Article excerpt

Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge


Please settle a bet. I say the quotation 'Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated' was coined by Ernest Hemingway, but my friend says it was Mark Twain.

THIS famous saying is often wrongly attributed to Hemingway but the confusion is understandable.

The all-action Hemingway (1899-1961) was reported dead twice in 1954 after he and his wife Mary were involved in plane crashes in Africa but both survived.

The writer of Farewell To Arms and The Old Man And The Sea is reputed to have kept a scrapbook of the obituaries and read it every morning over a glass of champagne.

For all his lust for life, Hemingway was a deep depressive and made several attempts on his own life and ended up committing suicide.

Twain, who was born Samuel Clemens in 1835, was also 'killed off' twice.

In 1897 a journalist was sent to enquire about the Huckleberry Finn author's health, thinking he was near to death -- in fact it was his cousin who was ill.

Though (contrary to popular belief) no obituary was published, Twain recounted the event in the New York Journal of 2 June, 1897, including his famous words: 'The report of my death was an exaggeration.' This is usually misquoted as 'the rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated,' or 'reports of my death are greatly exaggerated'.

On 4 May, 1907, when a yacht he was travelling on went missing, the New York Times published an article saying he might have been lost at sea.

In fact, the yacht had been held up by fog, and Twain had disembarked. Twain read the article, and cleared up the story by writing a humorous account in the New York Times the following day.

Twain died in 1910 after which proper obituaries were scribed.

Joe McEvoy, Cork.


Did the Germans broadcast radio entertainment to their forces during the War? If so, who were its stars?

FURTHER to the previous answers, towards the end of the war, special programmes were recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra for broadcasting to the German forces.

The programmes were entitled Musik fur die Wehrmacht, the narration was given in German by Glenn Miller and the lyrics sung in German by band vocalist Johnny Desmond.

This was done as part of a propaganda exercise, Operation Eclipse, aimed at persuading disaffected German troops to come across to the Allies.

It was known that the younger Germans regarded Miller and his music with great affection.

John Richards, Warminster, Wiltshire.


I've discovered an old box camera owned by my father in the Thirties. It is marked Ensign 29 and was manufactured by Houghton-Butcher. What is known of this camera and manufacturer?

THE Ensign E29 camera was manufactured throughout the Thirties by Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Company Ltd.

Box designs became popular in the early Thirties and were available in black or blue.

The compact box camera was one of dozens of similar products intended to make everyday photography more accessible to the average consumer.

The wooden casing was covered by an embossed layer detailing the make of the camera and the manufacturer, houghton-Butcher Ltd.

The E29 was promoted to be used for family snapshots exclusively on bright summer days, and as the camera relied completely on natural light, the manual explicitly instructed the user not to take pictures in the shade or in winter.

The shutter was operated by a release lever, capturing the snapshot by moving up or down.

The camera could be used only with Ensign E29 roll film, which is no longer manufactured, so even if an E29 were still in working order it would be difficult to use.

In 1915, the camera makers Houghtons Ltd and W. Butcher and Sons Ltd had gone into partnership and the arrangement was for the two firms to share a factory in London. …