Posts tagged ‘Thomas Rohan’

November 28, 2015

Yet more on ‘Quinneys’

Following some earlier blog posts on ‘Quinney’ and the dealer Thomas Rohan (see blog posts December 31st 2014; December 6th 2014; July 27th 2014), I recently came across some more information associated with this fascinating conflation of fact and fiction – as you’ll know, the real antique dealer Thomas Rohan (trading in Bournemouth and Southampton in the period 1903-1937) was the basis for the famous fictional antique dealer ‘Joe Quinney’ in the novel by Horace Vachell (published 1914) – see our interactive research project map site for the entry on Rohan:

www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk/dealerships/34852

Anyway, recently in a couple of antiquarian book dealers I found two further pieces of ephemera associated with the play ‘Quinneys’ (1915) and the novel ‘Quinneys’ (1914). Firstly, I found a rare copy of the playbill for the first staging of the play ‘Quinneys’ on April 20th 1915, at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London – see cover picture:

Quninneys 1915 play

Playbill, ‘Quinneys’, Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 1915. Image copyright, AHRC Antique Dealers Project, 2015.

And secondly a copy of the published script of the play (a later copy, probably from the 1950s?) –

Quinneys play script 1915 reprint

‘Quinneys’, play script (1915) – 1950s edition. Image copyright AHRC Antique Dealers project 2015.

henry ainley

Henry Ainley (1879-1945), British Actor. Image Wikicommons.

The playbill lists the actors in the play – ‘Joe Quinney’ the eponymous antique dealer, was played by the well-known Shakespearian actor Henry Ainley (1879-1945) (see above); incidentally he also played ‘Quinney’ in the 1919 film version of the play…and interesting (as far as we are concerned) Ainley was born in Morley, Leeds, West Yorkshire!. Quinney’s wife, Susan, was played by the British film actress Syndey Fairbrother (1872-1941).

What is also interesting, for the antique dealers project, is that a number of (then) high profile London antique dealers and interior decorators supplied the antique furniture for the play. The dealers listed in the playbill were the interior decorators ‘Thornton Smith Limited, 31 Soho Square’; antique dealers ‘Keeble Limited, 10 Carlisle Street’, ‘Parkenthorpe, Ebury Street’, and ‘Spillmans, St. Martin’s Lane’, who are all listed as supplying the ‘furniture’ and acknowledged for their ‘expert advice in this regard’.

The project interactive map website, at present, includes entries for ‘Keeble’ – and trading at 10 Carlisle Street, indeed we even have an image of the interior of their shop, dated 1927.

Keeble Carlisle House Carlisle Street London Oct 1927 Conn The Oak Room at Carlisle House

Keeble (1914) Ltd, Carlisle Street, ‘Oak Room’, 1927.

Parkenthorpe were trading at the time at 79 Ebury Street, as ‘dealers in antiquities’ – see again our project interactive map.

We can get a sense of the attention to authentic detail in the room settings for the play ‘Quinneys’ from the stage directions in the play script; the play opens in ‘The Sanctuary in Quinney’s house in Soho Square’ (one can note here that there is an extra layer of authenticity here, as the antique dealers Thornton Smith, in real life, also had premises in Soho Square)…and the stage directions continue:

‘The rise of the curtain discloses a beautiful room, filled with rare and costly furniture, prints in colour, miniatures and tapestry. Obviously the room belongs to a collector who is a connoisseur….between the windows is a magnificent Chinese lacquer cabinet, standing on a Charles II gilded and carved stand. On the cabinet is a Kang He mirror-black bottle about twenty inches high. An Adam’s mantelpiece, with dog grate, in which logs are burning….an incised lacquer screen, with a gilded Carolean chair in front of it. Upon the mantelpiece are a set of five blue-and-white jars, Oriental china of the eighteenth century. An old Aubusson carpet is on the parquet floor…..there is not much furniture, but it is of the finest Chippendale period….’

The description suggests a display of all of the most fashionable antiques of the period…the ‘Kang He mirror-black bottle’ was of the, then, hugely expensive, so-called famille-noir Chinese ceramics, collected by major figures such as Lord Lever during the opening decades of the 20th century.

Quinney/Rohan is certainly becoming a fascinating case-study of the evolving social and cultural identity of the antique dealer!

Mark

 

 

 

 

December 31, 2014

Even more on Thomas Rohan!

The blog posts on the antique dealer and author Thomas Rohan (see previous posts) are becoming quite a theme – thanks again to John Cresswell who very kindly posted photocopies of some newspaper clippings reporting the death of Rohan in 1940, as well as some photos of the house that Rohan lived in during his time in Bournemouth in the 1930s.

This Christmas, one of my presents (thank you Clara!) was a small (tiny actually!) booklet entitled ‘The Origin of Quinneys’ (by E. Montefiore) – it is undated, but perhaps c.1940 when Rohan died? The little booklet, which came all the way from a book dealer in the USA, rehearses the story of Rohan being the basis for the character of ‘Joe Quinney’ in Horace Vachell’s novels (see earlier blog entries for details on this).

 

quinneys booklet 1quinneys booklet 2

The booklet, as you can see, really is a tiny thing – here photographed next to a UK pound coin.

One thing that is interesting to note about Rohan is that for his first shop, located in High Street, Southampton, from c.1903, Rohan traded as ‘Thomas Rudd’. He tells us, in his autobiographical book Confessions of a Dealer (1927) how he came to trade as ‘Rudd’, and how he eventually renamed the business (actually called A. Rohan – after his wife Alice Rohan) by 1919. As Rohan writes;

‘How I took the trading name of Rudd was in this fashion. For family reasons I was asked not to use my own name as a dealer. I rather resented this, but for peace and quietness agreed. Just before opening my little shop, I went to a sale, and bought a grandfather clock. The auctioneer asked, “What name?” I called out my own name of Rohan. He said, “Rudd?” I said, “Yes, put it down R U double D” and from that time for fifteen years I was known as Rudd.’ Confessions of a Dealer, p.71.

Newspaper reports on the death of Rohan in 1940 suggest that he was ‘the scion of the noble family of France, the Prince and Ducs de Rohan’ (Bournemouth Echo, 27.1.1940) – so it may have been that associations with the ‘trade’ were not seen to be appropriate when Rohan first set up as a dealer in 1903. Whatever the reason, Thomas Rohan is a fascinating example of an early 20th century antique dealer!

Mark

December 6, 2014

More news on Thomas Rohan

100_3709

Thomas Rohan (1860/1-1940)

Thanks to the generosity of John Cresswell, we know quite a lot more about the early 20th century antique dealer Thomas Rohan (1860/1-1940). John very kindly sent us the fruits of his own research into Rohan, including the fascinating fact that Rohan appears to have had a role in the design of his own house, in Bournemouth – John actually lived there for a time.

Rohan, as previously indicated in earlier posts in the project blog, has been suggested as the model for the antique dealer ‘Joe Quinney’ in Horace Annesley Vachell’s novel Quinneys (1914), and was also the author of several books on collecting, and on the antique trade itself – Old Beautiful (1926); In Search of the Antique (1927); Confessions of a Dealer (1927); Old Glass Beautiful (1930); and Billy Ditt, the romance of a Chippendale chair 1760-1925 (1932) – but John also tells us that Quinneys was made into a film, twice – in 1919 and 1927 – we are currently trying to find copies of these rare films, so if anyone knows of a copy do let us know!

John also tells us that Rohan married twice – and one of his wives was the daughter of William Robertson, J.P. D.L. of Pembrokeshire, and that he had three children (2 sadly died early), and was survived by his son Robert Rohan. Thomas himself died on 13th January 1940 and was buried at Westbury in Bristol. There are many other details on the life of Thomas Rohan that John shared with the project, and we are populating Rohan’s biography on the interactive project website, so keep your eye on that when we launch the site.

In the meantime we would like to say a big thank you to John Cresswell for his generosity!

Mark

July 27, 2014

Thomas Rohan, Dealer and Author – and ‘Quinney’

Some of you may be aware of the novels about an antique dealer called ‘Quinney’, in the writings of Horace Annesley Vachell – Vachell published a number of novels about the adventures of Quinney, starting in 1914, with the original novel, called ‘Quinney’s’.  The novels are interesting period pieces and tell us a lot about the characterisations of the antique dealer in the first half of the 20th century – and part of the research for the current project will be focusing on an investigation of these literary constructions, and their meanings and influence on the characterisation of the antique dealer in the wider public domain.  One interesting result of the popularity of Vachell’s novels is the number of real dealerships called ‘Quinneys’ that emerged, right across the country – we’ve traced at least 5 so far; as far as I know there is only one dealership named ‘Quinnney’s’ left trading…in Warwick.

100_3712

The novels themselves are fascinating, and contain lightly veiled characterisations of real dealers – a ‘Mr Pheasant’ is quite obviously an allusion to the well-known London dealer ‘Partridge’ for example – and there are several other fictional dealers that seem to relate to factual ones – ‘Primmer of Bath’ could only be Mallett I suppose, and ‘Gustavus Lark’, who ‘wore a cut-away coat, with an orchid in the lapel of it’….and was ‘smoking an imposing cigar’, in one scene from the original novel ‘Quinneys’…is this the infamous Duveen?….

One fact that is less well known is that Vachell based his character Quinney on the real dealer Thomas Rohan, who was trading in Bournemouth in the first quarter of the 20th century. Rohan was himself a very successful author, publishing many books on collecting and on the antique trade itself – most famously in ‘Confessions of a Dealer’ (1927)

Here’s a photograph of Thomas Rohan, and an image of his first shop: 100_3710100_3709Rohan, as I mentioned, was also a prolific author, publishing many books, mainly on collecting, such as ‘Old Beautiful’ (1926)…as well as writing novels – his novel ‘Billy Ditt, the Romance of a Chippendale Chair’ (1932) traces the fortunes of a chair, made by Thomas Chippendale in the 18th century, as it passed through various hands – I can’t say it’s a literary masterpiece, but it is an intriguing book, and of course, is crucial to our cultural understanding of the history of the antique trade itself.

One exciting development (for me anyway!) is that I recently managed to acquire this short manuscript from a book dealer: 100_3708

The MS is only a short document, entitled ‘People that I have met’; it is undated and unsigned, but seems to date from c.1920, and I am certain that this is part of the original writings of Thomas Rohan.  It contains musings on his life as a dealer, and on the collectors that he sold antique objects.  Quite apart from this being a lucky and serendipitous find, it’s also now a brilliant resource for the antique dealer project and will play a key role in the research into the literary characterisations of the dealer…watch this space!

Mark

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