The Full Monty

From my Balliol colleague Adam Roberts’ valedictory lecture, on retiring from the Montague Burton chair in International Relations at Oxford (and reproduced in this week’s Oxford Magazine):

Montague Burton (1885-1952), the great pioneer of mass production tailoring and the benefactor of the chair, was an incurable believer in modernity. In his extensive travels, his notes on which he published privately in two volumes entitled Global Girdling, he demonstrated a love of the modern and, with only a few exceptions, a dislike of antiquity. Visiting the Middle East in the 1930s, he hated the Pyramids and the Wailing Wall. By contrast he loved the railway on which one could glide from Cairo to Tel Aviv and thence to Jerusalem – a symbol of modernity to him that now seems to us to belong to an era long gone. He praise the Jerusalem Electricity Works – and he had no higher terms of praise than this – as ‘reminiscent of Bourneville and Port Sunlight. He was a passionate believer in the League of Nations: 6,000 of the employees at his Leeds factory belonged to the Montague Burton Branch of the League of Nations Union. His progressivism itself looks charmingly antique – as does his belief that if you put all men in suits you would deliver a body blow to the class system. Indeed, he developed ingenious schemes whereby customers could buy not just the suit but all that goes with it – the shirt, the tie, even socks and shows. This is almost certainly the origin of the phrase ‘The Full Monty’. I was tempted to entitle this lecture ‘The Full Monty’, but I don’t believe in encouraging false expectations, especially as by a perverse irony, thanks to Peter Cattaneo’s memorable 1997 film, The Full Monty now means the exact opposite of what it did originally.

Beaver-Blogging (Unauthorized January Edition)

Two more specimens came to light this week, and I’m not willing to wait until late October to share them with you. First, the Simone de Beauvoir centenary has led to newspaper articles like this one; second, an erudite colleague has drawn my attention to a passage from Charles Fourier, in which he argues that the dilapidated state of turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Frenchwomen gives us just as little insight into what women might be like one day as the torpor of the beaver in captivity gives us any clue to the real nature of the beaver (or something like that, anyway).

Dead Socialist Watch, #305

Emily Lutyens, theosophist, feminist, socialist, vegetarian; born in Paris, 26 December 1874, died at Paddington, 3 January 1964. Brought up in Portugal, India, England and France, she married the architect Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) and joined the women’s movement, working in the Moral Education League (campaigning for prostitues suffering from venereal disease) and later the WSPU (her sister Constance Bulwer-Lytton was a hunger-striker). Annie Besant converted her to theosophy; she would later write Candles in the Sun, her memoir of her time in this peculiar movement. In 1916, she started a campaign for Indian self-rule. “This was perhaps tactless”, notes the ODNB, “as her husband was then designing an imperial capital at New Delhi.”

Fraternal Greetings

Over at some website or other called DVD Outsider by some chap called Slarek:

But my choice for DVD release of the year is…

Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short Films – region 2, BFI

This was an easy decision. The most comprehensive DVD set of the year has been assembled with passion and care in every department, from the remastered transfers to the extensive and sometimes rare extra features to form a Svankmajer completist’s dream package. If you’re at all interested in animation or surrealism or art then you should own this set. Knowing that it was a real labour of love for Michael Brooke, the driving force behind this excellent package, inevitably adds you your appreciation of the work that has gone into it. Fabulous.