Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summarizing George Mills: A Final Perspective

Much of our story here involving George Mills has revolved to a great degree around one thing lately: Religion. However, there certainly are many threads running through his story, and in this—oddly my 300th and hopefully not my final post— we'll begin to summarize, to some degree, what we have learned about George's life.

The Mills Family and Catholicism

It seems odd, at least to an American viewing it from the vantage point of the 20th century, that George's father, the Revd Barton R. V. Mills, converted to Roman Catholicism while attending Oxford around 1883 and then took a series of positions as an Anglican vicar afterwards, eventually ending up as assistant chaplain at the Chapel Royal of the Savoy in London, and doing a segment of Queen Victoria's funeral service. No one else seems surprised or very much cares save one man: The current chaplain of the Savoy, Peter Galloway, who simply chooses to disbelieve, preferring the strange point of view that the public record of the conversion of Mills must be in error.

I guess that's why they call it "faith."

In fact, I recently wrote to a Church of England vicar of today to ask about the relations among the Anglican Church, the High Church, the Low Church, Anglo-Catholicism, and Roman Catholicism. I let him know that some very learned people in the U.K. have expressed directly to me that there's really not much difference at all, especially today, and that it's unlikely anyone cared very much back then, either—hence the vicarages and the chaplaincy to the Savoy being awarded to Mills.

Like most people I've contacted who are involved with the Church, that vicar never bothered to reply to a collegial request for research assistance from an educator. (Just an aside: When clerics contact scholars, do they expect assistance in their own research? If so, that would be quite hypocritical!)

In lieu of that learned opinion, the difference between the Anglican Church and Roman Catholicism seems, however, to have been a big enough deal for some people actually to make the effort to convert from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism, and to form specific religious societies, and publishing houses, and the like, especially when converting was 'of the moment' in the early 20th century.

I think it might a bigger surprise that George Mills was friendly with Roman Catholic converts, frequenting their haunts, publishing with their publishers, and basically living a very Roman Catholic life, all the way through to his funeral service at the Catholic Church of St. Peter's in Budleigh Salterton (as opposed to the St. Peter's C of E there), than it is that he might've been gay, for example, as we recently heard discussed.

Given the overtly Catholic nature of many of George's friends, religion seems to have been the windmill at which Mills tilted most as the son of an Anglican vicar—even if his father also had been a closet Roman Catholic—in an extended family involved fully in Church of England. His sexuality would seem to have been secondary.

Having moved away from the Church of England also seems to be an explanation why distant relatives living today simply don't know the "Barton R. V. Mills" twig on their branch of the family tree exists, let alone anything about any of the Mills family. Honestly, except for a few recollections by a few ancient relatives of George's Uncle Dudley Acland Mills, now living in Canada who do know, but apparently are not interested in the Mills family at all!

A Childless and Forgotten Family

It didn't help that all four of the Rev. Barton Mills's children died childless (unless George's brother, Arthur, had late-in-life offspring I can't locate), but there's something more to the fact that virtually no one knows or cares who these people are or that they even existed.

Except, to some degree, for the women who married into the Mills family.

In the case of Vera Beauclerk (Mrs. George Mills), her family today bviously knows about her, and she's easy to trace—being descended from William the Conqueror.

Considering Edith Ramsay (Mrs. Barton Mills, George's mother), her surviving family today knows of her, but not very much, even to the point of having documented her Christian name incorrectly [as Elizabeth]. It's as if she dropped off the very face of the Earth when she left her nuclear family after marrying Barton Mills and moving to Kensington, just blocks from Buckingham Palace. Of Edith's parents, much is known today, including the possession of a great deal of ephemera, much of which has appeared among these pages. Of Edith herself: Nothing, save the image of her as a toddler in the montage at left.

The last in-law, Lady Dorothy Mills (née Walpole, Arthur's first wife), maintained a high profile of her own as an author/explorer until a horrific car accident drove her into retirement, despite the fact that her family quite literally disowned her for marrying a soldier. They divorced in 1933. Also childless, she has been allowed to fade into obscurity since her death in 1959.

Her onetime husband, George's half-brother Arthur, apparently barely acknowledged his family, and is the best-kept secret of all the Mills siblings.

Something is amiss in all of that.

George, Arthur, and their spinster sisters—Agnes and Violet; very athletic girls, into the Girl Guides and scouting, who never found mates at all and were devoted to George, and he them—were an entire little family all of whom, sadly, had failed to reproduce to continue the family name.

Still: Why does almost no one recall that these people ever were?

George Mills at School

George had been in a great deal of pain in his life and not all of it could have been addressed with an aspirin or two. Physically slight of build, with varicose veins as a boy, and saddled with a speech impediment [possibly a lisp like his sister Aggie's, causing an unclear voice], I can see why he would've preferred sensitivity in the people around him—but boys at school probably tormented him. He basically washed out as a young scholar, spending a brief two years at Harrow. He would not have excelled at something he always loved: Sport, especially cricket. Stronger, more confident, less sensitive boys would have made his life miserable in a variety of ways, even unknowingly.

George had stockpiled many regrets based on his own preparatory schooling.

George Mills during World War I

I don't see Mills's life having been much better as a "Grade III" army recruit (unfit for most military duties) in the service during the First World War. Except for his time in the Army Pay Corps, the corps where the friend and fellow B-III, Egerton Clarke, was also assigned, the slightly built and sensitive Mills must have faced similar torments to those he'd known at school.

The army was another place where Mills would have been a failure: He was a washout as a soldier, a washout as a APC clerk, and a fellow who had been determined fit only to be a "fatigue man"—the lowest form of military life, with virtually no hope of promotion. And things, as we've seen, got worse for him after his friend Egerton was hospitalized and demobilised, leaving George in Winchester alone.

George Mills at Oxford

After having been demobilised himself, George attended Oxford for three years or so and managed to leave without having taken a degree or a single examination to earn one. The academic and social discipline required by an institution like Oxon would have been a struggle for Mills, who had lived a sheltered life, especially in regard to having been allowed to 'quit' when the going got tough, as they say, during his preparatory schooling.

Without that degree, gaining a career in which he could have been a success—and make his father (twice an Oxford graduate) proud—would prove then to be difficult.

George Mills As a Non-Author

As a youth grown into a man, George Mills had been the only male member of his immediate family who had not published a book, from his paternal grandfather on down! While that may never had been said to him directly, when the men all were discussing their books and their publishers, George had to know he was the only one just listening.

George Mills, Schoolmaster, 1926 – 1933

Failed as a schoolboy and scholar and failed in the military, by 1933 we know George also failed to hold down a regular teaching job for very long. He had moved from school to school as a teacher between 1924 and 1933 (one assignment being as far afield as Switzerland) in search of a situation. This presumably meant time spent away from his family, and even his wife.

Something during this time, however, 'clicked' for Mills.

It seems to have been spurred by his relationship with Joshua Goodland at Warren Hill School in Meads, Eastbourne [below, left]. Although Goodland had managed to take two degrees during his seven years at Cambridge, he never fully settled into a career. Goodland was an occupational nomad, veering from a career in teaching to becoming an architect, and following that, a career in law. He then returned to teaching and became Head Master at Warren Hill before eventually turning to his final vocation, serving as a vicar in the Church of England.

Goodland was a diminutive but passionate man, older than George, who had traveled around the world and possessed a myriad of skills and talents, but who lacked a sort of stick-to-it-ness (as we say in the States) that would have inspired the erratic young Mills to find success in his own life in a similar way: Not necessarily along a single, direct career path, but divergently.

In 1932, Barton Mills, George's father, passed away. This simultaneous event, a tragedy, also seems to have been a catalyst and clearly a pivotal point in George's life.

Vindication of His Failures

Mills tackled his lifelong failure issues seemingly one at a time, and began to assemble a future. Whether or not this was consciously done, we cannot tell.

He seems to have gained a great deal from his time spent at Oxford, even if he didn't earn a degree. He met and had been exposed to a sensitive class of fellows who, rather than hurting George, seem to have understood him—perhaps that was something he'd never experienced within his own family—and those well-educated men even liked and cared about him. He learned about himself as a person, as well as receiving reinforcement regarding his faith in Catholicism.

His university experience planted many seeds that would later begin to flourish.

George Mills Returns to Prep School

Some success and popularity at Oxford led Mills to do something that many children-grown-into-teachers do: Return to the scene of previous educational 'crimes' against him and others like him, intent on 'righting' many wrongs that had been perpetrated upon him while at school.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, under the auspices of progress and enlightenment in education, he then spent time teaching in schools and being the sort of schoolmaster he'd wanted to have, I suppose: His first book is fully titled Meredith and Co.: The Story of a Modern Preparatory School.

Key word: Modern. Things now were finally different in the world of British education, and George had returned to become a part of it all.

Much of what he wanted as a schoolmaster likely was acceptance within some educational institution more than any sort of abstract revenge: During his time in the classroom he was liked and appreciated by faculty, staff, and students, all within a milieu in which he was once considered a failure.

George Mills Finds Success as an Author

After he was unable to hold onto one job for long as the world moved into a severe global economic depression, George then wrote books about his fledgling teaching career—a vocation that he may not have returned to, as far as we know. (There's no evidence he taught more than a single term after WW2.)

This process of writing and being published, in a family of both distinguished scholars and popular authors, enabled him to raise his esteem, I'm sure, in the eyes of his family, as well as in his own. We find that yet another area in which he was dismal failure could be checked off his metaphorical list, and not just barely: His books became popular and were unique in having captured much of the behavior, slang, and idiom of British Schoolboys between the wars, becoming the forerunners of a literary genre that would later flourish.

Once Mills published his third and fourth book in 1939, the label "author" could clearly and permanently be attached to him. Clouds were gathering darkly over a Europe increasingly held in the steely embrace of fascism, however.

George Mills and the Royal Army Pay Corps

There were not many failures left to vindicate, but next came George's lack of any sort of success in the military in general, and within the Army Pay Corps in particular. George had been summarily and permanently sent packing from the APC during his dismal service there during the Great War, so I understand why, while enjoying success as a writer at 43 years of age, all of that was cast suddenly aside. He obviously had put his name into the Officer's Reserve pool as a War Substitute (probably claiming to have the Oxon degree he'd falsely told his prep schools that he had earned) at the onset of the Second World War.

We find that Mills soon ended up back in the Royal Army Pay Corps in 1940, and it must have been all the sweeter when he walked in this time wearing the uniform of a 2nd Lieutenant. George then would have been walking on metaphorical air when he eventually was promoted to full Lieutenant in 1942! Check 'success' in that area off of his 'vindication list'—although it would be short-lived.

Never what we'd call a "finisher," Mills relinquished his commission as an officer in 1943, after just two years, due to "ill-health." He was awarded the honorary rank of Lieutenant.

George's life had been bombarded by loss during this time period, and he would suffer more by the end of the war—the deaths of friends (Terence Hadow, Egerton Clarke), colleagues (Capt. Wm. Mocatta, Joshua Goodland), and loved ones (his wife, Vera, and his mother, Edith), all between 1939 and 1945—which is something he admittedly had in common with the rest of the British Empire during that time frame. It is distinctly possible Mills then suffered from terrible depression.

As we know, George's "ill health" didn't permanently debilitate him, which is fortunate because George had one more item to be dealt with on his 'checklist' of youthful failures, and it would be the one that took the longest time for him to get around to vindicating.

George Mills and Sport

Where Mills was and what he was doing between the end of the war and the late 1950s is unknown: They are George's Missing Years.

By the late 1950s, however, he was playing competitive croquet out of Budleigh Salterton and had quickly and respectably shaved down his beginner's handicap. George went on to win a number of tournaments along the south coast of England before he played his last match in 1970 at 76 years of age.

It's unlikely that athletic competition was something the slight Mills had ever felt good about before the age of 60, and though I imagine his trophies could not have been described as huge, I believe they must have been treasured by him as if they had been colossal!

George Mills and Catholicism

In a world that so recently had been fought over quite violently by Fascists and Communists, there is circumstantial evidence that Mills may have had Socialist leanings during the time. Toss in the lifelong struggles George had had along the way with religion, discussed above, and Mills always seemed to have had something on his philosophical plate!

Mills attended the local Catholic church in Budleigh, where he lived his last years with his spinster sisters, Agnes and Violet, at Grey Friars on Westfield Road, next to the croquet club. With his allegedly Anglican father no longer living, and with no close relatives nearby to embarrass (Arthur had died in New Forest in 1955), he finally could be comfortable and public worshipping in his chosen faith.

One does wonder about his relationship with croquet's Maurice Reckitt, the renowned Christian socialist author who, however, was "terribly anti-Roman Catholic," according to fellow player, Dr. William Ormerod. Did they ever speak of it?

The Social George Mills

From the time of George's first teaching appointment at Windlesham House School in 1926, to his obituary written in 1973 by Lt.-Col. G. E. Cave for the Croquet Gazette, George Mills was seen as a very social man. He has been described as "sociable," exuberant," "lovable," and that "He made people laugh, a lot."

He once was also so keen on children, and was so able to become part of their world in his prep schools that he could write unprecedented and insightful books about the world of his students, books that looked far beneath the veneer of the prep school classes, curricula, and discipline and saw the inner child.

One wonders, then, why so very few people remember George.

His physician in Budleigh does, but except for a few patent comments, Dr. Evans of Budleigh isn't saying much.

Barry McAleenan, a great friend of this site, knew of Mills as a child, but only really recalled that he likely was a user of snuff. (Barry, by the way, possesses the best photograph of George Mills known publicly, and it is seen at the top of this page.)

Joanna Healing and Judy Perry remember many of the characters during that era of croquet, and while Agnes and Violet Mills are more easily recollected (especially Agnes), George Mills really is not. Not at all.

A clue arrived recently via Martin Granger-Brown, who recalled George's sister "Aggie was very haughty and posh and used to look down on people," something that could have affected public perception of George as he chose to live the final years of his life in her company.

Another clue may be found in the recollections of Dr. William Ormerod. Upon hearing George described as "exuberant," "loveable," and "enthusiastic," he replied, "Those are words I would use to describe Gerald Cave himself."

Given the speech impediment of Mills, Mills may have been extremely uncomfortable with strangers. He may also have been somewhat of a chameleon, reflecting the positive qualities of those he was with, so as to keep himself in harmony with situations that could have caused him a geat deal of social anxiety.

Perhaps Mills was "exuberant," "loveable," and "enthusiastic" with those who, themselves, acted exuberantly, lovingly, and enthusiastically with him. And it follows that those who were cold or unaware of him always would remain so, as he likely would have called no attention to himself.

This would also explain why so many were unaware, during the final years of Mills's life, of his past success as an author.


Why is a man—George Mills—who was known to be so sociable, so amusing, so full of life and laughter, and a man who not only enjoyed children but seemingly understood them as well, remembered by so very few?

The life of George Mills seems to have been divided in to two halves: Failure and Success—or at least noteworthy degrees of each.

It took fifty years, but George finally vindicated himself regarding the aspects of his life in which he felt like a failure.

It doesn't appear that he ever struggled to survive financially, and that he was a relatively popular, stylish gentleman through the end. He left us childless, as did his siblings, so there are no stories of Uncle or Grandfather George at Christmas, Baptisms, funerals, or on holidays. No stories told by him were repeated to a subsequent generations of children. No one remains, then, to recall the way he spoke, smoked, or laughed.

He ended a man about whom, following his death, very few would ever think again.

The following quote recently entered my e-mail box as part of the signature of a sender, and it immediately struck me:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.
———————————————————————————————————————————————Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those are hopeful words by which we any of us might assess the true value of our lives.

Emerson's words summarize the impact that George Mills—now seemingly forgotten—had on the world. Whether or not he is remembered widely doesn't lessen any of the impact he did, indeed, have—especially on me.

Still, it's nice for someone, anyone, to be remembered, and that's what Who Is George Mills? has always been about.

Unless new information comes to light (as, I'm grateful to say, so often has happened here over the past year or more), unless I'm contacted by a relative, friend, or acquaintance who remembers George and his family, unless we receive a copy (or scan, or photocopy) of his last children's book, or unless we discover his letters or other ephemera that would help us know more in answer to the question, "Who Is George Mills?" then my work here is essentially done.

And I've enjoyed it all. Thank you so much: Everyone.

Goodbye for now, George.

From the Mailbox: A Budleigh Croquet Photograph

As we wrap things up here at Who Is George Mills?, one thing that does keep us going is our metaphorical mailbox. A message has arrived this week with a clarification and an interesting observation.

Here's a not from Chris Williams of the Croquet Association regarding a previous entry and the colour photograph you see below [click to enlarge]:

I spoke to Martin Granger-Brown over the weekend and he was a member at Budleigh in the late 60s/early 70s and remembers the Millses. I showed him the photo that you published on Saturday 9th July and he was able to name a few more of the people in the photo.

You have

Front Row: Unknown could be Robin Godby who lived in London, Joan Warwick, John Solomon (who was the subject of the poem I sent you by Gerald Cave), Bill Perry + Sally his dog, unknown, Sir Leonard Daldry.

Back Row: John Cooper (I think), unknown, unknown, unknown, Guy Warwick, unknown, Gerald Cave.

He reckons that the back row is

John Cooper, unknown, Ralph Bucknall, Jim Townsend, Guy Warwick, unknown, Gerald Cave.

He also thinks that the lady on the right in the front row is Lady Daldry.

He also said that Aggie was very haughty and posh and used to look down on people.


Thank you so very much, Chris! We are now able to put some names alongside a few more faces in the above photograph.

For our purposes here, though, what is even more interesting is the brief observation in the last sentence.

We know from the Devonshire Park photograph (circa 1957) that Aggie Mills, sister of George Mills, had no qualms about placing herself front and center in the image among women who were presumably her friends. Players and croquet personalities of greater notoriety than Aggie placed themselves off to the side: The legendary Hope Rotherham springs immediately to mind.

Her brother George and sister, Violet Mills, both found themselves positions towards the rear and away from the center in the image. You can see them all marked on the image above.

One wonders why so few people today recall George Mills, and really have dim recollections of his sisters much beyond a first impression—good or bad—of any of the Mills siblings.

Perhaps it was a bit of haughtiness, apparently on the part of sister Aggie, that tended to keep others somewhat at arm's length from the Mills. Agnes and Violet were already ensconced at Budleigh Salterton in 1947, and George apparently came to live with them somewhat later—likely around the occasion of that 1957 photograph.

While the family—apparently even including George—were quite social themselves, one can't help but wonder how reserved their friends and acquaintances may have been. It's interesting to note that despite the involvement of the three Mills sibs in croquet at Budleigh, none of them seem to appear in group photographs of cheerful players at the club.

Agnes, as they say, apparently was known to enjoy pulling the cork, as they say. Might it be that this social family—led by elder sister Agnes—may not have been enormously well-liked, at least not as much as they were well-known socially?

The reality that Budleigh Salterton was unaware that George Mills had once been a successful children's book author—and, in fact, his books then were being reprinted in the late 1950s for enjoyment by a new generation of readers—is completely mystifying to me.

Perhaps haughtiness and a condescending attitude played some role in it.

It is, at least, worth considering.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Egerton Clarke, Parenthood, Paper, and the Second World War

School is back in session here in Florida—stifling heat indices of well over 100°F be damned—and I've fallen behind in my correspondence.

This week I received news from Janine La Forestier, granddaughter of Egerton Clarke [pictured, right]. It was actually a note accompanying a forwarded message from, I believe, her cousin Camilla.

Here's Janine's note, followed by Camilla's correspondence, both which I have taken the liberty to adjust slightly for ease of readability here:

Morning Harry: I received [this] from one of [Uncle] Anthony's daughters. Very interesting about the paper—and that would explain a lot and be a much simpler explanation—so he was writing but [had] no way to get it published because of the shortages......I had heard of a shooting, but don't know any details.

Anyway - it might shed some light on why George didn't publish too—I guess we were looking for something a bit more interesting.

Take care and hope school is going well. They don't go back until September here—nice long holiday. Cheers, Janine

The following is from Camilla, on Wednesday, Aug 24, 2011 at 4:14 AM:

Dear Janine,

Where to start?

My father and the other two sent to boarding school long before the start of the war and not because of it. That was always the plan. By then money source was doubtful, although they always had nannies of whom my father formed a particular attachment to Nanny Toms.

Our grandparents were not untypical of the era and the old stiff British upper lip and sentimentality where children were concerned is not in evidence.

The children were sent [to school]. My dad [was] age 6 in 1935. His mother dropped [him] at the school and he remembers her driving off ([actually] being driven, of course). There was no tearful goodbye. Parents knew that contact at that time would be limited, and indeed it seems that the new nannies and houses added to the [children's] detachment from parents.

I think there is also a much more feasible answer as to why Egerton doesn't publish after 1939: There was no available paper. Rationing was everywhere and for everything. All printing would have been diverted for essential printing to do with the war effort. Poetry and literature would have been limited, and it is unlikely Egerton would have had the means [to publish his own work].

As to the funding for schooling, Egerton set up a charity for the funding of Catholic education for boys, my father being one of the few beneficiaries so [it was] a bit suspect.

Remember also he was a convert and had made a lot of notable contacts at university as was the vogue in those days. Catholic conversions were very 'of the moment,' as was the literary group he ran [which contained] some very notable names.

Aunty Dorothy wrote a very moving letter to my father in the 60's when he had inquired about [Egerton Clarke's] life. She told of a life for her and her brothers where they had a distant, unattached mother and not a happy childhood.

I have researched the Percy Carmichael [Clarke] and Emma Piper marriages, etc., and Angela has visited the church in Dinard, France, where there is indeed a window [dedicated] to [Percy Clarke's] memory.

Percy had an interesting life and was married before he married Egerton's mother. [He] worked for a bank, was sent to Australia for the bank, and was involved in the shooting of a man before he became a Church of England minister, but I think you might know all this.

Probably enough for now. Hope this gives a different view.

Fascinating! Thank you so much, Janine and Camilla!

We learn quite a bit from this missive beyond the most interesting aspect: Egerton Clarke's father apparently shot a man in Australia before becoming a vicar!

It seems that the distance between Egerton and his mother, Emma Anna [right], after the death of his father when Egerton was just three years old may have been, at least in part, because she was not a mother very involved with her children, and not because of financial hardship.

The nannies mentioned above, women who attended to Egerton's children, apparently mirrored the care given to him by nannies as a boy. We have seen that one nanny in particular was of such importance to him as to have been mentioned in the dedication of his first book of poetry.

In addition, we learn that Egerton may have missed his children during the Second World War, but that they were had not been separated from him by the hostilities, but by previously arranged design. It seems likely, however, that the war may have heightened his worry about them, or increased his desire to spend time with them, especially as he was becoming increasingly ill.

Regarding aspects of Camilla's message that would pertain to George Mills, a friend of Egerton's since their deployment in the Army Pay Corps at Winchester during the First World War, we learn that it was apparently somewhat fashionable at the time, at least among intellectuals, to convert to Roman Catholicism.

We know that when Edith Mills, George's mother, passed away in late 1945, services were held at Holy Trinity Church in Brompton, the locale of George's marriage in 1926. Despite the fact that George's father had been a convert to Catholicism since the 1880s, Rev. Barton R. V. Mills served as a Anglican vicar, chaplain, and cleric for his entire career.

We don't know if Edith Mills also had been a clandestine convert to Catholicism like her husband, Barton, but her 1945 funeral services were held under the auspices of the Church of England. The 1972 memorial service for George Mills much later, however, would be held at the Catholic Church of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, in Budleigh Salterton [left]. George obviously was not a convert because it was chic at mid-century, but one of deep faith and conviction.

Finally, we find that it is speculated that reason Egerton Clarke did not publish after 1937 or so may have been simple: The rationing of a limited supply of paper.

While I am certain that certainly would have played an important part in the difficulty poet Egerton Clarke and children's book author George Mills may have found in publishing during the war, it doesn't explain a few things.

First, we know that Egerton Clarke was disheartened about having at least one poem rejected, circa 1942. A shortage of paper may have caused him to be upset, but it does not explain why any bitterness would not have been felt during the entire war, but was encapsulated only in the rejection of a particular poetic submission.

Secondly, although Clarke succumbed to tuberculosis in 1944, George Mills never published another original work after 1939's Saint Thomas of Canterbury, through his death in 1972. Paper, at some point, did become available generally, and Mills saw his prep school trilogy of titles reprinted in the 1950s. Still, he never wrote again, save the odd letter to The Times.

Looking over publishing in the United Kingdom during WWII, we find that poetic volumes did continue to be printed. From 1940 through 1940, we find complete volumes of poetry published by Sir John Betjemen*, Cecil Day Lewis*, T.S. Eliot*, William Empson, Roy Fuller*, Robert Garioch, Rayner Hepenstall, Louis MacNiece*, Stephen Spender*, Dylan Thomas*, Henry Treece, W.B. Yeats and Rudyard Kipling (posthumously), Laurence Binyon*, Edmund Blunden*, G.S. Fraser, Alan Ross, A.L. Rowse, Sydney Goodsir Smith, Terence Tiller*, Vernon Watkins, Walter De la Mare*, W.S. Graham*, John Heath-Stubbs, J.F. Hendry*, Patrick Kavanaugh, Sidney Keyes*, Alun Lewis, Robert Nichols, Leslie Norris, John Pudney*, Henry Reed, Stevie Smith, Dorothy Wellesley, Kenneth Allott, Keith Douglas, Lawrence Durrell, David Gascoyne, Geoffrey Grigson, Michael Hamburger, Kathleen Raine, Keidrych Rhys, William Soutar*, George Barker, Alex Comfort, Patric Dickinson, Laurie Lee, John Lehmann, Mervyn Peake, Herbert Read, E.J. Scovell, and Charles Williams.

[Poets whose names are followed by an asterisk (*) published multiple volumes of poetry during those war years, having been allotted a great deal of that scarce paper!]

It's instructive to look at one young Irish poet of the era, W. R. "Bertie" Rodgers (1909 – 1969).

Rodgers [right] had attended Queen's University Belfast and showed promise as a writer. After graduating in 1935, however, he was ordained a Presbyterian minister and was appointed to the Loughgall Presbyterian Church in County Armagh, where he served through 1947.

In 1941, Rodgers published Awake! and Other Poems, which was critically acclaimed in both Britain and the United States, despite the fact that, according to Wikipedia, "the first edition was almost totally lost when the publisher’s warehouse was destroyed in the London Blitz."

Again, despite the destruction of his first edition, along with other texts in that warehouse, newcomer Rodgers was anointed with the publications of subsequent editions, despite the paper shortage. Rodgers soon eschewed his calling and became a script writer for the BBC after the war.

We find, sadly, that there was, indeed, paper enough to support the publication of a great deal of poetry during the Second World War, enough even to support the literary debut of a little known Irish cleric like Rodgers.

In the case of Egerton Clarke, there seem to be two possible conclusions as to why the available paper was not lavished upon his work.

First, he may not have been prolific enough. Perhaps, had he a portfolio of poems under his arm in 1942, his earlier lengthy string of critically well-received poetic texts may have caused a publisher to take him to press. Janine believes that it was Egerton's failure to have a single poem published that he "took very hard."

It's also possible that the critical acclaim that Egerton had earned had been somewhat forgotten. The poets publishing during the war, listed above, were not among his circle of literary friends, and it is possible that he had become "old news," having been relegated to the status of a minor poet during the years he spent during the 1930s writing children's books for Burns, Oates and Washbourne, a Catholic publishing house. He may have been consigned to the pigeonhole "Catholic poet," instead of simply being considered, as he once had been, an "up and coming poet."

Let us not forget that, making things far worse, Egerton was in poor health during the war and would not live to hear of the fall of Berlin [left] or Tokyo.

George Mills was also in poor health during the war. He had returned to the Royal Army Pay Corps as an officer in 1940, but after a string of tragedies in his life, he relinquished his commission in 1943 due to "ill health."

While George's physician later in life, Dr. David Evans of Budleigh Salterton, claims that George was in good health at the end of his life and quite independent, something had overwhelmed him during the war, and George never wrote again.

Trolling Wikipedia's lists of notable children's books, very few are from the era of the Second World War: Curious George (1941) by H.A. Rey; Five on a Treasure Island (1942) by Enid Blyton [left]; The Littlest Prince (1943) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; and Pippi Longstocking (1945) by Astrid Lindgren.

A contemporary British children's author Noel Streatfeild, for example, published only The House in Cornwall (1940) and Curtain Up (1944) [also published as Theater Shoes; pictured, right) for children during the war. Perhaps it was due to a shortage of paper—but she also managed to publish three novels for adult readers during the same years, 1940 – 1944.

Perhaps, then, it was only difficult to publish children's books in the U.K. during the war.

That also would seemingly be incorrect. Enid Blyton is listed as having published only one notable work [below, left] during WWII, but her entire published output between the years 1940 and 1944 was an incredible 88 books!

Clearly, there was enough paper to publish the works of major authors and poets, as well as minor works that would have been seen by publishers as a way to make some money (as in the case of the prolific Blyton) during the worldwide conflict.

Regarding George Mills, even if the recuperating author had been pitching book ideas to publishers during 1943, 1944, and 1945, it's likely that he was seen by then in the same way we see him today: A minor author with limited earning potential for a publishing house.

In the cases of both Egerton Clarke and George Mills, the lustre that once had been found on their careers a decade earlier had diminished dramatically, and pages they once might have published were being given instead either to dependable and established authors, or to new writers who might be potential literary stars.

It is easy to see why Egerton and George would have taken the subsequent downturn in their careers poorly, and perhaps bitterly.

Thank you once again, Janine and Camilla, for helping to fill in some of the gaps in this research. It is very much appreciated.

Lady Dorothy Mills Turns 50

This is just a relative quickie today, based on our previous entry (below). While searching for events occurring at the address of the family of George Mills in Kensington, I also stumbled upon this classified advertisement in the 3 November 1938 issue of The Times:

LADY DOROTHY MILLS wishes to DISPOSE of eight remaining years' lease of attractive, modern, convenient, non-basement ; CHELSEA COTTAGE ; parquet ; five good rooms, kitchen, bath ; Ideal boiler ; gas and electric fires ; good cupboards. Rent £165. Premium £50. Rates about £50. Semi-fitments, &c., available for cheap purchase. View between 11 and 6. — 17, Burnsall Street, S.W.3. Flaxman 2476.

Lady Dorothy, ever one to stretch a dollar after her estrangement from her family upon the occasion of her marriage to Captain Arthur F. H. Mills, D.C.L.I., in 1916, would have been turning 50 years of age on the 11th of March the following spring, and must have had an one eye looking toward retirement and the other on making a few extra quid by subletting her desirable Chelsea home [above, left; click to enlarge] for a premium while taking up less expensive residence elsewhere.

We already know that Lady D. spent the rest of her life living in Steyning Mansions Hotel at Eastern Terrace in Brighton. In 1958, the hotel was offering rooms with a private bath, telephone, and TV at the following rates: "Winter from 9 gns., Summer from 10½ gns."

Those rates presumably were far lower before the Second World War, at the tail end of the Great Depression, when she arrived. Eight years of rent from her Burnsall Street flat must have paid for a good many of her subsequent summers and winters in beautiful, seaside Brighton.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rooms to Let: 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3

It's a sunny morning with gentle breezes wafting through the horse country of north central Florida off the tail of Hurricane Irene. The heat index is supposed to creep up to a stifling 108°F today, but it's no longer summer here as it is in most of the United States: The children here have already been back in school for a week!

My plan had been to wrap up our study of George Mills by the time I returned to my classroom, but I fell just short of that. Today, we'll look at one aspect of the Mills family that may be of interest, although it's uncertain exactly how much it deals with George Mills directly.

As you may recall, George was married in 1925 and purchased a home in Portslade. His father, the Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, passed away in January 1932 while his family was residing at 24 Hans-road in London. The name on the family's telephone listing changed to "Mrs. Barton Mills" that same year.

Labouring under an assumption that George may still have been residing in his Portslade home when he was not away teaching at Windermere and Glion, Switzerland, the residents of 24 Hans-road would have been Edith Mills, Barton's widow and George's mother, and Agnes and Violet Mills, the spinster sisters of George.

Then, in 1933, the address for family's telephone listing in the London directory changed from Hans-road to 21 Cadogan Gardens, S.W. 3, although the telephone number—SLoane 3278—remained the same.

The family obviously had moved to new quarters after the patriarch's death. Let's go to the London Times, however, for more information.

A classified advertisement in the 11 April 1933 edition of The Times reads:

COOK-GENERAL, required for flat; 3 in family. Apply after 3 or write, Barnard, 21 Cadogan Gardens, S.W. 3.

We don't know exactly when the remaining members of the Mills family moved to Cadogan Gardens—just that the address appeared in the November 1933 telephone directory. The relocation came early enough, however, to make the printing deadline for a November directory.

There are two ways to look at the above entry at first glance. One way is to assume that the previous residents were simply in need of a cook, a domestic who later moved away with them when that family left in favour of the Mills.

"Barnard" may, I suppose, have been a dependable servant in charge of interviewing the new cook, but for which set of residents we do not know. It may have been the surname of the new owners just as easily. Still, if George and his wife, Vera, were still living in Portslade in 1933, the members of the Mills family moving into 21 Cadogan Gardens would have, indeed, numbered three: Edith, Agnes, and Violet.

Let's see what else we may find in The Times

In the 9 December 1933 edition, almost two years after the death of Rev. Barton Mills, we find this advertisement in the classified category FLATS & CHAMBERS:

ADJACENT HARROD'S, KNIGHTSBRIDGE. — LARGE ROOM on entrance floor, adjoining bath room to be LET, Unfurnished ; constant hot water, electric light and power ; excellent service and catering ; 42s. per week. — 24 Hans Road S.W. Sloane 4025.

I'm not exactly sure what this tells us, save what a large room near Harrod's went for per week. It is possible the family had held onto the property, and that the Mills were subletting rooms at 24 Hans Road [right] as a source income—as far as we know, none of the Mills women were working. While the number Sloane 4025 was not their own phone number, it may have been the number of an agent who handled rentals for them or an additional line at 21 Cadogan Gardens.

Or it may have had nothing to do with them at all: I can search London directories by name, but not by telephone number.

Once again assuming the property to have something to do with the Mills family, we can see the worldwide economic depression has tightened on London. Here is virtually the same advert, this time from 30 October 1934:

KNIGHTSBRIDGE (adjoining Harrod's):. — BED-SITTING ROOMS. Furnished and unfurnished; h. and c. basins, constant hot water; house telephones. Furnished from 27s. 6d. ; unfurnished from 25 s.-45s., to include service and light; all meals at moderate prices. — 18 and 24, Hans Road, S.W.3 Kens. 7541.

Less than a year later, 24 Hans-road had multiple furnished and unfurnished rooms to let, and "excellent catering" had become "meals at moderate prices." Couple that with the addition of 18 Cadogan Gardens and change in phone number and we might assume that, even had the Mills retained 24 Hans through 1933, it likely was no longer among their assets. Someone else had acquired the property.

Why might the Mills family have held 24 Hans Road in order to let rooms, even for a short while? It seems to be what they were doing during that time, evan at Cadogan Gardens [left]. Let's take a look at a few more classified advertisements from The Times.

This is from death notices in the 20 December 1937 issue of The Times:

HIBBERT. — On Dec. 17, 1937, at 21 Cadogan Gardens, S.W., HELENA MIDDLETON (LENA), widow of CAPTAIN EDWARD ROWLEY HIBBERT, and last surviving child of Christian Allhusen, of Stoke Court, Stoke Poges, in her 80th year.

While it's possible Mrs. Middleton had simply been visiting, why then was no actual address provided? She clearly would have been boarding at 21 Cadogan Gardens with Edith and the girls.

From the 25 May 1938 issue of The Times, in the column entitled FORTHCOMING MARRIAGES:


A marriage has been arranged, and will shortly take place, between Peter Noel Loxley, H.M. Diplomatic Service, only son of the late Captain Noel Loxley, Royal Navy, and of Mrs. Loxley, temporarily of 24, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3, and Elizabeth Lavender Dawney, daughter of Major-General and Mrs. Guy Dawney, of Longparish House, Longparish, Hampshire.

Here we find another widow of a British officer living with the Mills, albeit seemingly temporarily in this case.

One wonders how many boarders of this era quite honestly took a room 'temporarily' yet subsequently never relinquished it.

In addition, we find this item in the 29 September 1939 edition of The Times:


The engagement is announced between Robert Hugh Ames, only son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Y. Ames, 21, Cadogan Gardens, and Miss Carlotta Zimmerman, niece of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Meyer, 440, Park Avenue, New York City.

Here we find a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Ames, taking up residence with Edith and the girls. London telephone directories show that the Ames had their own phone in the house, and a Robert Y. Ames was at the time a barrister of the Temple Bar.

In a section entitled LADY CLERKS & TYPISTS, in the 13 April 1942 issue of The Times, we find:

LADY Francis Ryder requires a Secretary and a Card Index Hand, both for Services hospitality organization ; trained, experienced ; good references ; 40 or over ; Write 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3.

Records show that Lady Ryder was involved in hospitality for servicemen during the Second World War. From the website Australian War Memorial, we find a paper written by Hank Nelson for the "2003 History Conference – Air War Europe" entitled A Different War: Australians in Bomber Command.

Of the bomber crews, Nelson writes:

Even when they were operating frequently, aircrew could eat, sleep, read, and play a game of billiards in conditions far removed from those inside a bomber fuselage. When crews were stood down, had a “48” (a 48-hour leave pass), or took their regular six days leave in every six weeks, they could travel to the local towns – Lincoln, Grimsby, Skegness, and York – and go to a dance, have a meal at a pub, see a movie, or attend a service at Lincoln Cathedral or the Thomas Cooper Memorial Baptist Church in St Benedict Square, Lincoln. They could go to the home of an English crew member, or that of a family nominated by the Lady Frances Ryder and Miss MacDonald of the Isles Dominion Hospitality Scheme, sleep in, read the newspapers, and wander across the fields. Or they could catch a train to London, stay at the Strand Palace Hotel close to the Boomerang Club and Codger’s bar, see the sights, and take in the show at the Windmill Theatre, John Gielgud as Hamlet at the Theatre Royal, Noel Coward’s Blithe spirit at the Duchess Theatre, or a concert at Albert Hall. Less than 24 hours later, aircrew could be taking a Halifax on a test flight preparing it for an operation over the Ruhr.

The National Portrait Gallery listing for Lady Ryder states: "Lady Frances Ryder (1888-1965), Organiser of Dominion Services and Students Hospitality Scheme; daughter of 5th Earl of Harrowby." A pair of 1925 portraits of her taken by photographer Alexander Bassano is seen above, right, and at left.

Apparently much of Lady Ryder's organising was done from the home of Edith, Agnes, and Violet Mills!

Among the death notices in the 19 May 1944 issue of The Times, we discover:

KITTERINGHAM. — On May 18, 1944, at 21, Cadogan gardens, S.W.3, MATILDA JEMIMA KITTERINGHAM, passed peacefully away. Requiem, St. Mary's, Cadogan Street, S.W.3, to-morrow (Saturday), at 10:00 a.m., and afterwards at Kensal Green.

A spinster, Kitteringham had been a nurse at "T.F.N.S. No. 5 City of London General Hospital" according to the 15 April 1919 edition of the Edinburgh Gazette, page 1479.

In the 22 September 1944 edition of The Times, we find this interesting advertisement:

REQUIRED shortly, COUNTRY ACCOMODATION for mother, two small boys, and nurse, for one or two months. — Gilmour, 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3.

Without speculating on the reason for requiring these "country accommodations," one must envision 21 Cadogan Gardens as having been a rather interesting place during the war: Married couples, elderly spinsters (one of them a Peer), aging military men, and single mothers with young boys, all living with the genteel Mills ladies in London at a time when wartime rationing and German rockets must have made each day quite trying, to say the very least.

It sounds like quite an interesting place to live, and we do know that, in 1944, George Mills was using the Naval and Military Club in London [left]—which itself had suffered damage from Nazi bombs—as his address, having relinquished his commission in the Royal Army Pay Corps in 1943.

We find, then, that it is possible that housing in London may have been so difficult to find that Mills couldn't get a room in his family's own home. It's also possible, though, that he simply didn't want one there, preferring the club to 21 Cadogan Gardens.

On 12 December 1945, Edith Elizabeth Ramsay Mills, mother of George, Agnes, and Violet, would pass away. From the 14 December issue of The Times:

MILLS. — On Dec. 12, 1945, after a few days' illness at 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3, ELIZABETH EDITH, widow of REV. BARTON R. V. MILLS, and daughter of the late Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, C.B. Funeral at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, on Monday Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. Please, no flowers.

The family did not immediately vacate 21 Cadogan Gardens, and death would soon visit once again. From the 21 June 1946 issue of The Times:

DRUMMOND. — On June 18, 1946, CAPTAIN FREDERICK HARVEY JOHN DRUMMOND, M.C., of 21, Cadogan Gardens, S.W.3, beloved husband of Elizabeth, and son of the Lady Katherine Drummond and the late Allan H. Drummond. Funeral at Sherbourne, near Warwick, Monday, June 24, at 2 o'clock. Memorial service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, June 24, at 2:30 p.m. Flowers to Messrs Ashton and Co., 235, Fulham Road, South Kensington.

Funeral arrangements and services for boarders like drummond [his geleaology is seen, excerpted from the 1908 text Coke of Norfolk and His Friends by Anna Maria Wilhelmina Stirling, at left] may have been becoming a bit too much for the Mills sisters—assuming George was not living with them at Cadogan Gardens.

As noted before here, by 1947, Agnes would have been 52 years old, and Violet, 45. Now with no mother [who'd been born, married, lived, and died right there in Kensington] to keep them in London, it would be no surprise to find that the girls might leave town to live out their Golden Years.

1947 also found these additions to the British Library's Manuscripts Catalogue: "Ramsay (George Dalhousie) of the War Office; knt. 1900. Correspondence and papers 1835-1898," and "Papers of G. D. Ramsay rel. to the Royal Army Clothing Dept. 1855-1898," Add. 46446 – 46450.

The donors of those manuscripts? "Mills (Agnes Edith). Miss. grand-daughter of Sir G. D. Ramsay. Presented, jointly with Miss V. E. Mills 1947," and "Mills (Violet Eleanor). Miss. grand-daughter of Sir G. D. Ramsay. Presented, jointly with Miss A. E. Mills 1947."

It seems that the girls had been busy cleaning out 21 Cadogan Gardens following their mother's passing, and finally arranging a place for the papers of Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay, their maternal grandfather, to reside in perpetuity [right].

Since the presentation of Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay's papers to the British Library was in the name of Misses Agnes and Violet Mills, may we assume that George was not in residence with them at the time of the discovery and bequeathing of their grandfather's manuscripts?

The listing for Mrs. Barton Mills [SLOane 3278; 21 Cadogan gdns, S.W.3] stays in place in the London directories until its last appearance in the 1947 book.

The Misses Mills then appear in the 1948 telephone directory at Budleigh Salterton, residing at Grey Friars. Given the actual listing—"The Misses Mills"—George was not residing with them in Budleigh at the time.

To summarize the life of the Mills family between 1932 and 1947, after the death of Rev. Barton Mills, his wife and daughters relocated from Hans Road to nearby Cadogan Gardens and began running what was basically a boarding house (although I am certain that, given their elite neighbourhood and clientele, there must have been an upscale euphemism they would have preferred) through the Great Depression and the Second World War.

Their rooms must have had a quality of exclusivity about them as we do not find any advertisements to let them. "Word of mouth" about the Mills home must have been enough to keep them full of tenants.

[We should, however, keep in mind the capricious and obstinate nature of the on-line search engine of The Times database. When we used it to collect croquet results for the Mills siblings, it provided access only a small fraction of the information available. It is distinctly possible that the Mills did advertise for tenants in The Times on many occasions and the exceptionally poor search engine there cannot locate those entries.]

Following the death of their mother Edith in 1945, the spinster sisters of George Mills cleaned out 21 Cadogan Gardens in 1947 and took their lives—Agnes was 53 that year, and Violet 45—to Devon, where they took up residence at Grey Friars, at 15 Westfield Road [left], in Budleigh, literally just a hundred or so feet from the croquet club.

Eventually George finally would—probably in the late 1950s—come to live with them, all of them playing bridge and croquet until the 1970s, when George passed away in December 1972 and the girls both in July 1975.