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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Passing of Lady Lydia Elizabeth Acland (née Hoare)

Over the next few entries, we'll be working to get a final few items on-line regarding the life, times, and family of George Mills.

Today, it'll be just a quickie: The obituary of George's great grandmother, Lady Lydia Elizabeth Acland, wife of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland of Killerton, Devon. Lady Acland passed away at the age of 69 on 23 June 1856 at 34 Hyde Park Gardens, London, residence of George's paternal grandfather, Arthur Mills, M.P., husband of her daughter Lady Agnes Lucy Acland Mills.

Lady Acland (née Hoare) is see in the portrait above, left, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, with her children Arthur Henry Dyke Acland and Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 11th Bt., George's great grandfather

Here is the article from page 257 of the August 1856 issue (Vol. 201) of The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review:

June 23, suddenly, at Hyde-park Gardens, London, the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Mills, aged 69, Lydia Elizabeth, wife of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Bart., M.P., of Killerton, Devonshire. The funeral of the late lamented Lady Acland took place on Saturday evening last, in the yard of the old family chapel of Columbjohn, and was attended in large numbers by the tenantry and their wives, by the poor, and by almost the whole neighbourhood. The scene was one of the most simple but affecting description, and the demeanour of all present evinced not only their reverence for the sacred rite then performing, but also their deep feeling for the departed, and her surviving relatives. The funeral was attended by Sir Thomas Acland and his four sons, by several grandchildren, by Lady Acland's nephews (sons of her brothers, Mr. George and Archdeacon Hoare) by Lord Carnarvon, Lord and Mr. Charles Courtenay, Right Hon. John Fortescue, Mr. Hoare of Luscombe, Mr. Blencowe, Mr. Jenkinson, Dr. Miller, and several other private friends. In the evening the procession started from the house, soon after six o'clock, and consisted of a hearse and four horses; mourning coaches with four horses each; three private carriages; and by some 300 or 400 of the tenantry on the estate. The Rev. J. Hellings, and the Rev. Appom officiated on the occasion. As a proof of the reverential feeling exhibited by the attendants, it may be stated that on the Lord's Prayer, in the funeral service, being commenced, everyone in the chapel-yard, amounting to several hundreds, immediately knelt, and continued in that posture till the whole was concluded.

Lady Acland, pictured, right, in a posthumous mezzotint executed by Samuel Cousins after an 1848 portrait by painter Joseph Severn, was buried in the graveyard of the Columbjohn Chapel at Broad Clyst, Devon, England.

While George Mills never met Lady Acland—he was born exactly 40 years after her death—this obituary does indicate the connections his family would have had among the powerful Aclands. While his grandfather, Arthur Mills, was an in-law, George's father was blood, as were George, his half-brother, and his sisters.

And, as we don't know where George's body was interred (if, in fact, he was not cremated), we must consider the fcat that George's final resting place may be in there Columbjohn, not far from George last residence in Budleigh Salterton.

I have been unable to find and access records regarding those laid to rest within that burial ground.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rediscovering Egerton Clarke

I'll admit that sometimes doing this research is frustrating. So much of it is names and dates, births and deaths, an address here, a telephone listing there. And from those very spare bits of data, one tries to reconstruct a life.

Who would you be if you were summarized by only your key dates, your addresses, and your phone numbers?

It's not exactly as if I simply sit by the mailbox, waiting for more, but sometimes that's more or less the form that it takes. Patience in this research is a virtue, and sometimes it pays off!

A week ago I received a message out of Toronto from Janine Le Forestier, granddaughter of Egerton Clarke [above, right; click to enlarge], whose life and friendship with George Mills we recently attempted to examine here. Since then, my mind has been spinning trying to determine how I could best organize and set forth the information she and her family have so kindly and generously shared.

In the end, I think it is best to let Janine tell the story, just as she told it to me, and to follow the thread through the past seven days. I will only interrupt her narrative to fit her information into the outline of what we already know.

Saturday, August 06, 2011 9:39 PM

Good evening:

I am fascinated. The reason for my writing is that Egerton Clarke is my grandfather. I just stumbled upon George Mills - I had googled G.K. Chesterton [left] another of my grandfather's friends - and Egerton Clarke. I am curious about your interest in him.

Would love to connect.


Sunday, August 07, 2011 11:54 PM

I am deeply touched by your interest in a man who was so loved by my mother and respected by my father.

It is quite bizarre - absurd - that now of all times, we should be communicating like this. Over the past week I have been forced to clear out my mothers office and indeed, my parents home having just had to place them in a retirement home. I will endeavour to relay your research to her and indeed to her two brothers, Michael (# 2 child born in 1928) is visiting from England on Wednesday. The third brother - the youngest (Anthony - born in 1929) closed Burns & Oates in 1970 and began his own business with much of the remaining stock as (Anthony Clarke Books).

What I have had confirmed from reading his letters and poems - some unpublished is, as you say, is that he was a very sensitive talented man, a loving husband and father. I do not recall my mother ever telling me that he took an active role during WWI and am actually shocked. It must have been incredibly difficult for him to partake of such madness on any scale.

(He wrote a lovely poem to her and I wonder if the MC you refer to, is in fact Mary Clarke. Just a thought) .

I have discovered wonderful loving letters that he wrote to her before his death, from TB in 1944. I am in the midst of going through all the letters, cataloguing them, and pulling out as much information as I can. He was deeply religious. A devout convert who lost his inheritance when he joined the Catholic Church. But I believe there was money up until then and indeed pictures I have of him as a young boy - several years after the death of his father, would confirm this. His clothes are certainly those of a little boy who was pampered [right, with mother, Emma Anna Clarke]. So I am intrigued to learn that he was poor prior to the conversion. I do know that the family relied on my grandmother's money when they were married and he was a poor business man, quickly going through it.

His sister Dorothy died in 1972 (I can confirm the date) He did have a brother. I will be able to provide you with exact dates and additional information after I have had a chance to go through what I have although I feel you have more than I do. I have a family bible, photo's of both sides of the family including, Kelly's, Sheils, Pipers, Clarkes.

My grandfather did write beautifully as did my mother, uncle and various members of the latest generation. It is in the blood I think.

This is just a quick note. I can't tell you what your research means to me.

I must pass on this to the rest of the family over the next week or so. My father has just, at the age of 92, had two surgeries. Again ironically - his memory was amazing up until a week ago. It has slipped somewhat but he will also be intrigued by this and I will confirm some details with him. I am hoping may be able to shed some light on the "missing years".

What a wonderful message! It confirms some of what we knew and provides insight into other things we did not.

Egerton Clarke's children were named Mary, Michael, and Anthony, and were born between 1926 and 1929. At least in the case of the first two, the location of the birth is recorded as Winchester.

We also learn, sadly, of the cause of Egerton's untimely death at such a young age.

And, finally, we are privy to information that would seem to contradict my assumption that young Egerton attended St Edmund's School in Canterbury, Kent, as a poor orphan out of Brittany. Clarke did have at least two relatives who were doing quite well in business: His Aunt Hannah, a widow and owner of a large farm called Thorley Wash in Bishops Stortford, Herts, and his Uncle Egerton Harry John Clarke, a London stockbroker.

The wild card here is actually what Egerton's father, Percy, left to his mother, Emma, upon his death while chaplain at Dinard, France. She may have been fairly well off herself, although her own probate in 1931 does not reflect the assets of a wealthy woman. However, by being careful, she may have lived on her own means for thirty years after Percy's passing and put Egerton through school with proceeds from his father's estate.

Monday, August 08, 2011 3:09 PM

Just to give you a wee bit more. When my grandfather was ill, they did an experimental treatment on him - deliberately collapsing his lung(s)? - the treatment failed. Clearly.

Tony (Anthony) lives in Hartfordshire and would likely know much more than I do. If you can give me a few days I will dig up as much information as possible in answer to your question. I have been going over letters this morning and he certainly was writing - and in fact had one of his poems rejected which he took very hard - this around 1942. (I have found a notebook with additional poems in it - at least I believe they are unpublished - again I must research this more closely.) I am just getting snippets and when I am more organized I will certainly provide you with what I have. I am just on my way to visit my parents and will discuss this with my father. I am excited to also speak with my Uncle Mike (Michael Egerton-Clarke) when he arrives…

Couldn't wait - just got off the phone with my Uncle. He is fascinated that you were able to get so much information, some of it new to him also. He is a bit suspicious of your intentions - don't get me wrong - he is thrilled but wonders why? I read him your letters and because my grandfather really didn't have that much attention bestowed on him Mike wonders why you would be interested. He did not know about the WW1 corp.

Thank you so much Harry for stirring all this up. Incredible.

First of all I can completely understand Mike's suspicion of my motives in researching his family. One cannot be too careful these days. I do think it is a shame, though, that Egerton Clarke did not have more attention bestowed upon him, both during his lifetime and posthumously. The reviews do show that his poetry was well-received, and I'll admit that the 'free verse' he wrote later in his career really moves me personally.

More importantly, we discover here that Egerton Clarke did not stop writing when his work was no longer being published. In fact, I can only imagine the pain he suffered when he received a rejection in 1942 after years of documented success.

Monday, August 08, 2011 11:28 PM

Just thought I would share my father's thoughts with you. I saw my parents today and my mother was having a very good day. She recognized the name George Mills, was not aware of any heart problems. She was thrilled naturally to hear of your interest in her beloved father.

In answer to the question of why he did not publish after 1939, my own father said the war profoundly affected him, especially because he was such a gentle and sensitive man. He was walking through rubble most days on his way to his office in Westminster. His beloved country was being bombed and the Germans were ploughing through his home in Dinard [right, with Nazi beach obstructions in place]. A man of his nature would not have been able to write the kind of poetry that he loved in that atmosphere. He wasn't well as he suffered from TB early in the 40's. The war would have been a disaster to his creative spirit. Also his children were sent out of London to boarding schools and he missed them terribly. He was saddened by all that was happening around him. He must have missed his children terribly.

Could he have been suffering some sort of depression or as we call it post-traumatic stress? Quite possibly - but this is personal speculation. If I am able to get a better answer from his other son Tony, I will certainly let you know.

Cheers, Janine

There isn't much that can be added to Janine's amazing insight into the life of her father during the Second World War. She has, I feel, captured him perfectly: Feeling isolated in one of the world's largest cities, ailing, seeing his world coming apart—brick by brick at times—around him. Unable to publish and share his feelings. Missing his children. Nazis with a stranglehold on his childhood home in France.

While Clarke's feelings would not have been unusual, I'm certain, during the hostilities, they remind us of how devastating the war was to individuals of the entire society. Nightmares were common on the battlefields, but on the 'home front' as well.

Here we do find out that Egerton had an office in Westminster, less than a half mile from the home of the family of George Mills, who by 1944 had relinquished a commission in the Royal Army Pay Corps as a war substitute reserve officer and was using the damaged Naval and Military Club as his mailing address.

It comes as no surprise that the name George Mills might be remembered. Egerton Clarke had helped George survive his tenure in the military during the First World War. It would be stunning to me to find out that Mills had not reached out, trying to be a comfort to his friend during the second global conflict—at least when Egerton found himself in London.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011 7:31 PM

In front of me now is a letter in which [Egerton Clarke] is answering a question my mother must have asked concerning his brother. The letter dated December 1, 1942 refers to his brother as John (Jack) Percy Dalzell Clarke born in 1892 and died 21/02/1915 - war injury likely as he served. His name comes up if you google it. Yes - there was certainly a very wealthy stockbroker and I do remember hearing about that - thank you for the memory. Dorothy Mary Clarke is Egerton's sister. She is who my mother is named after. She died in the '70's - in fact I just read a letter regarding that, too. - can't find it but it is there somewhere.

Theresa Clarke [pictured, left, as a nurse at Guys Hopital in 1922] was born in Dublin. Her mother was Clara Sheil - a twin. There was a brother James who died during the first world war - actually - after it was just over - falling off a horse I believe. You need to come up to Toronto some time and I can show you pictures of all these folk.

I am going to email my cousin in London and ask her to see if there is any correspondence from George Mills in the possession of her father Anthony. He was supposed to have had much of this type of thing.

So - off to the library tomorrow for sure to print this all off and pass to Mike upon his arrival in the evening. He was so excited last night when I called him, he was concerned he wouldn't get any sleep. He is the last with the name Egerton and I suspect very like my grandfather in temperament. A very gentle man. As is Anthony who is an incredible writer and wonderful poet - unpublished though.

So there you have it for another day.

As I've done my research here, I have always been struck by how easy it is for family members to lose track of each other. It has even happened in my own family. I have to admit, it is extremely rewarding to read, not simply of the memories of Egerton Clarke's descendants, but of the warmth that they all continue to share.

And imagine how exciting it would be to find correspondence from or about George Mills among the letters Janine mentions!

The following taut but powerful message regards the circumstances in which writers, poets, and artists would have found themselves, even long after the last shot of the war had been fired. Is it any wonder that the creative energies of many—including Egerton Clarke and George Mills—had been sapped?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011 7:39 PM

As a very small child, I remember seeing bombed out buildings in London - it was 1954 and there was such a lot of destruction still - I remember the colour gray and we still had rations [right]. Bleak and dismal. I cannot imagine what they went through and how it affected them. Especially the sensitive artistic type. Horrible. So - there seems to be a recurring theme here doesn't it?

Thursday, August 11, 2011 9:59 PM

I had a very interesting afternoon with Mike and my parents.

I read out our emails to them and a couple of points were clarified......

John Percy Dalzel Clarke died not of a war injury but from falling off a horse - on the morning of his wedding day.

James - brother of Clara Sheil - my great grandmother died during the war on the front. (there is a plaque in Liverpool which I have seen with a James Sheil mentioned on it.)

Did not know of a sister Hannah - But my uncle remembered the Thorley Wash Farm [left] and said it was sold in the 70's - a town of Thorley now sits on the property.

I meant to mention that not only is there a plaque to Percy in the Church in Dinard - but also a couple of stained glass windows.

Sounds as though there was a stock broker on both sides of the family - Theresa's and Egertons. My uncle thinks there was one on Theresa's side - - they were quite well off.

But what was interesting and pure speculation is this regarding the writing stopping in 1939.
My uncle says Egerton was fired from Burns Oates and Washbourne.

He was in charge of the Children's Branch and at some point participated in an exhibition of children's books. He was accused of claiming some books as his own when apparently they were not. He was honest to a fault. The books must have been his but since he worked for B & O, were his writings then the property of B&O. Apparently he was very distraught over this. If that is the case would George Mills have rebelled also. Egerton then went to Hutchinson's as Art Director.

[A display of Hutchinson's mid-1930s children's offerings is pictured below, right.]

So - that is the best I can do unless I can update you further if more info comes from the UK.

Hope all of this doesn't confuse the issue too much and like I said - there is some speculation here and I am sure the war also played a part as discussed earlier.

Cheers, Janine

Janine's message above bears out her speculation that her grandfather was not a businessman—but how many poets could claim to be? It seems he may have been taken advantage of in this situation. That is not to imply that there were any illegalities in his contractual relationship with Burns & Oates, but as I grow older I find out more and more that what is legal isn't always what is morally right, and it would seem that was likely the case for Egerton Clarke.

Interestingly, Egerton's family seems to have had some stake in the publishing house as we read above. Nonetheless, Clarke took his talents to Hutchinson's, which incidentally was the publisher of the brother and sister-in-law of George Mills, authors Arthur Hobart Mills and Lady Dorothy Mills, during that era.

Thursday, August 11, 2011 11:15 PM

One more thing - I was just reading another of your articles that I hadn't seen and it brought to mind a trip I made to Canterbury where I went to the Hospital of St. Thomas [left]. There on a plaque was the name of Percy Carmichael Clarke. One of the masters - didn't get a date but it was him. Egerton was definitely at St. Edmonds also.

One uncertain aspect of the life of Percy Carmichael Clarke and Emma Anna Clarke, parents of Egerton, was their relationship with the city of Canterbury, where Egerton had been born and baptized. Discovering that Percy had been one of the Masters of the Hospital of St Thomas, which still serves as an almshouse for elderly poor today, provides us that link between the Clarkes' life in Dinard and their roots back in England.

Thursday, August 11, 2011 11:52 PM

1923 Hugh Egerton - This our Egerton. He joined with a man by the name of somebody Hugh or Hugh somebody, and they published The Death of Glass and the Earring. Hugh took off with all the money.

'Hugh Egerton' would have been the name of the firm that published The Ear-ring: A comedy in one-act [London: Egerton, 1922] and The Death of Glass and Other Poems [London: Egerton, 1923].

Again, this would substantiate that Egerton Clarke clearly was not a businessman, and an eventual mistrust of publishers may have played a role in the difficulty he had in having his work published after his fractured relationship with Burns, Oates & Wasbourne.

Thursday, August 11, 2011 11:53 PM

Don't believe Egerton resided at Egerton Gdns. They were in Tisbury, Hertfordshire, for much of their lives.

Tisbury, in Wiltshire, is situated about 25 miles west of Winchester, a locale that plays a significant part in the story of Egerton Clarke. A telephone listing for him in 1929 gives his address as "Kennels Lr Lawn Cott" within the Tisbury exchange.

Friday, August 12, 2011 11:46 AM

Just got this from my cousin (Mike's daughter here in Toronto)

I think Lr would stand for lower. There was probably an upper and a lower cottage with the same name - perhaps beside each other. Just a guess.

I just asked Dad and he said yes is does mean "lower". That there was a Lower Lawn
Cottage where Tony was born and a Lawn Cottage. It is in fact not Tisbury but Fonthill
Gifford. The address might have included Tisbury in the address as it is in the next village.

Dad doesn't know anything about Egerton Gardens or even heard of it.

As of today, here is real estate information on 'Lower Lawn Cottage': "This property is located at Lower Lawn Cottage West Tisbury Salisbury SP3 6SG and has 16 houses and flats located on it. The average current estimated value for homes in SP3 6SG is £604,313."

Also, on page 247 of Wiltshire (Vol. 26, 1975), the authors, Nikolaus Pevsner and Bridget Cherry, reference information from "Mrs. C. Lloyd-Jacob" that some ancient doors originally from nearby Fonthill Abbey [above, right], from before the 1755 fire, were still in place at Lower Lawn Cottage at the time.

The Egerton Gardens locale I wrote of came from
Who's Who in Literature, in both the 1928 and 1934 editions. The entry read:

CLARKE, Egerton A. C. B. 1899. Ed. Clock Tower (Keble Coll.,Oxford), 1919. Au. Of Kezil and Other Poems (Stockwell), 1920; The Earring (one-act comedy); (Hugh Egerton), 1922. Sub.-Ed. National Opinion, 1922. C. Morn. Post, West. Gaz., Colour, Even. News, Dy. Mirror, Poetry Rev., Oxford Poetry, Oxford Fort. Rev., Nat. Opinion. 73, EGERTON GARDENS. S.W.3.

I did not capitalize that address, but found it printed that way. And, since it apparently hadn't been corrected by 1934, I'll admit I assumed it was correct. On the other hand, nothing in the above entry seems very "up to date" regarding Egerton Clarke's career after the mid-1920s, despite having been published in 1934.

One wonders if it is possible that, while visiting his office in Westminster, Clarke stayed in rooms at Egerton Gardens, less than a mile away.

Saturday, August 13, 2011 12:36 PM

Here are a couple of pictures - the family shot shows Theresa, Egerton and children from left to right
Anthony, Mary and Michael 1929 - Tisbury

Not sure of the date of the single - likely early 20's.

And, with that, I have been able to use the family photographs of Egerton Clarke you have seen illustrating this entry.

At this point, that is everything that Janine and her family have generously provided. It all has been meaningful to me because so rarely has anyone become so 'fleshed out' and truly human during this research.

Egerton Clarke is a man we can begin to understand: Sensitive, talented, complex, loving, and born during a time during which many of those adult characteristics would not have been rewarded.

Egerton endured the First World War, during which he suffered from severe health issues, raised a family through a worldwide global depression, and endured the fear, loneliness, carnage, and deprivations of the rise of fascism and ruthless attacks on his childhood home in France and England itself [depicted below, right].

Clarke was among a cadre of writers and poets who lived and wrote at the time: Dorothy L. Sayers, Gerald H. Crow, G. K. Chesterton, and Mills himself. In Egerton, we see a model for how a sensitive gentleman like George Mills may also have handled the difficulties of such era.

Mills died childless, as did his siblings, ending his branch of the family tree. He largely has been forgotten.

In breathing life into the memory of George's friend, Egerton Clarke, however, Egerton's descendants have given us insight into how Mills himself may have dealt with the horrors of World War II, and why he may never have published another word either.

Thank you so much, Janine and everyone. If any readers have any additional information or insight, please contact me and I will pass it along to the family!