[caption id="BeyondtheBookshelf_img1" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
The Flagship of Oxford Street
MANY OF US HAVE SHOPPED at Selfridges department store on London’s famous Oxford Street. Selfridges has been a Mecca for shoppers and a part of London’s history for more than a century. Perhaps only last year via Masterpiece Theater’s series Mr. Selfridge, we learned of the entrepreneurial American who founded London’s first department store and set in place innovations in merchandizing that are now taken for granted.
Henry Gordon Selfridge worked for 25 years at famous Marshall Field & Company in Chicago before relocating to London to open his own store in March 1909. Selfridge was the first to place cosmetics and perfumes just inside the store’s main entrance as an enticement to women to enter. He was first to concentrate on lavish window displays with set themes, and to illuminate store windows after hours to tempt people passing by to return and shop during the day. In-store promotions and fashion shows that are standard today were also practices started at Selfridges. The charismatic store owner coined the phrase “the customer is always right.”
With more than £1 billion in sales each year, over 600,000 square feet and more than 4,000 employees, Selfridges is the second-largest department store in Britain (Harrods is slightly larger). With its white Portland stone façade and Corinthian columns, Selfridges has stood for generations now at the busy Marble Arch end of Oxford Street. In 1998 Selfridges opened its first branch outside of London at Trafford Centre in Manchester. Today there is a second branch in Manchester, and one in Birmingham as well. www.selfridges.com, an online service, enables even Americans to shop at Selfridges from the comfort of their homes.
[caption id="BeyondtheBookshelf_img2" align="alignright" width="658"]
The store really is a one-stop shop: From a vast array of home furnishings and clothing with fashionable British labels to personal services including a hair salon, nail bar, shoe repair and key cutting. Its legendary food halls offer a vast and enticing array of edibles. Perhaps one of the quirkier services available is the Psychic Sisters, on the Lower Ground Floor, which specializes in spiritual healing and offers a look into the future with qualified clairvoyants.
For visitors, there are many items to bring home for friends and family, including some beautiful Emma Bridgewater mugs adorned with the façade of the store and a range of packaged foods such as preserves, biscuits and jams all bearing the face of Henry Gordon Selfridge.
Throughout the store, a number of restaurants offer comfortable surroundings surroundings, including Aubaine with French bistro fare, Dolly’s for tea and pastries, and Yo! Sushi where plates of sushi whiz past on a conveyor belt.
After the popular first season of ITV’s Mr. Selfridge production, a second series this year picks up the narrative in 1914 as Selfridges celebrates its 5th anniversary and World War I is about to start. Ahead is the first-ever public demonstration of television, which was held at the store in 1925, as well as the store’s sale of the world’s first television set in 1928.
Henry Gordon Selfridge was every bit a showman; he approached his store like it was a theater. The curtain went up each day that Selfridges opened for business. Everyone was welcomed, then as now, to enter a place very much a part of London’s fabric. Welcome to Selfridges!
— Jennifer Dorn
[caption id="BeyondtheBookshelf_img3" align="alignright" width="224"]
1953: The Queen’s Coronation: The Official Souvenir Album
by Caroline de Guitaut, The Royal Collections Trust, London, 140 pages, hardcover, $17.95
PUBLISHED TO COMMEMORATE the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s coronation, this lavishly illustrated souvenir album includes new photos of the Queen’s coronation gown and jewels, and many of the ceremonial garments worn that day. Collectively, they tell the story of the pageantry, people and places of that historic occasion. Anyone who is a real fan of the Queen will find this album delightful.
[caption id="BeyondtheBookshelf_img4" align="alignright" width="279"]
Foyle’s War starring Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks, 3-disc set, Acorn Media, Silver Spring, Md., 3 episodes, approx. 274 minutes, $49.99
A New War, A New Enemy
WORLDWAR II ISOVER. After a stay in America, Christopher Foyle returns to Britian just as the Cold War is heating up. Though retired from the police office, Foyle is reluctantly persuaded to join Britain’s secret intelligence service in 1946 London. Reunited with his former colleague, now newlywed Sam Wainwright, Foyle faces new and no less deadly threats in the world of spies and counterintelligence.
This is the Foyle we know and love now in a very different environment from the provincial seaside community of wartime Hastings. How can Foyle bring his skills and experience as a police detective to serve MI5 in the Cold War world of spy versus spy versus spy?
Foyle’s War has always been praised for its historical accuracy and its ability to capture the feeling of life in the ’40s. Shifting the scene to postwar London in 1946, the new series is none less poignant. Sam and her young husband, an aspiring Labour politician, live in the crowded pre-fab jungles that emerged from the bombed-out city, and struggle with the stringent rationing that will continue into the 1950s. Foyle makes do as always, with his customary shrug.
If you have missed these great new Foyle episodes on PBS in September, here’s your chance. Even if you saw them, you probably already want to add this set to your collection.
[caption id="BeyondtheBookshelf_img5" align="aligncenter" width="661"]
[caption id="BeyondtheBookshelf_img6" align="alignright" width="195"]
Jane Austen’s England:
by Roy and Lesley Adkins, Viking, New York, 440 pages, hardcover, $27.95
YES, THEY DO THINGS differently in the foreign country of the past. We certainly know the world of the English late 18th century and the Regency beginning the 1800s was very different from our own. Perhaps no one has captured a glimpse of that era for as many readers since those days as Jane Austen. Her novels of love and social manners in the Regency gentry are loved because of her brilliant use of language and her savvy insight into human motivation and relationships.
As Jane Austen herself confessed, though, her slice of life was a very small one. Life at the manor house and the rectory was sedate, comfortable and quiet compared to the world taking place around them. The Napoleonic Wars that preoccupied Britain make their appearance in her six novels only in the form of eligible and handsome officers. The daily lives of the huge majority of Austen’s contemporaries—the subsistence farmers, struggling mill workers, press-ganged sailors and destitute elderly, for instance— get nary a mention in her pages.
Jane Austen’s England paints a marvelous, comprehensive tapestry of daily life in Regency England, from provincial life to the palaces and stews of London. From clothing and religion to domestic life and marriage, no aspect of custom and material culture gets overlooked. Roy and Lesley Adkins provide a delightfully readable narrative, with many references to Austen’s own life and novels that genuinely illuminate her stories. This is a wonderful prolegomena or companion book for anyone who fancies themselves a fan of Jane Austen or the Regency era.
[caption id="BeyondtheBookshelf_img7" align="alignright" width="197"]
starring Timothy Spall and Jennifer Saunders, 2-disc boxed set, Acorn Media, Silver Spring, Md., 6 episodes, approx. 182 minutes, $39.99
[caption id="BeyondtheBookshelf_img8" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]
’TIS P.G. WODEHOUSE at his glorious best. Welcome to Blandings Castle! After Wodehouse’s long-popular series featuring Jeeves & Wooster, the prolific comic novelist’s best known set of tales again satirizes jolly old England’s, eh, idle rich. For eccentric Lord Clarence Emsworth, ninth earl and master of Blandings, life focuses on his prize pig, The Empress, attended by his loyal butler, Beach. All he wants is to be left in peace. Emsworth’s imperious sister, Connie, rules the roost, however, while his brainless, spoiled son, Freddie Threepwood, and a parade of visiting oddballs constantly disturb a tranquil country life.
This new BBC series is the first film adaptation of the Blandings Castle stories since the 1960s. Acorn Media introduces it to American fans in this colorful two-disk DVD set. No, Wodehouse’s humor is not everyone’s cup of tea. For fans, however, this is a warm and brilliant adaptation. Yes, there are bits of cartoon silliness, but that is really the only way to bring P.G. Wodehouse to life on screen. Longtime Wodehouse fans know the score: In book or film, he is the ultimate in escapism for Anglofiles. Rather!