Michael Foot and Lower Marsh
I've worked just north of Waterloo Bridge for many years, and I like to think that I know the area around quite well - The Temple, Lincoln's Inn, Covent Garden, St Giles, Holborn and beyond. But my jaunts south of the river rarely take me further away than the riverside walk and the South Bank Centre.
Today for the first time I explored Lower Marsh, just south of Waterloo station. A lively part of north Lambeth - with a great crepe stall. My destination was Jane Gibberd's second hand bookshop which, a friend told me, had bought up part of Michael Foot's library.
Indeed it has - the proprietor said they had bought a few job lots at auction. Nothing all that special, though Foot himself was special so that makes anything from his library prized. And as I browsed, I found a dozen or more volumes, all very reasonably priced, which bore Michael Foot's ownership signature, and a handful which had presented to him.
I bought just a couple of titles inscribed by Foot - the one featured is from Robert Blatchford's What's All This? (1940), an anthology of Blatchford's socialist journalism and essays from earlier decades. Foot's inscription, in pencil, reads (I think): 'Michael Foot / Concluded March 1955'. Below are scribbled notes with pages references, and the pages themselves are marked and underscored.
Foot was himself a great essayist - rather more considerable than the author of Merrie England. But he obviously enjoyed Blatchford's robust, populist style. Well worth my outlay - £5.
Tom Foot, Michael's great nephew, adds: The vast majority of Michael's library was given to various archives and libraries across the country. Some were left to the appropriate friends and family in his will. After he died last year, we inevitably had to sell some of the rather random remainder at auction. As you say, nothing spectacular but interesting because of the scribbled markings and date of reading. He also used them as a kind of filing system and some have interesting cuttings and notes etc. Having sifted through all of his books, there were tens of thousands, I was amazed how many he actually read. Most people buy books and they sit collecting dust on their shelves for a lifetime. He also had an encyclopedic knowledge of where in the house they were. "Men of power have no time to read; yet the men who do not read are unfit for power." he is often quoted as saying. I'm very glad to hear they've turned up in a second hand book shop and that they are also reasonably priced.
Nice blog - thanks. I'd love to hear more from people who pick up one here and there.
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