Sometimes in the course of research, a neat little mystery just falls right into your lap and upsets all your best laid plans, and everything else gets put on hold until you’ve solved it. Or is that just me? (I always did have a problem with focus…)
As those of you who follow me on Twitter will know, I’m in New York right now, researching at the Hispanic Society of America (left)and writing up big chunks of the Edwardians project. This was supposed to be a post about that research, and about the correspondence between James Fitzmaurice-Kelly and Archer M Huntington, an Edwardian bromance if there ever was one. And that post may still come. But today, I was sidetracked by another Anglo-Spanish Edwardian, who started out as a footnote in a section I’m writing on language education in Edwardian Britain, but who has just presented me with the perfect Easter afternoon of sleuthing.
So … I have been looking at the dozens of manuals, readers, dictionaries, etc. that were available to Anglophone learners of Spanish between the 1880s and the first world war. One of the most comprehensive series was Hossfeld’s, which started in the 1870s with French and German (its very first publication was the rather stern-sounding On the Principle of French Before Breakfast) and moved into Spanish in 1885, before expanding into more unusual languages such as Dutch, Russian, Japanese, Norwegian and Portuguese. The series seems to have petered out during the 1920s and 1930s and come to a complete halt in the 1950s.
Hossfeld’s first Spanish volume was Hossfeld’s New Method for Learning the Spanish Language in the easiest and quickest way (1885), credited to one Tomás Enrique Gurrin, which went through four editions in 18 years. Great! I thought. An expat Spaniard or South American to add to my new ‘Hispanic Britain’ database.* After all, lots of expat Spanish-speakers came to London in the 19th century and set themselves up as a ‘Professor of Languages.’ He’ll be another, I’m sure. So I put ‘Tomas Gurrin’ into the search engines and …
Ever wondered what Books on Spain sounds like? Well, here’s your chance to find out! In an experiment which may or may not go poof! at some point, here I am talking about the much-loved Victorian ballad “In Old Madrid” (Warning! Flugelhorns may be played! If you don’t like amateur musicians and poor sound quality, this may not be the podcast for you):
Want to hear how it should be done? Here’s a link to Frederick Wheeler singing the ballad, in a 1913 recording from the Library of Congress.
Want to play it for yourself? Here’s a link to the sheet music at Music of Yesterday.
It’s still January and so I think I am just about still in time to wish everybody a wonderful, joyful and book-filled 2013. Feliz aninovo, Feliz año nuevo and Happy New Year!
This has been a quiet space for the last few months as I’ve been getting used to a new job and a new rhythm of life as a long-distance (well, middle-distance) commuter. As many of you will know, in September last year I left Liverpool after eight years to join the brand new Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Warwick. I’m still Liverpool-based at the moment and will be at least until the summer, and so while it’s been an exciting few months, it has also involved a great deal of travelling up and down the West Coast Main Line. I am proud (not to mention a little concerned) to say that I can now not only identify the different models of train run by the different operators, but I actually have favourites. Yikes.
2013 is set to continue in the same vein, with all kinds of exciting plans and possibilities, and, yes, lots more trains. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions any more, but if I did, they would definitely include more reading, more writing, and much, much more cooking. And on that front …
This year, for the first time, I celebrated Epiphany, Spanish-style, by baking a Roscón de Reyes or King Cake, from this recipe by Lavender and Lovage. It was and is delicious, although it looks a bit sad, since much of the fruit fell off as the brioche swelled during baking (don’t worry, it all went to a good home). I decided against adding the traditional plastic baby Jesus, largely because I knew I would be the only person eating the Roscón, and also, am not sure how well baby Jesus freezes.
*fights off urge to go down to freezer and defrost one of the Roscón quarters*
As I settle into 2013, you’ll be hearing more about my progress on The Edwardians and the Making of a Modern Spanish Obsession, which is my primary writing project for the year, and about the shorter, related book I’m currently finishing up on Edwardian tourists in the Galician spa town of Mondariz, which, all being well, will be published in the spring.
And more Anglo-Spanish Edwardians will be coming this way very soon – starting with an update on the entrepreneuse and publicist Miss Rachel Challice, and continuing with more of the elusive, eccentric, and totally enchanting characters I’ve come across during my work on this project, such as Albert Frederick Calvert, Helen Hester Colvill, Ida Farnell, Major Martin Hume, Annette Budgett Meakin, Mariana Monteiro, and the Del Riego Losada family of Leon and London…
The research for my current book, The Edwardians and the Making of a Modern Spanish Obsession, has turned up dozens of long-forgotten writers, commentators and artists who in their different ways, shaped the modern British view of Spain. Many of them were of Anglo-Spanish origin or had family connections that placed them at the heart of the international networks through which Anglophone knowledge about Spain was circulated. One of my favourites is Leticia ‘Lily’ Higgin who, under the gender-neutral semi-pseudonym of ‘L Higgin,’ wrote the almost-but-not-quite-forgotten study Spanish Life in Town and Country (left), first published in 1902.*
Higgin’s book was evidently popular in its time – it went through at least three editions (1902, 1904, 1906) and was read in the UK, the US and – as a passing mention in Sofia Casanova’s 1910 lecture La mujer española en el extranjero (The Spanish Woman Abroad) shows – in Spain. However, Higgin herself has remained something of an enigma – indeed, reviews from the time, which assume ‘L Higgin’ to be male, indicate that her identity was not widely known. In addition to Spanish Life, she also authored a number of articles on Spanish themes for the Fortnightly Review between 1904 and 1911, and between these and some genealogical digging, I’ve been able to establish the following skeleton biography:
So, back to The Holiday. As I think I might just possibly have mentioned before, the major priorities for the week, other than a touch of sightseeing and a generous sampling of sack, were swimming and reading, reading and swimming, swimming, reading, and swimming some more. And as you can see (left), the conditions were particularly lovely for both. Bliss.
La Catedral del mar had already taken us perilously close to a budget airline baggage limit that was clearly not devised with the holidaying bookworm in mind, and so, in a frenzy of late-night pre-departure downloading, I filled up the Kindle with an eclectic range of classics, obscure-but-out-of-copyright 19th-century novels, and a couple of newly-published things I’d spotted in the Saturday reviews. One of these was Clare Clark’s brand new historical novel Beautiful Lies, set in 1887 London, which had been out barely a month, and whose blurb begins:
It is 1887, and an unsettled London is preparing for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. For Maribel Campbell Lowe, the beautiful, bohemian wife of a maverick politician, it is the year she plans to make her own mark on the world. But her husband’s outspoken views inspire enmity as well as admiration – and the wife of a member of parliament should not be hiding the kind of secrets Maribel has buried in her past…
All very intriguing, and as you can probably imagine, most UK reviewers have responded to the heavy PR nudge, and made the connections between the novel’s setting and our very own Jubilee Year, with its backdrop of social, political and economic chaos. However, what drew me to the novel was the apparently throwaway remark in Lucy Scholes’s review in the Indy, that the novel’s protagonists, Maribel and Edward Campbell-Lowe, are based on ‘the real-life couple, Robert Cunninghame Graham and his wife Gabriela’.
Now, this is where the process of reviewing the novel gets interesting, at least for me. The Cunninghame Grahams are are a fascinating pair, each with a colourful biography that is practically a novel in itself. HOWEVER. The more you know about their life together, the less surprised you will be by Clark’s story of Maribel and Edward Campbell Lowe, and so, in the spirit of fair reviewing, I’m not going to give anything away here.* Instead, for those of you who are wondering what a contemporary British novel set in London is doing on a blog called Books on Spain, here are some (hopefully) unspoilery thoughts on the Cunninghame Grahams and their place in my current book project.
Gosh. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? So, you’ll be pleased to know (I hope) that the post title is true. The blog and I are Not Dead Yet (look out – sound!); it’s just that various professional obligations have been keeping me busy and travelling – although my newly-acquired toy-cum-travelling-companion means that my books have been on the road with me to A Coruña, Santiago de Compostela, Seattle (where I was excited to see the public début of a recent baby of mine, left), and Tenerife.
Time in the air = time for reading, and so I’ve got lots of reviews pending, including one of the book I picked up at the airport on the way back from Tenerife this week, Inma Chacón’s Tiempo de arena, the runner-up for the Planeta Prize 2011. It’s a total blast and – bonus! – set during my favourite decades at the beginning of the 20th century, which have been almost entirely ignored in Spain’s recent historical fiction boom, despite being one of the most exciting and dramatic periods in modern Spanish history. And you can betcha I have a theory about that. Watch this space!
Speaking of my favourite decades… perhaps the most exciting of the last few months’ developments is connected with The Project Formerly Known as From Cervantes to Sunny Spain, which now has a spiffing new title: The Edwardians and the Making of a Modern Spanish Obsession. I’ve talked here on the blog about some of the case studies I’ll be including in the book, from trashy fiction to travel writing, and there’s more on the way (!). If you want to know more, the project is currently featured on the website of the Leverhulme Trust, whose generosity in giving me a Philip Leverhulme Prize means I’ll be able to spend the whole of the 2012-13 academic year with the Edwardians.
Up next: news about my collaboration with Rod Younger’s fantastic new project Books4Spain, an online bookshop designed to help English-speaking readers locate the best books and resources about Spain in all of its rich and multilingual diversity.
One of the perks of researching a new project – in this case, From Cervantes to Sunny Spain – is that until you actually nail down the final structure, pretty much anything can count as research. And so, aided by my newly-beloved Kindle, I’ve been splashing around in the balmy waters of late Victorian and Edwardian novels on all things related to Spain.
I discovered The Far Horizon during a speculative trawl through the Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction, which begins, tantalisingly, ‘Dominic Iglesias, son of a Spanish anarchist, devotes his life to the care of his saintly mother…’ . Fortunately, it looks as if at that point, my green highlighter and I moved on, for the Companion then proceeds to summarise the whole plot in a way that is scrupulously accurate, but – perhaps unsurprisingly in a work of this kind - somewhat lacking in oomph (that’s a technical term, obvs).
So I’m going to be travelling a lot over the next four months – three or four work trips to Spain and two to the US. And as you know, I love to read. I have a long history of schlepping piles of books across international borders (you have to take a lot because you never know what kind of reading mood you’ll be in when you get to wherever you’re going, OBVIOUSLY) and then hitting a bookshop on the first day and leaving my carefully-chosen piles completely unread. It’s a pathology. I’m chronic. And I’m usually very close to my budget airline luggage limit…
And so, after much to-ing and fro-ing, and with enthusiastic encouragement from Mr Booksonspain, who is nothing if not a pragmatist when it comes to the need for books (*because it wasn’t the cats who ordered the 35 mystery novels by a single author that have appeared in our house during the last 6 weeks*), I have finally acquired my first Kindle. And you know what? I *adore* it. I have the 3G version, which means free international web access, which means, yes, I have been able to download stuff on it from here in Spain even when there’s no WiFi available. It also has a rudimentary web browser (currently under development, not sure whether it’s permanent) which has been something of a lifesaver when circumstances have required emergency email access.
First up, thank you everybody for the lovely comments on my blogiversary post! Of course, I wrote it and promptly went off on holiday, hence this belated acknowledgment- but now I’m back and raring to get started on the next 12 months of rants and reviews.
From September, this blog will also be home to updates on my book-in-progress From Cervantes to Sunny Spain, the Making of a Modern Spanish Obsession, 1888-1918 - which means that on top of normal service, I’ll be posting titillating titbits and scintillating snippets about the people, institutions, events, celebrations, exhibitions, tours, performers and – of course! – books that contributed to making Spain public property and a crucial part of British public life during the 30 years between the tercentenary of the Spanish Armada in 1888 and the First World War. That means more trashy Edwardian novels (and some Victorians), more on the Anglo-Spanish royal wedding and the quite spectacular wave of opportunistic literary toadying it provoked, more Hispanophile entrepreneurs, more tourism history (don’t you just love the Booth Line postcard at the top of the post?) and my new obsession, mapblogging. Watch the Cervantes to Sunny Spain tag for more!
Next up, though, will be my promised review of María Dueñas’s El tiempo entre costuras. Watch this space!
So I’m in A Coruña for work, I have a free weekend, and I had this great idea: to figure out what the Edwardian lady travellers I’m currently researching saw while they were here in 1908 (Annette Meakin) and 1910 (Catherine Gasquoine Hartley), and to figure out how many of those things are still recognisable today. Typically, I spent *way* too much time last night designing a Google map to help me achieve this. This is actually the beginning of a small pilot for a bigger project I’m putting together, using geospatial data and visualizations to explore how travellers and tourists have interacted with specific sites through time. It’s a work in progress, and the dynamic version isn’t ready to be shown to the world, but you should be able to get an idea from this screenshot:
What you can see on the right of the screenshot is a map of Coruña’s old and new towns, with the markers I’ve inserted to show places mentioned by Meakin (yellow markers) and Hartley (blue). My route today is marked in green, beginning from the Hotel Riazor on the left of the shot, and proceeding anticlockwise in a large and untidy loop. It took me about 3.5 hours all told, including lunch at the Petite Bretagne on the Rua Riego de Agua (Tudela salad – recommended!), many (many!) photographs, and a stop for meringues at La Gran Antilla (of which more later…). On the left of the screenshot you can see a list of the entries associated with the markers for Hartley and Meakin, which are mostly relevant extracts from the two books I used as my sources, Meakin’s Galicia, the Switzerland of Spain (1909), and Hartley’s Spain Revisited: A Summer Holiday in Galicia (1911). In the dynamic version of the map, you can click on a marker and read what the author had to say about the site you’re looking at.
Spain has been a mainstay of the Anglophone literary imagination for at least two centuries. Most of us are all too familiar with the main co-ordinates of a literary landscape that began (in its modern version at least) with the Romantics and is still in circulation today: Andalusia and the south, Carmen, Don Quixote, bullfighting, sangria, sun, sea, orange blossom, Washington Irving and the Tales of the Alhambra, Dumas’s gateway to Africa, Europe’s exotic, oriental ‘other,’ yadda yadda. But this isn’t the only story, even if it is the most visible one. There’s more to Anglo writing on Spain than the Romantics. Ladies and gentlemen, I present … The Edwardians!*
I talked a couple of posts ago about how the 1906 wedding of the Spanish King Alfonso XIII to the British Princess Ena turned out to be a catalyst for early 20th-century Anglo interest in Spain, and for the last couple of months, I’ve been tracking down some of the gloriously trashy Anglo novels on Spain published as part of the resulting boom.** Many of them, especially the earlier ones, are available on the Internet Archive, thanks to the digitisation efforts of US and Canadian universities and, inevitably (although less helpfully, since their files aren’t as … ahem … saveable) Google. Even so, I’ve been gradually acquiring copies of as many as I can via abebooks, antiqbooks and others,*** which is proving both deeply satisfying, and surprisingly inexpensive (yay!).
The last four novels to arrive have been (in order of publication, tho’ I actually read them in reverse of that): A Castle in Spain by Bernard Capes (1903), in which Provencal-English Robin de Lois must travel from Sussex to Napoleonic Spain on a secret mission from his mother; The Spanish Jade, by Maurice Hewlett (1906), in which the jade in question is not a jewel, but a young lady called Manuela, who is saved from assault by stuffy English curate Osmund Manvers, plunging him into a drama of passion that rivals anything described in his beloved Quijote; The Spanish Necklace, by BM (Bithia) Croker (1908), in which repressed Hester Forde comes into a large fortune and learns to take control of her own destiny (and to buy some really impressive jewellery), and finally, Constance Holme‘s The Old Road from Spain (1916). The first three of these have enough in common that we can draw some tentative hypotheses from them about Spain’s place in the Edwardian literary imagination. Holme’s novel - a Mills & Boon, no less – is of a different ilk for a number of reasons, not least in the role played in both plot and setting by the Sheep of Doom (apologies for banging on with the ovine-related buildup, but it’s just too irresistible), and so it’s going to get a review all of its own at some point in the not too distant future.
Wherever you are in the world, especially if you’re in an English-speaking country or Northern Europe, the great excitement over the upcoming British Royal Wedding probably won’t have escaped you. Prince William and Kate Middleton will be tying the knot in Westminster Abbey this Friday, 29th April, and the nation is rejoicing (largely, it must be said, because the Bank Holiday Friday, added to the following Bank Holiday Monday, means a four day weekend! Yippee!). And so, in honour of the big occasion, and because I’ve had a review pending on a related novel for a couple of months now, I thought it might be fun to talk about another Royal Wedding, which took place almost exactly 105 years ago, on 31 May 1906, and which sparked huge popular interest in both Britain and Spain.
The happy couple in the engagement photo on the postcard above left are Princess Ena of Battenburg, who despite her name was a British Princess, and King Alfonso XIII of Spain. Ena, or to give her full name, Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena (1887-1969) was the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, by Victoria’s youngest daughter Princess Beatrice – whose married name was Princess Henry of Battenberg. Because her mother was Queen Victoria’s youngest child, and therefore by Victorian convention responsible for looking after her widowed mother and keeping her company, Ena was born at Balmoral and remained part of the royal household until her marriage. Her father, Prince Henry of Battenberg, died of malaria en route to fight in the Ashanti War in 1895, when she was just 8 years old.
The postcard above left, like the one on the right which shows the King and his new Queen with their mothers, is from a series of at least nine postcards published in 1907 by Rotary Photographic,* part of the surge of popular mutual interest between Spain and Britain that followed the marriage announcement. A quick bibliographical survey of UK-published books on Spain during the first decade of the 20th century shows a sudden and unprecedented peak in 1906 and 1907, much of it down to the ever-resourceful Albert Frederick Calvert, a dodgy entrepreneur with a keen eye for a quick buck, who was editor and principal author of the colourful and comprehensive John Lane Spanish Series, which ran between 1906 and 1912. Calvert swiftly spotted the opportunities provided by this new Anglo-Spanish connection, and rushed out Alfonso XIII in England (1905) and the privately printed The Spanish Royal Wedding (1906), later dedicating volumes of the Spanish Series to the King, his mother, his mother in law, his sister, and the Spanish Ambassador to London (it paid off - Calvert eventually collected a range of honours from the Spanish Court).
Ena and Alfonso first met during his state visit to England in the summer of 1905, when she was seventeen and he was nineteen. After a fairly rapid courtship, they were engaged in January 1906, and married at Madrid’s San Jerónimo monastery on 31 May of the same year. Famously, the wedding party was the target of a bomb attack, which, unsurprisingly, tainted the early months of Ena’s relationship with her adopted country: as they passed up Madrid’s Calle Mayor on their way back to the Royal Palace, the anarchist Mateu Morral threw a bomb, concealed in a bouquet, at the newlyweds’ carriage. While he missed his primary target, a number of guards and bystanders were killed. Our old friend Rachel Challice, who visited the couple the following year, writes in The Secret History of the Court of Spain (source of the picture, left, of Princess Ena in her wedding dress) that:
the tragedy of the bomb cast in the bouquet, which caused so much disaster, came like a sudden frost, and nipped the spontaneous joy of the young Queen, and the drives and walks in the city of Madrid became a source of fear instead of joy … The people, therefore, are a little disappointed at their greetings not meeting with the quick response of the first days in her new land; and as Spaniards would do anything for a smile, and love to see happiness, this inborn terror, begotten of the tragedy of her wedding-morn, would form a barrier between the English Queen and her people, were they not reminded of the source of the set expression on her face (pp.316-317).**
And so now for the review … look away now if you want to avoid spoilers (and/or a slight sense of ickiness):
I’ve already confessed my rather expensive obsession with early 20th-century English-language writing on Spain. This summer, one of my projects was to track down a particular, very obscure book by one of the writers I’m researching for my new project. I knew from a scattered range of sources that early in the 20th century, the scholar and translator Rachel Challice had put together a large, illustrated album, designed to attract English readers to the Galician spa town of Mondariz Balneario. The album, listed by the Biblioteca Nacional as Monograph of Mondaris [sic] and dated by them to 1906, is held by very few other libraries and shows up in fewer than half a dozen Google links. Obviously I could have waited for an opportunity to go and look at the copy in Madrid, but where’s the fun in that? When a copy came up on a collectors’ site, I negotiated a 10% discount, and eventually got it for … gulp … a low 3-figure sum. And now it’s mine! (Except for pages 11 and 12, which are unaccountably absent…)
The album fills in some important pieces of the puzzle I’m piecing together in my new project on the commercial and cultural networks connecting England and Galicia in the early 20th century. Rachel Challice is almost entirely forgotten now, but in the decade before her death in 1909, she was a well-known writer on Spain, also familiar to English readers as the translator of the popular Spanish novelist Armando Palacio Valdés. She was something of an entrepreneuse too, and owner of Challice’s Spanish Information Bureau, which operated out of Great Winchester Street in central London. Challice put together the Monograph in collaboration with the Peinador brothers, Enrique and Ramón who ran the Hydropathic establishment at Mondariz; they had previously published a Spanish-language album, which Challice draws on for the sumptuous illustrations, and for the two accompanying essays by medical doctors, outlining the science behind the waters. The text of the main section, however, is written by Challice herself, and evidently with a clear eye not only on her assigned mission of attracting English travellers to the Peinadors’ establishment, but also on promoting the Spanish Information Bureau as ‘the only authorised British agency’ for wholesale orders of Mondariz mineral water (17).