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Archive for September, 2013

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Bedford House, Bloomsbury Square, London

Posted in Architecture, Historical articles, History, London on Friday, 27 September 2013

Bedford House in Bloomsbury Square, picture, image, illustration

Bedford House in Bloomsbury Square, London by Edward Daves

Bedford House stood on the north side of Bedford Square and was the London seat of the Dukes of Bedford. The Bedfords had acquired the estate from the Southampton family through the fortunes of marriage, and both house and square had originally been named after the 4th Earl of Southampton who had built them in the late seventeenth century. Largely undistinguished, the great house was occupied by the Dukes on and off until the early nineteenth century, when there was a sharp decline in the status and popularity of the area. With the advent of hotels and such like for the ubiquitous middle classes, Bloomsbury was no longer fashionable for the aristocracy or even the gentry, and the Duke moved out, demolishing his house shortly afterwards and leasing the land to developers, who erected the final range of terraced town houses on the north side, thus completing the typical plan of the now familiar London garden square.

Many more pictures relating to Bloomsbury can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London

Posted in Architecture, Historical articles, History, London, Medicine on Friday, 27 September 2013

Queen Square, picture, image, illustration

Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London

Queen Square is one of London’s less well-known squares in the Bloomsbury district of London. It was laid out by architects and builders on land formerly belonging to Sir John Cutler Bart., which was acquired following the death of his childless last remaining heir, the Countess of Radnor, wife of the 2nd Earl of Radnor. Once ownership of the estates had reverted to her father’s family, his cousins were free to dispose of prime building plots in this fashionable part of town, and Queen Square occupies the gardens of the original ancestral house. Its association with medicine goes back some two hundred years, when George III was himself a secret patient in a house in Queen Square, where he was treated for his ‘madness’ or porphyry. The nearby public house was nicknamed the Queen’s Larder, because Queen Charlotte is believed to have kept food supplies there during her husband’s lengthy stays. A statue to her memory still stands in the square. Wrongly identified as Queen Anne, it was this statue which gave the square its previous name, Queen Anne’s Square.

Many more pictures relating to Bloomsbury can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Retired England Champion “Gentleman” Jackson gave Lord Byron boxing lessons

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Sport, Sporting Heroes on Thursday, 26 September 2013

This edited article about English literature originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 411 published on 29 November 1969.

Prize fighters, picture, image, illustration

Bare-knuckle fights were popular sporting events in the streets when Lord Byron was a young man by Peter Jackson

November 28, 1818

Dined today with Scrope Davies to meet Jackson the boxer at my own request. . . . Some talk with Davies before dinner, about Lord Byron and me having been so near blowing each other’s brains out: told him that Lord B. had said since he never meant to fire at me. . . . Got very little out of Jackson; he makes, Davies tells me, more than a thousand a year by teaching sparring.

* * * * *

Thomas Moore’s life was far more peaceful than the extract suggests! He was born in 1779, the son of a Dublin grocer, and became a fine poet and musician. He is best remembered today for his beautiful Irish songs, which include The Minstrel Boy, Believe me, if all those endearing young charms, and the immortal Last Rose of Summer. He also wrote lives of the playwright, Sheridan, and the poet, Lord Byron who, despite what the extract implies, became one of his greatest friends.

The boxer John Jackson – “Gentleman” Jackson, as he was known – was almost as famous as the Duke of Wellington. This was the great age of the prize fighter, the prize being money. The fights were with bare fists and often went on for hours. A round ended only when one of the two boxers was knocked or hurled down!

Jackson was Champion of England from 1795 to 1803, then, after he retired, he took pupils, including the young Lord Byron. In fact, many young noblemen took lessons from Jackson at his school in London’s Bond Street and boxers like Tom Cribb and Mendoza were national heroes. The writer, George Borrow, asked what were the gladiators of Rome or the bull fighters of Spain in its palmiest days compared to England’s bruisers? Jackson’s earnings were colossal, as a pound was many times more valuable in those days. Scrope Davies, who introduced “Tom” Moore to Jackson, was one of Moore’s closest friends.

Byron and Moore did not, in fact, get very close to “blowing each other’s brains out”!

In 1806, Moore had challenged a critic named Francis Jeffrey to a duel, because he had sneered at his political opinions and his character. They were about to shoot it out in a field when the police arrived on the scene and carried them off to Bow Street Police Station, where it was discovered that Moore’s was the only gun loaded! This appears to have been an accident – it was clearly one of those duels where honour would have been satisfied by shooting to miss or not shooting at all.

But the story was often brought up against Moore, and Byron later wrote of Moore’s opponent’s “leadless pencil”! Moore challenged him to a duel, but Byron was abroad. When he returned, Moore had married and did not feel like a fight! The quarrel was patched up, the two poets met for the first time and became firm friends!

The growing driving public bought sporting cars for leisure and status

Posted in Cars, Engineering, Historical articles, History, Sport, Sporting Heroes, Transport on Thursday, 26 September 2013

This edited article about motor racing originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 411 published on 29 November 1969.

Sporting cars, picture, image, illustration

Three sporting car classics: (from top) a Bugatti, an Aston Martin and a Maserati by Peter Jackson

By 1925, the Grand Prix engine was developing so much power and attaining such high speeds that the efficiency of the existing designs of suspension had become more or less obsolete, causing the cars to become difficult and dangerous to handle. The authorities, therefore, decided that the time had come to stop using the riding mechanic so as to eliminate the risk of losing two lives in a serious crash. Thus it was that in 1925 the single-seater Grand Prix car was developed.

By 1926 and 1927, Sunbeam, Fiat and Alfa Romeo had all disappeared from the Grand Prix scene. Alfa Romeo were producing fine sports cars, Fiat were going strongly with their mass production and Sunbeam were producing family cars as well as a splendid four-seater open sports car and a mammoth 1,000 h.p. land-speed-record car for H. O. D. Segrave to drive.

In Grand Prix racing, the field had been reduced to two manufacturers, Delage and Bugatti, both French and both producing exciting sports cars, especially Bugatti, who was also selling his type 35 Grand Prix car to private buyers.

Ettore Bugatti was one of the greatest figures in Grand Prix and sports car motoring. He was born in Milan in 1881. It was in 1912 that he designed the world’s first successful two-seater mini-car and licensed it to the Peugeot Company. It has always been known as the Baby Peugeot.

His great love was for his dogs and horses. Indeed, from 1924 onwards his Grand Prix cars, famous for their great beauty of line, were equally famous for their horseshoe shaped radiators. Bugatti won the world championship in 1926 with his type 35 Grand Prix car. The driver was a French amateur named Charavel, who raced under the name of Sabipa. These superb cars, painted in a shade of blue known to this day as Bugatti Blue, won in their time more than a thousand races.

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Indiana claims Kentucky-born Lincoln for its own greatest son

Posted in America, Geography, Historical articles, History, War on Thursday, 26 September 2013

This edited article about the United States of America originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 411 published on 29 November 1969.

Abraham Lincoln, picture, image, illustration

Abraham Lincoln by Angus McBride

He was born of poor parents in 1809, and moved with them to Indiana in 1816. There, as a boy, he chopped wood, split rails for fences, ploughed, and enjoyed a local reputation as a wrestler and runner. In 1828, the family moved to Illinois, and here Lincoln the Man was formed. First working as a store-keeper’s assistant, he later became a land surveyor and then a lawyer. By 1834, he had been elected to the legislature, and there entered his first protest against slavery.

It was in 1858 that he became nationally famous through a series of debates with Stephen Douglas, a rival for the post of U.S. Senator for Illinois.

Lincoln wanted to stop the spread of slave-owning states, and he pleaded that new Territories to the west should be forbidden to keep slaves. Douglas, on the other hand, wanted them to decide for themselves. Their debates were tremendous, and proved a great strain on both men – Douglas, short, well-dressed and aggressive; Lincoln, tall, awkward-looking, ugly and amusing.

From August to November they travelled by horse and buggy, steamboat and train, addressing thousands in every type of weather. “I believe that this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free,” said Lincoln; but Douglas won the election.

However, Lincoln won the National Election in 1860, led the North in the Civil War to save the Union and then, while attending a theatrical performance, was assassinated in the moment of victory. His body was brought back to Illinois by train, and thousands mourned along the route.

Indiana, where Lincoln spent his boyhood, means “land of the Indians,” even though there are none in this Midwestern state now. Its nickname is the Hoosier State, though no one is very sure what the word means! The most likely explanation seems to be that it stands for “who’s there?” which was originally pronounced something like “who’s yare?” – hence hoosier!

The first Europeans in the area were Frenchmen, who lost control of it at the end of the Seven Years War (1763). After that, it was continually in dispute between the Indians, often aided by the British, and the young United States.

The most notable battle was Tippecanoe in 1811, when the American, William Harrison, attacked the village of the great Shawnee Indian, Tecumseh, who hoped to unite all Indians against the Americans. Harrison’s victory helped him to become elected President 30 years later!

Indiana, which became a state in 1816, is 36,291 square miles in area. Much of the south is tree-covered, while the north bears rich agricultural land. There are many small industrial towns and the capital, Indianapolis, is an important railway and meat-packing centre.

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Diamond and gold prospectors almost fell victim to Indian head-shrinkers

Posted in Adventure, Geology, Historical articles on Thursday, 26 September 2013

This edited article about adventure originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 411 published on 29 November 1969.

The two men headed up the narrow creek, using paddles as well as the outboard motor of their small boat. The jungle had closed in on them, almost blotting out the daylight. But there was still enough light to see that there were scores of alligators lying on either side of the creek between mangrove roots and on steaming mudflats. Suddenly, it seemed as if they were surrounded by them.

“Cut the motor!” shouted one of the men, John Beckett, as he reached for their guns His companion, Mike Wilson, got up, stretched for the motor and slipped – and accidentally opened the throttle right out. The boat shot forward.

Beckett just saved himself from falling overboard. The boat headed straight for the mass of alligators ahead of them. Wilson managed to stop the engine, but it was too late. He lashed at the nearest beast with a paddle, while Beckett fired his shotgun into the seething heap. They scattered, some diving under the boat, others almost climbing aboard. The water was an inferno of snapping jaws. Wilson restarted the engine and the boat shot forward again.

A new disaster threatened. A tree fell across the creek, bringing down another with it. The boat surged into the branches. The two men ducked just in time, but a branch hit the outboard motor and it disappeared over the side into the muddy, alligator-ridden water. But there was worse to come!

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Animated films depended on supreme drawing skills as much as technology

Posted in America, Art, Artist, Cinema, Famous artists, Historical articles, History on Thursday, 26 September 2013

This edited article about cinema originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 411 published on 29 November 1969.

Zoetrope, picture, image, illustration

In 1834 W. G. Horner invented a machine which he called a zoetrope

Slowly, painfully, and with much grunting, the squat, misshapen figure completed the outline of a bison on one of the walls of the cave in which he lived. It was only one of several drawings of a bison, all of them crudely done, which was understandable enough as the artist was a prehistoric man. For all that, he had done something quite remarkable – he had analysed movement and had drawn it in a series of pictures. He was, in fact, the first animator.

The problem of making a series of successive images move was not solved until the beginning of the 19th century, when a Belgian professor, named Plateau, invented the phenakistoscope, a revolving disc, with figures drawn on it, which came to life when viewed through a series of slits. Two years later, in 1834, W. G. Horner, an Englishman, invented a similar machine called a zoetrope. Emile Reynaud of France took the next step forward with his machine, called a praxinoscope. By 1888 he had developed it to such a degree that he was able to give public performances by projecting his pictures on to the back of a screen which greatly enlarged the image. These performances, which were accompanied by special music and sound effects, were so successful that he opened a larger theatre in the Musee Grevin, in Paris, which remained open from 1892 until the turn of the century. During that time, no less than half a million people attended his performances.

But Emile Reynaud’s work in the field of animation was soon to be overshadowed by the moving pictures of the Lumiere Brothers. Unable to compete with the rapidly-growing cinema industry, Reynaud became so depressed that he finally threw most of his apparatus into the River Seine.

Although a large number of rather primitive cartoon films were made in America and France during the first years of the 20th century, the animated film did not begin to come into its own until the early years of the First World War, when the cartoon character, Felix the Cat, began to appear regularly on cinema screens all over the world.

Felix was simply drawn, and the films in which he appeared did not even have sub-titles, but everyone loved him. Technically, he was no better drawn than most of the other cartoon characters of the time, but he had a special appeal of his own, thanks largely to the imagination of his creator, an Australian, Pat Sullivan, who had learned his craft drawing comic strips. Felix also had the honour of having a special theme tune written for him called, “Felix Kept on Walking,” which was hummed by children everywhere.

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In England the waning of the Middle Ages ended at the Battle of Bosworth

Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Politics, Religion, Royalty, Ships on Thursday, 26 September 2013

This edited article about Tudor England originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 411 published on 29 November 1969.

Henry VII, picture, image, illustration

Henry VII considers the expansion of England's navy by Ron Embleton

He was a tall, thin man with sharp eyes set wedge-like, as if by an axe, in a thin face. He had a habit of making jottings in a notebook, which he always carried in his pocket, when people spoke to him, sometimes flipping back through the pages to remind them of what they had said on a previous occasion. He had the build of a warrior, the look of a scholar and the bearing of a king – and he was all three.

We are rightly interested in ordinary people and how they lived, and not in kings, but at the start of the reign of Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs, we must stop to consider this king in particular. For the Battle of Bosworth, at which he won the crown in 1485, was the start of a new era in England’s story. It marked the end of the Middle Ages and the dawn of an age of life and freedom in enterprise, art, religion, commerce and foreign policy. It was an age of new ideas, and how the King stimulated and encouraged these new trends had a vital effect on the lives of English people.

The new king faced a remarkable personal situation as he placed the crown on his own head at the end of the day at Bosworth: he was the first of our kings whose government was to be virtually absolute, the first of the Tudors whose rule, by virtue of circumstances, was akin to dictatorship.

Hitherto, kings had reigned in fear of their barons, any two or more of whom were often far more powerful than the King and who, as we have seen in the Wars of the Roses, could make and unmake kings on a whim.

But those same Wars of the Roses were self-destruction to those all-powerful barons. Many of them had been killed in their causes, and the strength of those who were left was sapped and exhausted by the constant warfare. Peace and a new leadership were needed, and the lords of England were suddenly no longer there to provide it.

We might think that in such circumstances the Commons might have risen up and taken over the reins of government. This did not happen because the Commons were not yet ready for it. Instead, the violence of the civil wars brought home to men the idea that their only saviour could be the king – that he alone would protect the weak and the strong alike. The people, the clergy, even M.P.s, were all agreed about this.

Thus for the next 150 years the King was to be treated like a deity by all classes; he was to be the fountain of justice, theoretically the sole landowner, and the supreme guardian of the peace. Government was centred on him, with the aids of councillors and courts of justice, and his rule was by divine right.

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Marian Evans took the pen name ‘George Eliot’ and won lasting literary fame

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Literature on Thursday, 26 September 2013

This edited article about English literature originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 411 published on 29 November 1969.

The Mill on the Floss, picture, image, illustration

Tom and Maggie Tulliver are reconciled in the final scene as the river floods in The Mill on the Floss, by Walter James Allen

As a child Marian Evans was treated as the ugly duckling of her family. She was a plain-featured girl without any redeeming feminine qualities. Her movements were awkward, her walk clumsy, and she was not interested in housework or her own personal appearance. Her slovenliness irritated her ailing mother, and Marian was only happy when playing with her elder brother, Isaac, in the grounds of their country house near Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Marian’s father was a local estate agent, and when Isaac outgrew his little sister, Mr. Evans took her with him on his round of estate duties.

In 1832, thirteen-year-old Marian was sent to school in Coventry, where she impressed the teachers by her exceptional intelligence. In fact it was her brainpower that was later to make her even more unhappy. For, on leaving school, she could find no one with whom she could converse with on an equal mental level. More than twenty years later Marian poured all her teenage misery into her strongly autobiographical novel, The Mill on the Floss. By then she was famous as “George Eliot”, author of Scenes from Clerical Life, and the popular Adam Bede.

Her third novel The Mill on the Floss was unlike either of her other books, and she stated that her main purpose in writing it was: “To show the conflict which is going on everywhere when the younger generation with its higher culture comes into collision with the older.” In the novel Marian appears as the young Maggie Tulliver, and Isaac is seen as her somewhat arrogant brother, Tom. As in Marian’s own childhood, Maggie is a shy and sensitive creature whose love of books and music sets her apart from the simple country folk around her.

Although she and Tom are of opposite temperaments, the bond that unites them remains firm throughout a number of distressing incidents – including the sale of the mill in which they grew up. The mill comes to almost dominate the story, and is the setting of the book’s dramatic and sad climax.

Marian chose the pen-name of George Eliot because she believed her work would only be accepted if it was thought to be that of a man. For a time she fooled the public and the critics. But one person, the novelist Charles Dickens, saw through her disguise. In a letter to her addressed “Dear Sir”, he wrote: “I have observed what seemed to me . . . womanly touches in these moving fictions. . . . If they originated with no woman, I believe that no man ever before had the art of making himself mentally so like a woman since the world began.”

Franz Liszt was the greatest pianistic genius after Frederic Chopin

Posted in Famous Composers, Historical articles, History, Music on Thursday, 26 September 2013

This edited article about music originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 411 published on 29 November 1969.

Franz Liszt, picture, image, illustration

Franz Liszt from the portrait by Ary Scheffer

Adam Liszt knew what agony it was to love music, yet not be able to make it one’s career. Poverty and the need to support himself and his family forced him to abandon his hopes of becoming a concert pianist. Instead, he obtained work as a steward at the court of Prince Esterhazy in Hungary, and when he saw that his son, Franz, had musical talent he vowed that nothing and no one would stand in the boy’s way.

By 1823, when Franz was twelve years old, the Liszt family had moved to Vienna, where the youngster studied the piano and musical composition. He was soon considered good enough to give his first public performances, and at one of these the great composer, Beethoven, was in the audience. At the end of the concert Beethoven was overcome with admiration for the brilliant young Hungarian. He rushed on to the platform, grasped Franz by the shoulders, and kissed him heartily on both cheeks.

But Franz did not allow his sudden success to go to his head. He realized that he still had a lot to learn, and went to Paris to finish his studies. Accompanied by his father, he moved on to London, where his virtuosity was greatly acclaimed. After spending two years touring the concert halls of Europe, Adam Liszt died, and Franz was left in the care of his mother. As he grew older he became attracted to the Romantic school of literature and art, and his enthusiasm for such writers as Victor Hugo, and the French historical painter Delacroix, knew no bounds. “I study them, meditate on them, devour them with fury,” he wrote to a friend. “. . . And provided I don’t go mad, you will find such an artist in me!”

As Liszt continued his tours of the European capitals, he was acknowledged and hero-worshipped as the greatest pianist of his day. The musician himself, however, was even prouder of his own compositions; and during his career he wrote more than 400 original pieces for the piano, and made some 900 transcriptions, or arrangements, of other composer’s work.

His life was punctuated by a series of violent love affairs in the course of which he was once nearly shot, and frequently he had locks cut from his hair. One female admirer even obtained the stump of his cigar at an official dinner and kept it on her person for the next twenty-five years! Of all Liszt’s many compositions the two best-loved are his Hungarian Rhapsodies and his Transcendental Etudes, or piano studies.

In 1886 Liszt went on yet another tour, from Paris to Brussels to Bayreuth. On his way to the Bayreuth Festival he caught a chill on the train and subsequently died of pneumonia.