Euston Road (Camden)

001
Brass instrument maker Gustave Auguste Besson was born in Paris in 1820. At the age of eighteen he produced a revolutionary design of cornet which surpassed all contemporary models. He formed the Besson Company in 1837 and his products quickly gained a great reputation throughout Europe.

002

In 1857, he moved to London where he built a large factory at no. 158 Euston Road. Following Besson’s death in 1874, the company changed its name, becoming Fontaine-Besson in 1880 in France, and Besson in England. At the end of the nineteenth century (1894), the Besson factory of London employed 131 workers, producing some hundred brass instruments a week. In 1968, the group Boosey & Hawkes acquired the Besson London brand. As a consequence, Besson cornets, horns, trombones, tubas and other instruments are still made today. The Boosey family was of Franco-Flemish origin. The company traces its roots back to John Boosey, a bookseller in London in the 1760s and 1770s. His son Thomas continued the business at no. 4 Old Bond Street.

be924_full-1

JAMES JOYCE AND THE BERGSON BROTHERS Ordnance Road (Marylebone)

02

In 1727, Alexander Pope coined the literary term bathos in his short polemic essay ‘Peri Bathous, or The Art of Sinking in Poetry’. To him, the word meant a failed attempt at sublimity, or a sudden transition from a lofty style or grand topic to a common or vulgar one. The effect is one of anti-climax. For Pope, it violated ‘decorum’ and the fittingness of subject. In a modernist context bathos suggests an irreverent attitude towards our cultural heritage; it is mixing learning with bawdiness and confronting the serious with the frivolous, the lofty with the vulgar, or the revered with the ridiculous. James Joyce was a master of the bathetic.

01

Leopold Bloom in Ulysses is a middle-aged Jewish advertising salesman who seeks commissions from small businesses, designs imagery and copy, and negotiates its placing in Dublin newspapers. At the same time, he has literary ambitions. Explaining the term ‘metempsychosis’ to his wife Molly who had come across the word in a popular novel, he points to a picture named ‘The Bath of the Nymph’ which is framed above the marital bed in order to illuminate the finer detail of his argument. The print itself, in spite of its Classical allusion, was a handout given to those who had bought the Easter number of the softcore weekly magazine Photo Bits – Joyce uses pornography in aid of exploring Greek philosophy. The intellectual high and low are entangled in a single passage. Time and again, Joyce counter-balanced erudition with aspects of popular urban culture such as sexy peephole machines, music-hall tunes, or naughty images – Ulysses may follow the structure of Homer’s Odyssey, but it is the (erotic) vibrancy of the modern city not a legendary past that captured the author’s creative attention.

03

Bathos in Ulysses works at a more subtle level. A particular reference in the ‘Calypso’ episode is a literary one, its location less elevated. Seated on the loo, Leopold Bloom opens an old issue of the penny weekly Titbits, taking his time to read the columns of its main story, and allowing his bowels to release the constipation he had suffered from the previous day: ‘Asquat on the cuckstool he folded out his paper, turning its pages over on his bared knees. Something new and easy. No great hurry. Keep it a bit. Our prize titbit: Matcham’s Masterstroke. Written by Mr Philip Beaufoy, Playgoers’ Club, London. Payment at the rate of one guinea a column has been made to the writer. Three and a half. Three pounds three. Three pounds, thirteen and six’. Bloom admires Beaufoy. He dreams of writing a story himself and of emulating the author of a series of prize-winning contributions. The magazine was known for sponsoring competitions. P.G. Wodehouse, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, and D.H. Lawrence all submitted stories seduced by the financial reward (young Joyce himself once planned to contribute a story). The wish to write a story returns in the ‘Circe’ episode. Bloom imagines a literary trial against him in which he is attacked by Beaufoy for being a plagiarist and a fake author.

04

The real Philip Beaufoy was a hack, a writer of shoddy and melodramatic prose, of books for children, the author of practical handbooks such as How to Succeed as a Writer, and he was indeed a member of the Playgoers’ Club on the Strand (founded in 1884 with the aim of raising the status of traditionally rowdy playgoers). Beaufoy contributed articles, stories, and letters to various other periodicals at the turn of the century. He was a prolific writer of immediately forgettable fiction – the kind of author Joyce would have despised. And yet he was given a portrait in the Dublin gallery of characters to which Joyce introduced his readers. Who then was this Philip Beaufoy (also known as Philip Beaufoy Barry)? The family history is an extraordinary one.

05

Composer and piano teacher Michael Bergson was born Michał Bereksohn in Warsaw on 20 May 1820 into a prominent Jewish family. His great-grandfather Szmul Jakubowicz Sonnenberg, called Zbytkower, was a prominent banker and a protégé of Stanisław August Poniatowski, King of Poland from 1764 to 1795. He studied in Dessau and Berlin (under Chopin?) and started his career in Italy. In 1865 he was appointed Professor of Music at the Conservatory of Geneva. On the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, and living in Paris at the time, he took his family to London where he would stay for the rest of his life. He initially settled at no. 1 Ordnance Road, Marylebone (now: Ordnance Hill, St John’s Wood). In 1881 the family lived at no. 92 Percy Road, Hammersmith; by 1891 they had moved to no. 50 Alexander Road, Willesden. He worked as a piano teacher, composed, and promoted Chopin in Britain. His composition A Dream Wish was played at a Promenade concert in 1875. He wrote two operas and a large number of songs. One of his best-known pieces is the ‘Scena ed Aria’ for clarinet, was played by military bands throughout the world. His Islington-born wife Catherine [Kate] Levison, daughter of a Yorkshire surgeon and dentist, was from an Anglo-Irish Jewish background. The couple had seven children, three of which are worth mentioning in this context.

07

Mina [Minna] Bergson was born on 28 February 1865 in Geneva. She was still young when the family moved from Paris to Ordnance Road, Marylebone. At the age of fifteen Mina was admitted to the Slade School of Art, she shared a studio with Beatrice Offor, and became close friends with Annie Horniman who would later sponsor her research in the occult. In 1887 she met Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers [S.L. Mathers] who she married three years later in the library of the Horniman Museum, changing her name to Moina Mathers. Her partner was the founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn of which she was the first initiate in March 1888. In their occult partnership, her husband was described as the ‘evoker of spirits’ and Moina as the clairvoyant ‘seeress’. In 1918, when her husband died, Moina took over the Rosicrucian Order of the Alpha et Omega, a successor organisation to the Golden Dawn, as its Imperatrix. 

06

Mina’s younger brother Zaleq Philip Bergson was born in 1878 in London and educated at the City of London School. One of the great benefactors of the school had been Henry Benjamin Hanbury Beaufoy, a wealthy London distiller, Member of Parliament for Hackney Wick, and collector of books (copies from his library of the First Four Folio Editions of Shakespeare were auctioned separately by Christies in July 1912). The ambitious young author most likely considered this figure a role model and took his nom de plume from him. Both in the 1891 and 1901 census Philip was living at home at no. 92 Percy Street, Hammersmith. By then, his career as an author and journalist had taken off (he is mentioned in the 1933 edition of Who’s Who in Literature under the name of BARRY, Philip Beaufoy). There is evidence that there was some musical collaboration with his father. Beaufoy, the ‘old hag’ as he is referred to in Ulysses, made a prosperous career out of creating literary garbage. A notice of his death on 19 January 1947 in the London Gazette mentions his residence as the Heathfield Hotel in Guilford Street, Bloomsbury. He had previously resided at no. 31 Regent Square, Bloomsbury, one of London’s most desirable areas. James Joyce, the novelist who revolutionised fiction, had died six years earlier, half-blind and in poverty.

The Bergson clan that moved to Ordnance Road in 1870 included an eleven year old son. Henri Bergson had been born in Paris on 18 January 1859 (the year Darwin published On the Origin of Species) at Rue Lamartine, close to the Palais Garnier, the old opera house in the capital. Having entered the Lycée Fontanes (renamed Lycée Condorcet in 1883) in 1868, he returned to Paris to complete his studies and maintained his French citizenship. By 1900 he was a Professor at the Collège de France and one of Europe’s outstanding intellectuals. His mother being English, he was familiar with the language from an early age and he remained in close contact with Britain. 

08

In 1889 Bergson published his doctoral thesis Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience. The study was translated by Frank L. Pogson into English in 1910 as Time and Free Will. It established Bergson’s international reputation as a highly original thinker – 1911 was a crucial year in the process. That year L’évolution créatrice was translated into English (Creative Evolution) and Joseph Solomon published his groundbreaking study on Bergson. One of his dedicated supporters was Herbert Hildon Carr, Professor of Philosophy at King’s College London, who published Henri Bergson: The Philosophy of Change (1911) and was involved in the organisation of Bergson’s first series of lectures in Britain. These included two lectures at Oxford University on The Perception of Change, and the Huxley Lecture delivered at the University of Birmingham on Life and Consciousness, published in the Hibbert Journal in October 1911. He also delivered four lectures at the University of London on The Nature of the Soul. Just before the outbreak of the Great War, Bergson was invited to deliver the prestigious Gifford lectures at several universities in Scotland. He presented the first series of eleven lectures on The Problem of Personality at the University of Edinburgh, but the outbreak of the war prevented his second lecture series. In 1913 he had been appointed President of The Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Founded in London in 1882, early members of this Society for investigating paranormal phenomena had included psychologist Edmund Gurney; poet and philologist Frederic W.H. Myers (who coined the term telepathy); philosopher Henry Sidgwick; physicist William Fletcher Barret; and journalist Edmund Dawson Rogers. During the early twentieth century other prominent members were Oliver Lodge and Arthur Conan Doyle. The escapologist Harry Houdini also had links to the Society. Mina’s Bergson interest in the occult was shared by her elder brother.

Joyce was a devotee of Bergson’s philosophy. He had a copy of L’évolution créatrice in his bookcase (and also of The Meaning of War, published in 1915) as well as Solomon’s study on the philosopher. The crucial influence of Bergson’s theories on the development of British literary modernism has frequently been discussed. In the early twentieth century his work was widely read and debated. His notion of ‘pure duration’, that is: the subjective and qualitative experience of time as set against the ‘spurious’ concept of time that is quantified into countable units, made a profound impact and left an imprint on modernist fiction and film. The psychological concept was developed by William James who described consciousness as ‘a teeming multiplicity of objects and relations’. Nothing is jointed; everything ‘flows’. James and Bergson contributed to developing the narrative device of a ‘stream of consciousness’. This stylistic process, masterly applied by Joyce, eliminates narratorial mediation in order to transfer a direct ‘quotation’ of the character’s mind, either in loose interior monologue or in relation to sensory reactions to external occurrences. Joyce’s literary technique owes a great deal to Henri Bergson’s erudite philosophy, but it is his brother Philip, the author of shoddy and melodramatic tales, who is represented in the narrative of Ulysses. Would it be too much to suggest that Joyce knew exactly what he was doing here? The author does not refer to the sophistication of thought to which the novel owes much of its structure, but instead he focuses on vulgar titbits penned down by an old hag for which he is richly rewarded by the word, the column, and the page. Two Bergson brothers representing extremes of the sublime and the vulgar. This is Joycean bathos in all its bravura.

James Joyce with Nora Barnacle

A Café Named Exile – Lancaster Court (Bayswater)

With its introduction into Europe from the Middle East in the seventeenth century, the coffeehouse transformed many areas of social, intellectual, and commercial life. In London, the coffee habit became associated with the dissemination of news and information (Richard Steele, editor of the Tatler, gave its postal address as the Grecian coffeehouse, which he used as his office), the sharing of science and knowledge (‘penny universities’), with trading and auctioneering, and a range of other activities. From the outset artists, writers, and intellectuals frequented cafés. It was here that movements were formed and aesthetics formulated. Discussion demands freedom of speech and expression, one of the more contested aspects of human rights. On 23 December 1675 Charles II issued a ‘Proclamation for the suppression of coffee houses’. His edict banning the sale of coffee, chocolate, sherbet, and tea was motivated by the suspicion that coffeehouses provided a meeting place for the disaffected to spread rumours about court and government. Charles II sensed the dangers of what would later be called ‘public opinion’. The outcry against the draconian ban was such that the king decided to back off and no further mention was made of his edict. Open debate was born in a coffeehouse.

The first successful coffeehouse in Paris was Café Procope, established in 1676 by Sicilian immigrant Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli. In 1689 the nearby Comédie Française opened its doors and the café became associated with actors and acting. The first literary café was established. Rousseau, Diderot, and Voltaire frequented the café and heightened its reputation as a cultural hub. The Enlightenment is associated with the genius of these individuals, but alongside them there was a host of coffee-drinking pamphleteers, journalists, and popular novelists at work. Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 forced large numbers of Huguenot scholars, publishers, and printers out of France. Many of them settled in London. They brought the coffee culture with them. The Rainbow Coffee House in Lancaster Court, off St Martin’s Lane, was in existence from 1702 to 1755. Until about 1730 it was known as a meeting place of French intellectuals. They swapped books and ideas and engaged in discussion on political and theological topics. With close links to Paris and to the Low Countries, its members formed part of a pan-European network for the free exchange of ideas in science and philosophy. Situated close to Huguenot communities in the Strand and Covent Garden, with their chapels at the Savoy and in Leicester Fields, the Rainbow was located near to the French bookshops established by Paul Vaillant and Pierre du Noyer.

Religious questioning was at the centre of philosophical discourse at that period, with long-held beliefs being undermined by recent scientific developments. Knowledge was on display in the public forum which removed the religious shackles of old. Pierre Coste’s translations of John Locke and Isaac Newton facilitated the circulation of their work throughout Europe. Pierre Baylewas educated at Geneva and Toulouse, but spent most of his life in Holland as the leading member of an active intellectual community in Rotterdam. He published the first edition of his astonishing Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697) with Reinier Leers, Rotterdam’s most prominent publisher.English translations were issued in 1709 and 1734/41. This work has been called the ‘Arsenal of the Enlightenment’. Michel de la Roche was a journalist and translator who worked on the first English translation of Bayle’s Dictionnaire. He played a major role in the dissemination of English science and philosophy abroad, and conducted a campaign in favour of religious toleration. Exile was an exercise in Enlightenment.

The literary career of Maty underlines the close Anglo-French-Dutch circle. In 1740, Utrecht-born Matthieu Maty, a multi-lingual descendant of Huguenot refugees, obtained degrees in medicine and philosophy at Leiden University after which he settled in London. Mixing with journalists and intellectuals in London coffeehouses, he gained a contract with the publisher Henri Scheurleer at The Hague to act as the sole editor of the ‘Journal Britannique’ (1750-1757: 24 parts) and introduce aspects of English social and cultural life to Dutch and French readers. Maty would eventually rise to the position of Principal Librarian of the British Museum. Refugee publishing lies at the heart of Europe’s intellectual history. The driving force behind the Rainbow group was the journalist and editor Pierre Des Maizeaux. He promoted the circulation of English scientific and philosophical ideas on the Continent through his contributions to French-language periodicals published in Holland, and maintained an impressive network of contacts with regular correspondents in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, and The Hague. Rarely before (and certainly not after) had Britain been so open to the ‘universality’ of research. Without a café culture, cosmopolitan Enlightenment would have been unthinkable.

There are parallels with the rise of the modernist movement in Europe. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the École des Beaux Arts was in control of all aspects of artistic life in France. Art academies regulated cultural production, but protests were raised against its dictatorial position. Basic questions were asked. Can art be taught? Should art be regulated or supervised? Is there a tenable theory of absolute beauty? To those queries modernists replied in negative terms. Frustrated by the establishment, they rejected academic art as bourgeois, conservative, and lacking in style. The overbearing rule of the Academy was dismantled in Parisian cafés. Formal discipline was replaced by a free flowing coffee and absinthe culture. The café symbolized modern urban lifestyle. The Café Guerbois and La Nouvelle Athènes played a major role in an emerging modernist movement. Impressionism was the first artistic grouping entirely organized in cafés. Movements such as Symbolism, Decadence, Impressionism, Futurism, Dadaism, Existentialism, Surrealism, and Vorticism were all rooted in a café culture. It was in these settings that the issue of modernity was first articulated. Modernism arrived in sips.

In 1928, Jewish-born author Herman Kesten settled in Berlin to take up the post as editor with the left-wing publisher Gustav Kiepenheuer. That same year he published his first novel Josef sucht die Freiheit. Two more novels followed in quick succession. In 1933, when Hitler came to power Kesten left Berlin for the Netherlands. There he was employed by Allert de Lange’s publishing house to run its German department. Amsterdam was a centre of expatriate German book-publishing in the 1930s, being the home of two outstanding publishers of exile literature: Querido and De Lange. Kesten was actively involved in the preservation of the grand tradition of German writing, editing the work of authors from Heinrich Heine to Max Brod, Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig, and Bertholt Brecht. De Lange published ninety-one books written by exiled authors. With the occupation of the Netherlands Kesten fled to New York and later acquired American citizenship. In 1970, Kesten looked back in gratitude by publishing a Hymne für Holland. In 1959 he published Dichter im Café in which he looked back at the experience of banishment and its effect upon the creative process. In exile, the coffeehouse is home, church, parliament, desert, place of pilgrimage, cradle of illusions and their cemetery. Exile provokes isolation, but also regenerates. Wherever he arrived on his travels as a refugee, Kesten sought a coffeehouse to withdraw from his woes and write – ‘Ich sass im Kaffeehaus des Exils und schrieb’.

A metropolis without immigrants would be unthinkable. The history of the modern movement coincided with multiple waves of migration in which large numbers of people fled poverty, injustice, censorship, or the ravages of war and revolution. Modernism is associated with flux, exile, and alienation. The café was a haven of permanence in the lives of displaced artists and writers. For James Joyce or Ezra Pound expatriatism and freedom were synonymous. They stressed the intellectual necessity of being abroad, presenting exile as a vehicle for individuality and liberation. To George Steiner, modernism meant extra-territoriality. In practical terms, the café offered drink, food, newspapers, heat, light, and companionship. Emotionally, a seat at the table was of deeper significance. For itinerant artists the café was at the centre of lived experience. It was their cultural homeland. Exclusion turned them into cosmopolitan figures, citizens of several cities, fully at home in none but capable in all. The experience of exile functioned as a release mechanism. Migration meant a loosening of conventional values and customs and as such became a vital source of creative endeavour.

Migrants of the Mind (Cecil Court – London)

At the beginning of the 1880s, Barcelona was a rapidly expanding city of about 350,000 people. Its medieval walls had been knocked down only twenty years earlier. Catalonia developed into Spain’s economic dynamo. Prosperity mushroomed. A self-confident region strove to re-establish its identity by invigorating local culture and language. Barcelona was the engine of change and modernity. The embellishment of the city was ambitious. Having been selected to host the 1888 World Exhibition, the authorities were willing to consider unconventional views of young architects and designers. The period from 1880 witnessed the flowering of ‘La Renaixença’ (the Catalan Renaissance). Identified by a flair for innovation, it was driven by a passion to make Barcelona distinct from Madrid in every conceivable manner.

Catalan modernism was a coalition across the artistic spectrum, although primarily associated with architecture. Nowhere else in Europedid Art Nouveau leave and equally strong building legacy. The movement was pushed forward by Lluis Domenech i Montaner, director of the Barcelona School of Architecture (where he taught Gaudi). His essay ‘In Search of a National Architecture’ (1878) is a seminal text in the history of the modernism. The challenge was to create a peculiar style that would set Barcelona apart from other world cities. Catalan architecture came to be characterized by a preference for the curve over the straight line, a disregard of symmetry, a passion for botanical shapes and motifs, as well as a return to Arabic patterns and decorations. The style is both colourful and ostentatious. It stands in contrast to the minimalism of modernist construction in northern Europe.

The new Catalan style proved perfectly suitable for an Iberian graveyard. Lloret de Mar is an unattractive coastal resort on the Costa Brava. It once was a ship building hub and a centre of trade with the New World. Many youngsters left the town for Cuba or elsewhere in the Americas to make their fortune. On their return, they became known as ‘Indianos’. On 25 April 1898 America declared war on Spain following the sinking of the battleship ‘Maine’ in Havana harbour. Hostilities ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in December 1898. As a result Spain lost the last remnants of its colonial Empire – Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, and other islands. The remaining Indianos returned home. Wealthy, cosmopolitan, and often closely related to the Barcelona social elite, they strove to mark their status. They put up the money to create a grand cemetery. In 1892, the project was commissioned to Joaquim Artau i Fàbregas, a disciple of Gaudi. The architect transferred the latest urban planning trends to the interior of the ‘city of the dead’. Avenues, promenades, and squares were lined with modernist tombs and sculptures. The new cemetery opened in November 1901: Catalan funerary art had come alive.

Three decades later death arrived with fury in Catalonia. General Francisco Franco was a devout Catholic, but as commander of Spain’s Foreign Legion in Morocco he permitted his troupes to commit atrocities. In 1936 he led the insurrection against the government. During the Civil War intellectuals, photographers, and artists travelled to Spain offering support to the Republicans. Robert Capa, Langston Hughes, André Malraux, Willy Brandt, Emma Goldman, John Dos Passos, and many others joined the international brigades. Never before had an armed conflict been reported in such detail. Ernest Hemingway arrived in 1937 to cover the war. Three years later he completed For Whom the Bell Tolls, the greatest novel to emerge from the battle. Global participation proved fruitless. Following the fall of Tarragona on 15 January 1939, a mass exodus started on the routes leading from Catalonia to France. Some 465,000 people crossed the border. By the end of March, Franco declared victory and received a congratulatory telegram from the Vatican. Once established Head of State, Franco’s propaganda machine praised him as a crusader. Ecclesiastical support convinced him of a divine mission to eradicate liberals and left-wingers from the country. Committed to a policy of institutionalized revenge, Franco rejected any idea of amnesty. As late as 1940 Spanish prisons held countless political inmates waiting for execution.

Numerous Republicans sought refuge in Britain. In the late 1930s, after the German blitzkrieg of Guernica, refugees from the civil war began settling in North Kensington, close to the Spanish Republican government in exile which remained active until 1945. Anti-Franco meetings were held at El Hogar Español (the Spanish House) in Bayswater. Portobello Road and Ladbroke Grove were centres of Hispanic settlement: London’s ‘barrio Español’. There is some irony here. Known prior to 1740 as Green’s Lane, the name Portobello is derived from Puerto Bello, a harbour town situated near the northern end of the present-day Panama Canal. The port was captured by the English Navy from the Spaniards in 1739 and victory over a maritime rival was met with jubilation throughout the country. George Orwell lived in a grotty flat atno. 22 Portobello Road before he set out to join the Spanish Republicans. In 1938 he would pay Homage to Catalonia.

One of the permanent settlers in Britain was Barcelona-born bookseller, publisher, and scholar Joan Gili. His father Lluís Gili Roig was the founder of a publishing house which became known for its elegant books on art and architecture which included Pablo Picasso’s Tauromaquia (1959). Young Gili had a passion for English literature which led to his correspondence with author and broadcaster Clarence Henry Warren who invited him to England in 1933. He settled permanently in London in October 1934 and went into partnership with Warren to open a bookshop at no. 5 Cecil Court. Known since the 1930s as Booksellers’ Row, the court had a proud cultural history. It was Mozart’s initial London address where he, arguably, composed his first symphony. Long-term residents included T.S. Eliot and John Gielgud amongst others.

When the partnership with Warren was dissolved Gili, now sole owner, filled the shelves with Spanish textbooks imported from Barcelona. Gili was a mediator between London and Barcelona. From Cecil Court flowed articles and commentaries on English literature, there were also regular ‘Letters from England’, and occasional translations into Catalan of pages from D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, T. S. Eliot, and other contemporary writers. He then began to publish on his own account. After meeting Miguel de Unamuno during his visit to England in 1936, he obtained the philosopher’s permission to issue his works in Britain. The first public edition of his Dolphin Bookshop Editions was a collection of Unamuno’s writings selected by Gili himself (1938). This was followed by Federico García Lorca’s Poems, jointly translated by Stephen Spender and Gili, with an introduction by Lorca’s close friend Rafael Martínez Nadal. During the Spanish Civil War the Dolphin Bookshop became a hub where supporters of the Republic met and mingled.

Late 1938 Gili secured the contract to transport from Paris to London the fine library of manuscripts and books collected by the French Catalanist Raymond Foulché-Delbosc. This bibliographical coup made him the outstanding Hispanic antiquarian bookseller of his generation. When the Second World War began in September 1939, Gili was registered as an alien in London. Cecil Court seemed a dangerous place to keep priceless books and manuscripts, and the collection was moved to Cambridge first, and from there to a Victorian mansion in Fyfield Road, Oxford. Having settled there, Gili again took pleasure in hosting numerous Spanish Republican exiles.

On 29 July 1940 a National Council of Catalonia was created in London demanding self-determination for the region within a federal Spain. Gili actively promoted the cause by publishing the first edition of his Catalan Grammar in 1943, when the language was banned by Franco’s fascists. In 1954, Josep Maria Batista i Roca conceived the idea of an Anglo-Catalan Society, of which Joan Gili was a founding member and later President. He became known as the ‘unofficial consul of the Catalans in Britain’. Of the seventy-three titles published under the Dolphin imprint between 1936 and 1996 no fewer than twenty-five were Catalan works, forty were Spanish or Latin-American, five were on art, and three were English works. Joan Gili died in Oxford in May 1998, a passionate Anglo-Catalan to his very last day. Critics of immigration fail to understand that it is perfectly possible for an exile to integrate into a host society without sacrificing one’s identity. In fact, those who succeed in doing so tend to be the most creative and productive of newcomers. At best, resettlement is an extension, not a reduction of individuality.

The age of political muscle during the 1930s led to artistic suppression. The tragedy of modernism became evident with the expulsion of writers and artists from their native countries; and with the migration of books and works of art to be safeguarded from the burning eyes of zealots. During Franco’s regime, modernist ideas were perceived as a threat to the country’s moral fabric. The authorities censored all writing that was at odds with its political and religious stance. Literature went into exile. In Britain, Joan Gili had promoted Spanish/Catalan modernism both as a publisher and a translator of Lorca. His son Jonathan Gili, a documentary film-maker and small-press publisher, was a collector of Iberian printed ephemera. He rescued many first editions and rare examples of Art Deco style in print form. In 2014, a decade after his death, Cambridge University Library acquired seventy titles from his collection. It is a tribute to the Gili family that some of their exiled books – migrants of the mind – have found a niche in one of the world’s prominent libraries.

Collar the Lot : Alexandra Palace (Haringey


Traditionally, four persons are known in English common law: natural born subject; denizen; alien friend; and alien enemy. In his Commentaries on the Law of England (1766) William Blackstone, Professor of English Law at Oxford University, summarised the position of the latter in times of conflict: ‘alien enemies have no rights, no privileges’. The Crown in other words possessed absolute power over alien enemies. When Mussolini declared war in June 1940, Churchill ordered to ‘collar the lot’. Mass internment followed. The precedent had been set during World War I.


On 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. The next day Parliament passed the Aliens Restriction Act, transforming every foreigner born in Germany or Austria-Hungary into an enemy alien. This person was not permitted to send letters; he could not travel more than five miles from the police station at which he had registered; he could not carry a camera, or own a car, a motorcycle, or a carrier pigeon; he was forbidden to obtain military maps or possess a gun. To many, mere registration of enemy aliens did not settle the issue. In the years preceding the war, newspapers had sounded the alarm about nefarious Germans. Since 1870, the British image of Germany had changed drastically. The old stereotype of a nation populated by philosophers, composers, and drunken students, had transformed into one of military brutes, megalomaniac scientists, and spymasters. Germans were considered a dose of bad germs. As early as 1909, papers had reported (imaginary) Zeppelin sightings and warned of the threat posed by an expanding German navy. Lord Northcliffe, owner of both the Daily Mail and the Times, further stoked the fear of invasion, warning that German waiters and barbers lurked at the heart of a hidden spy network.


Pressured by Parliament to arrest all enemy aliens as prisoners of war, British Home Secretary Reginald McKenna initially refused. Internment, he noted, was reserved for those who were military personnel or seen as dangerous to the nation. On 7 May 1915, however, a German submarine torpedoed the British ocean liner Lusitania, killing more than a thousand civilians. Riots erupted in the streets of London and across the British Empire, from Johannesburg to Melbourne. Looters ransacked German bakeries, butchers and pubs. In Liverpool, police had to take citizens of German descent into protective custody. Political resistance to mass internment vanished overnight. Less than a week after the Lusitania’s destruction, the government announced that male enemy aliens – whatever their status or profession – would be rounded up. Many of them had settled years before, some families had been in Britain for generations. Tens of thousands of men were registered and locked up for the duration of the war. In north London, Alexandra Palace became a holding camp for up to 3,000 aliens. Eventually, they were sent to the village of Knockaloe on the Isle of Man which was turned into a complex of wooden sheds housing 25,000 internees. They were not soldiers, but low-grade hostages who were forced to endure their miserable fate and the breaking up of family life. The majority of those interned left Britain after the war or were deported. Many never saw their relations again.


Ironically, some immigrants were amongst the most ardent champions of internment. Emma Orczy was born in Hungary into a noble family. She was fifteen years old when her father took the family to London. She became a blockbuster author. Her novel The Scarlet Pimpernel was phenomenally popular. Between 1906 and 1940, she wrote fourteen sequels to the story. During World War I, Emma showed loyalty to her adopted country by founding the Active Service League, an organisation that urged women to make the following promise: ‘I do hereby pledge … to persuade every man I know to offer his services to the country, and I also pledge myself never to be seen in public with any man who … has refused to respond to his country’s call’. It was up to women to send their men to the trenches. Novelist William Tufnell Le Queux was born in Southwark in 1864, the son of an immigrant from Chateauroux in central France. Educated on the Continent, he became a prolific writer. From about 1905 he was a self-proclaimed patriot and Germanophobe. In 1906 Le Queux wrote for Lord Northcliffe’s Daily Mail a serial titled ‘The invasion of 1910’ (later published in book form). It warned of German atrocities and urged the introduction of compulsory military training. At the same time, politicians and newspaper editors became fixated on the idea that German prisoners in Britain had a pleasant time while British prisoners of war in Germany suffered brutal treatment. Internment deteriorated into organised xenophobia. The impact of such hysteria, which resulted in mass deportation of German civilians at the end of the conflict, would survive well beyond 1918.


Who were the victims? George Sauter was born in 1866 at Rettenbach, Bavaria, and studied art at the Royal Academy in Munich. He moved to London in 1895, having worked previously in Holland, Belgium, France and Italy. He married Lilian Galsworthy, daughter of the writer of the Forsyte Saga, and was appointed Honorary Secretary to the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers during Whistler’s presidency. Having lived in London for two decades but not become a British citizen, Sauter was interned with his son Rudolf (who became an artist in his own right) at the Alexandra Palace in December of 1915 and repatriated to Germany in early 1917. He never returned to Britain. George Kenner was born Georg Kennerknecht on 1 November 1888 in the small town of Schwabsoien, Bavaria. He moved to London in 1910 where he furthered his education at the Lambeth School of Art. With a British partner he set up the art company Waddington & Kennerknecht at no. 73 Farringdon Street. He was interned in May 1915. He was permitted by the camp authorities to use his skills as a professional artist. He created 110 paintings and drawings of his experiences as a civilian prisoner of war. It is the most extensive and moving collection of this nature that has survived. Kenner was transported to Knockaloe in June 1916 and sent back to Germany in a prisoner exchange in March 1919, four months after the Armistice. He never returned to Britain and eventually moved to Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.

Not all internees left Britain altogether. Carl Bartels was born in Stuttgart in 1866 into a Protestant family. He father was a woodcarver from the Black Forest. Having married Mathilde Zappe in 1887, the couple visited Britain on their honeymoon and decided to stay. He settled in Haringey, north London, and soon gained acclaim as a sculptor and woodworker. His reputation was enhanced when he won a competition to design two copper birds for the twin clock towers of Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building. His designs were brought to life by the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts. After the Lusitania tragedy, Bartels was imprisoned at Knockaloe, even though he had been a naturalised Briton for more than twenty years. After the war Bartels was repatriated to Germany and separated from his wife and children. He regained residency in 1931 when his nephew’s employer offered permanent employment. Ironically, his designs were used in the modernisation of the RMS Mauretania, a sister ship of the Lusitania, although the building of the ship was scrapped in 1934. During the Second World War he made artificial limbs for injured servicemen.

The First World War was a watershed moment in the treatment of civilians during times of conflict. In the summer of 1914, concentration camps were a defunct concept. By the end of the war, they stretched across six continents. In only four years, mass detention of innocent civilians had been legitimised all over the world. Every nation has a black era or shameful episode it would prefer to exclude from historical accounts. For Britain, mass internment (and deportation) is one of those occurrences which has barely been acknowledged.

Explosive Anarchism: Fitzroy Square (Fitzrovia)


With the passing of the Aliens Act of 1905, Britain was the first European state to establish a system of immigration control at the point of entry. It defined certain groups of migrants as ‘undesirable’. The Act was passed in response to anxieties about the impact of ‘aliens’, particularly Jews fleeing from persecution in Tsarist Russia, who were said to have introduced unprecedented levels of criminality.  Traditionally, crime had been associated with poverty among indigenous urban populations. By the 1890s, increasingly, criminal behaviour was seen as a result of liberal attitudes towards immigration. The cause of crime in Britain’s large cities was to be found in the racial character of foreign arrivals. In the public imagination a toxic mix was brewing of fear of terror, anxiety about anarchism, and antipathy towards foreigners. The rise of racism was imminent.

Militant anarchism caused panic. Newspaper headlines spread news of bombings and murders across Europe and in America (Chicago). Governments feared the spectre of an internationally coordinated anarchist revolution. International terrorism made an explosive appearance. The word terrorism was first used in English in 1795 in a specific sense of government intimidation during the Reign of Terror in Paris. With the 1798 Irish Rebellion the term acquired a broader interpretation, referring to the ‘systematic use of terror as a policy’. By the mid-nineteenth century, terrorism began to be associated with non-governmental groups. A few decades later it was generally understood as the use of indiscriminate violence in order to achieve a political or religious aim.


In the 1840s movements for democracy swept the Continent. Italy, France and Poland stood on the brink of revolution. Activists encouraged uprisings and failed. Many European revolutionaries ended up in exile in Britain. London became the home of other nation’s ‘terrorists’. One of the earliest groups to utilise urban guerrilla techniques was the Fenian Brotherhood, founded in 1858. Irish nationalists planted bombs on the inner circle tube line in 1883 and 1885, but it was the 1897 Aldersgate explosion that had fatal consequences – killing one and injuring sixty. Anarchist theorists had developed the concept of ‘propaganda of the deed’ (physical violence in order to inspire mass rebellion). Attacks by various anarchist groups led to a number of assassinations, including that of the Russian Tsar. During the nineteenth century, powerful and relatively stable explosives were developed. The use of dynamite became synonymous with terrorism and central to anarchist strategic thinking. In fact, the word ‘dynamitist’ preceded that of terrorist.


Fitzrovia, a district bounded by Oxford Street to the south, Great Portland Street to the west, Euston Road to the north, and Tottenham Court Road to the east, had been a centre of international radical politics for some time. Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man was published during his residence at no. 154 New Cavendish Street in reply to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. The author lived at no. 18 Charlotte Street. The area was a hotspot of Chartist activities after the Reform Act of 1832. After the failed 1848 revolutions, waves of German and Russian revolutionaries settled there. Swiss and Italian immigrants added to its cultural mix. It was a choice destination for French political exiles. From France, there were two main waves of migration separated by a generation. The first were supporters of the Revolution of February 1848 when the Second Republic was founded by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte. The second group of about 3,000 refugees arrived in the early 1870s after the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871. Many of these ‘compagnons’ remained in London until an amnesty in 1895 allowed some to return to France. 


Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was the first political philosopher to call himself an anarchist. Although various thinkers have contributed to the formulation of the doctrine (including William Godwin), nineteenth century anarchism retained a strong Gallic flavour. Between 1880 and 1914 a considerable number of French-speaking anarchists lived in exile in London. These individuals had escaped intense post-Commune repression. Until the 1905 Aliens Act, Britain maintained a liberal approach to the containment of radicalism which, to a certain extent, allowed French residents in Fitzrovia to remain politically active. Charlotte Street and Goodge Street were the main axis of anarchism. Political refugee and author Charles Malato, a French anarchist of Neapolitan descent, described the area as a small anarchist republic. There were, however, plenty of worries amongst the local population about that ‘foreign lot’. 


Myths surrounding potential terrorist activities were reported endlessly by the popular press which led to poisonous public debates surrounding the asylum granted to international anarchists. Police spies, known as ‘Les Mouchards’, regularly patrolled the streets of the area. One of their prime suspects was the bookseller Armand Lapie at no. 30 Goodge Street. His shop was the main meeting point of French anarchists in the capital. In his book Van anarchist tot monarchist Alexander Cohen, the Dutch Francophile, has left a lively retrospective account of this shop where every early evening anarchists gathered to wait for the owner’s return from the depot with a load of French, Italian and Spanish newspapers. Gallic anarchists also brought their passion for eating and drinking with them. If London was a taste, it was not to the liking of French refugees.


Political exiles introduced gastronomic delight to Charlotte Street and to no. 67 in particular. There, in a three-story building, Victor Richard ran a grocer shop named ‘Bel Épicier’. He kept a shop in Paris when he was caught up in the events of the Commune. Although in his fifties, he fought bravely on the barricades, but in the brutal aftermath he was forced to flee. He settled in Charlotte Street. This colourful figure made a roaring success of his business, stocking Anjou wines, coffee, mustards, pâtes, and cornichon from his native Burgundy. His shop took on a central position among the community of refugees, many of whom were either destitute or in dire financial trouble. They knew that they could expect help in one way or another from the ‘generous Burgundian’. 

In political philosophy, anarchism advocates the idea of a stateless society. The state is harmful to the individual. Politicians are parasites. Education of the masses would cause government to wither away as a superfluous entity. Anarchism in practice, however, demands firm structures and a strict organisation. The London congregation of anarchists proved the value of tight networks and practical minds. This was exampled during the early 1890s by the international school for refugee children at no. 19 Fitzroy Square. The school was run by Louise Michel, the ‘grand dame’ of anarchy, who had fought on the barricades in defence of the Commune. This former Parisian teacher was exiled to London where she lived at no. 59 Charlotte Street. The guiding committee of the school included the exiled Russian Prince Peter Kropotkin, Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, and English socialist William Morris. Staff and members of the committee aimed at keeping children away from religiously oriented state schools. The ideal was to produce broad-minded and creative youngsters who respected the freedom of others. The curriculum consisted of French, German, and English, as well as music, drawing, sewing, and engraving. The school was closed down when the police raided the school in 1892 and found bombs in the basement. They had been planted there by Auguste Coulon, a school assistant who turned out to be a police spy. To the authorities, the end justified the means.


Notorious among local Continental immigrants was the figure of Tours-born Martial Bourdin. He had moved to London around 1887 to join his brother Henri who worked as a tailor in a workshop at no. 18 Great Titchfield Street. Martial attended meetings at the Autonomie Club in Windmill Street, the chief refuge of foreign anarchists arriving in London. For a time Bourdin was secretary of the French-speaking section of the club. Having spent time back in France and later in America, he returned to London where he resumed his lodgings at no. 30 Fitzroy Street in late 1893. In the afternoon of Thursday 15 February 1894 he entered Greenwich Park and walked towards the Royal Observatory with a parcel under his arm. The bomb exploded prematurely. He died at the nearby Royal Naval Hospital. Bourdin’s act caused panic. Home Secretary Herbert Asquith, fearing that the funeral at St Pancras cemetery might be turned into a demonstration, gave orders to prevent any procession from following the hearse. Speeches at the graveside were forbidden. Public opinion demanded an immediate change in immigration policy.

Modern interest in the fate of this French anarchist derives from Joseph Conrad’s remodelling of him as Stevie in The Secret Agent (1907). The novel sustained his dubious reputation as the man who tried to blow up the Observatory – which seemed an odd target even by terrorist’s standards. Conrad confirmed in fiction what many at the time had come to accept as a fact: a terrorist is a mentally unstable anarchist who carries a parcel wrapped in brown paper (i.e. a bomb) under his arm. 

Litany of Bitterness: George Street (Marylebone)

01
Art dealer and gallery owner Heinrich Robert [Harry] Fischer was born in Vienna on 30 August 1903. By the mid-1930s he was running one of the city’s largest bookshops. The Nazi annexation of Austria forced him to flee to Britain. In 1946, he opened his first art gallery on Old Bond Street with fellow Viennese refugee Frank Lloyd (born: Franz Kurt Levai). They named it Marlborough Fine Art for its aristocratic connotations. Between 1960 and 1970 Marlborough Gallery expanded into an international force with branches in New York, London, Rome, Zurich and other cities.

02
Lloyd and Fisher dissolved their partnership in the early 1970s, after which Harry Fisher established Fisher Fine Arts in London. He died in London in April 1977. In 1996 Elfriede Fischer donated his collection of books and catalogues to the V&A’s National Art Library. The collection (sixty-nine books in total) includes works by George Grosz, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Oscar Kokoschka, Emil Nolde and Kurt Schwitters, among others.

03

The Fischer Collection holds the only known copy of a complete inventory of ‘Entartete Kunst’ confiscated by the Nazi regime from public institutions in Germany, mostly during 1937 and 1938. The list of more than 16,000 art works was produced by the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda around 1942. The inventory was compiled as a final record after the sales and disposals of the seized works of art had been completed in the summer of 1941. The inventory’s two typescript volumes provide crucial information about the provenance, exhibition history, and fate of each artwork.

04

The painter George Grosz suffered badly from the Nazi madness. Their officials confiscated nearly three hundred of his works in museums and galleries, some were looted, some sold, and others burned. About seventy paintings vanished without a trace. One of the paintings labelled ‘degenerate’ was Grosz’s stunning portrait of his friend, the poet Max [Macke] Herrmann-Neisse.

05
The latter was born Max Herrmann in 1886 in Neisse (in Polish: Nysa), Silesia, into a family of small innkeepers. He was a physically disabled and deformed child. A continuous sense of otherness was part of his intellectual development and he started writing at a young age. He studied literature and history of art in Munich and Breslau, then turned to journalism and writing. He created mainly poetry and, influenced by Expressionism, contributed to avant-garde periodicals such as Die Aktion, Pan, and Die weissen Blätter.
In 1914 S. Fischer Verlag published his first collection of poems entitled Sie und die Stadt. The poet’s future looked bright, but the First World War brought disaster. It ruined the business of his parents. His father died in 1916 and his mother drowned herself shortly after.

06
Herrmann-Neisse married a local girl named Leni Gebek in May 1917 and the couple settled in Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm where they involved themselves in the city’s vibrant mix of artistic, socialist and anarchist movements. From that time onwards he added his place of birth to his name. He and his wife were a very visible and often photographed couple in bohemian Berlin. Herrmann-Neisse was known in most cafés, bars, studios, theatres, seedy cabarets and brothels in town. He was the Toulouse Lautrec of Berlin. He shared the same radical politics, sense of humour, and cynical outlook as his friend George Grosz. At the same time he created an ever growing number of poems, stories, essays and cabaret pieces. He was awarded the Eichendorff-Preis in 1924 and the Gerhart Hauptmann-Preis in 1927.

07
Five years later his situation changed dramatically. Grosz’s portrait of the poet with his hunched back and bald head had first been shown at the Neue Sachlichkeit Exhibition in Mannheim, 1925. The Nazis confiscated the portrait from the Flechtheim Gallery in Berlin in 1933 and displayed the work as a prime example of degenerate art. Two days after the Reichstag fire in February 1933, Max and Leni fled Berlin. Via Switzerland and the Netherlands they arrived in London in September that same year. A few months later, the Nazis burned his books.

08
Unable to speak English, living in the poorest of conditions, and deprived of his German citizenship in 1938, his poetry soon became an expression of utter isolation. Sometimes one may detect a tone of defiance like that in the poem ‘Ewige Heimat’: the homeland will live on ‘in the song of its banished sons’ (‘in dem Lied verstossner Söhne’). He applied for British citizenship, but the request was refused. In 1936 he published a collection of poems in Zurich entitled Um uns die Fremde (with a preface by Thomas Mann), but by then his personal life was becoming increasingly bizarre and intolerable. From 1936 onwards, he and his wife lived in a ménage à trois with Leni’s lover, the Greek-born Jewish jeweller and diamond dealer Alphonse Aron Sondheimer, who supported the three.

09
They occupied an exclusive flat owned by Sondheimer at no. 82 Bryanston Court, George Street in Marylebone (another apartment in the block was occupied by the American socialite Mrs Wallis Simpson: it was here at Flat 5B, first floor, that the love affair between her and Edward VIII had started in 1933). The arrangement lasted until Herrmann-Neisse’s death from a heart attack on 8 April 1941. He was buried at East Finchley Cemetery in East End Road. There he rests in a lonely grave, a soon forgotten immigrant, far from his beloved Berlin. Leni subsequently married Sondheimer (who became a British citizen in June 1947) and committed suicide when he died in 1961.

During his years of exile Hermann-Neisse continued to write poetry. Some of the poems are counted among his best. Shortly before his death he wrote ‘Litanei der Bitterness’, which is both a reflection on his life in exile and the painful awareness of the affair of his wife and his dependence on the goodwill of her lover:

Bitter ist es, das Brot der Fremde zu essen,
bittrer noch das Gnadenbrot,
und dem Nächsten eine Last zu sein.

The old anarchist lived a total paradox in later life. Not capable of earning a living and deprived of any outlets to publish his work, he resided amidst the decadence and senseless wealth of one of London’s most exclusive residential areas. Consumed by bitterness, the poet suffered all the pains of physical and linguistic exile. As a young man he had touched virtually every brick of every bar within reach while staggering through the streets of Berlin. Socially and psychologically he was inextricably bound up with the city as any of the stones in any of its buildings. Without the architecture of that structure, its use and meaning completely changed. For Herrmann-Neisse the building had collapsed completely. Death may have come as a relief. The psychoses dubbed ‘bacillus emigraticus’, the virus of homesickness, hits every exile at some time to a varying degree. It broke Hermann-Neisse.
10