May 31, 2009
Exhuming Bob XX:
Bob And Johnny:
In Defense Of Dylan
The least said, the soonest mended.
In Dylan’s recent interview published by Rolling Stone Magazine Dylan raised his own litle fire storm. Whatever his intent the appearance was that he was trashing Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, both more important and stellar than himself.
Both Presley and Cash were originators while what followed including Dylan were epigones. Accident of time, like it or not, Dylan and the rest are derivatives. They can never exceed their masters. So Dylan should have retained his modesty. However I come not to bash Bob but to defend him.
While I think there is a growing arrogance in his attitude as he seems to be beginning to believe his press releases, and while with Cash there may be something else going on in the background, yet, I am in sympathy with his opinion but not to the point of blackguarding Cash, I just listen to my favorites, among which is Big River, when I listen. That isn’t too often anymore.
One who did take deep offence to Dylan’s comments was fellow artist Joe Jackson of the pointy shoes in the Irish Times:
… in the Rolling Stone interview, which was reprinted in last weeks Sunday Times, Bobby, baby, finally revealed himself to be a musical illiterate, in one quintessential sense, when he stupidly dismissed as “low grade” everything Johnny Cash recorded after leaving Sun Records in 1958.
Dylan didn’t express himself very well, but he is a sort of an authority, he was there while Joe only heard Cash well after the fact having therefore a historical perspective having probably heard the old stuff after he heard the new stuff. Dylan was born in ’41 while Jackson was born in ’54. It therefore behooves someone born in ’54 to be rather circumspect in criticizing the opinion of someone who was there or almost there. I’ve got three years on Bob and was actually there at the creation. Dylan’s taste in music is nevertheless impeccable.
As I say, Jackson knows early Cash only in a historical sense. Time dulls all brilliance. No one can really
understand the effect of the music of Johnny Cash on the people who were there if they weren’t.
The early Sun of Cash was volcanic, other worldly, the equivalent of five or six of those mushroom clouds over Hiroshima. And remember, as a country artist Cash debuted in heavy traffic, the greatest of the great where reaching their apogee- that is to say Hank Snow and Webb Pierce and a host of other lesser lights but still greats. Dylan and I both revere Hank Snow, hey little buddy? Webb is unbelievable so into this milieu strides Johnny Cash with three or four mind stunners followed by I Walk The Line, not to mention writing Warren Smith’s Rock n’ Roll Ruby. Now, not everybody got it at the time, you had to be hep, you had to know in your guts. We were the congnoscenti. Of course by Line the word was out.
But these records of incomparable genius were as we said at the time Cash’s wad, after he shot it every thing was of a lesser quality; even on Sun, he followed up with Ballad Of The Teenage Queen and other such drivel only for the die hards of which I was one but I knew the best of Cash was in the past. Dylan apparently did too but that early flowering was enough to respect Cash forever. Dylan should have expressed himself differently. After all it was Cash’s endorsement that opened much wider horizons to Dylan.
Pushed by the interviewer further Dylan was quoted:
I tell people if they are interested that they should listen to the Johnny on his Sun Records and reject all the notorious low grade stuff he did in later years. It can’t hold a candlelight to the frightening depth of the man you have on early records. That’s the way he should be remembered.
That seems unduly harsh about a singer who followed his Sun hits with Ring Of Fire and many other excellent recordings although he may not have written them. In any event Dylan’s career parallels that of Cash: A short burst of relative genius followed by a long tedious fifty years.
So while I sympathize with Joe Jackson’s outrage at Dylan’s inexplicable gaucherie I understand what Dylan means. He was there and Joe Jackson wasn’t and that’s the difference, different memories. What was it Zappa said? Shut up and play yer guitar.
I fondly remember both Cash’s and Dylan’s best.
Cool Cat Jackson
Dandelion: Memoir Of A Free Spirit
I looked at the sea and it seemed to say,
“I took your baby from you away.”
I heard a voice cryin’ in the deep,
Come join me baby in my endless sleep.
Ran in the water, heart full of fear,
There in the breakers I saw her near.
Reached for my darlin’, held her to me,
Stole her away from the angry sea.
-Jody Reynolds- The Endless Sleep
Des Barres, Pamela: Let’s Spend The Night Together, Chapter- The Elusive Miss James, Chicago Review Press, 2008
James, Catherine: Dandelion Memoir Of A Free Spirit, St. Martin’s, 2007
Dandelion by Catherine James is an excellent read whether you consider it a memoir, a novel, or based on a true story. As a memoir it is a little too sketchy, while as a novel it is a charming read with some effective, real touches of pathos. The tenderly related death scenes of her Grandmother and mother may not rank with the passing of Little Nell but they do choke you up a bit.
Dandelion was apparently written by Miss James unaided by a co-author. When one considers that she had no schooling beyond the seventh grade this is a remarkable achievement. In the explanation of her skill, apart from a native intelligence, at a rather advanced age she returned to Jr. College where she took a writing class apparently with good effect. After a remarkable childhood and youth she is now entering an equally remarkable old age, uh, maturity.
Miss James had a childhood a bit out of the ordinary in its horridness, a crazy mother, and a succession of housing changes including a stint in a reformatory and a couple years in an orphanage. My own childhood experiences parallel those of Miss James to some extent so I think I can write of her situation with some sympathy.
Miss james’ narrative is a coherent psychological whole progressing from beginning to end in an impressive manner, but I am only going to deal with the first half of her memoir.
I understand the following: Catherine’s mother, Diana, was vain of her appearance while aspiring to a recording and performing career. She did succeed in recording an LP titled Dian And The Greenbrier Boys. I’m guessing that she had no intention of having children but as she married at seventeen on an impulse Catherine is probably a result of that impulse.
Diana probably then resented her daughter for inhibiting her ability to realize her ambitions. She then took her frustrations out on her child. She apparently developed a Hydelike personality in relation to her child. Mad to the nth degree. On her death bed she c0nfessed to Catherine that ‘the witches got her.’ One assumes then that Diana was what in the old days was known as being ‘possessed’ by the ‘witches’ when she was around her child. In a manner of speaking she wasn’t responsible for her actions toward her daughter. She was severely psychotic.
By all rights Miss James should have developed into a schizophrenic. That she didn’t is the result of peculiarity of mind that I share. Like Miss James I had some difficult years and like her I was able to maintain a separate identity in a world seemingly insane.
When Catherine’s mother divorced her father she was placed in a high class orphanage, call it a boarding school perhaps, for a period of time. Understandably Catherine’s notion of time is hazily remembered at this period although she seems to have retained startlingly clear memories beginning from about the year two. Catherine has no memory of an explanation being given to her for the removal to the boarding school. It just happened one day. She was inexplicably dropped off where she remained uncontested by any of her family until one day Grandmother Mimi picked her up from the home. Catherine lived for perhaps two years with her grandparents without any communication from mother until for some reason her mother reclaimed her. Perhaps because she had remarried. The marriage flopped and after some time her mother took up with Travis Edmundson (deceased this year) of the Bud and Travis folk duo. Her mother had aspirations to be a folksinger having, as mentioned, actually recorded an album as Dian And The Greenbrier Boys. Dian was shortened from Diana. More exotic.
According to Catherine Travis was as bizarre as her mother with the result that at the tender age of ten or eleven she left the house. The police picked her up but she refused to give them any information. Stangely they sent her to Los Padrinos Girl’s Reformatory in Downey, California. She either was or believes she was committed until she was eighteen. This seems extraordinary to me, although stranger things have happened I’m sure. But to lock a very young girl up without charges, trial and sentencing for six or seven years boggles the mind.
With her child safely behind bars, Diana renounced her daughter making her a ward of the State. Good God! Talk about cruel and inhuman. One can’t be sure exactly what Catherine knew of what was going on but Diana and Travis refused to allow the girl to be released to her grandparents care. Since her mother had made the girl a ward of the State it isn’t clear what she would have had to say about it. Her grandparents now sought to reclaim her but after legal maneuvers the best they could do for her was to get her released to an orphanage. Orphanages are slight improvements over lockups.
Here Catherine becomes intentionally vague. Her grandfather was named Al Newman and he wrote musical scores for the movies. The only Al Newman who wrote for the movies I have been able to locate over the internet is Alfred Newman. Alfred Newman wrote scores for about a hundred movies receiving an incredible amount of awards. Catherine mentions that when she was staying with her grandparents a large number of Hollywood film people visited the home including Harpo and Chico Marx. I would assume that she is coyly indicating that her grandparents were the Alfred Newmans.
If that’s so then her mother’s maiden name was Diana Newman and Randy Newman must therefore be Catherine’s cousin. Now, she was placed in a country club Jewish orphanage. Her grandfather Al Newman, she tells us, was a benefactor of the orphanage, so she assumes that is what got a Catholic girl into a Jewish orphanage. If Al Newman was a benefactor then whether he was the famous Alfred Newman who was Jewish or not, Al Newman must have been Jewish. In that case it shouldn’t have been that difficult to place her in the Jewish orphanage. Even so, she says, she was not allowed to visit her grandparents on weekends. An inexplicable lack of clout, but this is Catherine’s story.
She implies that efforts were made to convert her from Catholicism to Judaism which she stoutly resisted. This all requires some clarification here. She nevertheless learned Hebrew and could at the time recite some Jewish prayers in the language. She was in the orphanage for about two years from eleven or twelve to fourteen.
Once agains this seems odd. Things are done differently in different places no doubt but I also spent a couple years in the municipal orphanage which was much less posh than the place she describes. She says they gave her good food; the food in our place was so execrable that I virtually didn’t eat for the two years. She implies she had rather been in a Catholic orphanage but I do believe I can disabuse her of that notion. An orphanage immediately declasses the inmates placing them outside society so that upon entry a child becomes a societal outcast.
In the municipal orphanage we were pretty free to come and ago as we chose provided we were back for dinner but even if we hadn’t I’m not so sure anything would or could have been done about it. We were a coed facility but the kids were moved out into foster homes at ten to avoid the inevitable sexual problems of old boys among younger girls and boys so I’m surprised Catherine was allowed to stay until she was fourteen.
I have a little experience with a Catholic orphanage. There was one down the street from our place. This place was a hell hole. The municipal orphanage had a chain link fence around it but the Catholic place had a ten foot high brick wall. The difference between that and Los Padrinos was non-existent. Los Padrinos guards probably were more lenient than the nuns and priests. The latter were not lovely people. We used to be invited to the Catholic home for special occasions like Catholic movies and other events. They used to show the Catholic kids what the world outside their institution looked like through the movies. Like they say, no matter how bad off you are there are others worse off but of course that doesn’t improve your own situation. I was very happy to return to the municipal home after visiting the Catholic home. I think I ran all the way back.
Theirs was a rough life. I’ll tell you a little story.
Catherine mentions that kids at the Jr. High she attended didn’t want to have anything to do with orphans. True in spades all over the world. We had this kid, all this happened to him in one year, who began the school year with the Catholics. Those kids were schooled on premises, I’m not kidding you, they never saw the outside world, never. His parents transferred him to the municipal home where he had to try to fit into the public school we were abused at. Then he was transferred back to the Catholic home. I was never so happy to see anyone leave as I was him. He was already stark raving mad. Then they transferred the kid back to the municipal home. Barely holding unto to my own sanity the bastard was pushing me over the edge when fate intervened once again and he was sent back to the Catholic home. I have no idea who or what he imagined he was by that time. I had enough trouble surviving in the public school without switching back and forth. Of course, with the right attitude it would have been a real learning experience but I hadn’t learned to dissociate like that yet. I lived in total fear he would return.
A couple years later after my mother remarried and we moved into a garage I was reading the paper where I read that this kid, having returned to his parents from the Catholic home, locked all the doors of the house one night and torched it incinerating parents, siblings and himself. I was shocked when I recognized who they were writing about. I understood the situation expliclitly. I had to keep my mouth shut of course but I lustily cheered what he had done although I certainly would not have burned myself up. What could they do to you that already hadn’t been done? It would just be a move from one institution to another. I’m sure this kid was thought of as the ‘monster.’ Nobody knew the trouble he’d seen, man’s inhumanity to man. Well, we all have our crosses to bear.
He was an extreme case but not that far gone compared to the rest of us. Getting to my point with Catherine. The boys in the orphanage tended toward violent reactions, rebillion as it was amusingly called. I would imagine most of them became criminals of one stripe or another. The girls on the other hand responded to their emotional neglect by offering themselves to anyone who would give them seemingly tender attention. And there were a lot of them waiting to do that. The fence of the orphanage was lined with perverts hitting on their preference- either boys or girls eight to ten years old. Cops said there was no way they could run them off. Free country. Whoever said this wasn’t a great country, right?
So, at puberty, Miss James fled the orphanage, unchaperoned, into the great wide world with an instiable desire to be loved and somehow regain her social status as provided by the Al Newmans. She fled into a world of rock ‘n roll where unlimited opportunites with guitar ‘gods’ existed. This was a unique historical opportunity to realize her desires. A couple years earlier…?
The story she tells must be a severely edited and corrected version of the reality. One wonders what really happened.
Let me explain the genesis of this review. I wrote a review of Miss Pamela’s ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ in which I was critical of Miss James’ claim that she met Bob Dylan while in an orphanage. She appended a comment to the review suggesting I reread Miss Pamela and then read her own book- Dandelion. As she said, she doesn’t make things up. All right. I did both. As I say, I am sympathetic to any former alumnus of Orphanage U. but you don’t want to drift too far off the band in your reminiscing; that way lies madness. Who wants to burn their own house down except for the irretrievably damaged- destroyed.
Miss James’ book of adventures is very tightly edited to produce a certain effect or opinion of the author while not all her memories check out. Not terribly unusual in itself but she tries very hard to convince you that she is absolutely truthful and accurate. I will say I’m getting a heck of an education checking her stories out though. As they fit in with my agenda I have no problem with that. The extension of my folk knowledge through the investigation of Bud and Travis has been very beneficial.
Miss James career was essentially from 1965 (possibly very late ’64) to 1970. That’s five years more or less. She managed to live two or three lifetimes in those years. Ah, the sixties, weren’t those the times though?
Her mother’s agent who was hot after a ten, eleven or twelve year old Catherine was named Jim Dickson (Catherine says some names have been changed so…but then there was a Jim Dickson, talent scout and producer who helped work up the Byrds around LA at that time.) He was working with the Byrds in ’63-’64 and he had something to do with Dylan according to Miss James. The orphanage would barely allow Al Newman, a large benefactor of the home to visit his grand-daughter and yet they allowed an adult unrelated male to pick a 13 year old girl up and drive away with her. Well, OK, if Catherine says so…
Dickson then took her to a Dylan concert. Dylan was in LA in May and/or June of ’63 for a short time according to biographer, Sounes, and again in ’64. In ’63 Catherine, who certainly must have looked young, if Dickson hadn’t told Dylan that she was 13, says that Dylan asked her to a party where he spent, she says, several hours sitting talking to her while ignoring the big girls and execs. Well, I don’t know, but I doubt it. I can’t imagine how Dickson explained things to the orphanage when he brought Catherine back in the wee small hours of the morning.
Dylan was interested in her, she says, to the extent that every time he came to town he called on her at the orphanage. These were in addition to the ’63 and ’64 visits so it is difficult to account for them. Hard to believe, but as we’ll see she says all these famous rock musicians beat a path to her door, she didn’t pursue them.
Al Newman’s influence with the orphanage notwithstanding his large contributions was pretty limited so that he would have been unable to prevent Catherine being sent back to the reformatory which was then proposed. One night she scooted out the back door to take her chances. Brave girl; I shudder to think of it.
She says she took two hours to hoof it down to the Troubadour Folk Club at the junction of Melrose and Santa Monica. Doug Weston founded the club in ’57 and this was early ’64. Catherine is usually shy about identifying the seasons so one can’t pinpoint time within any given year. She says because her step-father Travis of Bud and Travis was a performer there she was also allowed to perform at the troubadour as a twelve or thirteen year old. Seems like a trifle of a stretch; she gives us no idea of her repertoire, Mary Had A Little Lamb or whatever.
In two short hours the orphanage had missed her presence, not very likely in my experience, divined that she was headed for the Troubadour, called the plice who were already on the spot passing her picture around: Seen this here thirteen year old around here, anywheres? OK. Sure, why wouldn’t the cops have her photo already on file? Handy.
Rather than turning tail she slips into the club ascending the balcony to the right rear seat that just happened to be the only seat left. I didn’t get to the Troubadour until the early seventies. Saw Pentangle there. I din’t go back. The club was already on the way to becoming the rough place it became. Anyway I know where she’s talking about.
This girl cannot possibly have looked, spoken or acted any older than she was. She tells the guy next to her to pretend he knows her. She later describes this guy to be in his early twenties although he was only nineteen. He obligingly wraps his arm around a 13 year old. Alright! That’s a chance I wouldn’t have taken. Probably worth twenty to life in California and we had been terrorized at the prospect of statutory rape. That was when you looked cross eyed at underage which was against the statutes.
Catherine tells him all those cops swarming the place are after her. Can he get her out of there? Nothing daunted by anything like a statutory rape charge he throws his jacket over her shoulders and he and 13 year old Catherine stroll out right under the noses of the coppers. I think I saw that movie.
The Good Sam turns out to be the brother of John Stewart of the Kingson Trio, Michael. In 1964 he was up at San Francisco State where he was forming the We Five but at the time he hadn’t. You Were On My Mind was a year in the future. He first drops her off at a house with a whole bunch of guys way back in the hills but she was not afraid. Michael then drives her North to Mill Valley, remember those statutory rape laws if caught, and brother John’s house where she is taken in as a nanny, and California’s Most Wanted Child, for his kids. The Stewarts want to adopt her which is her cue to split. It is amazing how lovable this troubled child is.
As I say, I’ve been researching these astounding stories. The problem with this one is that John Stewart was single at the time not marrying until 1968 when he wed Buffy Ford. This story is definitely on the shaky side so that affects Catherine’s credibility a little more than somewhat.
Traveling to Berkeley with some ‘hippie’ kids she hit the high spot of fabled Telegraph Avenue. Hippy kids seem a stretcher in ’64. Now, we’re on home ground though. I was around Berkeley a bit from ’64-’66. she appears to be describing a later edition of Telegraph. In ’64 the street was in transition from trad collegiate to what it later became. It was the first time I had ever been panhandled. Some girl wanted 3.98 to get her dog out of the vet. Could have been Catherine for all I know. Naw, this girl was well past 13.
On Telegraph she chances into the son of Barbara Dane and Rolf Cahn. Cahn, a guitarist, is living up at Inverness on the ocean side of Marin County. The younger Cahn puts her up at a sorority, which might seem plausible unless you’ve met some of those stuck ups. To get her over to Inverness he invents the story that the police are passing pictures around. Well, they couldn’t find Patty Hearst a couple years later either. Not to worry, his bed in Inverness awaits. Just one look was all it too, having his fill of her he splits the next morning with no intention of returning. His dad also splits leaving her alone in the house. A different world than I grew up in, no offense. These things can happen, I don’t say they don’t, but ten or fifteen in a row is worthy of Guiness.
The next day this guy from Boston shows up looking for Rolf, he’s a music lover. Likes the stuff, flew out from Boston to listen to Rolf for an afternoon. He is vastly amused at this endlessly charming 13 year old offering to fly her back to Boston with him which offer she accepts.
Once in Boston she’s hot to get to NYC so someone going that way offers to drive her down to the East Village while Dr. Cummins, for that was his name, gives her a twenty for bus fare back. Am I going too fast? Catherine tells a fast paced story.
Now, in NYC where Dylan mostly hangs out she has to locate this lad who found her so charming in California. We’ve moved up from ’63 to very late ’64 or early ’65 so Bob is heading into the thick of his ’64-’66 epiphany. Thanks to Peter Paul and Mary he is now – Somebody. Things are rollin’ for Bob.
At this point Catherine tells two different stories. In her memoir she calls Woodstock where she says a woman answers and informs her that Dylan has gone on tour. In Miss Pamela’s book she says she asked some kids where to find Bob Dylan. Dylan obligingly pulls to a stop in front of her, slow moving traffic. She runs over to say hi. Dylan rolls down the window, coldly says he’s on his way to a concert, driving off. She made no further attempt to contact him and he would have been easy to find.
Alright, I read and reread. What am I supposed to believe?
So, this is 1965, the next five years are truly spectacular. Unlike any other groupie I’ve ever heard of the rock stars gravitated toward the now fifteen year old Miss James with no effort on her part. She doesn’t have to shriek for their attention or bare her boobs, she’s stunning and they come running. Here she makes another minor error. She says she sees Morrison and The Doors performing Light My Fire in NYC. A couple of years ahead of the facts. A small error doesn’t mean much but what about the rest.
From this point on in order to create an impression of herself Catherine severely edits the facts distorting the reality at the least, what one puts in, what one leaves out.
In ’65 she met Denny Laine, make-up naturally fooled him, although still young she is now 15. Close but still statutory. I’m surprised the Moodies were in the US in ’65 because Go Now, their first hit, didn’t make that big an impression. Still, on their website the Moodies describe themselves as part of the British Invasion. In my experience they didn’t hit until ’68.
The two met more or less formally at a party so the meeting was formalized rather than a groupie-star existential encounter. Catherine always wishes to create a meeting Southern Belle style where the stars are impressed by her as much as she is by them. “Oh, Rhett, you don’t mean it?’
Laine forms the central theme of her groupie years. She has a child by him which carries her into seventeen and 1967. It isn’t easy creating a time frame or setting for her cast of characters. During the three years 1967-1970 she has relations of some sort with the following without mentioning Bob Dylan who dropped off the radar in 1965.
Geno, partner in Granny Takes A Trip
+ Denny Laine
As you can see it is a regular A list. George Harrison could be included but she had no relations with him, just a friend.
Catherine doesn’t mention Geno or David Gilmour herself. Miss Pamela provides that in Spend The Night. The gig with Geno and Miss Pamela also took a couple months. Miss Pamela came to England with Geno’s partner. The four then took up residence together all sleeping in the same bed with baby Damian in a crib in the corner. He must have a Freudian memory or two.
Catherine artfully tells her groupie career bringing the story to a grand climax before she throws in the towel and tries to establish a life as a respectable hausfrau. The apex of groupiedom was Mick Jagger. A story made the rounds at the time of a groupie who finally made it to the bed of Mick. When asked how he was the next day, her reply was: Well, he was OK, but he was no Mick Jagger.
Catherine characteristically was wooed by Mick, herself doing no chasing. She was staying at Eric Clapton’s when Mick came over for a party. Catherine tells it this way:
I remember being engrossed in a book in the study when he peeked in and said: “You’re pretty.” With a blush, all I could think to say was a faint “thank you”, and went back to reading my book.
Just like a debutante Catherine was engrossed in her book. As the party got into swing and as the mescaline punch was about to hit Catherine thought to call Denny Laine while still coherent.
As I was speaking with Denny, Mick came into the room and closed the door behind him. I was seated at the desk in a regal, antique high-back chair with ornate carved arms. Mick walked up next to me and just stood there. He was wearing these delicious black-and-white checkered houndstooth wool trousers with a soft cotton white shirt. When I looked over, all I could see was the undulating moving pattern of the houndstooth. Mick didn’t say a word, but I felt the electricity. He was clearly waiting for me to get off the phone.
I think that’s pretty effective writing for a girl who barely finished grade school. Obviously she put her time to good use after giving up the life. Just picture sweet Lady Catherine sitting there as her Prince Charming came into her life, ‘regal, antique, high backed chair with ornate carved arms!’
The above passage is for the girls who never made it with Jagger. You can just hear Miss James cooing: Eat your hearts out girls.
Catherine not only has one night with Mick but moves into the mansion for ‘a couple of months’. The absolute untopable climax comes next.
For the event I wore my long, whimsical, gypsy dress from the posh Ozzie Clark’s boutique. The velvet bodice was formfitting, buttoning down to a billowing skirt of colored silk layers. My pale pink platform boots with appliqued silver cresent moons and stars from Granny Takes A Trip went perfectly with my outfit. Stevie Wonder was the hottest ticket in town, and I felt like a female divinity sitting between Mick and Eric, taking in Mr. Wonder’s stellar performance.
Yes, there was the fairy princess sitting with not one but two Prince Charmings watching Stevie Wonder. There was no way to top that so apparently Catherine’s philosophy was quit while you’re on top. I quite agree with her if you know when that is. And thus perhaps after having gratified one compensatory fantasy she returned to the US to begin her redemption by hard work. As she has written this book she apparently did that too.
After knowing all those rock gods so intimately I think it noteworthy that only Roger Daltrey deigned to write a blurb for the jacket. He and Miss Pamela.
The book was a very interesting read leading me to some other interesting discoveries that added substance to my understanding of the era. I have Miss James to thank for that.
As an alumnus of the orphanage, and believe me orphanages are all one form of horror story or another, I have solidarity with Miss James and wish her well. I’m sure everything she wrote was based on the facts but I still want some corroboration for the Dylan bit.
Miss James’ book has enjoyed some success. My copy is of the second printing so she sold out the first. At the last check the title was listed as about the 100,000th best seller on Amazon. I’m not sneering, mine is at about 5,500,000.
If anyone likes horror stories of this nature may I direct them to my description of an orphanage- Far Gresham Vol. I- that can be found at reprindle.wordpress.com. May I also direct your attention to my The Sonderman Constellation by R.E. Prindle published by iUniverse available through alibris, Amazon etc. I need some readers and sales too. I probably don’t need more than two sales to jump up to the 1,000.000th best selling. C’mon help a fellow out It’s a good book, you won’t regret it.
Here is corroboration for Catherine’s liaison with Mick Jagger. The following quote can be found on pp. 223-4 of the Tony Sanchez/John Blake memoir Up And Down With The Rolling Stones, 1979, John Blake Publishing (6.95) originally published as I Was Keith Richard’s Drug Dealer. Reprint 2010.
While I have no reason to doubt Catherine, corroboration is always a good thing. This corroborates both Mick and Eric Clapton. Quote:
Then along came Catherine. She was an exotic-looking Californian who’d enjoyed a brief affair with Eric Clapton. Eric introduced her to Mick at a party, and a couple hours later Catherine was tucked in Mick’s huge three-hundred-year-old bed in Cheyne Walk. The two of them stayed in bed for the next twenty-four hours, and after that, Catherine moved her things in.
Jan was piqued. She seemed to have fallen in love with Mick. Next to him other men lacked imagination and energy. I had seen other girls, even tough little groupies, entranced in much the same way, Jagger’s feminine qualities seem to give him an unusual insight into women, and he uses that insight to give him total power over them. But Jan said nothing- to do so whould be un-cool, and Mick hated uncoolness in women. Besides, she was a paid employee- no strings attached.
The friction between Jan and Catherine sent sparks flying almost every day. Jan hated Catherine because she had won Jagger’s body. Catherine hated Jan because she seemed to have captiviated Jagger’s mind. The situation was untenable, and when Mick was out, the girls would have bitter, screaming arguments. In his presence they attempted to feign sycophantic devotion. For Mick it was a perfect set-up. He had all the sex and company he wanted without involvement. Neither girl was secure enough to dare complain….
Mick loved to set them against each other until they were at the screaming point. It was as if he had become the person he pretended to be on stage, he needed his fans fighting over him, even in his living room. He was so egocentric now that he couldn’t love anyone except himself. He was emulating mad, debauched , oversexed Turner, the character he had played in Performance. With Marianne gone, Mick’s last link to earth was severed and his image swallowed him up. Michael Philip Jagger had ceased to exist. Now there was only Mick Jagger, Superstar, twenty-four hours a day.
The farce at Cheyne Walk couldn’t drag on forever. Mick’s cosy menage a trois came to a stormy close when he announced in August that the Stones were off on a tour of Europe and that Catherine would not be coming. “Sorry, darling.” he told her. “It’s a band rule, always has been, I don’t take my old lady on the road.”
…Catherine wept for days. She knew it was over. Jagger wanted her out of the house by the time he returned from the tour. All her dreams of being the next Marianne Faithfull were flying out the window. When the final explosion came she lashed out at Jagger, kicking, spitting, scratching and trying to tear his hair out by the roots. It was, of course, a very uncool thing to do. Catherine left quietly that night.
A slightly different version than Catherine’s which was ultra-cool.
By the way, disregard any negative criticism of this book. It is authentic. Sanchez was inside and his co-author, John Blake, was a very well informed, intelligent journalist from an outside perspective. Essential for Stones’ fans.
Another version of Catherine’s stay with Mick comes from Christoper Andersen’s Mick, Gallery Books, 2012. Anderson does not give his sources.
(Mick) preferring instead to amuse himself by rotating among the members of his floating harem. Among them: Janice Kenner, a stunning blonde from LA, ostensibly hired to be a housekeeper cook and “personal assistant”; New Yorker Patti D’Arbanville, a nineteen-year-old model and actress; another leggy California, Catherine James and Brian’s ex-girlfriend Suki Poitier.
Even for these women, there were limits when it came to sharing Mick. When one girl came upon Catherine James in bed with Mick at Stargroves, he merely suggested a menage a trois. James, furious, stormed out. After hastily making love to the interloper, Jagger spent the rest of the evening trying to talk James out of catching the next flight home. He succeeded, but it wasn’t long before James decided she “definitely wasn’t the right girlfriend for Mick. “Eventually I would have killed him in his sleep. I’ve a jealous nature.”
A different version than that of either Catherine or Sanchez. Anderson goes on to provide corroboration for Catherine’s account in which she called Mick after Bianca moved in. This paragraph refers to the account of Miss Pamela but is nevertheless confirmatory:
Now ensconced with Mick at Stargroves, Bianca began cleaning house. One by one, she ordered the other women in Mick’s life to stay away from her man. When Miss Pamela called, she was surprised when a husky voiced woman answered the phone. “You are never, ever, under any circumstances to call Mick, ever again.” Bianca said. “Get the picture.”
So, we acquire richly varied accounts of Catherine and Mick.
Ronnie Wood, Ronnie, 2007, St. Martin’s Press. This from Ronnie Wood page 69:
On the subject of women, on another Beck tour I fell for Kathy James, who is famous in rock and roll mythology because she was the original groupie. And absolutely gorgeous woman, believe me, she had a special feel for special musicians.
Philip Norman: Mick Jagger, Harper Collins, 2012 pp, 402, 405
For a time, just like Performance’s Turner, he had two live-in female companions, albeit in this case both Californian rather than French and polyglot Danish. The first to be installed, a bubble-haired blonde named Janice Kenner, had found herself alone with Mick in the back of his car and received a well-tried Jagger line: “Do you like waking up in the city or the country?” Replying “the country,” she had been spirited away to Stargroves, there acquitting herself well enough to be asked to wake up in the city with him as well. Soon afterward, he also brought home Catherine James, a solemn-looking twenty-two-year-old who had taken the same roundabout car ride via Berkshire. The two coexisted in Cheyne Walk without rancor, each fixing on a distinct role for herself” Catherine was Mick’s girlfriend while Janice was his cook, but available for the occasional “romp.” In fact, their easy relationship rather irked Mick, who preferred the women around him to be at loggerheads for his attention. One day, to their bemusement, he got them to plaster each other with strawberries and whipped cream like a polite English garden-party version of mud wrestling.
As further proof of his rather lonely state, he also asked “Miss Pamela” on the tour (she decided to return to her boyfriend, however) and took along one of Cheyne Walk’s two resident houris, his “cook” Janice Kenner. The other, Catherine James, was dismissed as she lay in bed, with a farewell kiss and instructions to lock up the house before returning home to California.
From Scaduto, Tony: Mick Jagger, Everybody’s Lucifer, David McKay Company, Inc., 1974. pp. 348, 349, 350.
Eventually, however, Catherine came along- introduced to Jagger by Eric Clapton- and she moved in, a replacement for Marianne in a way. Catherine is a Californian, outstandingly beautiful, but Janice didn’t think she was especially sophisticated. Catherine is a super-groupie, the elite of the groupies: Instead of flying on her own to meet a superstar, the superstars send her plane tickets so she won’t forget to come to them. Jagger impressed on Catherine the fact that she was living in a grand house, had a lot of money to spend on it, and must learn to be a real English lady, Janice recalls. But Catherine seemed to have no idea how to be a lady: she took to flickering her cigarette ashes on the floor because there was someone around to clean them up, Janice felt. Catherine appeared to be trying to play the role Jagger was forcing on her, telling Janice it was all so romantic to be Mick Jagger’s lady and how madly in love she was with him. And Janice thought: Mick’s not in love with you, he’s just interested in fucking you and having a good time. He’s fucking around with your head, and you’re going to be terribly hurt when you wake up. Jagger’s games made Janice angry, and she tried to warn Catherine about it, gently. Catherine refused to permit reality to get in the way of romantic dreams, Janice felt, and the two women started getting into arguments over it. Janice later said: “Mick knew it and loved it. he played it up and instigated arguments between us. I remember thinking: “The guy is fantasizing that we’re fighting over him.”
The Stones were going off on tour again- a month in Europe through September and part of October. Catherine appeared furious because she was being left behind, and even Janice was being taken along, a last minute assignment to help Anita take care of her baby because Shirley Arnold had sprained her ankle and couldn’t go. They were up in Jagger’s bedroom, packing his clothes for the tour. Catherine sat on the bed crying that she was being left behind, and Jagger seemed to be feeling sorry for her. He leaned over and stroked her hair very lightly. “Let’s go downstairs to the other bedroom,” he said. Turning to Janice: “Finish packing this shit.” They left the room, and Janice sat on the bed, lit up a huge joint, and thought: He’s giving her a farewell fuck. She sat there a long while, smoking, getting too stoned to finish packing. And she thought: I’m really glad he took her downstairs because it’ll make her feel a lot better; she’s done nothing but cry for days.
Suddenly, Jagger came rushing back into the bedroom, shouting: “I don’t understand her,” followed by a tall, willowy and very exotic woman, a friend who had dropped in to visit. She also shouts: “I don’t understand.” Catherine rushes in, screaming: “I hate you, I hate you.” And Janice, stoned, sits there thinking: It’s like a fucking movie comedy. When everyone quiets down, and the woman goes home, and Jagger leaves the room for moment, Catherine explains what the commotion was all about:
“We’re in bed, fucking.” she tells Janice, when in walks this bitch and makes some remark, and Mick invites her to get in bed with us. I guess I just got hysterical and I started screaming and kicking Mick and scratching. My last night in bed with Mick, and he wants another chick to join us.”
Hodkinson, Mark: Marianne Faithfull, As Tears Go By, 1991, Omnibus Press
On his visits to England, Jagger began sleeping with a succession of girls, and Stargroves, the grandiose emblem for Jagger and Marianne’s love, became the setting of his numerous one night stands. He had a longer romance with Suki Potier, a former girlfriend of Brian Jones, and spent several weeks in the company of a Californian girl called Catherine James.
May 8, 2009
The Novels Of George Du Maurier
Peter Ibbetson, Trilby, The Martian
Singers and Dancers and Fine Romancers
What do they know?
What do they know?
Review by R.E. Prindle
Table of Contents
II Review of Trilby
III. Review of The Martian
IV. Review of Peter Ibbetson
Peter Ibbetson is the first of the three novels of George Du Maurier. As elements of the later two novels are contained in embryo in Ibbetson it would seem that Du Maurier had the three novels at least crudely plotted while a fourth dealing with politics but never realized is hinted at. Actually Du Maurier has Ibbetson who writes this ‘autobiography’ write several world changing novels from inside the insane asylum to which he had been committed. In the Martian Barty Josselin wrote several world changing books while ‘possessed’ by an alien intelligence, in a way, not too dissimilar to the situation of Ibbetson. Du Maurier himself comes across, as I have said, as either a half demented lunatic or a stone genius.
He has Ibbetson and the heroine, The Duchess of Towers write in code while they read encrypted books. Du Maurier says that Ibbetson and hence the two following books deal with weighty subjects but in a coded manner that requires attention to understand.
On page 362 of the Modern Library edition he says:
…but more expecially in order to impress you, oh reader, with the full significance of this apocalyptic and somewhat minatory utterance (that may haunt your fever sense during your midnight hours of introspective self-communion), I have done my best, my very best to couch it in the obscurest and most unitelligible phraseology, I could invent. If I have failed to do this, if I have unintentionally made any part of my meaning clear, if I have once deviated by mistake into what might almost appear like sense, mere common-sense- it is the fault of my half French and wholly imperfect education.
So, as Bob Dylan said of the audiences of his Christian tour: Those who were meant to get it, got it, for all others the story is merely a pretty story or perhaps fairy tale. The fairy tale motif is prominent in the form of the fee Tarapatapoum and Prince Charming of the story. Mary, the Duchess of Towers is Tarapatapoum and Peter is Prince Charming. It might be appropriate here to mention that Du Maurier was highly influenced by Charles Nodier the teller of fairy tales of the Romantic period. Interestingly Nodier wrote a story called Trilby. Du Maurier borrowed the name for his novel Trilby while he took the name Little Billee from a poem by Thackeray. A little background that makes that story a little more intelligible.
Those that watch for certain phobias such as anti-Semitism and Eugenics will find this story of Du Maurier’s spolied for them as was Trilby and probably The Martian. One is forced to concede that Du Maurier deals with those problems in a coded way. Whether his meaning is derogatory or not lies with your perception of the problems not with his.
Thus on page 361 just above the previous quote Du Maurier steps from concealment to deliver a fairly open mention of Eugenics. After warning those with qualities and attributes to perpetuate those qualities by marrying wisely, i.e. eugenically, he breaks out with this:
Wherefore, also, beware and be warned in time, ye tenth transmitters of a foolish face, ye reckless begetters of diseased or puny bodies, with hearts and brains to match! Far down the corridors of time shall clubfooted retribution follow in your footsteps, and overtake you at every turn.
Here we have a premonition of Lothrop Stoddards Overman and Underman. The best multiply slowly while the worst rear large families. Why anyone would find fault with the natural inclination to marry well if one’s handsome and intelligent with a similar person is beyond me. Not only is this natural it has little to do with the Eugenics Movement. Where Eugenics falls foul, and rightly so, is in the laws passed to castrate those someone/whoever deemed unworthy to reproduce. This is where the fault of the Eugenics Movement lies. Who is worthy to pass such judgment? Certainly there are obvious cases where neutering would be appropriate and beneficial for society but in my home town, for instance, no different than yours I’m sure, the elite given the opportunity would have had people neutered out of enmity and vindictiveness. that is where the danger lies. There is nothing wrong with handsome and intelligent marrying handsome and intelligent. How may people want a stupid, ugly partner?
Du Maurier had other opinions that have proved more dangerous to society. One was his belief in the virtues of Bohemians, that is say, singers and dancers and fine romancers. On page 284 he says:
There is another society in London and elsewhere, a freemasonry of intellect and culture and hard work- la haute Ashene du talent- men and women whose names are or ought to be household words all over the world; many of them are good friends of ine, both here and abroad; and that society, which was good enough for my mother and father, is quite good enough for me.
Of course, the upper Bohemia of proven talent. But still singers and dancers and fine romancers. And what do they know? Trilby was of the upper Bohemia as was Svengali but Trilby was hypnotized and Svengali but a talented criminal. What can a painter contribute but a pretty picture, what can a singer do but sing his song, I can’t think of the dancing Isadora Duncan or the woman without breaking into laughter. And as for fine romancers, what evil hath Jack Kerouac wrought.
I passed part of my younger years in Bohemia, Beat or Hippie circles, and sincerely regret that Bohemian attitudes have been accepted as the norm for society. Bohemia is fine for Bohemians but fatal for society which requires more discipline and stability. Singers and dancers and fine romancers, wonderful people in their own way, but not builders of empires.
In that sense, the promotion of Bohemianism, Du Maurier was subversive.
But the rules of romancing are in the romance and we’re talking about Du Maurier’s romance of Peter Ibbetson.
Many of the reasons for criticizing Du Maurier are political. The man whether opposed to C0mmunist doctrine or not adimired the Bourgeois State. He admired Louis-Philippe as the Beourgeois king of France. This may sound odd as he also considered himself a Bohemian but then Bohemians are called into existence by a reaction to the Bourgeoisie. Perhaps not so odd. He was able to reconcile such contradictions. Indeed he is accused of having a split personality although I think this is false. Having grown up in both France and England he developed a dual national identity and his problem seems to be reconciling his French identity with his English identity thus his concentration on memory.
In this novel he carefully builds up a set of sacred memories of his childhood. He very carefully introduces us to the people of his childhood. Mimsy Seraskier his little childhood sweetheart. All the sights and sounds and smells. In light of the quote I used telling how he disguises his deeper meaning one has to believe that he is giving us serious theories he has worked out from science and philosophy.
Having recreated his French life for us Peter’s parents die and Ibbetson’s Uncle Ibbetson from England adopts him and takes him back to the Sceptered Isle. Thus he ceases to be the French child Pasquier and becomes the English child Peter Ibbetson. A rather clean and complete break. From this point on his childhood expectations are disappointed with the usual psychological results. He develops a depressed psychology. The cultural displacement prevents him from making friends easily or at all. His Uncle who has a difficult boorish personality is unable to relate to a sensitive boy with a Bohemian artistic temperament. Hence he constantly demeans the boy for not being like himself and has no use for him.
This is all very skillfully handled. We have intimations that bode no good for Peter. The spectre is prison. The hint of a crime enters into the story without anything actually being said. But the sense of foreboding enters Peter’s mind and hence the reader’s. This is done extremely well. It’s a shame the Communists are in control of the media so that they can successfully denigrate any work of art that contradicts or ignores their beliefs. For instance the term bourgeois itself. The word is used universally as a contemptuous epithet even though the Bourgeois State was one of the finest created. Why then contempt? Simply because the Communists must destroy or denigrate any success that they canot hope to surpass. I was raised believing that what was Bourgeois was contemptible without ever knowing what Bourgeois actually meant. It is only through Du Maurier at this late stage in life that I begin to realize what the argument really was and how I came to accept the Communist characterization. I’m ashamed of myself.
Hence all Du Maurier criticism is unjust being simply because it is the antithesis of Communist beliefs. The man as a writer is very skillful, as I have said, a genius. If I were read these novels another couple of times who knows what riches might float up from the pages.
Colonel Ibbetson apprentices Peter to an architect, a Mr Lintot, which, while not unhappy, is well below Peter’s expectations for his fairy Prince Charming self. As a lowly architect he is placed in a position of designing huts for the workers of the very wealthy. The contrast depresses him even further. He has been disappointed in love and friendship and then he is compelled by business exigencies to attend a ball given by a wealthy client. He definitely feels out of place. Psychologically incapable of mixing he stands in a corner.
At this ball the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, The Duchess of Towers, is in attendance. From across the room she seems to give him an interested glance. Peter can only hope, hopelessly. As a reader we have an intimation that something will happen but we can’t be sure how. I couldn’t see. Then he sees her in her carriage parading Rotten Row in Hyde Park. She sees him and once again it seems that she gives him a questioning look.
Then he takes a vacation in France where he encounter her again. After talking for a while he discovers that she is a grown up Mimsey Seraskier, his childhood sweetheart. Thus his French childhood and English adulthood are reunited in her. Wow! There was a surprise the reader should have seen coming. I didn’t. I had no trouble recognizing her from childhood in France but Du Maurier has handled this so skillfully that I am as surprised as was Peter. I tipped my imaginary hat to Du Maurier here.
Perhaps I entered into Du Maurier’s dream world here but now I began to have flashbacks, a notion that I had read this long ago, most likely in high school or some other phantasy existence. I can’t shake the notion but I can’t remember reading the book then at all. Don’t know where I might have come across it. Of course that doesn’t mean an awful lot. If asked if I had ever read a Charles King novel I would have said no but when George McWhorter loaned me a couple to read that he had in Louisville I realized I had read one of them before. Eighth grade. I could put a handle on that but not Peter Ibbetson. Perhaps Du Marurier has hypnotized me. Anyway certain images seem to stick in my mind from a distant past.
It was at this time that Mary, the Duchess if Towers, formerly Mimsy, enters Peter’s dream, in an actual real life way. This is all well done, Peter dreamt he was walking toward an arch when two gnomish people tried to herd him into prison. Mary appears and orders the gnomes to vanish which they do. ‘That’s how you have to handle that.’ She says. And that is very good advice for dreams that Du Maurier gives. As we’ll see Du Maurier has some pretensions to be a psychologist.
She then instructs Peter in the process of ‘dreaming true.’ In such a manner they can actually be together for real in a shared dream. Now, Trilby, while seemingly frivolous, actually displays a good knowledge of hypnotism. More than that it puts Du Maurier in the van of certain psychological knowledge. Hypnotism and psychology go together. Without an understanding of hypnotism one can’t be a good psychologist. If he wasn’t ahead of Freud at this time he was certainly even with him. Remember this is 1891 while Freud didnt’ surface until 1895 and then few would have learned of him. He wrote in German anyway.
Freud was never too developed on auto-suggestion. Emile Coue is usually attributed to be the originator of auto-suggestion yet the technique that Mary gives to Peter is the exact idea of auto-suggestion that Coue is said to have developed twenty or twenty-five years on.
Du Maurier speaks of the sub-conscious which is more correct than the unconscious. He misunderstands the nature of the subconscious giving it almost divine powers but in many ways he is ahead of the game. Now, Ibbetson was published in 1891 which means that Du Maurier was in possession of his knowledge no later than say 1889 while working on it from perhaps 1880 or so on. It will be remembered that Lou Sweetser, Edgar Rice Burroughs mentor in Idaho, was also knowledgable in psychology in 1891 but having just graduated a couple of years earlier from Yale. So Freud is very probably given too much credit for originating what was actually going around. This earlier development of which Du Maurier was part has either been suppressed in Freud’s favor or has been passed over by all psychological historians.
So, Mary gives Peter psychologically accurate information on auto-suggestion so that he can ‘dream true.’ I don’t mean to say that anyone can share another’s dreams which is just about a step too far but by auto-suggestion one can direct and control one’s dreams. Auto-suggestion goes way back anyway. The Poimandre of Hermes c. 300 AD is an actual course in auto-suggestion.
Peter is becoming more mentally disturbed now that his denied expectations have returned to haunt him in the person of Tarapatapoum/Mimsey/Mary. Once again this is masterfully done. The clouding of his mind is almost visible. Over the years he has generated a deep seated hatred for Colonel Ibbetson even though the Colonel, given his lights, has done relatively well by him. Much of Peter’s discontent is internally generated by his disappointed expectations. The Colonel has hinted that he might be Peter’s father rather than his Uncle. This completely outrages Peter’s cherished understanding of his mother and father. The Colonel according to Peter was one of those guys who claimed to have made every woman he’d ever met. One must bear in mind that Peter is telling the story while the reader is seeing him become increasingly unstable.
While Peter doesn’t admit it to himself he confronts the Colonel with the intention of murdering him. He claims self-defense but the court doesn’t believe it nor does the reader. It’s quite clear the guy was psycho but, once again, Du Maurier handles this so skillfully that one still wonders. Given the death penalty his friends and supporters, the influential Duchess of Towers, get the sentence commuted to life imprisonment.
Then begins Peter’s double life in prison that goes on for twenty years. By day a convict, at night Peter projects hemself into a luxurious dream existence with his love, Mary, the Duchess of Towers. Quite insane but he has now realized his expections if only in fantasy. Now, this novel as well as Du Maurier’s other novels is textually rich. The style is dense while as Du Maurier tells us it is written in more than one key, has encoded messages, so I’m concentrating on only the main thread here. That concerns memory.
While it is possible to subconsciously manage one’s dreams, I do it to a minor extent, of course it is impossible for two people to dream toether and share that dream. This is to venture into the supernatural. Spiritualism and Theosophy both dealing with the supernatural as does all religion including Christianity, were at their peak at this time. Du Maurier has obviously studied them. Just because one utilizes one’s knowledge in certain ways to tell a story doesn’t mean one believes what one writes. Ibbetson is written so well that the writer seems to have fused himself with the character. If I say Du Maurier believes that may not be true but as the same themes are carried through all his novels without a demurrer it seems likely.
Du Maurier seems to be pleading a certain understanding of the subconscious giving it as many or more supernatural powers as Freud himself will later. This might be the appropriate place to speculate on Du Maurier’s influence on Mark Twain. We know Twain was an influence on Burroughs so perhaps both were.
Before he died Twain wrote a book titled the Mysterious Stranger. This was twenty-five years after Peter Ibbetson. Operator 44, the Mysterious Stranger, is a time time traveler who has some sort of backstair connecting years as a sort of memory monitor. Peter and Mary over the years work out a system that allows them to travel back through times even to prehistoric times. Thus Peter is able to sketch from life stone age man hunting mastodons, or Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. They are present at these events but as sort of ghost presences without substance. they have no substance hence cannot affect reality.
This would be a major them in fifties science fiction in which, for instance, a time traveler steps on a grub, then comes back to his present time finding everyone talking a different language. Change one item and you change all others. Du Maurier avoids this problem that he very likely thought of in this clever way.
We can clearly see the future of twentieth century imaginiative writing taking form here. One can probably trace several twentieth century sci-fi themes back to Du Maurier.
Peter and Mary have a magic window through they can call up any scene within their memories. In their dream existence they are dependent on memory they can only re-experience, they cannot generate new experiences. The memory extends back genetically although Du Maurier speaks in terms of reincarnation. Peter hears Mary humming a tune he has never heard before. Mary explains that the tune is a family melody written by an ancestress hundreds of years before. Thus one has this genetic memory persisting through generations. This gives Du Maurier room to expatiate on the persistence of memory through past, present and future.
Du Maurier has worked out an elaborate scheme in which memory unites past, present and future, into a form of immortality. This is actually a religious concept but a very beautiful concept, very attractive in its way.
Peter and Mary had elected to stay at one age- twenty-six to twenty-eight- so for twenty years they retained their youthful form and beauty. Then one night Peter enters the mansion of his dreams through a lumber room to find the way blocked. He knows immediately that Mary has died. He then learns that in attempting to save a child from a train she was herself killed.
Peter goes into an insane rage attacking the prison guards while calling each Colonel Ibbetson. Clearly insane and that’s where the send him. The mad house. Originally he continues to rage so they put him in a straight jacket where he remains until his mind calms enough to allow him to dream. In his dream he returns to a stream in France. Here he believes he can commit suicide in his dream which should be shock enough to stop his heart in real life. Something worth thinking about. Filling his pockets with stones he means to walk in over his head. Then, just ahead he spies the back of a woman sitting on a log. Who else but Mary. She has done what has never been done before, what even Houdini hasn’t been able to do, make it to back to this side.
Now outside their mansion, they are no longer young, but show their age. This is nicely done stuff. Of course I can’t replicate the atmosphere and feel but the Du Maurier feeling is ethereal. As I say I thought he was talking to me and I entered his fantasy without reserve.
Here’s a lot of chat about the happiness on the otherside. When Peter awakes back in the asylum he is calm and sane. He convinces the doctors and is restored to full inmate rights. Once himself again he begins to write those wonderful books that right the world.
One gets the impression that Du Maurier believes he himself is writing those immortal books that will change the world. Time and fashions change. Today he is thought a semi-evil anti- Semite, right wing Bourgeois writer. I don’t know if he’s banned from college reading lists but I’m sure his works are not used in the curriculum. I think he’s probably considered oneof those Dead White Men. Thus a great writer becomes irrelevant.
It’s a pity because from Peter Ibbetson through Trilby to The Martian he has a lot to offer. The Three States of Mind he records are thrilling in themselves, as Burroughs would say, as pure entertainment while on a more thoughtful read there is plenty of nourishment. Taken to another level his psychology is very penetrating. His thought is part of the mind of the times. Rider Haggard shares some of the mystical qualities. The World’s Desire is comparable which can be complemented by his Heart Of The World. The latter may turn out to be prophetic shortly. H.G. Wells’ In The Days Of The Comet fits into this genre also. Another very good book. Of course Burroughs’ The Eternal Lover and Kipling and Haggard’s collaboration of Love Eternal. Kipling’s Finest Story In The World might also fit in as well, I’m sure there are many others of the period of which I’m not aware. I haven’t read Marie Corelli but she is often mentioned in this context. You can actually slip Conan Doyle in their also.
Well, heck, you can slip the whole Wold Newton Universe, French and Farmerian in there. While there is small chance any Wold Newton meteor had anything to do with it yet as Farmer notes at about that time a style of writing arose concerned with a certain outlook that was worked by many writers each contributing his bit while feeding off the others as time went by.
I don’t know that Du Maurier is included in the Wold Newton Universe (actually I know he isn’t) but he should be. He was as influential on the group as any other or more so. He originated many of the themes.
Was Burroughs influenced by him? I think so. There was no way ERB could have missed Trilby. No possible way. If he read Trilby and the other two only once which is probable any influence was probably subliminable. ERB was not of the opinion that a book could change the world, so he disguised his more serious thoughts just as Du Maurier did his. He liked to talk about things though.
Singers and dancers. What do they know? What do they know? In the end does it really matter what they know. Time moves on, generations change, as they change the same ideas come around expressed in a different manner. They have their day then are replaced. The footprint in the concrete does remain. Genius will out.
May 5, 2009
The Novels Of George Du Maurier
Peter Ibbetson, Trilby, The Martian
Review by R.E. Prindle
There’s a somebody I’m longin’ to see
I hope that she turns out to be
Someone who’ll watch over me.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Review of Trilby
Part III: Review Of The Martian
Part IV: Review of Peter Ibbetson
If Trilby was a premontion of his death, in the Martian Du Maurier puts his intellecual affairs in order for his long journey into the night. In the novel he even advises us that he has convinced himself that there is life after death. On the completion of The Martian Du Maurier died of a heart attack. The novel appeared posthumously.
I have read that Trilby was meant as a neo-Gothic novel as the Gothic was enjoying a revival at the time. If Trilby was neo-Gothic then The Martian is associated with the Spiritualist revival of the moment. Du Maurier even does a mini dissertation on table turning and rapping, two prominent manifestations of Spiritualism.
At the same time a Martian craze was in progress. ERBzine a while back ran a list of early Martian novels so the topic was under discussion. H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds was published at about the same time as The Martian so Burroughs in 1911 was in the genre, possibly he had been thinking of a Martian novel for a few years. At least it was the first notion that popped into his head. With Du Maurier then we have an interplanatary spiritualistic love story for love story it is. A spectucular one.
The notion is that a female Martian was expelled from Mars coming to Earth in a meteor shower a hundred years previously. Must have landed at Wold Newton. During that time she had inhabited thousands of bodies in search of the ideal situation. She settled on Barty Josselin’s family who were especially attractive and English. She inhabited Barty from an early age. When inhabited Barty had an unerring ability to tell the North. No matter how many times he was spun around or disoriented he could always point to due North. Later in the novel we learn that because of peculiar magnetic influences stronger on Mars than on Earth Martia the Martian was oriented to the North. Thus when she was inhabiting Barty he could unerringly feel due North, if she left him for a while he lost the ability. For most of the book we have no idea how he could feel North but it is explained at last. Very clever explanation too.
Martia falls in love with Barty, planning his life for him as he is to be a great success. I’m looking for that kind of angel. But that’s in the second half of the novel while Du Maurier has to get us from here to there. In each of the novels he has long preambles covering half the book in which he carefully builds up character. Everything then falls neatly into place.
Now, as I said in the introduction, the novel is ostensibly a biography of Barty as told by his friend Robert Maurice, illustrated by the real life Du Maurier at Maruice’s request and also edited by him. This gives Du Maurier triple distance as a writer allowing him I should think to say things it might have been difficult to say otherwise. Even then the distance is frequently breached and one has the feeling that Du Maurier is actually Barty, Bob and himself. Talk about table turnings and rappings. Burroughs come close to this feel and complexity in The Eternal Lover. In that novel he also gives himself a role as well as his character Tarzan. Quite similar to the Martian.
The spate of novels Burroughs produced from 1911 to the first quarter of 1914 must all have been in his mind in embryo before he wrote A Princess Of Mars hence all his readings from childhood to early manhood are reflected. It was only when he switched from talented amateur to professional writer in mid-1914 that he had to search for his plots and stories thus taking in more current literary sources as well.
Whereas in Trilby Du Maurier concentrated on the decade from 1860 to 1870 plus a year or two in this novel he lovingly recreates his school years in Paris during the 1840s before taking Barty up through the years until his death. As a projection of himself Barty is an idealized Du Maurier who does many things Du Maurier did and didn’t.
Barty is 6’4″ and impossibly handsome and winning neither of which would describe Du Maurier. Barty has a wonderful singing voice but too thin for grand opera although he tries as did Du Maurier. Barty had the perfect voice for intimate occasions in which he was invariably successful. Du Maurier also was fond of the musical occasion and, perhaps, in this current age of electronic amplification both could have been successful recording stars a la Gordon Lightfoot or Jesse Colin Young.
Like Du Maurier Barty, while not a great artist, enjoys some success an an illustrator before becoming a wildly successful author. Mostly he knocks around from hand to mouth living off his looks and manners. Women just love him.
As with Du Maurier Barty develops a detached retina in his left eye leaving him blind in that eye. Much discussion of eyes and doctors. Always entertainingly done. Thus in search of a good doctor Barty is directed to a Dr. Hasenclever in Dusseldorf which finally congeals the story and get it moving toward its end.
Re-enter Martia, or actually enter Martia. She just shows up out of the blue. Here we get real Spiritualistic. Barty had begun to despair about his eyes. He despaired to the point of organizing his suicide which he would have done if Martia hadn’t intervened. She puts Barty to sleep. When he wakes his poison is gone, quite disappeared, and in its place a long letter from Martia explaining the situation in his own hand. Spooky what?
In the letter Martia advises him that he is not to think of suicide as she has big plans for him and he is destined to move mountains. Apparently an oculist of some note she gives him expert medical advice then directing him to Dusseldorf and Dr. Hasenclever. Being rather promiscuous in inhabiting bodies she may have passed a one nighter in Hasenclever. I’m only speculating.
It seems that all of England is having optical problems all converging on Dusseldorf and the fabled Dr. Hasenclever at one time. Thus Barty is brought together with his destined wife, Leah.
Barty and Bob Maurice were both attracted to Leah when she was fourteen. Attractive as a young girl she has developed into the premier beauty of the world. She has rejected all suitors including the narrator, Bob, who lives his life as a bachelor as a result. Leah has had her eye on Barty all along.
At this point it might be best to give Martia’s history. Du Maurier’s account is interesting so at the risk of offending I’ll give a very lengthy quotation of seven pages. As few readers of this review will read The Martian I don’t think it will hurt.
That Barty’s version of his relations with “The Martian” is absolutely sincere is impossible to doubt. He was quite unconscious of the genesis of every book he ever wrote. His first hint of every one of them was the elaborately worked out suggestion he found by his bedside in the morning- written by himself in his sleep during the preceding night, with his eyes wide open, while more often than not his wife anxiously watched him at his unconscious work, careful not to wake or disturb him in any way.
Roughly epitomized Martia’s story was this:
For an immense time she had gone through countless incarnations, from the lowest form to the highest, in the cold and dreary planet we call Mars, the outermost of the four inhabited worlds of our system, where the sun seems no bigger than an orange, and which but for its moist, thin, rich atmosphere and peculiar magnetic conditions that differ from ours, would be too cold above ground for human or animal or vegetable life. As it is, it is only inhabited now in the neighborhood of tis equator’ and even there during its long winter it is colder and more desolate than Cape Horn or Spitzbergen- except that the shallow, fresh-water sea does not freeze except for a few months at either pole.
All these incarnations were forgotten by her but the last; nothing remained of them all but a vague consciusness that they had once been, until their culmination in what would be in Mars the equivalent of a woman on our earth.
Man in Mars is, it appears, a very different being from what he is here. he is amphibious and descends from no monkey, but from a small animal that seems to be something between our seal and our sea-lion.
According to Martia, his beauty is to that of the seal as that of Theseus or Antinous to that of an orang-outang. His five senses are extraordinarily acute, even the sense of touch in his webbed fingers and toes; and in addition to these he possesses a sixth, that comes from his keen and unintermittent sense of the magnetic current, which is far stronger in Mars than on the earth, and far more complicated and more thoroughly understood.
When any object is too delicate and minute to be examined by the sense of touch and sight, the Martian shuts he eyes and puts it against the pit of his stomach, and knows all about it, even its inside.
In the absolute dark, or with his eyes shut, and when he stops his ears, he is more intensely conscious of what immediately surrounds him than at any other time, except that all colour-perception ceases; conscious not only of material objects, but of what is passing in his fellow-Martian’s mind- and this for an area of many hundreds of cubic yards.
In the course of its evolution this extraordinary faculty- which exists on earth in a rudimentary state, but only among some birds and fish and insects and in the lower forms of animal life- has developed the Martian mind in a direction very different from ours, since no inner life apart from the rest, no privacy, no concealment is possible except at a distance involving absolute isolation; not even thought is free; yet in some incomprehensible way there is, as a matter of fact, a really greater freedom of thought than is conceivable among ourselves; absolute liberty in absolute obedience to law; a paradox beyond our comprehension.
Their habits are simple as those we attribute to cave-dwellers during the prehistoric periods of the earth’s existence. But their moral sense is so far in advance of ours that we haven’t even a terminology by which to express it.
In comparison, the highest and best of us are monsters of iniquity and egoism, cruelty and corruption; and our planet is (a very heaven for warmth and brilliancy and beauty, in spite of earthquakes and cyclones and tornadoes) a very hell through the creatures that people it- a shambles, a place of torture, a grotesque and impure pandemonium.
These exemplary Martians wear no clothes but the exquisite fur with which nature has endowed them, and which constitutes a part of their immense beauty, according to Martia.
They feed exclusively on edible moss and roots and submarine seaweed, which they know how to grow and prepare and preserve. Except for heavy-winged bat-like birds, and big fish, which they have domesticated and use for their own purposes in an incredible manner (incarnating a portion of themselves and their consciousness at will in their bodies), they have cleared Mars of all useless and harmful and mutually destructive forms of animal life. A sorry fauna, the Martian- even at its best- and a flora beneath contempt, compared to ours.
They are great engineers and excavators, great irrigators, great workers in delicate metal, stone, marble, and precious gems (there is no wood to speak of), great sculptors and decorators of the beautiful caves, so fancifully and so intricately connected, in which they live, and which have taken thousands of years to design and excavate and ventilate and adorn, and which they warm and light up at will in a beautiful manner by means of the tremendous magnetic current.
This richly party-colored light is part of their mental and moral life in a way it is not in us to apprehend, and has its exact equivalent in sound- and vice versa.
They have no language of words, and do not need it, since they can only be isolated in thought from each other at a distance greater than that which any vocal sound can traverse; but their organs of voice and hearing are far more complex and perfect than ours, and their atmosphere infinitely more conductive of phonal vibrations.
It seems that everything which can be apprehended by the eye or hand is capable of absolute sonorous translation; light, colour, texture, shape in its three dimensions, weight and density. The phonal expression and comprehension of all these are acquired by the Martian baby almost as soon as it knows how to swim or dive, or move upright and erect on dry land or beneath it; and the mechanical translation of such expression, by means of wind and wire and sounding texture and curved surface of extraordinary elaboration, is the principal business of Martian life- an art by which all the combined past experience and future aspirations of the race receive the fullest utterance. Here again personal magnetism plays an enormous part.
And it is by means of this long and patiently evolved and highly trained faculty that the race is still developing towards perfection with constant strain and effort- although the planet is far advanced in its decadence, and within measurable distance of its unfitness for life of any kind.
All is so evenly and harmoniously balanced, whether above ground or beneath, that existence is full of joy in spite of the tremendous strain of life, in spite also of a dreariness of outlook on barren nature, which is not to be matched by the most inhospitable regions of the earth; and death is looked upon as the crowning joy of all, although life is prolonged by all means in their power.
For when the life of the body ceases, and the body itself is burned and its ashes scattered to the winds and waves, the infinitesimal, imponderable and indestructible something we call the soul is known to lose itself in a sunbeam and make for the sun, with all its memories about it, that it may then receive further development, fitting it for other systems altogether beyond conception; and the longer it has lived in Mars the better for its eternal life in the future.
But it often, on its journey sunwards, gets tangled in other beams, and finds its way to some intermediate planet- Mercury, Venus, or the Earth; and putting on flesh and blood and bone once more, and losing for a space all its knowledge of its own past, it has to undergo another mortal incarnation- a new personal experience, beginning with its new birth; a dream and a forgetting, till it awakens again after the pangs of dissolution, and finds itself a step further on the way to freedom.
Martia, it seems, came to our earth in a shower of shooting-stars a hundred years ago. She had not lived her full measure of years on Mars; she had elected to be suppressed, through some unfitness, physical or mental or moral, which rendered it expedient that she should become a mother of Martians, for they are very particular about that sort of thing in Mars; we shall have to be so here some day, or else we shall degenerate and become extinct; or even worse!
Many Martian souls come to our planet in this way, it seems, and hasten to incarnate themselves in as promising unborn but just begotten men and women as they find, that they may the sooner be free to hie them sunwards, with all their collected memories.
According to Martia, most of the best and finest of our race have souls that have lived forgotten lives in Mars. But Martia was in no hurry; she was full of intelligent curiosity, and for ten years she went up and down the earth, revelling in the open air, lodging herself in the brains and bodies of birds, beasts, and fishes, insects, and animals of all kinds- like a hermit crab in a shell that belongs to another- but without the slightest inconvience to the legitimate owners, who were always quite unconscious of her presence, although she made what use she could of what wits they had.
Thus she had a heavenly time on this sunlit earth of ours- now a worm, now a porpoise, now a sea-gull or a dragon-fly, now some fleet footed, keen-eyed quadruped that did not live by slaying, for she had a horror of bloodshed.
She could only go where these creatures chose to take her, since she had no power to control their actions in the slightest degree; but she saw, heard, smelled and touched and tasted with their organs of sense, and was as conscious of their animal life as they were themselves. Her description of this phase of her earthly career is full of extraordinary interest, and sometimes extremely funny- though quite unconsciously so, no doubt. For instance, she tells how happy she once was when she inhabited a small brown Pomeranian dog called “Schanpfel,” in Cologne, and belonging to a Jewish family who dealt in old clothes near the Cathedral; and how she loved and looked up to them- how she revelled in fried fish and the smell of it- and in all the stinks in every street of the famous city- all except one, that arose from Herr Johann Maria Farina’s renowned emporium in the Julichs Platz, which so offended the canine nostrils that she had to give up inhabiting that small Pomeranian dog for ever, &c.
Then she took to man, and inhabited man and woman, and especially child, in all parts of the globe for many years; and finally, for the last fifty or sixty years or so, she settled herself exclusively among the best and healthiest English she could find.
One can find many threads leading to current science fiction ideas as developed through the intervening years. Mental telepathy is a virtual human fixation. Having once given up the notion of God, man turned to the idea of visitations from outer space to replace that religious impulse. Thus Martia from Mars. There were many notions there to enter Burroughs mind and set him thinking.
Du Maurier enters a thought on Eugenics which was dear to his heart. He always has beautiful and intelligent marrying the same so that the genes (although genes were not yet known) would be transmitted to the offspring.
He also has the soul making for the sun with all its memories intact. Memories are very important to Du Maurier who records impressions of sight, sounds and smells as when Martia inhabited the little dog.
Martia wanted Barty to marry a Julia Royce who was the second most beautiful woman in the world after Leah and one of the richest but Barty defied Martia preferring his long time love Leah Gibson who had shown up in Dusselforf with her mother, friends and rest of England.
Martia leaves Barty in a huff. He and Leah return to England Martialess where he leads a determined life as an illustrator along the lines of that of Du Maurier Martia finally takes pity on him returning to be his collaborator and muse as the pair launch a spectacular literary career, I suppose not unlike that of Du Maurier. If Martia has a sister send her my way. I’m paying attention to those meteor showers now.
Martia advises him to keep his pad and pencil bedside so that when she inhabits him he will be able to write. So Barty writes two hours a night, setting up outlines and plans which he elaborates during the day. I would like such a muse to watch over me as I imagine every writer would. Barty’s books astonish the world changing the course of history. His masterwork is called Sardonyx.
Eventually Martia tires of this, wishing to be incarnated and get on with her journey from Mars to the Sun with Barty in tow.
That Du Maurier has his own death in mind and The Martian is a book about death, we have this quote:
He (Barty) has robbed Death of nearly all its terrors; even for the young it is no longer the grisly phantom it once was for ourselves, but rather of an aspect mellow and benign; for to the most skeptical he (and only he) has restored that absolute conviction of an indestructible germ of Immortality within us, born of remembrance made perfect and complete after dissolution; he alone has built the golden bridge in the middle of which science and faith can shake hands over at least one common possibilty- nay, one common certainty for those who have read him aright. (That might possibly be you and me, I think he means.)
There is no longer despair in bereavement- all bereavement is but a half parting; there is no real parting except for those who survive, and the longest earthly life is but a span. Whatever future may be, the past will be ours forever, and that means our punishment and our reward and reunion with those we loved. It is a happy phrase, that which closes the career of Sardonyx. It has become as universal as the Lord’s Prayer!
One guesses that science had destroyed any hope of immortality for the educated person. Of all human desires the hope of immortality is the strongest hence the fear of losing it is the strongest fear. Thus Barty (and Martia) came up with a scientifically tenable hope of escaping death that satisfied the religious need. It’s a pity that Du Maurier didn’t quote Barty in extenso so that we might learn what the solution was.
Having solved that problem from there we go to Martia’s announcement to Barty that she is going to be his next child. Martia is born to die an early death as she is anxious to complete the journey to the center of the sun. Given the content of Peter Ibbetson and Trilby one begins to question Du Maurier’s own sanity. These books are really convincingly written; one wonders how wobbly the guy really was. Either he was a master writer or he really half believed this stuff.
Martia writes a letter to Barty explaining her intentions to be reincarnated. This is all actually written by Barty in his own handwriting which his wife and intimates, like Bob Maurice, his biographer, know. they have doubts about Barty’s sanity but when a guy is churning out books after book changing the world for the better what is one to say?
“MY BELOVED BARTY,- The time has come at last when I must bid you farewell.
“I have outstayed my proper welcome on earth, as a disembodied conscience by just a hundred years, and my desire for reincarnatin has become an imperious passion not to be resisted.
“It is more than a desire- it is a duty as well, a duty far too long deferred.
“Barty, I am going to be your next child. I can conceive no greater earthly felicity than to be a child of yours and Leah’s. I should have been one long before, but that you and I have had so much to do together for this beautiful earth- a great debt to pay; you, for being as you are; I , for having known you.
“Barty, you have no conception what you are to me, and always have been.
“I am to you but a name, a vague idea, a mysterious inspiration; sometimes a questionable guide, I fear. You don’t even believe all I have told you about myself- you think it all a somnambulistic invention of your own; and so does your wife, and so does your friend.
“Oh that I could connect myself in your mind with the shape I wore when I was last a living thing! No shape on earth, not either yours or Leah’s or that of any child yet born to you both, is more beautiful to the eye that has learned how to see than the fashion of the lost face and body of mine.
I don’t know what any readers I may have think of these quotes but these three novels are either the work of a genius or a nut cake. I read with one eyebrow raised in a state of astonishment. Du Maurier is daring. Perhaps it is just as well he died as he finished this, what wonders what he would come up with next.
Martia is born a girl. She is named Marty. Singularly delicate as a spindle. As a young girl Martia falls from a tree injuring her spine. The result is physical degeneration. Within a few years she is dead. As she died Barty died with her.
This poses an interesting reflection. Father and daughter are united in death then married in the after life. I suppose there is many a father and daughter so close that they would like to marry but society and time prevent such unions. Indeed, such marriages could but go sour amid the stresses of life. Nevertheless in a shocking development Barty has not only solved the problem of immoratality but marriage between daughters and fathers. Threw me for a loop when I realized what had happened.
One supposes the pair reached the sun turning into sunbeams that have lighted the Earth continuing on toward Betelguese.
The closing line is: Barty Josselin is no more.
Prophetic of George Du Maurier’s own death shortly.
Thus Du Maurier closed out a singularly influential life. It was perhaps just as well that he died when he did. He was only sixty-two but in another ten or fifteen years the world he knew, loved and reprsented would swept away forever. He would have had no place in the new order. As with all of us the past retains a hold while the swift moving earth slips from beneath our feet.
It is amusing to think Du Maurier was reincarnated in the career of Edgar Rice Burroughs who penned his own A Princess Of Mars in 1911. One can’t say for sure Martia and Dejah Thoris are related but I rather think that Du Maurier’s The Martian is a literary antecendent that formed part of ERB’s vision of Mars.
Like Du Maurier he was able to incorporate a multitude of literary worlds within his own.