). S. Mathematics. Ifrah was a French schoolteacher who wanted to know where numbers came from. The result is this gigantic, ambitious, sprawling tome that explains the history of the world’s most important number systems. I found the most fascinating section to be the pages on India, where the numerals we use today originated. (We call them Arabic numerals, but they are really from India.) The Indians invented the concept of zero, arguably the greatest intellectual leap in the history of mathematics. Ifrah’s research shows how much maths owes to religion and mysticism: the invention of zero occurred in a culture where ‘nothingness’ was at the heart of its metaphysics. The symbol for 0, for instance, was chosen not because it means ‘nothing’ but in order to represent eternity. 10 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics by Stanislas Dehaene (Oxford 1997). S. Mathematics. Dehaene – also French – started life as a mathematician, and is now one of the world’s most eminent neuroscientists. The book mixes psychology, neuroscience and the author’s understanding of maths in order to analyse why and how the brain thinks of numbers. While some of the neuroscience might be a bit out of date, the book is terrifically written and worth a read for the anecdotes – about animals that can count, babies doing arithmetic and why Asians are so good at numbers. ‘Mathematical Games’ by Martin Gardner, in Scientific American, 1957–81. Periodicals, folio. The most eloquent maths writer wasn’t even a mathematician. Gardner was a journalist and magic enthusiast who wrote this column in Scientific American for 24 years. His wit and erudition remain peerless; he inspired so many people to take up maths that you could make a case for saying he was the writer who most influenced maths in the last half century. Sometimes the joy of research is when the eye wanders: I loved reading these old issues of Scientific American. The 1950s and 1960s were the magazine’s golden years, covering breakthrough developments, for example in astronomy, rocket science and genetics. You can’t read them without absorbing the thrill of discovery and an excitement about the future – and a pride that scientists were frontline soldiers in the Cold War.

Liber Abaci by Fibonacci (London 2003). S. Mathematics. In his book on arithmetic, Liber Abaci (1202), the Italian author Fibonacci introduced Arabic numerals to Europe, which he learnt when he was growing up in Islamic North Africa. The book sounded the death-knell for Roman numerals in Europe. With a better system of numerals, arithmetic was democratised – previously calculations were the preserve of trained abacists. Fibonacci marvels at long multiplication and long division, and provides lots of arithmetical tricks and problems. Despite its historical importance, the Liber Abaci was only translated into English 800 years after its first publication. It is a fascinating text about what was in its time the most advanced scientific novelty: the system of digits from 0 to 9. ‘Perplexities’ by H.E. Dudeney, in Strand Magazine, 1910–30. Periodicals. H.E. Dudeney was a true British original. From a family of Sussex sheep farmers, he started as a clerk in the civil service aged 13 when he began to compose his own puzzles and submit them to magazines. He became Britain’s most noted deviser of maths puzzles and, even though he was self-taught, some of his puzzles touched on (and solved) deep maths problems. For 20 years he wrote ‘Perplexities’, a puzzle column in the delightful Strand Magazine (itself worth flicking through). ‘Perplexities’ was charming, insightful and presented terrifically creative puzzles, many of which are recycled today.


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MOCK

THE WEAK?

John O’Farrell looks at satire under New Labour and asks if modern comedians have found easier targets in the powerless

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hen they come to write the history books about the Labour governments, they will search through the libraries and the broadcasting vaults to see how New Labour was portrayed by the satirists and comedians of the day and will conclude that whole sections of the archives must have been mislaid. Because it seems to be one of the unwritten laws of the British Constitution that a Labour government will always endure less satirical scorn than a Conservative one. The dying days of the 1960s Tory government prompted a satire boom that spawned Beyond the Fringe, That Was The Week That Was and Private Eye. The arrival of Margaret Thatcher was the cue for the rise of political cabaret, Not the Nine O’Clock News and Spitting Image. But the most satirical sketch I can remember the impressionist Mike Yarwood doing about Labour’s Jim Callaghan was a song about whether or not one pronounced 12 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

Cast members of the 1963 season of the BBC TV programme That Was the Week That Was. Left to right: David Kernan, Kenneth Cope, Irwin Watson, Al Mancini, William Rushton, David Frost. © BBC Photo Library.

the ‘g’ in his surname. It’s a long time ago, but I don’t think it was this satirical assault that finally brought his government down. So where was the Spitting Image of the Noughties? Why was there no defining caricature of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown in the way that we remember the grey John Major or Peter Cook’s Harold Macmillan? As someone who switched from TV comedy to writing books at exactly the point that Blair was elected, I can hardly pretend to be blameless or neutral on this issue (especially since I have the bizarre qualification of having written jokes about and for the two Labour leaders). But even the comedy writers who preferred not to nail their political colours to the mast seem to have found themselves busy elsewhere during the past decade or so.


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In fact the satirical bull’seyes of the twenty-first century have been characters right at the other end of the social scale – the uneducated, working class and ignorant: Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard, Catherine Tate’s Lauren or Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G. That’s not to say that those creations aren’t satirical masterstrokes – crucially all of them possess an arrogance that gives us permission to laugh at them. But while the Labour government was talking about tackling poverty and education, we laughed at the poor and uneducated. Some of this must be related to the breaking of taboos. When Beyond the Fringe mocked such sacred cows as war heroes and the Church of England, there were howls of outrage; the laughter was all the stronger for the accompanying shock. When Spitting Image produced a puppet of the Queen Mother or Jesus, it made the front page of the tabloids (although no specific Jesus puppet was ever in fact made; as I remember it, the puppet-wrangler just wandered The character Vicky Pollard, played by Matt Lucas, from the BBC TV into the Writers’ Room clutching series Little Britain, created by the latex Mike Rutherford from David Walliams and Lucas. ©BBC. the band Genesis dressed in a white robe, and the producer said, ‘Yeah, that’ll do’). But by the twenty-first century there was nothing shocking about criticising the British Establishment. Jonathan Coe, whose novel What A Carve Up! (1994) is the definitive literary satire of the Thatcher years, reflects that audiences want to hear something new: ‘Perhaps contempt for politicians is so settled and ingrained that it almost seems pointless for writers to attack them,’ he suggests. Coe chaired a seminar on political comedy at last year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival. Apart from myself (invited to share my experience of writing for Spitting Image and Have I Got News For You), there was the great David Nobbs, who began his writing career on That Was the Week That Was, and Armando Iannucci who, perhaps more than anyone, has led comedy

The landscape has been further complicated by politicians “joining the satirati”, getting on to panel shows and into comedy sketches

audiences away from the politicians, as he satirised news coverage or the spin doctors who tried to control it. What was so remarkable about this panel, was that all four of us agreed that politicians should actually be held in higher regard by the British people; that most MPs are honest and hardworking and really ought to get paid a bit more for the incredibly long hours that they do. Coe added: ‘Audiences have become more politically savvy over the last 20 years – I think this all started with Yes Minister – and now they see the politicians as hapless front men.’ Iannucci asserted that his TV series The Thick Of It was more an attack on the system in which politicians find themselves, and that he hoped people might even feel sorry for the ministers being sworn at by Malcolm Tucker. Like Coe, the comedian and activist Mark Thomas thinks that it is a sign of sophistication in audiences that fewer comics tend to target the actual politicians. ‘The public understand that MPs have become cannon fodder. If you remember when New

The puppets of Neil Kinnock and John Major, from the ITV satirical series Spitting Image (1984–96). © Spitting Image.

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Labour first got in, the symbol of this was the pager …,’ he recalls. His Channel 4 programme managed to get hold of the pager numbers of every Labour MP and, during Jack Straw’s speech to party conference, he sent out a message instructing them all to stand and shout for more. And rather wonderfully some of them did. Engaging in what he calls ‘mischief’ is how Thomas has managed to extract laughter from more difficult targets, such as corporations and anonymous but powerful institutions. He is not interested in pointing out that Gordon Brown has a glass eye and a lazy jaw: ‘If that’s what you think counts as satire, you should just stick to Top Gear,’ he says. With books about the arms trade and the ‘global adventures of CocaCola’, he has aimed his invective at where he believes real power lies, even if it is harder to engage audiences with corporation law and international trade practices than with the easily recognisable individuals we elect as our figureheads. Chris Morris also found new targets beyond traditional politicians. In his controversial Brass Eye programmes, first broadcast in 1997, he satirised modern media obsessions like paedophilia and drugs. In the most memorable episode, he filmed the likes of Noel Edmonds and Sir Bernard Ingham warning of the dangers of ‘Cake’, which celebrities explained was ‘a made-up drug’, as they earnestly held up a pill the size of their head. The joke was on the TV personalities, at a time when celebrity seemed to be becoming a currency more valuable than political office. But there must also be a relationship between levels of public outrage and an eagerness to mock those in charge. During the extended honeymoon for New Labour, the absence of biting political satire was understandable. After the bitter

Cover of Private Eye, December 2005.

14 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

divisions of the 1980s and the sleaze of the mid-1990s, politics after 1997 seemed to be painted in gentler, pastel colours. Harry Enfield starred in an ITV adaptation of Private Eye’s caricature of Blair as the Vicar of St Albion, but it had nothing like the impact or resonance of his famous creations such as Wayne and Waynetta Slob or Loadsamoney. An animated descendant of Spitting Image, the show 2DTV ran for five series, but more fun was had with George Bush than the British cabinet. Jon Culshaw did a fine impression of Blair on Dead Ringers but, post-Spitting Image, traditional impressionist shows did not feel like they were pushing back any boundaries. Rory Bremner moved with the times, becoming aware that just doing the voices of political leaders was not enough, and his show became more research-based and analytical, with the performers John Bird and John Fortune (the great survivors of the 1960s satire boom) lampooning the figures behind the scenes in their sketches. Bill Dare, who produced Spitting Image, Dead Ringers and Radio 4’s The Now Show, wonders if the New Labour personalities themselves made them less susceptible to caricature: ‘Thatcher and Major could be captured in a one-word idea – “man” for Thatcher and “grey” for Major, ideas that came with a strong visual image,’ he says. ‘Blair seemed much more complex. The fact that there was perceived to be less difference between the political parties also made it harder to pin them down.’ But even after the political watershed of the Iraq war, ‘Teflon Tony’ and his cabinet managed to avoid a direct hit from the nation’s best satirists. The occasional television dramas that attempted to satirise the scandals of the Labour government seemed, well, laboured. In the theatres, various playwrights

Cover of the Private Eye annual, 2003.


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MOCK THE WEAK

A defaced Conservative campaign poster featuring David Cameron, 2010. © Seamus McCauley.

vented their spleens, but audiences generally nodded and applauded rather than laughed. At one point I found myself on a TV magazine programme alongside Rory Bremner, being challenged by a Tory member of the public, who demanded to know why satirists were giving this government such an easy ride. The automatic assumption might be that satirists tend to be left wing and thus pull their punches when it comes to Labour’s turn in power. But I think it goes a little deeper than this. Yes, most satirists that I have known are on the left, but they do not fail to hit the target with Labour governments because they like them; nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I think the opposite is the case; it is because they are so incandescent with rage at the sense of personal betrayal and disappointment that they lose the ability to be funny. And so the same acerbic wit that applies a deft scalpel to Conservative politicians lashes out angrily at Labour ministers with a blunt cudgel, and audiences turn away un-amused. The landscape has been further complicated by the politicians themselves ‘joining the satirati’, getting on to panel shows and into comedy sketches. In my book An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain (2009), I claimed (without a shred of evidence) that Charles Kennedy would not have won the leadership of the Liberal Democrats and Boris Johnson would not have won the Conservative nomination for London Mayor but for their repeat TV appearances on Have I Got News For You. More than one reviewer challenged this apparently unprovable assertion, but I am convinced that it was the ability of these politicians to be entertaining and appealing to a wider audience that won them the votes of ordinary party members who had barely even heard of the other candidates. Rather than fearing the most popular satire show of the 1990s, politicians were rather keen to take part in it themselves. The rehabilitation of Neil and Christine Hamilton began after they publicly took it all on the chin from the regulars on Have I Got

News For You. Politicians need to show they have a well-rounded sense of humour; mocking the opponents might get them a few points with their established supporters, but being prepared to laugh at themselves is what really wins over the neutrals. Blair went even further; while he was still Prime Minister he did the voice for his own appearance in The Simpsons and starred in a sketch with Catherine Tate for Comic Relief. His acting was so impressive during this performance that it left the rest of us rather uneasy about all those other times he had seemed so convincing and sincere about peace, poverty or the People’s Princess. All this has added to the uneasy sense that both satirists and politicians are part of one well-paid celebrity club. It is almost as if some politicians were looking up at the fame and status of the comedians, hoping that a little showbiz glamour might rub off on them, rather than looking down their noses at these angry outsiders hurling brickbats at the high and mighty. But as power has ebbed away from Westminster, the media has grown in influence and reach. That is the reason why the apparatchiks in The Thick of It are desperate to influence how ministers and policies are presented; because the fourth estate has eclipsed the other three. The best satirists have realised this and looked beyond personality and caricature to illuminate the new corridors of power, wherever they may be. Political satire is alive and well, because of, not despite, its lack of interest in party leaders. So if David Cameron wins power in 2010, he may find that things have moved on since millions of viewers tuned in to watch the rubber doubles of the last Tory cabinet. It might appear that twenty-first-century comedians have given their governments an easier ride, but in a sense they have been far more insulting. Highly respected ministers were shocked and offended to find themselves being lampooned in the 1960s. But, half a century later, being ignored hurts them a great deal more. THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 15


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LAST

WORDS James Fergusson on the rise to prominence of the newspaper obituary

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he last decade of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first will be looked on as a golden age for newspaper obituaries. The rules have all changed: once an obscure genre, obituaries are now a necessary weapon in any serious paper’s armoury. When the internet took off, British obituaries became reading material worldwide; obituary websites and discussion groups proliferated; and there was hardly a pay wall to be seen anywhere. Take the example of Simon NowellSmith, sometime Librarian of the London Library. Nowell-Smith was a lucky man. If he had died ten years earlier than he did, he would have been accorded not four newspaper obituaries but one – in The Times. Before he became Librarian in 1950 he had been on the staff of The Times, and he continued to contribute obituaries (anonymously) to the paper, and articles (often anonymously) to the Times Literary Supplement. When in 1972 the Library was undertaking yet another fundraising drive, it was he who was summoned to fill a double-page spread for the TLS: entitled ‘London Library occasions’, his article is triumphantly anecdotal. Nowell-Smith was not a great star; he was not a household name. He was an amateur in terms of librarianship (and served only six years in post), but he was an elegant writer and one of the most intelligent book collectors of his day, a Jamesian and a bibliographical scholar who put together an extraordinary collection of English verse from the Romantics to the moderns, many of the books with bravura associations. They were sampled in a memorable exhibition at the Bodleian Library in 1983, Wordsworth to Robert Graves and Beyond.

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Three years later, and ten years before his death, British newspaper obituaries were at a very low ebb. The Times, whose obituaries department had once been a well-oiled machine run on Whitehall lines, creaked awkwardly on, unbothered by competition. The historian John Grigg (then Chairman, later President of the London Library) was enlisted to spice up obituary coverage, only to cause outrage with The Times’s provocative notice for the dancer Sir Robert Helpmann. The Daily Telegraph produced the occasional single-column tribute to a county figure and the Guardian the odd few lines on a musician or sportsman by Neville Cardus, now 11 years dead. It was not a good time to die in the newspapers. In July 1986, however, two things happened. Hugh Massingberd, a former editor at Burke’s Peerage, went to the Telegraph, still in its antique palace in Fleet Street, as assistant obituaries editor. A passionate playgoer, he was inspired to

John Aubrey’s Brief Lives, 1972 Penguin edition.

subvert the traditional drear curriculum vitae of the newspaper obituary, he later said, by Roy Dotrice’s one-man show at the Criterion Theatre based on John Aubrey’s Brief Lives. When Aubrey/ Dotrice read out an ‘ineffably dull’ account of a barrister, and snorted, ‘He got more by his prick than his practice’, that, said Massingberd, was his ‘blinding light’. He gave himself up to anecdote thereafter. It was in the same month that I arrived at 40 City Road, next to the Dissenters’ burial ground of Bunhill Fields, as obituaries editor of a still-to-be-published new ‘quality’ newspaper, the Independent. An Oxford antiquarian bookseller in my day job, selling books to Simon Nowell-Smith among others, I took my inspiration from two historic enterprises, the Gentleman’s Magazine founded by Edward Cave in 1731, and the Dictionary of National Biography instituted by Leslie Stephen (another London Library President) in 1882. On my way to be interviewed by Andreas Whittam Smith, the new paper’s founding editor, I read a majestic biography of Stephen by Noel Annan (the then London Library President) on the train. The Gentleman’s Magazine obituaries were a wonderful institution, monthly lists of the interesting dead, a democratic calendar of curious anecdotes. The DNB, by contrast, appointed experts to write individual signed notices under the efficient and disciplined direction of Stephen and his lieutenant and successor Sidney Lee. After more than a century the DNB retains a timeless authority; wide-ranging, readable, a monument of original scholarship, it was one of the great achievements of the Victorian age. Massingberd went one way, practising


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The Gentleman’s Magazine obituaries were a wonderful institution, monthly lists of the interesting dead, a democratic calendar of curious anecdotes

an often hilarious take on the tired, smug, mechanical obituaries of old. He specialised in deadpan humour and English debunkery. He liked nothing better than Boy’s Own military heroes, appalling aristocrats with titles as long as their criminal records, dodgy schoolmasters, mad millionaires and femmes fatales from the chorus line. He admitted to a soft spot for unlikely Wodehousian peers: ‘The Master would undoubtedly have felt at home with say, the 6th Earl of Carnarvon (“relentless raconteur and most uncompromisingly direct ladies’ man”), the 9th Earl of St Germans (whose recreations were “huntin’ the slipper, shootin’ a line, fishin’ for compliments”) and the “Cock o’ the North”, the 12th Marquess of Huntly (“I still have my own teeth. Why should I marry some dried-up old bag?”).’ We at the Independent went another way. I insisted that all obituaries be signed

(a novelty for Britain), that we encourage a plurality of voice and a diversity of subject, that we be less doctrinaire and less parochial, and not concentrate only on the ‘officer’ class. We wanted authentic history, well written, and cameo biographies; we relished difficult academics, untranslated poets, untranslatable graffiti artists, Aboriginal dream-painters, Scotland’s greatest potato collector, Britain’s oldest working ploughman; and we led the field in commemorating a generation scythed down by the Aids epidemic of the late 1980s. We aimed our obituaries not at the readership of clubby coevals, speakers of code and partners in euphemism, but at a larger, younger audience. Obituaries were to be presented as normal newspaper ‘features’ and illustrated accordingly, not just with passport snaps but with portraits, paintings and cartoons, with photographs

illustrating the subject’s work. As for vital facts, the Independent’s freestanding thumbnail summaries at the end of each obituary have been imitated, in one form or another, all over the world. In 1996, when Simon Nowell-Smith died, he was noticed by all four ‘quality’ newspapers. The Times allowed him 770 words, which compares with the 740 they gave his predecessor as Librarian, C.J. Purnell, in 1959, or the 740 given his successor, Stanley Gillam, in 2004. There seems to be a fixed Times tariff for London Library librarians. Even the great Sir Charles Hagberg Wright, mentor to Purnell and the man who, over his 47-year reign from 1893, shaped the London Library as it still is today, only received 620 when he died in harness, hoping at 77 to reach the Library’s centenary year of 1941. But those words were swift, pertinent and honourable, and followed up within the week by two signed additions. The first was by the cricket writer Sir Home Gordon, writing ‘as an intimate friend’: ‘Those who only saw [Wright] in the Reform Club or the London Library had no idea what a playboy he was on his holidays, swopping yarns with Kerry peasants, insisting on riding a stubborn mule during a festa at Palermo, Above Stone angel, Abney Park Cemetery. © Judie Grylls. Left The Gentleman’s Magazine, a detail from the contents page of number XVII, May 1732.

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Simon Nowell-Smith’s first order of business was scanning the daily newspaper obituaries. He would explain he was checking to be sure he hadn’t died without knowing it

The portrait of Simon Nowell-Smith, which previously hung on the Library’s main staircase, and is now being relocated. Copyright unknown.

or teaching urchins to turn somersaults at Blois.’ The second was by H.A.L. Fisher (London Library President, writing the month before he himself died), recalling how Leslie Stephen ‘came home one day saying that he had secured a most wonderful young man’ as Librarian – and that Wright had once met Lenin at luncheon and thought him ‘dogmatic and mediocre’. The Telegraph gave Nowell-Smith 580 words, like The Times piece unsigned (but with no sign of any original work), and the Guardian 800, by Nicolas Barker (London Library Chairman and more usually an Independent contributor). Nowell-Smith was ‘small in stature but handsome (and well aware of his good looks)’, said Barker, and brought to the London Library ‘needed fresh air in abundance’. The longest obituary and, with The Times piece, the first to appear, was that in the Independent, 1,190 words by Claire Preston, Nowell-Smith’s sometime secretary and now Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. ‘Each morning,’ she began, ‘Simon Nowell-Smith’s first order of business was scanning the daily newspaper obituaries. He would explain that he was checking to be sure he hadn’t died without knowing it. That such a confusion might arise is not surprising, for if he had any views on the next world he must have imagined heaven as a place much like earth: a comfortable, hospitable house, filled with superb rare books, a serious cellar, set in a well-tended and abundant garden, and above all presided over by someone quite a lot like himself.’ 18 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

Of all these generous obituaries hers is the easiest-written, the most unbuttoned and accessible. One gets a true sense of this diffident, attractive man, happiest at home with his books or composing clerihews in Greek – and not so happy on the stairs of the London Library: ‘he would not permit himself,’ writes Preston, ‘to be compared to the famous men of antiquarian books; the charming portrait photograph of him which hangs alongside other luminaries such as T.S. Eliot in the stairwell of the London Library [it has since been relocated] worried and distressed him in the implied comparison’. The luminaries of the obituaries pages don’t all shine with so bright a light. One of the joys of obituaries is not knowing who you will find there (or whether you will find yourself – Robert Graves is said to have seen his own obituary printed on three occasions). In any given week there are not many household names, and it is the minor characters that make up the best material. The week that Nowell-Smith died, he sits in varied company in the Independent. Here are the Cambridge Anglo-Saxon professor P.A.M. Clemoes, by one of his successors, Michael Lapidge; Olga Rudge, the violinist and friend of Ezra Pound, by the poet Peter Russell (‘I found myself, ’ writes Russell, ‘caught between a woman who wanted her lover completely to herself and a legal wife, equally devoted, who wanted just the same thing’); James Kirkup on the novelist Claude Mauriac, François Mauriac’s son who married Marcel Proust’s niece; Tam Dalyell MP on Ron Hayward, General Secretary of the Labour Party; the racing journalist Tim Fitzgeorge-Parker on Brigadier Roscoe Harvey (‘the Prince Rupert of modern warfare’); and BBC historian Leonard Miall on the Boat Race

commentator John Snagge (famous for saying after his launch broke down, ‘I don’t know who is winning. It is either Oxford or Cambridge!’). This is but a single week, 14 years ago, a random handful of contributions from a few of the regiment of contributors the Independent recruited. There is still a dogmatic rift between the advocates of signed and unsigned obituaries. Times and Telegraph aficionados argue that anonymity lends objectivity. But is accountability not equally important? Once, all newspaper journalism was anonymous; now only leaders and (in some papers) obituaries hide behind a veil. Anonymity often conceals laziness; it can be a cover for personal malice. The best signed obituaries, I contend, are always better than the best of the unsigned; and they have a lasting veracity. Of those named writers from 1996, four are now themselves dead. Peter Russell was an Italy-based polymath, a mine of specific and original literary information, and Tim Fitzgeorge-Parker MC was a genial, sometimes obscene anecdotalist. But I think with particular fondness of James Kirkup, the sage of Andorra, author of countless obituaries, serious reader and rescuer of the forgotten; and of Leonard Miall, diligent, good-hearted, a lifelong old-school BBC man who looked like Alastair Sim. Both embraced the subtle art of short biography late in their careers; both gave gilt to the golden age. Today, alas, the climate is different. The worldwide web, which did so much to extend the reach of print journalism, is now strangling it. As newspapers cut costs anywhere they can, obituaries pages are squeezed and literary editors sacked. The army of expertise in which Kirkup and Miall so unusually marched will never have such freedom of exercise again.


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HIDDEN CORNERS

TEUTONIC

TOMES C.J. Schüler explores the literary delights to be found in the Library’s German collections

I

n May 1841, Thomas Carlyle, the founder of the London Library, wrote to his friend Karl August Varnhagen von Ense, the German writer whose pretty and vivacious wife Rahel, a convert from Judaism, ran the most important literary salon in Berlin: ‘The generous Varnhagen need not send me any more Books, because any good Book, German or other has now become attainable here. Some two years ago, after sufficiently

lamenting and even sometimes execrating such a state of matters, it struck me, Couldst not thou, even thou there, try to mend it? The result, after much confused difficulty, is a democratic Institution called “London Library”, where all men, on payment of a small annual sum, can now borrow Books.’ Like many Victorian intellectuals, Carlyle had a strong interest in German literature and philosophy. ‘Close thy Byron; open thy Goethe,’ he recommended in

his satire Sartor Resartus (1833–4), and corresponded regularly with the poet. Among the treasures in the Library safe are a folio of Goethe’s Balladen und Romanzen (1829–30), with Randzeichnungen (vignettes) by Eugen Neureuther, which was a gift from Goethe to Carlyle. The book arrived at Carlyle’s house in Craigenputtock in August 1831, just as he was leaving for London. ‘A hasty glance thro’ the Contents was all that could be permitted me,’ he wrote to Goethe. ‘I must leave my Wife to assort and admire those printed Poems and beautiful Randzeichnungen, in her mountain loneliness.’ Each page is a lithograph printed in a different colour, and the delicate fairy-like figures and plant tendrils, curling around the text of the poems, exerted a powerful effect on Jane Carlyle’s imagination in their ‘wild moorland home’ in Dumfries. ‘We sat looking at the randzeichnungen till Midnight (Jemmy & I),’ she wrote to her husband, ‘for I am as wakeful as if I had a Teufelsdreck [the stimulant herb asafoetida] in petto [in mind]. “When I lie down I say when shall I arise and the night be gone.” – and I am on foot again the first in the house – to do – what? To dream.’ From the outset, the collection included the works of Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Jean Paul, Heinrich von Kleist, and both Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt. The latter were among the ‘valuable selection of the best German authors’, donated by the Goethe, 1787, by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein.

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Library’s first patron, Prince Albert, along with a cheque for £50. On the Library committee were Christian von Bunsen, Prussian ambassador in London between 1842 and 1854, and George Henry Lewes. A lifelong scholar of German literature and philosophy, Lewes is remembered for his unconventional relationship with fellow London Library member Marian Evans – the novelist George Eliot – which began when they travelled to Weimar and Berlin together in 1854. His Life of Goethe appeared the following year. One curiosity of the period, of which the Library holds several copies, is Mary Schweidler, the Amber Witch, by Wilhelm Meinhold. This German pastor claimed that the story was a genuine account of a seventeenth-century trial for witchcraft on the Baltic island of Usedom, ‘printed from an imperfect manuscript’ found in a church there. Translated by Lady Duff Gordon and published by John Murray in 1844, its enormous success was scarcely dented when Meinhold announced that it was a hoax and that he had written the yarn himself. In 1921 the collection was enlarged by the purchase of the theological library

Title page of the Library's 1533 Luther Bible.

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assembled by the Methodist Thomas Robinson Allan (1799–1886), consisting of several thousand sixteenth- to nineteenthcentury books in Latin and German, many of them printed in Germany. Among its treasures, now kept in the safe, are two early German Bibles. The first of these, the Biblia dudesch dat erste deell, printed in Halberstadt in 1522, is only the fourth Bible printed in Low German. This hefty folio, produced in large Gothic type and illustrated with marvellous woodcuts, is one of only eight copies known. The other is a work of such historic importance that it’s hard to believe members can handle it: a first edition of Martin Luther’s translation, De Biblie uth der uthlegginge Doct. M. Luthers yn dyth dudesche ulitich uthgesettet mit sundergen underrichtingen, printed in Lübeck in 1533. The collection contains a couple of other curiosities relating to the religious reformer. One is a slim octavo pamphlet, dating from 1518, by Johann Egranus, pastor of St Martin’s church in Zwickau, entitled Apologetica responsio contra dogmata … with an introduction by Luther. The other is a bibliographic mystery worthy of Jorge Luis Borges: a vellum-bound copy of John of Damascus’s Ekdosis tes orthodoxou pisteos ..., printed in Verona in 1531. On the verso of the title page is a signature purporting to be that of Martin Luther, but now believed to be a forgery. On the inside front board, an inscription, half-obscured by a later label, indicates that the book was once in the possession of a seminary in Strasbourg. Two other stout folios open a fascinating window into the past. Georg Ruxner’s splendidly illustrated Thurnierbuch (a ‘history of tournaments in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation’) is a quixotically pedantic celebration of a world of chivalry that was already vanishing when it was printed in 1578 in Frankfurt. Johann Doppelmayr’s Historische Nachricht von den Nürnbergischen Mathematicis und Künstlern, by contrast, looks forward to a new world of science. Printed in Nuremberg in 1730, it contains what is believed to be

It’s hard to believe members can handle a first edition of Martin Luther’s Bible, printed in Lübeck in 1533

An illustration from the Library’s edition of Georg Ruxner’s Thurnierbuch.

the first ever illustration of a motor-car, a three-wheeler operated by a gent in a wig turning a crank handle. The Library’s collection of early twentieth-century German authors is a treasure trove. Stefan Zweig was hailed in his lifetime as the author of novellas of great intensity and psychological acuity; he only published one full-length novel, Ungeduld des Herzens (literally ‘impatience of the heart’, but translated as Beware of Pity), written in London at the time of the Munich crisis in 1939. I was unaware that he had finished another full-length novel until I discovered, in the complete German edition of his works on the Library’s shelves, the remarkable Rausch der Verwandlung, which remained unpublished until 1982. This story of a young woman given a taste of the high life by a rich American aunt before being returned to her dreary, circumscribed existence in post-First World War Austria held me totally enthralled. I am glad to say it is now available in a fine English translation by Joel Rotenberg, under the title The Post Office Girl (2008), published by Sort Of Books. It was not just Zweig’s heroine whose life was blighted by war and its aftermath, however, but that of a whole generation of writers. On the night of 10 May 1933, after a month of agitation for ‘Action against the un-German spirit’, Nazi students marched in torchlight parades to organised burnings of THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 21


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Herta Müller. © Getty Images.

more than 25,000 ‘nation corrupting’ books, many, but by no means all, by Jewish authors. A century earlier, with terrifying prescience, Heinrich Heine had written: ‘Wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen’ (where books are burnt, in the end people will be burnt). It was the beginning of a fatal haemorrhage of German culture that increased relentlessly as the Nazis tightened their grip on the country. Joseph Roth, in his powerful essay ‘The Auto-da-Fé of the Mind’ (1933) invoked the names of the authors, ‘Jews, half-Jews, and quarter-Jews (to adopt the parlance of the Third Reich)’, whose work was consigned to the flames by ‘the barbarians of racial theory’: the first German Nobel Laureate Paul Heyse; Hugo von Hofmannsthal; the novelists Alfred Döblin and Jakob Wassermann; the poets Rainer Maria Rilke, Karl Wolfskehl, Egon Erwin Kisch and Else Lasker-Schüler … Roth’s list is by no means exhaustive, but it is still too long to reproduce here, amounting to nothing less than a roll of honour of German literature in the early twentieth century. All these writers can be found on the shelves of the London Library. Roth believed that the true spirit of German culture had gone into exile with him, a sentiment shared by many émigré writers. Wolfskehl, who left Germany forever the day after the Reichstag fire, later wrote, ‘Wo ich bin, ist deutscher Geist’ (where I am, the German spirit is). His poetry, essays and letters are well represented in the Library; Margot Reuben, his companion in exile, was a regular visitor to the Library after the war. For many exiles, the Library, with its rich German collections and its tradition of tolerance and cosmopolitanism, provided a haven for that spirit. Interviewed on BBC 22 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

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television by Leslie Mitchell in June 1937, Zweig said he believed London to be the ideal city for a writer, one of the main reasons being the presence of the London Library. He had joined in March the previous year, giving his occupation as ‘author’ and his address as ‘49 Hallamstreet W1’. For some, exile spelled literary oblivion. The reputations of Zweig and his compatriot and friend Joseph Roth, both almost unknown in this country 20 years ago, have been revived thanks to the efforts of fine translators such as Anthea Bell and Michael Hofmann, and enterprising publishers such as Pushkin Press and Granta. Hans Fallada’s last novel, Alone in Berlin, has only just been translated and published by Penguin, more than 60 years after its publication. There are many more on these shelves who would repay the interest of translators and publishers: Wassermann – the author of The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1908), Leo Perutz, Franz Werfel, Franz Kafka’s friend Max Brod … Not all disappeared from view, however. Best known for his 1935 novel Auto-da-Fé (originally called Die Blendung, or ‘the blinding’), the Bulgarian-born writer Elias Canetti moved to London from Vienna after the Anschluss in March 1938, and became a regular at the Library. Arthur Koestler came to England in 1940 after being released from a French internment camp; arriving without papers, he was interned once again. By the time of his release, his novel Darkness at Noon (1941) had been published to international acclaim.

Another émigré of the Hitler years was Dr Schor, a librarian who had worked at the Austrian National Library. A man of deep and wide-ranging culture, fluent in Italian, Russian and Hebrew, he joined the London Library staff in 1944, and remained in charge of German book selection until the 1970s. Under his aegis, the Library acquired not only standard works of reference but also the work of the post-war generation of writers in West Germany, such as Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll and Siegfried Lenz, and the GDR, such as Anna Seghers and Christa Wolf. His policy has been continued, and the collections have been enhanced in recent years by acquisitions from university libraries reducing their collections, especially of East German literature. The Library continues to reflect developments in German literature and society, with contemporary writers such as Daniel Kehlmann, Jenny Erpenbeck and the 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Herta Müller, all represented. Fittingly, as we have just marked the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the most recent acquisitions include Dierk Hoffmann’s biography of Otto Grotewohl (2009), the first Ministerpräsident of the GDR, and Ines Geipel’s Zensiert, verschwiegen, vergessen (Censored, silenced, forgotten), published in 2009, a study of women writers in East Germany from 1945 to 1989. Below, left to right Günter Grass’s Die Blechtrommel (1993 edition), illustration by Grass; Stefan Zweig’s The Post Office Girl (2008 UK edition).


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THE ART OF

CHANGE Phase 2 of the Library’s Development Project concludes this summer. The Librarian, Inez Lynn, reflects on the story so far

Librarianship has always demanded an ability to reconcile opposites so I was not unduly dismayed to be exhorted by two members in a single week last year, ‘Don’t ever change’ and ‘Modernise or die’. Nevertheless, such forthright expressions of opposing views may serve to indicate the intellectual and practical challenges that faced us in devising how best to develop the Library. Now, several years on from that early planning, as the first two phases of construction draw to a close, what has been achieved and what do the physical changes mean to the Library? The first impetus for development was the basic need for more Left, inset, bottom left Overcrowding in Periodicals,1999; struggling to extract a book from under a desk,1999; elderly shelving bows under the strain,1999. Photographs © Inez Lynn. Bottom right Purpose-designed lecterns in the new Times Room. Photograph © Paul Raftery.

24 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

space to accommodate our ever-growing collections. By 1995 we had run out of space to shelve books in History and Science & Miscellaneous as well as periodical volumes of all sizes. At first, new additions were crammed in sideways on top of other books or piled up on the floor, damaging the books and endangering the passage of unwary members intent on browsing. Clearly this could not go on and eventually we had to move whole sections out of their rightful sequence and shelve them wherever there was room, even if this proved to be several floors away. Thus did the history of the Second World War come to rest in Fiction. In 1999, I embarked upon a detailed survey of the collections and the available shelving, measuring each and every shelf and its contents, and using spreadsheets to record, and extrapolate from, the information gathered. This gave us an accurate snapshot of the relative size of each subject in the collection; the proportion of small volumes (8vo) to large ones (4to and folio); and an estimate of the annual growth rate, subject by subject. Amongst other things this revealed that Art 4to would be full by 2000 and Art 8vo by 2008. By spending so much time in the stacks I also came to appreciate better the physical difficulties experienced by members and books alike: the books on top shelves which could not be lifted down because there was a hot water pipe in the way; the lighting that failed to illuminate the bottom two shelves of each stack; the large books buckling for want of adequate support on the


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SNAPSHOT OF COLLECTION SIZES IN 2000 Subject

Size (m)

Annual growth (m)

Full by date

Literature – 8vo Literature – 4to

3,594 110

49.0 1.6

2009 2016

History – 8vo History – 4to

3,148 663

35.6 4.4

1995 2016

Biography – 8vo Biography - 4to

2,264 42.6

30.0 0.9

2021 2005

Science – 8vo Science – 4to

1,934 216

22.0 4.1

1994 2000

Fiction – 8vo Fiction – 4to

1,368 61

13.7 4.9

2027 1998

Religion – 8vo Religion – 4to

1,044 102

9.3 0.5

2012 2025

Topography – 8vo Topography – 4to

1,036 287

6.9 3.4

2031 2018

Bibliography – 8vo Bibliography – 4to

354 83

6.9 1.9

2028 2002

Philosophy – 8vo Philosophy – 4to

221 8

5.4 0.3

2021 2005

shelves; the cramped and uncomfortable reader spaces blocking access to the books. It became increasingly clear that it wasn’t just more space we needed but a radical overhaul of the existing parts of the Library to create conditions more suited to the preservation of the books and the retention of members. The acquisition of the building which has become T.S. Eliot House provided the key with which to unlock the complex puzzle of Library needs. Work to convert it to Library use – Phase 1 of the development project – was completed in 2007 but could only leave us with a single narrow door between the buildings hidden away in the midst of Fiction 4to like something from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It is only now that full-sized connections through to the central stack and St James’s Square building have been opened up on 5 floors that its true value to the Library can really be appreciated. As with many buildings in London, the basement of T.S. Eliot House is more extensive than the floors above ground and we took an early decision to unify the basement area across the whole of the Library’s site by filling it with rolling cases to accommodate all of the Library’s journal collections. The Library maintains subscriptions to some 900 periodicals and learnedsociety publications and has back-runs for over 2,000. These are complemented by the provision of electronic journals (currently 234) and access through JStor to over 500 more from within the Library or from members’ desktops at home or work. The new arrangement means that volumes which have been scattered confusingly over seven floors can be reunited, and the separate Periodicals and Old Periodicals sections restored to a single A–Z sequence, making the extraordinary riches of our journals much easier to navigate. At the heart of the basement lie two new reading rooms: the Lightwell and the new Times Room. The Times Room was the first of the new spaces to be completed, with purpose-designed rolling-cases and lecterns to support the huge bound volumes of The Times. Although we can now also offer members

The Lightwell Reading Room. Photograph © Paul Raftery.

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electronic access to this material, the ability to see the laid-out page as it was on publication and discover what else was happening in the world at the same time still proves invaluable, as evidenced by the number of volumes awaiting reshelving at the end of each day. The room has been furnished with new equipment for reading microfilm and printing or downloading to computer from it. This will be of real benefit to those wishing to consult and print from our run of the Illustrated London News (1843–1968) and the Independent (1986–92), for example, as well as texts acquired on microfilm through Inter-Library Loan. The large layout table at the centre of the room has been designed to accommodate the 59 massive volumes of the Baddeley Prints, a collection of some 50,000 engraved portraits and views presented to us in 1922 by J.F. Baddeley in memory of his mother, Mrs Fraser Baddeley. Opening up the Lightwell between the St James’s Square building and the back stacks has not only brought natural light to the basement but provided an additional reading room with ten fully equipped reader spaces at the heart of the Periodicals collections. Here, as elsewhere, the new desks are generously sized and provide reading lamps, power-points for laptops, and wireless internet access. At ground level the space feels pleasingly hidden and enclosed but its lofty glass ceiling gives a sense of abundant light and air as well. Providing more space for readers was a second key element in our design brief as we have seen the number of members wishing to read and work on the premises rather than taking books home increase significantly over the last five to ten years. Most members are astonished to learn that when the Library was first founded 26 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

there was no Reading Room at all; in fact there was initially some debate as to whether such a facility had any place in the Library as conceived by its founders. Then, for over a hundred years, a single, gracious Reading Room on the first floor proved sufficient; but the advent of computers, and an increasingly sharp divide between those who depend on laptops and those who find the tapping of keys unendurable, highlighted the need for more reader spaces overall. To this end, Phase 2 of the development project sees the dedication of the whole of the first floor of the St James’s building to reading areas with the conversion of the Prevost Room, once the Library’s Committee Room, to that purpose. It is a lovely room, with its Adam fireplace and elegant library furniture and it is a real delight to be able to open it to all members. Like the North Bay Reading Room, it is equipped for laptop use, which means that the main Reading Room can once more be largely left to the gentle scratch of pen on paper. Of course, some members like to hide away in the stacks when writing, soaking up inspiration from the surrounding books away from the distracting thoughts of others, so, wherever alterations to the building have been made, more of these book caves have been created for members to find and make their own. Where once the Art Room marked the furthest boundary of the Library to the north, it is now a gateway to T.S. Eliot House, which allows the rapidly growing art history collections (21m a year) to spill out into new shelving in that building. Art books, in fact, present some particular challenges: they tend to be bigger – it is one of the few subjects where more quarto-sized books are added than octavo – and heavier. The specially commissioned shelving therefore had to be built and tested to withstand a load of up to 100kg per metre. Because the books are big and heavy, browsing at the shelf is both more necessary and more difficult, and so the room has been carefully designed to make this easier. At gallery level the central balustrade provides an ideal place to open and examine books before deciding whether to borrow them, and on the ground floor we have built in pull-out shelves at intervals for this purpose. And for those who wish to stay longer, there are four new reader desks.


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Far left, middle, left Prevost Reading Room; Art Room Gallery; the new Central Stair with the portrait of Mrs Valerie Eliot by Emma Sergeant. Photographs © Paul Raftery. Below Browsing in the Art Room (ground floor). Photograph © Paul Raftery.

Work on the Issue Hall has involved a careful combination of restoration and innovation. When completed in early summer, the hall will once more have matching galleries on each side and abundant daylight from windows at either end, regaining something of the stately look apparent in photographs from the early twentieth century. The whole area will be dedicated to member services and facilities, including much-needed cloakroom space under the gallery in the north bay with extensive locker provision opposite. This north bay of the Issue Hall fronts on Mason’s Yard and for the first time members will have the option of entering the Library from this side – particularly convenient for cyclists as the Library’s new bike store is there. This entrance will also provide wheelchair access to the Library for the first time, with a platform lift to negotiate the change in level from entry to Issue Hall. This is a huge step forward for the Library and, combined with the newly enlarged central lift, means that wheelchair users will be able to reach all of the Reading Rooms, the Art Room, Times Room and T.S. Eliot House as well as the new toilet facilities and bookstacks in the basement. At the St James’s Square entrance a new Reception desk opposite the inner door will provide a more welcoming approach for members and visitors alike, enabling prospective members to get a feel for the Library. Wicket gates will provide the necessary security and, beyond them, reader-services counters to left and right. The reorganisation of day-to-day tasks which this new arrangement will allow has long been awaited; it will improve our ability to continue delivering the high quality of service upon which members rely, and to adapt it to changing needs. Beyond the service counters, the space opens out into the Catalogue Hall, where both online and printed catalogues are available along with a bigger ‘New Books’ display and improved copying and scanning facilities. Here too will be found the new Library map and building directory, making sense of the complex interconnections of stack and reader spaces in the enlarged building. Views down into the Lightwell and across it to the book stacks not only help with orientation but also entice one further into the friendly labyrinth of books and ideas. As this phase of building work comes to an end, I have a

growing sense of excitement and anticipation but this is tinged with nervousness. Will members like what we have done? Will it work as we planned? Perhaps the most important thing is that we have designed-in long-term flexibility; for the art of change is to ensure that the essence of the Library remains the same by constantly making subtle adjustments to the services, facilities and environment. In this sense, the greatest testament to success would be for members in a few years’ time to feel as convinced as many are now that the building has always been just as it is. What matters is to continue to meet and even exceed expectations. So perhaps both members were right after all when they delivered their contrasting views to me with such passion last summer.

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THE BEAUTY OF

THE BUILDING

Graham Haworth talks to fellow architect Eric Parry about how his team has responded to the Library’s fabric, history and complexity

Eric Parry: You are well known for reworking and reordering buildings like the Royal Court Theatre, the Young Vic and others. Do you have a particular attitude to reusing old fabric? Graham Haworth: Fabric is as much to do with the character of an institution as the architecture that it inhabits. Our approach to begin with tends to be about investigating the institution and then it becomes archaeological, about the architecture, seeing where they overlap and how the two work together. There seem to me to be three general approaches to reusing old fabric. One is that you don’t do anything new and you just do a faithful restoration of what’s there. I think an existing building has to be exceptional and to warrant very little programmatic change for this to be successful – think St Paul’s or Westminster Abbey. The other two require more modification and you either produce a very new contemporary intervention that contrasts strongly with the existing – I think to some degree that the Sackler extension at the Royal Academy fits into that category – or you tap into the DNA of the existing and let it inform the character of the new intervention – Carlo Scarpa and his work at Castelvecchio in Verona is an example of this. Our approach generally tends to fall into this last category and tries to find a working language that fits the character of both the building and the institution. EP: When you take a project like this that’s woven into the fabric of London, I might have expected you also to mention people like John Soane. Here you’ve got a corner of one of London’s finest squares, a sort of keyhole into an urban block, and it seems to me that there is an urban dimension to the project as well. GH: There is a very London thing where the interior of the urban block is quite mysterious and hidden from the street, existing behind and often unrelated to a much more public frontage. A whole world of lightwells and lean-tos and various sorts of less formal structures. The Library has a formal response to the Square although it’s only in the façade – the frontage doesn’t actually give too much away about what unfolds within. Soane is a good reference: at Lincoln's Inn Fields it’s the same sort of aggregative interior space that’s 28 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

The upper lightwell offers glimpses through to older spaces. Photograph © Paul Raftery.

PROFESSIONAL TEAM Architects: Haworth Tompkins Cost Consultants: Gardiner & Theobald Construction Management: Mace Group Structural Engineers: Price & Myers Mechanical & Electrical Engineers: Max Fordham

going from the street frontage with formal entry spaces and rooms that look to the Square, becoming much more secretive and labyrinthine to the rear. And I think this is very similar to what happens at the Library, a layering of the interior of different periods and architecture. EP: What influences have you found within the Library as it stands and how might members see those influences reflected in the end product? GH: The pragmatism of the Library's building has been a big influence on the solutions we proposed. In some ways you could say it was quite brutal: the original Georgian house which the Library first rented and then bought was demolished in 1896 to make way for a quite radical steel-frame structure, with an amazingly bold bookstack made from metal frames with open grilled floors. It is easy to understand the Library's structure and how components work. We've picked up on that directness


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THE ART OF CHANGE and used materials like brass, waxed steel, nickel and timber, materials that patinate and age gracefully over time, and have avoided overtly new materials like plastic or anodised aluminium. We have tried to understand the complexity of the Library's spaces as an agglomeration of individual spaces that abut one another. The circulation routes around the building are notoriously complex, mainly because of all the half-level mezzanines in the stacks, but in a way that’s part of the beauty of the building. We didn’t want to bring in a new order of architecture that simplified that too much. We aimed to 'de-silt' the building slightly, making it easier and more intuitive to get around when searching for books, but to retain the complexity, so you could still get lost if you were not paying attention. It would have been a real loss, I think, if we had sanitised that feeling, that character, that unique atmosphere too much. EP: I was very struck by the fact that there was no sign of a crane or anything like that on the site as we walked round. I suppose the great thing about metal structures is that they can be broken down into small components and then assembled. So there is a sense of prefabricating units of a manageable size offsite and then making something bigger from them, rather like a book itself. GH: Yes, the excavation and demolition have been almost medieval, with teams of workers manhandling bags of rubble out through the building and bringing steel beams in through the smallest aperture imaginable. The fact that we didn’t have the luxury of extensive site access has given the project a very specific quality; there are no large prefabricated elements that could be seen to be inhuman or monumental. Historically, the previous buildings were constructed in the same way so I suppose unconsciously we've generated an aesthetic similar to that of the 1890s, 1920s and 1930s buildings. EP: It seems to me there’s a sort of inherent modesty in that which is extremely interesting. It allows for a more complex resonance with the other parts and yet, at the end of it, I don’t think it’s a modest project. I think when it’s all put together it’s going to be really rather radical. GH: It’s an accumulation of spaces but defined by an overall vision of how the whole thing fits together. If we didn’t have an overview of what we were making with these quite disparate parts, they might not coalesce into a whole. The use of models and 3D drawing techniques helped us to piece the spaces together. EP: I noticed that the Library’s President, Tom Stoppard, has been particularly critical about contemporary architecture in a number of instances. How is your relationship? Is the theatre a common bond and is there a kind of theatricality in the project that he and others can appreciate? GH: Well, he loves the Library and has been very involved in the project and raising funds for it from the very beginning. He talks about how architects should understand metaphysics, and I suppose examining the nature of the reality of the Library is what we have been doing. I think he also understands that because we design theatres as well, we do understand the complexity of settings, scenes and atmospheres. Where some architects are probably only interested in their own architectural agenda and vision, we tend to be a lot more discursive. EP: Have you done your own stage settings?

GH: No, just the buildings; we understand the architectural boundary! Though on this project we have collaborated with Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed to create a very specific setting for each of the loos. EP: You also mentioned the idea of the new Members’ Entrance from Mason’s Yard being like a stage door. What do you mean by that? GH: In theatres there is always a formal entrance that the audience goes through which is to do with a sense of arrival, going to the bar, getting a drink and the anticipation of what’s to come. In parallel with that there is also a back or side door where the actors and directors go in, which is much more low key, more subtle. So it’s this idea of having two ways into the building, one formal and one informal, almost secretive. There was an opportunity at the Library to keep the formal entrance on St James’s Square and link that with an entrance from Mason’s Yard which is much more downplayed, much more like a stage door. It’s a members’ entrance for people who know where they are going. I like the idea of the two flows of people accessing the same space from totally different urban experiences – St James's Square and Mason’s Yard. EP: What about the lightwell? It seems to be a sort of palimpsest of things that have happened to the building since its first stage in the 1890s.

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GH: Yes. Originally the lightwell was predominantly open. It probably acted as a very simple device to demarcate the transition from the house at the front to the stacks at the back. Over time it was filled in and used for all sorts of things, which meant you couldn’t see through it and you couldn’t orientate your way around it. By opening it up we’ve established a very clear point of orientation in the middle of the building. It has a specific new function at its base as the reading room for the Periodical collections, and it gives some interesting cross views from the main member spaces through to the book stacks beyond. This restores its functionality, but we felt there was an opportunity to emphasise the idea of the Library changing over time so we deliberately kept what we call the 'scar tissue', the marks of the previous interventions in the lightwell. We just patched them in so members can trace the outline of what used to be in there. We've very deliberately kept the original outdoor space legible; the roof is very simple so you can see over it from the main Reading Room, but it’s quite pragmatic, again made in the way we alluded to earlier of components of quite small size made into a larger whole. The perforated bronze panelling at low level provides a much more room-like feel at the base, but we still want it to be read as the old lightwell that the Victorians constructed, given a new use, and hopefully people

understand it as another step in the history of the Library. EP: What about reader spaces? Carlyle was notoriously fussy about his reading environment. GH: At the end of the project there will be a total of 150 reader spaces. There were originally 76, so we are almost doubling the number. The reader spaces that we have created fall into two types: formal and informal. There were 45 formal ones arranged in groups within specific reading rooms and this will be increased by a further 49. This current phase of construction creates three new reading rooms: the Prevost Room (which used to be a committee room), the Lightwell and the remodelled Art Room. In a later phase the new rooftop Reading Room will be located above the main entrance on St James's Square. These rooms provide a variety of different reading environments: the Lightwell is introspective, whereas the rooftop Reading Room will have its own members’ lounge and roof terrace with views out over St James's Square to Westminster. The other type of reading space is informal, usually located in the book stack areas, sometimes with natural light and a view, sometimes not. There were 31 of those spaces around the building before and we are increasing those by a further 25. These spaces are profoundly 'London Library': usually hidden away within the book stacks, individual desks and chairs that nobody can easily find or nobody initially knows are there.

FUNDRAISING Phase 2 is coming to an end – is the project finished?

roof terrace, providing an appropriate place for members to relax and socialise if they wish. These two new facilities should

No! Thanks to the remarkable generosity of the many donors

also add significantly to the Library’s ability to generate income,

who have contributed to our Development Appeal we have

as they will open up the possibility of hiring out space for talks

come a long way towards equipping the Library for the 21st

and receptions outside of opening hours. Gentle refurbishment

century, but there are still two main areas of work to accomplish.

of the 1st-floor Reading Room and an overhaul of the stacks

The first of these is the refurbishment of both the 1890s

above will complete the work.

stacks and the 1920s stacks at the rear of the building, and the

The successful completion of Phases 1 and 2 has made us even

construction of three extra floors of book stacks to fill the gap

more committed to delivering the full project as originally conceived.

between them. This will give us the necessary storage for the

Phase 1 – Purchase & fit-out of T.S. Eliot House

next generation and some very attractive reader spaces as well.

Phase 2 – Art Room, Times Room, Lightwell, Basement,

It is also vital for the preservation of the collections into the future. These stacks have not been thoroughly overhauled in almost a hundred years and it is here that the books are at greatest risk from ill-placed water pipes, overheating and lack of

links to T.S.Eliot House

Completed Completed

Phase 3 – New Courtyard Stacks and refurbishment of 1890s stacks

c£ 5m

Phase 4 – 21st-Century Reading Room, Members’ Room &

ventilation; browsing is most difficult here too because so many

Terrace, refurbishment of 1st-floor Reading Room

light-fittings are beyond repair and reader desks are few. The work

and stacks above

c£ 7m

required to put all this right is far greater than could ever be encompassed by routine maintenance. The final area of work involves the creation of an additional

Our most urgent need is now to fund Phase 3. Please do contact the Development Office if you are able to help either personally

‘21st-Century’ Reading Room on the 6th floor, taking advantage of

or by making suggestions of individuals, trusts or foundations to

wonderful views over London to Westminster and beyond.

whom an approach might be made (020 7766 4716; or email

Immediately below it will be a small members’ room with a large

development@londonlibrary.co.uk).

30 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE


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MEMBERS’ NEWS TRUSTEE VOLUNTEERS THE LIBRARY’S CHAIRMAN, BILL EMMOTT, ENCOURAGES MEMBERS TO CONSIDER THE CHALLENGES AND PLEASURES OF BEING A TRUSTEE Roughly one year ago, to my delight but also some surprise, I found myself at my first trustees’ meeting at the Library, not just completely new to being a Library trustee but also having to run the meeting as Chairman. So if any members feel worried about what it might be like suddenly to have to speak up as a new trustee, in front of 14 colleagues who seem more experienced and knowledgeable than you are, spare a thought for me. But don’t spare too many, for it was actually a strikingly pleasant and interesting experience. What I found, to my relief, was that not only are my 14 colleagues very capable, committed and well-informed, but they also represent a strikingly wide range of interests, personalities and backgrounds. There are professional writers and schoolteachers, there are financial people and civil servants, people with experience of other charities, architects, lawyers and publishers, and of course in my case a journalist. The ages range broadly, and we have a good mixture of women and men. All of which is just as it should be, for the committee of trustees needs both to provide a good representation of the Library’s membership and to provide the skills and expertise necessary for us properly to fulfill our governance obligations under charity law and our own Royal Charter. One aspect of the committee which I found reassuring was that as well as a thorough and fair selection procedure it has clear rules about rotation, in order to avoid complacency or ‘group-think’. This is both reassuring and faintly alarming, as no sooner have I got to know some fellow trustees but their four-year term has come to an end and it is time to replace them. That is exactly where we are now: two trustees retire in November under the rotation rules, which is why we are again advertising for new volunteers. I do hope that many members will seriously consider putting themselves forward. As Chairman, I am trying to make our meetings as efficient as possible while also being enjoyable and having a very open discussion. The great benefit of having a body of trustees is that the Library can get a broad discussion going on the most important topics, allowing everyone to have their say but also enabling new ideas to be sparked off. It is, in other words, an extremely collegiate body. Since taking over as Chairman last year, I have made a few changes in order to make sure that we focus adequately on the governance tasks expected of us by the Charity Commission and under the law. So there is now a new ‘risk and governance committee’, led by our Vice-Chair, Graeme Cottam, and a new remuneration committee, responsible for overseeing the Librarian’s pay and terms as well as the overall salary structure of the

Library, which I chair. Topics outside the trustees’ governance remit, such as maintaining the collections, are delegated to the Librarian and her staff, but she is using trustees for such purposes on more informal advisory groups. Always, there are big issues to be considered as well as smaller ones. We have to ensure that membership marketing is heading in the right direction, that the Library’s finances are sound and that it continues to be able to raise money for our capital projects such as the building, and that any legal or other risks are being properly handled. But also we have to think ahead, about what it will mean to be a Library in this increasingly digital age. It is important stuff, but also fascinating and often good fun.

WANTED: TRUSTEE VOLUNTEERS Could you • Think strategically about the long-term interests of the Library? • Listen to others’ views and contribute your own to help reach decisions collectively? • Collaborate effectively with the Library’s professional staff? • Promote the Library and speak up for it at critical moments? If so, why not offer your time, energy and expertise to the Library as a trustee? The trustees are responsible for the long-term wellbeing and effectiveness of the Library and besides thinking about services and facilities must ensure that the Library safeguards its assets, meets its financial obligations and functions within the legal requirements of a registered charity. Applications for trustee positions falling vacant in autumn 2010 are now open and this year members able to offer the following are especially keenly sought: • Professional involvement in the world of books and writing • Financial acumen, e.g. a background in financial management, investment or accountancy • Membership marketing or research experience A brief guide explaining the responsibilities and commitments involved and full details of how to apply is available to download from the Vacancies section of the Library’s website; it can also be sent to you by post on request to Sarah Farthing on 020 7766 4712 or by email to librarian@londonlibrary.co.uk. FOR CONSIDERATION THIS YEAR PLEASE SUBMIT APPLICATIONS FOR TRUSTEESHIP NO LATER THAN 7 MAY 2010 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 33


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MEMBERS’ NEWS

THE LONDON LIBRARY ANNUAL LECTURE 2010 In an exciting development for the Library, this year’s Annual Lecture by Sir Max Hastings will be held at the delightful Hay Festival in Wales, giving all Library members – both town and country – the opportunity to attend the lecture in a wonderfully literary setting. For more details and information on how to book your tickets, see p.36.

CAN YOU HELP SUPPORT ANOTHER LIBRARY MEMBER?

STAIRCASE ART: A BENEFACTOR AND OUR FOUNDER Members who have visited the Library recently may have seen the beautiful oil portrait of Library benefactor and Vice-President, Mrs Valerie Eliot, now gracing the new staircase between the Catalogue Hall and the Reading Room lobby. The portrait was generously donated by internationally renowned artist Emma Sergeant, supported by an equally generous matching donation from The Underwood Trust. It will be joined in the near future by J.E. Boehm’s bust of Thomas Carlyle, which will be displayed in the adjacent niche. The bust, formerly a familiar feature in the Art Room, has been at the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street during Phase 2 building work, appearing in an exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first publication, in serial form, of A Tale of Two Cities.

Since October 2009, the Library has been trialling a new programme where one Library member sponsors another. Assistance with membership fees is already provided to Library members aged 16 to 24, who currently pay a special reduced rate of £200. Additionally, members of any age who are unable to meet the full membership cost may be eligible for Carlyle Membership from the London Library Trust. Since the introduction of the Young Person’s Membership scheme we have seen a 100% increase in younger members, and the London Library Trust currently supports 340 Library members. The idea of members directly supporting other members was initially suggested to the Library by Dr Julian Pattison, who wondered if there might be individuals willing to assist those who struggle with their annual subscription. It was agreed that sponsorship should be granted on the basis of the sponsor being informed about his or her beneficiary and their use of the Library’s resources, perhaps through twice-yearly emails. Dr Pattison kindly made a donation and has helped us try out the scheme, which we would now like to extend. We would be delighted to hear from any members who are interested in supporting a fellow member of the Library in this way. Please contact Fiona Smith-Cutting on 020 7766 4704 (fiona.smith-cutting@londonlibrary.co.uk) for more information.

PHASE 2 CELEBRATIONS –

your invitation

Your invitation to a special members’ tour of the Library, celebrating the end of Phase 2, is included as an insert in this issue of the magazine. If you did not receive an invitation with your magazine, please contact Helen Maskell, on 020 7766 4716 (helen.maskell@londonlibrary.co.uk). Emma Sergeant in her studio with the portrait of Mrs Valerie Eliot.

THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 35


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THE LONDON LIBRARY ANNUAL LECTURE 2010 at the Hay Festival As some of you will already have seen announced on the Library’s website, the 2010 Annual Lecture – Sir Max Hastings, speaking about his research on Winston Churchill – will take place at the Hay Festival. With its impeccable literary credentials and immense popularity – around 80,000 visitors attend each year – partnering with the Hay Festival offers the Library an opportunity to reach potential new members and to reinforce our position at the heart of British cultural life. Many of our current members are already Hay regulars, and with one-third of the Library’s membership living outside London, it is a chance to bring the Annual Lecture to a fresh setting and an even wider audience.

© Amie Stamp

Sir Max Hastings.

Sir Tom Stoppard.

Also appearing as part of Hay’s schedule will be the Library’s President, Sir Tom Stoppard, and Library staff will be manning a stand throughout the Festival where visitors can come and learn more about the benefits of membership. Please drop by and say hello! As usual, an edited version of the Annual Lecture will appear in the autumn issue of the magazine, allowing all members to share in this special event. An allocation of tickets for Sir Max’s lecture, on Saturday 5 June at 4pm, has been put aside for Library members; to buy a ticket, call the Festival’s booking line on 01497 822629 and quote your membership number, bearing in mind that tickets do sell quickly. Scene at the 2009 Hay Festival.

THE HAY FESTIVAL, 27 May–6 June 2010 Since its foundation in 1987, the Hay Festival has grown to become one of the most recognisable international arts and cultural brands, with Hay events occurring throughout the year across the world, whilst the original annual Hay Festival on the Welsh–English border now features more than 500 events across 10 days. As the world’s leading literary festival, Hay’s highlights over more than two decades are innumerable. Festival founder Peter Florence cites one of his favourites to be the visit of a poetic hero: ‘We have been amazingly fortunate. One time, Ted Hughes read Birthday Letters, his poetry collection about Sylvia Plath, during a thunderstorm. It was so appropriate to have this elemental battle going on as a backdrop.’ Edward Saïd performed his final public lecture at Hay, when 1,300 people stood on their chairs and cheered his ‘remarkable last words’; and, following a sell-out talk, Bill Clinton led an all-night poker session in 2001, during which he coined the memorable expression that has served as a Festival leitmotif

36 THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE

to this day, namely that Hay ‘is a Woodstock for the mind’. Aside from the extraordinary moments and exceptional talent that it showcases, the Hay Festival has proved responsible for the discovery and championing of new writers. Many authors who have since become household names made their first major public debuts at Hay: Arundhati Roy, DBC Pierre and Yann Martel to name but a few. ‘Audiences found them here and spread the word,’ notes Florence. Today, Hay is more than just a literary festival. Some of the world’s leading entertainers have appeared here, with musical visitors including Sting, Van Morrison and Sir Paul McCartney; talks from artists such as Antony Gormley; and comedians including Dylan Moran and Welsh hero, Rob Brydon. In a bid to make arts and culture accessible to all, during the main Summer Festival, Hay offers ‘Hay Fever’, a dedicated programme of 100 events for children and families. For the latest information about the 2010 Festival, which takes place from 27 May to 6 June, visit hayfestival.com.


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DIARY

THIS SEASON’S CULTURAL EVENTS MARCH

Academy, will feature a loan exhibition, Out of the Loop, a personal selection of prints from the British Museum Collection, curated by Antony Griffiths, retiring Keeper of Prints and Drawings. He will be giving a talk and tour of the exhibition (3 May, noon, free entrance with Fair ticket).

The exhibition Paul Nash: The Elements at Dulwich Picture Gallery (to 9 May, dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk), curated by David Fraser Jenkins,* brings together around 60 of the modern British artist’s paintings and watercolours. The paintings include his outstanding work as a war artist in both world wars.

Henry Moore’s Composition for a Poem by Herbert Read, c.1946, etching and aquatint. One of the two prints in the deluxe edition of Henry Moore: Prints and Portfolios (see Osborne Samuel Gallery entry in April)

Paul Nash, Pillar and Moon, 1932–42. © Tate, London, 2009.

Participants at the 2010 Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival (20–28 March, oxfordliteraryfestival.com) include John Le Carré, Sebastian Faulks,* William Fiennes,* Edward Hollis, Andrew Martin,* Frances Spalding* and D.J. Taylor.*

EMILY PIERCE

Another Country: London Painters in Dialogue with Modern Italian Art (28 April–20 June, estorickcollection.com) is an exhibition dedicated to the response of ten London-based painters (Tony Bevan, Arturo di Stefano, Luke Elwes, Tim Hyman, Andrzej Jackowski, Merlin James, Glenys Johnson, Alex Lowery, Lino Mannocci and Thomas Newbolt) to the work of a selection of modern Italian artists. The London Original Print Fair (29 April– 3 May, londonprintfair.com), at the Royal

Also at the London Original Print Fair, the book Henry Moore: Prints and Portfolios will be available in a special edition of 50 (£2,000), containing 2 original prints signed and numbered by the artist and not released until now (book launch at the Fair, 29 April, 6–8pm, osbornesamuel.com, books also available at the gallery, tel. 020 7493 7939, see advert on p.8). MAY The Charleston Festival features Carol Ann Duffy, Anne Enright and Zadie Smith (21–30 May, charleston.org.uk). Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (openair theatre.com) includes The Comedy of Errors, Macbeth and Arthur Miller's The Crucible. For the Hay Festival (27 May–6 June, hayfestival.com), see p.36. * current Library member

APRIL At the Cambridge Wordfest (9–11 April, cambridgewordfest.co.uk), Hilary Mantel, Philip Pullman* and Don Paterson are among the authors participating. The Slovo: Words in Action (18–25 April, academia-rossica.org) festival features major Russian writers translated and reinterpreted by British poets and writers. David Crystal will discuss his Little Book of Language at Foyles Bookshop (14 April). Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, will also talk about her Secret History of Kensington Palace (27 May, tickets at foyles.co.uk/events).

RECENT LITERARY AWARDS Congratulations to the Library members who were nominated for or have won literary awards since December 2009 William Fiennes, The Music Room, nominated for the 2009 Costa Biography Award Simon Gray, Coda, nominated posthumously for the 2009 Costa Biography Award Mary Hoffman, Troubadour, nominated for the Costa Children’s Award Clive James, Angels Over Elsinore: Collected Verse 2003–2008, nominated for the 2010 Costa Poetry Award Patrick Ness, The Ask and the Answer,

winner of the 2009 Costa Children’s Award Christopher Reid, A Scattering, winner of the 2009 Costa Book of the Year and the 2009 Costa Poetry Award; nominated for the 2009 T.S. Eliot Prize Frederick Taylor, Le Mur de Berlin (published in the UK as The Berlin Wall), awarded the 2009 Prix Grand Témoin de la France Mutualliste, for a work of 20th-century history The magazine would welcome any information from members who have won or been nominated for prizes, to be included in future issues. Please send details to: development@londonlibrary.co.uk

THE LONDON LIBRARY MAGAZINE 39

Issue 7  

Issue 7 of The London Library Magazine

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