Jacob Rees-Mogg

Perfectly put…

| Charles | Saumarez | Smith |

I have been mildly castigated for being rude about Owen Paterson, who suffered the suicide of his wife. But at the moment, it seems that everywhere one looks the government is tearing up the rule book. I’m afraid that I find one of the more repugnant is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, taking loans from his own company – a mere £6 million – without bothering to declare them. I find this particularly offensive because a) he is the Leader of the House. If anyone should be setting standards, he surely should. He is not some backbench rascal, trying to top up his income. b) he presents himself as a parody of Victorian probity and this is now revealed to be a total sham. He’s a crook, dressed up to look like a gentleman.

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UNPACKING – Katia Margolis at the Palazzo Contarini-Polignac, Venice: 7-30 December 2021

Curator Robin Saikia introduces Russian artist Katia Margolis’s latest exhibition, “Unpacking”, at the Magazzino Gallery, Palazzo Contarini-Polignac, Venice. 7-30 December 2021. Admission free. The directors of Magazzino look forward to seeing you at the opening at 6pm on Tuesday 7 December. If you can’t make it to the opening, do join us for a closing drink on the evening of December 30.

‘Fresco – Grand Canal towards Salute’, from Vert-de-gris series, Unpacking. Ink and wash.

Katia Margolis’s last major exhibition at Magazzino Gallery, Palazzo Contarini-Polignac, was Iconostasis (2016), a collection of exquisite paintings on reclaimed printing blocks, unified by themes of love, loss, memory and devotion. Her latest exhibition, Unpacking, is an expansively conceived sequel to Iconostasis. It marks her long-awaited return to Magazzino, where the fabric and atmosphere of the gallery are so perfectly in harmony with her work.

L’ultima mostra importante di Katia Margolis al Magazzino, Palazzo Contarini-Polignac, è stata Iconostasis (2016), una raccolta di squisiti dipinti su blocchi da stampa recuperati, unificati dai temi dell’amore, della perdita, della memoria e della devozione.  La sua più recente mostra, Unpacking, è un sequel ampiamente concepito da Iconostasi.  Segna il suo tanto atteso ritorno al Magazzino, dove il tessuto e l’atmosfera della galleria sono così perfettamente in armonia con il suo lavoro.

The exhibition comprises three interlinked cycles of paintings completed over the last year: Unpacking, a series meditating on states of confinement and liberation occasioned by the pandemic; Devotion, a series of works on panel echoing the early Umbrian School; Vert-de-gris, a cycle of Venetian ink-and-wash drawings, alternately topographical and capriccesque in theme and treatment. The exhibition unifies Devotion and Vert-de-gris in a loosely liturgical arrangement, matching the grandeur and solemnity of the gallery and its texture. Unpacking is presented in its own discrete setting, an uplifting and cautiously festive coda illuminating the shared experience of the pandemic. All three components of the exhibition represent spiritual, intellectual and practical “unpacking” of various kinds, appropriate given the extent to which the pandemic has caused individuals and communities to reevaluate what for so long they have taken for granted.

La mostra comprende tre cicli di dipinti interconnessi realizzati durante quest’ultimo anno: Unpacking, una serie che medita sugli stati di confinamento e liberazione causati dalla pandemia;  Devozione, una serie di opere su pannelli che rievocano gli inizi della Scuola Umbra;  Vert-de-gris, un ciclo di disegni a china di Venezia, alcuni topografici e alcuni capriccesci nel tema e nel trattamento.  La mostra unifica Devotion e Vert-de-gris in un arrangiamento semi-liturgico, abbinando la grandezza e la solennità della galleria alla consistenza unica delle sue mura.  Unpacking è presentato in un ambiente discreto, una coda confortante e cautamente festosa che illumina l’esperienza condivisa della pandemia.  Tutti e tre i componenti della mostra rappresentano un “disimballaggio” spirituale, intellettuale e pratico. Questo si rivela molto appropriato alla luce della pandemia, la quale ha indotto individui e comunità a rivalutare ciò che per tanto tempo hanno dato per scontato.

One of the many subsidiary but insistent effects of the pandemic in Venice and elsewhere was an dramatically increased dependence on postal deliveries. Goods normally bought in local shops had to be bought online during the lockdowns. Boxes upon boxes arrived, like emergency parcels in a war zone, the excitement of opening them compensating in part for the inconvenience, and at times downright misery, of isolation. If the goods were bright messengers of continuing day-to-day life, the boxes were their unassuming but indispensable travelling companions. In her Unpacking cycle, Margolis has given them a voice, transforming them into visible metaphors of liberation, a setting-free and flourishing of hidden inner resources that many us, in that prolonged and difficult time, never knew we had. In this cycle of paintings, these prosaic and easily unconsidered objects are illuminated with an inner life and energy, unmistakably recalling aspects of the still lifes and interiors of Giorgio Morandi, Mikhail Roginsky and Vilhelm Hammershøi

Uno dei tanti effetti sussidiari ma importanti della pandemia a Venezia, ma anche altrove, è stata una grande crescita nella dipendenza dalle consegne postali.  Durante i lockdown, i beni che abitualmente acquistavamo nei negozi locali, dovevano invece essere acquistate online.  Arrivavano scatole su scatole, come pacchi d’emergenza in zona di guerra, e l’emozione di aprirle compensava in parte il disagio, e a volte la vera miseria, dell’isolamento.  E se i beni erano brillanti messaggeri della vita quotidiana che continuava a scorrere, le scatole erano le loro compagne di viaggio, semplici ma indispensabili.  Nel suo ciclo Unpacking, Margolis ha dato loro una voce, trasformandole in metafore visibili di liberazione, un sprigionamento e un fiorire di risorse interiori nascoste che molti di noi, in quel tempo prolungato e difficile, non sapevano di avere.  In questo ciclo di dipinti, questi oggetti prosaici e facilmente ignorabili sono illuminati con vita e energia interiori, rievocando senza alcun dubbio aspetti delle nature morte e degli interni di Giorgio Morandi, Mikhail Roginsky e Vilhelm Hammershøi.

The Vert-de-gris ink-and-wash series, emblematic of Venice’s eternal presence in Margolis’s work, speaks eloquently of the joy and melancholy of her adopted city. These drawings belong to a long and honourable tradition, upheld by comparatively few artists, of art that genuinely articulates the fugitive mysteries of Venice, its light and spirit, rather than performing a mere workaday recital of the surface appeal. Through this cycle, Margolis has once again proved herself a worthy participant in that tradition, of which Guardi, Turner, Ruskin and Sargent are the leading proponents. In Margolis’s work as in theirs, profound rather than superficial investigation brings with it precious revelations of both city and self, the fabric of the city becoming an extension of both artists’ and viewers’ inner lives.

La serie Vert-de-gris, emblematica dell’eterna presenza di Venezia nelle opere di Margolis, parla in modo eloquente della gioia e della malinconia della sua città adottiva.  Questi disegni appartengono a una lunga e onorevole tradizione, sostenuta da relativamente pochi artisti, di un’arte che articola genuinamente i misteri fugaci di Venezia, la sua luce e il suo spirito, piuttosto che una mera recita quotidiana del suo fascino superficiale.  Attraverso questo ciclo, Margolis si è dimostrata ancora una volta una degna partecipante a quella tradizione, di cui Guardi, Turner, Ruskin e Sargent sono i principali fautori.  Nel lavoro di Margolis, come nei loro, un’indagine profonda piuttosto che superficiale porta con sé preziose rivelazioni sia sulla città che sull’io. Il tessuto della città diventa un’estensione della vita interiore sia degli artisti che degli spettatori.

Looking to literary equivalents that mirror the tough quest for originality in the depiction of Venice, viewers may recall episodes in the works of three authors who, though separated by period and style, are unified by an intention to uncover both the elusive heart of the city and the inner life of their characters. Proust, who was a regular guest at this palazzo and a lifelong lover of Venice, set aside conventional description, memorably describing the palaces of the Grand Canal as resembling a “chain of marble cliffs”, miraculous creations that had appeared to grow from the waters like natural forms. Proust’s organic perception of Venice was later echoed by Brodsky, who likened the improbable structure of the city to “innumerable strands of coral reefs”. Dickens, realizing the limitations of the lively travelogue style he had deployed consistently throughout his Pictures from Italy, chose to frame the Venetian chapter as a dream, a highly effective means of recreating that curious miasma of the real and supernatural that permeates the city. Many years later, in Little Dorrit, Venice was to become a striking extension of his lonely child-heroine’s inner life, as she sensed her hopes, fears and past experiences reflected in the canals and embodied in the palaces.

Se si pensa agli equivalenti letterari che rispecchiano la dura ricerca dell’originalità nella rappresentazione di Venezia, i visitatori potrebbero ricordare episodi nelle opere di tre autori che, sebbene separati per epoca e stile, sono accomunati dall’intenzione di scoprire sia il cuore sfuggente della città sia la vita interiore dei loro personaggi.  Proust, che fu ospite fisso di questo palazzo e amante di Venezia per tutta la vita, respinse la scelta di fare descrizioni convenzionali, descrivendo invece i palazzi del Canal Grande come somiglianti a una “catena di scogliere di marmo”, creazioni miracolose che sembravano nascere dalle acque come forme naturali.  La percezione organica di Venezia di Proust è stata poi ripresa da Brodsky, che ha paragonato l’improbabile struttura della città a “una barriera corallina o una successione di grotte disabitate”.  Dickens, rendendosi conto dei limiti del vivace stile di diario di viaggio che aveva utilizzato costantemente in tutte le sue Immagini dall’Italia, scelse di inquadrare il capitolo veneziano come un sogno, un mezzo altamente efficace per ricreare quel curioso miasma del reale e del soprannaturale che permea la città.  Molti anni dopo, in Little Dorrit, Venezia sarebbe diventata un’estensione sorprendente della vita interiore della sua solitaria bambina-eroina che sentiva le sue speranze, paure ed esperienze passate riflesse nei canali e incarnate nei palazzi.

Margolis’s Devotion series was conceived during a prolonged sabbatical in Umbria, where she revisited the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, drawing inspiration from the early Italian masters, in particular Giotto, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti. Viewers may also hear echoes of antiquity, of ancient Roman frescoes and funerary art, of Byzantine imagery and, in Margolis’s more sculptural pieces, of the Hellenic tradition. As with the works previously shown in Iconostasis, the Devotion paintings are created on reclaimed material, in this case wooden planks, offcuts and discarded shutters. These gnarled surfaces, corrugated with natural knots, splinters, fissures and cracks, serve a dual purpose, simultaneously recalling the technique and feel of early paintings and endowing the images with a uniquely organic and sculptural quality.

La serie Devotion di Margolis è stata concepita durante un lungo anno sabbatico in Umbria, dove ha rivisitato la Basilica di San Francesco ad Assisi, traendo ispirazione dai primi maestri italiani, in particolare Giotto, Simone Martini e Pietro Lorenzetti.  I visitatori possono anche sentire echi dell’antichità, di antichi affreschi romani e arte funeraria, di immagini bizantine e, nei pezzi più scultorei di Margolis, della tradizione ellenica.  Come per le opere precedentemente mostrate in Iconostasi, i dipinti di Devotion sono creati su materiale di recupero, in questo caso tavole di legno, ritagli e persiane scartate.  Queste superfici nodose, definite da schegge, fessure e crepe, hanno un duplice scopo, richiamando infatti la tecnica e la sensazione dei primi dipinti, e conferendo alle immagini una qualità unicamente organica e scultorea.

‘Self Unpacked’ (left} and detail (above), from the Devotion series by Katia Margolis. Oil on reclaimed wood panel, 50 x 80 cm.

The Anglo-German Review: A Portrait of Right Wing Britain in the Thirties

The following is an excerpt from my study, The Red Book: The Membership List of The Right Club. A new edition will be published early next year.

Those in favour of doing a deal with Hitler – in favour of Appeasement – found their views articulated and all the options explored in the pages of a significant publication of the late Thirties, the Anglo-German Review

In The Roots of Appeasement Martin Gilbert drew a useful distinction between the ‘old appeasement’ and the ‘new’. Whereas the old was ‘Victorian in its optimism, Burkean in its belief that societies evolved from bad to good and that progress could only be for the better’, the ‘new’ reflected a ‘mood of fear, Hobbesian in its insistence upon swallowing the bad in order to preserve some remnant of the good’. Something of the flavour of both brands comes across very strongly in the Anglo-German Review, published between 1936 and 1939, listing several Right Club members amongst its contributors, notably Lord Redesdale and Charles Sarolea – and many others closely connected with Archibald Ramsay, like Barry Domvile who used the Anglo-German Review as a mouthpiece for The Link, when that society was still at the fledgling stage. Under C. E. Carroll’s editorship, the A-GR proclaimed a clear message, a clear sense of purpose and direction. Judged in purely journalistic terms, it was a far greater success than Action, the magazine of Mosley’s BUF. That, under the fastidious but over-intellectual supervision of Harold Nicolson, had been an uneasy hotchpotch of sabre-rattling and highbrow, where stirring accounts of the Leader were juxtaposed with helpful gardening tips from Vita Sackville-West. A-GR, by contrast, was very sharply focused.

Peace at any cost was its keynote. The tone was upbeat and breezy, calculated as far as possible to appeal to the broadest spectrum of British society. The magazine sought, identified and celebrated common ground between Germany and the United Kingdom, cemented by shared values and aspirations on the one hand and, on the other, values and virtues that each side could offer the other in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation in the wake of World War I. At the outset, the A-GR was devoid of anti-Semitism or racism of any other kind, though there were outbreaks, notably in the music columns, where ‘negroid jazz’ was given a firm thumbs-down. Later on, with war imminent, anti-Semitism crept in, as we shall see. 

The advertisements and announcements in A-GR give an intriguing picture of Britain in the mid-Thirties, its values and susceptibilities. Modern Touring of Lower Regent Street offered ‘Eighteen Days through Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia for £31, in high-powered luxurious motor cars’; ‘The home without a piano lacks one of the greatest sources of pleasure – the capacity for full self-expression: Bluthner: “The Piano with the Golden Tone” ’; ‘Swastica [sic] Badges, black enamel chromium finish 9d each; Bar gilt brooch, 1/3, post free from T. C. Nobbs, 51 Gorringe Park Avenue, Mitcham’; ‘Under the auspices of the Anglo-German Academic Bureau a Company of German Amateur Players presents Friedrich Schiller’s “Maria Stuart” (in German) at Battersea Town Hall’. We learn that the All-Hohner Orchestra of the British College of Accordionists toured Germany in the summer of 1939. Events in Germany were prominently listed, the hurly-burly of social and cultural life called vividly to life in a monthly calendar. Readers were alerted to the German Dancing Championships in Kassel and the Exhibition of Degenerate Art in Stuttgart. At the Cologne Dog Show in November 1938, the Führer’s Special Prize for Best of Breed was co-adjudicated by Colonel G. G. Woodwark, the Mayor-designate of Kings Lynn. There was even a motoring column contributed by Gordon Fathers, founding father of the laddish lyricism favoured by today’s motoring correspondents. 

To the man to whom the smell of racing oil is the most fragrant perfume, the very name Frazer Nash evokes dreams as lotus-like as those of the opium-smoker.

In the October 1938 edition of A-GR Fathers performed the impressive journalistic contortion of weaving the Munich Agreement into the motoring review.

It [the Mercedes-Benz Type 540 Cabriolet] has eight super-charged cylinders, and a four-speed gearbox, all gears being synchronized, and an unusual fifth gear incorporated in the back axle. Although it is a monster of a car it has surprisingly graceful lines. The chassis price is £1,395. Those who have the necessary in the bank could not do better than to take the advice of a famous daily and buy themselves this as a “peace” car.

All of this was intended to create a sense of ‘normality’, common sense, co-operation; as time wore on, preceding and surrounding the Munich Agreement, the A-GR resolutely presented an upbeat picture of Anglo-German friendship, openly chastising the Winston Churchills, Duff Coopers and Anthony Edens for being irresponsible ‘warmongers’.

[Winston Churchill] has committed himself utterly and most emphatically to a power-policy that would lead straight to war. War we might perhaps win – but still, war. Let us pray that no Winston Churchill ever comes to power either in this country or Germany. He is unquestionably the biggest warmonger in the world today.

The A-GR line was communicated through an array of contributors, ranging from what would today be called ‘lifestyle’ journalists through to no-nonsense characters like Redesdale and Bruce Bairnsfeather or political heavyweights like ‘famous historian’ Sir Raymond Beazley and the Right Club’s Charles Sarolea. Each contributor was trumpeted in a succinct biog in the prelims of the magazine: ‘Elizabeth Craig, probably the world’s most famous woman journalist’ who ‘lives at Hampstead in a converted Wesleyan Chapel’, ‘the last thing in all electric up-to-dateness’. Mrs Craig’s piece in Volume 1 Number 1 of A-GR was entitled ‘The German Housewife’ and in it she leaves no doubt as to the lessons that British women might profitably learn from their opposite numbers in Germany:

If I had my way, I would turn every Englishwoman into the equivalent of a German Hausfrau, whether she were married or not. If the average Englishman realized the difference between having his home mismanaged and managed, he would back me up. There is no excuse for slovenly housekeeping any more than there is an excuse for slovenliness in the business world. If more women realized that, we should hear fewer tales of domestic strife. Looking back to the days I spent overlooking the Leitzensee, I wish I had paid closer attention to the example I found in Berlin. Meticulous in every detail appertaining to home comfort, the German housewife sees that her kitchen is efficiently equipped before she begins to think of her personal needs. A fur coat can wait. She does not know the call of a club. Bargain sales do not make her lose her head. In short, the German Frau puts the interests of her household first. I wish I could treat every budding housewife to a year in Germany. Germany is the only country I know where sheer common sense is brought to bear upon the minutest problem of the home.

The article develops further in the same vein and is accompanied by a useful photograph, by way of inspiration, captioned ‘Elizabeth Craig, chatting with “Ossi von Stresow”, her German Dobermann-Pinscher.’

In its first issue the magazine addresses the vexed issue of dictatorship in Germany. Since dictatorship is a very un-British thing, the A-GR needed to offer its readers some plausible justification for the German regime. This task fell to Redesdale, described as having a ‘broad mind, sound judgment’ and a ‘sense of humour’; ‘a strong, silent man, but not too silent’ who ‘speaks precisely and well’. In an article entitled ‘This Way Lies Peace – A Plea for Better Understanding Between Germany and Britain’, he tackled the issue head-on, his irresistible logic combining the elegance of Athens with the briskness of Ascot. 

What ill will does exist here against Germany is due largely to confused thinking.

For instance, there is the man who says “I am deadly opposed to any form of Dictatorship.” To him I say, “So am I,” but I qualify what I say by adding “…in this country.”

What is the sense of a man who is in the enjoyment of good health saying to another who is taking some potent drug and being relieved, if not completely cured, of some ghastly and agonizing disease, “I am opposed to the taking of potent drugs.” Obviously, there is no sense in that.

Equally, there is no sense in an Englishman saying to a German that he is opposed to Dictatorship.

Should this line of reasoning have failed to convince, then readers might have considered a more elaborate thesis put forward by Professor Charles Sarolea, a fellow Right Club member, in a later edition of A-GR. Scotland, he claimed, was the spiritual cradle of Nazi philosophy; Thomas Carlyle, with his mistrust of the ballot box, was the true inspiration of the Third Reich. After all, Carlyle had memorably said: ‘find in any country the ablest man that exists there; raise him up to the supreme place and loyally reverence him; you have the perfect government for that country; no ballot box, parliamentary eloquence, voting, constitution building, or other machinery whatever can improve a whit’.; another famous Scotsman, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, was a prophet of Nazism. Sarolea’s piece prompted a courteous challenge from south of the border by Professor A. P. Laurie, described by A-GR as a ‘famous scientist, pedagogue, student of human affairs and Member of the National Council of The Link’. Laurie quoted the following words of a revered English visionary:

[the] discipline of the masses has hitherto knit the sinews of battle: a government which shall have its soldiers of the ploughshare as well as its soldiers of the sword, and which shall distribute more proudly its golden crosses of industry – golden as the glow of the harvest – than it now grants its bronze crosses of honour – bronzed with the crimson of blood.

Whilst ‘his thought is often confused’, said Laurie of John Ruskin, ‘he is searching in the dark for a dimly visible light; but the germs of National Socialism, including the Labour Camp, and the recognition of the right foundation of the State on blood and soil, are to be found in his writings’. Elsewhere in A-GR, we read that a German director had recently completed a film of a play by that other well-known advocate of the National Socialist Weltanschaung, Oscar Wilde.

If Redesdale was its avuncular voice of common sense, Charles Sarolea provided the intellectual voice of the British right. His views are always expressed with balance and caution, especially so when addressing two contentious topics, one of them Russian Jews, the other the racial and cultural make-up of Poland. On Jews:

I am quite ready to admit that the Jewish leaders are only a proportionately infinitesimal fraction, even as the British rulers of India are an infinitesimal fraction. But it is none the less true that those few Jewish leaders are the masters of Russia, even as the fifteen hundred Anglo-Indian Civil Servants are the masters of India. For any traveller in Russia to deny such a truth would be would be to deny the evidence of our own senses. When you find that out of a large number of important Foreign Office officials whom you have met, all but two are Jews, you are entitled to say that the Jews are running the Russian Foreign Office.

Regarding Poland, Sarolea articulated more efficiently than most the view that Danzig was ‘a purely German town’. 

Ninety-five per cent of the population are Germans. So homogeneous a population is, in itself, sufficient to prove that Danzig always was a purely German town…. Nor, strangely enough, did the Polish people themselves ever try to settle in any large numbers in Danzig territory, so that a Polish minority problem never had any occasion to arise. It is, indeed, a curious anomaly, as was set out … in a recent article, that after 300 years of personal union under the Polish kings and of close commercial intercourse, a much larger proportion of the Danzig population should have been of Scottish origin than of Polish origin.”

Of the more obscure Right Club members, Nancy Brown contributed a travel piece, ‘Rhineland Holiday’, to the July 1939 issue. This holiday was one of several group tours organized by The Link and had clearly been enjoyed by the writer:

The sound of children’s voices raised in a marching song, while we sat in a beer garden, gay with flowers, shady with sweet-smelling lime trees, watching the ripples on the lake at Marcus Mill. Presently the children came into sight from out of the dark forest, knapsacks on backs, and swarmed into the garden for refreshment. One bright-eyed boy was playing his accordion, and as he played the shining plaits of the little girls around him gleamed in the sunlight like neat braids of gold.

It appears that every school has by law to take its children on such an excursion at least once a month, and the wisdom of such a step seemed amply justified by their physical perfection and high spirits.

The A-GR greeted the Munich Agreement with a series of ‘considered statements’ by its more prominent contributors, amongst them Ramsay himself and three other Right Club members, the Duke of Wellington, the MP Sir Ernest Bennett and Lord Redesdale. In these statements Neville Chamberlain was feted as hero and saviour, his detractors dismissed as troublemakers and warmongers. Ramsay scrupulously avoided any anti-Bolshevik or anti-Semite overtones in his statement, though seen in the context of utterances he made elsewhere, it is clear who he meant by his descriptions of ‘disruptive international forces’ which ‘seek to build a godless and materialistic hell out of the debris of European civilisation’. Taking a customary swipe at the press, he deplored ‘the systematic campaign kept up by international news agencies’.  Right Club member Ernest Bennett praised ‘the joint efforts of Herr Hitler and Mr Chamberlain’ that had ‘brought back to Europe that international peace and goodwill which the “men of Versailles” – to quote Field-Marshal Goering’s words – had almost “banished from mankind”.’ He offered a ‘word of advice to our German friends’:

If Germans see an insulting cartoon by Low or read abusive and vitriolic speeches by irresponsible English politicians, will they please remember that such exhibitions of malevolence spring to a large extent from mere party prejudice or personal animosities, that there is no machinery for controlling them in a democracy, and that the great mass of our people attach very little importance to them? The vast majority of our countrymen trust the pledge of both the Führer and our own good Prime Minister.

Redesdale was predictably unimpressed that anyone in the country should dare criticize Chamberlain – ‘I cannot recover from my amazement…’. The Duke of Wellington hedged his bets.

In the history of the world it is seldom found that any nation goes to war within fifty years of a great war. And it is very doubtful whether any representative plunging his nation into war would survive doing so, in modern times.

Throughout its 33-issue run, the A-GR consistently extolled Hitler as a dynamic, kind, firm saviour of an embattled nation – a nation with which Britain had for centuries sustained a strong cultural bond. By and large it reiterated Lord Redesdale’s opinion of Hitler as a ‘right-thinking man of irreproachable sincerity and honesty’. The position of A-GR contributors was concisely summed up in The Link’s famous 1938 letter to The Times.  

Sir, – The undersigned, who believe that real friendship and cooperation between Great Britain and Germany are essential to the establishment of enduring peace not only in Western Europe but throughout the whole world, strongly deprecate the attempt which is being made to sabotage an Anglo-German rapprochement by distorting the facts of the Czechoslovak Agreement. We believe that the Munich Agreement was nothing more than a rectification of one of the most flagrant injustices of the Peace Treaties. It took nothing from Czechoslovakia to which that country could rightfully lay claim and gave nothing to Germany which could have been rightfully withheld. We see in the policy so courageously pursued by the Prime Minister the end of a long period of lost opportunities and the promise of a new era compared to which the tragic years that have gone since the War will seem like a bad dream.

Yours truly,

Arnold, Bernard Acworth, Raymond Beazley, C. E. Carroll, J. Smedley Crooke, W. H. Dawson, Barry Domvile, A. E. R. Dyer, Fairfax of Cameron, Hardinge of Penshurst, Edward Inglefield, F. C. Jarvis, Douglas Jerrold, John Latta, A. P. Laurie, Londonderry, V. B. Molteno, Mount Temple, A. H. M. Ramsay, Wilmot Nicholson, Redesdale, G. Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, Arthur Rogers, Arthur Solly-Flood, Nesta Webster, Bernard Wilson.

Until 1937, even after Barry Domvile had established a regular spot as columnist and commentator of The Link, the magazine remained resolutely pro-German rather than anti-Semite in political tone. The first whiff of anti-Semitism came in the August 1938 issue of A-GR, which contained an article entitled ‘Regrettable Campaign’, opening with the following explanation.

A section of the Jewish community in Great Britain – we believe a small section – is waging a campaign which, though it contrasts sharply with the wise restraint shown by many leaders of British Jewry in their attitude towards Germany, is likely, if it continues, to do infinite damage to all British Jews. For that reason alone it should be discountenanced, for it leads inevitably to the creation of a Jewish question. But we are concerned with it here more especially because of its bearing on Anglo-German understanding.

Leslie and Lewis Lazarus, directors of Lucifer Ltd, manufacturers of boxes of matches and matchbooks, had waged the ‘campaign’. The Lazarus brothers, along with many Jewish businessmen in Britain, were dismayed at what had now become the widely publicised persecution of Jews in Germany. They and many others felt that a boycott of German goods would constitute an immediate and effective protest against the regime in Germany. Accordingly, Lucifer Ltd manufactured – ‘published’ would be an appropriate word – a match-book with the slogan ‘Boycott Everything German’ printed on the inside cover. A further flourish was evident on the matches themselves, each of which was individually printed in such a way that when the book was open, one was unequivocally invited to ‘Boycott’ ‘Everything’ ‘German’ and ‘Buy’ ‘British’. This simple but effective protest was described in reproachful tones by A-GR. Its reaction to the Lucifer matchbook captures exactly the spirit in which an influential cross-section of the British right wing approached any criticism of the Reich’s domestic policies regarding Jews. 

Undoubtedly the German Jews are being harshly treated, though the atrocity reports to which so much publicity is given are more often than not quite demonstrably untrue. 

On the other hand, the German Government, and the overwhelming majority of the German people, have a strong case against the Jews. That case is not given publicity in this country, and we have no desire to dwell on it here.

But there is one aspect that does concern us. It is this: We are most emphatically convinced that the charges levelled against the Jews by the German Government and those raised by the Jews against the German Government should not be used to foment discord between German and Britain and thus endanger peace.

Yet that is precisely what is being done. It is being done openly and ruthlessly, even by refugees to whom we are giving hospitality in this country, and all the protection and benefit of our liberal institutions.

We do not know into what category falls the firm of Messrs Lazarus but, if our assumption is correct, those gentlemen are allowing racial prejudice to outweigh their conception of what they owe to the country that harbours them.

Aspects of Venice: Tutorials with Robin Saikia

The Palazzo Manzoni (now Contarini Polignac) by John Wharlton Bunney

All of the following are available to individual students as personal tutorials. To book one or more of these tutorials, please email scholartext@gmail.com

1. Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac: The Venice Years. (1 hour. 25 euros) The Venetian life of the great American patroness of the arts, who transformed her palace on the Grand Canal into a haven for composers and musicians.

2. The Marriage of the Doge to the Sea: Pageant and Propaganda. (1 hour. 25 euros) The sposalizio del mare, an overview of its fascinating origin and depth of meaning.

3. Writing about Venice: Charles Dickens and Marcel Proust. (1 hour. 25 euros) How two very different writers triumphantly approached the difficult and at times over-written topic of Venice.

4. Lord Byron in Venice (1 hour. 25 euros) An introduction to the Venetian life of one of the city’s great British expatriate residents.

5. The Venice Lido – a General Introduction. (1 hour. 25 euros) The important role throughout history of Venice’s now glamorous beach resort.

6. The “Cockney Village”: The Development of the Lido in the 19th Century. (1 hour. 25 euros) The controversial beginnings of modern tourism in Venice, as seen by Henry James, John Ruskin and others.

7. From D’Annunzio to Churchill: The Lido in the Twenties and Thirties. (1 hour. 25 euros) How Giuseppe Volpi and other entrepreneurs transformed the Lido into an international destination that competed with the French Riviera.

8. Gay Life in Venice: Lord Ronald Gower, Frederick Rolfe, A. E. Housman and others. (1 hour. 25 euros) Some colourful gay residents and tourists from the 19th and 20th centuries.

9. Gabriel Fauré and Reynaldo Hahn in Venice. (1 hour. 25 euros) A exploration of the two composers’ Venetian song cycles and of their friendship with Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac.

10. The Barbaro Circle. (1 hour. 25 euros) An introduction to the Palazzo Barbaro, focusing on John Singer Sargent, Henry James and Robert Browning.

Robin Saikia is a British author and lecturer. His published work includes The Venice LidoBlue Guide Literary Companion London, The Red Book: The Membership List of The Right Club,;Blue Guide Hay-on-WyeBlue Guide Italy Food Companion. His most recent work is A Very Fine Cat Indeed, a dramatic monologue in which Samuel Johnson celebrates his favourite cat, Hodge. Robin is a Fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society. Other memberships and affiliations include The Johnson Society of London, The Johnson Society (Lichfield), The Wykehamist Society and The Oxford Union.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: William Shatner

There is in America a Mr Shatner, a renowned Thespian of some ninety summers. More than a half century before, this Veteran of the Playhouse had delivered, to resounding and universal admiration, the role of a Captain Kirk, who patrolled the Heavens in a vessel ingeniously adapted for the undertaking of hazardous voyages toward distant Planets and mighty Constellations. In this fictive Enterprise, the Captain was assisted by a crew of resourceful Lieutenants, their task to avert the numerous catastrophes that scheming Aliens, the scaly denizens of inhospitable Planets, perpetually sought to wreak upon the general Order of the Universe. Having repeatedly vanquish’t these Reptilian predators in the course of innumerable adventures, Mr Shatner withdrew gracefully from the Stage, to a tumultuous cadence of applause from both Pit and Gallery. At length, the gentle twilight of this affable Personator’s years was enlivened by a communication from a Mr Musk, a powerful merchant who had built a conveyance aptly equipped for the exploration of the Caerulean Zone. He offered that Mr Shatner should with no delay ride skyward in the Celestial Contraption, an invitation to which the ever-intrepid Player most readily assented. The hour of elevation was duly set for Mr Shatner to be ceremoniously installed at the Helm of the Rocket. Mr Musk’s Scientific attendants having ignited its massy Engines, the Ancient Thespian would in an instant be propelled with vertiginous speed into the Heavens, there gleefully to marvel at the sudden proximity of the Planets, Stars and Meteors he had in his youth so skilfully delineated within the Terrestrial limitations of the Stage.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Police Corruption

Civil Order was maintained in those days by a general assembly of Constables, most of them distinguished by their Valour, and readiness to give even their lives in the cause of general Security. However, just as the Costermonger’s Barrow, glistering with wholesome Hesperidin bounty, might be poisoned by a single blemish’t Globe that lay conceal’d within, so also was the Constabulary contaminated by hidden and scheming Malefactors. These would place a desirable object, be it either a luxurious Pocket-Watch or a negligible Turnip, by stealth within their innocent quarry’s Hovel. Then, in the presence of marveling Witnesses, they would Theatrically discover it, feigning glib astonishment, with such dark Rhetorickal utterances as “What have we here?” or “Thou shalt likely endure no fewer than Ten Years Servitude for this.” Having convey’d their bewildered prisoner to the Gaol, such spurious confessions as they could not obtain by civil Interrogation, they would wrest from him by means of brutish Coercion. At length, the unfortunate ruffian would emerge from the Dungeon, wearing the crimson Stripes and sooty Contusions of undeserved chastisement. If challenged upon this by the concern’d Chaplain or indignant Advocate, the Constables would lightly say, “He hath fallen upon the stairs.” or “He hath by unhappy accident collided with a Door.” Further, such Inveterate Reprobates as had riches within their grasp, were cordially invited to dispense portions to the Constables, in exchange for continuing indemnity from Arrest. This shameful bounty the Constables would solicit not through outright entreaty, but rather through subtle observations, such as “I would winter upon the shores of Spain…” or “The Ruinous cost of Meat is redoubling apace!”

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on the ethnic minorities in Johnson’s Cabinet

As though he were a Mogul or Ottoman potentate, the Prime Minister kept a menagerie of Jamodars, Moorish and Oriental officials he had elevated to high degree. To him that cried: “Fie! Thou lovest not the poor Baboo or Negroe!”, Mr Johnson would say, “Behold my splendid Jamodars, and eat thy words!” The most ornamental of these was Kwarteng, a strapping Moor, that had been tamed by Provost Anderson at Eton College, and spake Latin and Greek. Next came Zahawi of Baghdad, that knew Chymick and was formerly kept in Lord Archer’s retinue. The Mob marveled at Sunak, an Oriental Croesus who, though wreathed in smiles, and possessing coffers o’erflowing with the treasures of Ind, pluck’t pence from the poor man’s purse at his Master’s bidding. Next came Javid, feared by the sick and halt, for he would force them to pay for Physick, formerly gratis, and have them throw themselves on the mercy of their kinsmen. Most feared of all was Patel, a Kali to her devoted, for like that terrifick Hindoo Deity, she fashion’d pretty necklaces from the Skulls of her adversaries. This menagerie of Jamodars formed a bastion for the cunning Prime Minister, for he knew that in a final reckoning, if the Mob were to storm Durbar Court in Whitehall, it would likely practise retribution upon his Dusky Jamodars, not upon him. Such as were not cut down by Saxon yeoman with stones and staves would face a faction of their own kind, beturbaned Dervishes and Thuggees, armed with scimitars and garrottes, learnèd in the infliction of a thousand-and-one agonising methods of despatch. Meanwhile the Principal Miscreant might slip away disguis’d, to cower in the precincts of White’s club, while fire and destruction reigned in the thoroughfares without.