Monday, February 4, 2013

Grub Street



Until the early 19th century, Grub Street was a street close to London's impoverished Moorfields district that ran from Fore Street east of St Giles-without-Cripplegate north to Chiswell Street. Famous for its concentration of impoverished 'hack writers', aspiring poets, and low-end publishers and booksellers, Grub Street existed on the margins of London's journalistic and literary scene. It was pierced along its length with narrow entrances to alleys and courts, many of which retained the names of early signboards. Its bohemian society was set amidst the impoverished neighbourhood's low-rent flophouses, brothels, and coffeehouses.

According to Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, the term was "originally the name of a street... much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems, whence any mean production is called grubstreet." Johnson himself had lived and worked on Grub Street early in his career. The contemporary image of Grub Street was popularised by Alexander Pope in his Dunciad.

The street name no longer exists, but Grub Street has since become a pejorative term for impoverished hack writers and writings of low literary value.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary the verb grub translates as "To dig superficially; to break up the surface of (the ground); to clear (ground) of roots and stumps." The earliest use of the word is in 1300, "Theif hus brecand, or gruband grund", and in 1572 "Ze suld your ground grube with simplicitie". Grub Street appears to have taken its name from a refuse ditch that ran alongside (grub), and variations on the name include Grobstrat (1217–1243), Grobbestrate (1277–1278), Grubbestrate (1281), Grubbestrete (1298), Grubbelane (1336), Grubstrete, and Crobbestrate. Grub is also a derogatory noun applied to 'a person of mean abilities, a literary hack; in recent use, a person of slovenly attire and unpleasant manners.'

Grub Street was in Cripplegate ward, in the parish of St Giles-without-Cripplegate (Cripplegate ward was bisected by the city walls, and therefore was both 'within' and 'without'). Much of the area was originally extensive marshlands from the Fleet Ditch, to Bishopsgate, contiguous with Moorfields to the east. The St Alphage Churchwardens' Accounts of 1267 mention a stream running from the nearby marsh, through Grub Street, and under the city walls into the Walbrook river, which may have provided the local population with drinking water, however the marshes were drained in 1527.

One of Grub Street's early residents was the notable recluse Henry Welby, the owner of the estate of Goxhill in Lincolnshire. In 1592 his half-brother attempted to shoot him with a pistol. Shocked, he took a house on Grub Street and remained there, in near-total seclusion, for the rest of his life. He died in 1636 and was buried at St Giles in Cripplegate. The virginalist Giles Farnaby also lived in Grub Street from 1634 until his death in 1640.

An early use of the land surrounding Grub Street was archery. In Records of St. Giles' Cripplegate (1883), the author describes an order made by Henry VII to convert Finsbury Fields from gardens, to fields for archery practice, however in Elizabethan times archery became unfashionable, and Grub Street is described as largely deserted, "except for low gambling houses and bowling-alleys—or, as we should call them, skittle-grounds." John Stow also referred to Grubstreete in A Survey of London Volume II (1603) as "It was convenient for bowyers, since it lay near the Archery-butts in Finsbury Fields", and in 1651 the poet Thomas Randoph wrote "Her eyes are Cupid's Grub-Street: the blind archer, Makes his love-arrows there." The little London directory of 1677 lists six merchants living in 'GrubÅ¿reet', and Costermongers also plied their trade—a Mr Horton, who died in September 1773, earned a fortune of £2,000 by hiring wheelbarrows out. Land was cheap and occupied mostly by the poor, and the area was renowned for the presence of Ague and the Black Death; in the 1660s the Great Plague of London killed nearly eight thousand of the parish's inhabitants.


The population of St Giles in 1801 has been estimated at about 25,000 people, but by the end of the 19th century this was dropping steadily. In the 18th century Cripplegate was well-known as an area haunted by insalubrious folk, and by the mid 19th-century crime was rife. Methods of dealing with criminals were severe—thieves and murderers were "left dangling in their chains on Moorfields." The use of gibbets was common, and four 'cages' were maintained by the parish, for use as a Lying-in hospital, housing the poor, and 'idle imposters'. One such cage stood amidst the poor quality housing stock of Grub Street; destitution was viewed as a crime against society, and was punishable by whipping, and also by having a hole cut in the gristle of the right ear.

Well before the influx of writers in the 18th century, Grub street was therefore in an economically deprived area. John Garfield's Wandring Whore issue V (1660) lists several 'Crafty Bawds' operating from the Three Sugar-Loaves, and also mentions a Mrs Wroth as a 'common whore'.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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Merriam Press Military Monograph 86. Fourth Edition (February 2012). While Waclaw Lapkowski was an experienced pilot who became one of Poland's aces during the war, his early demise, like that of so many others, has relegated his achievements to the back pages of history, making them nearly forgotten. It is the author's hope that, in some small way, this work will help preserve the memory of a little known pilot who fought, not only for his own country, but also for France and England during the early, dark days of World War II. The second reason for producing this work is the unique use of official combat and operations reports from the Royal Air Force (RAF). Many of those who are interested in World War II aviation and fighter aces have read the biographies, and first-hand accounts of air combat contained within, of such men as Douglas Bader, Witold Urbanowicz, Adolph Galland, and Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, to name just a few. But what of those "aces" that did not survive to tell their story? How are they to be remembered? In the case of those who served with the RAF, the answer is, in part, through the use of official combat reports and related documents. While these official RAF and Polish Air Force (PAF) records do not sound particularly exciting, a glance at the surviving records quickly proves otherwise. Indeed, the title of this book consists of a borrowed phrase from one such report, and is a small example of the many dramatic events recorded within, often in the pilot's own words. While these reports have been an important source for many works on the RAF and PAF and its achievements during the war, never before, to the author's knowledge, have official combat reports been presented to the reading public in their original form. Though not originally intended for public view, they nonetheless make for exciting and informative reading and will be of interest not only to those with a passing interest in World War II aviation, but to the serious student as well. While the author was unable to obtain combat reports for all of Lapkowski's flights, those that were procured for September 1940 and June 1941 are of particular interest as they highlight all of the "kills" that he made while serving in the RAF. What the author found out, from the official combat reports, and various published sources, uniquely combined with available archaeological artifacts, was fascinating. What emerged from the records is a story worth telling. Waclaw Lapkowski, though not famous like such other Polish aces as Stanislaw Skalski, Jan Zumbach, or Urbanowicz, had an interesting and distinguished career. He was in the thick of battle at the outset of the war, when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and saw subsequent service during the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain in 1940. He achieved air victories in two out of three of these campaigns, and is one of only a handful of men, less than 150 in number, who served in all three campaigns. To borrow a phrase from the British, Waclaw Lapkowski truly was one of "The Few," men whose skill and bravery helped stem the tide of German aggression and made Allied victory possible, at the cost of their own lives. Contents: Acknowledgments; Introduction; The Source—Combat Report Form F; The German Invasion of Poland, September 1939; The Battle of France, May-June 1940; The Battle of Britain, August-September 1940; Shot Down over London, September 1940; Cross-Channel Operations, January-May 1941; Achieving Ace Status, June 1941; Final Flight, July 1941; Battle of Britain Revisited; Awards for Distinguished Action by Polish Pilots; Biographies of Polish Pilots; Waclaw Lapkowski's Combat Claims; Bibliography; 5 illustrations; 30 photos; 18 combat reports; Pilot's flight log.

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