When Grandpa Was A Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

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Breathless

Liane de Pougy, photographed by Nadar

Liane de Pougy strikes a pose for photographer Nadar

1935: In her notebook entry for 15 July, Princess Ghika – the former demi-mondaine Liane de Pougy – recounted: “Anniversary of the day on which I got married and on which, with one thrust which quite deprived me of breath, I lost my virginity.”

Source: Liane de Pougy, My Blue Notebooks (1979), p. 262

Latecomers Miss Out On Lynching

1934: On 27 October, a racist crowd in the rural northwestern corner of Florida lynched Claude Neal, a black farmhand, for the rape and murder of a white neighbour, Lola Cannidy. Neal was snatched from a small-town jail, and after the niceties of mob justice and family revenge had been observed, his corpse was hanged from a tree outside Jackson County courthouse. Late arrivals for the lynching, disappointed to find that the body had been taken down, demanded that the sheriff replace it.

Source: James R. McGovern, Anatomy of a Lynching: The Killing of Claude Neal (1982), chaps. 3 and 4

Who? Me? Bossy?

1933: What words can properly describe Hitler? I remember watching a television documentary with footage of him speaking to a crowd. He raged and bellowed and waved his hands about. Sonya – she was eight – said, “I don’t like Hitler. He’s bossy.”

Source: Personal recollection

Getting To Know Each Other

1932: Howard Hawks, the film director, invited screenwriter and author William Faulkner and actor Clark Gable to go dove hunting. As they drove east from Los Angeles, Hawks and Faulkner began to talk about books. Gable joined in, asking Faulkner to name the best modern writers.

“Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Thomas Mann, John Dos Passos,” Faulkner replied, “and myself.”

“Oh,” said Gable. “Do you write?”

“Yes, Mr. Gable,” said Faulkner. “What do you do?”

Source: Joseph Blotner, Faulkner: A Biography (1984), pp. 309–10

Young At Heart

Oliver Wendell Holmes honoured on a 1968 U.S. postage stamp

Oliver Wendell Holmes honoured on a 1968 U.S. postage stamp

1931: Catching sight of a pretty young woman, the 90-year-old American judge Oliver Wendell Holmes is said to have exclaimed, “Oh, to be 70 again!”

Source: Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, ed. Emily Morison Beck (1980), p. 645

Casual Acquaintance

1930: In August, Noël Coward and T.E. Lawrence met for the first time. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was shyly and unsuccessfully masquerading as Aircraftman Shaw (service number 338171) of the Royal Air Force. After they met, the two men exchanged letters. Coward began: “Dear 338171, (May I call you 338?)”

Source: Noël Coward, The Letters of Noël Coward, ed. Barry Day (2007), p. 211

“But Your Mother Never Called Me!”

Vladimir Lenin with his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, photographed in 1922 by Lenin’s sister, Maria Ulyanova

Vladimir Lenin with his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, photographed in 1922 by Lenin’s sister, Maria Ulyanova

1929: The diplomat Bruce Lockhart heard what he described as a “priceless story of Lenin and the death of his mother-in-law”. Without naming the source, Lockhart wrote in his diary: “Krupskaya tired of watching at death-bed asked Lenin to sit by her mother while she slept. He was to call her if her mother wanted anything. Lenin took a book and began to read. Two hours later Krupskaya came back. Her mother was dead. Lenin was still reading. Krupskaya blamed him: ‘Why did you not let me know?’ Lenin replied: ‘But your mother never called me!’ ”

Source: Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, I: 1915–1938, ed. Kenneth Young (1973), p. 82

Woolf At The Wheel

Virginia Woolf in about 1927

Virginia Woolf, photographed about the same time she learned to drive

1927: “You won’t mind talking for 24 hours on end, I hope?” Virginia Woolf wrote to a friend. “It will be mostly about motor cars. I can think of nothing else.” The Woolfs had just bought their first car, and Virginia was thrilled to get behind the wheel. “I have driven from the Embankment to the Marble Arch and only knocked one boy very gently off his bicycle.”

Source: Virginia Woolf, A Change of Perspective: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, III: 1923–1928, ed. Nigel Nicolson (1977), p. 400

Muddled Little Mind

1926: By the time his grandchildren were born, my father was well into his sixties. He was born in 1926; they were born in the 1990s. He must have seemed very old to them. I remember Sophie or Sonya, about six years old, asking: “When grandpa was a boy, were there any dinosaurs?”

Source: Personal recollection

Eisenstein Cuts It Fine

Poster for Sergei Eisenstein's film The Battleship Potemkin

Poster for Sergei Eisenstein’s film The Battleship Potemkin

1925: On 21 December, Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin was first screened at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Eisenstein had toiled for three weeks to edit the film in time, and was still putting the finishing touches to it on the opening night.

His assistant Grigori Alexandrov recalled, “I spent the evening riding on a motorcycle between the cutting room and the theatre, carrying the reels one at a time. When Eisenstein was finally happy with the last reel, he sat on the back of my motorcycle with the can of film under his arm. . . . but when we were in the middle of Red Square, and about a quarter of a mile from the Bolshoi, the motorcycle broke down. So we ran the rest of the way!”

At that time, films were shown with a break between each reel. “All went well, except that the break between the last two reels was nearly twenty minutes long!”

Source: Ronald Bergan, Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict (1997), pp. 111–12

Evidently Insane

1924: Writing in a medical journal, the former head of Egypt’s Lunacy Department, John Warnock, dismissed the upsurge of nationalism in the country as “an infectious mental disorder”.

Source: James H. Mills, Cannabis Britannica: Empire, Trade and Prohibition 1800–1928 (2003), p. 184

Lord Bags 556,813

1923: The 71-year-old Marquess of Ripon collapsed and died doing what he liked best – slaughtering birds on a grouse moor. At the age of 70 he killed 420 grouse in a single day. Timed by stopwatch, he once bagged 28 pheasants in 60 seconds. On another occasion, he downed 11 partridges with just two shots. His lifetime tally of pheasants reached almost a quarter of a million, and in the 57 years from 1867 to 1923 he killed more than half a million head of game – 556,813, to be precise, an average of 9,768 each year.

Source: Hugh S. Gladstone, Record Bags and Shooting Records (1930), pp. 57, 72, 177–8, 205

Poisoners Fictional And Non-Fictional

Solicitor and poisoner Herbert Armstrong

Solicitor and poisoner Herbert Armstrong

1921: Agatha Christie’s first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, went on sale in Britain at the beginning of February. While readers puzzled over the identity of the poisoner in rural Essex, a second poisoner was active on the other side of the country, only this one wasn’t fictional.

Herbert Armstrong, a solicitor, thought he could resolve his personal and business problems by getting rid of his overbearing wife and an overly successful professional rival.

Katherine Armstrong died in agony at the end of February from what was initially thought to be gastritis. A few months later, the solicitor Oswald Martin became violently ill after taking tea with Armstrong, but survived (“Excuse fingers,” said Armstrong, as he passed Martin a poisoned scone).

Hercule Poirot was not on hand to solve these cases, but with the help of the forensic pathologist Bernard Spilsbury, arsenical poisoning was shown to have taken place, the arsenic was linked to Armstrong, and Armstrong was convicted of murder and executed.

Source: Colin Evans, The Father of Forensics: How Sir Bernard Spilsbury Invented Modern CSI (2009), pp. 98–118

Miss Hoity-Toity

1920: Looking back on the 1920s, Loelia, Lady Lindsay, the former Duchess of Westminster, recalled the tremendous snobbery. “If you had danced with a man the night before and had found out that he was socially inferior . . . the following day you would just look through him.”

Source: Roy Strong, The Roy Strong Diaries 1967–1987 (1997), pp. 55–6

Village Revelry Comes To Unhappy End

1919: That summer, Patrick Leigh Fermor was staying in the Northamptonshire countryside. On 18 June, he joined celebrations to mark the end of hostilities. He was only four, but the day stuck in his memory.

In late afternoon, the villagers lay on the grass in a meadow and sang “Keep the home-fires burning” and “The only girl in the world”. After dark, they lit an enormous bonfire, surmounted by a straw dummy of the kaiser. Everyone joined hands and danced by the light of the fire and cheered when the flames reached the dummy; boys scampered in and out of the crowd, waving sparklers and lobbing bangers.

The celebrations came to an unhappy end, however. One of the boys capered about with his head thrown back and a Roman candle in his mouth. The firework slipped between his teeth and down his throat. The grown-ups rushed him to a nearby brook, but it was too late, and he died in agony, “spitting stars”.

Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (1977), pp. 35–7

Jeanie’s In Trouble

Marie Stopes commemorated on a British postage stamp in 2008

Marie Stopes commemorated on a British postage stamp in 2008

1918: Married Love was a runaway success. The book sold 2,000 copies within a fortnight and by the end of 1918 had been reprinted five times. Together with later works, it made the name of Marie Stopes synonymous with birth control, so much so that in backstreets and school playgrounds, children skipped to the chant of:
Jeanie, Jeanie, full of hopes,
Read a book by Marie Stopes.
Now, to judge by her condition,
She must have read the wrong edition.

Source: Ruth Hall, Marie Stopes: A Biography (1977), p. 5

Longer Lashes

Poster for D.W. Griffith's film Intolerance

Poster for D.W. Griffith’s film Intolerance

1916: False eyelashes were created for the role of Princess Beloved in the film Intolerance. Seena Owen played the princess, and the film’s director, D.W. Griffith, wanted her lashes to be long enough to brush her cheeks.

Source: www.gildasattic.com/intol.html

“Such Were The Joys”

1915: The future golfing journalist and broadcaster Henry Longhurst was six years old in 1915, and in the autumn he was sent to prep school in Sussex. In his memoirs, he gave St. Cyprian’s high marks, though he winced at “the cold pewter bowls of porridge with the thick slimy lumps, into which I was actually sick one day and made to stand at a side table and eat it up”.

Source: Henry Longhurst, My Life and Soft Times (1971), p. 27

Dastardly Dachshund

1914: Some Britons marked the outbreak of war with loutish displays of anti-German feeling. Graham Greene reported that a dachshund was stoned in the high street of his hometown. (Would the attackers have been quite so brave if, instead, the dog had been a Dobermann pinscher?)

Source: Graham Greene, A Sort of Life (1971), p. 64