Letter from the Archive: the Brighton Aquarium Company
3rd February 2016
‘I beg to offer you the following three shows…’
This letter forms part of the Brighton Aquarium Company’s archive, which was purchased, along with the business, by Brighton Corporation in 1901. Correspondence from Brighton Aquarium began to appear on the open market in the early 1990s, and the papers now held at The Keep were successfully rescued from sale. Despite the efforts of East Sussex Record Office and the involvement of the police, not all material was returned and a substantial group of letters relating to Brighton Aquarium is now held by the Theatre Museum in Bristol. Others are held by Harvard University.
This letter was sent to Isaac Wilkinson, the General Manager of the Brighton Aquarium from 1882 to 1889, and is part of a series of letters from agents and performers seeking an engagement at the Aquarium’s theatre. Most of the agents were based in London, which suggests it was considered prestigious to secure a performance in Brighton at the end of the nineteenth century.
The letter describes how one of the performers, the continental variety artist Francois De Blanche, had swindled his agent and taken off with his advance, and would therefore not be available to appear at the Aquarium as arranged. The musical agent Mr R Warner recommends three other distinguished acts to take his place, including a nine-member acrobatic troupe and the celebrated acrobat Haley Fernando, advertised in London papers at the time as ‘the reversible gymnast’. Cancellations were commonplace and it seems that last-minute bookings were a typical occurrence.
The Keep will be holding a workshop on 10 February from 2-4pm with Brighton & Hove Archivist Andrew Bennett and local historian Paul Jordan. Original material will be on show to bring the Aquarium’s fascinating history to life, including letters from prospective artists and performers such as this one, alongside guidebooks, theatre programmes and architectural plans. Booking is essential and spaces are limited. For more information and to book a place visit www.thekeep.info/events or ring 01273 482349.
The International Theatrical and Musical Agency
9 York Road, Lambeth, London
In conjunction with Rosinsky of Paris, Grunow of Berlin, Haarlem of Amsterdam and Boesnack of Anvers.
London Director, Mr R Warner
November 6th 1883
With reference to De Blanche I found out he is a regular swindler, not only has he broken all contracts but has gone away with £15 that I advanced him to come over. Therefore I am sorry to say he will not appear with you but I beg to offer you the three following shows in his place, they are really three of the finest shows I can offer you and which I can recommend to you.
The Berisor Troupe 9 in number a most beautiful and marvellous and show of statuary and acrobatic terms £20 per week.
Halay Fernando A really wonderful gymnast consisting of rings, trapeze, perpendicular pole and ceiling walking terms £9 per week.
The Carles (or Musical Macaronis) 4 in number a novelty which I am sure would bring your house to pieces terms £20 per week.
Kindly let me know at once.
In reference to the 2nd violinist, I will send you tomorrow two or three names of good artists but let me know if you are still open trusting the McDonald Milne Family have proved a big success.
I remain faithfully yours,
J F Higham
Letter from the Archive, from the papers of John Edward Leader Orpen
17 November 2015
‘We “Heiled” with the best as we thought it would please them and it didn’t hurt us’
In July 1934, John Edward Leader Orpen was a young solicitor sharing a house with friends at 18 Cromwell Road, Hove. He had studied at Repton School and Kings College, Cambridge and had recently found a job with Fitzhugh Gates solicitors at 3 Pavilion Parade, Brighton. In 1939 he served as the treasurer of the Sussex Society for Polish Relief and by November 1940 he was working for the Ministry of Aircraft Production at Millbank, Westminster.
Orpen married Marianne Vintilescu in 1949 and worked as a magistrate during the 1960s. He died in Brighton in 2003 at the age of 95. John Orpen kept a wartime diary and retained his personal correspondence, photographs and ration books, all of which were deposited at The Keep by a donor in 2014.
Orpen’s friend Joyce writes to him from the Hotel Britannia in Tirol, Austria, near the southern German border. In July 1934 the Austrian political situation was highly charged following the Government’s suppression of the German-backed Austrian Nazi party in June. The German Chancellor, Hitler, had reacted by closing the border and instigating economic sanctions aimed at disrupting Austrian tourism. As a British visitor, however, Joyce was entitled to travel freely throughout Europe. Two weeks after this letter was written, on 25 July, the Austrian Nazis attempted a putsch in Vienna, during which Chancellor Dollfuss was assassinated. This resulted in localised fighting throughout Austria, but failed after the Austrian military’s intervention on behalf of the Government.
Hotel Britannia, Seefeld i. Tirol, Austria
My dear John,
Thanks so much for your letter which I managed to read in spite of your foreboding without having to stand on my head or anything like that.
It was fun to hear the latest scandal (?) of Symene House and I fairly hooted with mirth at the idea of poor Miss Wells firmly ensconsed in her three-wheeler car which had gone completely berserk in the garage. Naturally it would pick out a new Buick on which to vent its spite, rather than any other car.
I really wanted to ask you if it’s not too much nuisance, for the address of that hotel you once promised me in Paris – not for myself alas! – I am still stuck quite firmly upon my mountain top for the next month or so – but for an American friend of mine who is returning home in about a week, and wants awfully to know some place in Paris where she and her small daughter can stay a few nights. Somewhere as central as possible for stations and things.
We’ve just been indulging in a marvellous thunderstorm all day here – really fierce with lightening flying round the room in all directions and feet of rain falling. I’m really rather bored shut up here with one elderly virgin – the sole other guest at the moment. She is so very virgin and thinks most of the time about her diet. An Irishwoman is arriving tomorrow so I hope to God she will be an improvement. She rejoices in the name of Smith so I rather doubt if she is authentic.
Herr Hitler has certainly done the dirty on these little Tirol places by closing the German border and allowing no Germans to enter the country. The place used to be teeming in summer and now it’s almost empty. Here in Tirol there are an enormous amount of Nazis (Austrians) who, egged on their friends across the frontier, lose no opportunity to make nuisances of themselves by playfully chucking bombs about and derailing trains etc. Their latest effort was to blow up a large newspaper office in Innsbruck which effectively cleared out a good many of the tourists who were there.
We motored over into Bavaria just at the time of the worst events in Germany but did not see anything of the fun except that there were a good many ‘Storm Troopers’ around who, giving the mystic salute, said ‘Heil Hitler’ to everyone. We ‘Heiled’ with the best as we thought it would please them and it didn’t hurt us.
My dear, the summer trippers of Germany are marvellous, they put the Brighton ones in the shade. We went to a Beer Garden and drank München beer surrounded by enormously fat Bavarians with shaven heads, cobalt blue linen coats and shorts. A sight not easily forgotten. I like the description of your Swede at Symene House – which bed does he occupy as I’m sure it will be one to avoid after that strain upon the springs. Have a lovely holiday my dear when you go. I’m so glad you’re keeping the MG for the present. Love from Joyce I don’t know when I will come back but I have an urgent invitation to Hungary in Sept for as long as I like!
Letter from the Archive: The Letters of Private William Harold Corbin
8th November 2015
‘You are the only one I love and always will be as long as I live’
As a two minute silence falls at the eleventh hour, we remember. We remember the brave soldiers who have served their country and the many who have given their lives in war. We remember their
stories and commemorate them every year, so that their courage and bravery-and their ultimate sacrifice- is not lost to the past. Many of their stories live on through their own voices, those who have been preserved in archives.
One such man was Private William Harold Corbin of Brighton (1895-1917). The 1901 census reveals that aged 22, he was a stableman, living at 5 Dorset Buildings in Brighton. He married his wife Emily Elizabeth in about 1902 and as his early letters to Emily suggest, started working for E Robins and Son, brewers of Waterloo Street, Hove in about 1903. Corbin enlisted on 25 March 1916 for the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment and his service record shows that he arrived in France on 19 October 1916. Sadly, he was killed on 4 October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele.
Here is a letter written to Emily from Harold:
Monday 9th October 1916
My own darling wife
I hope you are getting over me going away, if you don’t try and buck up you will be bad, it is very trying for you, I know I am trying my best to buck up, you and the children are always in my mind, you are the only one I love and always will be as long as I live, I know darling you will keep the old fire burning and look after the darling little children till I come home again, if God spares me to you all.
Well darling I hope you got the parcel alright and also Florries letter very good of her, I hope she will be good to you darling.
Well darling I must tell you that 30 of our men have got to go overseas this week, just got out of that, so it will not be long before the other boys come back, if you see Mr Brampton tell him that some of the boys will be gone by the time he comes back, it will make him look.
I hope darling that you were not upset when you opened the parcel, it was not safe for me to keep the dear old ring you gave me, bless your heart I cannot help thinking of you to know we are parted like this, do cheer up my darling I will do my best to get home safe to be with you all once more, darling if you answer this letter I shall get it alright and then wait to hear more from me again, don’t get upset darling god be with you till we meet again, no more this time darling.
Good night and God bless you
From your Loving Husband
We are so fortunate to be able to glimpse part of their life together as this couple faced the most difficult of times, their lives disrupted by war. Their story will survive for the next 100 years and long after.
Letter from the Archive, from George Murray Levick to Mayson Beeton
18 July 2015
‘The stink of these rotting wounds…was almost unbearable’
This is one of a series of letters written during the early years of the First World War by naval surgeon George Murray Levick (1876-1956) to his future father-in-law, whose daughter Audrey he married in 1918. Thanks in part to his involvement in Scott’s Terra Nova Antarctic expedition of 1910-1913, Murray Levick was promoted to Surgeon-Commander in 1915 and served at Gallipoli on board HMS Bacchante. He was at the heart of the controversial Dardanelles campaign and, while some of the observations in this letter betray a sense of optimism – ‘the general idea is that we shall finish off the peninsula before the winter’ – his overall tone is critical. ‘The wounded have been treated with scandalous neglect here,’ he says at one point, adding later, ‘I shall have a lot to say about it when I come home from this, if no one else does.’
Murray Levick retired from the Royal Navy in 1917 but did have the chance to air his views by contributing to the Final Report of the Dardanelles Commission, the investigation into the disastrous campaign. During the Second World War, his knowledge and experience was called upon again, as he returned to the Navy to assist with the training of commandos. His interest in sport and physical fitness remained and his work as medical director of the Heritage Craft School for Crippled Children at Chailey is also represented in our archive.
July 18 1915
Dear Mr Beeton
Thank you very much for your letter. We have just heard with much astonishment that Winston is coming out here “with the full powers of a cabinet minister” – whatever that may mean. Surely he has done enough harm and sacrificed enough lives already.
I have been very busy indeed lately, spending a good deal of my time on board transports full of wounded. The wounded have been treated with most scandalous neglect here. They have been left on board transports, sometimes 700 or more severe cases on one ship, with only a couple or so of surgeons to look after the lot, and plenty of naval ships with doctors doing nothing within easy reach.
The other day I left the ship without leave (we were in Mudros harbour) and went on board the Saturnia as a Catholic priest came to tell me that there were 700 wounded there – I took all necessary instruments, chloroform, dressings etc, and a sick berth steward. I found the ship packed above and below by a mass of unfortunate men, the majority severely wounded. There were very few doctors on board, and they had been in Mudros 24 hours without any assistance being called for, though they could have had 30 surgeons at a moment’s notice from the men-o-war in harbour. Many of the wounds had not been dressed since they left the field and were crawling with maggots, whilst the stink of these rotting wounds [on] the hot decks below was almost unbearable.
This is far from exaggeration. It is impossible to convey any idea of the disgraceful scene. I stayed for four days, refusing to return to my ship when they sent a boat for me. Two of the days I spent on board the Saturnia and two more on board the Minnewaska which was far better prepared and had a good staff on board but the Army people asked me to stay and I did not feel justified in leaving while I could be of use. I was hoping that I would be court martialled, so that I could have an opportunity of making some sort of fuss, as this sort of thing had been going on for months, but nothing happened!
After I arrived on board the Saturnia, a lot of Naval Surgeons came on board by order of the Admiral, but they brought no gear with them (most of them anyhow) and left again after working a very few hours, though not one tenth of the wounded had been properly dressed. I hope things will be better in future as more hospital ships are arriving now, but you can have no idea of the way in which the wounded have been treated hitherto.
Transports crammed full have left for Alexandria with scarcely any medical men at all. The feeling among the Colonial troops at this callous neglect is very strong, and will no doubt find an outlet when this business is over.
I do wish someone at home would take this matter up. If this information would help at all, I would be only too glad for it to be used, and have no objection at all and am prepared to come forward and prove it at any time. The worst feature is that many of the ships here have three surgeons doing practically nothing on board and they could so easily be spared. I was not allowed to volunteer when they were very short of doctors at Gaba Tepe, as the captain would not let me, I had no other means than signalling. There were three of us on board this ship at the time. Things may be better now, and I sincerely hope they will but I shall have a lot to say about it when I come home from this, if no-one else does.
Everyone out here is very optimistic about things. The general idea is that we shall finish off the peninsula before the winter. The colonial troops continue to show the same utter contempt of the Turks, and I believe are very hard to keep in hand when an advance is made. I must say they are a fair lot.
The weather is very hot here now and the flies becoming an awful nuisance. Please remember me kindly to the family and say I will answer their letters very soon. Audrey sent such an awfully good photograph of you in the punt.
G Murray Levick
PS On looking over this, it seems rather an hysterical outburst! As a matter of fact I dare say little good can be done by making rows at present.
Letters from the Archive: sent to Mass Observation’s National Panel, 12 June 1943
27th May 2015
‘What are your general feelings about the future development of the War?’
In 1943, Mass Observation (MO) had been going since 1937 and, at around this this time, MO described itself as a ‘non-political, non-profit making organisation with 20 full-time investigators and nearly 2,000 part-time observers, who form a nationwide intelligence system’. This letter and the accompanying directive were sent to members of the National Panel, who were volunteer writers. Directives were open-ended questions on a variety of topics, often sorted into higher and lower priority. The questions included here showcase the diversity of topics on which Mass Observation invited comment. The replies to this directive can be read in the Reference Room of The Keep, using the Mass Observation Online digital resource. The wide range of themes is what makes Mass Observation such an invaluable resource for finding out about public opinion and life on the home front during World War 2.
You can read more about the history of Mass Observation.
It is just a year now since Tom Harrisson joined the army. This time last year he sent a personal letter to all observers saying that he had decided to take a more active part in the fighting war, and explaining some of the difficulties under which M-O has been functioning in wartime. These difficulties, especially those of personnel, have not decreased since then. During the past year three of our best trained investigators have gone into war-jobs. In Letchworth a great deal of the work is now being done by ex-members of M-O staff working in the evenings and at weekends after their other jobs have finished. They are helped out by local members of the National Panel who somehow find time to put in a few hours each week.
Nevertheless we have managed to keep our fieldwork going on the same scale, and observers have kept up their work on directives and diaries and with the war-library despite increasing personal pressures. Tom Harrisson, now at an OCTU, has miraculously managed to combine training as a soldier with keeping regularly in touch with all that’s going on in M-O and giving us the benefit of his experience and advice. We have, nevertheless, missed his knowledge and energy, which bought M-O through past crises with flying colours, pretty considerably.
Last June we asked observers to help us, if they conveniently could, by subscribing to M-O. We did this only after long consideration and with the feeling that we had little right to ask for more help from those who were already giving up their time to the work of the Panel. The response was most generous and helped us over a difficult period. Observers have continued to send donations without any further word from us, and many have sent more than they originally said they would.
We want to keep going on a really adequate scale, and we feel that observers will once again bear with us if we ask them to help. The cost of running the National Panel would be nearly covered for a year if every active member gave 15/- during the next twelve months. We certainly don’t expect everyone to do this, and we don’t ask anyone to subscribe at all unless they really feel they can do so without putting themselves out. But if those who feel they can will send us anything they can, from a stamp to a cheque, it will be a real help. Small donations, sent as and when observers were inclined, have been the backbone of the regular small but very welcome contribution towards our petty cash expenses which has continued to come from the National Panel during the latter half of this year.
But please don’t feel it is a duty or an obligation to give a penny. The time you give up to M-O is already a very big donation towards keeping a record of this war, and that is the only thing which we want observers to feel an essential part of their obligations towards the organisation in which they are vital units.
It will be a great help if observers will, as they did last year, fill in the form below to give us a working idea of what we can expect. Of course, filling in the form is in no way an undertaking to give anything.
Letters from the Archive: ‘If anything turns up in regard to your book…’
This month’s letter was sent by publisher John Lane to Charles Thomas-Stanford of Preston Manor, and is part of the Stanford Family Deposit held by East Sussex Record Office at The Keep.
Charles Thomas married Ellen Stanford in 1897 and the couple moved to Preston Manor in 1905. Charles was interested in history and archaeology, and spent much of his time studying. He wrote five books, including The Ace of Hearts, a mystery set in Madeira, which is where he and Ellen first met. This letter refers to a review of the novel that appeared in the New York Times, and also to the fact that John Lane had, fortuitously, chosen not to sail on the Titanic in April 1912.
Harry Widener, also mentioned in the letter, was not so lucky. A young Harvard graduate and collector of rare books, he had been in England on a buying trip. He sailed home on the Titanic and was one of the many people who perished. The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library was established at Harvard University after a gift from his mother, who is said to have been helped into a lifeboat by her son and survived.
April 22nd, 1912
Charles Thomas-Stanford Esq Preston Manor Brighton
Dear Mr Stanford
I am sending you the last number of the New York Times which I have just received, in which you will find a review of your book and also an advertisement of it, see back.
I was pressed by Mr Harry Widener to go on the Titanic two weeks ago. Fortunately I elected to sail later and I go on the Lusitania on Saturday next. I shall be away about five weeks, but if anything turns up with regard to your book, I have instructed my people in my absence.
With kind regards,
Letters from the Archive: ‘Suffragettes’ Lack of Sense of Proportion’, published in the Brighton Herald, 25 May and 8 June 1907
In 1907, Suffragettes were active in Brighton, holding meetings in prominent public places such as the Royal Pavilion. On 11 May of that year, a letter from Mr John Crombie was published in the Brighton Herald referring to a comment made by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence at a lecture the previous week. He went on to say: ‘When women find themselves becoming notorious through getting their names mentioned in the daily papers, they lose all sense of proportion… and they cannot therefore expect that their views on any question are likely to command attention and respect from disinterested outsiders.’ The letters reproduced and transcribed below appeared in the Herald in subsequent weeks, illustrating contrasting views of the same very divisive issue.
Sir – I have read the letter which your correspondent Mr Crombie addressed to last week’s issue of your paper with considerable interest – and approval.
I entirely agree with the view he takes re the utter want of proportion recently exhibited by certain ladies – well known to the reporters – at present engaged in the shrill cry, ‘Votes for women! Votes! We want the vote!’
Mrs Pethick-Lawrence recently made the amusing statement that ‘Women’s suffrage was the greatest movement the world had seen since the dawn of Christianity.’
I am humbly grateful to her for thus even attempting to set a limit, and can only suggest, Is not that sacred epoch too recent? Why stop there? Why not be bold and say since the Creation of Man?
I have frequently noticed that amongst hysterical women there is a morbid craving for some form of martyrdom – not too severe – and that when this runs linked hand in hand with a similar thirst after a cheap public notoriety, the most irrational and irresponsible results are apt to follow. In this case, the disease has had its natural corollary in women’s suffrage.
However, the vapourings of a small and select clique of females (some scarcely out of pinafores and short frocks) will never be taken seriously by that great mass of the British public who constitute the thinking, working and controlling factor in the affairs of this country – justly termed the ‘Land of the Free’.
Two weeks later, the following response appeared:
Sir – The title of this correspondence attracts me, and incites me to write my first letter to the papers. ‘Lack of sense of proportion’ is in other words the keenness and initiative and disregard of the dead level in public opinion, so admired by posterity in all reformers, so misunderstood by contemporaries. It is the divine fire that makes the world go round. The well-bred indifference of the happily placed woman pleases the average man now; but how will it look in the eyes of history one hundred years hence? It is not want of heart in man or woman that is the offence so much as want of thought; and a certain lazy arrogance makes many, both men and women, refuse to recognise that the political disabilities of women is a subject demanding thought. Ridicule there is in plenty, but not thought. However, witticisms founded on ignorance are cheap.
For years I have been a lukewarm suffragette. What has made me keen and vigorous was the fulfilment some months back of the simple resolution, ‘I will not depend on hearsay. I will go and listen to the firebrands myself, and judge for myself.’ Mrs Fawcett and Lady Frances Balfour of the old school, Miss Pankhurst and Miss Kenney of the new, are well worth hearing. Men are thought to be more fair than women, and they can afford to be more independent in their judgments. May I appeal to them specially to go and listen in good faith to one or more of these speakers and judge their cause as a whole, and not by any catchword such as necessarily heads a popular newspaper correspondence.