Christmas at Krowji Open Studios

Driving back through the darkening countryside, the hillsides and hedges are deepening shades of willow and viridian. The sky to the west is overcast in varying and subtle shades of violet which clear and allow a penetration of light onto the motorway. Yet I find myself recalling a dream of a thousand roses. A few minutes before I had been looking at the bright and bountiful pictures of Siobhan Purdy, housed in an outbuilding of the complex of buildings at Krowji, which as is well known by locals, Redruth Grammar School. The bright interior contrasts with the dilapidated exterior of this marooned classroom exposed on three sides to the cold December winds just mounting in strength as the light fell.This is room W35 and her delightful pictures including “One Thousand Roses” may be seen at

Painting by Siobhan Purdy

Throughout the early December Sunday afternoon the corridors and stairways resonated with melodies, airs, wassails and the sublime singing of Thomas Merrit’s Cornish carols by the Riverside Singers. This choir called visitors, artists and children from the studios to hear again the inspiring words:-

“He comes the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure;
And with the treasures of His grace
To enrich the humble poor.”

The choir energetically led by their Musical Director and composer, Claire Ingleheart, who describes herself as a musical magpie, can be heard at

Riverside Singers led by
Claire Ingleheart

Part of the pleasure of a visit to an Open Studios event at the OldGrammar Schoolis a visit to the Melting Pot café where the sandwiches are stylish and the soup outstanding. The atmosphere is great, this could be out of a novel by Hermann Hesse and the proscenium arch of the gilded theatre provides a grand background to enjoy the accordion. Father Christmas and his wife in striped scarlet and emerald green make their entrance to the masque.

More of the excitement about visiting Krowji derives from the opportunity of viewing such a wide variety of work. The large and dramatic portraits by Chris Anthem repay close consideration. His colourful paintings are executed with oil graphite on dress pattern demand such attention. These are serious and intriguing and questioning works that derive their psychological depth from Anthem’s experience and concerns in Addis Ababa, and elsewhere, together with his interest, along with Jean Baudrillard, in the relationship between the” carnivalesque and cannibalistic”. This is indicated on his website at

focus-baby-one-more-time by Chris Anthem

Wandering along the main corridor, I came across a wall of illustrations by Anna Cattermole. These were delicate, attractive sketches mostly of boat construction with annotated information. Her work may be seen at where I also discovered her series, Fish Tales based on her work at Newlyn.Of the series on display she writes there,” These drawings are a visual diary documenting the building of Freja, a 42ft wooden pilot cutter, by Luke Powell of Working Sail. “In relation to her own observational drawings she quotes Rodin in support of her style of reportage;” It is the artist who is truthful, while the photograph is mendacious; for, in reality, time never stops cold.”

Fitting-the-Garboard-Plank by Anna Cattermole

Self-Portraits 1900-1912 (2) James Bolivar Manson

James Bolivar Manson (26 June 1879,London –3 July 1945,London) was to become the Director of the Tate Gallery for some 25 years up to 1938. Unfortunately, his time at the Tate was not entirely happy and not, in general regarded as a great success. Manson was unable to spend as much time as he wished on his own painting and essentially appears to have taken the job to pay the family bills. He was a close friend of Epstein with whom he shared a studio inParis and of Lucien Pissarro, son of Camille Pissarro. He painted Lucien’s portrait in 1913.

The successes and failures of Manson’s life seem to have taken place either in Parisor London. There is something reminiscent of Charles Pooter about Manson who was born and brought up in the middle-class environment of South London. He lived close to BrockwellPark, between Brixton and Herne Hill and attended Alleyn’s School not far away in Dulwich. Pooter in Diary of a Nobody lived in Holloway. Manson, whose father was a literary editor for the News Chronicle, then took a series of clerk and other office jobs and acquired a taste for practical jokes. Around this time he continued his studies at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art and Lambeth School of Art

James Manson was married to a professional musician who became the music director of the NorthLondonCollegiateSchoolfor Girls. Upon his return from Paris and the Académie Julian and his young family moved to Hampstead. J B M  became a member of the post-impressionist Camden Group and a friend and associate of its Leader William Sickert. The group was limited to just sixteen members but included such illustrious figures as Robert Bevan, Henry Lamb, Duncan Grant and Augustus John and Wyndham Lewis.

The self-portrait shows a thoroughly English fellow with pipe and the determined expression of a proper chap. It is perhaps not surprising to learn that later put on a show of popular cricket pictures at the Tate, during the 1934 ashes tour when critics felt he should have been promoting the European avant-garde. Henry Moore and Matisse were out and Burne-Jones, whose exhibition was opened by his relation Stanley Baldwin, and Constable were decidedly in. If JB Manson were around today, he may well have subscribed to The Chap Magazine! See

The latter part of Manson’s life was very sad due mostly to a growing problem with alcohol. He appears to have been unsympathetic to German Expressionism, Surrealism and many other aspects of Modernism at the Tate. Famously, he was harsh in his assessment of the sculpture of Arp, Duchamp and Constantin Brâncuşi‘s work which he roundly denounced.  His career came to a hilarious climax at a dinner in Paris, in 1938, at the King George V hotel. Kenneth Clark described him as having, “As having a flushed face, white hair and a twinkle in his eye; and this twinkling got him out of scrapes that would have sunk a worthier man without trace.” However,Clark had arranged the dinner at which Manson was to meet his unfortunate demise. Clive Bell, theBloomsbury aficionado and art critic, perhaps uncharitably, described it thus:-

“Manson arrived at the deepener given by the minister of Beaux Arts fantastically drunk—punctuated the ceremony with cat-calls and cock-a-doodle-doos, and finally staggered to his feet, hurled obscene insults at the company in general and the minister in particular, and precipitated himself on the ambassadress, Lady Phipps, some say with amorous intent others with lethal intent………… the guests fled ices uneaten, coffee undrunk…” I hope an example will be made, and that they will seize the opportunity for turning the sot out of the Tate, not because he is a sot, but because he has done nothing but harm to modern painting.”

So Manson retired early at 58 and devoted himself to splendid flower painting!

Self-Portraits 1900-1912 (1) Sir William Orpen


This painting of around a hundred years ago has a very striking quality and feels distinctly modern, almost contemporary. It was painted when the artist was about 32 years old. Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen, KBERARHA (27 November 1878 – 29 September 1931) was an Irish portrait painter and a friend of Augustus John whom he had met at the Slade where he had trained under Tonks and was a friend of Hugh Lane, a Cornishman who established Dublin’s Municipal gallery of Modern Art. He is considered to be a realist painter influenced by Spanish Art and deriving inspiration from French nineteenth-century painting. It is clear that in his training he had closely studied art history, was interested in interiors where Dutch painting was one influence.

Looking at this dramatic self-portrait of 1910, the viewer is struck by the posture and demeanour of the figure and the strong composition; a frame within a frame, with the Venetian blinds behind. Here the artist assumes a pose and is dressed in a bowler hat and riding habit. The artist is holding gloves and a riding crop which might easily be taken for one of the long brushes that are visible at the bottom of the painting. There is a certain romanticism about this powerful composition which conveys a superabundance of creative energy and assertion. Yet there is also a hint of self doubt about this somewhat adolescent expression. Here is the Celtic and the equivalent in painting to the poet, the writer and the dramaturge. The facial expression has been described as puckish and yet the features rather remind one of Franz Kafka. The stance may be confident but here is a person whose self-searching reveals an element of self-doubt.

This painting is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the website comments, “A shelf below the mirror holds paintbrushes and rags, the tools of the artist’s trade, as well as several bottles of liquor. Various pieces of correspondence, including an I.O.U. signed by Orpen, are tucked behind the frame of the mirror, further testifying to the pleasures and distractions of the painter’s early career. The space of the picture is shallow but complex, with Orpen using his skills as a draftsman to resolve the challenges of surface, lighting, and reflection that he has set for himself.” The composition appears vigorous partly because of the geometry. Orpen’s arm and crop point to the decanters in the foreground. The diagonals of the floor offer an intriguing contrast to the oblongs that dominate the picture. Greens and yellows dominate and there are subtler tones of intermediate whites and greys. The attention is focussed on the black hat and bowtie and in the direct expression of the eyes.

Orpen was certainly a productive painter and worked at an astonishing pace throughout his career. This painting was executed some seven years before he was to travel to the Western Front where his experiences were to deeply alter his perception and where he became a famous portrait painter of the military and the foremost politicians. The contrast between the statesman in the relative comfort ofVersaillesand the devastating landscape of the trenches and the slaughter of ordinary soldiers did not escape his notice. He was to bravely point up these differences in his controversial work. 138 pieces were donated, on the understanding they were to be displayed in simple white frames, to the British Government. These are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Orpen became a Royal Acaademician in 1919 and there is a considerable amount of information about him on the internet. One very interesting website is to be found at where more discussion on his self-portraits may be found in part1 of Painters I Should Have Known About (006), part1. Below are three further self-portraits Orpen completed.



Heidegger Reframed By Barbara Bolt


Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889– May 26, 1976is renowned for the complexity and subtlety with which his thoughts on the philosophy of being (ontology) is expressed. His ideas are inspired by numerous sources from the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle and much of his thought dependent upon his early training as a Jesuit. He read and imbibed St Augustineand Duns Scotus. He trained under the phenomenologist, Edmund Husserl at Freiburgand his approach is deeply engaged with German philosophers like Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. He also read Kierkegaard with close attention.

His ideas about the nature of being are in stark contrast with those of Descartes which involve a split between consciousness and the external world. This Cartesian framework or dualism is embedded in modern science and Western thought generally. One result of Descartes philosophy is that Nature is subject by the mind to measurement and calculation and also to manipulation. This borders on what is termed instrumentalism and indeed the consequent exploitation of the environment. This, Heidegger with his alternative view of the direction of philosophy, he deeply and radically opposed. The implication of Heidegger’s thought for the creative artist and the making and meaning of art forms the thrust of Barbara Bolt’s text. His project is illustrated with specific reference to international artists like Sophie Calle, Anish Kapoor and Anselm Kiefer.

Generally considered as a great classic of Twentieth Century philosophy Sein und Zeit, 1927 is not an easy book to read even if you are thoroughly fluent in German. Concerned with existence and the nature of being, it is equally interested in associated questions about time. This central text focuses on the nature of reality and the being-right-there of existence for which Heidegger uses the term Dasein. Part of the difficulty of understanding this central work is that language almost seems to break down under the pressure of difficulty in communicating the awesome nature of human existence, which many would see as essentially spiritual. Barbara Bolt provides a thoroughly useful glossary to such terms in support of her guide.

This glossary contains some eighty terms; it is relatively clear but illustrates some of the difficulties in expounding Heidegger’s collected work, Gesamtausgabe, which itself runs to more than eighty volumes. Barbara Bolt explains in her early chapters concepts associated with Dasein which involve care for the self and other beings, Sorge, and in the face of personal and certain knowledge of death, the termination of existence on Earth, anxiety or Angst. For Heidegger there are two possibilities, it seems either falling into immersion in the day to day, which he terms ontic existence or striving with resoluteness for authenticity. This bears upon artistic endeavour in several ways; the acceptance of strife when faced with unsettling artworks, the necessity of praxis in art education and research which hopefully produces a practical and respectful understanding of materials by a heuristic approach. Bolt is interesting and thought-provoking in her exposition on this.

A perhaps greater difficulty in appreciating Heidegger, which Bolt mentions, perhaps too briefly, continues in current debate. This was his active involvement with Nazism and his eulogy of Hitler involving praise for his moral regeneration of the Fatherland. This has been, not surprisingly, a sticking point in the appreciation of the Heidegger canon. A discussion of this may be found in Inauthenticity: Theory and Practice, contained in JP Stern’s essays on literature and ideology, The Heart of Europe. There is particular concern over his treatment of his German-Jewish teacher, a Christian convert and former colleague, the proponent of phenomenology Husserl, to whom Sein und Zeit had initially been dedicated. He also took a renowned student, Hannah Arendt as his mistress and she it was who later to testified on his behalf at a denazification hearing in opposition to Karl Jaspers.

In a key chapter, Barbara Bolt uses two central concepts of Heidegger to evaluate particular art works. These are ‘enframing’ (Gestellung) and ‘poiesis’-a Greek term for making from which the word poetry is derived. Enframing, according to Heidegger, has negative connotations and is applied to methods like those of modern technology which treats nature solely as a means to an end and shows Heidegger to be an early proponent of environmentalism and certainly a critic of agribusiness. This seems to be echoed by concerns about the manner in which the business of art has been cheapened and debased by commercialisation and celebrity culture. There is, she explains an unholy alliance developing between advertising in late capitalism as evidenced, for instance, by Tracey Emin selling Bombay Sapphire Gin. Enframement also appears to include a criticism of managerialism; disapproval of the manner in which humans are treated often with statistical techniques as mere available resources. Before examining the concept of ‘poesis’, it is worth noting that this book is actually entitled ‘Heidegger Reframed’ and is one in a general series. This tends to give framing a different, presumably positive connotation that sits uneasily with the particular use of the term by Heidegger. Unfortunately, there appears to be no general series editor that could add guidance and cohesion to this demanding project of applying the thought of modern philosophers to art.

Bolt sometimes writes convoluted sentences in a somewhat orotund style which may be an understandable effect of propounding the concepts of this demanding, intriguing philosopher. Nevertheless, the style invites the reader to question some of the propositions expounded. There is no doubt that Heidegger had a particular view about the dominance of the scientific method as he conceives it. Also mathematics seems deemed uncongenial, whereas language, and also history with its different conception of time and certainly etymology are viewed by Heidegger as more relevant to his project. It is interesting to speculate how much he might have responded to philosophers of science like Thomas Kuhn whose views on paradigm shift, and those too of Paul Karl Feyerabend, might have influenced him had he been fully aware of them. Heisenburg, a contemporary and also a controversial figure, might have influenced Heidegger on his notion of how preconceived theories operate in science.

Heidegger as Bolt explains was inspired by poetry and must have been sensitive to its lyricism. This makes the reader question his apparent failure to respond to the beauty of mathematics which is in a sense a universal language. In general he was at pains to oppose certain notions of aesthetics associated particularly with the Enlightenment and Romanticism and the artist as an inflated, self-dramatising subject. In his conception of poesis, Heidegger approaches another mode of artistic appreciation and indeed gratitude which is guided by sympathy. The term, as Bolt makes clear is Greek in origin and involves openness to the bringing-forth or unconcealment of being. It is, for example, the sense of wonder when a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis or in the transformation when a flower blossoms from a bud. Heidegger spent a year in 1942 lecturing on Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Ister” which relates to theDanubeand examined the limitations of a metaphysical interpretation of art and appears to argue the case for spiritual values in art together with a feeling for place attained by intimate journeying. George Steiner emphasises elsewhere how Heidegger’s titles are those of peregrination and comments, “He has been an indefatigable walker in unlit places”.

Barbara Bolt has written an interesting book on a difficult topic. The publishers might have supported her with somewhat better illustrations than the few disappointing images provided. However, she has shown how Heidegger can illuminate the work of prominent international artists. She has provided an introduction to a highly influential and controversial thinker supported with a sound biography. This work encourages the reader to bravely question art and promote radically innovative ways of observing and researching related issues.

The Runcimans- Liberals in St Ives (Part three)

Beating Churchill at Oldham in 1907

After the years of slump and depression following the General Strike, life in St Ives continued to be hard for many men and women. Morale was maintained, despite unemployment, by the help of charismatic doctors. These included the splendid Dr Matthew, who had worked to develop the St John Ambulance Brigade. Others were no doubt sustained by their beliefs supported by priests and preachers-many of course non-conformist. Runciman himself was a confessed Methodists, indeed his coastguard grandfather was a stalwart impressed Metodist having originally been Presbyterian ( . Incidentally, there was interest in the local paper about the controversial Red Curate of Delabole who delivered speeches smoking a clay pipe and stood beside a red flag and a crucifix. He is said to have referred to the Union Jack as an “Unchristian flag.”

When Hilda first spoke in St Ives she made reference to the fact that abundant and cheap supplies of all the necessities of life were not possible without Free Trade. Walter Runciman was a strong, indeed staunch advocate of free trade and opposed tarrifs. Eventually, however, because of the splits within the Liberals over the indisposed Lloyd George and their differences over cooperation in a National Government, this was all to change. At the same time constituency business became less important  to him and Runciman notified the town as early as 1931 that he would not seek re-election. He became deeply concerned and preoccupied by the recession in the shipping industry. He joined with the Simonite Liberal Nationals and thus opted for power, having then been appointed once again to the Board of Trade. It was thought that in relation to trade he might counterbalance the protectionist Excheqer, now Neville Chamberlin. Prime Minister MacDonald having been expelled from his own party, his influence in the House was somewhat curtailed. Thus by 1932 Runciman introduced protectionist legislation although he reversed his position on this again upon leaving office.From this point onwards his politically stated position did not differ from the Conservatives. Samuel, the leader of the dwindling Liberals had ominously predicted “if goods cannot cross international frontiers, armies will.”

Temperance was another instance upon which Walter changed his opinion.  Runciman had often gave his views upon demon drink, along with closing theatres, music halls and cinemas on Sundays. In 1931 local newspapers record that there was almost no drunkeness in the town and that magistrates were pleased that licensing laws were not being infringed. On this issue where Runciman had given his most vigorous non-conformist support was the cause of bitter disappointment to Isaac Foot in 1935, Runciman actually went as far as to lend support to Foot’s opponent at Bodmin where Isaac only just missed taking the seat. Foot was astonished by this and commented, ”I don’t suppose the brewers will send a formal vote of thanks to Mr Runciman but he will certainly have earned their gratitude.” By 1939  Runciman had by now joined his father in the House of Lords, and become heavily involved as a special envoy for Chamberlain on the Sudeten question in the lead up to Munich. There had also been a fevered debate in the House of Commons over his time as President of Trade from 1931-1937 when Runciman held many shares in the Moor Line and also held many directorships during this period in shipping and the railways. As a minister he effectively administered a £2 million subsidy to Merchant Marine service.Such actions must have left his previous constituents deeply disappointed as his previous constituents in St Ives, now represented by Alec Beechman who won the June 1937 by-election for the National Liberal and Conservatives,  once again awaited the outbreak of war.

The Runcimans- Liberals in St Ives (Part two)

Viscount Runciman of Doxford
Viscount Runciman of Doxford

Runciman managed to slightly increase the share of the liberal vote and majority in St Ives in 1929. The total turn out had risen by some 4,700, due to the fact that this was the first election where women under the age of 30 voted; it was termed the “Flapper election” The Liberals had promised to tackle the growing levels of unemployment, with a program of public works  in these bitter years after the General Strike. Now fewer in number, the Liberals had only 59 MPs as against Labour with 287. As the Conservatives had 287, the Liberals held the balance of power if they could stay together.

Runciman acted in close concert with the other Cornish Liberal MPs. In general, they were opposed to Lloyd George-especially his Land Policy- and in favour of policies of self-reliance and were keen to alleviate unemployment, especially inCornwall. They were opposed to constraints upon business and against any development of socialism. In this second objective, they received the full support of the West Briton.  As Hilda Runciman was to comment of the Labour administration it was, “curious how Liberal they seem to become when they are in office. Their Socialism seems to fall away from them. This, indeed, is inevitable” Their common ground with Labour, especially with influential figures like Philip Snowden, as Garry Tregidga has pointed out, was over temperance, free trade and foreign policy.

Runciman’s father, a wealthy shipping magnate, loved the sea, and had written a number of popular books about sailing and shipping. These included titles like “Drake, Nelson and Napoleon”, “The Shellback’s Progress”, and “Windjammers and Sea Tramps”. These are reminiscent of the Edwardian period, the era of Georgian poetry of Walter de la Mare and Masefield. The life described in one book, “Collier Brigs and their Sailors” was very tough on the merchant sailors whose conditions were quite unregulated. His grandfather in turn had fought with Nelson at Trafalgar. He was also a founder member of the Royal National Yacht Club and  rumoured to have made a hefty profit from his   Union and Castle line during World War 1. Runciman Senior was well aquained with Hain (Lord of the Manor in St Ives.). As far back as 1910, Sir Edward Hain became Chairman of the UK Chamber of shipping in the same year as Sir Walter became Vice-Chairman.

The Hain family had been grieving the loss of his son in the 1914-18 conflict, and kept his memory alive by the building of the Edward Hain Hospital. Walter, the son, also came to own several shipping lines. The Runcimans owned a most superb yacht called  “Sunbeam 11” purchased  from Lord Brassey, she was some 535 tons and 155 feet in length and, “with her well-proportioned spars and sail plan and powerful yet graceful lines, she was one of the ablest and most comfortable –looking craft of any type”. When it arrived in St Ives Bay in 1931 it might have somewhat impressed local fishermen concerning the nautical talents of the man at the helm. The townspeople would have respected their MP as a fellow traveller on the sea; equally it would have illustrated the social distance between Runciman and his constituents. The “Sunbeam” was to be a spy-ship  employed by Special Forces in World War 11.

Hilda had carefully nursed the constituency, but Runciman now 58  had to fight hard to increase the majority, throwing himself into the task. In St Ives he told packed audiences at the Fisherman’s Institute and at the Palais de Danse of his views against protectionism, for temperance and in support of Women’s Rights. In Asquith’s cabinet before World War 1 he kept to the collective cabinet line against suffrage. There is an account of a bottle being thrown at his car by a woman demonstrator in Newcastle, with which he had many business connections and near which was the country home of Doxford.

Walter Runciman must have been used to hectoring and heckling at lively meetings. St Ives constituency kept itself well informed on political issues, a tradition that went back at least as far as the Chartists, who had held meetings on the Promenade- nearby   Oswald Moseley was to receive a memorable and vigorous rejection later in the same decade. Runciman was a keen supporter of women’s rights and his views in general were in line with the enlightened even Gladstonian opinions of the  Asquith/Grey faction of the Liberal Party against Lloyd George.There was no appeal by Runciman, along the lines that Lloyd George made to his fellow Celts at the famous meeting in Falmouth. Runciman had recently written a pamphlet on the issue of female rights. However,in the local press, the advertisments in relation to scullery maids and domestic servents show that to aspire to the status of governess was about independent as a  woman might become in the town. The influx of independent wealthy women, including art students had not yet made a significant impact upon religious belief or cultural norms. Later, Baldwin, with whom Runciman eventually reached  good terms, confided his own views on difficult women like Wallace Simpson during the divorce crisis. A point which Hilda recorded in her fascinating and busy diaries, which are in the archives of Newcastle University Library.

The Runcimans- Liberals in St Ives (Part one)

1928 was a fascinating year in politics. Lord Oxford, better known as Asquith had just died and  had just a few years been interviewed by the Editor of the St Ives Times and Echo. He gave his earnest opinion that theBayofSt Ivescould not be beaten. Given the slump in the late 20s and later in the depression, the inhabitants sadly suffering enforced idleness, were to have plenty of time to contemplate the magnificent sea views and to read about the economic situation in the newspapers. The more enterprising perhaps listened to their home built wireless sets.

In Hilda Runciman, the people of St Ives, it might be supposed were to get a fine advocate, a good speaker and an idealist. Unfortunately, although good on public platforms she did not actually speak in the male dominated House of Commons. An elegant as well as eloquent woman, she  had a ready wit and formidable determination. She demanded much of herself and  posessed a strong sense of public duty. She had become founder member of the River Tyne Commission by the age of just twenty four. However to St Ives, the political solutions she offered of free trade and self-reliance and belief in theLeague of Nationswere insufficient to bring relief from the harsh realities of the depression, let alone avert the dangers of nationalisms inEurope.

She gained the seat  of St Ives for her husband, already a wealthy, clever and able man. At this stage the Liberal influence was reduced to 43 MPs and she joked that with her husband, MP for Swansea West the electorate would have “the spectacle of a  party of two”. When she was elected, the Times and Echo recorded, “Several young fishermen had prepared a chair decked in the Liberal colours, in which Mrs Runciman was carried through the streets of the town to the Wharf where a halt was made.” Runciman, himself however was to change his approach or policy over many issues and ended his career having failed to become chancellor, a role for which he had once seemed suited, and finished by disappointing many of his friends, supporters and constituents. They were, however, the first married couple to enter the House of Commons.

Rumour has it that it was Isaac Foot who suggested that St Ives would be a suitable seat for the Runcimans. Hilda was elected in a by-election in 1928, regaining the seat again for the Liberals. There had been previously five elections at St Ives in the previous 10 years. She came from a family with links toGlasgowand the North-East. Her father, James Cochran Stevenson had himself been an MP forSouth Shields(1868-1895) and was the owner of a newspaper and also had a chemical factory in Jarrow. She was his fifth daughter. Hilda’s sister, Flora Clift Stevenson, achieved magnificent progress in the education of the poor, and in particular, the girls ofEdinburgh. She famously became Vice-president of the anti-protectionist Women’s Free Trade Union. This was the milieu into which Walter Runciman married in 1898. One in which there was a belief in individual enterprise and a respect for self-improvement.  By the time that Hilda was elected for St Ives, Walter Runciman had once defeated Winston Churchill atOldhamin 1899, and been MP for another two constituencies and  had been President of the Board of Education, President of the Board of Agriculture and finally in the fateful year of 1914 become President of the Board of Trade. This was under the Prime Ministership of Asquith, whom he had supported against Lloyd George, in the devastating quarrels that plagued and split the Liberal Party in the middle of the First World War.

Seahorse – the Shyest Fish in the Sea by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by John Lawrence

Chris Butterworth lives in Penwith and loves the sea and the amazing things that live in it. “A seahorse looks as magical as a mermaid” she says, ”but while mermaids are made up, seahorses really exist.” This informative and well-designed children’s book was written with the expert advice of Colin Wells of the National Aquarium inPlymouth. The seahorse or in Latin “Hippocampus” (horse-like sea monster) is a very unusual type of fish whose tenuous existence depends upon a curious kind of gender swap. It is the male seahorse that has a pouch in which the young grow to maturity whilst his wife wanders the territory further away from home. Dad has to keep squeezing and pushing out all the little delicate seahorses all day long, and by night there may be hundreds of them! The seahorse is a light and tiny creature, who can only cope with gentle undercurrents. The movement motions are delightfully described, as are the various devices by which the little creature has evolved to avoid its predators. The text, in a gentle manner, encourages a tolerant attitude towards nature and a sense of the urgency for conservation as well as respect for marine ecology.

The illustrator, John Lawrence, has produced a fine series of dark and subtle coloured images that show the intriguing variety of life forms under the sea. This includes the variegated changes of tone during the mating dance of the seahorses. This is a well-crafted and informative book, which could be taken out and read again and again with pleasure.

Historical Novels –Cornwall and Beyond

Was Lady Browning, Dame Daphne du Maurier quite reliable, from a factual viewpoint in her treatment of historical figures in her novels? Someone mentioned at a meeting this week that her portrayal of Sir Richard Grenville, the first Baronet, (1600-58), grandson of the Sir Richard Grenville who was the naval commander at the Battle of Flores when The Revenge was sunk to avoid capture off the Azores. (According to Tennyson, “Sink me the ship, Master Gunner—sink her, split her in twain! … Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain! “) The King’s General written in 1946, and there is a full review of it by Ann Wilmore at novel is written from a Royalist viewpoint and has been recently performed at Restormel Castle as recently as just two years ago. Wilmore recognises that in the period that it was written it was intended to be an escapist romance. There is a suggestion that the Grenville character is perhaps somehow distantly linked to her own husband, a General who in April 1944 he had become commander of I Airborne Corps. He was a controversial figure and was involved in Operation Market Garden and later Mountbatten’s Chief of Staff in India. He eventually became Commander in Chief of the South East Asia Command. (He was played by Dirk Bogarde in the film A Bridge Too Far.)

Altogether Grenville was not a very nice man. He had a violent temper which put pay to his marriage and ended in two acrimonious lawsuits. He was sent by Charles! to take part in the Siege of Plymouth and eventually had to retreat from there intoCornwallwhere he was to ensure vital supplies of tin for the Royalists. He appears to have got deeply involved with maintaining Duchy and Stannary rights and attempted to attain independent rights forCornwall. He is said to have enforced discipline in an arbitrary manner and hung some men and imprisoned others. He appears to have extorted money for his own purposes and after all this reacted with rank insubordination to Lord Goring and then refused to serve under Sir Ralph Hopton. He was imprisoned on St Michael’s Mount. According to Wikipedia, he became known as “Skellum Grenville”, the term may well derive from the German “Scheim” which means a scoundrel.

Georg Lukács, (1885-1971), the Hungarian Marxist thinker and literary critic is an important figure who has written about the Historical Novel,1937 in considerable depth.( See for instance Having read Kierkegaard and Weber early in life, he later turned away from Kafka and Modernism in favour of Thomas Mann. He argues that following the French Revolution and its aftermath, people became more conscious of the change itself as an important factor in individual consciousness. He went on to praise this development in the work of Sir Walter Scott, who portrayed the dissolution of feudal life and the rise of mercantile capitalism in the Highlands. This realism he saw too in the novels of Balzac and Tolstoy. Constant change becomes an explicit theme and opens up the possibility of social revolution as the proletariat enters as a factor. Hence these authors despite their conservatism are preferable to modernists and Flaubert, receives disapprobation for his historical work, Salammbo, particularly for its emphasis on style, as opposed to realism. However, it is interesting that Lukacs did not appear to much approve of Zola. He preferredGorky but this may have been influenced by that with which he was more familiar and besides Engels seems to have had reservations with respect to Zola.

This argument derives, of course from the Marxist view of ideology and the separation which exists between appearance, by which he means the character’s thoughts and feelings divorced from reality, which Lukacs which is thought by him to be the existing social relations framed by the means of production under capitalism. Realism, Lukacs believes can penetrate and uncover,” the deeper, hidden, mediated, not immediately perceptible of relationships, which go to make up society.” Influenced, it seems by Nietzsche’s writings on decadence in writing, which criticised a lack of the sense of totality; modernism is isolated from the socio-economic reality. Hence, realists penetrate depths by confining their work to a more superficial and fictional subjectivity. This obviously raises many further questions including: – the role of the imagination in literature and what Lukacs might make of magical realism.

On a lighter note, apparently The Scarlet Pimpernel novels are historically quite accurate. Baroness Emmuska Orczy (1865-1947) wrote some fifteen of these. Her full name was Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála “Emmuska” Orczy de Orczi and came from a Hungarian aristocratic family. She was also a talented painter who exhibited her paintings in the RoyalAcademy. Her novels include Sir Percy Blakeley’s enemies, Robespierre, Collot d’Herbois and of course, Chauvelin.(The latter is an exception, Citoyen Chauvelin although based on a real figure – Bernard-François, marquis de Chauvelin is not at all accurate, but a military officer who served in the American Revolution). However, in respect of her depiction of St Just and Lambert Talien his erstwhile opponent and the conditions in the Temple prison, the treatment of the Dauphin and the assassination of the journalist Marat, the worship of Reason as a deity are all covered reasonably accurately.

British statesmen such as William Pitt, the Younger and Lord William Grenville are also portrayed and show Orczy having a pretty thorough grasp of detail. The narrative keeps the reader engaged which helps as well.

Which are your favourite historical novels and authors?

A Year in the life of Padstow, Polzeath and Rock By Joanna Jackson
















This attractive and captivating book of some 112 pages chronicles the appearance of the beautiful Camel Estuary and its inhabitants over the course of a year. As is mentioned in her introduction, for some 4000 years, this has been a major trading coast, from the Bronze Ages times, with ships arriving from areas as distant as Ireland to the eastern Mediterranean. Yet, Padstow retains its Elizabethan charm whilst Polzeath is better known for its contemporary appeal to surfers. The appealing images capture vividly the variety of life in the area including foodie Padstow, with pictures of brown crab and silver mackerel ready for Rick Stein’s kitchen and the National Lobster Hatchery.

As one might expect, the most stunning images are those of the peaceful horizontal curves of the coastline, the sand banks and the rocks sloping down to the coastline and the sea. There are stunning images of field catching the sunlight at dawn, the diversity of the flora and the activity and pageantry of the Royal Cornwall show. There are depictions of ‘obby ‘oss day, sailing and surfing, vigorous watersports and the energetic exertions of the lifeboatmen of Padstow and the RNLI beach lifeguards.

There are short introductory sections of text to put the splendour of the photographs into context. That on the Age of the Saints, for instance, mentions St Petroc, his monastery and his travels to Brittany, Rome and Jerusalem. This introduces the double page spreads of the battering waves at Treyamon contrasting in the following images of the contemplative security of the quayside of the inner harbour at Padstow. These photographs of North Cornwall which inspired the poetry of Betjeman and Binyon are a collection to have on your shelf for browsing or as an incentive to tranquil recollection.