Category Archives: Magazine Articles

Grizedale Hall – the “U-boat Hotel”

(This post was originally distributed as HV Morton Society Snippets – No.202)

Grizedale Hall (Wiki)Grizedale Hall in the Lake District (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

A couple of months ago I received a most surprising communication:

Greetings from America!

I am a U-Boat researcher (www.U-35.com) and years ago came into possession of a Daily Herald article by Morton: H. V. Morton Visits The “U-Boat Hotel” Guests.

I gather that Morton collected these articles into book/pamphlet form for publication, as this topic is included in one of his books.  I have attached an article which I gather was written in November 1939, as it refers to “ten weeks of war” – so the officers of “my” U-Boat (U-35) were not incarcerated yet; they arrived at Grizedale in December.

I would like to make one request – please place this article on the website for all to enjoy.  There is a strong worldwide interest in U-Boats, and a recognition of “U-Boat Hotel” as Grizedale Hall.  My own great-uncle and fellow officers of U-35 were housed at Grizedale before being transported to Canada in 1940.  When U-Boat researchers look for “U-Boat Hotel” it would be wonderful to find and reference the text and photos of Morton’s wonderful article on your website.

Thanks in advance for considering, Hans Mair

What an unexpected treasure – Hans had attached photographs of the article in question. They were yellowed with age and a little faded but still legible enough to get a transcript done, which I have included, with copies of the original pictures, below.

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The original newspaper article was expanded by Morton and included in his 1942 work “I Saw Two Englands” as section 2 of Chapter 9 (p 256 in my 1943 fourth edition). Having sight of the original article is exciting enough, but to have a connection through it with a relative of one of the submarine crew who were detained there (albeit not until after Morton’s visit) is doubly so. I would urge you to visit Hans’s U-35 website for even more detail. His writing gives a true insight into the lives of submariners in the German Navy during the Second World-War, in particular the crew of the U-35, their capture and imprisonment – and their chivalry.

Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, Somerset, England

§

[Hand written note reads: Grizedale Hall, Lake District]

H.V. Morton Visits the “U-boat Hotel” Guests

H. V. MORTON AT “U-BOAT HOTEL”

HERE is an absorbing news story. It takes you inside a prison camp “Somewhere in Britain” where German U-boat officers are detained.
H. V. Morton has written it as one of his great series which the “Daily Herald” is publishing daily.

By H.V. Morton

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The “DOOR KEEPER” on duty at the entrance to the “U-boat Hotel”

I wanted to see the captured German submarine officers.

I wanted to find out how we are treating them, what kind of men they are, what they do with themselves, and if they are grateful to us, or at least to fate, for having literally fished them out of the jaws of death.

The officer commanding the district gave me an introduction to the commandant of the prison camp and I set off to motor 50 miles into a wilderness—a beautiful wilderness whose solitude deepened as I went on.

The German prisoners captured during 10 weeks of war do not include one army officer, N.C.O. or private. They are all either U-boat officers and men rescued at sea or crews of raiding aircraft shot down over our coasts or in our territorial waters. Their numbers continue to increase. Men are sent to one camp, officers to another.

As in the last war large country houses have been taken over to accommodate the officers, and the first one to be occupied — the Donington Hall of this war—was the place to which I was journeying. I cannnot tell you its name. but it is known in all the villages round about as “The U-boat Hotel.” It is in the heart of a district familiar to the more adventurous kind of hiker, cyclist and lover of untamed nature, and I went on for many a mile without meeting a soul.

I felt I must at last be getting near, and this became a certainty as turning the corner of a lane I was obliged to pull up to allow a remarkable procession to pass. It was led by a mounted policeman. He rode in this remote solitude as if he were patrolling Whitehall. Behind marched several old soldiers wearing the ribbons of the last war and armed with rifles and fixed bayonets. Marching four abreast came about 20 young men laughing and joking in German as they strode between a line of guards.

Most of them were bare-headed, all of them wore strangely assorted clothing. I was to learn that some of it belonged to British naval officers who had rescued them from the sea. Many wore the leather trousers that German submarine officers wear on duty, and these garments had been supplemented by civilian coats and waistcoats.

Bad Teeth

The procession ended with more armed guards and a British Officer [here a hand-written note reads “Captain J.C. Derlien  MC”].

In the orderly room to whch I was conducted by a sentry the colonel in command of “The U-boat Hotel” was telephoning to a dentist in a distant town arranging for the teeth of six Germans to be stopped.

If I am allowed to have heard that conversation” I said, “might I say that six seems a high proportion to require dental treatment?

“Many of the U-boats were in position two months before the war broke out,” replied the Colonel, “and I suppose even a U-boat officer puts off going to the dentist as long as possible!

(continued on Page Four, Column Three)


[here a line is missing from the scan, but the same section in “I Saw Two Engands” reads: “Anyhow, the fact remains that their… ]

… teeth are in a bad way, I shall send them to the dentist with an armed guard in a motor-lorry

The colonel had been through the last war and was on the Reserve List when called up to organise “The U-boat Hotel” He the ideal man for the job, a bachelor who likes living in the depths of the country, a humorous, humane disciplinarian who is resolved to make his captives as comfortable as regulations will allow.

He has under him five officers and about 150 men of the National Defence Corps, all old soldiers, and several of them, by some ironic twist of destiny, once British prisoners of war in Germany! The officers and guards live in the estate cottages and in the barns and the stables, while the Germans live in the more spectacular surroundings of the hall itself.

Before we went to the hall we had a look at the quarters in which the guards are living. A canteen is being fitted up in an old coach house. Coke stoves are being installed in barns and stables where the men sleep. These old soldiers appeared delighted to be back in khaki. I thought that perhaps their wives would not be too pleased to see how gaily they have taken to the old life! As we walked past their beds and looked at the kits neatly set out on the blankets I noticed that above every bed had been placed a picture of the King or Queen.

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A German prisoner of war reading beside a log fire at the “U-boat Hotel”

* * *

We now approached the hall itself. A huge country house in the Edwardian-Tudor style that was empty when war broke out and has been empty, I think, for two or three years. It is the kind of house in which few people except orphans or committees can afford to live nowadays. It once belonged to a wealthy shipowner. It has been surrounded by a double system of barbed wire entanglements. Armed guards patrol the place day and night and high look-out platforms have been erected all round it on which sentries are posted. A circle of powerful electric lights illuminates the hall and its grounds after nightfall. The Germans sleep in dormitories, formerly the best bedrooms, and as more prisoners arrive more rooms are opened up. They sleep on comfortable iron bedsteads and box mattresses and have an adequate supply of warm blankets.

Men who are rescued from the sea rarely have any possessions, so the officers have had to be provided with razors, soap, shaving brushes and other articles, which are to be seen; neatly arranged above each bed. Their possessions will grow, no doubt, as their captivity lengthens and as parcels are received from Germany.

At the moment they have no money, but arrangements for an Anglo-German prisoners-of-war finance scheme are going through with, I believe, the help of the Dutch Government, which is acting as go-between. When this scheme is complete English money will go to Germany for our prisoners and German money will come over here for Germans. Lack of money, of course, means no cigarettes, but the British officers have supplied cigarettes at their own expense.

Picture of Hitler

The huge panelled dining-room on the ground floor, in which the shipowner once entertained his guests, is the German common-room. It is simply furnished with a few chairs and a ping-pong table. The only decoration is a photograph of Hitler shooting out his arm in salute.

Every prisoner is a hundred per cent. Nazi.” said the Colonel.

At first, when addressed by an officer, they would come to attention and give the Nazi salute with a ‘Heil Hitler.’ But we have stopped that, and they don’t attempt to do it now.

What do they do all day?

They play cards and ping-pong. The Bishop of —– has sent us a lot of German books, I hope, as time goes on to be able to organise other amusements for them, so that they won’t get too bored.

A serving hatch from the dining-hall communicates with a large up-to-date kitchen. Four German naval ratings who had been submarine cooks, have been detailed to look, after the officers. They receive ordinary military rations—exactly the same food as that in the British Officers’ mess—and this the German cooks are allowed to prepare as they like, or rather as their officers like!

While we were looking at the bathrooms upstairs we heard the tramp of approaching feet and saw the Germans returning from their morning exercise. The sentries sloped arms. The gates in the barbed wire were hastily unlocked and the young men passed inside.

He Sobbed

See that young fellow, the third in the last file,” said the commandant, “He’s a submarine lieutenant—a mere boy—and he sobbed his heart out the first night because he is now of no further use to the Fatherland.

We went downstairs into the dining-room, where the Germans were now gathered. They sprang stiffly to attention until the commandant told them to relax. A sentry stood at the door with a rifle and fixed bayonet. The young men gathered round the commandant and talked freely to him in excellent English, and I could see that they liked him. I think these young fellows also respected the long row of ribbons on his chest.

* * *

After lunching with the British officers in their mess I noticed with interest that they were all reading “The Escaping Club,” by AJ Evans, an admirable account of British prisoners in Germany during the last war. I was told that the commandant had suggested it was their, duty to study the psychology of war captivity.

It is impossible for men captured in war not to dream of escape,” I was told.

No matter how awful the horrors from which they’ve escaped and how sure the knowledge that they are safe, the boredom, the lack of news, the very fact of being held against their wills in enemy country makes any risk and even a return to danger seem worth while.

A veteran was sitting near the stove solemnly adding to the art gallery. He had a pile of old “Sketches” and “Tatlers” and a pair of scissors. I watched him at work, gloomily passing over film stars and dancers; but whenever he came across a picture of the King or Queen he made a pause of sombre satisfaction and dug the scissors into the page. It will be a loyal and  regal barn when he has finished with it!

It was surprising to realise that such average-looking young fellows—just the kind of young men one might have met at any Anglo-German party in London before the war—were the men who have launched torpedoes against our ships and have attempted to make a mess of the Forth Bridge.

But “the enemy,” when he is not actually trying to kill you, is always a surprising sight!

I have known a number of Nazis and have been impressed and irritated by them on many occasions. I have always found that on the essential doctrines of their faith it is impossible to argue; for a non-Nazi to talk politics to a Nazi provokes precisely the same kind of mental deadlock as that between an atheist and a devout Catholic.

I had no need to look twice at the German officers to see that they carry their faith into captivity. They have been fished out of the sea or picked up from the land positively bursting with love and homage for their almost divine leader; and nothing can convince them at this moment that Germany can fail to win the war.

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HV Morton on the television

In this bulletin we take a look at a particularly personal piece of Mortoniana.

The newspaper clipping below was sent to me by founder-member and Morton biographer Kenneth Fields. Kenneth informs me it was originally sent by HVM to his sister Piddie in 1974 and later passed on to Kenneth by Jo Walters, Morton’s niece. Kenneth points out that Morton’s age is corrected in his own hand – even at the age of 82 (or 83) this was a journalist who wanted to get the facts correct!

HVM on the radio

By way of background, it seems South Africa had no television until 1976 and this article was an account of the preparations by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for their television network. They proudly declare they have (by 1974, when the article was written) accumulated 50 hours of programmes ready to be broadcast.

The person who was to interview Morton was Dewar McCormack, head of the English service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in Cape Town. He was described by Pamela Coleman (who ran the SABC equivalent of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour with him as her boss) as a good-looking man in a craggy, Robert Mitchum sort of way, a part-Irish South African who had travelled around and done a stint broadcasting in New Zealand. An old-fashioned, professional broadcaster, he was friendly but stern and didn’t approve of ‘larking about’!

The print of the scan is quite small so I have transcribed the relevant section:

The Cape Times Weekend Magazine, Saturday, July 20, 1974

SHOW SCENE

Television: a taste of things to come
by Ian Forsyth

He’s an old man now, 83 [HVM has corrected this to 82 in his own hand! Ed.]. And he sits in his study, inevitably book-lined, remembering – for SABC television. As a television personality, Robin Knox-Granger, manager of the SABC television service, thinks he’s “just tremendous”.

This television personality of South Africa’s pre-television era is Author-journalist H.V. Morton who lives at Somerset West. And some time after January 1976 South Africans will see six programmes in which Morton talks of things that fascinate him and memories he has of a lifetime of writing and reporting.

He is interviewed for the English television service by Dewar McCormack at half hour stretches.

It’s very, very seldom, if ever that you get someone who can just sit and talk and be interviewed in this way,” Knox-Grant told me in Grahamstown this week. “Once, perhaps twice only, we have had to stop the cameras, and this was only for technical reasons – for cut-ins, where you have to move to something which he has been talking about and will show you. He comes across superbly. You can just sit and watch him without any kind of interruption.”

Knox-Grant and a television team travel from Johannesberg to Somerset West for their filming sessions, which almost never exceed the allotted 30 minutes of time for which the programmes are scheduled. And it is only a small facet of the work now being done by the television service,  which now has about 50 hours of viewing material available for English and Afrikaans viewers – about 25 hours for each language…

Many thanks go to Kenneth for providing us with this delightful insight into HVM’s later years.

With best wishes,

Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, Somerset, England

This article was originally distributed as HVM Society Snippets – No.192 on 26 September 2015

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“I, James Blunt” – propaganda, fiction or both? by Elisabeth Bibbings

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This article was first issued as HVM Society Snippets – No.174 on 11 November 2014

This summer, I was browsing (yet again) in a secondhand bookshop, and found a delightful volume of Paul Gallico short stories (famous of course for “The Snow Goose”).  In this book, he reproduced some of his best magazine stories, and also had written an interesting preface to each one, telling how the story came to be created.

One such story was called “Thief is an Ugly Word”, (produced in Cosmopolitan during the Second World War).  The story told how the Nazis, to fund their war effort, turned to peddling stolen art, mostly using Fascist sympathisers in Argentina.  There was truth behind the story, and Gallico explains how the truth came to be spelt out in this fashion:

“During the war (in America) there was created at the behest of Washington, the most astonishing propaganda agency which met in New York, called the Writers’ War Board. . . its function was simple and easy to understand. When the psychological warfare boffins in Washington needed a writing job of any kind, the problem was dumped into the lap of the War Board in New York which found the right author in the shortest possible time and got the job done.  This would be in the guise of short stories, novelettes, newspaper articles or even circulars and pamphlets.  It worked . . .Propaganda in fiction is useful only when the characters and the story are thoroughly beguiling, interesting, or exciting and entertaining.  [He goes on to say that the story must be good or else the nugget of information you are conveying won’t get through – like “sugarcoating the pill”.]

“If this strikes you as a devious way to go about an exposee and if you might be inclined to say that a factual and documented article . . . might have been more effective, you would be wrong.  It is a fact, startling perhaps in its implications, that fiction has a far greater propaganda value and gains far more credence amongst readers than actuality.  I need refer you only to Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the results it achieved. A truth becomes far more vivid and active and lives in people’s minds to a much greater extent when fictionalised than when presented merely as fact.  People like to be told a story.”

From the collection “Confessions of a Story-Teller“, published in 1961.

I James Blunt 2

This reminded me of Morton and his one fictional work “I, James Blunt”.  For those who haven’t read it, it is a diary of an ordinary man living in Nazi England, after Germany has won the war.  It grimly describes day-to-day life including living in fear that someone with a grouse against you may turn you over to the authorities – which is what happens to James Blunt in the story.  It’s about the only work of Morton’s that I don’t particularly want to re-read and re-re-read.

But was this written in the same way as Gallico’s tale?

Kenneth Fields, HVM Society historian, writes in his book “The Life of an Enchanted Traveller” that the Ministry of Information did the job of the American Writers War Board.

“Its many separate divisions included a Home Intelligence Unit that prepared reports on the morale of the civilian population, a Films Division and a Literary and Editorial Division that produced a range of booklets about the war. The Authors’ Section was housed in the University College buildings in Gower Street, Bloomsbury and for a period its head was novelist Graham Greene who worked alongside fellow writer Malcolm Muggeridge. With academic scepticism they both believed their work was of little importance and found the Ministry to be generally inefficient.

“However in spite of these misgivings Greene continued to take his duties seriously. One of his schemes involved approaching a number of well-known politicians and writers to ask if they would use their talents in writing a series of patriotic pamphlets and books. These famous names included E. M. Delafield, Herbert Morrison, Vernon Bartlett, Dorothy Sayers, Howard Spring and H.V. Morton.”

It was as a result of his work for this Division, that Morton was chosen, along with Howard Spring, to write up the account of Churchill’s summit with Eisenhower which you will find in his book “Atlantic Meeting”.

I agree with Gallico that fiction makes for powerful propaganda.  Morton has the Union Jack banned, Waterloo Station becomes Goebbels Station, (names of British victories being erased from history), houses crumbling and the suicide rate soaring.  The Hitler Youth Movement is planned to be rolled out in schools.  Children will be educated in German.  All this carefully written to stiffen the morale of the British public.

Morton finishes his sombre novella with these words, “Fortunately the Diary of James Blunt will remain fiction as long as England condemns complacency and bring to times of good news the same high courage and resolution which inspire and unite her in her darkest hours.

As we remember those darkest hours, and those who fell in them, and those who did not fall, but fought on with that same courage and resolution – may we also spare a thought for those who fought Fascism with the weapons at their command – the typewriter and the pen.

With best wishes,

Elisabeth Bibbings

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Camera Obscura Still in Use in 1939!

I saw Two Englands small

HVM Society member Stan White hails from Ontario, Canada. Stan is a published poet and a well known professional photographer, specialising in stereo photography; he has written past bulletins on the subject of HV Morton’s keen interest in photography.

So, recently, when Stan sent me the following email, on a closely related subject, it caught my eye and, after a bit of transcription and (strictly amateur) photo-manipulation, I have put it together in a suitable form for sharing with the rest of the Society.

HV Morton made many contributions to the war effort on the Home Front during the Second World War – as well as serving in the Home Guard, he covered stories of the blitz in his columns at the time and wrote his only work of fiction, “I James Blunt” (1942), for no financial reward, as a warning to the nation about complacency in the face of the Nazi threat; earning the personal thanks of Prime Minister Winston Churchill as a result.

Other war-related works from Morton included “Atlantic Meeting” (1943), “Travel in Wartime” (1940) and – the subject of Stan’s article – “I Saw Two Englands” (1942).

— § —

Good morning Niall,

As you know, I am a retired photographer. This year is the 40th anniversary of Photographic Historical Society of Canada and I have a great stack of its magazine Photographic Canadiana, for which, over the years I have written articles on the history of photography and, in fact, still do.

For a while I did a column for it called oddities. My objective was to find tidbits of information relating to the history of photography. Lo and behold, when I was looking through the mags recently I came across this item that I had written back in 1995, long before I had an interest in HVM and which I had completely forgotten about.

Take care,

Stan

from Photographic Canadiana 21-1 May – June 1995

Camera Obscura - Stan White - pic 2

When this column first appeared reporting interesting tid-bits of photographica from non-photographic books, it was expected that there might be the occasional item but so far, we have had three items in almost as many months.

The following is gleaned from “I Saw Two Englands” by HV Morton, published in 1943 by Methuen & Co. ltd., London, and Reginald Saunders, Toronto.

Morton toured England in early and late 1939. On his second tour, shortly after the beginning of the war he gave an account of a visit to the Royal Air Force Flying Training School. The following is an account of a method of training bomb-aimers:

“Another ingenious invention is the camera obscura hut, which tells the instructor whether a man in a bomber several thousand feet above him, has, in theory, bombed the hut. The place is dark save for a circle of light reflected (projected) upon a table through a lens in the roof. A spot in the centre on the table represents the hut.

When an aeroplane is flying overhead you can watch its shadow (image) slowly cross the table, as it is reflected (projected) by the lens. As it nears the centre a tiny white flash is seen, which is really the firing of a magnesium bulb in the aeroplane. This represents the bomb, or rather the exact moment at which the bomber pressed the bomb-release.

“The instant the flash is seen, it is plotted on the table. It is a simple matter to allow for the time taken for the bomb to drop according to the height of the plane, the angle at which it falls, according to the speed and wind, and this shows you how near, or how far, the bomber was from his target.

(words in brackets are mine – SW)

This article was originally distributes as HVM Society Snippets – No.165;
29 March 2014

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The ‘Monna Lisa’ of Ancient Egypt

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Recently, HV Morton Society member Tony Brett mentioned he had been researching into a small statue at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The full account of his search makes a gripping tale and Tony’s detective work would rival Hercules Poirot himself!

The story begins almost exactly a century ago…

On page sixteen of his excellent biography “In Search of HV Morton”, author Michael Bartholmew tells us about HVM’s eagerness to go on an assignment for the Daily Express, to report on the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun, in 1923. The origins of this eagerness are, says Bartholomew, “… traceable to the Birmingham art gallery, where he was intrigued by a little statue”.

He quotes from Morton’s memoirs where Morton reports “My interest settled, for a reason I can offer no explanation, upon an ancient Egyptian bust about half the size of life which I took to be – indeed it may have been so labelled – a priestess of Isis… The work obsessed me and I began writing about it, trying to describe it, and in a moment of recklessness I posted one of these to… The Connoisseur… they printed the article and sent me a cheque for thirty shillings or two guineas. And then, of course, my fate had been cast. To realise while still at school that you can make money while writing is a most dangerous thing.

Incredibly, it is this very statue that Tony has tracked down and, what is more, he has also managed to locate the article which Morton wrote for The Connoisseur magazine.

When Tony began his enquiries by contacting Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, he was informed by Adam Jaffer (Curator of World Cultures) that the statue itself was most likely a piece known as the Limestone New Kingdom Bust donated to the museum in 1896. Adam told Tony two articles had been written about the bust, both in 1914.

The dates of the articles came as somewhat of a surprise to Tony, given Morton, born in 1892, had suggested in his memoirs he was at school when his was published. If one of these articles was actually Morton’s, this would make him a very late developer – still at school at the age of twenty two!

Undaunted, Tony set to work tracking down the relevant editions of The Connoisseur magazine. The Birmingham Library had, unfortunately, mislaid their copies in a recent move but they put him onto Birmingham University who in turn referred him to the Barber Institute who, at last, came up with the goods.

Connoisseur cover 2

Tony got browsing and, sure enough, to his great relief, in the May 1914 edition he came across an article entitled “The ‘Monna Lisa’ of Ancient Egypt”, featuring a picture of the Limestone New Kingdom Bust – without question this was the article referred to in Morton’s memoirs!

Incedentally, by virtue of a little detective work of my own, I have discovered that the May 1914 edition of The Connoisseur is available online courtesy of the Internet Archive, here (Morton’s article is on page 27 of the pdf).

But what about the apparent discrepancy regarding Morton’s age when he wrote the article – just how long was HVM at school? Well, Morton’s memoirs were written towards the end of his life, while living in South Africa, and it is likely advancing years and possibly a little harmless artistic license accounted for this minor inaccuracy. It bears mentioning that the statue which, in his memoirs, is referred to as “a priestess of Isis”; was assumed by the younger Morton, in the original article, to be a representation of the goddess Isis herself.

The article is fascinating for a number of reasons in addition to being the original work which helped determine Morton’s future career. For one thing, it is certainly the earliest published work of HV Morton I have ever come across, but the Morton we know and love is there to be seen in his writing style, particularly his evocative and lavish descriptions.

The title of the article too, is interesting – the “Monna Lisa” of ancient Egypt. This isn’t a mistake; Morton is using the authentic Italian spelling of the title of Da Vinci’s work, to which he is comparing his ancient carving.

The thing that threw me completely for a while though was at the end of the article – the initials HCM. Had Tony fallen at the final hurdle I wondered; is this article even by Morton at all?

It is possibly because I am a veterinary surgeon that my confusion lasted as long as it did – the acronym HCM describes a particularly nasty heart condition suffered by cats! So I hope I can be excused for not realising at once that, although this wasn’t our familiar “HVM” (Henry Vollam Morton), it was the much less frequently (if ever) seen “HCM”, or Henry Canova Morton.

In an article by HV Morton’s niece, Jo Walters, she informs us Morton family legend holds that while Maggie, HVM’s mother, was expecting her first child in 1892, she bought some heather from a gypsy-woman. As she was leaving, the woman turned and said; “The child you carry is a boy, and if you call him ‘Canova’ he will be famous in one of the arts”.

Apparently HVM didn’t share his mother’s enthusiasm for the name Canova, (it came from a Venetian sculptor) and always said he did his best to keep it secret. But on this one occasion he has used it, albeit just the initial, and I don’t think anyone could deny that it did indeed help him on his way to becoming “famous in one of the arts”. Perhaps the prophecy of the gypsy lady was correct! Young Harry clearly wasn’t convinced however as, having this once appeased the fates, he thereafter dropped the “Canova” moniker in all future writings.

There is one, last point of interest about the article, not at all obvious from reading it, but which Tony has also uncovered in his researches. It turns out, the “Monna Lisa” of Ancient Egypt isn’t all she appears to be – that “weird smile”, which so entranced our young author, keeps a secret; one which, even to the end of his days, Morton remained blissfully unaware of. Read on to Part Two (below), where the secret is revealed!

§

“The ‘Monna Lisa’ of Ancient Egypt” part two… a Twist in the Tale
In which we discover that HV Morton has been labouring under a slight misapprehension!

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Tony Brett first came across a possible reference to the statue, referred to by HVM as “The ‘Monna Lisa’ of Ancient Egypt“, when he wrote to Adam Jaffer for advice. Adam is Curator of World Cultures at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) and clearly knows his onions because he recognised the statue from the brief description in Morton’s memoirs as being a piece known as the Limestone New Kingdom bust and so put Tony on the trail.

As a bit of background Adam kindly provided an article (sections of which can be seen below) written by Philip Watson – then principal curator in the Department of Human History – for “World Art”, a Birmingham Museum book published in 1999 and edited by Martin Ellis; a show-case for what BMAG considered their best pieces. This article proved most revealing:

§

World Art cover

EGYPT, NEW KINGDOM, LATE 18TH DYNASTY, 1400-1300 BC

Limestone Height 30cm (11 3/4 in.) Presented by Miss Hanson, 1896 (1896 A 69)

Despite being broken and unkindly treated by the ravages of time, this head is the finest piece of sculpture in Birmingham’s Egyptian collection. It is carved out of a hard limestone that unfortunately contained patches of softer rock, which have weathered away to produce the current pitted appearance. The piece was highly, polished and originally would doubtless have been painted, as was customary for Egyptian sculpture.

It was presented to the museum in 1896 and two accounts of the bust (both published in 1914) extol its charm and beauty. One of them calls it the “Mona Lisa of ancient Egypt” and interprets it as a bust of the goddess Isis. The unknown author is “astonished by her beauty“, comments on her “weird smile” and finally asserts that “all the beauty, all the mystery and all the culture of dynastic Thebes blossom on the lips of this strange, stone woman“…

Despite such eulogies, the head is, in fact, that of a man. The rather feminized breast is typical of Egyptian sculpture from the reign of Amenophis III, and the gracious, rather soft physiognomy recalls later eighteenth-dynasty statuary. The figure also wears a distinctly, male duplex wig; the top and back of the wig have wavy strands of hair tied into ringlets at the ends, and these seem to be superimposed over a second wig composed entirely of ringlets, which drop forward over the shoulders. This style is common in the late eighteenth dynasty… [PW]

§

So, wonderful detail about the statue and clear links to Morton’s Connoisseur magazine article, but unfortunately for HVM, and in spite of his reputaion as someone with an eye for the ladies, it turns out his “Monna Lisa” is a bloke!

In fairness, even looking again in the light of this information, the statue’s masculinity is far from obvious and, according to Watson, our man (the “unknown author” of the first 1914 article mentioned above) wasn’t the only one to have made the mistake.

In his memoirs, Morton was still referring to the statue as “she”, suggesting he probably went to his grave without realising his faux pas; but for us this footnote is an another entertaining facet of the life and works of Henry Canova Vollam Morton.

World Art” is for sale in the Birmingham Museum shop and, although the Limestone New Kingdom Bust is currently “off display” (as the Egypt Gallery is closed due to building work for the new Staffordshire Hoard Gallery)*, it will be back on view once again in May, for all to enjoy.

I would like to express my thanks to Tony, on behalf of the HV Morton Society, for the tremendous job he has done in unearthing this early treasure to add to our archives.

Niall Taylor

*This item was originally circulated as HV Morton Literary Notes – No.123 parts 1 and 2, in March 2014

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In Search of Australia

This article first appeared as HVM Society Snippets – No.166

On the first of April, 2005, an HVM Society Bulletin from Peter Devenish claimed the discovery of a previously unknown HV Morton title: “In Search of Australia”. Sceptics in the ranks smelt a rat (or would that be a possum?), particularly given the date of this astonishing announcement. When Peter revealed his April fool prank some days later, relief and amusement abounded in equal measure!

Recently however I have come across evidence which shows, incredibly, “In Search of Australia”, written by HV Morton, was at one time discussed as a serious possibility.

For the following article I am deeply indebted to the Australian National Library’s fascinating “Trove” archive, containing over one third of a billion (!) online pieces, including books, journals, newspapers, maps and music. Trove is described on its web site as an “exciting, revolutionary and free search service”. The fact that it is also highly addictive isn’t mentioned, so be warned – I have spent many a pleasurable hour idly browsing though this rich source of material, greatly to the detriment of domestic duties!

With best wishes,
Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, Somerset, England

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

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HV Morton seems to have been held in some esteem in Australia, so much so that on 5th November 1935 a letter was written by one E. Phillips Danker, Brookman Buildings, Grenfell street, Adelaide, South Australia, to the Adelaide Advertiser as follows:

ADVERTISING AUSTRALIA
INVITATION TO H. V. MORTON PROPOSED: To The Editor

Sir— As a practical scheme for advertising Australia, and incidentally our own State Centenary, I wish to suggest that Mr. H. V. Morton, the well known and entertaining travel- writer be invited to this country for the purpose of compiling a book on Australia. Mr. Morton has ‘discovered’ England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland (the latter twice), and has worked London to its limits. He has visited Palestine and now, we might presume, is looking for fresh fields to conquer. I think it is therefore very possible that he would accept an invitation for the Discovery of Australia. The publication of a book by such a popular author, while being a sound financial proposition for himself, would arouse interest overseas which would undoubtedly have a beneficial effect upon this country in the matter of potential trade investment, and tourists. For our own part, to see ourselves as others see us is always of value. Although we, in connection with our Centenary, should be the prime movers, invitations should also be extended by the other States. The fact that this book might not be published in time to influence Centenary visitors is unimportant, and is not the main issue

I am, Sir, &c,

This suggestion came at a fortuitous time for not only was South Australia holding its state centenary celebrations in 1936, but celebrations for the 150th Anniversary of the Commonwealth of Australia were due to be held in 1938, the same year as the Empire Games were being hosted in Sydney, New South Wales.

The impression from press clippings at the time suggests a strong feeling that Australia should use this opportunity to allow the wider world to know and appreciate what she had to offer as a country, and invitations were made to foreign film-makers and authors, of which HVM was one, to come to visit Australia in order to help with the development of this idea.

From what I can gather from the Trove archive, E. Phillips Danker’s suggestion was taken up and discussed, until a column in the paper summarised opinions on the 5th of November the same year, thus:

“… Both support and criticism of the suggestion were received yesterday from literary men in Adelaide. Mr. R. Irwin, representing the Friends of the Public library, said that if a man like Morton were to come to Australia and see the country, he would be bound to write about it. He appeared to see the best side of the countries he visited, yet his pictures were true to life. He would be a splendid man to get to South Australia for the Centenary. Mr. W. H. Langham, of the Public Library Board, said that he saw no objection to inviting H. V. Morton to visit Australia, but he did not think that the writer would accept an invitation. Morton appeared to excel in writing about countries with a history and tradition, a tradition in which he himself was steeped. He would hardly risk his reputation in discovering a new country like Australia. ‘We do not want discovering,’ Mr. Langham added. ‘What we want is criticism, such as might be dealt us by a writer like Aldous Huxley.’”

Then, on Monday 20 July 1936, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW) carried this article on page 11:

150th ANNIVERSARY.
Book by English Author Suggested.

“Mr. A. W. Hall, of Springwood, has written to the Minister in charge of Australia’s 150th anniversary celebrations (Mr. Dunningham) suggesting that Mr. H. V. Morton, writer of “In Search of England” and “In the Steps of the Master,” should be invited to Australia for the 1938 celebrations and provided with every facility to write “In Search of Australia.”

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Two days later, a letter with a somewhat more partisan flavour appeared from W. E. Fitzhenry, the Secretary of the Fellowship of Australian Writers who (understandably, given his position) felt if anyone was going to publicise Australia to a wider world, it should be an Australian. The title “In Search of Australia” seems now to have become firmly embedded in the popular imagination:

“… if those who are responsible for the 150th anniversary celebrations do decide to sponsor a work of such nature, there would be no need to go to the expense of importing a writer from overseas. We have in Australia a number of excellent descriptive writers who could be trusted to capture the spirit and beauty of their country equally as well as H. V. Morton has captured the spirit and beauty of his country in “In Search of England.” If we are to have “In Search of Australia,” let it be written by an Australian author. In case Mr. Dunningham is giving serious consideration to Mr. Hall’s suggestion, I recommend that he should weigh the claims of Nina Murdoch, Frank Dalby Davison, J. J. Hardie, Will Lawson, S. Elliott Napier, Archer Russell, William Hatfield, Frank Clune, and Ion Idriess, to mention just a few Australian authors whose names readily occur to me. Lovers of Australian literature will be able to name many others who could present the Australian scene as no stranger to our shores could.”

A week or so later came a response from one H. Macpherson:

“… surely most people will agree that H. V. Morton is the only one who will go in search of Australia, and find it, as surely as he found England, Scotland, Ireland, etc. He will not go in search of notoriety, and Australia and the world of readers will have a truthful account of his search. There is only one H. V. Morton, and Australians will see “themselves as others see them.”

– I am, etc.,”

An anonymous columnist summarised both positions on 1st August 1936 but came down in favour of a foreign author:

“The Australian National Travel Association’s invitation to the famous author of ‘In Search of England‘ is of the same character as the scheme whereby well-known American writers recently came here at the initiative of the association. The primary purpose of such invitations is to secure writers of high standing in their respective countries whose descriptions of Australia will reach a wide public there… For this purpose the merit or knowledge of Australian writers is little to the point, since they have not created a great personal public of British readers. The author of ‘In Search of England‘ has achieved this feat in the most striking way by the outstanding excellence of his various travel books. Certainly no Australian writer, and probably no other English one of the same kind, could command such a wide and attentive audience in the British Isles with a book upon Australia.

“An oversea author can also bring to our country a fresh vision and a new outlook, perhaps discovering beauties of which even we ourselves are not completely aware. For what do they know of Australia who only Australia know? It is quite possible that we ourselves, in such a case, may not always be able to see the wood for the trees… An experienced traveller like Mr. Morton also brings a trained observation and a breadth of view obtained from wanderings in many lands. He can thus avoid the superficial or distorted criticism of the country and people “down under” from which we have sometimes suffered at the hands of some oversea visitors in the past… Thus we hope that Mr. Morton will honour us with a visit, and we can promise him a warm welcome when he arrives ‘in search of Australia.'”

On the 4th of August, this invitation was confirmed, in The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.):

H V. MORTON MAY VISIT AUSTRALIA
Guest of Travel Association

“Mr. H. V. Morton, whose articles “In the Steps of St. Paul” are appearing in ‘The Argus,’ may visit Australia late next year or early in 1938.

“He has been invited by the Australian National Travel Association. The chairman of the association (Mr H. W. Clapp), who is also chairman of the Railways Commissioners, said yesterday that Mr. Morton had been invited to visit Australia as the guest of the association, and he had replied that he hoped to be able to accept the invitation before long.”

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Interested parties didn’t have to wait long, and on 10th August, The Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser (NSW), announced:

“Mr. H. V. Morton, the well-known travel writer, has accepted the invitation of the Australian National Travel Association to visit Australia early in 1938. “In the Steps of St. Paul” written by this noted writer, is at present appearing in the ‘Record.'”

Enthusiasm grew during the month of August with a column in “Advocate” (Burnie, Tas.) hoping that Tasmania would get a mention in the proposed work and stating, “… somehow I feel there would be much in our ‘Tight Little Isle’ to capture the fancy of H. V. Morton, who sees beauty and that which is very human all around.”.

The Australian Women’s Weekly of 15 August wrote, of Morton:

“His inimitable travel books have a flavor of their own, and as he is a keen observer and writer of infinite gusto the Australian scene should appeal to him… Australia is in need of the right publicity overseas, and visits by men of the calibre of H. V. Morton can do much to present us in a correct light to the rest of the world.”

Then, inexplicably, as far as I can gather from the Trove archive, things go disappointingly silent. It isn’t until nearly four years later, in 1940, that a series of short paragraphs start to appear in various newspapers across the country, of which this, from the Kalgoorlie Miner (WA), on Saturday 3 February, is typical:

Publicity for Australia
AUTHOR’S PROPOSED VISIT Sydney, Feb. 1.

“Mr. H. V. Morton, the well-known British travel writer, will visit Australia after the war to seek material for further works. Mr. Morton has informed the Federal Government that he would have come here at once had the war not occurred. The Minister for the Interior, Senator Foll, said tonight that the Ministry would give Mr. Morton every assistance he might require. Mr. Morton is best known for his ‘In Search of . . .’ series of books…”

So it appears that plans for HVM’s visit “down under” were delayed to the point where war intervened, after which both Britain and Australia had other, more pressing, priorities.

The archive shows that HVM continued to contribute articles to various Australian newspapers throughout the war (“Night watch over England”, “Truth about army cooks”, “They man the beaches and the tanks”) and afterwards (“The Good Old (Pre-Austerity) Days”, “A pineapple problem”). The proposed visit, hailed so enthusiastically in the summer of 1936 and postponed to an unspecified time after the war however, seems never to have materialised; HV Morton never did venture “in search of Australia” – and I think that’s a great pity.

Further reading:
There are three fascinating video clips of Australia’s 150th Anniversary celebrations here.
… and some photographs from South Australia’s State Cenenary here.

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Illustrated Magazine’s “Coronation Record Number”

Illustrated Coronation issue

There have been 38 coronations in England since William the Conqueror of Normandy was first crowned at Westminster on Christmas day, 1066. Today marks the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second in 1953 following the sadly premature death of her father, King George VI.

On 13th June, 1953, Illustrated Magazine produced a special souvenir edition for the Coronation (a “Coronation Record Number”) to provide, in the words of the editorial, “a full pictorial record of the epic day on which the Queen dedicated herself to the service of God and of her peoples” in the hope that it would “perpetuate for you and your children the memory of June 2, 1953”.

This special edition featured contributions from authors including Sir Compton Mackenzie – “Words from the Heart” – and HV Morton – “A Queen’s Glory Outshines All” – the text of which was transcribed by Kenneth Fields on 2nd June 2011 and can be read in full here: http://www.hvmorton.co.uk/hvmsoc/LN99-101.html#LN100.

Morton’s article begins:

“My seat in Westminster Abbey gave me a perfect view of the objects I wished to see: the Coronation Chair, the Throne, the Chair of Estate and the Royal Box behind it. Nothing else mattered. It was upon that floodlit space before the High Altar, covered with a golden carpet, that the Queen would be anointed and crowned.”

IMG_2781 crop smallWith hints of the central portion of “In Search of London” from two years earlier, and its detailed description of the history and origins of Westminster Abbey, Morton takes us in a broad sweep from the Plantagenets, through St. Edward the Confessor and Henry III, to the present day. With his love of the linguistic, he points out that the ancient word for “Coronation” was the “hallowing, or the making holy, of the monarch”. As the piece continues, he harks back to the Coronation of this new Queen’s father, on 12 May 1937 which he also witnessed, and reported on for the Daily Herald.

The Coronation is, at heart, a communion service and Morton acknowledges this in the closing paragraph of his carefully crafted article as he notes simply:

“Kneeling side by side, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh took Holy Communion. Then, to a great pealing of bells and the sound of cheering, with the music playing and the trumpets blowing, Queen Elizabeth II went out from her hallowing, the Crown upon her head and the sceptres in her hands.”

Measuring 13.5 by 10 inches, the magazine is an evocative time capsule, capturing the feelings and aspirations of the time, both in the reverential tone of the articles and in the multitude of advertisements it features. Everything from rainwear, Ovaltine, bicycles and Bird’s Custard is promoted with a respctful Coronation theme.

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There is even a small advert for “Cuxsome, Gerrard & Co. ltd, Carnation Corn Pads” – for people suffering after standing for hours in the crowds perhaps – and for “glorious” Agfacolour film – just incase anyone was less than satisfied with mere black and white for this special occasion. My favourite is this full colour cartoon from the brewers of Double Diamond beer. Their well known slogan “A Double Diamond works wonders” is wonderfully borne out as a patriotic gentleman is elevated above the cheering crowds atop a teetering tower of beer bottles.

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Other slogans in this edition have fared less well with the vagiaries of time and an evolving language. One wonders just when it dawned on Mars, the manufacturers of Spangles boiled sweets, that the, then innocent and charming, phrase “Spangles, the sweet way to go gay” had finally run its course and become a less than effective means of enticing children to part with precious pocket-money!

The editorial, with justifiable pride, makes considerable mention of the many photographers who contributed to this important edition. The highlight however, (apart from possibly the cover photograph) surely has to be this central photograph, the first one ever published of the coronation in colour, taken by James Jarche who also contributed many photographs to Morton’s books and articles over the years.

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This sought-after and delightful magazine is well worth keeping a look out for. It is occasionally seen on the web pages of second-hand book sellers for reasonable cost and would make an important addition to anyone’s collection of Mortoniana.

A BBC article on the anniversary of the Coronation can be read here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22729342 and a selection of photographs of the day taken by the Magnum Photos agency can be seen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-22709637 (they feature Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall who crossed the pond for the occasion and some appalling weather).

With best wishes,

Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, Somerset, England
2 June 2013

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