Integral to all concerned here at scarecrow is the traditional British boozer, couple this with a love of literature - especially of an obscure nature - and we have a heady combination. It is always intriguing to stumble upon a writer, who not only managed to spend every living hour in his favourite boozer but also managed to produce a marvellous plethora of written work in the process. Step forward one Julian Maclaren-Ross.
In his ubiquitous camel-hair coat and immaculate suits, often sporting a carnation buttonhole, a silver-topped varnished cane, dandy cigarette holder and mirrored sunglasses, Julian Maclaren-Ross cut a sartorially elegant swath through Soho and Fitzrovia matched only by few. Julian Maclaren-Ross was many things, most notably a “novelist, short story writer, bookman, dandy, raconteur, lady’s man, parodist, screenwriter, TV and radio scriptwriter, wartime conscript, Duke of Redonda and incompetent gardener-for-hire in Bognor Regis [he landed in court for uprooting some prize seedlings].”
A man distinctly immortalized in other writers’ novels [such as Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time
] as much as in his own writing and the pubs and drinking dens of London [most notably the Wheatsheaf in Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia] he was once, rather melancholically, called “one of the ruined men of Soho…the ruined gambler with one last throw…the Jacobite exile who would live to see the usurpers humbled” [Dead as Doornails, Anthony Cronin].
It strikes one as very odd how a writer such as Julian Maclaren-Ross is practically ignored over here in his native country [he has all the right ingredients to be a literary hero of a certain type] yet other writer-boozers over the pond, the likes of Bukowski et al spring to mind, continue to sell by the Borders-basket load. It seems we just don’t want these types on our doorstep these days, gone are such bibulous literary times, the nearest we get to writers occupying the same space today is online or via email and certainly not in your local pub - it seems technology has put a stop to such decadent showboating.
But, is this really such a bad thing? Wasn’t it Bukowski himself who opined at every instant that in order to be a writer it is better to avoid other writers at all costs? Maybe this is the reason Julian Maclaren-Ross didn’t produce half the volume of work Bukowski did? Whatever the reason and regardless of how little, compared to such luminaries as Bukowski, he produced it seems that it was enough.
We’ll leave you with the classic dilemma of the Fitzrovian writer-boozer in a passage from Julian Maclaren-Ross’s own “Memoirs of the Forties” as he describes his first meeting with the founder and editor of Poetry London, J. Meary Tambimuttu in The Swiss public house, Soho circa 1943:
“’Only beware of Fitzrovia’ Tambi said…’It’s a dangerous place, you must be careful.’
‘Fights with knives?’
‘No, a worse danger. You might get Sohoitis you know.’
‘No I don’t. What is it?’
‘If you get Sohoitis,’ Tambi said very seriously, ’ you will stay there always day and night and get no work done ever.’
‘Is this Fitzrovia?’
‘No, Old Compton Street, Soho. You are safer here.’”
Ah, the last of the Bohemians. Please take time to look at the bibliography below and in the meantime, well why not, pint in The Wheatsheaf anyone?
Lee Rourke © 2005.
Short Bibliography [in print]: