Google+ Followers

Thursday, 28 January 2010

John Holms

It is unlikely that you have every heard of John Holms. There is nothing on the web about him. Most of his friends thought that he had the potential to be one of the best writers of the 20th century.

During the First World War he served on the Western Front. After the war he attempted to become a full-time writer. Ernest Wishart, Douglas Garman and Edgell Rickword liked his work and his stories and book reviews appeared in their quarterly literary review, Calendar of Modern Letters. However, he was not very productive. His friend, Alec Waugh, commented: "He was how I expected a genius to look after he found his medium."

The poet, Edwin Muir, argued: "John Holms was the most remarkable man I ever met. His mind had a majestic clarity and order... Though his sole ambition was to be a writer, the mere act of writing was another enormous obstacle to him: it was as if the technique of action were beyond his grasp, a simple, banal, but incomprehensible mystery. He knew his weakness, and it filled him with the fear that, in spite of the gifts which he knew he had, he would never be able to express them; the knowledge and the fear finally reached a stationary condition and reduced him to impotence."

Peggy Guggenheim, his partner for several years agreed that Holms had the potential to be a great writer: "Since no one else shared his extraordinary mental capacity, he was exceedingly bored when talking to most people. As a result, he was very lonely. He knew what gifts he had and felt wicked for not using them. Not being able to write, he was unhappy, which caused him to drink more and more. All the time that I was with him I was shocked by his paralysis of will power. It seemed to grow steadily, and in the end he could hardly force himself to do the simplest things." Peggy had to admit: "John had written only one poem in all the years he was with me. I had done nothing but complain about his indolent life."

Emma Goldman said in January 1929: "The main trouble is that John (Holms) is weak and ineffectual, a drifter unable to make one single decisive step. He wants to eat the pie and keep it at the same time." Emily Coleman added that his "incapacity to shoulder responsibility through some inexplicable paralysis of the will." William Gerhardie said of Holms: "In every age... there are men who while achieving nothing give an impression of greater genius than the acknowledged masters of the day."

In the summer of 1933 John Holms fractured his wrist, riding on Dartmoor with Peggy. Despite being reset, the bones had never realigned correctly, and he had been advised to have a simple operation. Holms was a heavy drinker and on the morning of the operation on 19th January, 1934, he had a terrible hangover. Holms died under the anaesthetic.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Edward Wishart

After leaving university Edward Wishart established a new publishing house, Wishart & Company. Garman went to work for his friend and along with Edgell Rickword, published a quarterly literary review, Calendar of Modern Letters. It included the work of Robert Graves, E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, A. E. Coppard, L. P. Hartley, Cecil Gray, Hart Crane, T. F. Powys, Allen Tate, Roy Campbell, John Holms, Edmund Blunden, Percy Wyndham Lewis, Siegfried Sassoon, D. H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell and Edwin Muir.

Wishart merged his company with the publishing house of Martin Lawrence in 1935. Moving to Red Lion Square, Lawrence and Wishart became the press of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The company concentrated on publishing books on economics, working-class history and the classics of Marxism. Wishart also published New Writing, a twice-yearly anthology, that included the work of W.H.Auden, Ralph Fox, Christopher Isherwood and Cecil Day Lewis.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Garman Sisters

Roy Campbell wrote in 1934: "No other contemporary woman ever had so much poetry, good, bad and indifferent, written about them, or had so many portraits and busts made of them." Campbell was talking about the Garman sisters. This included:

Lorna Garman married the publisher Edward Wishart at 16. She also had affairs with the novelist, Llewelyn Powys, the poet, Laurie Lee and the artist Lucian Freud. All three produced work inspired by their relationship with her. Peggy Guggenheim, the lover of her brother, Douglas Garman, claimed: "Lorna was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She had enormous blue eyes, long lashes and auburn hair." Lorna also had an affair with the musician, Leslie (Hutch) Hutchinson.

Mary Garman married the poet Roy Campbell. Her beauty inspired some of Campbell’s best poetry. He told a friend: "I should never be half the writer I am, I'm afraid, if it weren't for her.” Mary had an affair with Vita Sackville-West who at the time was married to Harold Nicolson and was having a sexual relationship with Virginia Woolf. This relationship resulted in several sonnets by Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando. Mary also had an affair with the ballerina, Jeanne Hewitt, the wife of her brother, Douglas Garman. Mary also had a passionate sexual relationship with the writer, Uys Krige. As well as inspiring poems by Krige, Mary, a talented artist, produced an impressive nude portrait of her lover. It is also possible that she had affairs with the poet, Hart Crane, the painter Tristram Hillier and the Irish writer Liam O'Flaherty, who Anna Campbell described as the "best-looking man she had ever seen, and one of the wildest."

Kathleen Garman became the mistress of the sculptor, Jacob Epstein, when she was only nineteen. Over the next few years she gave birth to three children. Although Epstein remained married and had a string of mistresses, she remained loyal to him. Kathleen was his main model and inherited all of his unsold work when he died in 1959. Kathleen was painted by Augustus John and inspired the poetry of Samuel Menashe.

Two other sisters also had active sex lives. Ruth had an affair with Leslie (Hutch) Hutchinson whereas Sylvia is believed to have been Lawrence of Arabia’s only female lover.

Lorna Garman

Kathleen Garman

Mary Garman

Douglas Garman

Walter Garman

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Seven Young People and the Fight Against Fascism

In 1936 a small group of young people were politically active in Reading. They were in two different groups. Reg Saxton, William Ball and Thora Silverthorne were in the Young Communist League and Roy Poole, John Boulting, Josh Francis and Rosamund Powell were in the Labour Party Labour League of Youth.

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War they all decided to volunteer their services in the fight against fascism. Saxton, Silverthorne, Poole, Boulting and Powell joined the British Medical Unit that served behind the front-line helping the forces of the Popular Front Government, whereas Ball and Francis joined the International Brigades.

Although the BMU did suffer casualties, all five survived the war. However, the casualty rate of the International Brigades was much higher and both Ball and Francis were killed.

On their return Roy Poole married Rosamund Powell. Reg Saxton and Thora Silverthorne played an important role in the development of the National Health Service. John Boulting became a significant figure in the history of British cinema, producing and directing films such as Brighton Rock (1947), Fame Is the Spur (1947), Seven Days to Noon (1950), Lucky Jim (1957), Brothers in Law (1957), Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959), I'm All Right Jack (1959), Heavens Above! (1963), The Family Way (1966) and There's a Girl in My Soup (1970). These films helped to make stars of Ian Carmichael, Richard Attenborough, Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Peter Spencer, 2nd Viscount Churchill

Peter Spencer, 2nd Viscount Churchill, is one of the most interesting characters in British history. However, his name rarely appears in history books. Even Wikipedia does not have a page on him. To find out why this aristocrat became a Marxist see: