Thursday, 15 October 2009

You win some, you lose some

After getting interviews with Martin Gilbert (in person in London) and Nigel Hamilton (by Skype in Boston) before term started I was blithely confident that I would be able to get one with Fiona MacCarthy (the latest biographer of Eric Gill) during the Christmas vacation. The following e-mail was written after the events described in The best laid schemes to help Christopher try to bring about such an interview.

A G Randall to C T Lucas
Saturday, October 10, 2009 11:58 AM
Subject: Nut graf

Good morning, Christopher!

This was the phrase I forgot yesterday when discussing the obituary you wrote: see for more. ...

The name of my old friend and new neighbour and godson of Eric Gill is Paul Burns: Julia's old friend whom she saw in Hammersmith before coming on to you is Antonia Salisbury and she has a caravan at Pigotts(1): the son of the person who bought Pigotts from Gill told me a wonderful story about David Kindersley(2) and Gill's stone lawn roller: my favourite typeface when I had an Adana printing press(3) as a boy was Perpetua(4). Open sesame?

In public I now use … a shorter, more demotic, name, a bit like Viscount Stansgate transmogrifying into Tony Benn.

A bientôt, A

C T Lucas to A G Randall
15 October 2009 12:11
Subject: Re: Nut graf


I like nut graf.

You'll find my obit of Sam Lloyd in today's Guardian.

I'm afraid I haven't been able to secure you an interview with Fiona MacCarthy. She's at home near Sheffield and in a state of purdah as she tries to meet her Burne-Jones deadline. Husband David Mellor, the silversmith, died after a long struggle with alzheimers a couple of months ago so I think it's understandable. Sorry. I hope you find a good third alternative.

as ever


As they say, you win some, you lose some. And as they also say, there are more fish in the sea than ever came out of it.

(1) Pigotts is a farm high in the Chilterns near High Wycombe and the location of Eric Gill's third and last artistic community: when I first went there in the 60s there were cases of his type (he had set up a printing business with his son-in-law) locked away in an outhouse and there was a tiny gravestone lying around with To Elsie and her kittens carved on it.

(2) David Kindersley was the last of Gill's apprentices. In the 90s he revisited Pigotts and asked "Is the lawn roller that I carved still around, by any chance?" Click here and you will see a photo of it with the news that it had been sold for a not inconsiderable sum in 1991 to the Leeds Art Gallery as a piece of Gill sculpture, which the Robinsons believed it to be, rather than by one of his apprentices. But doubtless Gill had had the idea for the work: it would be absolutely typical of him to have stressed the carnal nature of the relationship between Adam and Eve. Doubtless too Gill would have conceived the grand design, then like a Renaissance master left it to an apprentice to complete the work under his supervision. The sale proceeds, incidentally, were immediately spent on buying an adjacent beech wood which was under threat of development.

(3) Click here to see a picture of a press identical to that which I bought in 1949 for £4 17s 6d. It had a practical type area of 4" x 5.5". On a good day you could get up to a speed of a thousand an hour, I believe: I never had print runs anything like as long as that.

(4) This paragraph is set in Perpetua, a typeface inspired by but not copied from the letters carved on Trajan's Column.

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