As local readers of this blog may remember, Pitzhanger Manor was for many years also the Ealing Library. This caused some consternation in the Archives, having to share our space with less forms of literature, and sometimes having our first editions leant out to any old rates payer with a library card and string bag. Some of our precious collections of verse came back with most trite and spidery marginalia: from correcting the spelling of Blake’s The Tyiger to answering Browning’s eternal question …or what’s a heaven for ? with the answer “Bingo nights and harp repairs”.
Tonight’s workshop was quite unblemished with such matters: Daphne Gloag addressed a peon to Time that needed no footnotes, and Marilyn Keenan imagined loneliness in the arms of an uncaring man with, with a few corrections all her own. This was followed by interrupting thoughts from Gillian Spragg which might well elicit a few lightly-pressed graphite ticks of agreement, and Alan Chambers’ quality time spent with a blackbird may well encourage a later reader to provide the score. As ever, Peter Francis had an ear for the mythical atop Mercian hills that would only be diminished by indignant HB question marks, and a pencil pedant would surely have taken Martin Choules to task for his metaphysical musings on consciousness.
The worst incident to befall the group was one Tuesday in late 1910 when Rudyard Kipling was in attendance. He had neglected to bring a poem, but remembered he had recently gifted us a copy of his newly-published Rewards and Fairies. Could he borrow it back a little while to read from ? Naturally, the duty archivist was summoned to source the tome, but alas he neglected to first apply a rubber to the pages, much to Kipling’s horror. The Way Through the Woods was critiqued by a drawing of some male genitalia, Cold Iron had every ‘o’ filled in, A St Helena Lullaby has a declarative “wrong!” after each verse and ends with “if anyone actually enjoys this rot, then you’re a better man than I, Gunga Din!”. Most egregious of all was the anonymous scribbler who noted beside If— that “I have developed a truly marvellous rebuttal of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.”