From Clarence's Diary - Thurs Dec 12th 1889 - Alexandria to Cairo

Skribita de Marcus Bicknell on .

Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.6

Thursday Dec 12th 1889alexandria cb

I was up on Thursday Dec 12th at 6 o’clock, just light, and soon the land became visible, and presently we ere near the outlying flour mills and other buildings and the palaces and minarets of the East became visible.

By about 7 we had entered the grand harbour full of ships and were soon alongside the quay and rejoiced in the first sight of the groups of men in lovely colours of skin and clothing. Oh! How different to anything seen before and how much more beautiful than anything imagined.

On the quay was the Governor of Alexandria with the Russian Consul to receive the Grand Duke and Duchess – but we were chiefly interested in Cook’s galley for which came on board a magnificent tall Egyptian with a host of his porters in scarlet dress. We put ourselves under their protection. Bade some hurried farewells and with the Miss Cookites were soon in carriages, about 4 of them, and all omnibuses also crammed en route for the station. Cook  gets all thru’ the Douane without any examination or trouble, by bribery I suppose, but from the boat to the station all is done for one for 5/- a head. At the station confusion indescribable, but finally we get all luggage registered and at 9.20 are off 2nd class in the English crowded train: but we were the only 2nd class passengers: we were very glad of this as lots of the natives came in from one station to another and we saw and learnt much. The 2nd carriages were like Swiss ones.

Pen and ink sketch, embedded in the diary text, by Bicknell alongside

At ¼ to 1 we were at Cairo. The journey was one continuous wonder and surprise. The mud villages of Fellaheen , the groups and sometimes great groves of palm trees, very tall and looking quite different to our Bordighera ones, i.e. looking at home and much more beautiful and healthy. The multitude of people everywhere, working in the fields, going along with strings of camels, or on donkeys, squatting about on the ground, watering the crops for use. And everywhere in the flat country, buffaloes, cows, sheep, donkeys and piggeries, while the air is full of wild birds, rooks and hawks and quantities of little ones, and some of them so beautiful. The Delta is perfectly flat with here and there the mud villages and occasionally a fine town such as Santah . An Egyptian who came in there and sat by me at once offered us all white sugar crystals, which we ate, and presently we exchanged cigarettes. The I took my first lesson in Arabic and asked the name for a cow, horse, buffalo, camel, the numerals, the dates, the pigeons, the oranges &c. &c. He was so pleasant and we all laughed heartily. The me, and especially the young ones are so graceful, erect and dignified and so polite. Cotton fields everywhere but nearly all gathered, wheat, broad beans and lots of crops coming up. Many of the fields still muddy from the Nile inundation. 2 men stand holding a long flexible cane at each end with bucket below  which they let down into the canals and then swing it up into the little conduits flowing down the fields so nothing more miserable and poor can be imagined than the Fellaheen villages, but nothing more picturesque. The camels are delightful. Many of the women in the country, and there at work are not covered but in the stations and towns they are all so, dressed in black and dark blue, with a queer brass thing down the forehead to hold up the little black piece of crepe which covers up the rest of the face. They are extremely handsome and so are the men; the boys beautiful. We see Nubians, black Sudanese, Arabs, Egyptians, Greeks, Turks and who knows what beside.

At Cairo, before reaching which we saw the pyramids in the distance and the long lines of the reddish yellow hills of the desert, we left the Hotel Royale oncontres and were soon at a delicious lunch with dates, bananas and large mandarin oranges a cup of café turc to finish up with. Then we all went into the town, down wonderful streets and into strange dark bazaars with carpets stretched across high up between the houses almost touching the sky. What a crowd of foot passengers, donkeys, carts and carriages, an occasional camel, water carriers, cuels of sorry description, bundles of sugar cane, crates of pomegranates, queer nuts and vegetables and eatables. Mud on dust in the narrow uneven streets. Every imaginable colour of costume among the men. Rough looking street arabs, tall polished elegant old Egyptians. The scene like a kaleidoscope and all an ever changing picture of form an colour. Then the houses, the latticed windows, the minarets and doors of the mosques, the queer stalls with cross legged vendors, the piles of carpets, the black courtyards but lit up by lacups and coloured stuffs. In some parts there are little scarlet and white flags across the streets and thousands as there is a festival going on. In the broad streets every now and then comes a S… i.e. a beautiful and bouncey fellow with short white linen trousers and bare legs, a nicely gold embroidered jacket and a red fez holding up a long stick and crying out, and he rushes down the street calling to people to get out of the way before his master’s carriage. Some grandees appear to have 2 of these elegant and picturesque servants.

We walked till we could walk no more and then we went home, dined out and in the evening sticked out to buy photos. We all 4 feel the effects of the sea so much. The earth seems to be rolling as in an earthquake. We saw Shepherd’s celebrated hotel, but are so thankful we are not there as it seems all English and is so grand and so expensive. There is no wine under 6/- a bottle and pension without that and extras is 16/- or 17/-   a day! Ours is only 10/- and wine at 2/6 or 4/- dear enough. On the table are the earthenware bottles of filtered Nile water, very cool: but you should up and see the Nile before you drink it, as it is all of a muddy yellow colour, with refuse and vegetable matter floating down it, and such mud in its banks.


Notes from the editor...

If “Cook” could get them through customs with such ease, it is likely that the traveller was John Mason Cook, the only son of Thomas Cook and the managing director of Thomas Cook & Son, travel company, at that time.

Fellah (plural Fellaheen or Fellahin) is a peasant, farmer or agricultural laborer in the Middle East and North Africa. The word derives from the Arabic word for ploughman or tiller. A fellahin could be seen wearing a simple cotton robe called galabieh. The word Galabieh originated around 1715–25 and derived from the Egyptian Arabic word gallabīyah. (Wikipedia)

Shepheard's Hotel was the leading hotel in Cairo and one of the most celebrated hotels in the world from the middle of the 19th century until it was burned down in 1952. A modern hotel called the Shepheard Hotel was built nearby in 1957. (Wikipedia).  £1 or 20/- is worth £90-£110 in 2014 using the retail price index inflation but     £430-£637 using average earning or per capita GDP. Using £500 as today’s value of £1 then gives that bottle of wine at index gives the bottle of wine at £150 and the room rate £425 a night.

From Clarence's Diary - Wed Dec 11th 1889 - Cricket at sea

Skribita de Marcus Bicknell on .

Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.5on board the hydraspes

Wed 11 December 1889, 3 pm

Calm and sunny. Cricket matches going on furiously, but every few minutes the string balls, made by the sailors, go into the sea and someone or other is fined 6d. Our ship will be off Alex. at 4am and at 7 we shall get into harbour. All today we are in open sea: the very gulls have deserted us.

At night the moon rose of a fiery orange colour; and the sea became like a lake. There was a great deal of singing on board, but with the exception of a very good but quite constrained tenor voice, the English exhibition was of the lowest nigger type, and all the going Britishers soon took to howling and bawling in the most rowdy way, disgusting us and making us feel ashamed of our countrymen. The the captain ordered up all the sailors and they stood in a circle on the main deck and sang but very badly raucous songs and choruses, the inevitable Santa Lucia and Ai Caroli! among them. I had much talk with my charming and cultured Italian friend whose name is Com. Carlo Restagni, Dollore in Cellere, secretary to the minister for instruction and Commandato al Ministero degli Affari Estere. It seems that the Italian authorities in Egypt did not want him back, but there has been something wrong going on and Signor Crispi  said “go out at once” – no-one expected his approval, so he could pounce down upon them unexpectedly, before they could hide their misdeeds. Signor Restagni has promised me a letter to one of her dependants in Athens and if he is in Cairo on our return will be glad to see me.

We went to bed by 11. At 4 am our ship was off Alexandria and had to anchor for the night.

Notes from the editor...

The image is a pen and ink drawing from the diary which is transcribed here. The date on the drawing is the date of the diary entry I've given here. This must be the deck where the cricket match took place. The last words of the printed text above are those at the top of the image, in Clarence's hand-writing. Luckily I find it quite easy to read, so I can transcribe onto the computer without too much strain.

Cricket! Well, he was an Englishman by origin! But then when it comes to the singing, Clarence is ashamed of his countrymen fgor their howling and bawling. He much prefered the company of his "charming and cultured Italian friend". This indicates that he thinks of himself as Italian by adoption.

More daily... well that's the intention.

From Clarence's Diary - Tues Dec 10th 1889 - Brindisi to Alexandria by sea

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Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.4tsar nicholas II 1898

Tuesday Dec 10th 1889 - Brindisi to Alexandria by sea. A world leader, the future Tsar, is on board and Bicknell pays him scant attention.

So far so good. Delightful weather. Calm sea. The coast always in sight . First yesterday morning he snow clad Albanian mountains, then Corfu, Cephalonia and Zante . Today we have passed Greece since now off Crete. The Ballaarat passed us last night and is now a long way ahead. We have slowed down in order not to reach Alexandria too soon for we cannot enter the difficult harbour until 7 on Thursday morning. We have about 100 1st class passengers, about 20 2nd . The Tzar’s 3rd son with a large suite are on board, charming looking people. A very agreeable Roman is my best friend; he knows so much about Egypt and lands we look on. The officers of the ship are all very pleasant; the doctor looks about 15 but is 28. All the sailors are astonished at the calm weather, so unusual: the last voyage a fortnight ago was bad enough they say. Squalls are so frequent, coming down between these islands . We some high wind and rain for about an hour last night, but then it calmed down again and we slept very well. I am in a cabin with a Mr. Stead going to Australia and am very comfortable. A top berth seems to me very attractive. My only complaint is the quantity of food: coffee in bed at 7. A huge English breakfast at 9 and a big lunch at 1, tea at 4 and awfully long dinner at 6.30 always ending with curry of some kind. An old college acquaintance, Mr Kinglake is on board. There are 3 English gents, alone, going to do Egypt and Syria. Many are only bound for Cairo. The barometer is going down.

Notes from the editor...

Grand Duke George was indeed the 3rd son of the Tsar. It is most likely that George's elder brother Nicholas, the future Tsar, was on the boat also, maybe travelling incognito in the shadow of his younger brother. Note that, on arrival at Alexandria, Bicknell was disinterested in the VIP travellers and reception committee (see his diary for December 12th). "Nicholas II (Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov) (1868-1918) was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland, and titular King of Poland. On 1 March 1881, following the assassination of his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, Nicholas became Tsesarevich and his father became Tsar Alexander III. In 1890, Nicholas, along with his younger brother Grand Duke George, and their cousin, Prince George of Greece set out on a world tour, although, Grand Duke George fell ill and was sent home partway through the trip.  George died suddenly a few months later, on 9 August 1899, at the age of 28. Nicholas visited Egypt, India, Singapore and Bangkok receiving honours as a distinguished guest in each. In April 1891, while travelling through the city of Otsu, Japan, Nicholas was the victim of an assassination attempt. The incident cut his trip short, yet he was present at the ceremonies in Vladivostok commemorating the beginning of work on the Trans-Siberian Railway. In 1893, Nicholas travelled to London on behalf of his parents to be present at the wedding of his cousin, George, Duke of York, to Mary of Teck. Queen Victoria was struck by the similar appearance of the two cousins, and the appearances confused some at the wedding. Nicholas II ruled from 1 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917.  He and 16 of his family and household were executed by Bolsheviks in the night of 17 July 1918." (Source: Wikipedia). Clarence Bicknell died on the same day. 

R.A.Kinglake competed for Cambridge in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race of 1864, which means he could have been a contemporary of Clarence Bicknell (21-22 years old in 1864).

From Clarence's Diary - Sun Dec 8th 1889 - Brindisi

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Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.3brindisi port 1875

Sunday Dec 8th 1889

A fine morning: Brindisi is much warmer than Bordighera: a milder moister air. C & D walked about in part of the queer town with its low flat oriental-looking houses. A busy market going on. The little urchins are trying to talk English, and tourists everywhere. A fine Australian Lloyd boat had come in during the night. Presently our P&O “Hydaspes ” from Venice arrived and later the P&O Ballaarat for Australia, the finest ship of all. The place was very lively. D delighted with all the big ships. After lunch we paid our hotel bills and went on board: A and B had excellent cabins. C in the 2nd class was well off. D the worst on the main deck near the sheep and far away from the saloon. We all walked about again: the old walls and fort are grand and there are some interesting old bits and churches here and there. The wind got up towards the evening but it was full moon and lovely. A big dinner at 7 o’clock, all engloish and Americans about 80 in number and not all yet arrived and all bound for Alexandria. How can we all get in in Egypt? How will Cairo and Luxor and the Nile boats accommodate us all? And for 2 months the P&O boats have been crowded similarly and the other companies have likewise taken large numbers . All promises well for the next days – but when shall I be able to write again? Oh when?

Notes from the editor...

The image shows the arrival of the P&O Indian Mail service at Brindisi in 1875 from a contemporary print.

Norddeutscher Lloyd (sometimes called the Bremen Line) had opened their new Imperial mail line to Australia via Brindisi on July 14, 1886, with the steamer "Salier". The Suez Canal had opened in 1869.

The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O Line) was founded in 1836 and connected through the Mediterranean to India 4 years later. The steamers left London every Saturday for India and fortnightly for Australia and China. Hydaspes (built 1872, 2,984 tons) is listed by P&O as sold in 1898 to F.Gore in Shanghai. The sailing which Bicknell recounts might have been its last outbound trip, or the new owner had leased it back to P&O. Ballaarat was built in 1882, 4,752 tons, sold and scrapped in 1904. It would have arrived from London via Gibraltar.

During the winter of 1889-1890, almost 11,000 tourists visited Cairo, “of whom 1300 went up the Nile” (Hunter, F Robert , "Tourism and Empire: The Thomas Cook & Son Enterprise on the Nile, 1868-1914."

From Clarence's Diary - Thurs Dec 5th 1889 - in Ancona

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Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.2

Thurs. Dec 5th, 1889

Ancona is a picturesque town partly built on steep hills close to the sea and partly at their base: with a fine harbour, and a great many colliers discharging coal, and little fishing boats landing soles, mackerel, shrimps, cuttlefish, a kind of white lobster and many small crabs and various sea creatures. There are some broad new streets with fine houses & poor shops, a great many narrow ones, a curious cathedral with beautiful Italian gothic porch crowning one of the heights, and a white marble arch built by Trojan on the old mole.

ancona harbour and trojan arch 1890C and D spent the morning exploring the town but it was very cold, windy and rainy. B nursed A who had naturally suffered from the land journey. In the afternoon B C and D went up to the cathedral and spent a couple of hours seeing the chief sights of the place. There is a squat campanile some way from the Duomo; and from the headland a fine view of the bay and port of the town. If A were not lying down I doubt she would have drawn in perspective the porch of the Duomo, one of the most graceful I have ever seen. The lions, the 2 columns of the roof of the porch are of read marble. The slender columns on either side of the doorway white and red alternately. The façade faced with white marble.

We dined in grand style in one of the ladies’ rooms, but by 9 o’clock were all in bed, congratulating ourselves on not having gone to hear Rigoletto at the Politeama . Our hotel, the Albergo de la Pace, is an old-fashioned house with large and lofty rooms, very comfortably furnished and close to the sea.

(The image is of Ancona and the Arches of Trajan, Italy. Scene from 1890)

From Clarence's Diary - Wed Dec 4th 1889 - depart Bordighera

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Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Over Christmas and into January, I propose to post, every few days, excerpts from Clarence Bicknell's “Notes of a Tour in Italy, Egypt &c. 1889-1890” in a hand-written notebook illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings and water-colours from the Bicknell family collection (in my possession). This is the first time this diary has been transcribed or see in public.

thomas cook travel guideQUOTE

Wed. Dec 4th

Our party is composed of A, B, C & D.

A is an artist and able-bodied sea-woman, prepared to nurse the other 3 landlubbers if necessary, on the water. B is her sister provided with all the requisites for nursing A C and D on land. C & D are proprietors in Italy, travelling for the benefit of their health under the care of he aforementioned A & B. Lastly C is myself who wrote this diary.

On Wed. Dec. 4th 1889 they all started from Bordighera at midday, an international crowd having gathered at the station platform to see them off. How they travelled to Genoa in the sunshine, & thence to Bologna by night in the snow, & thence to Ancona in the early morning in the rain need not be related in detail. They went 2nd class, had the carriages nearly always to themselves & reached Ancona at 8 a.m on Dec. 5th.


More soon!

This transcript © 2014 Marcus Bicknell.
Reproduction is not authorised without written permission.

NEWS - Clarence Bicknell & Émile Cartailhac - archaeologists and the best of friends

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Two new documents are published on today bothmile Cartailhac Musum de Toulouse on Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) and the eminent French archaeologist Émile Cartailhac (1845-1921) the French prehistorian and cave-art expert (portrait, right).

In 2007 Pierre Machu, then Conservateur de Patrimoine, Direction des Musées de France, Inspection Générale des Musées in Paris, wrote an article for "Antiquités Nationales" on Bicknell and Cartailhac. This paper highlights 63 sheets of rubbings and squeezes by Bicknell of rock engravings held in the Musée d'Archéologie Nationale in St-Germain-en-Laye, a collection which had not been analysed before Machu. It becomes apparent from letters between Bicknell and Cartailhac, who had become friends more than just colleagues, that these 63 rubbings had been made by Bicknell for Cartailhac "to order". The paper draws expertly on documents provided to Pierre Machu from the Bicknell family collection (especially the Casa Fontanalba visitors' book) and the work notebooks written by Bicknell and kept at Genoa University. Pierre Machu having given his accord, we publish the complete paper here with thanks and respect.

Pierre Machu also informed us of letters between Bicknell and Cartailhac from this same period which he had located in two museums; he subsequently transcribed all the letters he had found and made them available to us to share with you. Alongside the exchange of views about the rock engravings are comments from both men on travel arrangements, weather, health, death, the First World War and even a person who both greatly disliked. In November 2014 I compiled the Machu transcripts together with my comments on the people mentioned in the letter, and you can download it here. I think these are among the documents which reveal the most about Clarence Bicknell, the man. I have also logged all the dates given in the letters in a chronology of Bicknell's life (more detailed then the one on this website) which will support Valerie Browne Lester who is currently researching a new biography of Clarence Bicknell to be published in advance of the 2018 centenary celebrations.

Article in "Antiquités Nationales" (tome 38, 2007) on Bicknell and Cartailhac by Pierre Machu.

Letters between Bicknell and Cartailhac transcribed by Pierre Machu.


NEWS - Clarence's 1911 letter to Ferguson in Ceylon

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ferguson letter 1911 p1In italiano - en francais

Our continuing research into Clarence Bicknell has led us to the archives of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. Among the many letters of John Ferguson there is one from Clarence Bicknell in 1911.

Marcus has recently purchased a scan of the letter and has transcribed it for the benefit of other researchers. You can download a copy of the transcript and notes here. Among the interesting events referred to by Clarence are a) the nervous breakdown suffered by his nephew Edward Berry, that pillar of British society in Bordighera, b) the death of Clarence’s brother Percy and c) the need for Clarence therefore to offer accommodation to Percy’s daughter Nora who worked for Berry.

Clarence writes "A brother  has lately died and I think I shall have to take one of his daughters for a good part of the time to live with me, as she is a cashier at the English Bank, which my nephew Berry, on account of a nervous breakdown , has given up." The brother was Marcus's great grandfather Percy Bicknell; we did not know that his daughter Nora worked for Edward Berry's British Bank in Bordighera.

Look out for news from Graham Avery soon; he has uncovered several hundred letters from Clarence Bicknell to Emile Burnat in Geneva.

Download the complete transcript and notes

La nostra continua ricerca di Clarence Bicknell ci ha portato agli archivi dell'Istituto di Studi del Commonwealth, Università di Londra. Tra le tante lettere di John Ferguson ce n'è uno da Clarence Bicknell nel 1911. Marcus ha recentemente acquistato una copia della lettera e ha trascritto per il beneficio di altri ricercatori. È possibile scaricare una copia della trascrizione e note qui. Tra gli eventi interessanti a cui si riferisce Clarence sono a) l'esaurimento nervoso subito da suo nipote Edward Berry, che pilastro della società britannica a Bordighera, b) la morte di suo fratello Percy e c) la necessità di Clarence quindi di offrire un alloggio a Nora , la figlia di Percy, ha lavorato per Berry.
Clarence scrive "Un fratello è morto e ultimamente penso che dovrò prendere una delle sue figlie per una buona parte del tempo a vivere con me, come lei è un cassiere presso la Banca inglese, che mio nipote Berry, a causa della un esaurimento nervoso, ha rinunciato. "Il fratello era di Marcus bisnonno Percy Bicknell; Non sapevamo che la sua figlia Nora ha lavorato per British Bank di Edward Berry a Bordighera.
Guardare fuori per le notizie da Graham Avery presto; egli ha scoperto diverse centinaia di lettere di Clarence Bicknell a Emile Burnat a Ginevra.


Notre recherche sur Clarence Bicknell nous a conduit aux archives de l'Institut d'études du Commonwealth, Université de Londres. Parmi les nombreuses lettres de John Ferguson, en voice une envoyée par Clarence Bicknell en 1911. Marcus Bicknell a récemment acheté une copie de la lettre et l'a transcrite pour le bénéfice d'autres chercheurs. Vous pouvez télécharger une copie de la transcription et note ici. Parmi les événements intéressants visés par Clarence sont a) la dépression nerveuse subie par son neveu Edward Berry, ce pilier de la société britannique à Bordighera, b) la mort de son frère Percy et c) la nécessité de Clarence donc pour offrir un hébergement à Nora , la fille de Percy, qui a travaillé pour Berry.
Clarence écrit: «Un frère a récemment décédé et je pense que je vais devoir prendre une de ses filles pour une bonne partie du temps à vivre avec moi, car elle est une caissière à la Banque britannique, que mon neveu Berry, en raison de une dépression nerveuse, a abandonné." Le frère était Percy Bicknell, le grand-père de Marcus; nous n'avons pas su auparavant que sa fille Nora a travaillé pour la banque d'Edward Berry, ce qui rend cette lettre d'autant plus intéressante.

Attention aux prochaines nouvelles de notre collaborateur Graham Avery; il a découvert à Genève 650 lettres écrites par Clarence Bicknell à Emile Burnat.

NEWS - Sentier Bicknell: un chemin retrouvé

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Nice Matin sentier 24Jul2014Je vois dans le Nice Matin du 27 Juillet qu'un groupe de bénévoles a dégagé le Sentier Bicknell. Bon travail! Et je remercie Nathalie Magnardi au Musée des Merveilles pour avoir aidé à coordonner les efforts et les leaders du groupe Paul Servel, Alain Simon et Philippe Strebbler. Je vous aurais écrit moi-même mais je n'ai pas vos adresses.


Vous aimeriez lire l'agenda (carnet de jour) que Margaret Berry  a écrit dans lequel elle décrit Clarence en train de quitter la Casa Fontanalba au levé du soleil et monter dans les montagne, sur ce même sentier, puis Margaret et son mari Edward qui suivent un peu plus tard. L'original en anglais est à   Peut-être l'un des bénévoles aimerait le traduire en bon français et je pourrais le publier dans son tour au site web.

NEWS - Clarence and the earthquake of 1887

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Helen Blanc-Francard writes...

The construction of all the pleasure palaces and the growth of urban development along the French and Italian riviera were all the more astonishing and risky because it had been known for centuries that the Southern Alpine region was sitting on an active  earthquake zone -  indeed one of the most active seismic areas in Western Europe countries.

In the morning of  the 23rd February 1887 and ten years after arriving in Bordighera, Clarence too was reminded that, just below the surface of the ground, one of the great uncontrollable  forces of nature was just lying dormant.  A force that could change his world for ever:  devastate the landscapes he knew so well, cover and melt the rocks he was studying, scatter his archives, in short, destroy his life's work.,83.html   Here's a scan of a newspaper article
earthquake riviera 1887Many people fled the coast (Louis Pasteur among them).  Where was Clarence, what was he doing at that time, how did he react?

(Even today the ground regularly shakes. On the 8th of April this year the latest earthquake measured 5.2 magnitude on the Richter scale -,845684.php)

Note from Marcus: in my chronology of Clarence's life, on this web site, 1887 carries the remark "Severe earthquake in Italy; Clarence helps poorer residents in and around Bordighera." I do not immediately have a source for Clarence's response, or more details, but I will post anything I find. I did find this interesting photo though, showing the extent of the damage in places, which is titled "Searching the rubble in Diano Marina, about 30 miles further east of the epicentre than Bordighera, after the Riviera earthquake of 1887 (from the Illustrated London News)"


NEWS - Clarence at the 1907 Esperanto meeting in Cambridge

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My cousin Valerie Lester, who joined us in the last two months in Bordighera, Tende, Nice, Castellaras, London Walworth and Stoke-upon-Tern Shropshire, is also getting in to the research groove in her home near Boston. Her email of yesterday is greatly enlightening;

"Hi Marcus, I just got hold of a book called The Life of Zamenhof, which is about the creator of Esperanto. 1907-lingva-komitatoThere are only two photos in it, but one of them seems to contain our man. Can you find him? The book is quite interesting, and I’ll bring it to England in Jan. so that you can read it. It’s short. Love, Valerie"

Yes, indeed. And here's that photo. Clarence is in the second row from the back, fourth from the right, wearing a pale waistcoat. He has had a haircut and his beard has been trimmed. Very smart. Zamenhof is sitting in the first row of chairs, sixth from the left. The event was the Lingva Komitato (the Language Committee of the Esperanto movement) held in Cambridge, England, in 1907.

This image is the only evidence of any visit by Clarence back to the UK since he had settled in Bordighera about 30 years earlier. Well done Valerie and thank you.

NEWS - Clarence's world

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Helen Blanc-Francard, committee member and garden expert (photo, below right) has been with us at meetings in Bordighera, Tende, Castellaras and Paris in the last two months. I reproduce here the evocative outpouring I got from her by email last night.

A brief moment then of time travel and musing about the changing face of Bordighera and the people Clarence may have met whilst living there ... 

For Clarence leaving behind the grey dampness of England it is easy to imagine how delightful he must have found the unspoiled beauty of the coastal town of Bordighera when he first set eyes on it in 1877. 

The luminosity of cloudless skies, the sound of the lapping Mediterranean and the soft citrus-scented air would have been enchanting. The rocky shoreline with its rustling palms, lush, semi-tropical trees and indigenous vegetation would have offered him a tantalising opportunity for further study.

However, along with the spiritual upheaval he was about to experience, his arrival coincided the start of a technological and cultural revolution when many social and economical factors combined to create an environment which was ripe for invention and experimentation. The physical world around him was about  to change and would never stop in his lifetime.  helen training a falcon

He would have watched as glittering new promenades, planted with trees and flowering shrubs, swiftly spread along the sea front with their attendant restaurants, shops, galleries and cafés. Behind them new villas, magnificent white-fronted mansions, splendid and luxurious hotels topped with cupolas and ornate carvings, adorned with balconies and intricate ironwork were built along what would later develop into long shady streets and avenues.  

With the constructions came wealth: royalty, statesmen, businessmen and newly rich industrialists.  Every year as the winter season began in northern and eastern Europe the rich visitors arrived by boat and train with their staff and retinues accompanying them. Well-to-do families came with their children, nannies and governesses to set up residence. They would have been impressed by the showy new buildings, many built in the neo-classical style, and excited at the prospect of meeting friends and attending concerts, dances and social events. Their arrival on the scene certainly added an extra gloss of glamour to what was becoming a most fashionable destination.  

Artists, such as Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Matisse and Signac, with radical new styles of painting that broke earlier conventions, were eager to discover this newly accessible destination. They travelled down with the aspiration of capturing on canvas the vibrant intensity of the light and the vitality of local life that contrasted so poignantly with the languor and sophistication of the visitors. Arriving initially for the restorative health benefits that the southern climate provided, the troubled Van Gogh from Holland, the melancholy Edvard Munch from Norway and the fiercely driven German artist Lovis Corinth found themselves impelled to paint. The Italian impressionist painter Pompeo Mariani eventually chose to live in Bordighera.

Writers, poets, philosophers, world famous scientists, creative innovators came to the coast to rest, to meet generous benefactors, to recover from illness or to find a place for peaceful reflection. Some arrived simply to join in the social scene and to enjoy the conviviality and nightlife of this now lively resort.  (To be further researched!)  

There was the lure of a comfortable and often hedonistic lifestyle on offer in lavishly furnished residences equipped with all the latest technological inventions - electricity, lifts and modern plumbing. An efficient postal service and the development of telephone and radio networks ensured communication with the rest of the world. The railways, roads and first motorised vehicles meant that travel was faster and easier than it had ever been before.   

It really was a bright new world of optimism and confidence:  in less than twenty five years the Bordighera Clarence had first discovered was completely transformed.  Early photographs record its extraordinary transition from a remote coastal village to a cosmopolitan and prosperous sea site resort.   (Archived data to be added)

For several months of the year however Clarence  turned his back on what he might well have considered this theatrical 'mise en scène' and travelled over fifty kilometers up steep valleys and difficult terrain to a remote Alpine site.  There he enjoyed an existance of singular integrity that was spartan, physically demanding, rich in intellectual stimulation and that privileged rigour, generosity, kindness and human communication.

A lifestyle and a quest that seems to have provided him with great personal fulfillment. 

When he returned to Bordighera, apart from some notable locals we know he met, one wonders if he came into contact with any of the famous visitors who came to stay during the winter season?

Presented by Richard E. Grant, here is a Youtube extract from a BBC TV programme to enjoy about some of the artists associated with La Côte d’Azur :  A History in Pictures

In the course of my research I noted that, James Henry Bennet, (creator of Menton as a therapeutic centre) "a reçu dans sa propriété le tout Riviera: R.L. Stevenson, Thomas Carlysle, Hare, Moggridge, Andrews, John Green, Hanbury, Thuret et Alphonse Karr" -

The Mairie of Bordighera has put together a list of the notable people associated with the town  -

NEWS - Clarence's pressed flowers and his legacy

Skribita de Marcus Bicknell on .


Helen Blanc-Francard writes...
    I found this 2011 document on the web the other day concerning a study of herbaria: I've just re-read it and find it very interesting on several counts.
    Firstly, it puts CB's plant hunting work into a historical context by cataloging the data left by the surprisingly large number of trained botanists and passionate amateurs who over the centuries, often without the benefit of collaboration, assiduously studied and recorded the extraordinarily diverse Alpes Maritime region.  (CB does get a brief mention but I reckon that he passed below the radar screen of this particular study because the main body of his work is conserved outside France).
    Secondly, whilst acknowledging that the individual contributions are important for scientific study by bearing witness to the world's rapidly degenerating environmental conditions and for their potential in the development of future landscape conservation practices, it also flags up the fact that many of the now fragile and dispersed herbarium specimens (dried flowers) are themselves at risk of being lost for posterity in a cash-strapped France where governmental institutions are unable to provide funding for the construction of special storage facilities nor for engaging skilled technicians and conservation staff.
    As part of Europe's heritage of hardy, independent and passionate explorers, all the more reason then to ensure that CB is positioned firmly on the map for his contribution to botanical (and of course archaeological) knowledge. As a man concerned about communication, one could even hope that all his efforts, his records, illustrations and precious specimens, will be accessible for conservation focussed research and for greater public awareness of this pressing issue. This would really be a fitting legacy for a man of conviction. 
Helen Blanc-Francard is a journalist, researcher, writer and garden expert living near Paris.
She was elected to the committee of the Clarence Bicknell Association in May 2014.

 See also the June 2014 report from Graham Avery on Clarence Bicknell's pressed flowersin the Oxford University Herbarium   here

NEWS - “Riviera Nature Notes” by Comerford Casey (1903)

Skribita de Marcus Bicknell on .

 I have recently been able to acquire a second edition of the book by Comerford Casey comerford caseycalled “Nature Notes on Riviera” (1903) thanks to the recommendation by Dr Robert Hearn of Genoa University. In the index, there is the reference “Bicknell, C., often cited”. So I scanned through the book and found 10 references, any of which might be useful to a researcher...

Page 93 – Euphorbias
   “Mr C. Bicknell has given me the following note about the distribution of this characteristic plant. “I don’t think that E. dendroides likes such a modern formation as the tertiary sandstones and marls of the Bordighera district. It flourishes on the older rocks. There is a little of it in the Roya valley near Ventimiglia on the conglomerate, but only a little: thence eastward it does not reappear till Alassio.”

Page 94 – Euphorbias
    Casey quotes from C Bicknell’s “Flora of Bordighera”

Page 142 – Poisonous plants
    “The veteran naturalist Bruyat told me that he had often found these [Deilephila Nerii] larvae on the Oleander bushes in town; I have not been so fortunate. Mr. Bicknell says that quantities of them may be collected in the Nervia valley.”

Page 200 – Wayside Weeds
    “Mr. C. Bicknell informs me that in Italy the popular name Richetta is applied to Eruca sativa Lamk.

Page 203– Wayside Weeds
    “Mr. Bicknell (“Flora of Bordighera”) confirms my statement the O. cernua is naturalised here.” (and following two sentences)

Page 211 – The Judgement of Paris
   No mention of Clarence but some text on Saxifrage Florulenta, “a mythical plant” which Clarence and others prized highly.

Page 219 – The Judgement of Paris
    “Although Orchis provincialis is rare near Nice, it is given by Mr. Bicknell as very abundant under the chestnuts in certain districts of the Italian Riviera.”

Page 239 – Dry Fruits
    “Mr. Bicknell informs me that these rosaries [sold at the corner of the Place Massena] are made of Trapa verbanensis, a species known only in the Lago Maggiore, opposite Arona, in the bay of Angera.”

Don’t miss the effects of the Tarantula bite on Page 365.

Page 390 – Appendix II – Books Useful for the Study of the Flora
    “Bicknell’s “Flora of Bordighera and San Remo” is an admirable piece of work, but I venture to suggest that many botanists will find it difficult to reconcile themselves to the disappearance of such familiar generic names as Calamint and Muscari. I wish that this accomplished botanist would extend the book so as to include the whole Riviera, and add short characters.
“Moggridge’s “Contributions to the Flora of Mentone” and Bicknell’s “Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Riviera” are two beautiful collections of coloured pictures.”

Page 391 – Appendix III: Sights worth seeing
    “Bordighera: Mr. Bicknell’s Botanical Pictures, Herbarium, Riviera Fossils, and Drawings of Rock Engravings.”

    Review from Amazon: "The spread of the towns, the disforesting of the hills, and other causes are conspiring to destroy many of the conditions which made the Riviera of former days so happy a resort for the lovers of nature. But there will always be much to observe and much to study in so favored a region." Quirky, erudite and eminently readable, the fifty-four essays comprising "Riviera Nature Notes give an astonishingly clear picture of plant and animal life in the South of France at the turn of the twentieth century--not to mention a fascinating insight into the social mores of the time. A hundred years later the book is as fresh, topical and inviting as when it was first published. Preferring to remain anonymous as a naturalist, not only out of modesty but to guard the integrity of his liturgical writings, its clergyman author speaks of olives and pines, myrtles and figs, mosquitoes and rare butterflies--to name but a few of his subjects--with such passion and verve as to bring the land from the Ligurian coastline to the Maritime Alps vividly alive. With an engaging, sometimes acerbic voice speaking effortlessly across the years, this book will once again garner admirers among nature lovers, gardeners and travellers alike.”


NEWS - Margaret Berry diary

Skribita de Marcus Bicknell on .

I have just finished transcribing Margaret Berry's diary of her clarence group casterino c1914 lofirst trip to Clarence's Casa Fontanalba. In fact she and Edward her husband were the first visitors. It is very useful to researchers because it gives detail of not only her daily life but also of Clarence Bicknell and his helper in the mountains, Luigi Pollini. The photo on the right, taken in about 1914 on the terrace of the Casa Fontanalba, shows Clarence left, Edward Berry standing, and Margaret Berry to his right with a cane in her hand. Download the 11 page diary transcript here.

NEWS - Seminars and association meeting 16 and 17 May, Bordighera and Tende

Skribita de Marcus Bicknell on .

Friday 16th May 2014  18h00: Seminar, Valerie Lester, Musée des Merveilles, Tende, Alpes-Maritimes, France

Saturday 17th May 2014  16h00: Seminar, Valerie Lester,Museo Bicknell, Bordighera, Liguria, Italy, and at 17h30 the first meeting of the Clarence Bicknell Association *2

We are delighted to inform all admirers of Clarence Bicknell of two important dates to which you are invited. Both will feature a seminar with a presentation on “Clarence Bicknell and his cousin Phiz, illustrator of Charles Dickens, the Bicknells and the Brownes” by Valerie Browne Lester *1, Phiz's great-granddaughter. There will also be news on the Europe-wide project to commemorate the 2018 centenary of Clarence Bicknell's death, including a new book and an travelling exhibition round Europe. The second date, in Bordighera, will also feature the the inaugural meeting of the Clarence Bicknell Association.

Siamo lieti di informare tutti i membri dell'Associazione Clarence Bicknell circa due importanti date aperte a voi. Entrambe prevedono un seminario con una presentazione su "Clarence Bicknell e suo cugino Phiz, illustratore di Charles Dickens, I Bicknell e I Browne" di Valerie Browne Lester, pronipote di Phiz. Valerie e Marcus Bicknell sono collegati attraverso la madre di Clarence, Lucinda, la zia di Phiz e la quarta moglie di Elhanan Bicknell. Ci saranno anche I primi annunci pubblici del progetto a livello europeo per commemorare nel 2018 il centenario della morte di Clarence Bicknell , tra cui un nuovo libro e una mostra itinerante  in Europa.

Nous sommes ravis d'informer tous les membres de l'Association Clarence Bicknell de deux dates importantes. Tous les deux présentent d'un séminaire sur "Clarence Bicknell et son cousin Phiz, illustrateur de Charles Dickens, le Bicknell et la Brownes" par Valerie Browne Lester * 1, arrière petite-fille de Phiz. Valérie et Marcus Bicknell sont liés par la mère de Clarence Lucinda, la tante de Phiz et quatrième épouse d'Elhanan Bicknell. Il y aura aussi les premieres annonces en public du projet européen pour commémorer en 2018 le centenaire de la mort de Clarence Bicknell, y compris un nouveau livre et une exposition itinérante autour de l'Europe.

*1: Valerie Browne Lester (researcher, scholar, author and translator living near Boston is descended from Clarence Bicknell’s maternal grandfather and from Clarence’s cousin, Hablot Knight Browne , known as "Phiz". Phiz , artist and designer , is known for his many illustrations to the books by Charles Dickens. Valerie Browne Lester wrote the book "Phiz : The Man Who Drew Dickens " published by Random House in 2006 in which Valerie revealed hitherto unknown aspects of the origins of Phiz . She wrote the stratospheric best seller "Fasten Your Seat Belts! History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin"in 1995 about the cabin crew of the PanAm airline. Her new biography of Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813) Italian typographer, composer , printer and publisher will be published in 2014. Valerie will present mostly in Englihs but her Italian and French are good enough for you to expect a polyglot evening. Valerie and Marcus Bicknell are related through Clarence's mother Lucinda, Phiz's aunt and Elhanan Bicknell's fourth wife.

*2: In Bordighera, in the Museum which Clarence created, we shall hold the founding general meeting of the Clarence Bicknell Association. This will take the form of election of officers (for which I shall post here and email details and nomination process) and objectives of the association presented by Marcus Bicknell and colleagues.

* 1 : Valerie Browne Lester ( chercheur, scientifique , auteur et traducteur vivant près de Boston ) est descendu du grand-père maternel de Clarence Bicknell et de la cousine de Clarence , chevalier de Hablot Browne , connu sous le nom " Phiz " . Phiz , artiste et designer , est connu pour ses nombreuses illustrations pour les livres de Charles Dickens . Valerie Browne Lester a écrit le livre " Phiz : The Man Who Drew Dickens " publié par Random House en 2006 qui a révélé Valerie aspects jusqu'ici inconnus sur les origines de Phiz . Elle a écrit le best-seller stratosphérique " Attachez vos ceintures ! Histoire et d'héroïsme dans la cabine Pan Am " en 1995 sur le personnel de cabine de la compagnie aérienne PanAm . Sa nouvelle biographie de Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813) typographe italien , compositeur , imprimeur et éditeur sera publié en 2014 . Valerie présentera principalement en anglais , mais son italien et son français sont assez copieux pour que vous puissiez prévoir une soirée polyglotte .

* 2 : En Bordighera , dans le musée qui Clarence créé , nous allons tenir l'assemblée générale de fondation de l' Association Clarence Bicknell . Cela prendra la forme d' élection des dirigeants ( dont je serai poster ici et les détails de l' email et le processus de nomination ) et les objectifs de l'association présentée par Marcus Bicknell et collègues.

* 1 : Valerie Browne Lester  (ricercatore, studioso, autore e traduttore, vive nei pressi di Boston - ) discende dal nonno materno di Clarence Bicknell e da suo cugino Hablot Knight Browne, noto come Phiz. Questo artista e designer e famoso per le sue numerose  illustrazioni sui libri di Charles Dickens.     Valerie Browne Lester ha scritto il libro "Phiz: L'Uomo Che Disegnó Dickens", pubblicato da Random House nel 2006, in cui Valerie rivela aspetti finora sconosciuti sulle origini di Phiz. Ha scritto il grande best seller “Allacciate le cinture di sicurezza! Storia ed eroismo nel Pan Am Cabin” nel 1995 dell'equipaggio di cabina della suddetta Compagnia. La sua nuova biografia di Gianbattista Bodoni (1740-1813), tipografo italiano, compositore , stampatore e editore, sarà pubblicata nel 2014. Valerie parlerà soprattutto in inglese ma il suo italiano ed  il suo francese sono abbastanza fluenti da pronosticare una serata poliglotta.

* 2 : A Bordighera , nel museo che Clarence Bicknell ha creato, si terrá l'assemblea generale di fondazione del Associazione Clarence Bicknell. Ciò prenderà la forma di elezione dei dirigenti (motivo per il quale io spediro'e mandero 'tramite e mail  i dettagli e i procedimenti delle varie nomine ) e gli obbiettivi dell'Associazione  presentati da Marcus Bicknell e dai suoi colleghi.

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