In Clarence's Time - Esperanto as a means to universal understanding

clarence c1905 esperanto starIt seems sad to read in Olga Kerziouk’s European Studies blog on the British Library website and in Ulrich Lins’ book Dangerous Language that from the earliest days of Esperanto, governments were quick to see potential dangers to their authority in the message spread by Esperanto. For Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918), Esperanto was a universal language which was not only an expression of peace but also a mean to furthering peace. Imagine the torment he suffered when the world went to war in 1914… he died in the mountains above Bordighera on the Italian-French border in 1918, in the last weeks of the war.

At Olga's invitation I wrote an article for her blog about European Studies on the British Library web site. It summarises Clarence's dedication to Esperanto late in his life and the extent to which he worked on the universal language as a way of improving the chances of human understanding subjugating man’s addiction to war. The photo, right, from the Bicknell Family Collection in my stewardship and never published before, Clarence is wearing his Esperanto badge on his lapel, probably 1906 to 1910. Is he also wearing his "not so optimistic face"? Was he already thinking of the need to promote Esperanto as a means of avoiding war?

Download the article here.


In Clarence's Time - Praise for Clarence Bicknell's techniques

Here is some unsolicited praise, from an expert, of Clarence Bicknell's techniques in taxonomy and classifcation of the rock engravings round the Mont Bego. In her article Cartography in the Prehistoric Period in the Old World: Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, Catherine Delano Smith shows her appreciation of Clarence Bicknell’s classification techniques. She discusses the way in which rock engravings are interpreted by archaeologist and other researchers, and criticises their “unsystematic approach” such as ignoring the “contemporaneity, scale, or appropriate geometry”. Her most telling indictment of typical archaeologists is “What fits is included; what does not fit is conveniently disregarded”. She goes on to praise Bicknell’s taxonomical and empirical approach in words which complement and strengthen the praise of Bicknell’s techniques by Christopher Chippindale, the Bicknell specialist from Cambridge University.

My three page article shows the excerpts from her paper... download here.

Happy New Year!  from Marcus

NEWS - the biography of Clarence - 2016 was a year of progress

Valerie Lester, Clarence's biographer, writes this wonderful year-end letter which I think all those interested in Clarence Bicknell and the upcoming biography would want to read.

Dear Friends,

As usual at this time of year, I give thanks for my great circle of friends, and I send you warmest wishes for Christmas and great happiness in the New Year.

My year has been much taken up with writing the Clarence Bicknell biography — wonderfully interesting work. Having Team Bicknell help me with the research, and my cousins Marcus and Susie Bicknell egging me on, I have not been condemned to the lonely life of the average biographer (myself included, in the past). I’m having a grand time.

In September, Bodoni interfered with the Bicknell flow when I had to give five talks about Bodoni in the space of two weeks, in places as various as the Caxton Club in Chicago, the rare book division at Columbia, and the Library of Congress. There’s a webcast of the talk at the Library of Congress if you happen to have a free hour, when the weather outside is frightful, to listen to my droning . . .

https://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/results.php?cat=2&mode=a

andy and jasperMy family is thriving. My daughter Alison, her husband Andy, and their dog Jasper moved from Singapore to England in June, since when Alison has been sewing jackets for Jasper. After spending his life in Singapore, he’s feels the cold. Here he is, color-coordinated with Andy.

Alison’s kids are both in New York, Kiri finishing at NYU and Linus on a gap year, working on his music and an internship with Vice Media, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Alison's new book, Yuki Means Happiness, is coming out in England in the summer, and she has another in the works.

My son Toby is a freelance editor with tons of work. He also teaches an editing course at Boston college. His wife Catherine still works at the Harvard Law School, which in my unbiased opinion, is lucky to have her. Emma, their eldest, has taken well to Cornell, while Kate and Sage lead busy lives in Belmont. Here’s Sage showing off her tonsils, with her sisters on either side of her, and Kiri with her boyfriend Daniel in the back row.

That’s enough of family matters . . . Now let’s get back to Clarence Bicknell. (I’m nothing if not obsessive.) Last Saturday I went to a choral concert whose central theme was the animals we associate with Christmas, the donkey being chief among them. I was delighted about this since donkeys were already much on my mind because of the frequency with which they show up in Clarence Bicknell’s diary of his Cooks’ tour to Egypt, written and illustrated between 4 December 1889 and 30 January 1890.

Apart from the steamer in which he traveled up the Nile, donkeys were the principal means of transport. Here he describes his first ride of the trip:

donkeys cairo“At 9 with a dragoman we all started on donkeys, such strong good little donkeys! But mine set off galloping, I couldn’t stop him, my stirrup broke and I thought every moment I would be pitched over his head or tumble off, but I clung on like grim death and survived.”

He had better luck on the donkey he rode to Karnak:

“We started for Karnak along an excellent road, and on truly noble donkeys. I felt as safe on mine as on a granite sphinx; he never stumbled, walked at a marvelous pace, was No. 11 and called George Washington.”

Even on Christmas day, the last day in Cairo before the group embarked  for the voyage up the Nile, Clarence rode a donkey: "After a grand Xmas luncheon beginning with mince pies, we all took donkeys & went out to our favourite tombs of the Khalifs & across the desert to the Red mountains, which we ascended for the magnificent view; the day was simply perfect, with the clouds casting deep purple shadows over the sand, the city bathed in light. A long Xmas dinner finished up the day, and nearly finished us up also.”

luxor moonlightWhat has struck me most forcibly about Clarence in reading his diary is his open mind towards the religions of others. Originally an Anglo-Catholic priest, he began to question his faith, and eventually turned away from organized religion, even as he maintained a great interest in the varieties of religious experience. Here he reflects on the coming New Year:

"It is the last day of the year. May the cold winds go with it, & the new year bring us pleasanter weather. Yes, and to others as well as ourselves many other & better things. The last day of the year brings many thoughts with it, and more than ever here one keeps wondering over the story of the byegone years & centuries & ages, & thinking of the lives of the early Egyptian architects & sculptors & painters, suddenly coming out the the unknown, with all their developed powers & then of the Israelites in Egypt, and many another race who sailed he Nile & lived on its banks. And then the suppression by force of the religion of the country by Christian emperors, and the desert peoples with the monks & ascetics, soon to be swept away by Islam. What changes have taken place here in those 6000 years & now one rushes quickly by in a steamer & passes ruined cities and empty caves, and abandoned churches & decaying mosques & wonders what will come next? A better religion? Who can say?”

How wonderfully apt his words are today! I join with Clarence in wishing you all “pleasanter weather” in a world where tolerance and compassion can regain their foothold.

Peace and love to you all.

from Valerie Lester

writing from Hingham, MA., near Boston, USA


www.valerielester.com

In Clarence's Time - Ellen Willmott at the Boccanegra Gardens

ellen willmott photoellen willmott borderCarolyn Hanbury (who lives at the top of the Hanbury Gardens at la Mortola near Ventimiglia) and Ursula Salghetti Drioli Piacenza (whose Boccanegra house and gardens are in Ventimiglia, nearby) informed Susie and Marcus Bicknell about a collection of letters from Clarence Bicknell to Ellen Willmott (photo, right) who created the Boccanegra gardens. The 20 letters are found in the archive of Berkeley Castle near Stroud in Gloucestershire (www.berkeley-castle.com). On 30 November 2016, Susie Bicknell travelled to Berkeley Castle and was able to examine the letters and photograph all of them. We have transcribed some of the more interesting ones, most of them being about seed, bulbs and plants which Clarence could supply to Ellen Willmott.

Ursula has provided some useful comments and corrections and has approved our publishing it. Susie's assessment of the letters is now a paper on the downloads page of our web site and you can download it directly at  http://www.clarencebicknell.com/images/downloads_news/clarence_bicknell_letters_to_ellen_willmott.pdf

A spreadsheet of a list of the letters with details, or copies of the photos of each, are available on demand.

Update 19 September 2017 Marcus Bicknell

One of our researchers, Graham Avery, found 680 letters in Geneva, Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques, Switzerland, from Clarence Bicknell to the eminent botanist Emile Burnat. I sent to Ursula on 18 September 2017 a new transcript of some of them which sheds light on Bicknell's connection with her garden, the Boccanegra:

"8 Decembre 1912 Bordighera (from Clarence Bicknell to Emile Burnat)
Cher Monsieur, encore une lettre! Melle Willmott, la renommée jardinière Anglaise, qui a je crois le plus merveilleux jardin en Angleterre, et qui a une connaissance extraordinaire des plantes m’a prêté les épreuves de l’introduction de son grand œuvre The Genus Rosa écrit par elle et M. Baker. Elle m’a demandé si je trouve quelque chose à ajouter ou corriger. Je trouve cette introduction bien intéressante, et j’en ai appris beaucoup..."   etc
 
Ursula was delighted and replied to me 18 Sept 2017
"Thank you very much for let me know about the correspondence between Bicknell and Burnat; the letter of 12 December 1912 gave me great joy:  Clarence Bicknell did visit Boccanegra with Ellen Willmott. This is what I wanted to know from many years, and also the time of the visit shows that Ellen Willmott stayed at Boccanegra also in winter."

News - screening in Florence

florenceClarence in Florence! The word is spreading. The British Institute of Florence will screen The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell at a special event there on Wednesday 10 May 2017 at 17.00. A talk will be given by Graham Avery, vice-chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association, with questions and answers afterwards. Susie and I hope to be there. Please pass this along to all your friends in the area, even if they have not heard of Clarence.
 
If you have cultural contacts in other parts of the world please encourage them to organise a screening too.