Sunday, 30 September 2012

Putney Heath Telegraph

"If you'll only just promise you'll none of you laugh
I'll be after explaining the French telegraph!
A machine that's endowed with such wonderful pow'r
It writes, reads and sends news 50 miles in an hour.
Then there's watchwords, a spy-glass, an index on hand
And many things more that none of us understand,
But which, like the nose on your face, will be clear
When we have as usual improved on them here.

Adieu, penny posts!  mails and coaches, Adieu!
Your Occupation's gone,  'tis all over wid you.
In your place telegraphs on our houses we'll view
To tell time, conduct lightning, dry shirts and send news."

(from Charles Dibdin's Production, Great News or a Trip to the Antipodes c. 1794)

The Romance of the Putney Heath Telegraph  John Skelley

Saturday, 29 September 2012

'Place Pigalle' - at the LSE

"Allan Kingsbury, Entertainments Officer ... plotted a coup in the Michaelmas Term of 1949, a coup which he called a 'Smoking Concert',  and because I drew funny cartoons, he assumed I could write funny material.  It just so happened that from the age of 16, with a guitar bought for me by my mother, who encouraged everything I ever did, I had been composing awful tunes.  And in cahoots with an old friend, Maurice Bentley, I had moved on to writing parochial point numbers on the sexual proclivities of the Grange Park bourgeoisie.  So I submitted a few ideas.   Allan decided I should perform in them, and I cannot remember my reaction to that at all. Except perhaps, fear?  But somehow it all went ahead.  The smoking concert grew into a full scale revue, and I suggested it be called 'Place Pigalle', because that summer I had made my first trip to Paris and had still to recover from the breathless excitement, the vibrant magic, of my introduction to Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, and Pigalle!  I had made a vow that one day I would grow a beard, go back to Montmartre, and paint -- for the time being I stayed clean-shaven, and daubed the scenery for the show.

I was, of course, quite mad!  With nine months to go before Finals, I plunged impetuously into the all the time-consuming, life-involving, wildly fascinating activities that go into putting on a show.   John Hutchinson and Len Freedman were to do their brilliant double act at the piano; Al Bermel, then Editor of CMR was to write and perform; Cyril Wiseman, a law student who should have been a concert pianist, was to compose and accompany; and Bernard Levin was to impersonate Harold Laski and compere.  I first met Levin one evening, as he was walking ahead of me towards Holborn station.  I caught him up and said, for no reason whatsoever: 'Did you know that Finsbury Park, spelt backwards, is Y-RUB-SNIF-KRAP?  He pointed out that KRAP-Y-RUB-SNIF might be more accurate, and I had found a fellow lunatic."

Ron Moody, in My LSE  edited Joan Abse

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Third Programme

"I was somewhat amused when I picked up the Radio Times this morning and saw that the BBC had christened the new programme the 'Third Programme'.  Apparently the BBC is afraid of the word 'Cultutral' and neither 'Serious' nor ' Heavy' appealed.  It is curious how English people are afraid of being serious, and how culture is regarded as somewhat priggish.  The 'Third Programme' is a title which is certainly safe, but very colourless."
George Taylor,  26th September 1946  Mass Observation diary.

Our Hidden Lives:  the Remarkable Diaries of Post-War Britain  Simon Garfield

Breaking the Butterfly

"I had marvelled up till then at the linguistic range of the average dramatic author who at a moment's notice 'adapts' you from the Russian, or the Scandinavian, or any other language that you choose.  I did not then know very much German and had to confess it.
 'That'll be all right,' said Daly.  'I'll send you the literal translation.'
 For translations, a shilling a folio used to be the price generally paid to the harmless necessary alien.

Somewhat against my conscience, I consented to bowdlerise Sudermann's play so as not to offend Mrs. Grundy, who then ruled the English and American stage.  Poor lady!  She must have done quite a lot of turning in her grave since then.  Jones went further when he adapted Ibsen's Doll's House.  In the last act Helmer took the forgery upon himself,  and the curtain went down on Nora flinging herself into his arms with the cry of 'Husband';  and the band played 'Charlie is my Darling'.  That was the first introduction of Ibsen to the British public.  'A charming author', was the verdict first passed on Ibsen in London."


My Life and Times  Jerome K. Jerome

Note: This English adaptation of A Doll's House was first performed in March 1884 as "Breaking the Butterfly".


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Word and picture


THE FILM AS A NEW ART FORM

"Paul Rotha (The Film till Now)  says 'Dialogue, by very  reason of its realism, represents real time and not the filmic time of the visual image.'


Arnheim's solution was a perceptive one:  'Sound film -- at any rate real sound film -- is not a verbal masterpiece supplemented by pictures, but a homogenous creation of word and picture which cannot be split up into parts that have any meaning separately.'  (Film)


This is the reason why Shakespeare and Shaw, undiluted and unaltered, cannot become more than hundred-per-cent talkies.  Admittedly, you can see the people talking more clearly, but it is a doubtful advantage since the lines were written to be projected orally over a distance, and the broad eloquent phrasing of great drama is lost in the overpowering visual presence of the actor.  Many situations in a Shakespeare play, on the other hand, would make excellent cinema (Lear driven out on to the heath by Fritz Lang, the riots in Rome by Eisenstein, the murder of Duncan by Hitchcock), but Shakespeare's words would be cut to nothing and his rhythms lost among visual silences or natural sounds."

Film  Roger Manvell

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Byland Abbey

"27 April.   R. and I drive over to Rievaulx, where they are to video the titles of Irwin's TV history series,  Heroes or Villains?, in the sequence which opens the second act of the play.  En route we stop and have our sandwiches at Byland, where we are the only visitors this cold and cloudy morning.  As an abbey it's always more peaceful because less dramatically situated than either Rievaulx or Fountains, on a flat and boggy plain backed by woods and often quite hard to find.  A notable feature is an alleyway of reading carrels backing the cloister, together with many surviving stretches of medieval tiled floor, but much the most numinous object is a green earthenware inkwell found in the chapterhouse during excavations and now in the abbey museum;  it was presumably used, possibly for the last time, to sign the deed of surrender handing the abbey over to Henry VIII's commissioners."

Untold Stories  (Diaries 1996-2004)  Alan Bennett

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Galena (PbS)

"The Romans' name for lead was 'plumbum' and the artificers who worked in this metal were called 'plumbarii';  some Roman plumbers were women, so perhaps the term 'plumber's mate' had an even more appropriate meaning than it has today.

A property which makes lead easy to work is its low melting point (327 degrees C.).  Molten lead can be cast into shapes from Buddhas to bullets, and its ease of casting is one of the reasons why lead has for centuries been associated with the manufacture of printers' type metal; for example, this book has been printed using an alloy containing 74 per cent lead, 16 per cent antimony, and 10 per cent tin.

The combination of weakness and ease of melting made the ancients regard lead as the least noble of metals, and it will be remembered that in The Merchant of Venice the casket chosen by Bassanio was of 'base' lead."

Metals in the Service of Man  W. Alexander and A. Street

Monday, 24 September 2012

"Unprejudiced"


                                                                                              " 14 East 95th St.
                                                                                                New York City

                                                                                                MAY 11, 1952



Dear Frank:
Meant to write to you the day the Angler arrived, just to thank you, the woodcuts alone are worth ten times the price of the book,  what a weird world we live in when so beautiful a thing can be owned for life -- for the price of a ticket to a Broadway movie palace, or 1/50th the cost of having one tooth capped.

Well, if your books cost what they're worth I couldn't afford them!

You'll be fascinated to learn ( from me that hates novels) that I finally got round to Jane Austen and went out of my mind over Pride & Prejudice which I can't bring myself to take back to the library till you find me a copy of my own.

Regards to Nora and the wage-slaves.  

HH"

84 Charing Cross Road  Helene Hanff

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Women and Fiction

"The scene, if I may ask you to follow me, was now changed.  The leaves were still falling, but in London now, not Oxbridge; and I must ask you to imagine a room, like many thousands, with a window looking across people's hats and vans and motor-cars to other windows, and on the table inside the room a blank sheet of paper on which was written in large letters WOMEN AND FICTION, but no more. The inevitable sequel to lunching and dining at Oxbridge seemed, unfortunately, to be a visit to the British Museum.  One must strain off what was personal and accidental in all these impressions and so reach the pure fluid, the essential oil of truth.  For that visit to Oxbridge and the luncheon and the dinner had started a swarm of questions.  Why did men drink wine and women water? Why was one sex so prosperous and the other so poor? What effect has poverty on fiction?  What conditions are necessary for the creation of works of art? -- a thousand questions at once suggested themselves.  But one needed answers, not questions; and an answer was only to be had by consulting the learned and the unprejudiced, who have removed themselves above the strife of tongue and the confusion of the body and issued the result of their reasoning and research in books which are to be found in the British Museum.  If truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where, I asked myself, picking up a notebook and a pencil, is truth?"

A Room of One's Own  Virginia Woolf

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cinderellas

"Elsie read better than Philip, though she had the same stunted and truncated education.  She picked up books at Purchase Hall and tried to make sense of them,  She recognised well enough the hunger for something more than housework, of which Marian Oakeshott spoke.  She was thinking much faster than usual, and reflected sardonically that those hungry-minded women, those frustrated female thinkers, of whom Marian Oakeshott spoke, would always need her, Elsie, or someone like her, to carry coals and chop meat and mend clothing and do laundry, or they wouldn't keep alive.  Someone in the scullery, carrying out the ashes.  And if one got out of the scullery, like a disguised princess in a fairytale, there always had to be another, another scullery-maid, to take her place.

Nevertheless, she would like to get out."

The Children's Book  A. S. Byatt

Friday, 21 September 2012

A Devon Motto


Early Aller Vale mottoware, c. 1885-1900 (also Longpark)

"The journey's long from A to Z
And puzzles many a curly head,
But leads to books, Red, Green or Blue,
Which brings the fairy land in view."

Torquay Mottowares  Torquay Pottery Collectors' Society

(P.S. "May you never find a mouse in your cupboard, With tears in its eyes.")

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Lorelei improves her mind

 "April 1st:

I am taking special pains with my diary from now on as I am really writing it for Gerry.  I mean he and I are going to read it together some evening in front of the fireplace.  But Gerry leaves this evening for Boston as he has to lecture all about his works at Boston, but he will rush right back as soon as possible.  So I am going to spend all my time improving myself while he is gone.  And this afternoon we are both going to a museum on 5th Avenue, because Gerry wants to show me a very very beautiful cup made by an antique jeweler called Mr. Cellini and he wants me to read Mr. Cellini's life which is a very very fine book and not dull while he is in Boston.

So the famous playwright friend of mine who is called Sam called up this morning and he wanted me to go to a literary party tonight that he and some other literary gentlemen are giving to Florence Mills in Harlem but Gerry does not want me to go with Sam as Sam always insists on telling riskay stories....

...So I am going to stay home and read the book by Mr. Cellini instead, because, after all, the only thing I am really interested in, is improving my mind.  So I am going to do nothing else but improve my mind while Gerry is in Boston...

April 2nd:

I seem to be quite depressed this morning as I always am when then is nothing to put my mind to. Because I decided not  to read the book by Mr. Cellini.  I mean it was quite amusing in spots because it was really quite riskay but the spots were not so close together and I never seem to like to always be hunting clear through a book for the the spots I am looking for, especially when there are really not so many spots that seem to be so amuseing after all.  So I did not waste my time on it but this morning I told Lulu to let all of the housework go and spend the day reading a book entitled "Lord Jim" and then tell me all about it, so that I would improve my mind while Gerry is away...


Well I just got a telegram from Gerry that he will not be back until tomorrow and also some orchids from Willie Gwynn, so I may as well go to the theatre with Willie tonight to keep from getting depressed and he really is a sweet boy after all.  And it is quite depressing to stay at home and do nothing but read, unless you really have a book that is worth bothering about."

"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"  The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady
Anita Loos

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

School books

"As for the few textbooks  that the class possessed, you could hardly look at them without feeling as though you had stepped back into the mid-nineteenth century.  There were only three textbooks of which each child had a copy.  One was a shilling arithmetic,  pre-War but fairly serviceable, and another was a horrid little book called The Hundred Page History of Britain --a nasty little duodecimo book with a gritty brown cover, and, for frontispiece, a portrait of Boadicea with a Union Jack draped over the front of her chariot.....

The date of the book was 1888.   Dorothy, who had never seen a history book of this description before, examined it with a feeling approaching horror.  There was also an extraordinary little 'reader' dated 1863.  It consisted mostly of bits out of Fenimore Cooper, Dr. Watts and Lord Tennyson, and at the end there were the queerest little 'Nature Notes' with woodcut illustrations.  There would be a woodcut of an elephant and underneath in small print: 'The Elephant is a sagacious beast.  He rejoices in the shade of the Palm Trees, and though stronger than six horses he will allow a little child to lead him.  His food is Bananas.'  And so on to the Whale, the Zebra, the Porcupine and the Spotted Camelopard."

A Clergyman's Daughter  George Orwell

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Printer's Devils

"BOOKS

Smells of Steaks in Passageways.  I like this poem considerably.  I've got into the habit of wandering round the passageways off Fleet Street and Farringdon Road when the office sends me out on a job.  I like looking down into the basements and seeing a printer's devil like myself drinking a cup of orange coloured tea.  The old men with their red noses and greasy bowler hats look as if they were made of something other than flesh and blood  -- brown paper and melted down string, I should think."

A Boy at the Hogarth Press  Richard Kennedy

Monday, 17 September 2012

Dr. Johnson's House

"Mrs Rowell ...then unfolded a chapter in the history of Gough Square that would have startled Boswell and the Doctor.  She was living there as a caretaker...   On December 29, 1940, when the bombs began to fall, an oil-drum from a neighbouring printer's-ink factory was hurled through the air and lodged itself on the roof.  No one had any time to think how appropriate it was, or how ironic, if you like, that a printer's-ink factory might have been the means of destroying the house of Dr. Johnson, for the roof-beams were crackling and blazing and the tiles were falling into the room below.  This fire was put out by the firemen and the caretakers, and in the morning it was seen that the beams, though charred, were still sound.  The house was in grave peril on five subsequent occasions.  It was, of course, closed to the public,  and,  as the Blitz developed,  it became a rendezvous for the Auxiliary Fire Service.  How Dr. Johnson, that irrepressible clubman,  would have loved that!  It is almost too perfect to be true.

...If ever the ghost of old Sam Johnson came back to London, it must surely have been during this time, though oddly enough, no fireman is reported to have encountered a bulky figure on the stairs, or to have been addressed as 'sir' by someone who offered to relieve him at his post."

In Search of London  H.V. Morton

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A Conflagration of Books

"It was astonishing to see what imense stones the heat had in a matter Calcin'd, so as all the ornaments, Columns, freezes, Capitels & proje(c)tures of massie Portland stone flew off, even to the very roofe, where a Sheete of Leade covering no lesse than 6 akers by measure, being totaly mealted, the ruines of the Vaulted roofe, falling brake into St. Faithes, which being filled with the magazines of bookes, belonging to the Stationer(s), & carried thither for safty, they were all consumed burning for a week following: "


7 September 1666
Diary of John Evelyn  edited E. S. De Beer

Thursday, 13 September 2012

(101) Uses for dead books





"No furniture so charming as books."
Memoir  Rev. Sydney Smith   (on Lady Holland)

"Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life."
An Apology for Idlers  Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The blank symbol

'"It may be that a writer's attitude to books is always ambivalent, for one of the reasons one writes is that all existing books are somehow unsatisfactory, but it's certainly difficult to think of a better symbol of civilisation.  Of course the symbol changes: the fine book, its materials, its craftsmanship, its design, was eloquent of  a civilisation founded on means,  leisure and taste;  today the symbol is the paperback, hurled in hundreds of thousands against the undeveloped areas (Asia, Africa, the young), spreading what we think is best in our thought and imagination.  If our values are to maintain a place in the world, these are the troops that will win it for them, but victory is not a foregone conclusion.  And what is won abroad may all too easily be lost at home.  Perhaps George Orwell best used the book-as-symbol in a way satisfactory to both sides: you remember how in 1984 he made his hero, Winston Smith, treasure a book that he had acquired from 'a frowsy little junk shop';  it was, Orwell tells us, 'a peculiarly beautiful book' in paper and binding alike.  Only, the pages were blank.  For a writer, the image is a powerful one: the books the past has given us, the books in which the bookseller deals, are printed; they are magnificent, but they are finite.  Only the blank book, the manuscript book, may be the book we shall give the future.  Its potentialities are endless."

'Books'  Foreword to the Antiquarian Book Fair programme, 1972
Required Writing   Miscellaneous pieces 1955-1982   Philip Larkin

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Areopagitica -- in defence of beleaguered truth

"Behold now this vast city: a city of refuge, the mansion house of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with his protection; the shop of war hath not there more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing,  searching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching Reformation: others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement.  What could a man require more from a nation so pliant and so prone to seek after knowledge?  What wants there to such a towardly and pregnant soil, but wise and faithful labourers, to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies?  We reckon more than five months yet to harvest;  there need not be five weeks;  had we but eyes to lift up, the fields are white already."

Areopagitica: a speech of Mr John Milton for the liberty of the unlicenc'd printing, to the Parliament of England 
John Milton, 1644

Monday, 10 September 2012

bocstafas

"Liberal of song, they travel in groups, they sing loudly."
Exeter Book Riddle 57
(translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Patrick J. Murphy)

"We are little airy creatures,
All of different Voice and Features.
One of us in Glass is set,
One of us you'll find in Jet,
T'other you may see in Tin,
And the fourth a Box within,
If the fifth you should pursue,
It can never fly from you."

Miscellanies  Jonathan Swift.

Sourced from Unriddling the Exeter Riddles by Patrick J. Murphy

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A greedy Alphabet

 "To the enjoyment of the pictures, appreciation of the text was soon added, as thanks to the brilliant educational methods of my mother I learned to read at a very tender age.  Her system, simple as it was effective, was based on a chocolate alphabet.  This was spread out twice a week on the dining-room table and such letters as I recognised I was allowed to eat; later, when my knowledge of this alphabet was faultless, I was entitled to such letters as I could form into a new word.   Although never strong in arithmetic I soon grasped the simple fact that the longer the word the more the chocolate, and by the time I could spell 'suffragette' without an error this branch of my education was deemed complete and a tendency to biliousness had become increasingly apparent.

Once  my ability was firmly established I read everything on which I could lay my hands,  from The Times leaders to the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer."

All Done from Memory  Osbert Lancaster

Saturday, 8 September 2012

An Icelandic ABC

"As is known, the ability to read and write was almost as common in Iceland before the days of printing as it has been since;  and actually I think that my grandmother was closer to the people who lived before the days of Caxton.  Spelling books were never used in Iceland.  My grandmother said she learned to recognise the letters of the alphabet from an old man who scratched them for her on the ice when she had to watch over sheep during the winter.  She learned writing from an old woman by making letters with a knitting needle on a piece of smoky glass; they used to tinker with this unobtrusively in the evening sometimes, by moonlight."

The Fish Can Sing   Halldor Laxness
translated by Magnus Magnusson

Friday, 7 September 2012

Bibles in Iceland

"It is too well-known to need mentioning that according to an ancient Icelandic price-scale, the cost of a Bible is equivalent to that of a cow -- and that means an early-calving cow, or else six well-fleeced lambing ewes.  This price is written on the title page of the Bible edition that was printed in a remote mountain valley in northern Iceland in 1584, and as is known, Icelanders have never believed in any other Bible but this one;  it was printed with tasteful vignettes and decorative woodcuts and weighs five pounds, and is very  like a raisin-box in shape.  This volume has always been available in the better churches in Iceland."

The Fish Can Sing  Halldor Laxness
 translated by Magnus Magnusson

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Eric Ravilious blocks






"The blockmaker was Mr Stanley Lawrence of Red Lion Court, and without his firm T. N. Lawrence, the only one to survive from the heyday of commercial wood engraving in the Victorian era, the revival of wood engraving could never have taken place.  All the members of the Society of Wood Engravers found their way up the narrow stairs to Lawrence's old-fashioned office to buy beautiful box-wood blocks cut to the size they asked for,  as well as the inks, rollers, tools and Japanese papers they needed.

In their prospectus for 1931, the Golden Cockerel Press announced their books for the year.  At the head of the list comes 'Twelfth Night, or What you Will,  by William  Shakespeare', described as 'decorated by Eric Ravilious,' ...."

Eric Ravilious:  Memoir of an Artist   Helen Binyon  

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Somerset House Conference

The Somerset House Conference, 1604
from children's exercises in creative writing:

"We all sat round the table on that baking hot September afternoon.  All ten of us, all brothers, and our prim and proper father.  Why we had to sit there in our big heavy coats I don't know.  But our father made us.  Of course he took his off to reveal his cool white and blue silk shirt.  We were there because we had been naughty.  Benjamin and his lot had put graffiti on the new painting in the drawing room.  And on top of that all ten of us had performed our pop group 'Oldies' on Sunday, strictly forbidden.  Dad found out and so we all had to study the Bible in the summer hols, to learn about the Ten Commandments and the sabbath. But I didn't mind because 'Oldies' our pop group had a booking that evening at the local disco."

from A Teachers' Guide to Using Portraits   Susan Morris
Copyright English Heritage




The Somerset House Conference
by  Unknown artist
oil on canvas, 1604     NPG 665
Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

An Engraver's tailpiece

"It was here at No. 31 [Kensington Square], that I discovered Bewick, one afternoon while Aunt Etty was having her rest.  I remember lying on the sofa between the dining room windows with the peacock blue serge curtains, and wishing passionately that I could have been Mrs. Bewick.  Of course, I should have liked still more to be Mrs. Rembrandt, but that seemed too tremendous even to imagine; whereas it did not seem impossibly outrageous to think of myself as Mrs. Bewick.  She was English enough, and homely enough, anyhow. Surely, I thought, if I cooked his roast beef beautifully and mended his clothes and minded the children -- surely he would, just sometimes, let me draw and engrave a little tailpiece for him.  Only just to be allowed to invent a little picture sometimes.  Oh happy, happy Mrs. Bewick! thought I, as I kicked my heels on the blue sofa."

Period Piece  Gwen Raverat

Monday, 3 September 2012

Tulips and peacocks


"The tulip is a peacock among flowers:
 one has no scent, the other has no song;
the one glories in its gown, the other in its train."

From the French.


"A Peacock once placed a petition before Juno desiring to have the voice of a nightingale in addition to his other attractions; but Juno refused his request.
When he persisted, and pointed out that he was her favourite bird, she said:
'Be content with your lot; one cannot be first in everything.'  "

Fables of Aesop, edited by Joseph Jacobs.


"See how the Flow'rs, as at Parade,
Under their Colours stand displayed:
Each Regiment in order grows,
That of the Tulip Pinke and Rose."

Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax
Andrew Marvell

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A graver dress

"When evening comes, I return home and go to my study.  On the threshold I strip off my muddy sweaty workaday clothes and put on the robes of court and palace,  and in this graver dress, I enter the antique courts of the ancients, and am welcomed by them."

Machiavelli c. 1560

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Young Giotto's pigs

" 'Nothing like pigs for significant form, Bob, '  interrupted a small man who had banged the door of an ancient car and come from the road to join us.  Though I did not recognise him at first, there was something familiar about the untidy twist of his necktie and the eager eyes that looked out from under two unkempt shocks of hair.  'Haven't seen you in twenty years,'  he said to me. 'Only heard last week that you were hereabouts.'

'Near fifty years since  the Slade,'  I said at a guess.
'More than forty, anyway,'  he said.

I knew who he was then -- Giotto Junior, as we used to call him because of his obsession with the early Florentine artists and because of the intensity of his own religious paintings.

'Pigs, I could draw them all day long,' he said, 'but they're awkward in a studio.'

Though I had followed his work through the years, I had never known him put pencil to pig.  Saints and angels and humans in mystic communion: allegories, they were his line, at times difficult to comprehend but always combining  a richness of form with minute and loving detail.

As he walked ahead of me towards the cottage I noticed that his shiny blue serge trousers had a slit across their seat, and through it was hanging a wide flap of linen shirt immaculately white.  I said nothing, but when two days later he paid his return visit I saw that the rent had been mended by a rectangular patch of mustard red tweed which spread from side to side of his behind.

'Why, Giotto,' I said, 'What's happened to you? You're all poshed up.'
'Oh yes, I know,'  he said wearily.  'But I'm going to a reception.'

Giotto was the master draughtsman among the students of our generation at the Slade.  Form and its interpretation obsessed him:...  Clean, cold, unrelenting drawing with a hard pencil was the order [at the Slade]:  no 'sketching,' none of the charcoal don't-give-yourself-away school: and Giotto, though physically the smallest student in the class, was with pencil in hand the biggest man among us."

Till I end my Song  Robert Gibbings