Dead Socialist Watch, #318

My goodness – I haven’t posted a new Dead Socialist for a long time. Here’s a cracking one from the ODNB

Frances Morrison, née Cooper, from a poor Sussex background, the 16-year old girl met and eventually married a house-painter, James Morrison (1802-1835), moving to his native Newcastle-upon-Tyne and, later, to Birmingham. The couple became increasingly involved in radical and trade-union activity: he edited the Owenite paper, The Pioneer, which may have been – the ODNB speculates – the first English-language periodical to carry a regular women’s page, which they wrote together, denouncing, among other things, the inequality of women’s and men’s wages: “The industrious female is well entitled to the same amount of remuneration as the industrious male”, they wrote, in 1834.

James died after a fall in 1835, and Frances became a professional propagandist for the Owenite cause, first running a shop in Finsbury, then working as the “hostess” of the Owenite Social Institution in Salford, later touring the North as a popular lecturer on women’s rights. Here’s the title-page for a lecture given in Manchester:


It’s not clear where she went politically from the 1840s; there are conflicting reports. She remarried a London pastry-cook in the 1850s. Born at Petworth, Sussex, January 1807, she died at Harwich, Essex, 29 August 1898.

“The history of the wealth of the Sutherland family is the history of the ruin and of the expropriation of the Scotch-Gaelic population from its native soil”

Reading in today’s papers that Francis Egerton, the 7th Duke of Sutherland, wants the Great British public to cough up £100m to keep the Bridgewater Collection of old masters on public display in Scotland reminded me of what Karl Marx wrote in a newspaper article in 1853, “The Duchess of Sutherland and Slavery“, about his great-great-great-great aunt Lady Harriet Elizabeth Georgiana Howard.

(That duchess was the grand-daughter of The Duchess who features in the film, currently on the nation’s cinema screens, and played by Keira Knightley, apparently.)

Anyway: do read the Marx piece: it’s great fun.

“Frankly, I’m Not HP”

There’s a lot to dislike about Harry’s Place [no link, read on], and its comments threads are often a disgrace to the entire interwebnet (which is saying something) but if you want to have an argument with them, you can have an argument with them, and you can do it in public, either over at your site, or at theirs, or at a great many other places in cyberspace. Running to their ISP to shut them down because you don’t like something someone’s said about someone is pretty low, and the person or people who did it should be ashamed of themselves.

Dogging (Again)

I was first told about dogging in 2002, when I was visiting Josephine in Rome, where she was living at the time. One of her archaeologist colleagues there — someone who has also, as it happens, told a lie to the Queen — explained the phenomenon to me. But I didn’t fully absorb what I was being told, so for quite a while afterwards I mistakenly thought that dogging was something that Italians did in autostrada lay-bys, even though dogging is, when you think about it, clearly a deeply, deeply English activity.

(So no good for Gordon Brown’s Britishness crusade. On the other hand, I see that googling “dogging Scotland” gets me 200,000 hits, and “dogging Wales” gets me 150,000, so perhaps a case could be made for “British values” teaching in schools to include a how-to module on dogging. I’d have thought it was far too cold and wet in Scotland and Wales. “Dogging Northern Ireland” nets you a mere 37,000 pages, so perhaps it never really took hold over there, or perhaps the internet hasn’t yet reached Ulster, or something.)

Anyway, for reasons I never began to understand, by about 2003 the Virtual Stoa had made it onto at least one list of “UK dogging websites”, and a surprising number of people would show up in the stats as coming to the Stoa in search of “dogging in Bedfordshire” and the like. (Also puzzling, since the VS isn’t known for its coverage of Life in Bedfordshire, but there we go.) And, over the years, I’ve kept half an eye on dogging in our national life, although I think the only sustained discussion we’ve had here at the Stoa was this one last year.

Fast forward now to 2008, and in February I was surprised to see in the site referral stats that someone had visited the Stoa looking for “daniel davies dogging”. (Back then it was the fourth hit; now it’s dropped to sixteenth.) I dropped blogland’s Daniel Davies (aka dsquared) a note to tell him that someone was onto him, and he said that he thought it might be something to do with this guy, “or at least I profoundly hope that’s what they were looking for”. And, yes, it turns out that another chap called Daniel Davies has written a state-of-the-nation novel about dogging, hence the title, The Isle of Dogs, which was published not so long ago. (And just as the person who came to the Stoa was presumably looking for the novelist but found the blogger, so over here there’s someone down in the comments who’s looking for the blogger on a page about the novelist.)

Anyway: I read The Isle of Dogs the other day, being generally in favour of the idea that people are writing novels about dogging, but unfortunately it was crap. (This bloke liked it, though. Where I thought it was a largely predictable string of clichés, he thought it was ” a near-flawless analysis of British society”. De gustibus, et cetera.)

Closing Ceremonial

I didn’t watch the Olympics closing ceremony — that kind of thing doesn’t really float my boat — but I was pleased when I heard that the Shipping Forecast would be featured in the British bit of the pageantry. (If Gordon Brown’s Britishness crusade was all about things like the Shipping Forecast, I’d be much more enthusiastic, especially if we could have Finisterre reinstated in place of that godawful Fitzroy.) But if they wanted British icons, I think lots and lots of Daleks would have been even more fun, although I admit that Dalek values are perhaps not entirely in tune with those professed by the International Olympic Committee (or Gordon Brown).

(I enjoyed the Olympics. Much more than I thought I would. I pretty much ignored the Games in 1996, 2000 and 2004, and I was expecting to do the same this time around. But that thing on the BBC website that allowed you to stay focused on the sport you were interested in made it all bearable, and, as I’ve said before, tehgraun‘s internet coverage was, I thought, superb.)

But What About Architecture and Mechanicks?

Elephants can count, over here.

The Third Earl of Shaftesbury on the Elephant (again):

But had Nature assign’d such an OEconomy as this to so puissant an Animal, for instance, as the ELEPHANT, and made him withal as prolifick as those smaller Creatures commonly are; it might have gone hard perhaps with Mankind: And a single Animal, who by his proper Might and Prowess has often decided the Fate of the greatest Battels which have been fought by Human Race, shou’d he have grown up into a Society, with a Genius for Architecture and Mechanicks proportionable to what we observe in those smaller Creatures; we shou’d, with all our invented Machines, have found it hard to dispute with him the Dominion of the Continent.

Track Cycling

I’ve been enjoying the track cycling events at the Olympics (and ignoring most of the rest of the Games). Hitherto, I’ve only watched road-racing in general and the Tour de France in particular. Well done, the British team, etc. (Actually, they’ve been remarkably good, and it looks as if they’ll all be winning at least one medal — assuming Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins can pulls something off in the Madison. I hope they get to sit next to the Judo team on the plane on the way home.)

But what I was going to say was this: aren’t all the track events basically very silly? I was watching the team pursuit earlier today, and thinking what a silly event that was, before reflecting that there were at least four sillier events (the sprint, the points race, the Madison and the Keirin — and, arguably, a fifth, the team sprint, which is, let’s face it, pretty silly). Has velodrome cycling always been silly, or has it become progressively sillier over time?


From tehgraun, earlier this morning:

2.28am: If Paula Radcliffe was to peel off her own skin and hand it to a child-murdering sadist in return for the safety of 34 orphans, she couldn’t be more brave than what she’s doing here, according to Brendan Foster and Steve Cram in the television commentary box, who have never ever seen anything braver, nor can conceive of anything braver than her finishing ninth or tenth in this race. She’s now drifting way behind the leaders, who are busy winning the thing, but we wouldn’t know about it at the moment, I’m afraid, because it’s all about bravery today in Beijing.