MAY 28Two titans of 20th century literature were born on this day - one probably a far better writer, the other selling far more books (typical!). Ian Lancaster Fleming (born Mayfair, London, May 28, 1908; died Canterbury, Kent, August 12 1964) was a British author, journalist and naval intelligence officer. He is best known for creating James Bond and for a series of 12 novels and nine short stories about 007, which are among the best-selling series of related novels of all time, selling more than over 100 million copies. Fleming also wrote the children's story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
On May 5, 1995, Irish actor Pierce Brosnan paid £56,250 for Fleming’s gold-plated 1952 Royal Quiet DeLuxe portable typewriter (above, and Fleming with it in top image), after fierce bidding at an auction at Christie’s South Kensington rooms in London. Brosnan was officially the fifth actor to play James Bond and acted the part of 007 in four films.
The typewriter (Richard Polt's is seen above) had originally been bought by Fleming from Royal in New York because of his fascination with things gold. The typewriter was used by Fleming at his 14-acre Goldeneye estate at Oracabessa, St Mary, in north Jamaica, to create Royal Navy Commander James Andrew Thomas Bond CMG, RNVR (born Essen, Germany, November 11, 1920; still living!), MI6 Secret Agent 007, starting with the novel Casino Royale (1953).
He wrote Goldfinger on the Royal in 1959, and included a gold typewriter in that book. Fleming paid $US174 for his typewriter, which he received in the West Indies on January 15, 1952.
Publisher Graham Rye with Fleming's typewriter, above.
While Fleming took James Bond’s name from an American ornithologist, an expert on Caribbean birds, Bond was in large part based on one of Fleming’s old friends and secret service colleagues, a real-life secret agent in Sir Peter Henry Berry Otway Smithers. In 1943, during World War II, Smithers was a British naval attaché in Mexico, tracking German U-Boat movements, when he married, after a three-week courtship, Dojean Lane-Sayman, of St Louis, a divorced American heiress of part-Mexican ancestry who owned a gold typewriter. This is the machine which made a cameo appearance in Goldfinger.
At an action at Christie’s of London on November 1, 2006, a number of Fleming’s letters were sold, including one to his typist, Margaret Anderson, which jokingly describing the gold-plated typewriter as a "beastly machine". Fleming used other, more mundane-looking Royal portables and, during the filming of Dr No in Jamiaca in 1962, a two-tone fawn Triumph Gabriele and an Olympia SF.
My gold-plated Royal typewriter was originally owned by Dr Carl Richard Wedler, of St Clair Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio, and was kept at his home at 4504 Superior Avenue, East Side Cleveland. Dr Wedler was a leading member of the Germania Turverein Vorwaerts, a gymnastics movement affiliated to the American Turners. His grandson is Richard Wedler, the noted woodworker (he makes custom cabinets and furniture), TV presenter, inventor (founder of Micro Fence) and musician, who now lives in Southern California. Before Richard turned to woodworking as a career, he toured the US opening concerts for such well known acts as Judy Collins (Amazing Grace), the legendary Josh White (House of the Rising Sun arranger) and Tom Rush (No Regrets). Dr Wedler's name can be made out on a nameplate on the paperplate of my gold-plated Royal:
Also born on this day was award-winning Australian writer Patrick Victor Martindale White (born Knightsbridge, London, May 28, 1912; died Sydney, Australia, September 30, 1990), widely regarded as one of the most important English-language novelists of the 20th century. He published 12 novels, two short-story collections and eight plays. In 1973, White was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and remains the only Australian to have been awarded the prize.
White didn't sell quite as many books as Fleming, and the best he could afford, even in later life, was a pale-blue, ungilded Optima portable typewriter. In fact, it's not even an Optima, but a Czech-made Consul, which has been rebranded by Optima. It is on display at the New South Wales States Library (Mitchell Library) in Sydney, where the curators actually think it's an Olivetti, and have said so in the printed cards below White's typewriter. Here it is:
And for a notoriously tight-fisted writer like White, this invention by William J. Ashworth, of New Albany, Mississippi - patented on this day in 1963 - might have appealed. It's for a paper end indicator for typewriters.