Pope to Abdicate, King to Marry Mae West

The Kate Sharpley Library has re-published Albert Meltzer’s autobiography I Couldn’t Paint Golden Angels: Sixty Years of Commonplace Life and Anarchist Agitation.

I thought this was pretty funny (note that culture-jamming was invented by sound-collage artists in the 1980s, or possibly by French intellectuals in the 1950s):

The one in the Freedom Group most in touch with Bohemia was Charles Lahr, a German anarchist who had come to London to avoid military service and stayed forty years. At first there was a suspicion by the police that he had come to shoot the Kaiser, who had unwittingly decided to pay England a visit at the same time, though he did not stay so long. Charlie was shadowed by Special Branch until one cold night he took pity on the detective staying outside the bakery where he worked, and came out to explain to him that the baker himself took sufficient precautions to see none of his nightworkers got away before time either to go playing cards or shoot visiting potentates according to their taste. A few years later the war broke out and he was interned in Alexandra Palace as an enemy alien and was interviewed by the same detective. ‘You thought I’d come to shoot the Kaiser,’ chuckled Charlie. ‘Pity you didn’t,’ said the detective in a decided change of position.

In his Bloomsbury bookshop in the twenties and thirties, Charlie had been a focus point for the literary set, a few of whom lingered on when I first met him. Charles Duff was one of them. I think he worked in the Foreign Office at the time but he was an authority on the Castilian (and possibly the Catalan) language, like Allison Peers. Both of them had written school textbooks I was using. He was intrigued at my passing on my Castilian lessons to Billy Campbell so he could talk with his Basque girl friend in her own tongue without either of us realising it was a separate language.

In those days newsbills used to announce the startling events of the day more prominently than they do now and they were mass printed. Charlie had a trick of slicing them in the middle and sticking them together again — to make up some such headline as Pope to Abdicate or The King to Marry Mae West. On the 20th anniversary of the Zeppelin shot down at Cuffley, there was to be a memorial service to which distinguished local German residents were invited. Some less than knowledgeable or perhaps cynical Embassy official had sent an invitation to Charlie. He turned up as the herrenvolk had solemnly entered the church, top hats on arms, and set up a soapbox newsstand with a saucer full of coppers, and the banner headline Hitler Assassinated — needless to say, with no papers to back it.

As the procession solemnly came out, von Ribbentrop among them, they looked at the bill and dashed helter skelter for the railway station. When the train came in with the evening paper every copy was grabbed by Embassy officials to the protests of the station master, while indignant shouts came from people pulled out of telephone booths by impatient Nazis wanting to use the phone, but the news of that happy event did not appear for another ten years or so.


About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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3 Responses to Pope to Abdicate, King to Marry Mae West

  1. ksl says:

    First off, hard copies available from us or [AK].

    Second, Stuart Christie has put up a film of Albert Meltzer’s funeral, complete with Jazz band and stand-up comic [here] (third in the list of films).

  2. Dr. Cam says:

    The Bohemians thought the Anarchists were eccentric because they worked for a living and yet dissented from the State. Of these were many who attained fame, if sometimes for five minutes and not always that for what they would have preferred. For instance, there was Count de Potocki, who considered himself rightful King of Poland. In truth, though originally a New Zealand milkman, he did have some sort of a claim to be considered, if the Poles ever decided they would revert to elective monarchy. He admitted though, the Pope would have been surprised if they chose a declared Pagan, whose daughter was being brought up by her mother as a Unitarian, to rule the Catholic kingdom. He now and again turned up to suggest that monarchy, being the rule of but one, ought not be so abhorrent to Anarchists, as the rule of many. He thought them the largest party in the country, as the group meetings were often twice as big as the local Conservative and Labour parties. He attended all meetings to try to sell his bonds against payment by his court when established. He stopped coming when it was decided he was too much of a bore, and someone emptied half-a-pint of beer over him. He stormed out shouting ‘Sans-culottism’ and started his own royalist party. During the war he lived in the same house as a gentleman who considered himself Hitler’s U.K. representative. When they quarrelled over women Potocki stripped him of all the titles he had conferred on him, and in turn was listed for immediate internment in a concentration camp. However he neither returned to his kingdom in Poland nor went to Auschwitz. After the war, his poetasting failing, the last of the once feared Potockis returned to his New Zealand milk round.

    Shades of Dr. King Roman of Darwin…

    In 1942, Ronald Victor Charles was christened with his mother Katherine Mann’s surname. His biological father was Lt. Prince Roman Dambski, Count of Lubraniec.

    In 1992, Prince Ronald, now Prince Roman, visited his father’s tomb in Warsaw. It was inscribed Grand Prince of Lithuania and Count of Lubraniec. He also visited his stepmother Princess Paulina Dambska, daughter of Prince Wladislaw Gedroyc.

    Since then he has been seeking to restore the Lithuanian Throne for the benefit of the Lithuanian people who have, according to Guinness World Records, the highest suicide rate in the world.

    To obtain official recognition of King Roman’s hereditary right to the Lithuanian Throne, and by restoration of the Lithuanian Throne to improve the status and prosperity of Lithuania and the Lithuanian people, you may assist by acquiring titles from King Roman and becoming his valued friend…


  3. @ndy says:

    …In 1932 Potocki took five of his poems, together with some of his highly accurate translations from Rabelais and Verlaine, to a small printer. The collection was entitled Here Lies John Penis, that being the name of his own principal poem:

    Here lies John Penis / Buried in the mound of Venus.

    This will give an idea of what – Rabelais and Verlaine aside – was objected to in the curious moral climate of 1932.

    He asked for fifty copies which were designed for private distribution amongst his acquaintances. The printer, who was also printer of the Methodist Recorder, decided that these were obscene, and therefore informed the police. The Count was therefore arrested, and on 8th February 1932 appeared at the Central Criminal Court before Sir Ernest Wild, Recorder of London. Already at his trial being a self-declared pagan, he asked to swear upon a volume of Shakespeare rather than the Bible. (The Count continued his own version of pagan religion then – and ever since – offering devotions to Apollo at a domestical altar in Provence.)

    The Count appeared in a red mediaeval robe, hair two feet long, and sandals. Considering that the notorious Joynson-Hicks (“Jix”) – “the Policeman of the Lord” – was Home Secretary at the time and the relatively recent Well of Loneliness case had occurred and that Sir Ernest was a notoriously severe judge, one could say that this mode of appearance was not calculated to lead to success.

    The Recorder was predictably unimpressed:

    Recorder: “You call that poetry?”

    Potocki: “Yes.”

    Recorder: “That is how a poet writes? How did you become a poet?”

    Potocki: “My Lord, it is the choice of the gods.”

    Recorder: “What gods?”

    Potocki: “A man cannot call himself a poet if he is not a poet.”

    Geoffrey Wladyslaw Vaile Potocki de Montalk: Hail!

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