tel's timid ostentation
ASHBEE, C. R. A Palestine Notebook 1918-1923 New York, Doubleday, 1923.
8vo. Original blue cloth, spine lettered in gilt; pp. xiii, , 278, frontispiece, title in red and black; apart from fading to spine and minimal offsetting from frontispiece, a clean and crisp copy of a very rare title.
First US edition (first published in Britain in the same year by Heinemann) of these very rare and important Palestine memoirs. Ashbee was an architect, designer, and social reformer, who was initially based at the Guild of Handicraft in the East End of London in the 1880s, and then went on to help establish modern town planning in Jerusalem after the First World War. 'In the early summer of 1918 Ashbee was called from Cairo to Jerusalem by the military governor, Ronald Storrs, who asked him to write a report on the planning and repair of the city, which had just been captured by British forces from the Turks, and on the possibility of reviving traditional crafts and industries. It was an extraordinary opportunity, exactly suited to Ashbee's skills. He wrote a long and impressive report, and at the beginning of 1919 took up the non-governmental post of civic adviser in Jerusalem. His family moved to Palestine, and he set to work. It was as if he had been invited to repeat his life's work over again, but in the shadow of a longer and more troubled history, and under a stronger sun. Religious interests narrowed what could be done, but he cleared out and repaired the finest of the old market halls, the al-Qattanin souk, and started a weaving school there, brought in glass-blowers from Hebron and tile makers from Turkey and Armenia, drew up a development plan for the city as a whole, laid out gardens round the citadel, and began to repair the sixteenth-century walls of the old city, so that tourists could walk along the ramparts where Turkish guards had gone before. Much more might have been done, but Ashbee, uneasy working in any organization not his own and, though half Jewish, suspicious of the Zionists, resigned in March 1922' (ODNB). - This diary gives a deep and refreshingly written insight into the pitfalls of administering the multi-faith city. 'Jerusalem, July 14, 1922. We've got through our miniature war; a portentuous display of force, the Jews scared to death, the Moslems chuckling at the way they wind up the Administration, and the Chrsitians hard at it fanning their own particular brand of anti-Semitism' (p. 207). In the section on the encounter with TEL Ashbee expresses his admiration for his geopolitical insight and the need for Arab independence. 'I was lunching one day with Deedes when Lawrence turned up. He tripped in, blushing, on tip-toe, rather like a leaf, and with a somewhat timid ostentation asked for a "nut or a pea," it was all he needed. I observe that these ardent pro-Arabs have a way of showing off their desert digestions, but I shrewdly sespect it is dyspepsia rather than the Beduin's iron constitution as they would more willingly have us and themselves believe' (p. 204).
O'Brian F0047f (only this edition, unaware of the Heinemann edition; 'TEL pp. 204-5').