Hyndman and Islington
This is the wonderful inscription in a first edition of Henry Mayers Hyndman's The Historical Basis of Socialism in England, published in 1883. Hyndman - a Tory and a toff by background - was the key figure in the socialist revival in England in the 1880s. He popularised (and bowdlerised) some of Marx's writings and was the swashbuckling key figure in the establishment in 1883 of the Social Democratic Federation.
Hyndman was a flawed and controversial figure - a jingoist (his support for Britain's involvement in the First World War split the party he led, by then renamed the British Socialist Party) and an anti-semite. But he was crucially important in the development of a socialist political party.
One of the SDF's areas of strength was Islington. This book was presented to Hyndman (I assume by 1906 the first edition was difficult to come across) by the SDF's four Islington branches.The inscription was signed on the branches' behalf by A.P. Hazell, a printer who joined the SDF in the mid-1880s and who sometimes signed letters in the party press as ''summat stronger of Clerkenwell".
A few years later, Hyndman gave the book to his wife, with the fond inscription you can see above.
Perhaps that's why on the Brecknock Road estate in north Isington there is, to this day, a Hyndman House -
Indeed, the names of the blocks on the estate offer homage to socialists of ages past - with buildings named after Hyndman's onetime colleagues in the SDF, H.W. Lee and Harry Quelch (or perhaps his son Tom), as well as such prominent figures in the progressive pantheon as William Morris, Edward Carpenter, William Cobbett, William Blake, Henry Hetherington, Thomas Paterson and Beatrice Potter (or perhaps the trade unionist George Potter), along with some whose names I don't recognise.
And happily, the Hyndman first edition presented to the author by the Islington branches of the SDF is once more back in Islington - where I live.
The wonderful Old Church on Stoke Newington Church Street was the venue over the weekend for a book launch - part of the Stoke Newington Literary Festival. The volume is about a son of Stoke Newington, the novelist Alexander Baron, best known for his D-Day novel From the City, From the Plough and his cult classic of post-war Hackney, The Lowlife.
Six Baron enthusiasts have come together in So We Live: the novels of Alexander Baron to examine aspects of his life and writing. We were joined by Muriel Walker, who is 92 and worked alongside Baron in the late 1940s on the journal 'New Theatre'. She read from a letter Baron had sent her in 1949 when she was in Italy - where Baron had served during the war.
The launch was a great success with a hundred or so people packing the church pews. And lots of books were sold.
So We Live is published by Five Leaves - and they have also just published four of Baron's novels, three of them republications and in one case, The War Baby, the first publication of a powerful novel set amid the International Brigades fighting Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
There's more about Alexander Baron here - and we have also posted online a 'walk round Baron's manor', complete with map, which will guide you round Stoke Newington and Dalston in the footsteps of the author.
Do give it a try!
Bye to the Boston Hotel
The Boston Arms - that gothic monstrosity of a pub opposite Tufnell Park tube station - is having a makeover. And some of the signage from its heyday, engraved on wooden board, has come to light - probably for the last time.
The pub was then known as the Boston Hotel, and the grandeur of the signage - not just engraved, but the lettering highlighted in gold paint against a lilac backdrop - p0ints to just how splendid this local landmark once was.
Some of the wood on which the signage is painted seems to be rotten - and I suspect it is being removed as part of the renovation.
The Boston is, these days, a hard drinking, Hibernian, sports-on-big-screen sort of place. It has a leading music venue, The Dome, in premises adjoining which were once the Boston's own music rooms (and much earlier, I believe, were dance rooms known as the Tufnell Park Palais).
The pub has been at the heart of Tufnell Park - iconic, in a sense - since it was built well over a century ago. This vintage postcard, showing Junction Road with only cycles and horse-drawn transport - must date from shortly after the Boston Hotel opened in 1899.
The Boston Arms is grade 2 listed - and some of the signage has a wonderfully dated feel. Why would anyone advertise 'foreign wines'? Where would punters imagine the wine came from?
For these relics of the past - "time's up, ladies and gentlemen please!"
'Gandhi Emperor Interview'
I am just back from Delhi, where I was a regular panellist commenting on the elections for WION, one of India's best TV news channels. It was fairly full on - but I managed to take a couple of hours off to go to Hauz Khas Village, where I was able to pick-up this remarkable print.
It's a wonderfully stylised portrayal of a meeting - clearly in London - between M.K. Gandhi and the King Emperor George V and Queen Mary. You can see how the diminutive Gandhi is portrayed as the biggest figure in the room. Indeed, his chair appears to be the more imposing 'throne'. This is not simply cheap agitprop, but there's certainly an Indian nationalist message evident.
I wondered at first if this 'interview' was mythical - much like Queen Victoria's visit to India. But I discover that in November 1931, while in London for the Round-Table Conferences, Gandhi was indeed invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the King.
Gandhi was reputedly asked whether he felt under dressed for a visit to the Palace - he is said to have replied that the King was wearing enough for both of them!
It seems that no photographic record was made of this Gandhi-Emperor encounter - allowing the artist responsible for this image free rein. Gandhi was accompanied to the Palace by Sarojini Naidu - there's a decent likeness of her in the print - and by his personal secretary, Mahadev Desai.
But it seems to be not Desai who is represented in the print but another Congressman, Madan Mohan Malaviya, who was certainly present at the Second Round Table Conference - he's shown next to Gandhi below - but I'm not at all convinced he was at the Palace. Anyone know?
Andrew Whitehead's blog
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!