Wednesday, May 25, 2016

252. Cyril W. Beaumont

Recently, a new issue of The Private Library was published. It is the Winter 2014 issue, published with the magazine's customary delay in April 2016. 

The Private Library (Winter 2014) [cover, detail]
The issue, written by Stephen R. Thomson, is entirely devoted to the publications of Cyril W. Beaumont that appeared between 1917 and 1931. Starting as a private press, with its own printing press, The Beaumont Press soon developed into a semi commercial firm that focussed on illustrated books and books about ballet.

The Vale Press and Charles Ricketts are mentioned a few times. Cyril Beaumont belonged to a younger generation (he was born in 1891 and died in 1976) and when he considered setting up his own press, the major private presses of the 1890s had all closed down. Beaumont, Thompson writes, 'claimed to have been particularly inspired by the Kelmscott Press, Doves, Vale and Eragny presses'.

The Private Library (Winter 2014)
In 1920, printing books in his basement of 75 Charing Cross Road in London came to an end, and he abandoned craft printing. He, as Thompson argues, 'was happy to oversee and assist staff at an established printing firm'. He may have felt that he was 'departing from the private press ideal', but Thomson sees it differently: 'In reality, though, he had moved to a state of production similar to that of Charles Ricketts, whose publications were printed at the Ballantyne Press as though they were private press books, using a carefully selected group of compositors, readers, pressmen and binders released from their normal work routine to concentrate on the printing of the Vale Press books.' (page 161).

Some details in the last statement are arguable, but there are some similarities. Beaumont was not merely a publisher, he also acted as an editor and a writer, which Ricketts also did. But Ricketts could go further and illustrate the books he published. Beaumont never designed his own illustrations. 

There is a further similarity that could have been noted. Both men were lovers of ballet and modern dance, and they were especially delighted by the Ballet Russe that visited London for a popular series of performances. Ricketts, however, was disappointed by the later shows. During the 1920s, Beaumont published some books about the later group of dancers: The Art of Lydia Lopokova (1920), and Serge Lifar (1928) were among these.

The Private Library (Winter 2014)
Ricketts decided, when the Russian Ballet had returned to London in September 1918, that the principle dancers such as Lopokova and Massine had lost their genius, and that the ballets were no longer the 'life-events' that had impressed him so thoroughly. Massine could not compare with Nijinski or Fokine; he lacked imagination and temperament, although his appearance was tempting:

He is stark naked save for rather nice bathing-drawers, with a huge black spot on his belly. Two or three idiot girls in the gallery shrieked with laughter when he came on. They shrieked again when the nice coral-red men came on, they again shrieked when Cleopatra was brought out of her veils and when the fauns appeared.

[Ricketts's diary had: 'fawns'].

[A photograph of Massine in this production of Cleopatra was made by E.O. Hoppé, and can be viewed on the website of the E.O. Hoppé Estate.]