Wednesday, October 2, 2013

114. Charles Ricketts's birthday in 1900, 1914, and 1916

On 2 October 1866 Charles Ricketts was born in Geneva. On his 34th birthday, in 1900, he wrote in his diary:

We are about to offer a hundred pounds for the Stevens ceiling in the Crystal Palace.

The ceiling could not be removed, as it was painted on the plaster, and Ricketts was told that it was to be incorporated in the Crystal Club premises. Jan Piggott's The Palace of the People (2004) describes the Italian Court of the Crystal Palace for which the painter Alfred Stevens had designed a copy of Raphael's ceiling in the Camera della Segnatura in the Vatican. The court was an homage to the painters of the Renaissance, Raphael and Michelangelo. The ceiling was destroyed in the Crystal Palace fire of 1936. 

On 2 October 1914 - Ricketts's 48th birthday - his diary entry is longer:

Poor [Emile] Verhaeren came to dinner with [Laurence] Binyon. We had not met for fifteen or twenty years, when he called at Beaufort Street together with Toulouse Lautrec. He looks older than his years, and now slightly resembles Mallarmé. He met Dostoieffsky's daughter - or sister - (I forget) in Paris. She, it seems, is quite commonplace, but full of reminiscences of Dostoieffsky and his faltering sanity before he actually became insane. Dostoieffsky had sinned in his own estimation, and felt the need of confession and punishment for his sin. What should he do? Confess his action to his greatest enemy. Who was his greatest enemy? The Latinized and European Turgeniev. He must confess to Turgeniev. He calls, is announced, etc.; Turgeniev is astonished, courteous, slightly embarrassed, he invites Dostoieffsky to sit next to him, who then says: "I have called to confess to you this abominable act of mine." He confesses it. Turgeniev says nothing. Pause. Dostoieffsky rises, wild with grief and anger. "I thought you would have kissed me after what I have told you. Never have I despised you as much as I despise you at this moment!"

The story about Turgenev and Dostoyevsky is probably apocryphal. Emile Verhaeren had been a contributor to the final number of The Dial in 1897. He might have visited them at the time in Beaufort Street where Ricketts and Shannon lived between October 1894 and March 1898.

On 2 October 1916, Ricketts wrote a letter to Gordon Bottomley:

Your books are packed at last and leave to-morrow. Therewith is a paper Javanese doll, as backshish for patience, and also because to-day is my fiftieth birthday and the thirty-fourth anniversary of my first meeting with Shannon at Kennington Park Road, which was bombed on Monday last. It is an Oriental custom for the birthday patient to give gifts to friends, hence paper doll. [...] To celebrate my birthday I have ordered in a pianola and spent pounds on Chopin's Preludes, Scherzos, Ballades, Schumann's Carnaval, Fantasia, Quintet, and Le Coq d'Or. Nearly all Schumann is cut; not so Wagner: of Tristan, for instance, there is only the "Liebestod." This is amazing! Yet new things, Scriabine's early works for instance, are cut, and other Russian music in course: Moussorgsky's Pictures, and other unexpected things. I look forward to getting drunk on sound, just as a sailor determines to get drunk on beer. Dulac has Schéhérazade, I shall probably get it out of him later.'

Frédéric Chopin, Fantasie Impromptu, pianola performance by Awardaudio on You Tube
Edmund Dulac had made him familiar with the sound of the pianola at the end of 1914, and Ricketts had wanted to buy one, which became possible after 'Michael Field' left him an inheritance. The pianola arrived four days later, on 6 October, and the following days Ricketts listened to the music. 'This has made me feel years younger.'

Frédéric Chopin, Fantasie Impromptu, pianola performance by Awardaudio on You Tube
On later birthdays, Ricketts wrote in his diary (about the death of Edgar Degas, 1917), or he corresponded with friends (Gordon Bottomley, 1918; Cecil Lewis, 1928), without mentioning gifts or festivities.