Bob Forrest has found some new information about the memorial plaques put up to mark Edward FitzGerald’s residence at various locations. Many of us know the one on Kings Parade in Cambridge, but there is more to tell. We certainly did not know even that the Cambridge plaque was designed by the famous artist Frank Brangwyn. Here is what Bob Forrest says.
Charles Ganz, in his Introduction to the Golden Cockerel Press edition of The Rubaiyat, illustrated by John Buckland-Wright and published in 1938, wrote:
A medallion tablet, subscribed for by lovers of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat, designed by Frank Brangwyn, R.A., and sculptured by Arthur Cribb, of Ditchling, Sussex, in Clipsham Stone, quarried in Rutlandshire, commemorates that FitzGerald lodged at 19 King’s Parade, Cambridge, from 1826-30. (p.10)
A little later, Ganz adds: A replica of the plaque, with the date of E.FG’s birth has been placed on Bredfield House, Woodbridge.
As many readers of this will know, the Cambridge plaque is still in place (Fig.1 above), but, alas, Bredfield House was demolished in 1950, and whether or not its plaque was rescued by anyone before the demolition is unknown.
However, in the Heron-Allen collection at the London Library there is a postcard bearing a picture of it (Fig.2 below), so we do know what it looked like. The postcard, incidentally, is addressed to Heron-Allen at his Large Acres address in Selsey, West Sussex, and is post-marked 19th June 1938. Also in the collection is another postcard, unaddressed, relating to the Cambridge plaque (Fig.3 below) This tells us that it was unveiled on October 23rd , and was clearly used as an invitation to the unveiling.
In order to commemorate Edward FitzGerald, it is proposed to place a Memorial Plaque upon the wall of No.19 King’s Parade, Cambridge, where he lodged as an Undergraduate of Cambridge University from 1826 to 1830.
The authorities of King’s College, and the tenant of the above address, have granted permission, and Mr Frank Brangwyn, R.A., has generously presented the design for the Memorial.
In order to meet the necessary expenses an Edward FitzGerald Memorial Fund has been opened at Messrs. Braclays (Barclays Bank, Cambridge) who will acknowledge any donations.
The leaflet, dated June 14th 1937, is signed by Ganz in his capacity as Hon. Sec. of the Memorial Fund, and its list of patrons, headed by the then poet laureate, John Masefield, includes, alongside the already mentioned Frank Brangwyn, Sir E. Denison Ross, Edward Heron-Allen, Eben F. Thompson and one “Alfred McK Treherne (Syracuse University)”.
Does anyone know more about the current location of the Bredfield House plaque? We also wonder whether the last patron mentioned was actually Alfred McK Terhune, FitzGerald’s biographer and editor of his letters?
In an earlier post, Bob Forrest summarised some results of his recent investigations into the very unusual book Life’s Echoes by ‘Tis True! published in 1926 by Col. R.J.R. Brown: see https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/col-r-j-r-brown-and-lifes-echoes-by-tis-true/. Bob has now published a much fuller version of his research results on his own website. Readers can find this via the following link: http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/Appendices/app25/app25.htm
Bob has done an amazing job in digging up much previously unknown information about the author and his creation. He also gives a detailed guide to a very confusing and provocative book. It is well worth taking a look. Thank you Bob for sharing this work with us all.
Warren Jones has sent us a couple of interesting queries about interpreting the meaning of various quatrains of the Rubaiyat, particularly as presented in FitzGerald’s version. His query has two parts, the first relating to general studies of the meaning of individual quatrains, and the second concerning the specific interpretation to be given to elements in the final quatrain – number 101 in FitzGerald’s third and subsequent editions.
On general interpretation, Warren writes:
One thing that has always bothered me about the Rubaiyat is that I have never seen a book or website that tries to explain each and every quatrain. How can that be? I remember once reading that at a certain time in American history you could be sure to find two books on the parlor table: the Bible and the Rubaiyat. Really? Well, how can it be, then, that no one ever took the time to explain them all? I contend that it’s not a difficult poem, but there are parts that I don’t get. Fortunately, most of the beautiful passages are clear enough, but there are still some, like the stanza below, whose meaning eludes me.
On the final quatrain, the question is as follows:
“To me, most of the Rubiyat is clear enough, and I always get extremely irritated at the unnecessary and absurd “explanations” offered by various swamis. However, there is one stanza that has always bothered me, and that is the last one in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th versions. There are other lines whose meaning escape me, but it’s the beautiful lines, the ones with music, that I really care about.
“And when like her, oh Saki, you shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter’d on the Grass,
And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made One—turn down an empty Glass!
“I know about the Persian custom of emptying a glass of wine on the ground, but what does this stanza mean? More specifically, the second and last lines. I know this will get me called a moron, but what does “grass” refer to? The universe? What does “Where I made One” refer to? What does “One” refer to?”
Does any reader have some useful response to these questions? Please post a comment below.
We have just been sent a copy of a new illustrated edition of the Rubaiyat, put together and illustrated by the artist Linda Carter Holman. The book is subtitled Along the Red Book Road, and it contains the 75 quatrains from FitzGerald’s first edition of the poem, together with an Introduction by Louis Untermeyer (reproduced from 1947) and a Preface by the artist. The verses are presented in pairs with an illustration by Linda Carter Holman opposite.
The 44 illustrations are based on the artist’s existing Southwest series of paintings. These are very joyous and colourful in style. To our European eyes they seem to reflect the sun and colour of the southern United States, with its native American and Hispanic heritage, and they fall in a tradition also occupied by painters like Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo.
In her Preface, Linda Carter Holman explains how the Rubaiyat came to be significant in her personal and artistic life and how, for her, it is symbolised by the ‘red book’ which is a repeated element in her paintings. She also recounts the way in which her long term wish to create her own illustrated edition of the poem came to fruition and how the images she needed to accompany the text seemed to be there among her existing works. As with many illustrated editions, it is difficult sometimes for the outsider to see the connection between text and individual illustrations. But the whole makes a very attractive and enjoyable book, which should help to draw newcomers to take a closer look at a great poem.
For more information, and to purchase a copy of the book, please go to www.carterholman.com. The price for a signed copy from the first edition of 1000 is US $ 24.95; P&P may be extra. The ISBN is 9780976973225
Christina Abbott posted the following request as a comment on an earlier item on the blog.
I have a plaster copy of a clay plaque, a portrait of Omar Khayyam by Frederick Warren Allen, as seen in the 1921 publication of “Twenty years of the Omar Khayyam Club of America, 1921.” Whom should I contact about this? I’d like to put the information on my web site.
She has since provided some more information about this interesting plaque, together with a photo of it. These are shown below. If any readers can provide more information about the plaque or where records of it (and the Omar Khayyam Club of America), might be now be held, please add your comments below and we can put you in touch with Christina. It would be great to find the plaque itself. Christina writes:
My web site is www.fwallen.com, and F W Allen, who created the plaque, was my grandfather. I’m looking for information about the current location of the original portrait relief of Omar Khayyam. It was commissioned by the Omar Khayyam Club of America in Needham MA between February and May of 1911. The book in which it is mentioned (see above) was published in 1921 by the Rosemary Press and has been digitally reproduced. The illustration shown is a scan from the book. It is my understanding that all records and objects from the American Club were sent to the Omar Khayyam Club in London so I had hoped the plaque might be in storage or on display or purchased by a member. Does anyone know more?
Below is a summary of the second part of Bob Forrest’s presentation to the Rubaiyat Research Day on 9th July 2016. It concerns Ambrose George Potter, who produced a well know Bibliography of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam ‘together with Kindred Mattter …’ The latter is a wonderful resource but it is marred by a very idiosyncratic index. There have also been relatively few details about Potter’s own life history. These are gaps that Bob Forrest and Douglas Taylor have been working to fill. One result is a splendid new Index for the Bibliography which Bob has had printed, and he presented participants at the Research Day with individual copies. The new Index contains, at the back, a ‘Provisional Biography’ of Potter, giving much new information.
We owe Bob and Douglas a big thank you for their work and their generosity. We have a few more copies of the Index that could go to locations where they would serve a real research need, e.g. libraries and other institutions. Please get in touch if you meet this description and would like a copy.
There is a link between Col R J R Brown (the subject of the first part of this presentation – see previous post) and Ambrose George Potter. Potter bought a copy of Life’s Echoes (#176 in his bibliography) and was rewarded with a 2 page letter from the Colonel, this now being in the UCLA collection of Potter ephemera. Herein lies a story.
If you are lucky enough to buy a copy of Life’s Echoes and find some plates are missing in your purchase, your natural reaction – as both Garry Garrard and Douglas Taylor know – is to head for a library which has a copy of the book and to make scans of the plates you are missing. The trouble is, as Garry found, the library copies are mostly missing the same plates – as we now know, because they were never there in the first place. But more puzzling – Douglas found when he went to see the UCLA copy (which is the one once owned by Potter) that it was missing no plates at all, but those occupying the pages which were missing plates in his copies (he has two) didn’t make sense in relation to the titles given in Brown’s index. To cut a long story short, it turns out that Potter’s copy did originally lack the same plates, but that Potter plugged the gaps with plates of Persian / Mughal art taken from three other books!
Which brings us to Potter and his Bibliography. This – quite rightly – is a classic, and deserves our admiration, but most of us, I think, will have been driven to distraction by its index. For a long time I thought of doing a ‘proper’ index, but kept putting it off in view of the labour involved. And then, one day, Douglas Taylor happened to mention that he had already done one… When I knew about this study day, I suggested to Douglas that we should combine his index with a provisional biography of Potter which I had done, and print off a few copies for distribution “on the occasion”. Sadly, Douglas couldn’t be with us on the day, but when he saw a copy a little while ago, he was pleased with the result, noting in particular the spacious margins – “ideal for noting down errors”, as he put it! I think this index will be of great use, but we would ask people to report any errors that they do find so that we can correct them in the event of a second edition.