Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Angela Brazil, her brother, and the child prodigy pianist

Reading about J. M. Barrie and his infiltration of the Llewelyn Davies family has reminded me of a chilling little story that I read about in The Schoolgirl Ethic: Life and Work of Angela Brazil by Gillian Freeman.

The victim in the case was a boy called Gilbert Morris; the villains were the schoolgirls’ fiction writer Angela Brazil and her brother Walter.  Angela appears to have been the main driving force, decision maker and giver of orders in this affair: it is likely that Walter just followed her lead and went along with her wishes.

Gilbert Allan Morris was a child prodigy, a professional pianist who made his first public appearance at the age of six. He was born in 1901 and came to the attention of the Brazils when he was 12 years old; Angela was in her 45th year at the time and Walter in his 52nd.

The Brazils took Gilbert up, railroaded him towards a career that they believed would bathe them in reflected glory, raised his hopes then pulled the rug out from under him. They gave with one hand and took with the other; they made plans and arrangements on his behalf without informing him. He became enmeshed in the tentacles of their household and was driven by their pressure to the edge of destruction.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ouida and the death of her Italian nobleman: curse or coincidence?

Deaths, illnesses and misfortunes that seem to be natural, accidental, unavoidable or just coincidences – after all, stuff happens and such things are part of life – may seem less innocent when other, similar incidents are taken into account and patterns start to emerge.

Reading about the convenient (for J. M. Barrie) death of the Llewelyn Davies boys’ father has reminded me of another death that I learned about from biographies of the Victorian writer Ouida. Thinking about the curse that Biddy Iremonger put on the man she hoped to marry when he chose someone else and the Kathleen Raine/Gavin Maxwell affair, not to mention the Bronte family's misfortunes and the jilted woman in Patrick Brontë’s past, makes me wonder whether Ouida could have been indirectly responsible for the death of an Italian nobleman, someone she was infatuated with and hoped to marry.

Monday, July 7, 2014

More positive paranoia

It sometimes happens that after I have pulled some incidents out of my mind and got them down on paper, more memories emerge from the depths and rise to the surface.

I have just remembered another occasion when I had a big attack of positive paranoia, a feeling that the universe was arranging things for my personal benefit.

It all started when I unearthed and re-read an Edwardian guide to a small seaside town where I had spent some time as a child. Memories of these days by the sea were deeply buried; I had not talked or even thought about them since my family left the town many years earlier.  The book made me decide to go back there for the first time and try to find the house where we lived, the school, the children’s playground and other places I vaguely remembered. I decided to wait until summer to make my pilgrimage to the past.