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Mufti. A Paper devoted to Civilian Interests. Vol. I, No. 1-7 [all published]
Basildon: James Sellar,, 1916. Quarto (298 × 213 mm). 7 four-page issues, accompanied by a 6-page manuscript publication history in a precise and attractive hand, written in 1942 by the main contributor. Housed in black cloth folding case in black quarter leather drop-back box, title gilt to spine. Somewhat browned, some edge-splits, one issue a little cockled, but overall very good. First and only editions. The editor's set of a complete run of this short-lived fortnightly dedicated to conscientious objection, and pacifist opposition to conscription, the editor's set. Extremely uncommon: Copac has BL and perhaps Cambridge; OCLC adds Harvard, Houghton Library and Bibliothèque de documentation internationale contemporaine, Nanterre. An extraordinarily eccentric collection of anti-militarist opinion, its publication stimulated by the inception of conscription. More eccentric still is the tale of its founding, writing, printing and publication, which is fully told in the accompanying history, a unique document giving an insight into the hidden world of "objectors to military service". James Kirkby, of whom we have found no other trace, begins by explaining that, "From April 1914 to April 1916 I was a tenant on sufferance at Islington Turkish Baths … The Baths had been unfortunate, the subject of legal proceedings. They were kept open by a firm of solicitors connected with the proceedings, who had placed in them as resident temporary manager one of their clerks, a bearded Welshman ignorant of Welsh, but full of projects for the remodelling of society on a basis of Tolstoyan anarchism. His name was James Evans." Evans allows a friend of Kirkby's, Stanley Carlyle Potter ?- "who dealt in secondhand books and astrology" ?- to occupy the rooms not taken up by a small shop which "sold babies' caps and special food for vegetarians," which is run by two young ladies one of whom, "the comelier," was "informally attached to James Evans, who had conscientious objections to marriage." Kirkby himself occupied the "skylighted Cooling Room … We lay on Divans and regarded the large and dark oil-paintings all around us." Among the other refugees are three brothers, Jim, Fred and Harry Sellar, who had fled conscription in New Zealand under the Defence Acts of 1912, and their father who set up a small-holding at Basildon in Essex. Fred had "business acumen, some better education, and skill as an amateur printer," and suggests that Kirkby writes something that he and Jim can sell. "I was at the time destitute, living on credit on the little shop; arrangements were soon afterwards made for a small subscription to keep me going." The other major contributor, with a column on the back page, was the Quaker Samuel Veale Bracher, who had set up the Tolstoyan Whiteway Colony in Gloucestershire in 1898. All of them "worked at the composing stick and helped at the working of the Albion press that stood in the middle of the boys' room." They soon hit trouble with Evans, who believed that the founding of Mufti on his premises meant that "it would advertise his nucleus of a brotherhood of man and the goods in the little shop." They are forced to carry the press down to the cellar which was "dreadfully cold even when an oil-stove was kept burning … Our labours were unremitting: we had not enough type to set up all the paper; after printing one side we had to distribute a lot of type before we could complete the setting-up of the other." Finally, at a meeting, "at the Express Dairy Shop at the top of Essex Street, Strand of Bracher, Fred, and myself, on the 15th of May 1916, Mufti was declared dead." By way of summing up Kirkby tells what became of the members of this odd ménage: Evans dead, gored while milking a goat; Jim Sellar married to one of the two "young ladies" from the shop; Harry Sellar "got religion"; and Fred owned a printing business in Middlesex. And, in the midst of another global conflict, Kirby reflects on his present attitude to the principles that motivated Mufti's progenitors: "Though, not being a mystic pacifist like Evans nor a skilful evader-of-issues like Bracher, I am now convinced that the German power must be overthrown by force if life on this planet is to be tolerable … If the Germans had been a nation of Tolstoyans, nothing but misery could have resulted from the Versailles Treaty. They were far from that; and the victorious Powers were such fatheads that they neither helped Germany on to her feet nor firmly held her down." He concludes: "Mufti was not perfect in its wisdom. It was perfect in its punctuation - no other paper then could or now can say that of itself. The French War Museum wrote twice to Jim Sellar to know if there was any more of it. I hope Mufti did nothing to weaken the fibre of France to render easy Hitler's triumph there." An entrée into an unfamiliar British sub-culture of the Great War.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2015-10-05           Check availability:      Biblio    


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