Wednesday, March 7, 2012

32. Frequent cycle-rides

Thomas Sturge Moore wrote about his friend Charles Shannon in a catalogue for P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., who in their Bond Street premises held a commemorative 'Exhibition of the lithographs of the late Charles Shannon, R.A.', from 20 January to 3 February 1938. Moore's foreword described Shannon as 'very handsome', with 'an energetic sturdiness' and an eye 'full of mockery'. Shannon could work very fast, a lithograph, such as 'The modeller', a portrait of Thomas Sturge Moore, would take ('final touches, and all') little over an hour.
Charles Shannon, 'The modeller', lithograph, 1891: a portrait of Thomas Sturge Moore 
Shannon had his own lithographic press and Moore would help him with the printing, however, they shared other interests:

When I came to help him with the press, he would sometimes propose a cycle-ride, and we would set out from 8 Spring Terrace, Richmond, through Leatherhead, always alighting to admire the old bridge, on through Dorking and Guildford, where the second hand shops would be visited to discover satin-wood, not yet "the rage," so that fine pieces could be picked up cheaply. Or we went to Hampton Court, and he would examine the Titian intently, as though he had never seen anyting like it before. "The fresh eye is the seeing eye; the eye that thinks it knows all about it only recognizes, never discovers."

Titian, 'Portrait of a man (known as Alessandro de Medici)' in Hampton Court (from: Charles Ricketts, Titian, 1910, plate xxxvi)
Apparently, Moore had learned to cycle early in 1896 on the bicycle of his friend the sculptor Henry Poole, and Poole and Moore went on a cycling tour in France later that year. 'His mother begged him not to venture into the heavy traffic of London and enclosed newspaper cuttings of cycling accidents, Uncle Appia sent messages warning of the dangers of the roads in France, even Uncle George in Jersey, a cyclist himself, wrote urging extreme caution'. His father 'offered a loan for the purchase of a thoroughly reliable machine'. Moore was prone to accidents, he pulled off the handlebars on one occasion and injured his knee on another, but eventually he became 'a hardy long-distance cyclist'. From Shannon's London address to Guildford, for example, was about 20 miles. In 1898, on a stay in Broadstairs, he taught Shannon how to master the bicycle.(*)

Moore and Shannon made frequent long cycling trips, such as those to Wells and Marlborough (April 1901) and to Salisbury, Glastonbury and Winchester (August 1901). Paul Delaney wrote:

Not long after this Shannon began to teach Ricketts to ride a bicycle. The old machine that had served to teach Sturge Moore and Shannon was passed on to him. With his haste and impatience he had no more aptitude for the bicycle than the piano, but perhaps he minded not being included when his two friends went off their frequent cycling trips. He certainly missed Shannon. When Ricketts was "wicked", Shannon used to threaten to go off cycling with Sturge Moore. On his first lesson, in July 1901, Ricketts did "unexpectedly well", and in August he was still "improving wonderfully". Shannon even bought  him a new bicycle. But by October the next year the bicycle was for sale and Ricketts's cycling was over: "I collapsed with nervous exhaustion at Cambridge", he told the Fields, "& I fear shed tears upon the Trumpington Road & for the first time the bike has passed into history." From then on, when Shannon "biked", Ricketts "trained". Shannon cycled and played ping-pong or tennis but the only exercise Ricketts took was walking.'(**)

Advertisment for cycles (1901)

Illustration from Isabel Marks, Fancy cycling (1901)
(*) Sylvia Legge, Affectionate cousins. T. Sturge Moore and Marie Appia. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980, p. 94, 134.
(**) J.G.P. Delaney, Charles Ricketts. A biography. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990, p. 156-157.