Four centuries ago on the first Friday of every month the London Mermaid tavern gathered gentlemen including William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson and other famed poets. The meetings were headed by sir Walter Releigh, the poet, philosopher, historian, corsair, Elizabeth’s I favorite and the legendary founder of Friday Street Club (this honored society, preserved due to the artist John Faed on his painting Shakespeare and his friends at the Mermaid tavern, adorns the cover of the new book by Kyivite Leonid Hamburh).
In the writer’s line of fortune one might hear the melody of magic from the English fairytales. In the prelude the 12-year-old boy read The Forsyte Saga, fell in love with England and got passionate for its culture and history for all his life. In the intermezzo he studied and served as a military engineer in the Air Forces of the former USSR. In the culmination after having resigned Hamburh went to Oxford where he gathered materials and worked in the library. He touched the old chestnut on which, according to Lewis Carroll, the Cheshire Cat had set smiling mysteriously… Shortly after Hamburh came up with the interesting guidebook for the English children’s literature, which was a bestseller in the 1990s and was completed and republished last under the title The Wonderland of Alice and Harry Potter. The hobby turned out to be a vocation as after the bright debut the equally interesting books about the British detective stories, humor, music, and sports appeared [by the way the kind preface for the book Paradoxes of the English Music of the 20th Century was written by Roman Kofman. – Author].
The new book by Leonid Hamburh The English Club. Beginning, History, Traditions, Curiosities… (Kyiv, Veselka, 2013) suggests immerging into the world of gentlemen and eccentrics, poets and sportsmen, pilots and literature characters. The reader will lift the curtain of the elite clubs in anonymous buildings of St. James Street and Pall Mall Street: the Londoners humorously call this place the clubland. Probably, some would like to check the well-known proverb about the oldest London’s club: “There is nothing that could not be resolved within an hour with a glass of sherry in the White’s Club.” The mystery of the name of PEN Club will be revealed as it was made out of the first letters of the words Poets, Essayists, and Novelists. The lists of participants of different clubs can be read as the British Encyclopedia. Thus the members of Athenaeum Club were Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday and Arthur Conan-Doyle, William Thackeray and Walter Scott! The members of Garrick Club, named after the great English actor David Garrick were Somerset Maugham, Alan Milne, Peter Ustinov, Yehudi Menuhin and the members of Art Club were Franz Liszt, Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin and Ivan Turgenev…
The topic of clubs in the works of English writers is surprisingly fresh. Let’s recall Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Club, the weirdest club of clams called Diogenes Club in Arthur Conan-Doyle’s book, the phantom in Serena Club from the story by Herbert Wells, Twelve True Fishermen Club in a story by Gilbert Chesterton, Drones Club for gentlemen and the club for battlers in the stories about Jeeves and Wooster by Pelham Grenville Wodehouse.
The book also contains chapters about famed military and sports clubs: the Royal Navy Club and the Royal Air Force Club, London Marylebone Cricket Club and All England Lawn Tennis Club. By the way, the author was a member of London Victory Services Club where he repeatedly stayed.
Today the British clubs which are the national heritage are indissolubly tied to the history of Great Britain. However, the idea itself is paradoxical: the club, designed as a space for ideal communication allows holing up and forgetting about annoying reality for some time. The clubs of birdwatchers, bell listeners and funny eccentrics who gather on the 13th of every month, walk indoors with their umbrellas open, spill salt and drink from cracked glasses oppose their weirdness to the vanities of the world. One of the members of meetings at the Mermaid tavern was right saying “All the world is a stage”!
By the way, the book Great Britain. Sports Creation presented in London Pushkin House was announced as Great Britain Seen by a Ukrainian Gentleman. And the other day the Ukrainian gentleman Leonid Hamburh presented his book The English Club in the Kyiv House of Scientists.