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19th February 2024
Navalny’s murder makes it difficult to concentrate on anything else for in our small way we are also ‘absolutely broken’ (cf the excellent Carole Cadwalladr here). And if there is even one person reading this letter who has not seen the Navalny documentary, please watch it now (for a mere £4 on Curzon here). He was a great man, a heroic figure, and his death is a tragedy for the world.
But then the world is full of tragedy at the moment. Rafah is particularly on our minds. However, could there be a glimmer of hope that Trump might be stopped from standing as president? Could the two by-election triumphs mean that the Labour Party will win the next election? Could things very very slowly begin to turn round? It doesn’t seem madly likely but one must have hope.
And please, please if you haven't already done so watch Max Porter at the PalFest on the weapons industry. If this didn't exist we wouldn't have wars. This sounds simplistic. Well, watch Max and you'll see that it may sound child-like but it's the horrible truth.
Meanwhile, Mrs Lincoln, our little lives go on as normal. Well, it’s been half term and several people have been away (for example Fran did a mini tour of Yorkshire bookshops) leaving the rest of us to cope as best we could and trying not to leave too many problems for her and Jess when they return on Monday (‘there’s damp in the basement and two boxes of Still Missing are ruined; the council won’t allow us to keep the bench and the Anglepoise lamp – first designed in Bath – in the hall any longer; the bookmark room is in chaos and needs a good tidy’).
Also, as every February, it’s royalty statement time, when we do the most ghastly mathematical calculations and then pay out about £30k to all the copyright holders. The majority of our books are in copyright, however if the author died more than 70 years ago they are PD – public domain – ie out of copyright; every year one or two farewells are said, this year to Duff Cooper, who died in 1953, meaning we don’t have to do a royalty statement for Operation Heartbreak any more. In fact it was the book we discussed at the book group this week, when we were delighted to welcome two Persephone readers from Canada, who had not only planned their visit to Bath round the book group but had read the book and made extremely insightful comments. We were so pleased to see them.
So what is ‘normal’ in Bath? Well, it’s being in the shop. It’s going to the odd film or concert and btw, we now have an hour-long concert in the upstairs room on the second Thursday of the month at 7; the music is ‘salon’, shorthand for melodic, mostly C19th, often by women composers, please do try and come as the delightful young musicians need our support and it really is rather a magical event, tickets are £15 and include a glass of champagne. ‘Normal’ also involves the library, other bookshops, the occasional lunch at our favourite Landrace Upstairs (with a cinnamon bun from its bakery to take back to the shop for tea), the new and excellent dog groomer in Broad Street called Daphne’s (well the office dog loves it), something good on telly (although nothing has yet matched the fabulous Lessons in Chemistry), all in all life in Bath is pretty hassle-free. We miss Bloomsbury of course, but that was another country…
Then on February 1st we stayed late in the office to be there when the Persephone Festival website went live at 7pm and to see if people would buy tickets. Well, they did! And we had the completely unanticipated fun of seeing some events sell out, including ‘Wild for Whipple’ in under five minutes. But about a third of the events still have availability, particularly those on the Friday morning and the Sunday afternoon, and coming to even one will allow you to have all the fun of the festival – a free book bag, tea and cake in our pop-up café, a chance to meet other Persephone readers, a fun day in Bath.
Another ‘normal’ thing is going to exhibitions, at the moment the Gwen John at the Holburne (sponsored by Persephone Books)
and the Ladybird books at the Victoria Art Gallery.
In ten days, in Oxford, an exhibition will open called Write, Cut, Rewrite, which is about the art of editing (‘art’ is an interesting word; maybe there will be a psychotherapist on standby for those in need of therapy because in the past they have suffered from the ghastly depredations of an ‘editor’ and have never really got over it.) And at Newnham College, Cambridge, from March 11th onwards, there will be an exhibition called ‘Newnham and Bletchley Park’, which traces the history of the seventy women from Newnham who worked at Bletchley during World War Two. For those who can't get there, this will of course feature on the Persephone Post. Also, we are naturally thrilled that our favourite Harold Harvey is having a whole exhibition devoted to him at the Penlee in Penzance in May:
‘Girls Outside the Gaiety Cinema, Newlyn’ 1925 was in fact owned for many years by a great supporter of Persephone Books, Jessica Mann (who, curiously, looked a great deal like the girl on the left when she was young). Also, another thrill, a Tirzah Garwood exhibition opens at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in November. Here, because one can't see it too often, is the marvellous portrait of her painted by Duffy Ayers.
The new names for the London Overground lines – Lioness, Mildmay, Windrush, Weaver, Suffragette and Liberty – are fun though personally we don’t like Suffragette and would have preferred Pankhurst or Fawcett or Davison: but presumably they had their reasons.
It’s now been a month since we saw You are What You Eat on Netflix and gave up meat and fish. We don’t feel different, only a bit smug. But who knew that apparently methane percentages are as follows: twenty per cent decomposing waste, forty per cent fossil fuels and forty per cent cattle and paddy fields. Now this last is frightful for those of us who have always assumed that vegetables and rice were a non-planet-harming supper. (Btw, go to the excellent Feasting at Home website if stuck for plant-based recipes.)
Embarrassingly, we have been in Bath for nearly three years and have only just remembered (because, to be fair, we first published the book twenty years ago) that Consider the Years has a poem in it called – 'Bath', written by Virginia Graham, in 1942. 'The lovely balconies and the big wide windows/the broad curving sweep of the roadway from end to end/will remind me that whatever I say, and I say a great deal/ this is what I am fighting to defend.'
A rather wonderful 1785 portrait of a young man (Patrick Moir) reading has just been acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland. It’s by Henry Raeburn.
What a marvellous photograph of Queen Camilla and a galaxy of actor dames! Details here.
Btw, the FT revealed that Camilla loves Elizabeth Jane Howard. Ergo she would love Dorothy Whipple. Does anyone know her or someone in her entourage so we could send one, or six, of the novels, without feeling that in fact they would never reach her?
Coming up: a play by Sue Curtis, with music by Jules Scott, about Regency Theatre and Grimaldi called Slapstick, details here, and before that, on March 20th in our upstairs room at 7, Sue Curtis will be giving a talk about the play, admission free.
Sandrine Bergès has written an excellent paper called 'Barbie in Herland' comparing Barbie to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, here.
And we have just read Alastair Sawdays’s excellent memoir Travelling Light. Really, why would anyone rent a cottage or go to a B and B without first consulting one of his volumes? They wouldn’t.
Lastly, we leave you with Edward Luce in the Financial Times quoting Mark Twain: 'Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.' Wouldn't this look splendid on a Sussex Lustreware jug?
8 Edgar Buildings, Bath