25 July 1915

Today Kittie received a long letter from the Liberal historian, journalist and political advisor John Lawrence Le Breton Hammond (usually known as Lawrence Hammond). I cannot reproduce it, because it is still in copyright, but I will précis it and quote some phrases from it.

As I interpret Hammond’s biography, he was well to the left in the Liberal Party, so it is rather unlikely that he was a personal friend of George’s. However, his wife Barbara, who was also a Liberal social historian, had attended a famous boarding-school for girls at St Andrews, Fife, at the very time that Kittie was living there with her mother and father. Although Barbara Hammond was six years younger than Kittie, this could be the connection between the two families. Barbara Hammond was née Bradby and the Bradby clan of teachers at Rugby was well-known to George. Another possibility is that, as I have often speculated, Kittie was more Liberal than George and had met the Hammonds through politics. (On her thirty-seventh birthday, 5 March 1904, William Rothenstein gave Kittie his portrait of John Morley, the Liberal politician strongly in favour of Irish Home Rule, as was Kittie’s father, the Irish landlord John Hamilton.)

Hammond begins his letter by saying that he and his wife think of her every day ‘under this terrible ordeal’. Many others think of her, too, and pray that the cloud of uncertainty will lift. For ‘no woman has had more to bear than you’. The ‘staunch and splendid spirit’ in which she has accepted the sacrifice of her peace of mind and the ‘limit of your great happiness’ is, Hammond writes, ‘the admiration of your friends’. By ‘your great happiness’ he presumably means the almost symbiotic closeness of the Calderons’ marriage.

Hammond then tells Kittie that, at the age of forty-two, he has been offered a commission in the ‘Territorial Artillery’. Kittie must have known that after much political soul-searching he had decided to join up, because she had apparently questioned in a letter to Barbara Hammond whether (a) he would pass the medical and (b) he ought to sacrifice his intellectual life for the Army. Reading between the lines, Kittie had advised his wife to restrain him from going. But Hammond produces an unanswerable argument in this letter: ‘After all, if any of us ought to stop to consider whether he has other gifts that should check him from risking his life, what should be thought of George’s going?’

Lawrence Hammond then pays tribute to George’s ‘brilliant and original mind’. He and George had evidently crossed political swords over ‘lunch’ more than once, and Hammond blames his own ‘petty irritability and intolerance’ for preventing him from enjoying George’s ‘society’ to the full. He considers Act 1 of The Fountain to be ‘as perfect a display of wit as anything I know’, and would even have liked to have gone into the army with George, as his company would have been ‘stimulating and comforting’.

Hammond ends his letter: ‘Barbara sends you her best love and we both send you our most anxious and affectionate sympathy.’

Next entry: 26 July 1915

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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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