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Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Sun Apr 21, 2019 2:09 pm
by O.G. Urcan
As regards the mystery over James Mason's real name, see

Concerning Mason's marital status, Chess Notes item 9615 quoted from printed indexes of the Principal Probate Registry of England and Wales: "James Mason of Blodwin Cottage, New Thundersley, Essex, died 11 January 1905 at The Infirmary, Rochford, Essex. Effects £151. Administration to Annie Mason, widow."

Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 10:29 am
by Kevin Thurlow
""Chessplayers were generally men of intellect, but inordinate drink turned them into beasts. "

I think I enjoyed that even more than the reference to "so forgotten his dignity as to dance on the pavement".

Still, who can honestly say...

Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 11:24 am
by Gerard Killoran
I think the reference to 'dancing on the pavement' and the Islington Gazette report showing that James Mason was arrested for doing the same is the evidence we need that Holmes is talking about James Mason in his reminiscence. Their friendship - and Holmes' support for Mason - deserves to be better known. Holmes would have come across Mason in the course of his work in the criminal courts and the Islington Gazette has several other reports of Mason being brought up for drunkenness. Holmes' reliability as a source can be judged by the following obituary, (The Howard Association is better known today as The Howard League for Penal Reform.) He comes across as an all-round good egg.

From the Buckinghamshire Examiner - Friday 05 April 1918

' is an appreciation from the "Daily Telegraph" : No man was better known and none more beloved among the immense submerged class of London's population than Mr. Thomas Holmes, for twenty years a police-court missionary, who died on Tuesday, at the age of 73 years, after an operation. Born in humble circumstances, he ever kept in touch with the class from which he sprang; he knew their trials and their needs, and he devoted his life to ameliorating, as far as in him lay, the terrible conditions of their hard lot. The son of an ironmoulder of Pelsall, near Walsall, he followed his father's calling from the age of 10, beginning at a wage of 3/- a week and working fourteen hours a day. By the time he was 21 he was making 22/- a week, and on his scanty earnings married and brought up a family of five children. His spare time he spent in educating himself and imparting something of what he learned to others even poorer than himself. An accident and subsequent illness rendered him physically incapable of continuing at his trade, and he undertook the management of a working men's institute at Rugeley. On the advice of his vicar, Prebendary Grier, he applied in 1885 for the post of court missionary at Lambeth Police Court, where a vacancy had occurred. He was selected by the Bishop of Rochester and his Council. He had found his true vocation, and for twenty years he worked among criminals and the unfortunate, ever striving to lessen the misery and sorrow of their lives. In 1905 he retired from police-court work to become secretary to the Howard Association for the reform of prisons and criminal law, and in that capacity rendered the authorities invaluable assistance, especially in relation to prison reform, F.D.H.'

Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 10:54 pm
by Gerard Killoran
From Thomas Holmes' entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography which covers the period when he would have known James Mason:

'In 1877 Holmes had a serious accident which eventually made it impossible for him to continue his work as an iron-moulder. His friends, who appreciated his gift for gentle persuasion, advised him in 1885 to apply for the post of police-court missionary at Lambeth police court. To his surprise Holmes was appointed, and found there his true vocation. In 1889 he was transferred to the North London police court. Over the course of his twenty years' service as a police-court missionary for the Church of England Temperance Society, he dealt with thieves, drunkards, prostitutes, and outcasts of every description, devoting himself with single-minded zeal to their reformation. His popular first book, Pictures and Problems from London Police Courts (1900), offered readers a tour of the 'horrible wonderland' where summary justice was rendered amid 'the sickening whiff of stale debauch'. Holmes became known both in England and abroad as a practical criminologist with sound judgement, and gained profit as well as reputation from his writings. Some of his police-court associates believed that he resembled Dickens, whose memory Holmes held dear.'

Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Thu Apr 25, 2019 3:36 pm
by Gerard Killoran
To complete this topic

This seems to be the right age for our man and gives another address for him:

Islington Gazette - Monday 11 December 1893.png
Islington Gazette - Monday 11 December 1893.png (106.13 KiB) Viewed 1452 times

This next is definitely him and a further address.

Islington Gazette - Wednesday 18 September 1895.png
Islington Gazette - Wednesday 18 September 1895.png (143.84 KiB) Viewed 1452 times

Unless there are two James Masons living in Glenarm Road we can assume the reference to him being a tailor is some sort of mistake, or a false statement.
Islington Gazette - Thursday 21 April 1898.png
Islington Gazette - Thursday 21 April 1898.png (81.67 KiB) Viewed 1452 times

Lastly, more confirmation of his marriage.

Morning Post - Monday 23 January 1905.png
Morning Post - Monday 23 January 1905.png (302.98 KiB) Viewed 1452 times

Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Wed May 29, 2019 12:28 pm
by John Townsend
John Saunders wrote:
"Further delvings into online records show a James Mason marrying an Annie Grant in Hackney in 1896. In the 1891 census I then found an Annie Grant (aged 37, hence within a year or two of the right age, born in Swanage, Dorset) visiting a family in Walthamstow. Quite good circumstantial evidence, perhaps, but not proof."
It sounds virtually certain to me. There is an entry for that marriage in the General Register Office's index, so the next move is clear for anyone seeking to throw light on the mystery of James Mason's birth. Order the marriage certificate for James Mason (June quarter 1896, Hackney, volume 1b, page 1012). Perhaps someone has already done that. On a good day, the certificate will contain the name and occupation of James Mason's father. On a bad day, the father's name will be blank, if, for example, the "dipsomaniac" was illegitimate.

Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 6:07 pm
by Joost van Winsen
James Mason married to Annie Grant in the district of Hackney on 9 May 1896. The Marriage Certificate shows that Frederick Hill and Susan Hill were present. Susan was a sister of Annie Grant.
Mason and Grant lived at 6 Penbury Grove at the time of their marriage, which is also mentioned in the book 'James Mason in America,' page 9.

Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:25 pm
by Tim Harding
It seems that Mason's propensity to get drunk was already quite well known in the mid-1880s, as Steinitz inserted a veiled reference to this in his his International Chess Magazine, July 1885, page 208:
…Mr. Mason when he descends from the heights of his obfuscated philosophy into the sober region of facts, has, so to speak, “no leg to stand upon,” which, of course, does not matter much to Mr. Mason, who is notoriously rather familiar with that sensation, outside of chess controversy.
"Wide-eyed and leg-less" indeed. Can anybody find instances from around that time?

Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:00 pm
by Joost van Winsen
There are many reports of Mason’s drinking habits, going back to the 1870’s. Perhaps, the following is an expressive example. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle quoted in its issue of 14 February 1886 the Philadelphia Times.

The Philadelphia Times has the following comments on the Zukertort-Steinitz match:
After the first game Zukertort complained of want of practice. “Why didn’t you practice in London?” he was asked. “I couldn’t,” fired back Zukertort: “Blackburne is always sick and Mason is always drunk.”

To which the editor of the Brooklyn paper added that the accuracy of the statement as to Mason’s chronic condition was questionable. He believed that no habitual drunkard could play as Mason had done in the 1885 Hamburg congress.

Re: A genius; but a dipsomaniac!

Posted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 1:49 am
by AustinElliott
John Saunders wrote:
Sun Apr 21, 2019 12:13 pm
The Irish Chess Union features an interesting biography of James Mason by Jim Hayes...


...All of which is extremely well researched and argued but I did have a stray thought. It struck me that the name 'John Byrne' might be playfully referred to as "infernally Milesian" since the name "Byrne" is a homophone of "burn" (which is the thing that happens to people in an inferno) and very Irish. Of course, as a crossword addict, I would say that, wouldn't I...
I've just been reading through this fascinating thread, and as an enthusiast for puns and other verbal tricks I was taken by John's piece of crossword reasoning. However, I reckon one could make a slightly similar argument for 'Dwyer'. As it means 'dark' or 'dark one' you could find a hint of the infernal there too, if you were so inclined...