gathorne

Leigh Fermor on Gathorne-Hardy

This obituary for minor Bloomsburyite Eddie Gathorne-Hardy fell out of a book by his sister Anne Hill (of Heywood Hill) Trelawny's Strange Relations (Mill House Press, Stanford Dingley 1956) and was presented by her to Alan Ansen, the Athens based writer and member of William Burroughs literary circle.  The obituary article on EGH was written for The Times by Patrick Leigh Fermor (a xerox with inked notes by Anne Hill.) It appears not to have been published and is an excellent example of Paddy's great prose:

It would be said of no-one but Eddie Gathorne-Hardy that he belonged with equal fitness to the pages of White's Natural History of Selborne and the Satyricon of Petronius. Further analogies, with correct instinct but a few decades too early, could be sought in Valmouth and South Wind, but found to a split second in date, mood and intention in Vile Bodies, and though the brief intemperance of his Oxford days and the scrapes and festivals of the young and the bright in the 'twenties London gave him an aura which never quite faded, it was a figure of strong intellectual substance and authority that vanished from the scene on June 18th.

Originality and independence of mind stamped his background. Born in 1901, second son of the Earl of Cranbrook and Lady Dorothy Boyle, he was sent to Eton and Christchurch, but while the passion for the natural sciences which he shared with his father and brothers was turnng him into a widely travelled and accomplished botanist, his years with Elkin Matthews and a bent for scholarly research made him the best known authority  on the 18th Century among the antiquarian book dealers of his time. Less professionally, his pursuit of recondite lore found entertaining scope in Cornishiana- a collection of the eccentric dicta of Mrs, Warre Cornish - and in the slender but hair-raising confines of Inadvertencies where those passages of English literature which are open to comic or scabrous misconstruction are hilariously set forth.

Mediterranean hedonism and botanic and archaeological curiosity drew him to the Levant and war-time [services at] the Embassy in Cairo landed him, very aptly, and for most of the emergency, in a crumbling Mameluke palace under the old minaret of Ibn Tulun. He often returned to his native Suffolk, but his Athens flat, later on, with his books and specimens and his many lares was his chief base.His commanding figure was a familiar sight at tables under the island plane-trees, the formidable brow and [the high-bridged nose] will be sorely missed, and the [severe] horn-rims: these had long replaced the monocle which [improbably] flashed there for a year or two in the 'thirties. [He was surrounded by writers all his life.] His range of reading was wide and abstruse; deaf to music, his poetical ear was classically faultless; but it was the idiosyncrasy of his character, the mixture of formality and the reverse, the humour and the strong touch of the outrageous, which captivated all [and made it impossible for authors to keep him out of their books.] 

Time gradually changed him into a Peacockian figure - [for bookish] analogies are unavoidable - a sitter for the Dilettanti portraits with a dash of the great Whiggery, a sceptic Voltairian aristocrat but not a stoic for tedium, humbug, bad scholarship, and, indeed, the recent handicaps of ill-health, could set the air crackling all around him with oaths and groans. He demanded much of his friends and got it, cutting through their quandaries by never doing anything he didn't want but repaying the trouble many times over by the charms and surprises of his company. The intonation of his voice was bandied about by all who heard it and of all his traits, it is the perhaps the extraordinary gift of witty and lapidary or cumulative phrase which his friends will remember with the most lasting amusement, affection and delight.

In the recent biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor  EGH is mentioned in passing 3 times but it appears PLF knew him well. Both were residents of Greece in later life. Lady Anne Gathorne-Hardy was born in 1911, only daughter of the third Earl of Cranbrook. The Gathorne-Hardys - ennobled in the 1870s after her great-grandfather served in Disraeli's cabinet - were a rather intellectual and distinctly unconventional Suffolk family, with a characteristic rapid, affected speaking style. Anne had four older brothers, whom she adored - Jock (who succeeded in 1915 as fourth Earl), Eddie, Bob and Anthony. Eddie and Bob were experts in the rare book world, though best known to their contemporaries for their 'flagrant and rackety' homosexuality. (The outrageous Miles Malpractice, in Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, is based on Eddie.) Pic shot by Ottoline Morrell - it shows Eddie (in specs) to right of Lytton Strachey with brother Robert, Peter Ralli and Lady Julia Morrell.

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