Whiskers - Newspaper Article by CJ Dennis 1933

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Shelley
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Whiskers - Newspaper Article by CJ Dennis 1933

Post by Shelley » Mon Nov 21, 2016 4:17 pm

I don't read a lot of novels - but I am currently engrossed in an excellent series of fictional works by Aussie author Sulari Gentill. They surround the exploits of four young avant-garde people in the turbulent years of the 1930s - within Australia and beyond. These four - two artists, a poet and a sculptress - become embroiled in everything from political intrigue to murder investigations, at a time when the world was lurching from depression to dictatorship to ultimately, war.

The special attraction for me in these novels is their meticulously-researched link to actual events, with historical characters sharing the pages with the fictional ones. Each chapter begins with a bona-fide newspaper item (either news or social comment) gleaned from the press of the day - which is then woven in with the events taking place in the story.

The book I am currently reading (Paving the New Road) is the fourth in the series. In it the protagonists find themselves in Germany during the meteoric rise of Hitler, and I was particularly delighted to find, from The Courier Mail of 1933 (a reprint from The Herald), part of an article by CJ Dennis on the subject of "Whiskers" (subtitled "Their Significance in Relation to Human Psychology"). Here is the extract used by Sulari Gentill in her book:

"And this brings us to Germany, the natural home of hirsute grotesquery.

From the "monkey frill" of Wagner to the "mutton chop" embellishments of Bismark and his alleged master, Frederick, we come to those three outstanding war-time figures: Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm, Von Tripitz and Hindenberg. With that elaborately trained representation of the German eagle that reared arrogantly from his upper lip the ex-Kaiser was a hoarding, advertising all the bombast, vanity and childish fustian that his tragic acts later revealed. Behind his forked beard von Tirpitz, lurked, threatening but ineffective, even as his fleet lurked in the Kiel Canal. But those pendulous pothooks that droned aggressively upon the Hindenberg cheeks were eloquent of savage obstinacy, of ruthless and ponderous persistence. They resembled nothing so much as a pair of strange, barbaric weapons designed for torture and brutal tenacity.

And so I am brought naturally to the comical moustache of Herr Adolph Hitler, and to an abrupt end. For, should I try to set down all of the concentrated egotism and erratic mentality that even the printed effigy of that comic moustache suggests to me, I should be here writing for a week.
"

Great stuff, isn't it - and quite an insightful evaluation at a time when the said Adolph was being feted as Germany's saviour. Some of you will no doubt already be familiar with CJD's article, which is of course just one of many that he wrote. The full text of the article is here:

http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/d ... skers.html

Cheers
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines
http://www.shelleyhansen.com

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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Gary Harding
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Re: Whiskers - Newspaper Article by CJ Dennis 1933

Post by Gary Harding » Tue Nov 22, 2016 8:16 pm

Hmmm... interesting Shelley!

What I find intriguing is that Den attempts to relate facial hair growth, in its various manifestations, to character traits.. or archetypes. :)

Something like the Body Language fashion of today where my mate wrote the authoritative texts on the subject. (He has just produced a great new book entitled The Answer).
In the end.. might one validly establish the traits first and then backwards relate them to the obvious facial hair?... as Den mostly does for witty effect in 1933 in talking about Hindenberg etc.?
Is this a new Body Language field? I doubt it.

What emotions does a Ned Kelly beard engender in Real Australians? Fear?

I know Adolph is constantly suggested as the manifestation of all things absolutely Evil.... a useful datum for the comparisons of other perceived evil national leaders... but does that mean that a toothbrush moustache automatically certifies the wearer as also Evil?? Again I doubt it.

How many Joe Stalin moustaches does one see in Woolies?

It is clear that Den did not like Adolph. Fair enough. Each to his own.

His worst personal criticism is that Adolph was an egotist (just as well we have none of those dreadful creatures today in bush poetry circles)... and a man of "erratic mentality". I confess some of my mates fall into that category... and in turn they probably consider me likewise.

However he repeatedly alludes to Adolph as comical, by virtue of his moustache. With the grim advantage of hindsight, many might disagree, and wish that he had indeed been invited to a few Bah Mitzvahs to soothe the savage beast. However, regrettably not so.

So Den may have had a few unpleasant words to say about Adolph in 1933, but was Den insightful????? a big call.

Was Adolph comical?

Quite a few million, myself included, would say No, but then it is a bit hard to vocalise on the subject when you are dead.

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Shelley
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Re: Whiskers - Newspaper Article by CJ Dennis 1933

Post by Shelley » Wed Nov 23, 2016 4:24 pm

Interesting comments, Gary.

Certainly this was Den at his satirical best - and the fact that it can still fuel a discussion today shows how good he was!

As you say, subsequent events surrounding Adolph Hitler were anything but comical, but I have no doubt that "comical" would have readily come to mind in the description of anyone adopting Chaplin-esque facial hair - especially in the 20s and 30s! Indeed, it was the moustache that Den described as "comical", rather than the man himself.

In the context of the book I am reading, this social comment news article prefaces a chapter wherein the book's characters are likewise discussing the merits of various styles of facial hair - with the goal of hiding their identities. Hence the setting of the scene and the blending of history and fiction.

Cheers
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines
http://www.shelleyhansen.com

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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Gary Harding
Posts: 318
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Re: Whiskers - Newspaper Article by CJ Dennis 1933

Post by Gary Harding » Wed Nov 23, 2016 6:19 pm

I was actually most interested in your Website reference. That really caught my attention.

The other day I was doing some casual research/prying into the life and times of R H (Bob) Croll. 1869 - 1947
I have his poetry book entitled By Products (not a very bushy title!), and other extensive Croll original fascinating material including a genuine R H Croll Bookplate etching Ex Libris by Lionel Lindsay! .. complete with a Certificate of Authenticity.

"The Swagman Camps on Christmas Night" is quite a good poem of his.

I had recently come across an associated website... one in the same group as the one that you have cited here. A coincidence.

It referenced correspondence between Croll and C J Dennis. I know that you are a great admirer of C J Dennis.

Toolangi
21st July 1920

Dear Bob,
Forgot to tell you in my last that "Seaview" has been rechristened "Arden". For obvious and other reasons I couldn't resist the plagiarism. There's the "lit'ry" association, there's the forest, there's my pen-name in the second syllable and there's a character called Dennis in "As You Like It". So "Arden" it had to be.

So there it is... How Arden got its name.
More on Bob Croll later on.....

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