Friday, 19 November 2010
The above is a print of W. G. Herdman's view of Everton from Great Mersey Street in 1833, which gives an indication of the attraction of Everton for middle and upper classes in the early part of the 19th Century as a holiday destination. This attractiveness was the reason for De Quincey's family to holiday there in 1801.
Everton in the first years of the 19th century was reached by a road which was "pleasant and rural" and was a "... favourite resort of opulance... [with] an assemblage of elegant villas, many of which... connect with architectural taste, the beauty of situation and the decorations of rural scenery ... The Stranger in Liverpool, 2nd ed., 1810, pp. 185, 186.
Everton offers a very charming display of the river and sea, with the town below, which would afford a subject for the pencil of an artist... that could scarcely be exceeded in beauty, variety and extension ...
William Moss Liverpool Guide 1801, p. 80,
Perhaps a more detailed description of Everton provided by Robert Syers's in his History of Everton (1830) demonstrates the attraction of the place:
There are few places in England, or indeed in any other country, so highly favoured, by situation, as Everton; in picturesque, beautiful, and interesting scenery, it has scarcely a rival in Britain. On its western side, it rises with gentle acclivity, until its crest, or the summit of its brow, acquires a commanding eminence, which overlooks the modern Tyre.
From the western parts of Everton-hill may be plainly seen the fertile lands of Cheshire, the mountains of Wales, the river Mersey, and the expanding Irish Sea, where numberless vessels are continually moving, ingressing and egressing to and from Albion's Western Emporium : and, in favourable weather, the spectator on Everton-hill may behold the Isle of Man, and the bold promontories of the north coast of Wales. From the northern part of Everton may be seen, in the north-west, the estuary of the Mersey, the channels by which the haven of Liverpool is approached and left, and, at times, the dangerous sand-banks that extend from the estuary of the Mersey for many leagues sea-ward, the dread of pilots and poor mariners : more northwardly, also is seen, from Everton' s northern parts, the extensive and deeply-indented bay of Bootle, the marshes of Bank Hall, the wanen of Crosby, several jutting promontories on the sea-board, and the church and hamlet of Walton-on-the-hill ; whilst the distant hills of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Yorkshire fringe the horizon, and bound the spectator's view on the north and north-east.
The western parts of Everton are rapidly assimilating and connecting themselves with Liverpool; numberless dwellings are here annually erected; nay, so magical is now the builder's power, that, it might be said, many dwellings are constructed in this quarter weekly, generally but small domiciles, and chiefly intended for the occupation of the humble: but the slope of the brow, and the platform-crest, are studded over with beautiful villas and elegant mansions, where the wealthy children of the commerce of Liverpool, and the retired gentry, with their families, reside. In fine, such is Everton at this day; a delectable spot indeed, and almost entitled to the denomination of Modern Arcadia.
In later posts, I will explore the environs of Everton in more detail mapping out De Quincey's walks around the area based on his 1803 Diary.
The first visit made by De Quincey to Liverpool was in 1801. At the time, De Quincey was studying at the Manchester Grammar School residing at the home of the school's headmaster Charles Lawson at Long Millgate in Manchester. (See Robert Morrison The English Opium Eater Chapter 3 for more details)
The reason for his first visit to Liverpool was to participate in a family holiday in Everton which included amongst others his sisters Mary and Jane plus brothers William and Richard (Pink).
Before he departed for the holiday, he received the letter below from his mother Elizabeth Penson Quincey which gives us an insight into how he was to travel to Liverpool and what to expect on arrival:
Liverpool, May 20, 1801.
My dear Thomas,— I am much afraid of any mistakes being made in your getting to me, therefore send you laid down in black and white your steering chart; and this being the language of the place we are in, I beg you will think it very appropriate.
You will leave Manchester on Saturday morning in the canal-boat, first of all informing yourselves whether there is a boat sailing upon a Saturday morning, of which I have great doubts; almost a certainty, indeed, that Saturday morning is the only one in the week it does not go. You will be landed about a mile from Warrington London Bridge, where you will meet coaches, into one of which you will get and go to Warrington to dinner; and you must secure your places in the Long Coach to Liverpool, which (with all the Manchester coaches) comes to the Angel Inn, Dale Street. Should my suspicion about the boat be right, you must come directly from Manchester in the Long Coach in the morning of Saturday; — lose no time as soon as you can on Thursday to know all this, and let your place be arranged.
Whichever way you come, I beg your principal care may be given to Henry, who is so blind he cannot see a horse till it is close to his elbow, and so frightened when he does see it, that he loses the power of moving. In the variety of plans it is possible William may not happen to meet you; I shall, however, endeavour to send him to the right place and hour ; if you miss him, get a porter to call you a coach and drive to Everton, to Mrs. Best's cottage ; it is on the middle road, opposite Mr. Clarke's the banker. I must repeat, do not let Henry go from you a moment, and let Pink mind the luggage. Keep Henry from leaning against the coach-door or over the edge of the boat.
You need bring no books, for Mr. Clarke, our neighbour, will lend you any Greek or Latin author. Of Italian, French, and English books he seems to have store also; and in the town there is really a noble library, to which Mr. Cragg will introduce you. It is a new institution, comprising a great collection. The room is a fine one, and occupies the upper floor of a handsome building. The lower floor is a public news-room. I am persuaded you will like this place, and our sweet cottage, which has a delightful view of the water; the bathing is not so near as might be wished, but within the compass of a walk.
Mary has had a letter from Lady Carbery with a bad account of her health ; she is going to London for advice. Mrs. Brotherton is alive, and for the
present somewhat better.
Last night, as we were returning from Liverpool about nine o'clock, a gentleman on the road, who was observing the heavens through a glass, invited us to look at the planet Saturn, which we saw with his belt very finely. You know this planet is very seldom seen, sometimes not for many years, but at this time it is visible, and, it is said, Mars also. You may see Saturn to the left of the moon with the naked eye, I suppose, to-morrow night; but whether at the same hour in the same position I don't know ; I should think farther to the left. You cannot see the belt of Saturn without a glass.
I am reading Dr. Currie's ' Life of Burns,' not without a sharply jealous eye to the Doctor's Jacobinism. "Alas, my dear Thomas, for the fate of that brave man, General Abercrombie!
Mary's love. Jane has gone to see the bathing-house with William. — Yours ever most affectionately,
E. DE QUINCEY.
P.S.—I see nine sail of ships where I sit, and have never before counted so small a number. You must expect to see us in an Irish cabin, or very little better; when you approach the cottage, you may reach the chimneys with your hat. I have had three applications for Green Park Buildings, We have a piano lent us; books as many as we want; and all the vegetables we use are given by Mr. Clarke, and have half our furniture from Mr. Cragg's house. I now find there are coaches to other houses besides the Angel, so the hazard of meeting you is greatly increased.
Manchester to Warrington
What can be gleaned from his mother's letter is that he would have to make his way from Long Millgate ( Seen above in late 19th Century) in Northern Manchester to the start of the Bridgewater Canal south of the city as can be seen on the 1801 map below (click on image to enlarge):
De Quincey would have travelled by barge/boat to Stockton Quay as seen below. The wharf which overhung the canal and the sizable warehouse were an important location for the transhipment of goods to and from the canal.
The London Bridge pub was also part of Stockton Quay and served as a passenger transfer location for the Duke of Bridgewater packet boats.
From the London Bridge pub, he would have travelled to Warrington to catch the coach onto Liverpool. The main coach house in Warrington in the late 18th and early 19th Century was the Red Lion.
In future posts, I will be looking in detail at Mrs Best, Lady Carbery, Mr Clarke, Mr Cragg, Dr Currie, the Angel Inn Liverpool, "the noble library" and the bathing house plus the environs of Everton.
When I obtained a 1927 copy of De Quincey's 1803 Diary, I was intrigued as to the history of the diary. The first thing that I discovered was that the original diary resided in the Liverpool Record Office which made me smile to think that De Quincey would have passed the site of the Library on his way into Liverpool in 1803 never guessing that his "secret" diary would end up being printed.
The fullest account of the the diary is on the National Archives website:
The manuscript diary, listed at 920 MD 424/1 below, was bequeathed to this library by the Rev. C.H. Steel and was received here on 19th September 1951. According to the Libraries, Museums and Arts Committee Minute Book, Jun. 1948 - Nov. 1951 (352 MIN/LIB 1/33), p. 740, the following was noted at a meeting of the Libraries and Reading Rooms Sub-Committee on 14th September 1951 "Bequest: Rev. C.H. Steel, Deceased... The City Librarian submits a letter dated the 6th of July from Messrs. Belk and Smith, solicitors, of Albert Road, Middlesborough, stating that the Rev. C.H. Steel had bequeathed to the Liverpool Public Libraries the original MSS diary of Thomas de Quincey written whilst staying with Mrs. Best in Everton during the spring of 1803 ..." It was stated that the reference library already held a copy of A Diary of Thomas de Quincey, 1803:... reproduced in replica as well as in print from the original manuscript in the possession of the Reverend C.H. Steel..., edited by Horace Eaton, Professor of English at Syracuse University, New York  and it was... Resolved that the bequest be accepted with thanks". On coming to this library the diary was placed in the Hornby Library but in view of its local connections was transferred to the Record Office in January 1974.
The Rev. Charles Henry Steel is last listed in the Crockford's Clerical Directory for 1949 - 1950, p. 1128, at an address in Middlesborough. He had been educated at Keble College, Oxford, ordained in 1895 and apart from periods as a naval chaplain, 1916 - 1919 and in Coldstream, Berwickshire, 1919 - 1924, all of his working life appears to have been spent in Yorkshire, much of it in or near Middlesborough.
Professor Eaton in his Introduction to the Diary... (see above), p. 1, described the Rev. C.H. Steel as being "... formerly of Carlisle". He died in Middlesborough on 5th April 1951 aged 83 years (according to details supplied by the staff of the Reference Library, Central Library, Middlesborough).
It is not clear when the De Quincey diary came into the possession of the Steel family. If Charles Henry Steel was aged 83 years at the time of his death in 1951, he would have been born in 1867 or early in 1868. Steel himself wrote in a Foreword to the Diary... , p. ix, "This diary written by Thomas de Quincey at the age of seventeen, was given to my father about sixty years ago" [i.e. c. 1867] "by an old friend in the Lake District. Beyond this nothing is known of its history". A slip of paper pasted on to the inside front cover of the volume reads "Robert Steel from J. Martindale Scott of Penrith by Jos Wilkinson Esq., Bowscale". According to Eaton, p. 2, "All that Mr. Steel knows is that somewhere about 1860" [i.e. some years prior to Charles Henry Steel's birth] "his father Robert Steel, Esq., returned one day from an expedition of hunting or fishing in the Lake District with the treasure in his pocket ..."
However, Steel himself wrote an account in A De Quincey Relic in The Bookman's Journal and Print Collector, 1 Oct. 1920, Vol. 2, No. 49, p. 365 (ref. Rq 805 B00) which makes it clear that he himself remembered this event which must have taken place at some time in the 1870's 'Do you see' said my father as he boisterously entered the parlour where we were hungering for tea... ' do you see this square old yellow book I toss in the air' (doing so) 'and catch again' - the plate of bread and butter really caught it ...', 'and twirl about' By the crumpled yellow covers'?' 'Is that by Shakespeare, papa? said I, meaning...; the quotation. Being (in the early seventies) about six years old, had... a strong conviction I that... blank verse... came originally from Stratford ...". He continued What was the story of the unattractive looking little book? It had been given to my father he said, by an acquaintance in the course of his travels [in the Lake District]... The volume remained in the Steel family's possession... reticent and almost forgotten in an old clock... [which] was the repository of a varied and unclassified collection of autographs, scrapbooks and other similar curiosities ..." On his own account in both the Bookman's Journal article and the Foreword to the Diary, 'the Rev. C.H. Steel twice offered The volume for sale at Sotheby's, in 1905 and in 1919 but on neither occasion was the reserve price reached,; though he... was not inconsolable when the reserve price proved too high and my father's find returned to its corner in the old clock. At some time during the 1920's, the Rev. C.H. Steel met or contacted Professor Eaton... who was engaged in researches concerned with De Quincey and together [they] took steps for publication... of the diary, (see Steel's Foreword to the Diary..., p. ix).
Professor Eaton published a limited edition of 1500 copies of the Diary... in 1927. This publication dedicated to De Quincey's grand-daughters, Florence and Margaret Bairdsmith, includes a foreword by the Rev. C.H. Steel, an introduction by Professor Eaton, a facsimile reproduction of the diary, a printed transcript of it and detailed notes on the text.
In September 2010, I visited the Lakes for a short break. During the trip, I took the opportunity to explore some of the places Malcolm Lowry visited on his last holiday before his death in 1957. I intended to eventually write up my visit on my Malcolm Lowry blog.
During the break, I went to Dove Cottage in Grasmere now a museum dedicated to William Wordsworth. Lowry had visited the cottage as part of his holiday. During our tour of the cottage, I discovered that Thomas De Quincey had visited Wordsworth there and subsequently lived there and kept the property for 25 years. This fascinated me and I thought it ironic that so much emphasis is put on Wordsworth short tenure! This also struck Lowry as I discovered when I read one of his letters when I got home:
..on top of which it's called Wordsworth's, albeit de Quincey lived in it for 20 years to W's 5 - Malcolm Lowry The Collected Letters Volume Two 1946-57 P. 905
This re-awakened my interest in De Quincey and on my return home I dived into the biographies to find out more. I started with Grevel Lindop's The Opium Eater: A Life of Thomas De Quincey (1981) and Robert Morrison's The English Opium Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey (2009. I discovered that De Quincey had kept a diary during his 1803 stay in Everton, which had only been published in 1927.
I managed to obtain a 1927 copy of the Diary with an introduction and notes by Horace A. Eaton. What is fascinating about this edition is that it contains both a facsimile copy of De Quincey’s handwritten diary and a transcription of the diary.
The diary's entries gave me greater stimulus to research De Quincey's time in Everton. My reading of the diary coincided with Cathy Butterworth's Sketches From Britain project which I mentioned in a previous post. The visit to Dove Cottage was also the catalyst I needed to explore De Quincey's time in Liverpool sparked by David Jacques's Por Convención Ferrer.
Thursday, 18 November 2010
My initial introduction to De Quincey was reading his Confessions of An English Opium Eater in 1971. I had never thought of relating De Quincey to my work until I went to see David Jacques’s film Por Convención Ferrer at the Bluecoat in 2008. In the post film chat, David talked about his inclusion of De Quincey’s vision of Liverpool in his film.
I often fell into these reveries upon taking opium ; and more than once it has happened to me, on a summer night, when I have been at an open window, in a room from which I could overlook the sea at a mile below me, and could command a view of the great town of L , at about the same distance, that I have sat, from sun-set to sun-rise, motionless, and without wishing to move.
I shall be charged with mysticism, Behmenism, quietism, &c but that shall not alarm me. Sir H. Vane, the younger, was one of our wisest men ; and let my readers see if he, in his philosophical works, be half as unmystical as I am. I say, then, that it has often struck me that the scene itself was somewhat typical of what took place in such a reverie. The town of L represented the earth, with its sorrows and its graves left behind, yet not out of sight, nor wholly forgotten. The ocean, in everlasting but gentle agitation, and brooded oyer by a dove-like calm, might not unfitly typify the mind and the mood which then swayed it. For it seemed to me as if then first I stood at a distance, and aloof from the uproar of life ; as if the tumult, the fever, and the strife, were suspended ; a respite granted from the secret burthens of the heart ; a sabbath of repose ; a resting from human labours. Here were the hopes which blossom in the paths of life, reconciled with the peace which is in the grave ; motions of the intellect as unwearied as the heavens, yet for all anxieties a halcyon calm : a tranquillity that seemed no product of inertia, but as if resulting from mighty and equal antagonisms ; infinite activities, infinite repose. Confessions Of An English Opium Eater 1821
De Quincey’s vision was based on his time in Everton in 1805 and included in his Confessions. I had completely forgotten about De Quincey’s time in Liverpool. I added it to my list of writers who had visited/lived in Liverpool for a future project.
Below you can see David's excellent film Por Convención Ferrer in 3 parts via You Tube:
A book was published to coincide with the release of the film:
“In the years leading up to the First World War a small though significant network of Anarcho-syndicalist activists in downtown Liverpool instigated an annual conference-cum-discussion group titled ‘Por Convención Ferrer’.
Contributions were broad ranging in their subject matter and relied upon the involvement of fictitious characters, spectral appearances and dream-like transcendences to places located either in the past or the future”.
After evidencing an archive of embroidered silk pennants commemorating each conference from 1910 through to 1918, an un-named narrator guides us through his research materials exploring the diverse content of some 27 presentations.
Covering an array of matters broaching time, space and place, subjects encountered along the way range from the ‘Scotland Road Free School’, to ‘the zonal mapping of ‘Sleeping sickness’ in the Belgian Congo’, Thomas De Quincey’s residing at Everton, and a Critical Mass bike ride through Manchester City Centre. Buy Por Convención Ferrer
David's reference to De Quincey in his film has inspired me to research De Quincey's time in Everton.
Below is a photograph of a recent dérive around the Squaremile mapping long lost pubs and treading in De Quincey's footsteps; L to R Cathy Butterworth performance artist, Colin, Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat and David Jacques artist.
I discovered De Quincey’s Confessions at around the age of 16. The book had a profound effect on me. Confessions became a guidebook to the art of wandering and the power of reverie and dream.
At 16, I had no notion of psychogeography. Since then, I have realised, as have others, that De Quincey was one of the first explorers of the urban landscape.
Unlike Defoe and Blake, who stand as symbolic representations of a retrospective psychogeographic tradition, Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) may be described as psychogeography's first actual practitioner. As Phil Baker has commented, 'Classic urban psychogeography could almost be said to begin - retrospectively, from a Situationist influenced perspective - with Thomas De Quincey'.
The drug-fuelled journeys through the London of De Quincey's youth seem to capture exactly that state of aimless drift and detached observation which were to become the hallmarks of the situationist derive some 150 years later.
Merlin Coverley Psychogeography (2006)
It was this notion of De Quincey as an "urban wanderer" that I brought to Cathy Butterworth's Sketches of Britain.
‘I plead, not for originality, but for the truth of the character; and though it may not be very pleasing, it may be useful to delineate these mixtures of levity and vice’
George Crabbe, Preface to The Borough, a Poem in 24 Letters
‘They say that memories live longer than dreams, but my dreams, those dreams of long ago, they still give me some kind of hope and faith in my class…’
George Malone, Boys From The Blackstuff
Drawing on an unwieldy collection of themes and references, ‘Sketches For Britain’(made for Squaremile, an exhibition at The Bridewell Gallery) presents 24 performative works, awkwardly shoehorned into the questionable rationale of mapping George Crabbe’s series of poems ‘The Borough’ onto a square mile of Liverpool. To complicate matters further it uses Alan Bleasdale’s ‘Boys From The Blackstuff’ as a methodological framework, as well as drawing together the smattering of information that the artist has about the history of the local area. Cathy Butterworth Sketches For Britain
Cathy Butterworth invited me to talk about mapping De Quincey's wanderings across the "Square Mile", around the The Bridewell Gallery in Liverpool, based on his 1803 Diary.
The talk took place on 13th November 2010 at the Bridewell Gallery. The talk consisted of a brief introduction to De Quincey's life and writings; an explanation of my interest in De Quincey; when and why De Quincey first visited Everton?; what was the attraction of Everton?; De Quincey In Everton 1803; the 1803 Diary; the touchstones of autobiography and psychogeography in the diary and finishing with an illustrated journey in the footsteps of De Quincey around places/locations mentioned in 1803 diary.
This blog has been set up to compliment a recent talk I gave on ‘De Quincey In Everton’ as part of Cathy Butterworth’s project Sketches In Britain.
The purpose of the blog is three fold:
Firstly, the blog will act as a vehicle for my on-going research into De Quincey’s time in Everton. My aim is to supplement the existing biographical information by placing his visits in time and space especially to explore the topography of his 1803 Diary, which he wrote during one of his visits to Everton.
Secondly, I will be documenting my psychogeographical wanderings around Liverpool in search of De Quincey’s spirit.