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Showing posts from December, 2014

Jan and Cora Gordon: Richard Perry and the YMCA during WW1

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Earlier this year (April 21st) I wrote on a 1935 book dedication by Jan and Cora Gordon to Richard and Charlotte Perry, two friends living in Connecticut, USA.

Richard and Charlotte had hosted the Gordons in 1927, at the start of the journey recorded in "On Wandering Wheels." The Gordons had arrived in New York on the "American Merchant", May 10th 1927. The Perrys lived in Southport, named "Easyport" in the book. The Gordons were enchanted: "Set on the lawns were the white painted wooden mansions with their tall Corinthian pillars of wood, deceptive pillars giving such an air of massive dignity that it was a shock to pass under a house under repair and to note how the carpenter, wishing to replace some mouldered pediments, had calmly removed them bodily, leaving the huge fluted columns suspended from the cornice." - and writing of restoration, here is the Perry house today.

"Easyport", as Southport is known in "On Wandering Wheel…

Jan and Cora Gordon in Albania: in the footsteps of Edith Durham and the "Sworn Virgins"

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The second leg of Jan and Cora Gordon's journey in Albania involved a northward excursion from Scutari "to trespass upon the almost unpoached preserves of Miss Edith Durham, whose memory still lingers here." "In the towns they have made her godmother to some back street, but in the country, even in the none too retentive memories of the everyday people, they still call her "Kralitza" or "The Queen."" Edith Durham travelled extensively in the southern Balkans and had written seven books on Balkan affairs.


Sketch map of the northern excursion, from "Two Vagabonds in Albania"

Of Scutari, Jan Gordon writes, "A rash statement to make, and yet I venture to make it, is that Scutari, from the point of view of costume, must be the most picturesque and dramatic town in Europe." This proved to be a fertile ground for Cora Gordon's sketching.

A typical set of Cora Gordon sketches of people in Scutari Bazar.
In Scutari they took …

Jan and Cora Gordon in Albania

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Jan and Cora Gordon visited Albania in the summer of 1925 and in 1927 published the book "Two Vagabonds in Albania."

Two phrases from this book resonated when I first read it:

"Now and again a wolf howled from far away, and somewhere a kid, lost or smelling some wolf-taint in the air, bleated with persistent terror" pg. 138.

and

"As we came down into the cultivated fields of the valley we found ourselves walking through clouds of red-winged grasshoppers, which sprang up on all sides with a clattering flight." pg. 139

The book begins with "Don't stay in Durazzo." From Durazzo they made a clockwise loop to the south, passing through Tirana, Elbasan, Berat, Kelcyre, Permeti and Gjinokastro before returning north to Tirana. The second leg of the journey was an excursion to the north, from Scutari up into the mountains.


Map of prominent places visited on the southern loop described in "Two Vagabonds in Albania"

Sketch map of the Albania…

Jan and Cora Gordon in the Balkans

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Jan and Cora Gordon's first book told the story of the Serbian retreat during 1915. The account of how the book came to be written and published can be read here. They returned to the area the following decade and in 1925 published the story of the journey as "Two Vagabonds in the Balkans." I own a rare copy of this book, complete with its green dust cover. The cover displays the following enticing text:

"Readers of "Poor Folk in Spain" and their other delightful travel-books know Jan and Cora Gordon as the most accomplished and attractive of artist-vagabonds. They do not travel as others do ; they invariably get away from the beaten track and fraternise instinctively with the people. "Two Vagabonds in the Balkans" is an account of their journey through Bosnia, Herzegovina and Montenegro, and gives a vivid and unforgettable picture of that little-known and picturesque part of Europe. The illustrations are as racy and as full of humour as the text…