© Robin Simmons. Reproduced with permission.Robin Simmons (www.alexander-technik.eu.com)This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
The final chapter of Part II provides us with more exacting information on FM’s development of his methods, the expansion of his teaching to Sydney, and the introduction of his first serious writing. He joins with other performers to stage entertainments, and establishes the friends and contacts which eventually support his move to London. We hear more about AR and Amy’s pursuits with teaching, the overall close familial ties, and their view of what they referred to as the Work. It is in this atmosphere of success, coupled with heavy financial responsibilities, that luck enters, sending FM to London.
Part Three (approx. 100 pp.) covers the years of 1904 to 1955. Divided fairly evenly into seven chapters, the author covers FM’s career and personal life with respect and tact. The story of how FM established himself in London, bringing first Amy, and then AR, to London to help teach, is fascinating. The logistics and complexities of family and career increase as World War I begins, affecting further decisions and creating greater financial responsibilities. The introduction of Ethel Webb, Irene Tasker and Margaret Naumburg to the Work is good reading. The initiation of annual teaching trips to the United States provides the sequence of events which led to the development of teaching in this country. FM marries and adopts a daughter. Dewey enters the picture, and the publication of FM’s books begins. All of these events are portrayed against the horrifying background of WWI, and yet life continues.
The second two chapters of Part Three cover the 1920’s and the1930’s. The trips to the United States ceased for the time being, the little school was created, and FM and AR buy homes outside London in Sidcup. The information relayed about the little school was particularly enjoyable Evans wisely gives us a taste of the school in a teenage girl’s submission for Mr. FM’s Competition – Means Whereby. The title of her piece, Means Whereby of Grooming a Pony, opens with Inhibit the desire to groom a pony , and closes with, If you can’t control yourself, you can’t control your horse. As we read on, we learn more about FM’s personal life, which I won’t spoil by giving too much away. The advent of the training course is covered with gracious descriptions of those attending. The next two books are described as well received although in general the Work was both criticized and acclaimed. AR , whose great sense of humour often defused a tense situation on the training course, responded to the market in the United States and by early 1935 he was well established teaching in Boston. These chapters close with verbal snapshots of FM’s work and leisure.
The chapter devoted to World War II was particularly disturbing in light of current events. Evans’ portrayal of how the war affected everyday life, the eventual need for FM and the school children to flee to the United States, and the effects of the London bombings, were descriptions that made me feel both pain and admiration for those who endured that period of history. FM is described as the incorrigible optimist. There are several quotations from his letters to those who remained in England. But it is little use to grumble. We have just to see it through to the bitter end now. On the brighter side, I found the pages given to Coghill very satisfying to read, and the descriptions and photos of life at Stow, Massachusetts, a pleasure. At the end of the chapter, we see FM returning to London in 1943, the War not yet ended.
The South African Case chapter is full of traumatic experiences ranging from further bombings near home and work, to the trial in Johannesburg, to the death of AR. The loss of his dearest brother, the man who had supported him so loyally all his life was devastating. The care Evans gives to relaying the details leading up to the trial, the trial itself, and its outcome, are helpful. The extent to which FM supporters extended themselves speaks highly of their dedication to FM and his Technique. Also in this chapter is one of my favorite passages, too lengthy for this review, but you can find it on p. 229, pertaining to John Skinner. It’s a wonderful account of one person’s sacrifices to train as a teacher.
The final chapter, Final Years, touches on the sensitive problems associated with teachers wishing to secure the future of the Technique, thus providing insight as to how the factions within the profession originated. FM outlived most of his family members and close friends. Evans’ history of FM relays both his humanity and his humaneness.
Additional material in this book consists of a Foreword by Jackie Evans’ aunt, Marjory Barlow, which I found disappointing in its brevity, and a Legacy chapter by John Gray which includes details about the Technique following FM’s death. The maps and photographs throughout the book convey more than words as we view the locations, scenery and portraits – the beauty of Amy and the handsome AR as examples. In her Introduction, Jackie Evans states: It was felt by the Alexander family and a number of senior teachers that an accurate record of the background, family and life of Alexander was required. At the time many inaccurate articles, letters and books were circulating and producing a very biased view of Alexander and his family. I hope that this book will set the record straight and will interest a wider audience than already committed Alexanderians. In my opinion, I think Ms. Evans can consider the record set straight.
© Rose Bronec. Reproduced with permission.This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
Jackie Evans is a great-niece of F. M. Alexander (she is the daughter of Joan, Marjory Barlow’s sister). She has researched F. M.’s life story for more than fifteen years and has taken degrees in genealogy and family community history for the single purpose of writing this biography. The book is handsomely produced and illustrated with 102 pictures, most of which are new to the Alexander community.
The biography is a thoroughly researched account of F. M.’s life and the story of his immediate family. The family origins are documented in depth (F. M. is not born until page 70). This emphasis on the family is the book’s strength as well as its weakness.
Given the fees F. M. charged (in the beginning 4 guineas a lesson) one might have thought he led a life of luxury and easy living, but lack of money was often a difficulty because throughout his adult life F. M. supported several family members. Although F. M. was awarded £1,000 in damages in the South African libel case his expenses far outweighed this sum. His life was as difficult romantically as it was financially. One of his best friends, Robert Young, died in 1910, and his widow, Edith Page, moved to London as she wanted to make her career on the stage. In this she was not successful and the reader is rather left with the impression that FM married her simply to support her. The only real romantic interest in FM’s life seems to have been Gladys Johnson, known as Jack, who became a caretaker at the Penhill estate in 1925. (To add to the twist, Jack was married to Owen Vicary who was a nephew of Edith.) Jack and Owen had separated in 1925 and when Edith moved out of Penhill in 1929, F. M. and Jack became close. In 1931 they had a son who was passed as Owen’s son, and named John Vicary. It was a hard blow for F. M. when Jack died of cancer in January 1955.
Evans’ account is thoroughly factual and does not indulge in any idle speculation. This makes for a reliable but somewhat dry exposition; all articles and letters and books by F. M. are mentioned, all important pupils and their contributions are listed, notable dates and events are all there, everything is present and correct, but somehow the story does not come to life. Missing are the many small snap-shot stories which reveal how F. M. was as a man and as a teacher. There is no mention let alone quotation from Goddard Binkley’s diary of his lessons with F. M. or any of Barlow’s or Carrington’s stories about F. M.
Even given this factual approach there are odd omissions. For example, we learn that various teachers broke away from F. M., but not about the pain it caused him (or them). And why is Magnus’ research and its relevance to the Technique not explained when Coghill’s work gets three pages? This biography is first and foremost a family history and the Technique is sidelined. One might regret that the crucial turning point in Alexander’s life, the evolution and discovery of the Technique – the reason why there is a technique and a biography – is passed over in a mere five lines. Nor are there any attempts at summarising or giving even the barest outlines of any of Alexander’s books. A long report on the horrendous casualties of WW1 appears to have the objective of throwing Alexander’s scathing denouncements of the Germans in Man’s Supreme Inheritance into relief.
However, this does not detract from the fact that this book is a solid, accurate and detailed account of F. M. Alexander’s life and family. Even people who knew Alexander or studied his life would find a great deal of new information. For the sheer volume of facts it is hard to believe that anything could replace this biography, and the Alexander community is indebted to Evans for her achievement.
© Jean M. O. Fischer. Reproduced with permission.This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
Der erste Eindruck beim Lesen ist eine überwältigende Flut von Namen und Familienverzweigungen. Nicht verwunderlich, wenn man bedenkt, dass zu der damaligen Zeit 10 Kinder in einer Familie keine Seltenheit waren. Lässt man sich jedoch davon nicht abschrecken - im Anhang findet man 8 Seiten mit Familienstammbäumen - entsteht ein lebendiges Bild der damaligen Lebensbedingungen und -wege, erst der Vorfahren in England und dann der weitverzweigten Familie der Alexanders in Tasmanien. FM selbst taucht erst auf Seite 73 auf.
Mit Liebe zum Detail und vielen Anekdoten zeichnet Jackie Evans ein lebendiges Bild der Familienmitglieder und zeigt viel über ihren Charakter und ihr Verhältnis zu einander. Sie räumt mit vielen Gerüchten, Missverständnissen und Halbwahrheiten über FMs Familie auf. Zum Beispiel weist sie nach, dass FMs Vater John eher ein Schmied als ein Farmer war, der erfolgreich Rennpferde für die lokalen Rennbahnen trainierte. Jackie Evans erwähnt nichts von einem angeblichen Alkoholproblem, was er gehabt haben soll.
Auf über 160 Seiten wird FMs Leben mit einer Fülle an Informationen beschrieben. Jackie Evans schreibt nichts über die Entwicklung der Alexander-Technik an sich, "the Work " wie sie im Buch genannt wird, sondern verweist dazu nur auf Der Gebrauch des Selbst. Sie stellt ganz den Menschen FM in den Vordergrund und ihr gelingt es, mit einer Fülle an Hintergrundsinformationen ein lebendiges und unterhaltsames Bild der einzelnen Stationen von Alexanders Weg zu zeichnen. Von den frühen Jahren in Tasmanien, Melbourne und Sydney, über London, die beiden Weltkriege, Amerika, die ersten Ausbildungsklassen, bis hin zu dem berühmten Rechtsstreit in Südafrika und den späten Jahren in London.
Dieses Buch ist für alle, die mehr wissen wollen über den Begründer der Alexander-Technik eine wahre Fundgrube und ein spannendes Lesevergnügen.
2001 © Jan Pullmann. Reproduced with permission.
This edition © Mouritz 2008-2014. All rights reserved.