‘He downright cried’

One of the many symptoms of acute stress disorder is ‘hyperarousal’, e.g. irritability and outbursts of anger.

About now, whilst Kittie was with him, Calderon learned that Colonel Wilson had been killed on 6 November:

George was in hospital when the news came that he was killed. He was still very weak and when he heard it he downright cried — he saw I was upset by his crying, it was so unlike him, and he said quite angrily, ‘Why on earth shouldn’t I cry?’

I noticed that his heart went out to others in a way it had not done before the War — I think he really loved those men he was most with for that short time in Flanders. Captain Fitzgerald, Lord Anglesey, Mr MacIntosh are the names that specially stood out.

Even Kittie, with all her experience of nursing soldiers and of stress in others, was taken aback by her husband crying ‘downright’, i.e. ‘actually’, ‘unashamedly’, ‘unrestrainedly’. It was ‘so unlike him’… It was presumably unlike Edwardian males generally. But she put her finger on the reason. As Santanu Das has written in his powerful Touch and Intimacy in First World War Literature (CUP, 2008, p. 136):

The myth of heroic masculinity fostered through the works of Rider Haggard  and Rudyard Kipling and encouraged through the public school sporting system exploded in the mud and blood of the Western Front. A very different order of male experience, one that accommodated fear, vulnerability, support and physical tenderness, sprang up in its place.

Kittie had much more to say about this phenomenon later, and was very perceptive about it. We shall return to the subject next year.

Next entry: Kittie’s therapy


About Patrick Miles

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