BBC, bitch goddess, Buddha's birthday, Buddhism, capital punishment, Ceylon, Colonel Blimp, Connemara, Dublin, Folies Bergere, G.K. Chesterton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, hereditary peers, Horace Walpole, Horse racing, House of Commons, House of Lords, Ireland, Jockey Club of Paris, La Belle Epoque, La Goulue, Life Peers, Lord Henry Seymour, Lord Kilbracken, Moulin Rouge, Santha Rama Rau, Serendib, Serendipity, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, Sweet Aftons, Sybille Bedford, Toulouse-Lautrec, Uncle Matthew, Walter Bagehot, William James, World Heritage Site
Another issue with so many goodies that I’ve split it into two.
Inside an article on the exclusive Jockey Club of Paris is a portfolio of Belle Epoque posters:
Also in this issue:
In ‘The House of Lords’, Sybille Bedford writes about that institution’s history, its then-present, and uncertain future. The main issue about the Lords at that time was ‘the hereditary element’, which ended up being almost completely removed in 1999, leaving the Life Peers:
It is not the very small and active, but very large and dormant, membership that gives concern: the prospect of some hundreds of Colonel Blimps and Uncle Matthews stomping unbidden into Westminster whenever an issue stirs them, sitting in glowering silence through the debate – backwoodsmen never speak – and stubbornly crowding into the ‘No’ lobby.
The failure of the abolition of the death penalty in 1956 was an example of this. But:
G.K. Chesterton once noted that the Lords are really more representative of England than the Commons, for politicians are all more or less of a type while peers vary among themselves as widely as other men.
…[Is] there not something to be said for having in Parliament a proportion of men who admittedly owe their position to chance, but not to favor (birth knows no political debt), who do not have to scramble for nomination and election, who do not have to consult anyone but their own sometimes eccentric selves, who will not have to change with every shifting wind nor please on every television screen? Is the hereditary lottery – under a constitutional rule of law – really so much more hazardous and scaring than the bottomless lottery of the polling booths? Perhaps, to paraphrase Bagehot and someone else, the nobility is of great use, too, in what it prevents. It prevents the rule of ambition, the religion of the bitch-goddess popular success.
There is always time in Ireland. Or, if you prefer, time has no existence. Both statements are true to the point of being interdependent, and only a mere purist would call them contradictory…The black-shawled Connemara woman, making her way to town on a misty winter’s morning, has time to cover the five or six miles on foot, and will think nothing of it, if no neighbour with car or cart is heading her way.
There’s time to talk in Ireland (let no one call it gossip) whenever two or more persons congregate…In an unknown tobacconist’s it would be a breach of good manners to say without preamble: ‘A packet of Aftons.’ A relationship should first be established with the man behind the counter as a fellow member of the human race. A meeting of the eyes, a remark about the weather, a line or two of dialogue; then, almost as an afterthought, ask for cigarettes. The four Dublin cronies on their brickish street corner will give the camera a moment; then they will be back at it hammer and tongs.
Of animals in Ireland, the horse is undoubted king; in no other country, surely, are there more equine experts to the furlong…Horseplayers in the United States are not noted for their acquaintance with the saddle; the great majority, indeed, have never sat on a horse. In Ireland it’s different: every racegoer (it seems) is jockey, trainer, tipster, tout, owner, breeder, stableboy or bookie – or maybe a bit of each. This apprenticeship to the turf starts at a very early age, as these two young gentlemen bear witness. And when the elder has finished marking his card (a serious business) and has appraised the runners through his outsize binoculars, they are likely to go off together to put half a crown on their fancy. And it will very probably win.
Of all the heady and inviting names that have been given to Ceylon in the course of its twenty-five hundred years of history, perhaps the one most in keeping with the island’s reputation for allure is the old Arab name Serendib. Indeed, so pleasing was the name and the promise it held, that Horace Walpole evolved from it the word ‘serendipity,’ which came to mean a faculty for making delightful chance discoveries. This air of happy surprise fills so many of the accounts of Ceylon left by travelers through the centuries that all the various names and sobriquets given to it carry some feeling of its unfamiliar marvels, and in themselves chart the island’s exotic and diverse history.
Included are pictures of the hilltop fortress of Sigiriya, now a World Heritage Site: