Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"Malcolm Lowry, encore", Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-Salle 27 juin-4 juillet 2012

Annick Drosdal-Levillain, Associate Professor, University of Strasbourg was a visitor to the recent Lowry Lounge in Liverpool. Amongst her contributions to the Lounge was the announcement of a Lowry event in France next year as follows:

Appel à communications

« Malcolm Lowry, encore »

Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-Salle
27 juin-4 juillet 2012

Ce colloque rassemblera des universitaires, des écrivains, des artistes et des traducteurs autour de l’écrivain anglo-canadien Malcolm Lowry. Il s’agira d’évoquer comment et pourquoi son œuvre singulière continue de parler à la civilisation planétaire du vingt-et-unième siècle.

On le sait aujourd’hui, cette œuvre ne se limite pas à la grande tragédie lyrique de notre modernité que reste Under The Volcano (1947). Depuis que les spécialistes ont porté à la connaissance du public une quantité importante de matériaux (romans, poèmes, nouvelles, essais), il apparaît que la tonalité d’ensemble est loin d’être monochrome : certes, Lowry est un écrivain de l’au-delà du principe de plaisir qui a su détecter dans la civilisation moderne une passion du réel où se conjuguent horreur et jubilation sur les chemins de la destruction. Mais sa « Divine Comédie Ivre », l’équivalent du work in progress joycien, est aussi un appel à la jouissance du vivant : elle vise à réintroduire la dimension du désir et du sacré, au premier rang desquels figurent la force pulsatile du corps accordé au souffle du monde et à la puissance « faunétique » de la langue.

L’intérêt de Malcolm Lowry pour la peinture, la musique et les arts émergents de son temps (le cinéma, le jazz) permettront également des ouvertures sur d’autres formes de productions culturelles.

Etant donné le cadre spécifique du Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-Salle, les travaux se tiendront principalement en français et partiellement en anglais (intervenants anglophones), sous forme de communications, de tables rondes, et de lectures. Les communications présentées pourront porter plus particulièrement sur les points suivants :

- Le corps sacré et le monde naturel
- Pulsion de mort, pulsion de vie
- Lowry et la mélancolie moderne
- La tragédie et son au-delà
- Le roman, au joint entre les arts et la politique
- Objets d’amour, objets de haine
- Lowry, poète du réel
- Illuminations
- La voix de Malcolm Lowry

Merci d’envoyer vos propositions avant le 15 novembre, à l’adresse mail suivante :

This conference aims to gather academics, writers, artists and translators interested in the work of Malcolm Lowry, both in itself and in relation to our contemporary global civilisation: the aim will also be to try to see how and why it continues to speak to the Twenty First century.

The posterity of Lowry’s work does not limit itself to the great lyrical tragedy of our modernity published in his lifetime, Under the Volcano (1947). A large amount of materials (novels, poems, short stories, essays) has been brought to public knowledge by specialists since Lowry’s death, and it appears that the tonality is far from being one-sided. No doubt, Lowry is one of those writers who take us beyond the pleasure principle, who detected in modern civilisation a passion for the real beyond the veil of reality, where joy and horror mingle on the path toward destruction. But his “drunken Divine Comedy”, the equivalent of Joyce’s work in progress, is also an appeal to the joy of bare life. It is an attempt to reintroduce the dimension of desire, of the sacred, foregrounding the living pulse of the body bound to the natural world, and to the “faunetic” substance of language.

Malcolm Lowry’s interest in painting and music, in the emerging art-forms of his time like the cinema and jazz music will also provide openings on other cultural fields.

Given the specific context provided by the Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-Salle in Normandy, the conference will be held mostly in French and partly in English, in the form of papers, round tables and readings.

Papers on the following subjects will be more particularly welcome:

- The sacred body and the natural world
- The death-drive and the life-drive
- Lowry and modern melancholy
- Tragedy and beyond the tragedy
- Poetics and politics
- Love objects, objects of hatred
- Lowry as poet of the real
- Illuminations
- The voice of Malcolm Lowry

Paper proposals should be sent not after November 15th at the following address:

-- Josiane Paccaud-Huguet Faculté des Langues Université Lumière-Lyon2 74 rue Pasteur 69365 Lyon Cedex O7

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Camel Walk Part 2

The second post inspired by Malc's monicker "Camel" which he used to sign off his article in the Leys Fortnightly.

Let's kick off another batch of Camel Walk tracks:

Camel Walk Part 1

Here is another post inspired by my recent e-conversations with Annick Drösdal-Levillain. We had been discussing Lowry's pseudonym "Camel" for some of his writings for the Leys Fortnightly which he adapted from his initials C.M.L.. Our exchange started me thinking of the old dance called the "Camel Walk". Perhaps the impending annual "irreverence" called the Lowry Lounge in October also got me in the spirit!

I had always thought that the Camel Walk was a 60's dance concept but I discovered after looking through You Tube that the dance had its origins back in the 1910's or earlier:

The Camel Walk was a ragtime animal dance, came originally from Vaudeville shows. The Camel Walk was mainly done by college students and "flappers" during the Jazz age in the 1910's and 20's with the public as a social dance. It was basically done with a Staright Up (Posture) but otherwise was walking 1920's fox-trot from start to end while dragging your steps slightly, done to slow music and in a zigzag direction or rotary direction. The Camel Walk drew alot of displeasure among many mainly because the Girls woul rest their heads on the leaders shoulder while dancing which many frowned upon as vulgar dancing. Occasionally the dance was varied with Fox-Trot steps by those who disliked anything quite so extreme.

Another version was done in the 1950's/60's; - The Camel Walk spin-offs of the 1910's became a popular retro dance to do at the time in the 1950's/60's, however these spin-off's were freestyle rather than couples. With such dances as the Camel Walk, Dance the Camel Walk, The Camel Walk Stroll etc ... It is said the the Horse dance was just another Camel Walk. The Camel Walk became the Stroll in the 1960's.


So let's kick off with the University Six - could Malc have heard this and been partly inspired to adopt the monicker Camel - who knows!

Then we have a demonstration of the dance by Al & Leon

Let's embark on a tour of the later versions:

See Part 2

Couldn't go without leaving this postcard and a reminder that I am still posting over on Postcards from Malc

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Lowry Lounge @ The Bluecoat Liverpool 15/10/11

The 2011 Lowry Lounge and Walk
11.00am to 3pm
The Bluecoat
School Lane
L1 3BX

Radical Wirral-born writer Malcolm Lowry, author of Under the Volcano, is remembered in this annual event: a psychogeographical walk round central Liverpool in Lowry’s footsteps, led by Colin Dilnot. The celebration continues at the Bluecoat with the launch of The Firminist No 2, an occasional journal of all things Lowry, plus talks, music, films and refreshments.

Tickets: tour £5 (places limited, so book early)/Lowry Lounge £3/combined ticket £6. Contact the Bluecoat for Lounge start time.

Meet at the Bluecoat.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Last Voyage of the S.S. Ile de France

S.S. Ile de France was the ship that Malc's first wife Jan Gabrial sailed back to America on in 1934 and features in Malc's short story 'In Le Havre'.

I was recently exchanging mails with my fellow Lowryan scholar Annick Drösdal- Levillain which included the topic of coincidence. Annick wrote:

I recently salvaged a framed photograph of a ship my mother was about to throw away in her cleaning up frenzy. Now this photograph was taken by a fellow swimmer of my grandfather's and it happens to be the L'île de France, in Le Havre, in 1950. I kept it, thinking that it looked like the ships Lowry must have sailed, that was all. And now I fell upon it in your postcards... I was then puzzled to see that on your picture the ship has three funnels whereas on mine it has two. Wikipedia came to the rescue (the ship was launched in June 1927...modernised in 1947 after having served for troop transports during the war).The dates surrounding this ship are striking.

What makes Annick and me smile is how these little coincidences just continue to creep in while studying Lowry! Ile de France was launched as Lowry himself is launching into the world aboard Pyrrhus to the Far East and 1947 for the publication of Under The Volcano.

Malc was conscious of the fate of ships that he wrote about so that we shouldn't be surprised at the fate of the S.S. Ile de France which was unusual to say the least:

The ship used in the film (Last Voyage 1960) was the legendary French luxury liner SS Ile de France, which had been in service from 1927 until 1959, when it was sold to a Japanese scrapyard. Her former owners initially attempted to block Stone's rental of the ship (for $1.5 million), but withdrew their opposition when MGM agreed not to identify the vessel by its original name when publicizing the film.

The ship was towed to shallow waters, where jets of water shot onto the ship from fireboats flooded forward compartments and made it appear she was sinking by the bow. Her forward funnel was sent crashing into the deckhouse and her Art Deco interiors were destroyed by explosives and/or flooded. Because there were too many poisonous jellyfish in the Sea of Japan, the final lifeboat scene was filmed in Santa Monica, California. In his autobiography Straight Shooting, Robert Stack recalled, "No special effects for Andy [Stone]; he actually planned to destroy a liner and photograph the process. Thus began a film called The Last Voyage, which . . . for yours truly very nearly lived up to its title." According to William H. Miller, American maritime historian, The French Line thereafter forbade any use of the ships they sold for scrap to be used for anything other than scrapping.

The Last Voyage is a 1960 American disaster film written and directed by Andrew L. Stone. It stars Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone.

The screenplay centers on the sinking of an aged ocean liner in the Pacific Ocean following an explosion in the boiler room. There are some plot similarities to the disaster involving the Italian liner SS Andrea Doria, which sank after a collision four years earlier. Read more on Wikipedia

Here is scene where S.S. Ile de France sinks

There also seems a certain irony in the title of the film - Last Voyage - when Lowry wanted to see all his work collected in one opus - The Voyage That Never Ends.

The Last Voyage is an archetypal disaster movie - which has resonance for Malc's life:

Success is like some horrible disastar
Worse than your house burning, the sounds of ruination
As the roof tree falls succeeding each other faster
While you stand, the helpless witness to your damnation

Poem 1945-6

Thanks to Annick for inspiring this post.

Beau Geste 1926

Barban and Nicole continue their walk along the deck. They discuss the respective merits of English and French languages for expressing heroism and gallantry with dignity, and the expression of these qualities in movies, such as the 1926 American film Beau Geste, starring Ronald Coleman. Miguel Mota and Paul Tiessen: The Cinema of Malcolm Lowry: A Scholarly Edition of Lowry's "Tender is the Night

Beau Geste was directed by Herbert Brenon, stars Ronald Colman and Neil Hamilton, with support from Noah Beery (Sr.), Mary Brian, William Powell and Victor McLaglen. The plot concerns a valuable gem, which one of the Geste brothers, Beau, is thought to have stolen from his adoptive family.

Ronald Colman plays the title role in the first of several screen adaptations of Christopher Wren's tale of adventure in the foreign legion. Beau is the youngest of three brothers who fall into an ethical dilemma when their aunt resorts to stealing valuable jewelry from the family's collection to pay off her home. Beau takes the blame for the crime and, before he can be put in jail, flees the country, with his brothers John (Ralph Forbes) and Digby (Neil Hamilton) in tow. The Geste Brothers eventually join the French Foreign Legion, where they suffer under the tyrannical leadership of the cruel Sgt. Lejaune (Noah Beery Sr.). Unknown to Beau, Lejaune is in cahoots with men who want to capture the Geste Brothers and bring them to justice, but when Arab forces attack the Legion compound, the valiant Gestes fight with such bravery that even Lejaune is impressed with their selfless courage. It's said that Ronald Colman considered his performance in Beau Geste the finest work of his career; lip readers might get a chuckle out of some of Noah Beery Sr.'s non-subtitled dialogue, which today would have pushed the film into an R rating if it were audible. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

A corking picture, but as a road show special not entirely surefire. The idea is that it will have to hold to just a few cities outside of New York to have a chance at $2. As a straight program leader it can't miss, although the running time of 129 minutes may keep it from equalling house records".

It's a "man's" picture, much more so than "The Big Parade." The story revolves around three brothers and their love for each other. And a great looking trio--Colman, Hamilton and Forbes. Beyond that the love interest is strictly secondary, practically nil. Which brings up the question as to how women are going to like it.
Review from Variety, September 1, 1926

Read more on the the film at ERBzine and Stanford University

The best resource materials on the film can be found at including contemporary magazine articles on the making of the film.

You can watch the film on You Tube:

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Anatole Litvak's Mayerling 1936 film

Why did they have to call that other fatal palace in Trieste also the Miramar, where Carlotta went insane, and everyone who ever lived there from the Empress Elizabeth of Austria to the Archduke Ferdinand had met with a violent death? Under The Volcano

Lowry is referring to the misfortunes that befell the Hapsburg family. Jan Gabrial recalls that she and Malcolm saw Anatol Litvak's Mayerling (1936) in Mexico City before they returned to the Hotel Canada for a tender night [Inside the Volcano, 157 & 187]. The film became an emblem of their love. Lowry states that "La Tragedia de Mayerling" was playing in the town just as it had been nine years ago. (Letter to Cape).

The Mayerling Incident refers to the series of events leading to the apparent murder-suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his lover Baroness Mary Vetsera. Prince Rudolf was the only son of Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria, and therefore heir to his father as Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, and King of Bohemia. Rudolf's mistress Mary was the daughter of Baron Albin Vetsera, a diplomat at the Austrian court. The couple's bodies were discovered at Mayerling, Rudolf's hunting lodge, in Lower Austria on January 30, 1889. Read more on Wikipedia

Mayerling is a 1936 French historical drama film directed by Anatole Litvak and produced by Seymour Nebenzal from a screenplay by Marcel Achard, Joseph Kessel and Irma von Cube, based on the novel Idol's End by Claude Anet. The film stars Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux with Jean-Louis Barrault, René Bergeron, Jean Davy, Jean Dax, Jean Debucourt and Gabrielle Dorziat. It is based on the real life story of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, his affair with the 17-year old Baroness Maria Vetsera and their tragic end at Mayerling.

Here are some clips from the movie:

'Huston's Mexico' by Richard Vela

Later tonight I am off to see a screening of Huston's Under The Volcano - by coincidence while searching the Net - I cam across the above.

The book contains an interesting essay on Huston's Mexican films by Richard Vela which you can read below:

Gustave Doré's Illustrations to Milton's Paradise Lost

The watchtower of a prison rose over a wood between the river and the road which lost itself farther on where the purple hills of a Doré Paradise sloped away into the distance. Under The Volcano

On the other side, purple hills, which always reminded Laruelle of Dore's illustrations to Paradise Lost, sloped away into the distance. The 1940 Under The Volcano

Paul Gustave Doré January 6, 1832 – January 23, 1883) was a French artist, engraver, illustrator and sculptor. Doré worked primarily with wood engraving and steel engraving.

Doré was born in Strasbourg and his first illustrated story was published at the age of fifteen. His skill had manifested itself even earlier, however. At age five he had been a prodigy troublemaker, playing pranks that were mature beyond his years. Seven years later, he began carving in cement. Subsequently, as a young man, he began work as a literary illustrator in Paris, winning commissions to depict scenes from books by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton and Dante.

In 1853, Doré was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission was followed by additional work for British publishers, including a new illustrated English Bible. A decade later, he illustrated a French edition of Cervantes's Don Quixote, and his depictions of the knight and his squire, Sancho Panza, have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors' ideas of the physical "look" of the two characters. Doré also illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven", an endeavor that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper & Brothers in 1883.

Doré's English Bible (1866) was a great success, and in 1867 Doré had a major exhibition of his work in London. This exhibition led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in Covelant Bond Street. In 1869, Blanchard Jerrold, the son of Douglas William Jerrold, suggested that they work together to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. Jerrold had obtained the idea from The Microcosm of London produced by Rudolph Ackermann, William Pyne, and Thomas Rowlandson in 1808. Doré signed a five-year contract with the publishers Grant & Co that involved his staying in London for three months a year, and he received the vast sum of £10,000 a year for the project. Doré was mainly celebrated for his paintings in his day. His paintings remain world renowned, but his woodcuts and engravings, like those he did for Jerrold, are where he really excelled as an artist with an individual vision.

The completed book, London: A Pilgrimage, with 180 engravings, was published in 1872. It enjoyed commercial and socioeconomical success, but the work was disliked by many contemporary critics. Some of these critics were concerned with the fact that Doré appeared to focus on the poverty that existed in parts of London. Doré was accused by the Art Journal of "inventing rather than copying." The Westminster Review claimed that "Doré gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down." The book was a financial success, however, and Doré received commissions from other British publishers.

His later works included Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton's Paradise Lost, Tennyson's The Idylls of the King, The Works of Thomas Hood, and The Divine Comedy. His work also appeared in the Illustrated London News.

He continued to illustrate books until his death of a short illness in Paris in 1883. The city's Père Lachaise Cemetery contains his grave

See more images:

Paradise Lost: Illustrations by Gustave Doré
Wikimedia Commons
Art Craftsy

Here is the edition of Milton's Paradise Lost with Gustave Doré's illustrations:

You can read more about Gustave Doré's Illustrations here:

J. C. Squire Outside Eden

To Albert Erskine, Lowry claimed to have lifted this phrase "from a rather stupid story by J.C. Squire, chiefly about duck shooting, though also in relation to a fair" [SL, 115]. In Squire's ‘The Alibi’, in his collection of short stories Outside Eden [180], before Sir Henry Moorhouse discovers the body of his shooting companion, Henry Henderson: "A small foreboding gust of wind came over moor and marsh, and rattled the leaves of the forlorn trees on the high ridge behind him. It carried a sound with it, a dim sort of brazen music, faint bangs and cries. It was the fair." The detail first appeared in Chapter VII [UBC 30-6, 2], then Chapter VIII [UBC 30-9, 23]; it was going to be used, somewhere. Chris Ackerley Under The Volcano A Hypertextual Companion

Sir John Collings Squire (2 April 1884 – 20 December 1958) was a British poet, writer, historian, and influential literary editor of the post-World War I period. Read more on Wikipedia

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Over the fields from Upton

That walk they had in the country, over the fields from Upton, "Public footpath to Thingwall". Some stupid boy (or was he, on the contrary, being profound) had turned the red signpost in the opposite direction, towards Wallasey, towards Leasowe, towards the sea. Warm fresh bread and butter with their tea. It was in Greasby they saw the horse in the stable - "dreaming and warm", she had read of someone calling a stable - and in Upton the slate-paved dairy, cold and clear: the primroses in Marples field under the yellow gorse. Ultramarine

The above walk is probably based on a real one undertaken in the Spring of 1927 by Malc and Tess Evans the model for Janet in Ultramarine.

The walk described by Lowry is closely related to the one already discussed in the post Day Out In Saughall Massie. The walk in that excerpt in the novel mentions Saughall Massie Road which runs from Upton to Saughall Massie.

Upton was the home of his brother Stuart and his wife Margot where Lowry felt more at home during the mid-20s than his parent's home in Caldy (see Bowker Pursued By Furies Pg 39). Therefore, we can assume that Malc was familiar with the area and that the walk possibly commenced from Stuart's Corvally - his home in Upton. Or Malc and Tess may have got the bus from West Kirby to Arrowe Park or got off on route as there are several footpaths to Thingwall off Arrowe Brook Lane and Arrowe Brooke Road, which was once used by the West Kirby to Birkenhead bus. The immediate fields around Upton have been consumed by housing and the old road to Saughall Massie ends at a dead end truncated by a new by-pass. Below you can see the the beginning of Saughall Massie Road in Upton and the fields beyond which Malc and Tess walked over:

If they started their walk in Upton - their route could have been down Ford Road - Greasby Road via a footpath which still exists from Greasby Road to Arrowe Brooke Road - Arrowe Brook Lane( where Lowry would have seen the signs to Thingwall)- by footpath near Irby Mill or Mill Lane to Greasby - where they could have returned by Greasby Road to Upton or continued over the fields to Saughall Massie. (See map below for possible route).

Malc and Tess may have got their "warm fresh bread and butter with their tea" at Lumsden's (seen below) at Irby Mill Hill which was popular in the 1920's.

Greasby was still a small village in the 1920's. Malc must have been familiar with Greasby as he mentions the village in a letter to Carol Brown in which he relates a dream about finding a dog on his way to Greasby; the Coach and Horses pub (seen below) is referred to in 'Enter One In Sumptuous Armour'.

The possible location for "the horse in the stable" could have been Greasby Hall Farm:

The dairy in Upton remains unidentified - here are photos of the village in the mid-1920s:

The only reference to a Marple's Field that I have discovered to date is one in Caldy. A farmer named Joseph Henry Marples ran the farm in the centre of the village not far from Inglewood. This may be a case of Malc altering the topography to suit his own creativity which does occur elsewhere in his work.

Lowry may have known that the name Primrose is associated with first love - from the Latin 'primus' - meaning first, due to their early Spring flowering. The primrose is the sacred flower of Freya, the Norse goddess of love and was used in rituals giving honor to her which again may have had significance for Lowry. Lowry was later to use the name Primrose in his novel Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid and the short story 'Gin and Goldenrod'. By one of those Lowryan coincidences, there is a pub in Liscard called 'The Primrose' not far from where Tess lived and very near the first Lowry family home.

Antediluvian Forest At Leasowe

On the shore were the remains of an antediluvian forest with ugly black stumps showing. Under The Volcano

Chris Ackerley has suggested that Malc's mention of the forest early in Under The Volcano intimates the Atlantis theme in the book. The forest forms part of the 'Leasowe' landscape created by Lowry for the childhood home of the Consul.

The forest Lowry refers to is the 'submerged' or 'petrified'or 'submarine' forest described on a bas relief in Leasowe Castle as once stretching from "From Birkinheven unto Hilbree, a squirrel may jump from tree to tree". The trees were last regularly viewed back in the 60's but have since disappeared under the shifting sands. The trees were at their largest towards the river Dee, and smallest at Leasowe. They were mainly oak and fir, also present were alder, elm and beech. They gave the appearance of actually being planted and were of great size. This process was quite possibly accelerated by the introduction of the massive sea wall, which caused the tide to turn upon itself, increasing the flow around the stumps. As a child I have this vague memory of seeing them as we walked out from Dove Point at Meols, Wirral to pick cockles at low tide. Lowry would have certainly have seen the forest as a child whilst playing on the shore at Meols.

The earliest mention of the submerged forest occurs in description of Cheshire dated 1615 by William Webb entitled Kings Vale Royal in which he calls the forest the 'Meols Stocks' alluding to the antediluvian origins of the forest:

In these mosses, especially in the black, are fir-trees found under the ground, in some places six feet deep or more, and in others not one foot; which trees are of surprising length, and straight, having certain small branches like boughs, and roots at one end -as if they had been blown down by the winds; and yet no man can tell that ever any such trees did grow there, nor yet how they should come thither. Some are of the opinion that they have lain there ever since Noah's flood.

The forest is also mentioned in the poem Iter lancastrense (1636) as 'Ye Stockes in Worolde':

But greater wonder calls me hence: ye deepe
Low spongie mosses yet rememberance keepe
Of Noah's flood: on numbers infinite
Of fir trees -swaines do in their cesses light;
And in summe places, when the sea doth bate
Down from ye shoare, 'tis wonder to relate
How many thousands of their trees now stand
Black broken on their rootes, which once drie land
Did cover, whence turfs Neptune yields to showe
He did not always to theis borders flow.

The forest seems to have had a special interest for Victorians appearing in several studies including Benjamin Blower's The Mersey, ancient and modern, ones contained in the Proceedings of the Liverpool Geological Society and the Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire. One of the most detailed accounts is contained in The History of the Hundred of Wirral by William Williams Mortimer (1847) The account is in the appendices of the book and is entitled 'Submarine Forest At Leasowe' telling of an excursion to the forest by the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society in April 1846:

It having been so arranged by the selection of the day for the excursion, that the party should reach the shore at the period of low water, they proceeded at once to the place called the Submarine Forest, entering on the beach at a point between the Castle and the Lighthouse.

To those who expected that the long expanse of sand between the embankment and the water was covered with stumps of trees of various heights, like a forest over which a hurricane had swept, nothing could be more disappointing. Apparently there was nothing worthy of notice beyond the ordinary extent of sand, diversified as usual with little rivulets flowing towards the tide, and with occasional pools, or patches of clay. The first indication of a forest was a projecting moss, like a gigantic nodule of clay, or like a projecting piece of rock. One of the party, however, drew attention to the fact that it was distinctly vegetable matter; in fact, a veritable stump, exhibiting its fracture horizontally, or nearly so, and it cleavage more or less vertically. Among the various projections or truncated pieces of root, large quantities of day and sand had effected a lodgment, and small portions of sea -weed were also attached to it. I am not aware that any other instance was noticed of a root apparently occupying the position where it had sent forth a stem, and thrown out branches and leaves: but in this instance it appears to me that there could be no doubt on the matter. It is not a little extraordinary, however, to find even a single root maintaining its anchorage, with such a strain of sea upon its tiny cables, where the material in which it is imbedded is liable to constant change, and where even its own substance is being daily rotted and frittered away.

Passing on along the sands, other indications of vegetable matter began to exhibit themselves. In some instances the clayey substance seemed to be impregnated with decayed vegetable matter; so that occasionally an ordinary observer could hardly tell whether a certain mass was merely a piece of blackened loam or a portion of rotten wood, of about the consistency of cheese. Passing still westward, the vegetable appearances became more frequent and more distinct; the whole area presented a carboniferous appearance, so that one could have predicted the existence of vegetable matter, even without the finding of a single specimen. But specimens existed in abundance; in one part the woody matter stood out in relief, like the veins of harder material, on the face of a weather-worn stone, suggesting the idea that it had been held in solution, and infiltrated into the cracks of the sand. In another, the margin of a streamlet, from four to six inches high, appeared to be a piece of darkened lias, but, on breaking it with the hand, it proved to be a portion of wood, very soft, and probably expanded, and holding the water like a sponge. Numerous instances occurred in which the timber so found admitted of the finger being readily thrust into it, in the same manner as into a piece of turf bog. Occasionally on breaking off a piece of the earthly matter, various strata of vegetable deposit appeared, like the marks that so frequently show themselves in coal, or like the leaves which appear in the fractures of various kinds of rock. Sometimes the wood was not in such a state of decomposition, but on the contrary, comparatively fresh and strong. Some was evidently birch ; and some evidently oak ; perhaps there were other kinds also. In some instances it retained the bark, in others this was wanting.

A few of the specimens, instead of giving evidence of rottenness, exhibited marks of partial petrifaction; as if minute portions of fine sand had been infiltrated into the substance of the wood, occasioning in it a shorter breakage, and rendering it almost impossible to cut it with a knife.

Another detailed account of the forest is included in Ancient Meols: or, Some account of the antiquities found near Dove point, on the Sea Coast of Cheshire by Abraham Hume. This states that timbers used in the library of Leasowe Castle came from the forest.

Here is Dove Point in 2006 with no sign of the forest at low tide:

Friday, 19 August 2011

New Bookshop in New Brighton

I dropped into the new bookshop which has opened in Atherton Street in New Brighton. This is the nearest bookshop ever to Malc's birthplace in New Brighton. Unfortunately, none of his books were on sale! However, a very pleasant place to drop into. I couldn't resist a copy of Conrad's Youth - always a sucker for these Penguin editions.

Lowry quotes from Conrad's Youth in his short story 'China':

I didn't feel like Conrad "that what expected had already gone, had passed unseen in a sigh, in a flash together with youth, with strength, with romance of illusions" There was no moment that crystallized the East for me.

This quote from Conrad’s ‘Youth’ is what Malc had read before he voyaged to the Far East and expected to have the same experiences as the hero in Conrad's Youth. However, Lowry's short story reflects the reality of his isolation aboard Pyrrhus on his Far East voyage. He doesn't get the chance to prove himself unlike the hero of Conrad's Youth. In fact, he is driven back to his schooldays in having to play in a cricket match with other sailors while war wages around him.


The coots, ivory billed, squat, awkward and raucous, make a noise like twanging guitar strings (Segovia tuning his guitar), they jerk along... Ghostkeeper


‘No, that’s no good as a song; we want one of them old sea shanties, one of the real old timers.’ 'Shenandoah.’ Ultramarine

‘Oh Shenandoah’ (also called simply ‘Shenandoah’, or ‘Across the Wide Missouri’) is a traditional American folk song, dating from at least the early nineteenth century. The lyrics may tell the story of a roving trader in love with the daughter of an Indian chief. Other interpretations tell of a pioneer’s nostalgia for the Shenandoah river, and a young woman who is its daughter; or of a Union soldier in the American Civil War, dreaming of his country home to the west of the Missouri river. The song is also associated with escaped slaves, who sang it in gratitude because the river allowed their tracks to be lost.

‘Shenandoah’ was first printed as part of William L. Alden’s ‘Sailor Songs’, in the July 1882 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. The song had become popular as a sea shanty with British sailors by the 1880s. The lyrics were printed in Sea Songs and Shanties, collected by W. B. Whall, Master Mariner (1910). A Mr J. E. Laidlaw of San Francisco reported hearing a version sung by a black Barbadian sailor aboard the Glasgow ship Harland in 1894, which went:

Oh, Shenandoah! I hear you calling!
Away, you rolling river!
Yes, far away I hear you calling,
Ha, Ha! I’m bound away across the wide Missouri.
My girl, she’s gone far from the river,
Away, you rolling river!
An’ I ain’t goin’ to see her never.
Ha, Ha! I’m bound away,’ &c

The above lyrics from Sea Songs and Shanties, collected by W. B. Whall may be near to what Lowry knew or heard on board Pyrrhus.

Malc on the Prom

The beach reminded the man of his birthplace, New Brighton, England, (if this can be done, because one theme is, or should be, rebirth). Ghostkeeper

Yesterday, I discovered that I am not the only one who is spellbound by Malc believing that he should be more recognized in the place of his birth!

Bollocky Bill

Bollocky Bill, aspiring writer, drawn magically from the groves of the Muses by Poseidon. Ultramarine

The mythical Bollocky Bill – reputed to have been most generously testicled – was commemorated in the bawdy ballad ‘Bollocky Bill the Sailor’, a traditional folk song originally titled ‘Abraham Brown’. ‘Bollocky’ is pronounced and occasionally spelt ‘bollicky’, and may also be a reference to being left-handed or clumsy.

There are several versions of the bawdy song in the Gordon ‘Inferno’ Collection in the US Library of Congress. The first printed version of the song is in the public domain book Immortalia (1927). Later versions feature the eponymous ‘Barnacle Bill’, a fictional character very loosely based on a nineteenth-century San Francisco sailor and Gold Rush miner, William Bernard. There are also known versions in England and Scotland from the early twentieth century.

It is impossible to determine when Lowry first heard the song. The earliest known recording is an expurgated adaptation by Carson Robison and Frank Luther in 1928:

This version was also recorded on May 21, 1930 by Bix Beiderbecke and Hoagy Carmichael with Carson Robison on vocals and released as a Victor 78, V-38139-A and 25371 with another Lowry jazz hero Joe Venuti on the session. This recording, made during the writing of Ultramarine, may have prompted Lowry to adapt the persona of the mythical seaman.

One version of ‘Barnacle Bill’ refers to an exchange between Bill and a ‘fair young maiden’. Each verse opens with inquiries by the maiden, sung by women, or by men in falsetto, and continues with Bill’s profane responses, sung by men:

‘Who’s that knocking at my door? Who’s that knocking at my door?
Who’s that knocking at my door?’ said the fair Young Maiden…
‘It’s me and my crew and we’ve come for a screw!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
‘It’s me and my crew and we’ve come for a screw!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

Alternative responses:
‘It’s only me from over the sea’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
‘It’s only me from over the sea’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

‘Open the door, you pox-ridden whore!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
‘Open the door, you pox-ridden whore!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

‘Open the door, you dirty whore!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
‘Open the door, you dirty whore!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

This version of the song would suit the character of Dana at the point in Ultramarine at which he prepares to lose his virginity in the brothels of Dairen. Dana’s obsession, besides his guilt at the prospect of being unfaithful to his love Janet, is that he will catch syphilis from a prostitute. Another dimension to the introduction of the Bollocky Bill persona is that Lowry considered himself to be clumsy. Lowry endows Dana with the same clumsiness, which is constantly being reinforced by the crew of the ship.

Here is the Bix Beiderbecke version: