Cars in Books, April 1961

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One would hardly expect to find references to motoring in “Hatred, Ridicule or Contempt—A Book of Libel Cases,” by Joseph Dean (Constable, 1953), yet a Black Book of distinguished people it was alleged the Germans thought would be desirable to approach for information when war broke out in 1914, featured in the trial of Noel Pemberton Belling, M.P., a case heard by Mr. Justice Darling in 1918, was, according to one theory, merely an inventory of potential customers for Mercedes cars. As the only place the Black Book had been seen in England was at the Hut Hotel—”on the Portsmouth Road near Ripley in Surrey there is a lake cloaked around on all sides by fir trees, and on the other side of the road an inn of pale vermillion brick . . .,” it is there to this day—and as the Hut Hotel was a well-known assembly place of automobilists, the Cycle Car Club meeting there before the 1914/18 war, there may well have been some truth in this theory. In another case described in this interesting book the libel arose out of the behaviour of a character at the 1908 French Grand Prix at Dieppe, published in the Sunday Chronicle in an article headed “Motor-Mad Dieppe.” Truly it is astonishing how motoring and motor cars crop up in the most unlikely books!

After finding the previously-quoted references it was disappointing that cars were not named by make in Frederick John Gorst’s “Of Carriages and ‘Kings” (W. H. Allen, 1956), but it is interesting to learn that as early as 1902 the Duke of Portland used motor cars at his great estate at Welbeck Abbey, where in the park there was a “private tunnel which had been constructed by an ancestor of the Duke of Portland . . . it was used purely to save time and avoid the slow curves of the Lady Bolsover Drive, the main avenue of approach to Welbeck and was electrically lighted, which was most unusual in those days, and was large enough to accommodate a horse and carriage or one motor car. “From this book one learns that in those days the staff at Welbeck Abbey numbered 317, including a head chauffeur and fifteen ordinary chauffeurs, while there was an estate fire station, probably with mechanically-propelled engines. A spacious age! Can someone please tell me what cars the Duke of Portland owned nearly 60 years ago to keep sixteen chauffeurs busy ?

Finally, for this month at least, in “Don’t Look Round,” by Violet Trefusis (Hutchinson, 1952), a nostalgic book about Edwardian England and Scotland and France from then to today, there is this description of the car of a neighbour at Duntreath in about the year 1910: ” . . . which contrived to resemble a torque, a gondola, and a sedan chair. It was extremely high; it boasted curtains; it had a curiously low bonnet, like a lap.” Can any expert on old cars suggest its make from this description ? Later in the book there is reference to the remarkable party given by the authoress on the Eiffel Tower at the time when Citroen had its name illuminated on it. I was also interested to note that at Lancut, in Poland, in the late ‘twenties, the Russians used ” a huge American limousine” to meet the guests.—W. B.

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