Event on Famous British Authors of 1937 Wills Cigarette Cards Series

On Saturday I spent an extremely interesting afternoon at Sheffield Hallam University at the above event. Reading 1900-1950 is one of the blogs I follow and I was delighted to finally be able to attend one of Professor Chris Hopkins’s events. The Readerships and Literary Cultures 1900-1950 Special Collection of 1000 early editions of popular fiction is housed at The University Library. Read more about it here.

Professor Hopkins welcomed us to the event which was part of the ‘Being Human‘ Festival of the Humanities which is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research.

Here is a copy of the email Chris sent out to all attendees a few days ago.

Dear Being Human Festival 2017 Guest,

Many thanks for booking for this free Being Human event on Saturday 18th November 1 -4 pm.

The event will be held at Sheffield Hallam University City Campus (Sheffield S1 1WB) in Room Surrey 5520. The event will be signed from the university Main Entrance on Hallam Square so just follow the signs – Surrey 5520 is on the same level as Main Entrance.

Here is the programme – as advertised, but with one change: cakes instead of biscuits at the tea-break!
1 – 1.30pm : Cigarette Cards – an introduction

1.30 – 2.15 pm : Famous British Authors of 1937 (brief introductions to four selected authors, and reading aloud of short typical extracts)

2.15 – 2.30pm : tea, coffee and cake
2.30 – 3pm : Vintage browsing! – a chance to handle and look at the Famous British Authors Series and to compare them with other sets of cards from the Thirties and to browse early editions of books by Famous British Authors of 1937


3.15pm : conclusion: Why are some bestsellers forgotten? Why are some remembered?
(We should finish by circa 4pm – depending how much we chat!)

Very much looking forward to the event and to meeting you all.

Best wishes Chris.”

After being welcomed by Professor Hopkins he went on to tell us more about the fascinating hobby of cartophily: the collecting of picture cards, such as postcards or cigarette cards, as a hobby. He had brought along books on the subject. He also wished to stress that the event had no sponsorship by the tobacco industry!


Dad and lad collecting cigarette cards (I expect mum and Jane are playing houses or shops)

Actually, quite unintentionally, we may also be cartophilists! Up in our attic we have several boxes of virtually pristine cigarette cards mostly housed back in their own cigarette packs. Unfortunately, we don’t have the 1937 Famous British Authors set.



The categories, and authors within each, are the choice of Professor Hopkins

There are only a few of the Less Well-remembered that I haven’t heard of – but then I did work in public libraries in the 1970s.

The four selected authors were chosen by four readers in The Reading 1900-1950 Group : Lady Eleanor Smith ; J B Priestley ; Denise Robbins ; and “Sapper”

Denise Robbins was a romantic novelist who published over 200 books and it is said that she once met Barbara Cartland and told her she was writing her 85th novel. Cartland retorted that she’d written 145 and the scathing response was “Oh? One a year, then”

The reader who chose JBP concentrated on The Wonder Hero – which I and most of the audience had never heard of – but we all want to read it now. This story may be apocryphal but when Mr Hanson moved to Bradford to teach at our sons’ school he was surprised that the local Waterstones had no copies of JB Priestley books. He set about re-printing them in the Re-discovering Priestley Series.

It was said of Lady Eleanor Smith (she always used her title) that “she makes the Mitfords look ordinary”. An Alderman, who had her books banned from the local Public Library, apparently said that “she knows too much”. Her father was FE Smith who was the youngest Lord Chancellor and was created the 1st Earl of Birkenhead. Apparently, she was fun!

Sapper” was the pseudonym for Herman Cyril McNeile who, amongst other characters, created the Bulldog Drummond.  In the Wikipedia entry “Drummond is a World War I veteran who, fed up with his sedate lifestyle, advertises looking for excitement, and becomes a gentleman adventurer.” The books and many film adaptations are definitely not pc to our ears and eyes: xenophobic and antisemitic, chauvinistic and very distasteful more or less sum them up.


A summary of forgotten and remembered authors and sources for obtaining copies today




The Waldhalle and Ancient Beech Forests

It’s interesting that just as I was about to write this post I read an article in the Weekend Financial Times entitled “Golden Sylva“. Basically, it’s about an architect in Germany using his own woodland to build his own low-energy house. The woodland has been owned by his family for centuries … “Frey is not alone in Germany with his love of woods. The citizens of Europe’s leading industrial economy are deeply attached to their trees. About 2 million people in a population of 80 million possess at least a patch of woodland, often no larger than a copse but nonetheless a personal treasure … in German culture, the tree is uniquely significant. As Hans-Peter Friedrich, a former agriculture minister, says : “You find woods in every German story”.”

The article goes on to explain what Mr Frey is doing and how he is going about the construction etc. but later it reverts back to the tree-related roots of Germany’s founding myth and the importance of woods in German art, music and literature.

unesco description

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The Adventures of Milady in Rügen with Elizabeth von Arnim


On Wednesday I start this summer’s “Big Adventure”. In 2013 I spent a month working at a B&B in Switzerland and last year and the year before I took myself off to Ireland for 4 weeks and 3 weeks successively. This year I’ll be travelling in Germany, Denmark and Sweden visiting Lübeck, the Baltic islands of Rügen and Bornholm, walking the Osterlen Way before finally spending two nights in the Swedish university city of Lund. Originally I had hoped to travel quite independently by ferry and car but there are no longer passenger car ferry services between the north of England and northern Germany or Scandinavia. I think there is still a service to Amsterdam but that is as far north in Europe as you can get these days. So, to save precious time, I’m flying to Hamburg and back from Copenhagen.

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Highballs for Breakfast: Milady is a Winner!

What ho! and all that.  I have to tell you that I have been selected by Miss Honoria Plum of Plumtopia as runner-up in her recent competition to win a copy of ‘Highballs for Breakfast‘. Miss Plum writes :

The Cheapest White on the List sat alone at a corner table, solemnly pawing an Anglers’ Rest bar menu.

‘What’s the matter with him? asked The Dubonnet Queen of Ealing Common.

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The Capon Tree

Just south of Jedburgh, Scotland, beside the main A68 road is the ‘heritage’ Capon Tree. We walked along the road, pavement all the way luckily, to look at this famous tree. Several books feature Heritage Trees in this country and in Ireland including Thomas Pakenham’s Meetings with Remarkable Trees; The Heritage Trees of Britain and Northern Ireland; Heritage Trees of Ireland; Heritage Trees of Scotland and Heritage Trees Wales.

remarkable trees

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