Visitors and ‘victory’

The fact that Calderon wrote to Daniel and Henriette Sturge Moore on Sunday 22 November 1914, but not, as far as we know, to their parents, implies that their parents actually visited George in hospital. This is in any case very likely, as the Sturge Moores had been George and Kittie’s neighbours at 40 Well Walk ever since the latter moved into number 42 in December 1912, and were extremely fond of them. In a memoir of Calderon, Tom Sturge Moore wrote:

No-one ever had more perfect neighbours than the Calderons. Yet even at the time of his death I had not realized what a profound and hard-working scholar he was, for he always seemed at leisure and I accepted this trait very much as our children did without looking behind it. His zest for play and his abundant invention for ways and plans to delight them never went to sleep.

Moore — poet, wood-engraver, translator, playwright, critic, aesthete — is as Edwardian in his polymathy as George and every bit as unfashionable. His work was always good, but hardly (as they say) sets the world on fire. Doubtless its time will come again.

Other visitors George had now could have included his seventy-eight-year-old mother Clara; Nina and Reginald Astley, since Jim Corbet had recovered from his wound and was temporarily stationed at Windsor; William Caine the humorist, with whom George had collaborated earlier in the year on the pantomime The Brave Little Tailor; George’s GP and fellow trio-player Dr Albert Tebb; Kittie’s lifelong friend Louise Rosales, who was married to George’s and Fokine’s friend the sculptor Manolo Ordoño de Rosales; and various military acquaintances from the Blues and Inns of Court Regiment.

Meanwhile, at Ypres there were hard frosts and even blizzards. About 700 men a day in I Corps were falling sick. There was very little military activity, although the Germans continued to shell Ypres and the Cloth Hall was destroyed. Today, 20 November 1914, Allied intelligence finally detected the movement of German troops to the Eastern Front. The BEF officially declared the battle for Ypres over on 22 November.

‘The First Battle of Ypres was an undoubted allied victory: the Germans had poured forth blood in the winter’s final attempt to achieve a strategic breakthrough on the Western Front, and they had failed.’

This is the view of Max Hastings in Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914, and it was the view at the time. A music hall song, ‘Belgium Put the Kibosh on the Kaiser’, became very popular — but not for long.

Next entry: Polymaths, or Dilettantes?

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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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