Crowley and the bicycle?  

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ignant666
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17/11/2014 12:58 pm  

I am a fanatical cyclist, and was this morning wondering about whether AC was ever known to ride a bicycle.
AC was an athlete and proponent of outdoor sports, and he was certainly a man who prided himself on being up on all the latest developments in society, art and culture- the modern "safety bicycle" was arguably the biggest technological advance of his pre-middle aged lifetime, and had a huge social impact.
Other than a mention of an abortive cycling trip in his youth with a detested tutor, and inventing the airplane at Boleskine with Eckenstein before either the Wright Brothers or Santos-Dumont (who, as every Brazilian knows, really invented the airplane), the sole mentions of bicycles in the Confessions are in association with Mathers' Abramelin-related bicycle accidents in Paris, and in connection with an antagonist-cyclist called Gnaggs.
Was AC ever known to ride a bicycle after his trip with his tutor, and, if so, is there any known photo of him doing so?


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belmurru
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17/11/2014 2:00 pm  

Interesting trivia question!

I don't recall any other instances offhand, but there is a mention of him riding a bicycle at Cefalù in the 1920 diary, page 97. He is recounting a dream -

"There were muddy roads awkwardly placed, like those of Fontainbleau, where one is always being cut off by walls. I had a tandem bicycle without handles (Had ridden a bicycle during day - first time in years - the handles were loose on bar). Ninette was with me now... I said I thought she was the sort of girl to be able to ride without handles. [sees old friend Naish from Cambridge]. We made a date with Naish for dinner on some future day and returned to the bicycle. I think it had changed into a boat and then turned back again. Then I woke."

I've certainly never seen a photo of him on a bike.


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OKontrair
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17/11/2014 3:04 pm  
"ignant666" wrote:
Other than a mention of an abortive cycling trip in his youth with a detested tutor,

You mean this bit? :

"It was in the spring of '91. I had recovered from a bad attack of whooping-cough. The idea was that we should bicycle down to Torquay,........."   

Well there's a clear implication here that he was (when well) an able cyclist and probable bicycle owner.  Also this particular tutor was not detested but :

"From the moment that we were alone together he produced a complete revolution in my outlook upon life, by showing me for the first time a sane, clean jolly world worth living in. Smoking and drinking were natural. He warned me of the dangers of excess from the athletic standpoint. He introduced me to racing, billiards, betting, cards and women. He told me how these things might be enjoyed without damaging oneself or wronging others. He put me up to all the tricks. He showed me the meaning of honour. ...."

When AC was at Cambridge he describes another interrupted journey

"One Saturday I had been held up at Hitchin, my racing roadster having sprung a leak. I got back to Cambridge too late to order brunch from the kitchens, so on Sunday morning .........."  (These quotes so far are from Confessions )

In some other place I can't find right now he describes his vehicle as a "Rudge Roadster"  Rudge made bicycles, later motorbikes and later still cars.  I would presume (because of the date) his racing roadster in the Hitchen journey was a bicycle and the 'leak' a puncture.

OK


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Anonymous
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17/11/2014 4:23 pm  

Actually I was wondering did he ever learn to drive an automobile.  I guesse not?


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ignant666
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17/11/2014 7:34 pm  

OKontrair: Thank you so much for correcting my sloppy impression based on quick skimming and the fact that his Uncle Tom (that "cunning combination of rat and ape") had engaged said tutor, who was indeed described in glowing terms- Uncle Tom had made a mistake.
I should have said sole mentions of the word "bicycle".
Thanx for the added Cambridge story also, and to belmurru for the Cefalu loose handlebars (or perhaps loose grips?) story; perhaps AC never had much luck with cycling, and this accounts for an apparent lack of pictures.
david: Why anyone, then or now, would operate one of these menaces to humanity and civilization has long mystified me. Perhaps AC was sensible enough to eschew this anti-social activity, too broke to afford it by the time private automobiles became common, or, like me in high school, too fond of being chauffeured around by women to bother?


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herupakraath
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17/11/2014 8:27 pm  
"david" wrote:
Actually I was wondering did he ever learn to drive an automobile.  I guesse not?

Somewhere in his diaries--around 1923 possibly--Crowley notes being afraid to ride in automobiles unless he was driving, so yes, apparently he did learn to drive.


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Anonymous
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17/11/2014 10:49 pm  

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Brigitte Gorez Santos
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17/11/2014 10:50 pm  

I think I remember from the Churton biography that AC was one of the first students to acquire an automobile in Cambridge. Whether it was chauffeur driven or he learned to drive then I do not know.

Whilst we are on the subject of cars I always wondered whether Crowley ever attended the Targa Florio. It was a race taking place in the Madonie mountains, the start/finish line was at Cerda, about half an hour from Cefalu. The event was created in 1906 and by the 1920s it was one of the most important events on the motor racing calendar, where all the local nobility was mingling with the drivers. Surely AC would have been aware of it and the socialite in him would have been interested?

It took place on May 29 1921, April 2 1922 and April 15 1923.

Any idea if he ever mentioned it?


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the_real_simon_iff
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18/11/2014 8:06 am  

93!

He certainly wrote quite often about and quite in favour of driving a car in some of his short stories and novels. His short story "the Humour of Pauline Pepper" even (kind of) centers around the automobile as a status symbol, as a sports equipment and as a weapon.

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belmurru
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18/11/2014 8:28 am  
"Brigitte Gorez Santos" wrote:
I think I remember from the Churton biography that AC was one of the first students to acquire an automobile in Cambridge. Whether it was chauffeur driven or he learned to drive then I do not know.

Thanks for that. Here it is, page 28 (my emphasis) -

"Crowley flirted with the fast set. The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls (1877-1910), the first man to drive a motor car in Cambridge and future co-founder of Rolls Royce Ltd, was admitted to Trinity the same day as Crowley. Crowley bought a car. While he probably baulked at playing second fiddle, there was another problem. Rolls was the third son John Allan Rolls, 1st  Baron Llangattock, a titled toff; Crowley's mother lived in bourgeois Streatham."

Unfortunately, Churton gives no source. I can't find it in the Confessions (Cambridge life begins with Chapter 12), but it could be a throwaway line somewhere.


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ignant666
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18/11/2014 11:43 am  

AC having a car at Cambridge seems unlikely- automobiles were very, very rare in the UK at the time: according to http://www.nationalmotormuseum.org.uk/motoring_firsts
"By the end of 1895 [the year he began at Cambridge in October], following further importations [the first automobile having arrived in the UK in June of that year], it was estimated that there were 14-15 cars on Britain's roads..."
It is hard to believe that if he had possessed such an extremely rare and specialized item, it would not have been mentioned before Churton. I wonder if the Cambridge "Rudge roadster" OKontrair recalls may have been taken to be an automobile by Churton. It was certainly a bicycle, as Rudge-Whitworth made nothing with a motor before 1911.


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Bedazzled
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19/11/2014 8:50 am  

He recounts a carriage accident (in the third person - as happening to 'Alick'):

"The only trace which this left in later life is that he has always disliked riding in unusual vehicles unless himself in control. He became a reckless cyclist and motorist, but he was nervous for a long while with automobiles unless at the wheel."

Confessions, p44 Cape 1969.


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the_real_simon_iff
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19/11/2014 9:03 am  

93!

From his 1937 diary:

Sunday, August 1
Pat & Boy to lunch. Car to King's Head. Harrow-on-the-Hill. Lovely hotel & gardens--excellent food!!! Slept & played in garden. Royal Oak. Simon Iff. Curry with Fitzgerald. He & wife came back with me: I gave them pictures.
Monday, August 2
Car at 11.30 not 9. Pat at 11.30. Car broke down outside Alton. Got a good garage to drive us to Blunt's. Blunt as pig with load of mud but thawed later. Found the Castle of Comfort at Medstead. Nearly had head-on crash: "carriage full of ghosts." "Going forward, he shall meet with (genial) rain, & there will be good fortune". Opus Pat--Let it as it will. Crossed "Hog's Back."
Tuesday, August 3
Car back, but late. Paid all by cheque. Very dull. Roundabout way to London. Indifference to Pat. Back via Alton, Farnham, Hindhead, Hazelmere, Petworth (Dinner at Swan) Dorking & Kingston by-pass.

It surely sounds like he drove himself. And the paying might even indicate that it was his own car.

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the_real_simon_iff
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19/11/2014 9:12 am  

93!

From his 1936 diary:

MEMORANDA FOR 1936

My dear Wooding I have now interviewed Her Lividity's exfiance Mr. Laurence Felkin. Sorrowfully as one must deplore the description "that bitch Melvill," repugnant to all right-thinking persons as must appear the euphemism "that lousy old cow Turner Coles," it is hardly possible for the judicially-minded to escape the conclusion that the young man was most grievously wronged. A tour of the premises on a fast motor-bicycle only confirmed this regrettable decision. "What would Jesus do?"

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belmurru
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19/11/2014 9:26 am  
"Bedazzled" wrote:
He recounts a carriage accident (in the third person - as happening to 'Alick'):

"The only trace which this left in later life is that he has always disliked riding in unusual vehicles unless himself in control. He became a reckless cyclist and motorist, but he was nervous for a long while with automobiles unless at the wheel."

Confessions, p44 Cape 1969.

Excellent, Bedazzled! Thanks. That confirms herupakraath's hazy recollection.


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belmurru
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19/11/2014 9:34 am  
"the_real_simon_iff" wrote:
93!

From his 1936 diary:

MEMORANDA FOR 1936

My dear Wooding I have now interviewed Her Lividity's exfiance Mr. Laurence Felkin. Sorrowfully as one must deplore the description "that bitch Melvill," repugnant to all right-thinking persons as must appear the euphemism "that lousy old cow Turner Coles," it is hardly possible for the judicially-minded to escape the conclusion that the young man was most grievously wronged. A tour of the premises on a fast motor-bicycle only confirmed this regrettable decision. "What would Jesus do?"

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Lutz

Wonderful Lutz! i looked there too, but missed those entries.

Now we have a "reckless" AC on bicycles and motorcycles, and in cars. I wonder if he were just as wild on horseback?

It seems like the only means of transportation he never experienced was flying, but we know he wanted to (trying to figure out flight with Eckenstein; 1921 memorandum to Seabrook on rushing Everest (Confessions 1969 ed. plate 15 (facing page 513) - "3. Air pilot to learn landing on, & starting from, level glaciers, this summer.").


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the_real_simon_iff
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19/11/2014 10:01 am  

93!

"belmurru" wrote:
It seems like the only means of transportation he never experienced was flying, but we know he wanted to

As is also shown by the casualness with which Peter Pendragon (of whom AC wrote: "Some of P.P‘s psychology is borrowed from my own psychology.") talks about his flying experiences and successful air battles.

"Yes, I certainly was feeling depressed. I don't think that this was altogether the reaction of the day. Of course, there always is a reaction after the excitement of a flight ; but the effect is more physical than moral. One doesn't talk. One lies about and smokes and drinks champagne. [...] I had gone into the air service ; did pretty well, though somehow I was never sure either of myself or of my machine. My squadron commander used to tell me that I should never make a great airman. "Old thing," he said, "you lack the instinct," qualifying the noun with an entirely meaningless adjective which somehow succeeded in making his sentence highly illuminating. "Where you get away with it," he said, " is that you have an analytic brain. Well, I suppose I have. That's how I  come to be writing this up. Anyhow, at the end of the war I found myself with a knighthood which I still firmly believe to have been due to a clerical error on the part of s ome official. As for Uncle Mortimer, he lived on in his crustacean way; a sulky, rich, morose, old bachelor. We never heard a word of him. And then, about a year ago, he died ; and I found to my amazement that I was sole heir to his five or six thousand a year, and the owner of Barley Grange ; which is really an awfully nice place in Kent, quite near enough to be convenient for the prosperous young man about town which I had become ; and for the best of it, a piece of artificial water quite large enough for me to use for a waterdrome for my seaplane. I may not have the instinct for flying, as Cartwright said; but it's the only sport I care about. Golf? When one has flown over a golf course, those people do look such appalling rotters! Such pigmy solemnities !"

Writes the frequent golfer Crowley!

Love=Law
Lutz


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the_real_simon_iff
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23/01/2015 2:13 pm  

93!

In this postcard he mentions motoring to Munich from Vienna (though he doesn't say by car or by motorcycle) in 1930, that's a good 400 kilometres! Also it is quite direct/prophetic about two of the most famous tourists sites in Munich:

"It's good here - Two days' perfect weather motoring from Wien. But the Hofbräu is a horror + the Frauenkirche the ugliest church in the world. Hope you'll be around next week. I arrive Monday, I suppose - 93 AC"

Love=Law
Lutz


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William Thirteen
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23/01/2015 4:44 pm  

this would have been when he was returning to Germany from Prague & Vienna as a terrified passenger with Karl at the wheel.... indeed, just a few days later he and Hanni arrived in London.


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Markus
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23/01/2015 5:46 pm  

AC makes valid points: the Frauenkirche is at best overrated and the Hofbräu is indeed a horror.

Markus


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steve_wilson
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24/01/2015 3:27 am  

Did this thread originate, I wonder, from  a desire to use a New Aeon version of the exclamation "Jesus Christ on a bicycle"?


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