A lacuna

When I wrote in my posting for 16 September 1914 that George Calderon went off to say goodbye to his ‘only visitable relation’ in London, the word ‘visitable’ was carefully chosen. George’s widowed mother was in the New Forest at the time, one of his sisters was probably with her, another was at a convent, two of his brothers were in Canada, a third lived in the north of England, and the animal painter Frank Calderon had lived in London all his life.  But where was George’s remaining sibling, Henry?

Henry is the mystery man of the Calderon family.   He was born in 1862, which makes him six years older than George, and George’s second-eldest brother.  He was baptised ‘Philip Henry’.  This gave him the same famous initials as his father, the Victorian R.A. Philip Hermogenes Calderon.  He was the only Calderon child with this distinction.  However, his baptismal entry does not give his parents’ names or his father’s occupation.  This is highly unusual!  Could there be a problem here?

No.  His birth was announced in The Times (‘to the wife of Philip H. Calderon Esq.’), his birth certificate is completely normal, but he is named there ‘Henry Philip’, as he is in all the relevant censuses (he died in 1915).  He is always registered as living in London.  The censuses for 1901 and 1911 show him living in digs and his profession as ‘actuary’, apparently specialising in insurance.  The problem is, he is the only child of Clara and Philip Hermogenes Calderon who is never mentioned in any of George and Kittie’s extant papers.   Nor does he feature in person on this family photograph of 1894:

Calderon family photograph, 1 January 1894. Clockwise: seated on floor George Calderon, Jack Calderon, Marge Calderon, Fred Calderon, Alfred Merigon Calderon, Evelyn Calderon, seated next to table Clara Calderon.

Calderon family photograph, 1 January 1894.
Clockwise: seated on floor George Calderon, Jack Calderon, Marguerite Calderon, Fred Calderon, Alfred Merigon Calderon, Evelyn Calderon, seated next to table Clara Calderon

Mind you, nor does his father!  Philip Hermogenes Calderon was usually so busy that he did not have time to attend family occasions, which were impeccably managed by his wife Clara.  On this photograph the absent Calderon males appear to be ‘present’ in the three photographs on the table.  The one to the left is of Calderon père, and as far as I can tell from published images the one at the front is of Frank, which means the one on the right must be of Henry.  His head-shape certainly looks different from the others’.

When I was about to write in this blog that on 16 September 1914 George Calderon went off to say goodbye to ‘his brother’, I suddenly remembered that he most likely had another brother in London, Henry.  So why wasn’t he saying goodbye to him too?  Why does his name never feature in Calderon letters or memoirs?  Was he the black sheep of the family? I decided to sidestep the issue by saying that Frank Calderon was George’s only ‘visitable relation’ in London…

The question nagged at me, though, and a few days ago I decided I must have another go at it (my research assistant and I first looked into it a year ago).  It is made more interesting by the fact that when I was searching online newspapers a year or two ago, I came across a tattered and blurred announcement of the birth of a child to, I thought, the wife of a Henry Calderon, but since I was actually searching for reviews of George’s plays at the time, I did not print it out or make more than a mental note of it.  When I subsequently searched for it, I couldn’t find it (which is not unheard of with these newspaper search engines).  Yet — obviously — if one is going to establish why Henry Calderon was ‘unvisitable’ in London, this glimpsed announcement could be relevant.

In his census records Henry is always down as ‘single’.  On the 1911 return there is only one other boarder at the address he is living at, and that is a woman schoolteacher aged 26.  There is one birth of a Calderon child registered in the decade 1900-10, but that was in 1901, so there is hardly cause for speculating in that direction.  This child died in just over a year.  I ought at least to see who its parents were, however, so I have ordered both the birth and death certificates.

Probably nothing will come of this, in the sense of suggesting that Henry Calderon was anything other than a son who went off to do something completely different from his siblings and had very little contact with them.  But you never know.  The question would never have raised its head again if it had not been for George bidding farewell to only one relation in London.

Time-consuming, but par for the course for any biographer!

Next entry: ‘Connected with the Hamiltons’

About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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