In 2011, a portrait of an unknown woman appeared at a provincial sale in New York mistakenly attributed to Gilbert Stuart, famous for painting George Washington on the dollar bill.
Even in its dirty state, it was clear that the rather butch woman in the feathered hat was sporting five o’clock shadow and was bought by an intrigued London art dealer who took it home for restoration. Read more ›››
I can’t imagine that there is any of you who hasn’t heard of Bob Dylan, but what may surprise some is that his first appearance in the UK wasn’t in concert, but as member of the cast of a tv drama.
Madhouse on Castle Street was commissioned by the BBC as one of its Sunday Night Play series. It was a rather odd drama set in a boarding house and was described later by The Times as a ‘strange free-wheeling piece about a man who has said goodbye to the world and simply shut himself up in his room’. Read more ›››
The world of magic in the 19th and 20th century was a competitive business and many conjurers became celebrities only after adopting an exotic Chinese persona that the public came to associate with the mysteries of magic.
One such was Chung Ling Soo who became one of the most celebrated magicians of his age who was to die in the pursuit of his art. Read more ›››
The country parsons of England can be an unconventional lot and perhaps none more so than hagiographer, antiquarian, novelist and eclectic scholar, Sabine Baring-Gould who is responsible for the lyrics of Onward Christian Soldiers, inspired My Fair Lady (possibly) and the early life of James Bond and wrote the first serious academic study of lycanthropy folklore. Read more ›››
One of the pleasures of the comics of my youth was the small-ads for pocket-money priced practical jokes, from stink bombs to ‘dirty’ soap and hand-buzzers to snakes in a tin, all of which we owe to Soren Sorenson Adams, the father of the practical joke.
Born near Aarhus, Denmark in 1879, his family migrated to America when he was four years old and he grew up in New Jersey. He wasn’t to discover the the profitability of the novelty prank until 1904 when he worked for a chemical dye company and noticed that one of the ingredients used caused uncontrollable sneezing which his co-workers found hilarious. Read more ›››
X is the most eXasperating letter of the ABC Wednesday alphabet as there not many subjects to choose from when you’re writing about the eXemplars of eccentricity, so as a matter of eXpediency I offer instead a prime eXample of a xenophobe.
Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorp was born in 1783 and was elected as the Member of Parliament for Lincoln in 1826, setting standards for xenophobia unequalled in parliamentary history. Read more ›››
Charles Waterton is another of my English eccentrics, but more than that he was also an eminent naturalist, an early environmentalist, as well as making a major contribution to medicine.
Waterton was born in 1782 to a well-t0-do family at Walton Hall, Wakefield, Yorkshire, and was educated at the Jesuit Stonyhurst College in Lancashire… Read more ›››
Unusually my post this week is not about an individual, but rather a group of people who together became known as the Veronica Mutineers.
The Veronica in question was a three-masted wooden barque built in 1879 and by 1902 it was still being used as a cargo ship despite the competition from the much faster steam ships. Read more ›››