Monday, March 22, 2010

Thinking Aloud

This morning I received an e-mail from my dear friend Jennifer in Pennsylvania:

I looked at the image of that George Mills record; it's a list of deaths registered from October-December 1972. So that narrows down his date of death. Hope you can see this screen shot.

She sent me the image you see [left] determining that George Mills passed away somewhere between 1 October and 31 December 1972. It seems so melancholy to me that the life of Mills seems to have been briefly and bureaucratically summed up the final line: 1 OC 1896 DEVON C 7A 970.

In a return e-mail, I belabored Jen with some "thinking aloud" questions that have been plaguing me as I try to answer the question: "Who is George Mills?" I thought I might air them here as well.

• Why does someone write four books in 6 years, publishing the final three within two calendar years in 1938-1939, and then never publish another word—even though he lives another 33 years?

• Why does a man who has at least some nearness to
Plantagenet bloodlines, a reverend father with an M.A. from Oxford, one grandfather who stood up in Parliament, another grandfather who we shall see was an important military figure, and an uncle who was a major in the Royal Engineers, leave prestigious Harrow School in 1912 and four years later enter the Rifle Brigade during WW I as a private in 1916?

• Why does a gentleman, in 1925, marry a woman with blood tracing back to William the Conqueror and buy a house in Portslade near his new job if he knows he's at least misled his employer into believing he'd earned a B.A. from Oxford? Especially if he was just going to turn around and get swept up in the excitement of a country-wide general strike in 1926!

• How would this fellow convince a woman with royal blood to accompany him while he bounces from Portslade to Eastbourne and then up to the northern wilds of far away Cumbria and then off to Switzerland on the Continent during the next six years so he could continue to pursue his career as a prep school teacher of boys, ages approximately 8—13? Or had he left her behind in Portslade? Or elsewhere?

• And, finally, how—and especially why—did this childless man manage to drop off the face of the Earth as he seems to have done after his wife's passing in 1942, despite a continuing fondness for his books and characters through the 1950s?

I can think of some answers that are more likely than others. I can conjure up very happy outcomes for Mills in the years after he was a published author. I can also think of some very sordid things that might have occurred. I can think of some very tragic things. And, finally, I can think some disappointing things--disappointing in the sense that Mills may have had some regrets. But who knows?

What clues might help us better understand the man behind the line: 1 OC 1896 DEVON C 7A 970?

On a more cheerful note, I just now received from Jennifer the record of the birth of George Mills. She's the best! Of interest: Stratton is listed as his birthplace, about 2 km from Bude, Cornwall.

Please let me know if you have thoughts regarding anything that happened in between Stratton 5 c. 4 and 1 OC 1896 DEVON C 7A 970!

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