Nuts and bolts

By and large, I believe readers don’t want to hear about the nuts and bolts of writing biography (the ‘difficulties’), they want to read the biography. However, readers of this blog may be interested in a typical example…

I know from Kittie Calderon’s memoirs that George arrived at Sussex Lodge Hospital with his shattered fibula on 1 November 1914. But when did he leave?

We have searched the regimental records and the hospital records (the latter have just come into the public domain), but there is no mention of a discharge date there.

Kittie does not give a date, although she implies it was longer rather than shorter. That actually is significant.

There is a letter from George to his neighbour Thomas Sturge Moore’s children dated ‘Sunday’, in which he says he will be home ‘in a day or two’. So that could have been written on Sunday 15 November 1914. However, we have a letter written to George by Will Rothenstein on 18 November (I can’t quote it as it’s still in copyright). That looks as though it’s in reply to George’s undated letter about Alice Rothenstein’s visit to the hospital, which was much earlier (see my post of 4 November) . It’s a fair assumption, especially given its content, that Rothenstein’s letter was addressed to George in hospital. So Rothenstein knew George would still be in hospital when he received it on 19/20th?

This hypothesis has to be triangulated with the two other dates we have for November: 1) Michel and Vera Fokine visited him at home in the second half of the month on their way to Norway and Russia, 2) George attended the baptism of Mary Elizabeth Pym at Brasted on Sunday 29 November because he was her godfather (although it seems close to his coming out of hospital, she herself told me in 1986 that George was there).

It looks, therefore, on balance, that the ‘Sunday’ on which George wrote to the Sturge Moore children was later rather than earlier, i.e. must have been 22 November 1914. Adding on the ‘one or two days’ before he came out, that suggests he came out on Tuesday 24th and the Fokines visited him shortly after.

Tedious, but necessary!

Next entry: ‘Alle Strassen münden in schwarze Verwesung’

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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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