14 November 1914

Kittie must have brought newspapers and new books into hospital for George, because today at ‘Far End’, Kingham, Chipping Norton, the novelist Anne Douglas Sedgwick was writing him a long letter thanking him for one from him that congratulated her on her recently published novel The Encounter. Clearly he had been writing from hospital:

How splendid to have an injured leg! How we envy you! I hope that we shall hear everything that has happened to you before very long and I hope that the leg is too badly injured to allow you to go back again! (That is a hope for us, I know, and not one that you will share.) We’ve been able to do almost nothing and what we accepted as a burden — a couple of Belgians as guests — has turned out a delight.

Judging from her letter, Sedgwick was slightly gauche. The subject of George’s ‘Blighty Wound’ (i.e. one sufficiently serious to send him home, but not life-threatening) was a delicate one. When he left the ‘field ambulance’ on the night of 29 October other soldiers practically congratulated him on getting it. It raised the whole question of whether he was going to return to the Front or call it a day.

Calderon must have gone into some detail about the merits of Sedgwick’s novel, because she responds in detail. She was glad that he ‘liked it and felt for it exactly what I hoped readers would feel’. However, he evidently had not yet had the energy to read it to the end. He was in the habit of writing to younger writers (e.g. Rupert Brooke in 1913) to encourage them. Sedgwick was actually forty-one, but an attractive American woman, and George had always found American women interesting since having an American girl friend at Oxford. In his satirical novel Downy V. Green Miss Cheney, ‘a typical American girl in mind and body’, and her formidable mother, are very positively presented compared with the English parasol airhead Miss Ada Shelmerdine.

Sedgwick was married to Basil de Sélincourt (1877-1966), an essayist and expert on William Blake. She closed her letter with: ‘Basil sends you his love and is as pleased as Punch with your letter!’

In actual fact, the de Sélincourts did not restrict their war effort to taking in Belgian refugees: both became volunteer workers in hospitals and orphanages in France.

At Ypres, the Germans had attacked the French IX Corps on 12-13 November and today were also fighting Smith-Dorrien’s II Corps. But German troops were already being sent secretly from Ypres to the Eastern Front in response to desperate pleas for help.

Next entry: Zillebeke Churchyard Cemetery

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About Patrick Miles

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