At four o’clock this afternoon, Monday 19 October 1914, George and other patients set off on a very slow train to their ‘Hospital base’ at Dunkirk.
It may seem odd that he had told Kittie to contact Theodore Cook, editor of The Field, about the state of the military ambulance system in Flanders, but Cook would certainly be interested: he was eventually awarded a knighthood for his magazine’s contribution to the war effort.
Similarly, George had not written for the TLS since 1912, but he still had good contacts there and at The Times: in 1911 the latter published his now much-quoted article on Ballets Russes and he was possibly the translator of Fokine’s famous ‘Five Principles’ of modern ballet printed in The Times of 6 July 1914.
It gave me huge pleasure, therefore, when the TLS ran a long item about George Calderon on its blog on 9 September. If you haven’t seen it, click on the link under ‘Related’ at the top of ‘Calderonia’ on the right. Michael Caines (whom I do not know) has written a superb, original piece that must have taken him a long time to research. It is, in effect, a fresh and notable addition to the literature on George.
I was particularly pleased that Caines discussed George’s essay on Chekhov published with his translations of The Seagull and The Cherry Orchard in 1912. Caines concluded that Calderon’s ‘impassioned and insightful appreciation of Chekhov’ still seemed to him to be worth reading, and I agree. I shall return to the subject in November. (With other ‘personal’ themes which currently must take second place to the battlefield.)
‘Less admirable’, Caines also wrote, ‘a century on at least, are Calderon’s activities as the Honorary Secretary of the Men’s League for Opposing Woman Suffrage.’ Similarly, a follower emailed me recently that he was ‘disappointed to discover that Calderon was a strikebreaker’ (referring to George’s activities in the 1912 coal and dock strikes).
The important words here are Mr Caines’s ‘a century on at least’. In two chapters of my biography, entitled ‘The Trouble with Suffragism’ and ‘The Trouble with Trade Unionism’, I examine in detail what George actually said on these subjects; but I also examine his beliefs within their historical context, rather than the context of wisdom today. All I will say here is that in 1909-14 repeated polls showed that a majority of women were opposed to women’s suffrage, let alone the suffragettes’ methods, and in 1912, like Calderon, a majority of the British public appeared to support the miners’ and dockers’ wage claims and demands for better working conditions, but were opposed to the economic and social collapse that the ‘syndicalist’ movement seemed bent on.
For an absorbing account of the TLS during World War I, see Derwent May’s magisterial Critical Times: The History of the Times Literary Supplement (London, HarperCollins, 2001).
Next entry: 20 October 1914: Hell breaks loose