’I Wouldn’t Leave My Little Wooden Box for You’ – Premature Burial, Postcards & Poe

 

Premature burial is no laughing matter. In fact many people found the idea of being buried alive so terrifying that they went to great lengths to ensure it couldn’t happen to them. Before his death in 1912 Archdeacon Thomas Colley specified in his will that his body was to be sent to a hospital for dissection in the aid of medical science, ensuring that any signs of life would be noticed by doctors in the event that he was still alive. A few years earlier, the  Third Marquess of Bute requested that doctors wait for unmistakable signs of decay before removing his heart, which was then sent for burial in Jerusalem. (See Rosemary Hannah, The Grand Designer: Third Marquess of Bute (Birlinn, 2012) p. 354. ) Aware of these and many other instances, I was intrigued to find the concept treated with great lightheartedness in the postcard below, which I purchased last week from an antique shop.
My hopes that a closer look at the card would make more sense have since been dashed. Is there any significance in the name on the gravestone? While pondering the images on the card, I was reminded of Harry Clarke’s chilling illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s tale The Premature Burial (below.)

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“The Premature Burial” (1919) by Harry Clarke (1889-1931)
Dublin-born Clarke was a leading light of the Irish arts & crafts movement and provided the illustrations for a posthumous edition of Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination (London: George Harrap & Co. 1919.) This was later adapted for the cinema as the third in Roger Corman’s ‘Poe Cycle.’

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Poster for ‘The Premature Burial’ (Roger Corman, 1962)

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Poster for ‘The Oblong Box’ (Gordon Hessler, 1969), based very loosely on Poe’s tale of the same name.

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This poster for the first of Corman’s Poe adaptations – ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (1960) echoes of Clarke’s drawing, with the vertical orientation and the sinister tree.

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Although this poster shifts the layout, the premature burial is still placed in the foreground. The screenplay for the movie was written by Richard Matheson.
I’ve just been teaching Poe’s Corman cycle to film adaptation students which is why these images were so much in my mind, and why the comic postcard seemed so incongruous. It took on a slightly different hue when I realised that the words ‘I would’nt leave my little wooden hut for you-oo’ are actually the refrain from a popular song, written in 1905 by Londoners Tom Mellor (1880-1926) and Charles Collins (1874–1923.)
Although Mellor and Collins are almost totally forgotten now, they were both prolific songwriters whose comic ditties were hugely popular in Edwardian music halls.  Their work received recognition in the film I’ll be Your Sweetheart (Val Guest, 1945), starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Rennie – who appeared together the same year in The Wicked Lady. The film opens with the words ‘This film is dedicated to those grand old song writers of yesterday whose melodies are the folk songs of today. Their battle against the music pirates who robbed them of their just rewards, is the inspiration for this story.’ This is a reference to the absence of proper copyright protection for songwriters at the time ‘I Wouldn’t Leave My Little Wooden Hut for You’ was written.
As you can see from the lyrics, the song is about an unsuccessful courtship on a desert island and has absolutely nothing to do with premature burial. However, the association of ‘wooden box’ with ‘coffin’ was clearly suggestive, and my postcard was not the only one to use the phrase with in a macabre context:

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Although this was clearly the work of a different artist, the idea is similar.

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This early 1900s postcard comments upon current fears about badly-preserved foods, due to an ongoing scandal about malpractice in the American meatpacking industry.
If anyone knows of other examples of old postcards using this song title, or can cast further light on the graveyard humour of the first image, I’d be very pleased to hear of it.

Dr Phene’s House of Mystery

 

Although I don’t normally collect postcards of old buildings, this one caught my eye in an antique shop late last year – and with a title like ‘Dr Phene’s House of Mystery, Chelsea’, I simply could not resist.

At first glance I (mis)read the caption as ‘Dr Phibes’, the vengeful protagonist played by Vincent Price in The Abominable Dr Phibes (Fuerst, 1971) but there’s a good case to be had for making an equally memorable film about the man who built the House of Mystery.

Dr John Samuel Phene FRIBA, FRGS (1824-1912) – architect, property developer, traveller, collector, scholar and antiquarian –  studied at Kings Lynn Grammar School, Durham University and Trinity College Cambridge before being articled to the firm of an architect by the name of Hardwic​k.
He seems to have inherited some property in Chelsea sometime before 1850, and in the following years he had constructed a number of buildings in what would become Oakley Street, Margaretta Street and Terrace (both named after his wife Margaretta Forysth, whom he married in 1850), Phene Terrace and Upper Cheyne Row. The Phene Arms was built in 1853 and is still a popular pub to this day. Phene had it built to provide a social hub for local tenants and he seems to have been a progressive thinker, planting trees on both sides of Oakley Street ‘to purify the air and help prevent epidemics.’

From his house at 32 Oakley Street he supervised the construction of ‘The House of Mystery’ on the corner of Upper Cheyne Row. Work seems to have begun in the early 1900s, and its curious appearance led locals to call it the ‘Gingerbread Castle.’  Phene, however, called it ‘The Chateau’ and a close-up of the lettering above the doorway reveals the words: ‘Renaissance du Chateau de Savenay’ – rebirth of the castle of Savenay – in honour of the area in France’s Loire valley that Phene claimed as his ancestral home.

Despite the murkiness surrounding facts about his ancestry, it is clear that Dr Phene maintained an interest in the traditions of old France, for in 1885 he was one of the founders of the Huguenot Society of London. Despite the wealth of (often) apocryphal stories that circulate regarding this mysterious man, he was a serious scholar who published numerous research papers and gave both his services and artefacts to museums around the country. He was managing director of the Royal Polytechnic Institution before being succeeded by John Henry Pepper (of Pepper’s Ghost fame), and when Sir Peter Coats presented the town of Paisley with a Museum and Library in September 1870 it was Dr Phene who gave the inaugural address. Nonetheless there is often a tinge of eccentricity clinging to his publications, such as the pamphlet On Prehistoric Traditions and Customs in Sun and Serpent Worship (1875), an illustration from which is given below:

It’s a curious (albeit impressive) piece of work that examines the links between diverse traditions of sun and serpent worship around the world, from the Scottish Hebrides (where Phene spent several years and considerable expense looking for carved stones depicting serpents) to Egypt, America, Mexico, Greece and the west coast of Africa. The insights into ancient history might (or might not be) valuable, but the paper reveals some intriguing details about contemporary events: a footnote on p.4 informs us that ‘A curious illustration of fondness for serpents exists at Chelsea at the present time, which has led to alarm in the neighbourhood.’

A full list of his published work would be too long to detail here, but as a Life Member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science he presented papers at a number of their annual meetings, including ‘On some Evidences of a Common Migration from the East’ (Brighton, 1872) and ‘On the District of Mycene and its early Occupants.’  (Plymouth, 1877.) The British Library lists five publications:

Reptile Tumuli. A lecture … Reprinted from the ‘Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette.’              [16 pages]
​      Paisley : J. & J. Cook, 1871

Records of the Past. A lecture.             [16 pages]
Paisley : J. & J. Cook, 1873

On the Causes of Art: with an outline of the origin and progress of art from prehistoric to modern times … A discourse … Reprinted from ‘The British Architect.’       [19 pages]
Manchester ; London ; Glasgow, 1874

Victoria Queen of Albion : an idyll of the world’s advance in her life and reign.
London: Blades, East and Blades, 1897.          [165 pages]
This was written in verse, with twelve pages of plates, plus  an appendix carrying article on Roman London – presumably by Phene – which appeared in several newspapers and magazines in 1896

Exhibits by Dr. Phene in the Ecclesiastical & Educational Exhibition in the Imperial Institute, Kensington, October 7th to 14th 1899.  [8 pages]
London, 1899.

His long-standing interest in Scottish antiquities confirmed by a ‘Photograph of wooden idol from deep peat in Scotland’  taken by Phene in 1900 and registered with the Copyright Office. At the same time he also registered his  ‘Photograph of the Great Stone Ship Temple in Minorca. (Plate 1 of group of ten)’ and ‘Photograph of remains of pre-Roman and Old Roman London, sculptured masonry now in the Guildhall Museum, to illustrate Mr Roach Smith’s discovery of Sculptured Masonry in the foundations of the old Roman wall of London, testifying to a Pre-Roman stone built city of the Trinobantes (Plate 5 of group of five)’ – further evidence of his fascination with ancient stones.

Although sometimes referred to as a reclusive character, there seems to be plenty of evidence of social activities, including a photograph of him taken by Sir Benjamin Stone outside the House of Commons on 2 July 1907 in the company of Mark Twain and other gentlemen. His membership of numerous activities actually suggests a gregarious nature, and he was also an active member of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society of Literature; following his death tribute was paid to him by Sir Edward William Brabrook (1839–1930) that offers further proof of his diverse interests:

‘I must first mention my dear old friend Dr. John Samuel Phene, who had reached his eighty-ninth year. He had been a member of the British Association since the year 1863 was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1872, and Joined our Society in 1875. In the year 1892, when Lord Halsbury became President, Dr. Phene and I were added to the list of Vice-Presidents, of which list, as it then stood, I am now the last survivor. His deep interest in the Society was manifested by his contributing not fewer than eight papers to our Transactions, in which he brought great erudition and shrewd observation to bear upon a variety of subjects, viz.: ‘Linguistic Synonyms in the Pre-Roman Languages of Britain and of Italy’ (vol. xv), ‘King Arthur and St. George’ (vol. xvii), ‘Ethical and Symbolical Literature in Art’ (vol. xviii), ‘ δενδροϕορία or Tree Transporting’ (vol. xix), ‘Place Names in and around Rome, Latium, Etruria, Britain, etc., with Earthworks and Other Works of Art illustrating: such Names’ (vol. xx), ‘The Rise, Progress, and Decay of the Art of Painting in Greece’ (vol. xxi), and ‘The Influence of Chaucer on the Language and Literature of England’ (vol. xxii). There was thus, in recent times, hardly a year in which he did not make some communication to our Society: he was regular in attendance at our Councils up to the last year of his life.’
                              –   Report of the Royal Society of Literature, (1912) pp.12-13.

The stories about his reclusiveness may have some truth, for it seems that the doctor began building Cheyne House for his wife, and after her death he lost interest in the project and began to spend more time alone. He rarely left his Oakley Street residence after this, while the House of Mystery and Cheyne House in Upper Cheyne Row – now a storeroom for his collection of stones  – were both boarded up and abandoned. The four acre garden behind the house was strewn with large statues and other curios.

For those interested in reading more about Dr Phene, there’s an article on him in the July 2013 edition of Fortean Times (which I must confess I have not yet read), ​and also a nicely-illustrated blog post here.

Barbara Stanwyck in ‘The Bitter tea of General Yen’ (Frank capra, 1933)

There are many reasons to love and admire Barbara Stanwyck, not least of which is her versatility as an actress – in a film career that stretched beyond five decades she appeared in screwball comedies, melodramas, noir thrillers, musicals and westerns. Whatever the genre, she was at her best when playing a certain type of character – feisty, strong-willed women, who are prepared to think independently and defy convention when required.  Megan Davis, the heroine of The Bitter Tea of General Yen, is such a person.

This was her fourth film with Frank Capra, who had already directed her in Ladies of Leisure (1930),  Miracle Woman (1931) and Forbidden (1932.) (Their fifth and final film together, Meet John Doe, followed in 1941.) It is clear that Capra had a deep affection for the young actress, but how much she reciprocated his feelings in less certain. By the time Bitter Tea was made they were both married to other people, and it is tempting to read a poignant subtext into the film’s central theme of forbidden love.  Reducing the film to this would do it a great disservice however. Capra, hoping to obtain his first Oscar, strove for high artistic standards and created a world of opulent oriental glamour, with lush sets gorgeously lit and photographed by cinematographer Joseph Walker, whose specially designed patent lenses captured Barbara’s face in radiant close-up:

Set in China during the civil war of the 1920s, the story is simple enough. Childhood sweethearts Megan Davis (Stanwyck) and Dr Robert ‘Bob’ Strike (Gavin Gordon) are engaged to be married, but haven’t seen each other for three years. Megan belongs to the ‘finest oldest Puritan family in New England’ and the film opens in Shanghai as the American mission community await her arrival, which is to be followed immediately by her wedding. They have barely had time to greet one another before news arrives of endangered orphans in nearby Chapei – and gallant Bob declares the wedding postponed as he dashes off to save the children. Megan accompanies him, but after being ‘roughly handled’ in a crowd she is knocked unconscious and wakes up on a moving troop train in the company of the notorious General Yen, played by Swedish actor Nils Asther in heavy oriental make-up.

The rest of the film follows events in the general’s sumptuous palace over the next few days, a situation that is further complicated by the actions of the general’s concubine Mah-Li (played by Japanese actress Toshia Mori). Neither of the female leads was the first choice – originally, Constance Cummings played the part of Megan with Anna May Wong in the role of Mah-Li. Capra too was a late arrival: despite the fine reputation enjoyed by Herbert Brenon for silent movies such as Peter Pan (1924) and Beau Geste (1926), he couldn’t work well with Columbia executive Harry Cohn and was dropped from the film in June. The poster below shows the original line-up:

The film was based on Grace Zaring Stone’s recently published novel, which – rather like Edith Hull’s The Sheik (1919) that inspired the 1921 Rudolph Valentino movie – explored what might happen when a morally upright white woman is plunged alone into a dangerously exotic eastern setting. There was no suggestion in the book of any sentimental feelings between Megan and the general, but Hollywood must have romance, and this requirement raised the difficult issue of miscegenation which was then still illegal in many American states; it was also one of the  scenarios prohibited by the Motion Picture Production Code. This being the ‘Pre-Code’ era, Capra was able to be more daring – which is not to say that no-one objected, nor that the film (in both content and production) broke free from the inherent racism of the time.

​What is intriguing about Bitter Tea is the way in which it puts forward some provocative and subversive ideas at the same time as reinforcing a number of embarrassing racial stereotypes. Both consciously and unwittingly, the film raises a series of fascinating questions about the clash of civilizations, cultural superiority, racial stereotypes, sexual politics, gender and power.

Over the space of the next few days and nights Megan and Yen engage one another in a battle that is both cultural and personal, spiritual and sexual. While Megan seeks to preach the gospel of forgiveness and mercy to the general, he rises to the challenge and announces that he will ‘convert the missionary’ to his own philosophy. Stanwyck captures the gradual shift in Megan’s attitude, as haughty defiance and courageous pleading give way to doubt about her own beliefs and emotions, and – finally – the revelation of her innermost feelings. It might not rank among her very best roles, but her performance here is curiously overlooked and – arguably – underrated. Megan may be a missionary but she’s no angel, and Stanwyck’s reputation as a strong personality gives her character’s inner conflict a believable depth that might not have been portrayed so effectively by the other actresses considered for the part.

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Not your average Puritan missionary
The reality of this inner conflict is depicted most memorably in a remarkable dream sequence. Megan dozes off in her chair after enjoying a cigarette out on the balcony, where she has been watching soldiers and girls kissing and flirting in the gardens below. The frame dissolves into a montage of superimposed images – the ‘cherry moon’, rippling water – as she drifts into sleep to the sound of soft pipe music. The mood is shattered as a threatening figure smashes down the door and forces his way into her bedroom – it is a diabolical version of Yen, resembling an oriental Nosferatu with pointed ears, fang-like teeth and nails as long as talons.  Just as he forces her down on the bed and runs his hands over her breast, she is rescued by a masked hero in western dress who pulls off his mask to reveal….General Yen. As is the way with dreams, she registers no surprise at the conundrum, but kisses him passionately. It’s an extraordinary sequence, made even more unforgettable by the skewed camera angles and the sight of General Yen floating backwards – an effect achieved by mounting him on a dolly. It’s brilliantly effective, both visually and psychologically, offering a highly expressive insight into Megan’s subconscious desires.

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Chinese whispers
Her wavering between attraction and repulsion hinges, at least partly, on the racial barrier that separates them, and there is no shortage of orientalist stereotypes in the film: China is shown as a place of chaos, sensuality and cruelty, where human life is cheap and everyone conceals their inner selves behind masks of ‘inscrutability.’ Yet western culture is far from idealised. The American missionaries are shown from the outset to have little understanding of, or sympathy with, the Chinese society in which they live. Apart from Megan the most prominent western character is General Yen’s financial adviser Jones (Walter Connolly), a cynical and mercenary individual, a self-confessed ‘renegade’ who is indifferent to killings all around him as long as he makes money for (and from) his employer.

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You might not guess from this poster that Barbara Stanwyck was 5’5″
When General Yen asks Megan if she has ever read Chinese poetry, listened to his culture’s music or studied their painting, her silence proves his point. Jones slyly points out to Megan that the treacherous Mah-Li was raised in a mission school, effectively undermining the value of the work done by the likes of Dr Strike. The ruthlessness of General Yen has its own logic too: in response to Megan’s protest about shooting prisoners for whom they have no food, he asks her ‘Isn’t it better to shoot them quickly than to let them starve slowly?’ ​Sunday School has not prepared her for this. She has no answer. Inch by inch, all certainties about the superiority of her culture and religion are taken away.

​Despite her education and social status, Megan is clearly no match for Yen in theological debate, and indeed the film seems to support his accusation that her fine-sounding words are false. When she urges him to change his mind about Mah-Li she ends with a heartfelt appeal: ‘I promise you, for the first time in your life you’ll know what real happiness is.’ His decision to do what she asks leads instead to his downfall – a result that he accepts with Stoic equanimity. Megan, by contrast, is shown to be totally out of her depth, in a complex world she does not understand; her well-meaning but misguided actions will result in the deaths of those she sought to save.

As a final indictment of Megan’s Christianity, the document that betrays Yen is disguised as a prayer for forgiveness – her ignorance of Chinese script means that she is blind to the true meaning of the words.

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Already dressed in Chinese silk, Megan finds her certainties increasingly undermined
This incident mirrors an earlier one when Bob Strike’s inability to read the same script meant that he believed General Yen’s mocking message was actually a pass guaranteeing safe conduct for him and Megan. There are several such recurring motifs in this carefully-crafted movie, which was filmed in the summer of 1932 and cost around $1 million to make. The Bitter Tea of General Yen was Columbia’s most expensive film to date. The studio was uneasy about its prospects, however, sensing that the taboo subject matter could prove problematic. Its planned opening date of 20 December was postponed until 11 January 1933, when it was screened at the revamped Radio City Music Hall in New York:

This was the first ever movie to play at the vast hall, which had opened as a high class venue for vaudeville entertainment two weeks earlier. Unfortunately this was the at the height (or rather low point) of the Depression, and few could afford the $2.50 tickets. Poor attendances forced the owners to hastily reconstitute the building as a movie picture palace, and for their prestigious re-opening they paid $100,000 to rent Capra’s new film. It was scheduled to run for two weeks, but disappointing box office returns led the owners to pull the picture after  only eight days, leaving them with a loss of over $20,000. Both Stanwyck and Capra later expressed their belief that the film’s poor reception was due to racist attitudes, not just in America but in Britain and other Commonwealth countries. A cursory skim through contemporary reviews suggests they were correct.

​What can the film offer to modern audiences? To be fair, the use of ‘yellowface’ make-up and negative Chinese stereotypes is bound to jar with many contemporary viewers, but hopefully this should not distract from the sincere efforts made to challenge prejudices about the taboo of interracial romance. Despite its mixed messages, there is no denying the visual pleasure to be found in watching The Bitter Tea of General Yen: thanks to the designs of art director Steven Goosson, Joe Walker’s camera work and the costumes of Edward Stevenson and Robert Kalloch, the film looks stunning. Few things in Capra’s later work compare with the beautifully-lit, opulent interiors of General Yen’s palace, the carefully-orchestrated crowd scenes and the feverish expressionism of that erotic dream.  Capra succeeded in making the arty-looking film he wanted, even if it failed to bring him his much-coveted Academy Award. He’d have to wait another two years for that.

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Capra, Asther and Stanwyck on set, summer 1932
As for Stanwyck, well she could make any film worth watching, raising even the most humdrum storyline up by the sheer vitality of her performance, and The Bitter Tea of General Yen gives her a great deal of material to work with.  Her opening scenes are rather weak, perhaps because she couldn’t quite square with the notion of Megan as the girlishly eager young saint the script desired. Once Yen appears onscreen, she grows into character, responding powerfully both to the general’s words and to her own conflicting feelings. Watching her face after she awakes from that dream, it is possible to see her expressions capture successively the subtle, intoxicating ripples of shock, guilt, pleasure and confusion as she remembers what has passed through her mind. Although not as provocative as Babyface, the daring sensuality of Bitter Tea would be impossible to screen after strict enforcement of the Code began the following year.  In more ways than one, the film is a prisoner of its age; but no imprisoned missionary ever looked more radiant or alluring than Barbara Stanwyck does here.
This post is part of the ‘Remembering Barbara Stanwyck blogathon’ and you can find all the other wonderful posts by clicking here.

the Moonrakers

In the summer of 1979 I went to see the latest James Bond movie, for the first time unaccompanied by my parents. They were not at all pleased when I returned home and repeated many of the film’s double entendres with innocent delight, but at the time I thought it was a great film with a catchy title.

Many years passed before I discovered – by chance – that the name Moonraker had not been dreamed up by the film-makers.  The story of a hijacked ‘Moonraker’ space-shuttle capitalised on the renewed interest in science fiction that followed in the wake of Star Wars (1977) – but the original Moonraker story belongs to a period when even the steam engine was in its infancy.  It was also a time when smuggling was rife in England, which provides the context of the story.

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This was the first of Edwards’ series of postcards on county legends. Later ones included a Yorkshire ghost (No.3), ‘Essex calves’ (No.4) and ‘Devonshire Dumplings’ (No.11)
For most people the mention of 18th century smuggling conjures up images of barrels being landed on remote beaches under cover of darkness, secret passages in caves and so on, and it is often forgotten that such contraband then had to be transported long distances overland to be sold in towns and villages throughout the country.
Wiltshire’s location placed it on the route between the coastal landing places of the west country and southern shores, and the lucrative markets in the central counties of England. According to the story, the residents in a village in Wiltshire – Devizes perhaps, although some versions claim it was Bishops Canning – were in possession of barrels of contraband French brandy on a brightly moonlit night when they learned that a customs & excise official was in the vicinity. The barrels were thrown into the village pond, and once the excise man had left, the villagers returned with hay rakes to retrieve them. Unfortunately, the excise man reappeared without warning and spied the men raking the pond. When he asked for an explanation, they replied that they were trying to rake out the large cheese they could see in the water. The customs man, seeing the moon’s reflection on the surface of the pond, laughed at the naive rustics and rode away. Presumably he spread his story far and wide and the ‘moonraker’ nickname became attached to the inhabitants of Wiltshire.
There are, inevitably, other versions of this tale that suggest the villagers really did believe the moon was a cheese, either from ignorance or drunkenness, and the story of the excise man was added on by Wiltshire folk in order to make them look better. If there is any truth in that, it is certainly a poorer tale.
The story was well enough known by 1787 to be included by the antiquarian Francis Grose in his Provincial Glossary ​(London: S. Hooper, 1787):
It has also inspired artists to portray the story on ceramic plates, murals and paintings such as the one below:

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‘The Moonraker’ (1887) by American painter E.J. Rosenberg
It is on the front of postcards, however, that the moonraker legend appears to have found its most popular medium, and I have seen several variant forms at postcard fairs.  This morning I had another rake around the ‘Wiltshire’ section in the postcard boxes of a local antique shop, but to no avail. Any further finds may well be added here in due course!

carte de visite of the week #11 robert graham and the love letter

This week’s cdv is a rather charming portrait of a young lady reading a letter. Her natural pose and slight smile make a pleasant change to the forced artifices found in many portraits, where the sitters appear uncomfortable, are grimacing rigidly, or else are engaged in some pretence such as rowing a boat inside the studio. All portraiture, of course, involves an element of performance, and this was even more the case during the early years of photography. However, a cdv portrait like this could almost be imagined as a candid shot in the corner of someone’s living room. Was this letter a studio prop, or did the girl bring it along with her? Does it have personal significance – a letter from a distant relative, friend or lover? Perhaps the carte-de-visite was made for the person who wrote the letter, and would be posted back to them as an affectionate sign that his/her correspondence was both received and valued.

The reverse of the card identifies the photographer as Robert L. Graham, operating from his studio at the Top end of the Parade (No.6), Leamington, Warwickshire. It probably dates to the 1890s: Graham opened his studio at 7a Upper Parade in 1873, later moving to York Terrace and then to No. 6 Parade, expanding into the next door premises (No.8) as his business flourished.

Graham appears to have been a prolific photographer, making many thousands of images during this period. After his business closed in the 1920s, the store of negatives ended up – no one knows how – in the cellar of a house at 16 Augusta Place, a couple of blocks away from The Parade.  They were forgotten about and the cellar was bricked up, sealing the negatives away for decades. They were only discovered by chance in April 1987 when workmen happened to break through the cellar wall, and found stacks of glass negatives, piled up to five foot high. The total number was estimated at between 40-50,000, but most of them were damaged beyond repair. Thankfully, around 5000 of Robert Graham’s negatives were rescued safely and are now held by the Warwickshire County Record Office. You can read more about this remarkable story here.