A Russianist who has read Percy Lubbock’s George Calderon: A Sketch from Memory (1921) asks me why I have not posted more tributes to George than my own.
The reason is simply that tributes were not published until his death became officially accepted in 1919 and my commitment in the blog is to ‘real time 1915’ and ‘real time now’. Anyone who would like to make one now is, of course, welcome to do so as a Comment.
In fact there were not many published after his obituary (by Percy) appeared in The Times on 5 May 1919. Kittie had decided months before to ask Percy to write his Sketch, and at that point she also invited George’s friends to write down their memories of him. She received memoirs from George’s friends at Rugby H.C. and G.F. Bradby, his Trinity (Oxford) friends Harold Dowdall, Laurence Binyon and A.B. Lowry, Sir Coote Hedley, John Masefield, Thomas Sturge Moore, Emanuele Ordoño de Rosales, the Liberal Lawrence Le Breton Hammond, Leonora Bagg (see my post of 9 May), and probably others that have not survived. They were used carefully by Percy, who quotes from them without naming the authors and was very wary of being over-influenced by them. The best memoir is undoubtedly Binyon’s, in detail, scope and judgement.
Obviously, after these memoirs, which were of course also tributes, had been sent to Kittie and their authors knew that Percy was working on his book, there was no incentive for the writers to publish tributes in the press. In fact they have never been published in full.
However, on 26 August 1920 Laurence Binyon wrote to Kittie from the British Museum (where he worked) to tell her that he had written ‘some verses’ about George whilst on holiday in Brittany. ‘I fear they may read rather cramped and bald in style,’ he continued, ‘but somehow I could not write of George in the traditional elegiac strain. I wanted to be as exact as I could, and the thought of him cannot be anything but tonic, an astringent to sentiment.’ He continued to improve them for at least another month, until they were published that year as In Memory of George Calderon. They were then reprinted at the front of Percy’s book, with the title ‘George Calderon 2nd Dec. 1868 – 4th June 1915’.
Another Russianist has written to me describing Binyon’s fourteen stanzas as ‘very much in the spirit of “They Shall Grow Not Old”, and very beautiful and memorable’. Others may feel that, like ‘For the Fallen’ itself, Binyon’s poem in George’s memory is wildly uneven in quality. It is more a case, in my view, of Edwardian plenitude. There are stanzas in there for everyone. Thus Clare Hopkins, Archivist of Trinity College, Oxford, very movingly quoted stanzas 5 and 6 in her blog Comment of 4 June, and I chose the last two stanzas for my reading at the Commemoration that day.
Next entry: …then three come along at once