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20th Century Notts: 1930-1932

John Baird
Fri 1 Jun, 2018

The 1930s open with the death of D. H. Lawrence, whilst two of our women writers come to the fore.

1930

The Virgin and the Gipsy and Other Stories (1930)

The Virgin and the Gipsy was discovered in France after D. H. Lawrence's death. Immediately recognized as a masterpiece in which Lawrence had distilled his ideas about sexuality and morality, The Virgin and the Gipsy has become a classic and is one of Lawrence's most electrifying short novels. Returning from overseas to a lifeless vicarage in Papplewick are Yvette and Lucile, daughters of an Anglican vicar. With their scandalous mother having done a runner, the sisters find their new home dominated by a blind and selfish grandmother. Thankfully they encounter a free-spirited young gypsy and his family, unleashing sexual curiosity and the yearning for a life beyond that which a young woman seems destined.

They called her The Mater. She was one of those physically vulgar, clever old bodies who had got her own way all her life by buttering the weaknesses of her men-folk. (from The Virgin and the Gipsy and Other Stories)

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D. H. Lawrence died, aged 44, in Vence, a town in the French Riviera. He had moved there on the advice of a doctor, thinking that the high-altitude location would benefit his failing health. Underweight and in pain, Lawrence was given morphine. He said, ‘I am better now’ before falling asleep, never to awaken. Among those consoling Frieda was her former lover Angelo Ravagli. Tasked with shipping Lawrence’s remains to Taos, New Mexico, Ravagli is said to have left them on a train. At this point it’s said that he either returned to collect them or bought another urn and filled it with ‘other’ ashes, but Ravagli later claimed that he had dumped the original ashes back in Vence and replaced them with cindered wood. 

1931

Wild Rye by Muriel Hine (1931) 

In Wild Rye a young woman breaks with expectations to become engaged with a man whose only creed is freedom. Muriel Hine, who lived in Nottingham at the time, explores the challenges faced by women in this locally set novel (the city is known as ‘Lacingham’). A sequel was published the following year.

Hine’s father was the architect George Hine, a specialist in asylum architecture and the designer of Mapperley Hospital, and her grandfather was the famous local architect T. C. Hine, behind many fine creations from the Park to the Lace Market including The Birkin Building. There is a book by Ken Brand (1980) featuring the local buildings of T. C. Hine entitled, Thomas Chambers Hine: Architect of Victorian Nottingham.

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Newstead Abbey, which had been sold by Lord Byron in 1817, is given to the Corporation of Nottingham for use as a city park and museum. Sir Julian Cahn - who had bought the Abbey in 1930 - and a previous owner, Charles Ian Fraser, handed over the keys to the historic ruin and its house to the Corporation at a ceremony attended by the Prime Minister of Greece. 

1932

Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple

Dorothy Whipple’s Greenbanks (1932) was chosen as the ‘Choice of the Book Society’ in this year and it became the author’s breakthrough novel, bringing with it great success. It follows an ordinary family's joys and sorrows before and after the Great War. It's a tale of infidelity, divorce, autocratic parents and rebellious offspring. Two characters, the emotional and irresponsible grandmother Louisa, and the unsentimental, charming granddaughter Rachel, were particularly well received, producing comparisons with Jane Austin.

It was queer, it was frightening, she thought, how in life you got what you wanted. Men, for instance, who admired above everything else, beauty in women, married beauty and, more often than not, found themselves with nothing but beauty. (From Greenbanks)

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In 1932 new housing was created in the Narrow Marsh district, at the foot of the Lace Market, formerly a notorious thoroughfare at the foot of St. Mary's cliff. Dick Turpin was known to have appeared in dangerous Narrow Marsh and his dealings here are recorded in a pamphlet published in 1924 by Mr. Louis Mellard. Many burglars, spies and trouble-rousers are associated with Narrow Marsh. One such character was Charlie Peace who lived there. The career criminal has featured in much popular culture such as penny dreadfuls and children’s comics. Charlie Peace: his amazing life and astounding legend is the title of a 2017 book by Michael Eaton. Nottingham Playhouse hosted a production of Eaton’s play about Charlie Peace.

A. R. Dance’s novel Narrow Marsh is set in the area during the early 19th Century when it was one of Nottingham’s worse slums.

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