Alfred Wallace on evolution: credit where due

I HAD NOT heard of Alfred Russel Wallace until I saw a fascinating two-part documentary about him by the comedian, Bill Bailey, in 2013. Wallace was a rival to Charles Darwin with regard to the theory of evolution. Wallace first put pen to paper on the topic but Darwin got all the credit.


Bill Bailey by a portrait of Wallace and many of his (Wallace’s) specimens

In 1845 Wallace read a book, ‘Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation’ (published anonymously in 1844 but was by Robert Chambers) which convinced him that life on Earth had evolved from earlier forms.  As did Darwin, Wallace travelled afar (particularly to the Amazon) to collect various specimens to try and understand how evolution worked.  During his travels, in February 1855, he wrote a paper entitled ‘On the Law Which Has Regulated the Introduction of New Species’ which was published in September of that year. It described how species have evolved over time with some becoming extinct and new ones evolving from earlier forms. It was written at a time when the general belief was that species were unchanging creations of God – so likely to cause some concern within the religious world. Wallace had been inspired by the work of Charles Lyell on geological change. It was Lyell who brought Wallace’s paper to Darwin’s attention.


Alfred Wallace (1823-1913)

Darwin later mentioned to Wallace that Lyell (who Wallace hadn’t met) had found his (Wallace’s) 1855 paper noteworthy.  In February 1858, whilst in  Southeast Asia, Wallace realised how new species were formed and wrote an essay on it called ‘On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely From the Original Type’.  In June 1858 he sent the essay to Darwin asking him to forward it onto Lyell thinking that Lyell would be interested to learn about his new theory of evolution following his proposals in his 1855 paper.


Charles Darwin (1809-82)

When Darwin received Wallace’s essay he was deeply concerned. It described the same theory he himself had had 20 years before (although there were some differences) but had never published  and he aired his concerns to his friend Lyell.  Lyell and Joseph Hooker presented Wallace’s paper along with other unpublished material of Darwin’s at the Linnean Society of London in July 1858 – the presentation was called ‘On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties Species by Natural Means of Selection’ but it caused little interest (other than with some noted scientists) (click here to read that paper).  The presentation and documents were published a few weeks later with Darwin and Wallace as co-authors.


Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875)

Darwin had begun writing on evolution in 1844 and this 1858 essay of Wallace’s spurred him on to publish. The result was Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection’ published by John Murray in November 1859 [1]. This publication became the focal point of discussion and Wallace’s 1858 essay was forgotten. This left Darwin receiving the kudos for the discovery of the idea of natural selection. Unfair or what?


You can buy a 1st edition of Darwin’s book on Abe books for around  £150,000 ($230,000)

Admittedly, Darwin had been thinking about the theory longer than Wallace. It had been on his mind since 1838 after he had read an essay by Thomas Malthus on human population growth (‘Principle of Population’ published in 1826), whereas Wallace, as mentioned above, had only been thinking about it since 1845 (but let’s not ‘nitpick’).


The Rev. Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)

Sometimes life just ain’t fair. However, Wallace did receive his dues for his work in establishing modern biogeography (the study of geographical distribution of living things – but you knew that).


Statute of Wallace in front of the Wildlife Garden at the Natural History Museum, London (unveiled by Sir David Attenborough in November 2013)



[1] Darwin’s only reference to human evolution in this book was the understatement in his introduction that “light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history”. He did not address this theory fully until his book ‘The Descent of Man and the Selection in Relation to Sex’ in 1871.


The famous caricature of Darwin following the purification of his ‘Descent of Man’

That Hamilton Woman: Hollywood fact or fiction?

WHEN I SAY ‘that Hamilton woman’ I don’t mean Emma Hamilton in connection with Lord Nelson, I mean Vivien Leigh in connection with Lord Olivier. Yes, they appeared together in the film That Hamilton Woman! but, of course, they ‘appeared together’ in real life.  And, as with Hamilton and Nelson, it did not end well.

that hamilton-woman-poster

The film poster

As in the film between Hamilton and Nelson, the relationship between Leigh and Olivier was frowned upon as both were married but not to each other – Leigh to Herbert Leigh Holman and Olivier to Jill Esmond, whilst Hamilton was married to Sir William H and Nelson to Francis (nee Nisbet).

 1572620d0ca7bab3ba3b4a02573ef333Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier in the film (trivia: Nelson never wore an eye-patch, just a sun visor on his hat)

Hollywood dalliances were frequent but taboo amongst already married couples as the public did not approve. It could mean the end of both party’s careers. Leigh and Olivier got away with it for awhile having begun their affair in 1936. Olivier later said that “I couldn’t help myself with Vivien. No man could. I hated myself for cheating on Jill, but then I had cheated before, but this was something different. This wasn’t just out of lust. This was love that I really didn’t ask for but was drawn into.”  Oh, well that’s okay then!! The public didn’t realise the affair was going on because Leigh and Olivier were both in Hollywood for other reasons – Olivier was making Wuthering Heights (which he didn’t enjoy doing but that’s another story) and Leigh was seeking the Scarlett O’Hara role in Gone with the Wind.


Viven Leigh as (appropriately)  Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind

However, the industry was aware of the affair and Leigh failed to be cast alongside Olivier in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca because it was thought a good idea to keep them apart (work-wise anyway) until their divorces came through.  And the same applied to Pride and Prejudice after that. That’s showbiz!

They managed to appear on Broadway in Romeo and Juliet by some chap called Shakespeare but only because they financed it themselves, investing nearly all their savings. It was a commercial disaster.  In August 1940, once their divorces were through, they married – each other. They made That Hamilton Woman! the following year.


Olivier and Leigh – the ‘happy couple’

All went well until 1953 when, according to Olivier, Leigh went into manic depression and became exceedingly difficult to live with.  Michael Munn’s book on David Niven, ‘The Man Behind the Balloon’, makes mention of Niven’s concern over Leigh’s health, “David’s reference to Vivien Leigh’s illness was based on first hand experience of seeing her in the grip of what was once called manic depression but is now known as bi-polar disorder.  He had to called Stewart Granger one night when Vivien became ill while filming Elephant Walk” [1].  Munn then describes Granger’s version of the event (also from Granger’s autobiography ‘Sparks Fly Upward’) which is very similar to Niven’s recollection of an incident with a famous starlet he calls ‘Missie’ in his chapter ‘Our Little Girl (Part 2)’ in his book, ‘Bring on the Empty Horses’.  Niven does not actually say who ‘Missie’ is but, based on Munn’s (and Granger’s) book, she is clearly Vivien Leigh.  Niven doesn’t mention Granger’s involvement and to add to the intrigue, Olivier in his autobiography , ‘Confessions of an Actor’ involves Danny Kaye in the incident.


Olivier and Leigh returning to London after her ‘breakdown’

As a result of Leigh’s illness, Olivier fell into the arms of the English actress, Joan Plowright.  Olivier once said, “Even when Vivien was at her worst [with mental illness], I was never unfaithful to her though she was to me … [but] I became a philanderer through necessity …”.  Oh, again, that’s okay then!  He divorced Leigh in 1961 and immediately married Plowright.  In 1970, Olivier was made a Life Peer – Baron Olivier of Brighton (where he used to live in the Regency built Royal Crescent).  He died in 1989, aged 82 (still married to Plowright).

And Leigh?  She was reported to say she “would rather have lived a short life with Larry [Olivier] than face a long one without him.”  Well, sadly this was to be true – she died of tuberculous in 1967 aged 53.  And Lady Hamilton?  She died of amoebic dysentery at the age of 49 whilst in poverty in Calais in 1815.



[1] This is a bit confusing as the ‘breakdown incident’ happened in Los Angeles, whereas Elephant Walk was being filmed in Colombo, Ceylon.  Also, Leigh was indeed ill during filming and Olivier flew out to see her, but as she was obviously ‘involved’ with Peter Finch, her co-star (and had been since about 1948), Oliver was supposed to have flown back alone. Leigh did return home as her part was taken over by Elizabeth Taylor. Oh well, that’s Hollywood I suppose.

Non-national Knighthoods

HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN can confer knighthoods to non-British nationals known as honorary knights (and honorary dames for females) but such honoured individuals cannot prefix their names with ‘Sir’ (or ‘Dame’) but can add the appropriate letters after their names (usually KBE – Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – or DBE – Dame Commander ……).  Nor do they go through the accolade or ceremony of having the sword touched upon each shoulder.


No sword tapping for non-British knights

Now, I knew all this but until I recently read the wonderful Douglas Fairbanks Jr’s biography I wasn’t aware as to why (mainly because I had never bothered to think about it). Fairbanks Jr was suitably honoured in 1949 – and rightly so. We all know him as a swashbuckling Hollywood action man actor but there was much more to him than that.  He was awarded his knighthood for his tireless efforts to gain US support for Great Britain during the early years of the Second World War (before Pearl Harbour of course) and, among other things, for his services to the Co-operative for American Remittances to Europe (C.A.R.E.), a war relief organisation.  But, being an American he could not call himself Sir Douglas.  Why not?

dg jr

Highly-decorated Commander Fairbanks Jr., KBE, DSC, etc, after the war – and wife, Mary Lee

Well, as his biography says, “Membership in an order of chivalry is one thing and the accolade another; they go together but they are separate.” The reason is historical – it would be if it’s British.  In the good old medieval days when the king relied on his landowners for military support (which included a supply of soldiers), such a landowner would give allegiance to the Crown and, if he didn’t already have one , he may be granted a knighthood (and possibly more land if the war was successful). This was fine when he was a British national but that was not always the case.  For example, in the days of the Crusades (which particularly involved English and French) a man could be a member of an order of chivalry and become a knight of that order (Knights Templars, etc), but he could not swear allegiance to a foreign sovereign if he still owed a loyalty to his own feudal monarch, regardless as to whether that monarch was involved in that crusade. The accolade had only indirectly to do with becoming a member of the order. This meant that as the knight had no bond to the sovereign, as a liege lord, that sovereign could not demand that the knight present himself with his sword and armour (and soldiers) to fight the king’s cause.  Okay, the romantic days of chivalry are gone but the accolade still has implication in law.  With non-British honorary knighthoods the principles remain the same and a foreign citizen has no allegiance to the British monarch and so is not required to respond to the sovereign’s call to arms – and so have no right to the accolade of the prefix of ‘Sir’ to his  name.  Got it?


That’s the idea in principle.  In practice, this day and age, it also applies to British national knights of course as, bearing in mind the age, etc, of many British knights, they are not going to be very useful if called to arms by the sovereign today (and none of them should have soldiers at their beck and call – well, I hope not).  But that’s not the point.

a rm roger    a mcaine    a elton

To battle  Sir Roger,  Sir Michael,  Sir Elton …. hmm, perhaps not

There are quite a few non-national knights, from arts and entertainment, professional, humanitarian and exploration, politics and government, diplomatic, military, business, religion, and royalty.  As well as Douglas Fairbanks Jr., you might recognise names such as Bob Hope (USA), Steven Spielberg (USA), Edward Kennedy (USA), George S. Patton (USA), Bill Gates (USA), J. Edgar Hoover (USA), Angelina Jolie (USA), Magnus Magnusson (Iceland), Spike Milligan (Ireland), Bob Geldof (Ireland), Bono (lead singer of U2 – Ireland), Terry Wogan (Ireland – although he took British nationality in 2005 and the knighthood became substantive, i.e. he can use ‘Sir’).


Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire


Douglas Fairbanks Jr is one of the few non-national knights who devised his own coat-of-arms with the motto Fides, Conatus et Fidelitas – ‘Faith, Effort and Loyalty’.  Being a Hollywood actor he was rather an exhibitionist – it goes with the job –  and so it was acknowledged by the College of Arms.  I’ve not been able to find a copy of it but below is a Fairbanks Jr bookplate which sort of resembles it:


Fairbanks Jr bookplate

Another example of his exhibitionism:  He joined the US Navy as a reservist before America entered the war. One of the first orders that the US Navy issued was that officers were not to wear swords.  In fact, if they owned them they were encouraged to hand them in for the scrap metal promotion.  Not Douglas.  He arrived at the house of the Hollywood film producer, Darryl Zanuck, one night for a dinner party with his boat cape and sword.  His excuse was that he had just come from a drill at the Armoury.  The narrator of the tale said, “Well, I know that no one in the whole of California, if they went to a drill hall, would have a sword.  But he thought he looked like Lord Nelson or something. That is the ham in him, unfortunately.”


Douglas Jr. coming to dinner


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

This is the last extract from the 2nd volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction) – I’ll let you know if I come across any more volumes or extracts of Artemus’ notebooks:

During a physical examination, a doctor asked my good friend, Sir Alfred Cucumber-Smythe, retired professor of archaeology now living in Canada, about his physical activity level.

He replied that he spent three days a week, every week, in the outdoors, and went on to give an example:

“Well, yesterday afternoon was typical; I took a five hour walk about 7 miles through some pretty rough terrain.   I waded along the edge of a lake.  I pushed my way through 2 miles of brambles.  I got sand in my shoes and my eyes.  I barely avoided stepping on a snake.  I climbed several rocky hills.  I went to the bathroom behind some big trees.  I ran away from an irate mother bear and then ran away from one angry bull Elk.  The mental stress of it all left me shattered.  At the end of it all I drank a scotch and three glasses of wine.

Amazed by the story, the doctor said,  “You must be one heck of an outdoor man!”

“No,”  Alfred replied,  “I’m just a really very bad golfer.” 


A walk from Blackfriars Bridge to London Bridge

The other weekend Sarah and I visited Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the south side of the River Thames in London – between the Millennium Bridge and Southwark Bridge – both of which are between Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge.  Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was originally built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644. The modern reconstruction is based on available evidence of the 1599 and 1614 buildings. It was founded by the American actor and director, Sam Wannamaker (Zoës dad), almost on the site of the original theatre, and opened in 1997.


The Globe

Interestingly we went to see a variation on Aeschylus’ Oresteia, the ancient Greek play – nothing to do with Shakespeare!  However, as you do, we wandered around the area and what we found, within no more than a 5 minute walk, was quite fascinating.


Inside the Globe  – the set of The Oresteia

If you hear the phrase “he’s in the clink” you think of someone in prison.  But where does the phrase come from?  If you walk eastward from the Globe along Bankside you come into Clink Street – and the answer to the question. Here you will find the Clink Prison Museum. The Clink Prison is the name given to all prisons that have stood on a number of sites around this particular vicinity over the years. The first prison dates back to 1127 and was a cellar in the Palace of the Bishop of Winchester (see below). The last was in Deadman’s Place – now Park Street (immediately southwest of Clink St) – which, at various times, held Protestant and Catholic religious martyrs. It was burned down in 1780 by anti-Catholic Gordon rioters (see Charles Dickens’ 1841 novel, Barnaby Rudge).


The Clink Prison Museum – enter at your own peril….!

Just along from the prison (still going east) is the remains of Winchester Palace. This was the palace of the powerful Bishops of Winchester which was one of the largest and most important buildings in medieval London. It was founded in the 12th century (around 1136) by Bishop Henry de Blois, brother of King Steven. Its purpose was to house the bishops in comfort whilst they were staying in London on royal or administrative business.  And why not.


Remains of Winchester Palace

The visible remains (above) were part of the Great Hall which formerly stood alongside the south bank of the Thames. You can see the magnificent rose window at the top. Below it are three glass ‘windows’ which were, in fact, entrances leading to the buttery, pantry and kitchen.  Below the hall was a vaulted cellar where goods such as wine could be stored, with a passage to the river wharf. The palace remained in use until the 17th century when it was divided into tenements and warehouses. It was destroyed by fire in 1814 and then rediscovered in the 1980s during redevelopment of the area.


The foundations of the cellar (in between the pot plants) – the ground floor of the hall would have been immediately below the four glass entrances at the top

Along from the palace is the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde. The original ship dates back to the 16th century when it circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580 during the reign of Elizabeth I. The Golden Hinde II took two years to build and, as  there were no plans of the original ship, Loring Christian Norgaard, a Californian naval architect, spent three years researching manuscripts about Drake’s voyage, Tudor shipbuilding techniques, and the journals compiled by crew members.  The replica was launched in April 1973 from the  J. Hinks & Son shipyard in Devon.


Golden Hinde II

From Winter 1974 to Spring 1975 the ship sailed from Plymouth to San Francisco to commemorate the upcoming 400th anniversary of Francis Drake’s discovery of Nova Albion in North America in 1579. She returned to England in 1980.  After a tour of Britain and Ireland, Golden Hinde II sailed to Canada to appear in Expo ’86, and a year later began a four-year expedition along the East and West Coasts of North America, returning to the UK in 1991.  Following another successful tour, she finally settled down in her current home at St Mary Overie Dock in 1996.


Golden Hinde II

I don’t wish to be a spoil-sport but if you are in any doubt as to whether she really is a replica check out the propeller!


16th century propeller?   …… perhaps not

Finally, just around the corner from the Golden Hinde II is Southwark Cathedral. This began its life in AD 606 as a convent. Around the 9th century, the Bishop of Winchester may have replaced the nuns with a college of priests. In 1106 the church was ‘re-founded’ by two Norman knights as a priory, living according to the rule of St Augustine of Hippo, dedicated to St Mary.   After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 it was appointed a parish church and renamed St Saviour’s.  It became Southwark Cathedral in 1905.


Southwark Cathedral


Southwark Cathedral – the nave designed  Sir Arthur Blomfield in 1895

southwark cath

Inside the Cathedral – quite impressive


Map of the vicinity – Winchester Palace is located between The Clink Prison Museum and the Golden Hinde II  (Blackfriars Bridge is about 300m off the map to the left and London Bridge is on the map, far right)


 Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My large friend, Paramount Hargrove, told me he had discovered that he had the body of a Greek god.

I had some difficulty trying to explain to him that Buddha is not Greek.


Buying a Book of Hours 2

WELL, IF YOU ARE interested (and you are probably not but I’m going to tell you anyway), I’ve found the translation of my Book of Hours leaf I showed you last week. I could impress you by saying I translated it myself following my course on Medieval Latin, but that would be a lie (and you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway).  I found the translation on the internet, of course – although I did have to recognise the actual Latin words, some of which are in abbreviation (so give me a little credit!).


just to remind you of the leaf

It reads:

eruere.   R: Qui Lazarum resuscitasti a monumento foetidum. Tu eis Domine dona requiem, et locum indulgentiae. R: Thou which didst raise Lazarus stinking from the grave: Thou O Lord give them rest, and place of pardon.
V: Qui venturus es iudicare vivos et mortuos, et saeculum per ignem. Tu eis Domine dona requiem, et locum indulgentiae. V: Which art to come to judge the living, and the dead, and the world by fire. Thou O Lord give them rest, and place of pardon.
[Lectio tertia Iob 10]
Manus tuae Domine fecerunt me, et plasmaverunt me totum in circuitu: et sic repente praecipitas me? Memento, quaeso, quod sicut lutum feceris me, et in pulverem reduces me. Nonne sicut lac mulsisti me, et sicut caseum me coagulasti?
[The third lesson Job 10]
Thy hands O Lord have made me, and framed me wholly round about: and dost thou so suddenly cast me down headlong? Remember, I beseech thee, that as clay thou madest me, and into dust thou wilt bring me again. Hast thou not as milk milked me, and curded me as cheese?

The fancy M begins the word Manus which is the beginning of the third lesson of Job 10 [Lectio tertia Iob 10]; above it is the end of the second lesson of Job 10; both are from the ‘Office of the Dead’.

This ‘Office of the Dead’ originated as a text for private mourning. It commemorates the deceased  in order to shorten his or her ordeal in Purgatory.  It also serves to remind the living of their own immortality (memento mori).  It’s made up of three liturgical hours: Vespers (vigil over the body the night before burial), Matins and Lauds (both recited in the church the following morning).

The above leaf is from the second hour – Matins. This consists of three Nocturns each containing three Psalms and three lessons. All nine are from the Book of Job.


So there you have it.


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

I spotted a sign outside a house that read ‘Talking Dog for Sale’.  Intrigued, I knocked and asked for a demonstration

The dog owner looked at the dog and said, “So what have you done with your life?”

“I’ve led a very full life,” said the dog. “I lived in the Alps rescuing avalanche victims. Then I served with the police drug sniffing at airports.  After that I helped out with the visibly impaired.  And now I spend my days reading to the residents of a retirement home.”

I was flabbergasted and asked the dog owner, “Why on earth would you want to get rid of an incredible dog like that?”

The owner replied, “Because he’s a liar – he has never done any of those things!”


Buying a Book of Hours

I FIRST BECAME interested in medieval books when I was given an introduction to the Book of Kells many years ago.  This is a group of manuscripts of the four gospels of the New Testament dating back to the 9th century AD (its exact date is unknown for sure). Today it comprises of 340 folios (pages) bound in four volumes. It takes its name from the 9th century Abbey of Kells (in County Meath, Ireland) where it was situated for most of its existence – until the 1650s when it was sent to Dublin for safe keeping against Cromwell’s motley troops. It then found its way to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1661, where it remains today.


Illustrated page from the Book of Kells

My interest was rekindled when I visited the Winchester Bible. This is another fabulously illustrated book on show at Winchester Cathedral. It was produced at the Cathedral between 1160 and 1175 and is the largest surviving 12th century bible (468 folios, 583 x 396 mm). It’s in Latin of course and written on vellum [1]. It was described in 1622 as two volumes and has been rebound twice since – in 1820 into 3 volumes, and in 1948 into 4 volumes. The text is in the hand of one scribe and  is complete but many of the illustrations, which are the work of 6 different contributors, are not finished. Sadly some nine illuminated initials and at least one full-page illustration have been removed entirely and are now in the hands of private collectors  (I’ll say no more – other than one missing leaf is in the Morgan Library in New York …. can we have it back please?).


Illustrated page from the Winchester Bible

Needless to say there is only one copy of each of these two medieval manuscripts so you cannot own them!  But you can own an original copy of the Book of Hours – at a price. These books are of prayers and get their name from the fact that monks have to pray at certain hours of the day (and night).  Saying that, they were produced for the laypersons as well – thousands of them in fact. And quite a few still exist today. Initially they were handwritten and illustrated with miniatures [2] on vellum.  By the early 16th century they became even more popular and the printing press took over from the laborious handwriting [3].  Printers churned out copies of the book but many of them still contained hand-coloured illustrations and lettering.

Although many of these books can be purchased today they don’t come cheap. Their price depends, of course, on the quality and quantity of illustrations.  Also size – many are very small for portability (averaging around 6″ x 4″ – 15 cm x 10 cm). Hand-written copies vary very much from $20,000 to $500,000 – although I believe the most expensive is the Rothschild Prayer Book (of Hours) which went for $13.5 million (£8.5 million) in 1999 at Christie’s in New York, purchased by Kerry Stokes and now lives in the National Library of Australia, Canberra.


The Rothschild Prayer Book (Flemish, 1500-20)

Quite a few of those that still exist are in remarkably good condition. This is because many of them were owned as a status symbol (as they were very expensive to buy) rather than for religious purposes, and so hardly used!  In saying that, very few of these manuscripts have their original bindings. This is because many original bindings were in materials such as velvet and have long since deteriorated (with exceptions of course). The main chance of finding an original binding is if it was in leather.

 1586 cover             cover lethr

Original velvet binding 1586 (English)        Original leather binding 1510 (French)

The 16th century printed version comes in at around $30,000 (again depending on quality). Even quality facsimiles can fetch anything to around $3,000-$5,000 if not more. There are cheaper versions though – a Hungarian company produces (or produced) some of these. If you are desperate to get your hands on a taster, single leafs can be purchased from anything from $200 upwards into the stratosphere – again depending on how they are illustrated and whether they are handwritten or printed. The big problem here is that it means someone has broken a book up to sell these off separately which is sacrilege in itself. But it’s a means to an end (and, sorry, yes I have one such page …..).


My humble c 1450 leaf – it’s handwritten with nice elaborate gold leaf letter but not, obviously, illustrated (I’m doing a course on Medieval Latin so I’ll get back to you when/if I ever translate it!)



[1] Vellum comes from the Latin word ‘vitulinum’ meaning ‘made from calf’. It is estimated that the hides of some 250 calves were used for the Winchester Bible ….

[2] This word ‘miniature’ comes from the Latin term for medieval illustrated book rather than small picture.

[3] The first printing press was introduced in the Holy Roman Empire by one Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. Documents printed before 1501 were known as incunabula (or incunable).


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

Late one night, a preacher with whom I am acquainted, The Rev. Jacob Aramatic, was driving on a country road and had a crash.

A farmer on his tractor stopped and said, “Sir, are you okay?”

The Rev. Joseph said, “Yes, thankfully I had the Lord riding with me.”

The farmer said, “Well, you better let Him ride with me, because you’re gonna kill him.”


The Venerable Bede on immigration

THERE HAS BEEN much concern over the immigration problem in the UK lately.  Well, this is nothing new.  In the 7th century AD it was identified as a problem by the Venerable Bede (aka St Bede), a monk of the monastery of St Peter at Monkwearmouth (Jarrow) in Northumbria. He described the coming of the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century (in his  Adventus Saxonum) in the following terms:

The newcomers came from three very powerful nations of the Germans, namely the Saxons, the Angles and the Jutes. From the stock of the Jutes are the people of Kent and the people of Wight, and that which in the province of the West Saxons is to this day called the nation of the Jutes, situated opposite that same Isle of Wight. From the Saxons, that is, from the region that now is called that of the Old Saxons, came the East Saxons, the South Saxons, and the West Saxons ….. In a short time, as bands of the aforesaid nations eagerly flocked into the Island, the people of the newcomers began to increase so much that they became a source of terror to the very natives who had invited them.”


The Venerable Bede (672-735) – he knew you know

Don’t say we weren’t warned …….

Bede is widely regarded as the greatest of Anglo-Saxon scholars and known as the ‘Father of English History’.   Almost everything that we know of his life is contained in the last chapter of his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The ecclesiastical history of the English people – written in Latin of course). It was completed in about 731. Bede implies that he was in his 59th year then, hence the supposed date of his birth as 672.

Cotton Tiberius C.II, f.5v

Historia ecclesiastica – opening of Book 1: Southern England

Bede was the only native of Great Britain to be made a Doctor of the Church – in his case, by Pope Leo XIII   (Anselm of Canterbury also received the honour but he was an Italian by birth).

Just out of interest, Bede’s adoption of the dating anno domini (AD) in his De Temporum Ratione is the reason we use it today. It was, in fact, a third method of dating invented by Dionysus Exiguus in AD 525.  More recently, in the 19th century (although it does date back to the 17th century), Jewish academics adopted Common Era – or Christian Era or Current Era (CE) instead of AD, and BCE for Before Common Era instead of BC (Before Christ).  Call me old fashioned, but I cannot change a habit of a life-time and will stay with good old AD and BC.

ad bc

Bede’s tomb is in Durham Cathedral – he’s been there since 1022 and was moved to the Galilee Chapel of the Cathedral in the 14th century. You might not be very interested in that, but at least now you know. He obtained the name ‘Venerable’ after his death – it was simply written on his tomb:  HIC SUNT IN FOSSA BEDAE VENERABILIS OSSA
Here are buried the bones of the Venerable Bede – and it ‘caught on’ as they say.


Bede’s tomb – pride of place in the Galillee Chapel

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My young cousin, Thomas, was telling me that he and his two friends, Richard and Harry, had been to a party.  After the party Thomas drove them all back to the hotel. The hotel was 90 floors high and their room was on the top floor.

Unfortunately for them, the lift (elevator) was not working.  So to while away the time they made a plan that for the first 30 floors Richard would tell jokes. The second 30 floors Harry would tell a happy story, and for the last 30 floors Thomas would tell a sad story. They then started up the stairs and Richard began.

Well-over an hour later, it was Thomas’s turn. He turned to the other two and said “Okay guys, here’s my sad story ….. I left the room key in the car.”



The Magna Carta revisited

FOLLOWERS MAY RECALL my post on the Magna Carta, January 3 this year. Well, I omitted to mention the three copies of the document held at the Society of Antiquaries of London. This is particularly remiss of me as I’m a Fellow of the Society!

The first one is the Black Book of Peterborough Abbey. This is a 13th century copy of the original 1215 manuscript. This is the most radical version as it contains the clause referring to no taxation to be imposed without the common consent of the Kingdom and the revolutionary ‘security clause’ (see January 3 post).


Black Book of Peterborough Magna Carta

The second is the Halesowen Abbey copy of the 1225 version. This is a scroll document and may have been produced by the Abbey because the Abbot had to go to Court to fight against unjust action by King John in 1279. So it was the Abbot’s legal defence document (and he won).


Halesowen Abbey scroll copy

The third is the Hart Book of Statutes. This is a 14th century volume of law (statutes) probably produced especially for lawyers – a modern day law book in fact. They (lawyers) had to read the law from somewhere and these statues books were produced (most likely in London) for that purpose. This particular 14th century book contains the Magna Carta.

Hart Book of Statutes

Hart Book of Statutes

My apologies to the Society for overlooking these copies …….


 Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My colleague, Benedict Tantamount made mention to me:

“I had a near miss with the constabulary the other day. I was speeding in my motor vehicle and was chased and apprehended by the police, but with my quick thinking I managed to get away with it.

When I was eventually stopped, the police officer approached the car and said, ‘It’s been a long day and my shift is almost over, so if you can give me a good excuse for your behaviour, I’ll let you go.’  

I thought for a few seconds and then said, ‘My wife ran away with a policeman about a week ago and I thought you might be that officer trying to bring her back!'”




FOR NINE Years, from 2000, I had the great pleasure of serving as a Wimbledon Honorary Steward during the Championships. In fact, I was following in the footsteps of my wife’s father who had been a Steward from 1980 to 1995. The Stewards (male and female) are the individuals in blue blazers and occasionally panama hats who assist in the queues and in the stands of the courts. It was great fun being one of them and they are a great bunch of people. I would arrive around 7.30 am and help give out the wrist bands for the show courts to the fans who had been queuing all night. Then I would do my duty with the queues at Gate 12 (ticket holders) and then then take up my post after lunch for the tennis on Court No 1. Not a bad way to spend a day – but it was a long day. Then my extended archaeological trips to Crete began to clash with the Championships’ dates so, sadly, I had to resign.

Some of the Stewards (I’m not among them)

So, what about Wimbledon? I’m sure some of you have been watching it avidly. It is the oldest tennis championship in the world and considered by many as the most prestigious. The All England Croquet Club in Worple Road, Wimbledon began life in 1868 and then, in 1876, lawn tennis (a game devised by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield – hence the Wingfield Restaurant in the grounds today) was added to the club activities and the name of the establishment changed to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 1877.  A new set of codes were drawn up replacing those set by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).  At first the nets were 5 ft in height. They were reduced to 4 ft in 1880, and then reduced again to today’s 3 ft 6 ins in 1882.

Wimbledon Championship 1877.jpg

Engraving of the first Wimbledon Championship at Worple Road. The clubhouse is located on the left (in the distance). Worple Road is on the left and on the right is the track of the London and Southampton Railways.

The inaugural Championships opened on 9th July 1877 and the Gentlemen’s Singles was the only event held. The tournament lasted 5 days and the final was to be played on the Monday to avoid the Eton v Harrow annual cricket match at Lords. However, that first year it was delayed even longer due to rain and eventually played on the 19th July and won by a 27 year-old, Spencer Gore, who beat a 28 year-old, William Marshall, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Gore was one of 22 starters who all paid a guinea (£1.1.0d) to take part. His prize was a silver cup valued at 25 guineas and presented by The Field sporting magazine [1].  About 200 spectators paid one shilling each to watch the final and the Club made a profit of £10 that day.

Spencer Gore (1850 -1906)

The courts were arranged so that the principal court was in the middle with all the others situated around it – hence ‘Centre Court’. When the club moved to its present site in Church Road, Wimbledon, in 1922, Centre Court was no longer in the centre but it retained its name. And rightly so. However, in 1980 four courts were opened up to the north of the ground and Centre Court was in the Centre again – until 1997, when No 1 Court was built. But the name wasn’t changing now.

By 1882 the club was almost exclusively tennis and so the name croquet was dropped but restored again in 1899 for sentimental reasons.  It’s  a British ‘thing’ you know.  Ladies joined the tournament in 1884 with a win by Maud Watson, and the same year saw the introduction of Gentlemen Doubles.  Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles were added in 1913.  Only amateurs were allowed to participate until 1968 with the introduction of the ‘Open Era’ (and along came the Australians, Rod Laver and John Newcombe – remember them?).


1884 Ladies Championship – Miss Watson beat Miss Watson …..

In the ‘good old early days’ the matches played by British twins, Ernest and William Renshaw, proved to be the most popular and they emerged as outstanding players. They won 13 titles (separately as well as doubles partners) between 1881 and 1889. The era was dubbed as the ‘Renshaw Rush’ (also hence the Renshaw Restaurant in the grounds today). However, the public affection for Wimbledon waned around the early 1890s. Then popularity picked up again in 1897 when the legendary Doherty brothers, Laurie and Reggie, entered the Championships and they ruled the tournament for the following decade.

Ladies at Wimbledon from 1884 – their silver ‘Rosewater Dish’ was introduced 2 years later (women’s skirts have changed a bit over the years!)

After that British success has been rather limited. The first overseas player to win the Ladies’ tournament was May Sutton from the United States of America in 1905.  In 1907, Norman Brookes from Australia was the first overseas winner of the Gentlemen’s tournament. This was the beginning of the end of British dominance.  Only Arthur Gore and Fred Perry from our UK shores were to be successful in 20th century after that. Fred Perry won it on three consecutive occasions in 1934 to 1936, and then we Brits had to wait until Andy Murray’s success in 2013. For the Ladies, only Kitty McKane Godfree, Dorothy Round, Angela Mortimer, Ann Jones and Virginia Wade managed to win the Ladies’ Wimbledon Champions. Virginia Wade was the last Brit to succeed in 1977 (the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year).

Fred Perry (1909-1995)

The tournament was first televised in 1937 and made history by being the first broadcast to be televised in colour in the UK. The rest is, as they say, history …..



[1] One report I read suggested Gore also received 25 guineas in prize money – but that seems a little excessive and I cannot clarify that. Prize money as such was not actually introduced until the advent of the Open Era in 1968 as before that time all participants were amateurs. Since then it has substantially increased over the years:

Year Men’s Singles Men’s Doubles Ladies’ Singles Ladies’ Doubles Mixed Doubles
1968 £2,000 £800 £750 £500 £450
2015 £1,880,000 £341,250 £1,880,000 £341,250 £100,800



Do you remember the famous ‘Tennis Girl’ poster from the Athena calendar in 1977 (modesty prevents me from reproducing it here)? The photo was taken by Martin Elliott of his then girlfriend, Fiona Butler, on a tennis court at Birmingham University. The dress was hand-made by Fiona’s friend, Carol Knotts (who also supplied the tennis racket). The dress and racket were auctioned at the 2014 Ladies Singles final and purchased by the Wimbledon Museum for £15,000 (estimated price was £1000-£2000!). It can be seen in the Museum in exactly the same position as seen on the poster (minus Fiona).




Did you know: 55,000 tennis balls are used during the Wimbledon Championships. There is not enough room to store them in the ball store-room under Centre Court so they are delivered in pressurized tubes in three batches over the fortnight. They have been produced by Slazenger since 1902 and were white until 1986 when they became yellow. They were originally made in Barnsley until the plant closed own in 2002. Now they are manufactured in Bataan in the Philippines. It is one of the longest unbroken sporting sponsorships in history.





Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My dear friend Marmaduke Threadbeetle was a lawyer, and on his deathbed in his bedroom he called to his wife, Dorothea. 
She rushed in and said, “What is it, my Marmalade (for that was her pet name for him)?”

He told her to run and get the bible as soon as possible. Being a religious woman, she thought this was a good idea. She ran and got it, prepared to read him his favourite verse or something of the sort.

He snatched it from her and began quickly scanning pages, his eyes darting right and left.
Dorothea was curious, so she asked, “What are you doing, my Marmalade?”

“I’m looking for loopholes!” he shouted.



 I AM WELL AWARE that opera is not everyone’s bag but it can be quite fun and you should have a go before knocking it.  It’s just  a case of picking the right opera first time around or you could go badly wrong and be put off for ever!  Opera at Glyndebourne is usually always fun particularly because it has a lengthy interval where one picnics in the gardens. Don’t get me wrong – that’s not necessarily the best part of the opera (honest) – although when you pick the wrong one it certainly is.  Before I became a member of Glyndebourne (after 20 years on the waiting list!) tickets were (and still can be for non-members) difficult to obtain and I’d apply for anything.  This did not always end with a good result ……

Spike Hughes, in his 1965 book, Glyndebourne, starts off by observing, “All Opera Houses are unique, but – as anyone who comes into contact with them soon discovers – some are more unique than others. It is clear from the very first, however, that Glyndebourne was the most unique of all.”  This is very true – and it still is the most unique of all.  So how did it all begin?

Audrey and John Christie – founders of Glyndebourne Opera

The actual house at Glyndebourne in East Sussex is a delight. It dates back to the 15th century but not much, if any, of that is now visible today. Glynde Bourne (as it was in the early days) was part of the manor of Glynde until the 16th century when it was supposedly given as a dowry to Mary Morley on her marriage, in 1589, to John Hay of Herstmonceux (remember that place? – see March 14 post) – although a record of this  has not been found. However, it seemed to have been purchased by Herbert Hay in 1616. It remained in the Hay family-name until 1804 with the death of the last remaining Hay, a spinster, Frances Hay, whereafter it was inherited by a 74 year-old cousin, Canon Francis Tutté (appropriate surname bearing in mind what was to become of the house!). Francis Tutté’s mother was Barbary Hay who had married William Tutté (a barrister).  Francis died in 1824 and the house passed to James Hay Langham (a descendant of Sarah Hay who had married John Langham in 1650).  Get it so far?

Front of Glyndebourne house today (opera theatre behind to the left)

James relinquished the property on succeeding to his father’s baronetcy and moved to the family seat in Northamptonshire (although there was some question of his lunacy, but we won’t go there) and Glyndebourne house went to Langham Christie in accordance with the will of the last Hay sisters, Henrietta and Frances (the latter referred to above).  It was Langham Christie’s son, William, who, after inheriting the property in 1861, made substantial alterations to it in 1870 – he built a brick extension hiding the house’s 17th century flint facade, with additional ornate stone-work and balustrading.  In 1876, decorative brickwork was added to give it the Jacobean appearance as can be seen today (pic above and below).

Rear of Glyndebourne house, with ‘new’ opera theatre (to the right…. obviously)

William also built an Eton fives court with a rough brick floor making it impossible to play on (no comment!).  His grandson, John Christie, said that he (William) had appalling taste (harsh!).  It was John who inherited the house after the death of his grandfather in 1920. And it was John who turned it into an Opera venue. He was an Eton boy and, being fond of music, he held regular amateur opera evenings in the newly built organ room. This 80 ft (24 m) room practically doubled the length of the south facade of the building (the right side of the house in the pic above) and housed one of the largest organs outside a cathedral. This organ was constructed by Hill, Norman & Beard Ltd and purchased by John in 1923. Only the case and console remain in the room today as John donated the soundboard and pipes to the rebuilt Guards Chapel, Wellington, which had been destroyed in the blitz.

The Organ Room and non-working organ

It was at one of these opera evenings that John meet his wife-to-be, the Sussex-born Canadian soprano, Audrey Mildmay, who sang with the Carla Rosa Opera.  They were married in 1931 and on their honeymoon they attended the Salzburg and Bayreuth festivals which gave them the idea of bringing professional opera to Glyndebourne. The rest is, as they say, history. Well, sort of ……

Picnicking during the long interval at Glyndebourne

The first performance was in a newly-built 300-seater theatre on the 28th May 1934 and it was Mozart’s le nozze di Figaro followed by his Cosi fan tutte (non-opera readers will now get my reference to Canon Francis Tutté above). This theatre was then enlarged two years later to hold 433 seats; then by 1960, nearly 600 seats; and by 1977, it seated 800.  In 1952 the Glyndebourne Festival Society was formed to manage the opera and was opened up to members (as it is now …. well, the waiting list anyway).

The first opera theatre

John died in 1962 and the house and opera were taken over by his son, George (later, in 1984, Sir George) who continued improving the opera theatre until 1994 when the lavish new theatre was constructed, seating around 1200 people. Sir George retired in 1999 and sadly died last year in May (2014). His son, Gus, took over the opera festival on his father’s retirement (and the house two years after that – they swapped houses) .

The new theatre

Last week was the 50th birthday of my friend, Tracey, and we celebrated it, inter alia, with a visit to Glyndebourne which was performing Bizet’s Carmen which is always good value and rousing fun (well, provided you ignore the plot!).  On that day, it rained most the morning and early afternoon, and it rained all the time during the drive over, but when we arrived the sun came out and stayed out so we were able to picnic in the gardens (whilst the majority who had arrived earlier, when it was raining, had crammed into the covered terraces around the theatre – ha!).


Glyndebourne gardens – Tracey, Simon and myself (above) enjoying the long interval for Bizet’s Carmen (below)

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My nephew, Titus, and his wife, Cordelia, visited the USA and were driving through Louisiana. As they approached Natchitoches, they started arguing about the pronunciation of the town. They argued back and forth, then they stopped for lunch at one of those new fast-food restaurants. At the counter, my nephew asked the young waitress, “Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us?  Would you please pronounce where we are very slowly?” She leaned over the counter and said slowly, “Burrr-gerrr Kiiing.”