Tag Archives: books

Chuck? Donate? Keep?



Pretty illustration in a pretty book. Too bad it’s Fielding

We have many books that found their way into the archives from the library and they are going to stay by a virtue of being authored by one of our students or staff. Others are here because they mention Marjon is some way. But there are other books that wander by, the ones that won’t stay. They are usually withdrawals from the library, so called ‘weeds’. They might be outdated, they might be damaged or they simply haven’t been checked out for a long time. Those don’t have place in the archives. But do they have a place somewhere else?
I was digging through such a pile recently and found a beautifully bound book. The pattern on the binding had caught my eye so I opened it. To my dismay the pretty book was The History of Tom Jones by Fielding. I hate Fielding. Yes, he was very influential. Yes, he was one of the fathers of modern novel. Yes, he was a smart guy that revolutionized the police force (Bow Street Runners anyone?). But I absolutely can’t stand the way he writes. That makes this pretty book an equivalent of a paperweight to me. I can’t read it.
But then, it’s still a beautiful artefact. It’s well preserved and it looks like there was a mistake in print of the introduction. The printed annotation mentions it, but it’s seems like somebody made corrections by hand (what would be the total copies printed if they did that?). So what would you do with a beautiful paperweight like that? Chuck away? The bibliophile in me howls for blood at this thought. Keep it and never read? The pragmatic in me scoffs at that? Donate? If I only knew somebody that enjoys Fielding… What would you do?


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Filling and Finding



A small pile of books to be filled.

Filing. Nobody ever wants to do filing. After the research is done, paper written, the exhibition goes down from the cases. When it’s all said and done, there is filing. I guess it’s like a cooking and eating a meal. And the person drawing a short straw is going to wash the dishes. In the archives, the doubtful honour falls to the archivists, or rather to anyone the archivist has under their command. That is usually interns or/and volunteers. And at our archives that would be me:-).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. But some books had to go back on the shelves this past week and I was the one climbing the shelves. There is an unexpected side effect to the filling stuff and putting them back in their original places. The effect is that you sometimes find things. I especially like to write about unexpected things. So for the next couple of posts I’ll be catching some waves. Ahoy!:-)


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The Portrait of A Kitchen Maid


A photo of a servant girl from the book ‘Victorian London’ by Liza Picard

Remember the kitchen maid? The one that went to Australia? The minutes of the St.Mark College have preserved her memory, but what of the maid herself. Who was she and what kind of person was she? The lack of details prevents us from getting anything concrete about her, but we can at least make some educated guesses. I present to you, the portrait of the kitchen maid of the college of St. Mark:
The record says that her service was long and faithful. She probably started young, maybe about fifteen. A long service might imply anything from five to ten years. She was about to receive books worth one pound, and that would be a little less than a month’s wages- a substantial amount. That’s not something you give a person that was with you for about five years. Let’s say she is about twenty five then, been with the College for a long time, maybe even since it was opened. A hard life filled with never-ending work, but the gift suggests that she was treated well.

She is going to Australia, but why? Was her husband sent ‘down under’ and she followed him there? But it is a bit late and the large transportations already ended. Except for Western Australia, you could be sent there as a convict as late as 1868. Or was it something else? Gold rush maybe, 1851 was the year they officially found gold in Australia. Were they going to find their fortune in a place where there would be no social standards to bind them to life in servitude? Whichever it was, I’d say she was a person of a substantial courage.

The board decided to gift her books. Books, not a bible. Our kitchen maid was most definitely literate. This is not the usual picture when we think about the servant class in the Victorian England, but the truth is that the literacy levels were growing at that time, even among the lower classes. That is the time when the literature, especially novel, began to gain momentum. Before, it was common to listen to the novel being read. One literate person would gather their neighbours and read them the most popular novels. Now anyone could get skills to read for themselves, even a lowly kitchen maid. She must have some education then, and there were couple of places.

There was the Jews’ Free School, opened in London in 1817. ‘It charged 1d a week to its pupils, but a child who could not produce his penny was never turned away’ (Picard, 2005). If her father was a Freemason, she might have attended The Freemasons’ Charity for Female Children, where she have learned the domestic tasks, but also to read and write. Finally, if she never learned to read and write as a child, she might go to Working Woman’s College in Queen Square, that was open for ‘teachers, shopgirls and even servant maids.’(Picard, 2005). There were of course other ways she might have gained her education, but one thing is almost certain. During her service in the college, she must have showed her interest in books and reading, hence the generous parting gift. Truly a woman after my own heart:-)

And there it is, a portrait of a person long dead, coming alive before you with the power of research. A young woman- courageous, loyal, hard-working and filled with curiosity about the world around her. Remember her-I will.
Quotes are from the book ‘Victorian London’ by Liza Picard


Filed under books, long time ago, people

Flash feelings- Tobin’s ‘Flash Words.’

Today’s book is a compilation of poems by Paul Tobin. Paul was one of Marjon’s students and nowadays he still works here. We have his Flash Words in our collection, and needless to say that the book is destined to grace our future display. He writes his poems on a wide range of subjects, touching the essence of the human condition. A special place in the book is dedicated to ‘Majon Cycle’, that represents his feelings and thoughts concerning Marjon itself. And it is here that’s where Paul’s words strike the truest, conveying what Marjon means to me, especially the no. 10 of the cycle. Let me show it to you:
10. The first real day of spring.
I shed my thick green coat
make small talk in the coffee queue
curse my forgotten travel cup
realise I am engaged with the now
rather than the chime of overlaid memories
perhaps I belong here.

Do you know this shiver in your spine, where the words of another person say exactly what you feel? That is the flash of finding a connection between two strangers as well as the silent prayer of every author; to understand and to be understood. Go and read Paul Tobin’s poetry, maybe you’d find it too.

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Return of the books

I have written before about Marjon in fiction and had a closer look at former Marjon students that wrote fiction. But the truth is I have just scratched the surface with the books that were penned by people involved with us. And since there is going to be a new display with books of our people I thought I’ll return to the subject.
The main thing about our authors and their books is that they are so varied: different subjects, different genres, some fiction, some non-fiction, poetry and prose. You’d think that for a place with teacher’s training so deeply in its tradition, that the books produced by its students would be mostly about education or on methods of teaching. So in the upcoming weeks I will talk about the titles that can be found in our collection. I am in for a treat!:-)


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A Bagful of Stories: Mike Ford

Late Marjons return.& very helpful 'bobbies.

Late Marjons return.& very helpful ‘bobbies.

A car for breakfast- students' prank at its finest.

A car for breakfast- students’ prank at its finest.

A  pirate collects charity into a chamber pot- you can't make that up:-)

A pirate collects charity into a chamber pot- you can’t make that up:-)

They say that everyone has at least one story to tell, but one guy has a bagful of them and he is willing to share. I have a pleasure of telling you about Mike Ford another great Marjon graduate.
We have three of his books in the archives, written and also illustrated by Mike himself. He also published them as he created a publishing house (Chwarae Teg Publications) just to tell his stories. Wow!
There is ‘Mike’s Odd Odes’; Reading this one can only be compared to reading Vogon poetry if Vogons illustrated their works- that makes the ‘Odes’ a mixture of bizarre and awesome, you can’t go wrong with that. ‘The 1930’s + 1940’s Revisited’ is a book of stories from his childhood in Penarth. A good read for anyone that prefers ‘common man history’ to the official history books.
But the one that is the most interesting for me was ‘A Stewed Ant in London, Paris and Cardiff (Ha! I didn’t get that one until I said it aloud.:-)’. Those are the mostly the stories from his time as a Marjon student 1955-57- the good, the bad and the weird. And those include: A pirate working for charity, a secret marriage and ‘bobbies’ helpful beyond their duties. My favourite though is the story about an especially strict teacher that finds a car on his table instead of expected breakfast. This one made me regret that I never witnessed anything like the pranks of old. On the other hand- today’s student has little authority to rebel against and I’m happier for it.
His work reminds me of Billy Hopkins and his books. I have written about him before. I think that Mike deserves as much recognition as Billy. Or maybe more than him, because he is hilarious and his anecdotes mademe laugh out loud (No, I’m not abbreviating that!;)

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