Well that was a stupid idea

For a year now I’ve been travelling down to Portsmouth to work in the library and for that entire year, I have been getting a bus to Aldershot then a train to Guildford before getting the train to Portsmouth. It only struck me the other day that it might take less time if I just caught the number 65 bus to Guildford thereby cutting out an entire train. Today I tried just that.

I won’t be trying that again. For the sake of saving 15 minutes, I missed my train and had to wait half an hour for the next one which made me late. All because of the traffic on the Hogsback. How the hell do drivers go through it every single day? They’re insane.

Anyway, suffice it to say, I shall be going back to the normal routine next week.

Meanwhile, in the library…this week was mostly about poetry, which was pretty dull (I’m not really a poetry fan unless it’s nonsense) but finely tempered with some literature as well. Between the poem about the Battle of Trafalgar which was apparently written as it happened (don’t ask me how though Heather reckoned it might have been while the writer was having his wounds tended by the ship’s surgeon) and the poem about Jutland, there was the extraordinary Adventures of Johnny Newcombe in the Navy, a poem in four cantos with notes by Alfred Burton from 1818.

Johnny leaves his family

While the poem left me decidedly cold (I didn’t read much) Thomas Rowlandson’s lithographs were a delight. Mind you, the most interesting thing (for me) about this book is the fact that a book with an identical title but written by John Mitford was published in 1823. Apparently it was written “While the Insane Author Was Living in a Gravel Pit”.

John Mitford’s version (which I haven’t seen but am intrigued by) was an ‘open imitation’ of the earlier book or so it’s claimed. As bizarre as that is, even weirder is the account of Mitford’s life.

He joined the Navy in 1795 using contacts through his family but, by 1814 was discharged as insane. He then took to journalism and strong drink. As you do. He wrote lots of anonymous stuff but it was never quite clear whether he’d be conscious at any given time.

For a while he was working for a publisher who realised the only way to get Mitford to do any effective work was to make sure he didn’t have much money otherwise it would all be spent on booze. The publisher, whose name is lost in the mists of time, made sure to only give Mitford a shilling a day. With this he bought bread, cheese and an onion and spent what was left on gin.

The poor bastard died while living in a cellar with a candle and a scrap of carpet having been haunted by his own brain for around 49 years.

From the original

Fascinating life though, sadly, not one I worked with today. By the way, Johnny Newcombe was slang for a new recruit in the British Navy.

Meanwhile, a few years on, the drawing below is from Steady, Boys, Steady! by CR Benstead. I don’t think it’s entirely serious. It wasn’t poetry though, which is excellent and means next week I’ll be moving onto something more interesting.

Madonna in a helmet

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