Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Guide to the Ports of the Baltic Sea by Ruffington Bousweau

 Guide to the Ports of  the Baltic Sea by Ruffington Bousweau (1915)

(might not be real)

Ruffy's Guide to the Manly Mediterranean:   Any Port in a Storm is Ruffington Bousweau's most famous work but he also wrote 24 other travel related books.    

 Many traveler writers can tell you about the museums, restaurants, historical places of the port cities of the world only Ruffington Boussweau (1881 to 1974-UK) has the courage to tell the manly man what he  really wants to know.   E.  M. Forster said the chapter on Alexandria taught him more than he learned in a year of living there.  Paul Bowles advised his friends not to come to Tangiers without reading what Ruffy said  first.   Hart Crane met Ruffy in a Parisian Apache bar and  said "Ruffy knows all the best places and gave me some great tips on having fun on a cruise ship".  Ruffy helped with the expenses involved with the publication of The Bridge, though he admits he was never able to get beyond the third page.    Jean Rhys said he was the most handsome man she had ever seen.  She was shocked to learn he had been to Dominica and cruised the Sargasso Sea.  Ruffy was touched but had to decline when she said "no charge for you".   Marcel Proust always made sure he had Ruffy's favorite macaroons on stock whenever he heard he was in Paris.     

Ruffington (or as he loved to say "Oh, Please call me Ruffy, even my houseboys do")  first came to the attention of society when he was the  personal cruise director for Prince Nicholas (to be Czar Nicholas) and Prince Felix Youssovpov  in 1903 when they cruised the major ports of the Mediterranean with the Russian navy.   Ruffy and Felix  met in Naples when Youssovpov was doing his grand tour of Western European  transsexual brothels and they were very close the rest of their lives.    

Ruffy was born in London in 1881.      He attended the most manly of universities, Cambridge, receiving a double fifth  in Greek classics and French studies.   His family wealth, acquired in the slave trade-we can all be proud of the fact that Ruffy always forthrightly acknowledged that this was perhaps not a  morally good business- freed him to travel and enjoy the  sybaritic life style that got him banned from the best places in Europe and sought after in the worst or was it the other way around?   He did his best to make up for his family past business with a very diversified collection of houseboys.   When asked about his shocking to many allegedly passionate romance with a Russian  ballerina reputed to be the mistress of a Grand Duke, he said,  and added a phrase to the English Language, "Any Port  in a storm".    

Guide to the Ports of the Baltic Sea is Ruffy's most politically astute 
work because of the extensive amount of time he spent in St Petersburg and his access to the very top echelons of society through his intimate acquittance with Prince Felix Youssovpov and through him the Royal family.    He explains in depth in a completely convincing fashion why the Romanovs will rule Russia for at least 200 more years.    (He is later to say he still does not understand what the social unrest in Russia was about.   In the whole six months he spent at one of Felix's 200 palaces he never experienced hunger or any type of hardship at all.)

It is very exciting to hear of his encounters and fast developing relationship with one Gregory Rasputin who Ruffy said was the perfect party host and a complete gentlemen, though he acknowledged he needed some help with his wardrobe.     When asked about the secret police Ruffy said, "it is no secret to me, I have lots of policemen friends back in London"  and gave one of the wonderful laughs everyone who was privileged to know him still misses.   

In his chapter on the cultural heritage of Russia he simply says with his characteristic brevity that he hopes to take it in on another trip.    

When asked about the food he said he does not see the fuss over the lack of food in the country (he explains this is simply subversive propaganda started by those jealous of the style sense of Alexandria).   In fact Ruffy wrote what would one day be a famous song about the Czarina's  relationship to the Czar, "Stand by your Man".   

Ruffy also has a brief chapter on Finland, he rates it a skip, too depressing.   In his chapter on Poland he says he has a fond memory of some quite large Polish lancers and closes the chapter with a long account of the operas and slaughter houses of Warsaw.

Ruffy to his great credit never gave up hope on his Czarist bonds.

Ruffy wrote 25 travel guides.    I am very overwhelmed that a patron of my blog from Bangladesh, who has devoted her life to translating the work of Ruffy into Bengali, has sent me all 25 books.   When I asked her why she was spending her life and  tiny part of her immense family fortune on this enterprise she said she wants to give something back to the people of Bangladesh to enjoy for the ages.    One can only marvel at this dedication.    I will be interview her soon on my blog.

Please let me know if you have read any of his other travel books.

Ruffy also spent some time in Japan with Felix and the soon to be Czar.   He talks of this in his very hard to find but still treasured among cognoscenti of the very best of travel writing, Tokyo:  A Manly Man's Guide.   Sections of this book were blocked by censors in most countries on publication for its extensive treatment  of the water world of Tokyo and its veiled suggestions that Czar Nicholas might have been along on these water world ventures.    I will post on this book in November, I hope.


Unknown said...

I love old travel guides like these. I do hope you'll post more about them. Ruffy is not someone I've heard of before but he sounds like an excellent dinner companion.

Mel u said...

C. B. James-I hope to post on all 25 of his travel guides-thanks as always for your comments and visits.

Anonymous said...

Love this! It's a masterpiece of tongue-in-cheek. Dorian Grey and Lord Henry Wotton rolled into one, and disappearing off on mysterious travels like Basil Hallward. I was lost in admiration at the Double Fifth from Cambridge - such a manly achievement. And how has the gargantuan Bengali translation project panned out? One can only hope that such a remarkably self-sacrificing and diligent lady does not bring a fatwah down on her head. This is like a Wodehouse on opium... Read at your peril!