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Two Men - One Memorial


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Following the Robert Ernest Vernede thread I have been asked by a few forum members to start another thread on one of the memorial books from my collection of these.

Tough call, as Robert's book was one that I had great difficulty putting down once I had started reading, as I enjoyed his sense of humour and style of writing tremendously.

This book tells the story of two Shrewsbury Schoolteachers, both Rifle Brigade who became known as "The Men" at Shrewsbury School, both joining the staff there in 1910 and were both killed in The Battle of The Somme.

Evelyn Southwell (E.H.L.S.)

Born-March 19, 1886.

Eton: Kings Scholar - January 1899. Magdalen College, Oxford: Demy-1904.

1st class in moderations - 1906. 2nd class in Literae Humaniores - 1908.

Stroke of College Eight. Head of the River - 1905. Head of the River - 1905 and 1906. O.U.B.C. Trials - 1905 and 1906. University crew 1907 and 1908. Stewards Challenge Cup - 1907. Leander Crew - 1908. Spare man for Olympic Crew - 1908. Assistant Master at Shrewsbury School - 1910.

Malcolm White (M.G.W.)

Born - January 24, 1887.

Birkenhead School - 1898. King's College, Cambridge - 1905. Voluntary member of King's College Choir - 1905 to 1909. Captain of College Boat - 1909. Assistant Master at King's College Choir School - 1908. Abroad in Berlin and Rouen - 1909. Assistant Master at Marlborough College - 1910. Assistant Master at Shrewsbury School - 1910.

The story starts a little while before the war, and, unlike Robert's thread that was started half way through the book, I will start this from the beginning as a lot of the early material sets the cast for later in the war.

I hope that you enjoy.


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September 1910 to March 1915.

Evelyn Southwell and Malcolm White came together as masters to Shrewsbury in 1910; they left together in 1915; and they were both killed in the battle of the Somme. For those who knew them both it is impossible to consider them apart; the memory of them is single. To their contemporaries and to each other they were known as "the Men". "Man, it's time to go into school." "Yes, Man." And so, in this account of their Shrewsbury life, they will be spoken of as "the Men."

The following is an account of their first four terms, written by one who lived with them during that time:-

It is interesting to recall the impressions which they made on their arrival. White had visited Shrewsbury before; he came with experience of teaching at King's College Choir School and afterwards at Marlborough College, and with a reputation as a singer and violin-player: a reputation which was entirely justified by his performances. At first he made no very distinct impression, probably because of his shyness, and he did not seem at once to take very kindly to Shrewsbury: he was constantly recalling with regret the time he spent at Marlborough, but this phase did not last long: Shrewsbury soon became to him the object of reverence which it remained until the end. But several terms passed before he was valued at his true worth, partly owing to his shyness and partly owing to his modesty; the latter quality remained to the end as one of his most striking charactersitics; it was so perfectly genuine. He was an excellent violinist, and he must have known it, and the same may be said of his powers as a singer, yet his skill in these directions was never obtruded, nor concealed by any false modesty. If asked to play, he would play, and his "That's rather jolly, isn't it?" at the end of the piece suggested that, quite unaffectedly, he considered that the gratitude of the listeners was due entirely to the composer; in fact he seemed to join in the gratitude and to regard himself as one of the listeners.

His keen sense of humour did not appear at once. It was of the "modern" type which is best illustrated in lterature by the work of "A.A.M." in Punch; though in some respects perhaps R.L. Stevenson was the forerunner of the type. At any rate, White's love for the wrong box was infectious, and quotations from that classic constantly accompanied our meals.

Southwell's arrival was somewhat different; before his coming in May 1910 he was known to no one in Shrewsbury - apart from the headmaster - except as a first class oars-man. He arrived almost straight from a long visit to Paris, and seemed at first very French; his love of Frech literature and the French nation("those adorable people" he called them in at least one letter from the Front) remained constantly with him. He came about eight o'clock in the evening of the day before school work began, and when some sort of the arrangements were being explained to him that night caused some suprise by inquiring about trains to Liverpool; he wanted to go to see an Oxford friend who was leaving for America.

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On his first morning the news arrived of King Edward's death. "Southwell, the King is dead !" greeted him through his bedroom door, before he was up. "No, Really ?" came back the answer, in a tone of complete boredom and lack of interest, soon followed by remarks of interest and real concern. "No, Really ?" spoken in a non-committal tone of voice, was often his answer to a remark, either when the subject did not interest him or when he was really thinking of something else; in the latter case he generally showed his interest very soon after.

On another occasion, after being very late on Staurday night, he went to bed at a quarter to eleven on Sunday night; by quarter past eleven he was sound asleep and was awakened by, "Southwell, the fire-engine is coming over Kingsland Bridge; shall we go up the the school to see if any of the boys are burning ?" "No", he answered; but within a few seconds he had collected himself, and five minutes later was round at the School House, where there was a fire, happily a small one.

At Shrewsbury he had his first experience of teaching, and his enthusiasm was extraordinary. Few meals passed without his explaining exactly what he had been teaching and how, and who had done well and who badly; this soon became a source of amusement, in which he fully shared.

Another fact that is worth mentioning is the way in which a remarkable friendship grew up between these two men. It was not entirely due to common interestd in life or a similar outlook; it seems rather to have grown gradually, each man finding that the tastes of the other interested him and were worth acquiring. For instance, Southwell's idea of music at the time was musical comedy; White introduced him to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, and there was an amusing discussion one night when Southwell complained bitterly that "no one had told him of these men before", whilst he was wasting his time at Oxford with musical comedy music. But with his extraordinary powers he went into the subject thoroughly, as hos notes on the St. Matthews Passion show; and incidentally his piano playing improved in the most remarkable way.

Both men had one characteristic in common - absolute thoroughness in whatever they undertook; though it was shown in different ways. When a new subject, or duty, arose about which they were ignorant, if it were unimportant and unintersting they probably would have nothing to do with it. But if it were interesting and important (or even interesting without being important) then there was no stopping until it was completely understood. With White this would mean a kind of nervous restlessness, asking questions, diffidence in his own powers of comprehension and execution. Southwell, on the other hand, was very quiet, mastered the facts, would never say that he understood anything until he had completely mastered it; in this way, to those who did not know him, he might sometimes seem slow; when suddenly he would show that he had grasped the whole thing and understood every point. But in either case, if either of them undertook to do a thing which seemed to them of any importance, it would certainly be well done.

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What follows is an account of their life from Setember 1911 onwards:-

Their first home was a house called "Broadlands"; an untidy, comfortable place above the river, with a view of the twin spires and Haughmond in the distance; and there were days when you smelt the autumn mist that rose from the Severn and lay wreathed about the town and the four poplars, so that - as White said - one longed for Corot to have painted it. The ramshackle state of the house and garden, which was given over as a jungle to the cat, was a perpetual source of satisfaction to the Men. And there was the conservatory which had no flowers and the lift which sank monthly to the basement with a shattered freight of crockery, and Southwell would say, "We shall have to have a man about it". The house was never taken seriously; during one argumentative meal White - unable to make himself heard - wrote up on the wall of the dining-room in chalk, "You owe me £2: 2: 6d and the inscription remained till we left the house.

It was a house of many interests, some fleeting, others permament. The life of the school was always of absorbing interest to both, but never incompatible with outstanding activities at home. "Some Iambic composition is indicated," Southwell said (both men adored The Wrong Box); and he sat up into the small hours wrestling with a voluntary copy, which for a week on end remained the central fact of his leisure hours. Or the household would be compelled to read Racine aloud, though Southwell alone would fully understand it. He had been for some months at the Sorbonne, and returned with a passion for all things French, so that for a time Phedre and The Beloved Vagabond alone would satisfy him. White was forever full of musical schemes and tunes; he was discovered alone in this room, with a full score of the Fifth Symphony on the matelpiece, conducting with the poker an imaginary orchestra, which was reproduced by every manner of sound.

On Saturday evenings he played sonatas on the violin, at which he was an expert, Southwell accompanying him on the piano; Bach, Beethoven and Corelli would usurp mealtimes; and on Sunday afternoons the folding doors between a sitting-room and the dining-room were opened, and on one accasion as many as forty boys came to tea, and lay about the flooor reading or listening to sonatas and a string quartet. The cat was an intimate member of the household and from Southwell's unswerving devotion to it was known as "The Groove", when the first kittens arrived, White burst into school and announced to Southwell in a whisper, "Man, the worst has occurred: there is more than one cat in the house."

Both men were expert oars; Soputhwell had rowed twice for Oxford and coached the school eight for their first appearance at Henley in 1913. It was typical of the amazing contrasts in his character that, immersed in a fugue of Bach, he should discover that he was overdue for the river, and after an hours absorption in the science of rowing, return immediately with zest to the piano. In both their minds there was a strain of science as well as art. White was a clear teacher of Geography and Tactics; and there was on one Sunday when, in a six hour discussion on the Nature of the Universe, Southwell illustrated metaphysical arguments by diagrammatic arrangement of the fire-irons. It was long after midnight when the discussion ended, and no one was satisfied with the result. And there was a day when Southwell, having invited a guest to lunch at one, arrived from his form house at three, having wrestled since 12.30 with a geometrical problem of which the preliminary data was erronous. It was characteristic of him that this was a voluntary labour, entirely outside the range of his work, undertaken for his own amusement.

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Both men held strongly the affection and respect of the school. White had that perfect control of boys which enabled him to bring the atmosphere of a Christmas party into form; he would teach sitting among the boys or standing on the window-sill and swinging from a cord; his persistent good temper made him see the humour of all that occurred; he could race a boy into school without loss of dignity; yet no member of the staff was more laboriously coscientious over the preparation of his work; and he undervalued neither critical power nor imagination, neither science nor poetry. Southwell was unique as a teacher; his own accounts of his work were so self-depreciatory, and often so comic, that we never really knew what went on; but no boy who had been in his form ever forgot it. He probably spoke more freely and naturally to his form even than to his friends. He read peotry to them, which few can do with success; and there was no doubt of his success here. It was this that indirectly inspired the poems which were written for him every week, some of which were eventually published under the title of "V.b" when he was in France. Few of those who have read the book will deny that it is a remarkable result; for the poems were written by average boys of sixteen, and his detailed criticism was small; they were the direct outcome of his enthusiasm. Of his own delight in his boys' work his own words from the preface of the book are witness:-

"There are going to be lines in your book(1) which have meant more to me than their writers ever knew - though Heaven knows I used to express my gratitude heatedly enough. I forget how much I told you about the beginning of the thing. It all started two years ago with those three terrific poets, who set a fashion bound to be followed, and without whom my little snowball could never have come together. Sometimes I longed to print every line in my album; but that was absurd, and surely the poets whom want of space excludes from print will not think themselves or their works excluded from my memory."

Sunday mornings were great days, for then the poems arrived, and he would read them aloud to us, rejoicing in the poetry and revelling in the comic or grotesque; sidestepping literature" he would say of grisly passages that made you shrink. He was a great phrasemaker and a master of improbable quotations; a passage from Three Men in a Boat might illustrate a point in Virgil or Xenophon: he had the humourous appreciation of a scholar for irrelevant detail; "Aeneas is fourth cousin three times removed to Agamemmon; I think it is important" was a note sent round to us one morning from his form-room. All his scholarship took a picturesque form; problems of grammar he illustrated by diagrams on the blackboard, and it has been hard for some of us to avoid plagarism. But of the spirit of the form his own pupils alone can adequately speak; the fourth Eclogue is still remembered by the gestures with which he declaimed it; for he would read it to his form whenever Christmas drew near with the enthusiasm of a religiuos rite; and when one of his booys was asked about the form, he said: "Mr. Southwell walks round the room reading Homer to us with tears in his eyes." And that he was himself a scholar, is seen from his translation of Canon Beeching's poem, "Prayers":-

God who created me

Nimble and light of limb,

In three elements free,

To run, to ride, to swim:

Not when the sense is dim,

But now from the heart of joy,

I would remember him:

Take the thanks of a boy.

(1) The book was edited for him by a friend.


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Both men had keen athletic interests. Southwell had charge of the school rowing for four years, and it made great progress under his coaching. He was also an energetic fives-player, though the following correspondence from their form-rooms seems to tell another tale:-

"What you want, you know, is to play after 12. Then I should (Deducta est...) play too: (linea clara diu) (in te).

Do play after 12."


"No courts, and less of it altogether, please."


White was very versatile; besides his work and his music, he found time for football, cricket, fives and rowing; few things gave him such pleasure as the occasion when a house four which he had coached won the "Challenge oars" in the Lent term of 1914; their fate had exercised him for a few days and nights beforehand and threw him wholly into the atmosphere of the Cambridge races. There was no game or sport that he touched in which he did not shine, if not brilliantly, at least successfully. He was an efficient officer in the O.T.C. He was a keen fisherman and skater, and for the days when, as an undergraduate, he performed incredible feats of roof climbing over his college, a daring cragsman.

They used their holidays characteristially. Southwell was generally at home, content with books and music. These are extracts from his letters and postcards. The first was written at a time when he was leaving his home at Newcastle for Worcester:-

To H.E.E. Howson. Bishop Jacob Hotel


Dec. 23, 1911.

I've been lying a good deal here about the sadness of leaving N/C, but often with my tongue in my cheek as if it would push through to the outside; the change after all is more to, than from, the land of my nativity. As a matter of fact we shall miss the liveliness of this place somewhat, but then it's always just when you're getting to like a place that - (Bromide; thank you). sic itur ad Worstra. (Oh, very bad.)

I am taking the liberty of sending along with this one of E.V.L. books as some token of the ardour with which we await, Sir, your esteemed commands; I hope very much it's as good as the last one I read, which was The Friendly Town; he is usually, I think, the most comfortable author in Europe, A.C.B. a good second

I hope tha Man arrived safe. Needless to say I have a fearful cold, which may decide to be a chill any moment. Otherwise I have nothing to complain of beyond the need of sending by post what I would rather deliver in person, my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

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To H.E.E. Howson

Bishop Jacob Hotel


Jan. 5, 1912

That by the book having been read which that man had sent himself, as by an incredible certain pleasure he was affected nor not, as the Greeks said, wonderfully how rejoiced, so for so great a gift to have as greatest thanks to be compelled he seemed.

The Path (for surely it is wirthy of this abbrviation-badge of admission to the Broadlands classics) only arrived from Messrs. Bowes this morning, and I have now read some 130 pages; and it is really magnificent. I have just reached the "Praise of Windows", a very comforting performance.

Otherwise nothing very much has happened to delight or bore me particularly: I have gone within three plays of finishing Racine, and shall no doubt do them before long - thugh not of course with any attempt at thoroughness. The last took about one and a half hours, so you see it is no very studious perusal. But it gets over the griund and promotes that hateful something that the Man would denote "Atmosphere", which is all to the good. Also hardly less than three hours per diem over the piano, especially the Liszt. It's far beyond me, but I can get over the timber to some slight extent now. Dances are practically at a premium, one only so far: ich grolle nicht.

The man's letter contains, I am persuaded, sufficient marks of virility to justify its enclosure.

To H.E.E. Howson


Guy Mannering, vol. ii, ch. 16

"And a' the bairns ran to saddle Dumple (D. Dinmont, his pony). - It has just struck me that this is among the more epic things in W. Scott, and I do not think I should leave you unadvised of the matter.

To H.E.E. Howson


New book by A.C.B.:

Hero confronted with farmer wearing "servicable brown suit and leggings". Now that's what I call beautiful.

To H.E.E. Howson

College- Worcester

Jan. 3, 1913.

Look here, I don't think you're being very good. However, we'll try once more.

This comes from an old house up river where I stayed last night for a dance.


(from the Gaelic)

I saw a stranger yestreen;

I put food in the eating place,

Drunk in the drinking place,

Music in the listening place,

In the sacred name of the Truine

He blessed myself and my house,

My cattle and my dear ones.

And the lark sang in her song -

Often, often, often

Goes the Christ in the stranger's guise;

Often, often, often

Goes the Christ in the stranger's guise.

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But this is wonderful, Andy! SO English! There is a flavour of both MR James and Conan Doyle in the 'many parts' the Men show in their studies, and the autumn mist, and their crazy house and cat, and their scholarly interests. Oh, this is going to be good!


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To H.E.E. Howson

College - Worcester

Dec. 23.

The Mozart is great fun, but though I played him practically all the first two days, he has to retire for the moment. I am having lessons from Ivor Atkins. He was splendid. After being in the house five minutes he said, "Now how much can you practise? Three hours, I suppose?" So I said I would and he would hear of nothing but Bach's forty-eight preludes and figures, and started me on one of the few that had five parts. His playing of a prelude I had ground away at was a perfect marvel. And here am I booked for Thursday with that figure, which I haven't yrt touched, and a prelude going across country, "for technique" as he calmly put it - which I can nearly play badly after some hours. A remarkable man, of whom I stand greatly in awe.

To H.E. Walker

College - Worcester

Dec. 28, 1913.

I began Pickwick again for the I-don't-know-how-many-eth time yesterday, so you may take it I'm fairly happy! I started it in bed as usual - an evil habit, they say, but I don't find I read more than a few minutes, so it doesn't grow into a nuisance. Don't get choked with it if you're reading other things; chapter 27 about half-way, and I often recommend people to go there and continue next term - they don't often stop there for good! You'll like it all right, or you wouldn't be no friend of mine!


Mr. Ivor Atkin's has written what follows about him:-

It was in the summer of 1912 that I first met Evelyn Southwell, and well I remember the impression he made upon me. He had already about him a certain quiet strength and a seriousness and a sincerity which to a great extent made it easier to bridge over the years which lay between us. However this may be, there quickly sprang up a complete sympathy in musical matters, and his visits to Worcester from that time were welcomed by me for the opportunities they gave of coming into contact with one who had a deep and abiding enthusiasm for music. In these all too few visits there was always much to talk of. He must have shown a missioner's zeal in making good music known to the boys of Shrewsbury School, for he brought me glowing accounts, from time to time, of the success which came to those who co-operated with him in the work of introducing chamber music to them. The steady growth in attendance of the boys at these little music-meetings was a joy to him, and the fact that the best music easily won a way to their hearts was to him a sufficient reward.

His enthusiasm for music, and, perhaps, especially his measureless admiration for Bach, made him very attractive to me, and this attractiveness was only hightened by his quietness and modesty. He was at the time studying the piano, in which I was able to give him some help, and it was a great delight to me to watch him working at the forty-eight preludes and figures. Though his playing was wanting on the technical side he more than made up for it by his insight and sense of interpretation; and in discussing them with me I was very early struck by his knowledge, and by the clearness of his musical faculties.

It was his habit to find his way to the organ-loft at Worcester soon after his arrival in vacation time, and I found increasing pleasure from his visits. His coming was always the occasion for some of the greatest of Bach's organ works to be drawn upon, and though, as I have said, he had a considerable knowledge of Bach, he had had few opportunities up to this time, I should imagine, of hearing the later organ works. This was especially true of the Choral Preludes. His joy in a great work was splendid, and I shall never forget his reception of the Fuga Sopra Magnificat. He shared with another, whose ties to the Cathedral were similar to his own, and who, has made the great sacrifice, a power of appreciation which has nothing less than an inspiration to others. It was a privelege to have known Evelyn Southwell, and though he came into our musical life in Worcester for but a short time, in that time he brought into a sympathy and a high souled appreciation, which were of more value than he probably knew, and he leaves a memory which I, for one, shall long cherish.

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Such is the picture of Southwell's holidays. White went farther afield; to the Nant Ffrancon pass in North Wales, which was a second home to him; to Scotland for fishing; even to the Alps, for skating and skiing: and there were stories of how he travelled in a domino mask, or played Dvorak on his violin to a ring of open mouthed peasants, in a station restaurant on the Swiss frontier. And beyond all this, there was the military training demanded of him as an officer. Some of his letters follow:-

To H.E.E.Howson

Inkerman Barracks - Woking.

April 22, 1912.

Good mornin'. What? These infantry'talions, what? Cimabue, for brown photographs of picture by, many thanks. I was so glad to hear from you. That may be bromide - but no it can't be, as it was true. We have had a very good and profitable time. We both know all about everything and have seen some very intersting fighti'.

To H.E.E. Howson

Mere Cottage - Oxton (1)

Hasn,t he really? Probably I think. Certainly. No, I don't. I don't see what you mean by that. Yes, of course. Exactly. Not at all. Have you? No, nothing else. Yes, yes. Yes, quite. Rather.

Meaning of above:-I don't teach him anything. But I know everything you wish to know. You couldn't have come to a better person. I have the whole of the organisation of the IVth form at my finger tips. This, added to extraordinary brilliancy, political acumen, and an intuitive appreciation of the interests of the boy, make me at once the model and despair of every schoolmaster the breadth of the land.

I too have been having a lazy time. Reading, trio's, quartets, lunching, dining, smoking. I have bought Bach's Sonatas for violin and piano.

But see here. I have taken the bull between the teeth with both hands and have bought a present for Kittermaster for 25/-. It is a Medici copy of leo. da Vinci's "Last supper. Idare say you think I ought to be exiled to Boulogne, Assisi, and Florence (2) after that, but I spent a whole morning trying to think of anything else. Will it do?

(1) His home

(2)The path to Rome: page 305.


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To H.E.E. Howson

Mere Cottage - Oxton

September 10.

I wired, because Mrs. Lloyd, answering a postcard of mine asking for trousers, said:

'No trousers here, van (sic) I send Mr. Howson.'

So thought that might mean that you had them. I think now that 'van' should be 'can', =can I send Mr. Howson. All of which means that she probably proposes to send me yours. Anyhow I am sick of that subject, except that some sort of Man must have a pair of trousers of mine.

Did you go to the Passion Music yesterday? We played Schubert and Beethoven string 4tets yesterday, Beethoven and St. Saens trios in the evening, Schumann and Dohnanyi pte. quintets this morning.

In the excitement of many wires coming and going, I set off for the dentist's carrying a large blue and white Italian vase which I happened to have in my hands when Mrs. L.'s wire arrived.

You know my opinion about The Ring and the Book. But it improves for me as I get to Caponsacchi and Pompilia. I know I shan't finish my reading now, as I'm beginning to fuss about Geography fro next term.

That Man of ours has been very silent these holidays.

Next Term, Hah!

To H.E.E. Howson (1)

Mere Cottage - Oxton

Dec. 20, 1912.

Caesar, his packing being finished in one night, when he had placed a Man over the slaves and baggage animals, which he left as a garrison at Broadlands, having set out thence about the fourth watch, went inot winter quarters at the above address. This having been done, he sent letters: that he himself had slept a great deal; that he had spent some time in the toy department of a large and neighbouring emporium on that morning; that he had bought for a distant, small, and hitherto unknown cousin, two charming clockwork fighting men; and that it was in mind to him not to send these fighting men to his cousin but to keep them for himself; for he liked them; that he hoped that they were having fun; let them in climbing the same virtue, which always before in other matters, now use. Carry my love to the ledge on the North Buttress.

(1)With a party of boys at Lake Ogwen in Wales.

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To E.H.L. Southwell

Argentieres - France

January 4, 1913.

All right - we won't play Grieg. I believe your criticism of Hungarian and Scandanavian finds all that there is of most vulnerable in them, but I like them. I have it (the Grieg) here in any case. I have been playing it and other things with a French lady here who is rather good. There is quite a good piano here for a mountain place.

This is a wonderful valley. Mont Blanc is 'the highest mountain in Europe'. We have wonderful creme de menthe looking glaciers at our door.

Thios place is packed with French people, all very charming and amusant. On entend de la langue tres liquide.

Well, please order for me the Mozart Sonatas, and let us do Nos.I, XV, and the one with two movements, one of which is a slow rondo.

Yes, I know about those Bach Sonatas; we must do them.

To E.H.L. Southwell

Mere Cottage - Oxon

Look here - less of it. What the dickens is the matter? I have received the following telegrams.

(1) 'Luggage not advanced price impossible! ( The exclamation mark is ours (ours you know). It is soon enough I meet what train Monday (how does one know I am going through Shrewsbury at all on Monday) with it or must it go. A week finish, that. No signature.

Then at 3.0 I get a wire, 'Did you address, etc.... Address Eversley. Mar (sic) (you know). Still thinking you at Eversley, I wonder who Mar is ( I see him as a lean spare man with a cast in his eye)

Lastly I appeal to you, apart from practical consideration, to give this letter your closest study, as I feel that it has considerable literary merit.

A very weak Man.

To H.E.E. Mowson

Mere Cottage - Oxton

Friday, April 17.

It has been a business.(1) Fearful reaction to-day, presents lying about, and workmen taking things to pieces all over the place and whistling in hard sunshine, if you see what I mean.

By Gad, we'll walk the Shropshire hills next term.

Our dog was delving in the earth the other day, which reminded me that I should like to go to Delft. I suggested the same to my father. We are therefore going to Delft.

To H.E.E. Howson.

Mere Cottage - Oxton

April 1913.

A good modern history is Outlines of Modern History, by Grant. I've discovered how the Roman Empire becomes the Austrian Empire. I've also made a discovery about the English Aristocracy on the way back from the church, which, I hope, will turn out well on consideration. I've also carried my Godson right round the garden, where there is a sight of blue Welsh Hills, nodding daffodils, and a west wind full of wallflower smell, all of which is none so bad.

(1) Written after a family wedding.

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To E.H.L. Southwell

Lochshiel Hotel



Aug. 24.

I have caught no fish but I have read and nearly finished W. James 'Varieties of Religious Experience', which is good. I am glad that you had a fine day for the F. Show. F. Show looks like a shopman's name in a country town.

That's mysticism.

Next term will be good. Think of those early morning mists and 'porridge and turns mixed'.

Well, I apologise for the entire above.

To H.E.E. Howson.

Lochshiel Hotel,



Sept. 3.

Oh a very great place,I think. And I have seen Skye, away in the distance, the Coolins sticking up all needly into the air - and Rum, Eigg, and Muck lying so blue and nice. The fish, they don't rise a bit. I have caught just about three really respectable ones. A nice strange hostelry this. Various tides of visitors have ebbed and flowed over us.

We all talk about flies, and the badness of the fishing we once had in South Uist.

I go to the Chantry next Monday. Bach (St. Matt. Passion) and Brahms Requiem. Think of it.

To H.E.E. Howson


I am ordering the book on Philosophy by this post, though I have The Ring, The Book, The Camel and The Needle's Eye, by Browning, and Ponsonby, here with me.

I hope to finish W. James this evening.

To H.E.E. Howson.

Mere Cottage


Dec. 28, 1913.

I am rather flat, and start tomorrow for Hotel Meyerhof, Hospenthal, and you will write to me there, and have you lewft Cambridge, and did you get the harmony book, and I have made some progress with a new one of my own, and I have a superb nephew, and all sorts of nice people send me Christmas cards, and some holly berries on them, and some had just sprigs, and you will write, won't you to a Man?.

The last page of this is like certain forms of peotry with a point at the end of each rather formless stanza. Is it not modern? Is it not art?

To H.E.E. Howson.



Jan. 1914.

We are entirely alone here, in a hotel of tolerable size, with the usual lounge, etc. There was a man here for a bit, whose presence seemed entirely unreasonable, and just about the time of hie departure we were in danger of being kept awake by the band whose sole audience we were - were we - whose sole audience - I shall never make a success of that sentence. This place is kept by the family Meyer, who have lived in this valley for centuries; rather interesting. Tribal stage of society - liberalism - totemism - morality.

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In May 1913 we left Broadlands. Among later memories of the place stands out the occasion when one member of the house became a temporary invalid through a concussion after skating, and the acvent of a nurse caused so much rearrangement of rooms and furniture, and such confusion and laughter of the Men, that a misfortune was turned into a picnic; or a night at the end of a winter term, when examination papers were corrected far into the night, with intervals for biscuits and cocoa. George Fletcher(1) left us at 3 a.m. and went to his house across the river shouting Meistersinger; and there were some of the party who were still found working by the dawn. It was something of a tragedy to leave Broadlands and all that 'human disorder and organic comfort which makes a man's house like a bear's fur for him', but it was a change to civilisation, and we became respectable householders. The new home was a house recently built for masters nearer the boys' houses; from the first it was known as the 'New House', and when a definite name became necessary this clung to it. It was a larger house than Broadlands, with a wide view to Wenlock and the Stretton hills; R.F. Bailey joined us, and - for a term - George Fletcher, till he went to Eton. The garden showed promise of more civilised tastes, and many of the designs, both inside and outside the house, were chosen by the Men themselves. These letters from Southwell are relics of a fevered holiday preceding the change:-

To H.E.E. Howson




April 1913.

Proposal B

1. Your carpet now in dining-room to new dining-room.

2. Your carpet now in your sitting-room to your new sitting-room.

3. My sitting-room carpet to my bedroom.

Disadvantage: (a) Your sitting-room carpet is very bad; Mrs. Lloyd says it will burst in holes when taken up, if not carefully done: this suggests bed=room not sitting-room

(B) My sitting-room carpet in my bed-room seems wasteful. But, advantage for you:-

House buys your carpet instead of mine.

There you have the whole situation mapped out at great expense of thought.

If you think hard, I think you'll see what all this tabulated rhetoric means.

G.M.R. says this is like The Wrong Box, and I partly believe it.

(1) An Assistant master at Shrewsbury from Sept. 1911 to July 1913, and after this Eton. He served as an officer in the Intelligence Corps throughout the great retreat, was then attached to the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and was killed in action on March 20, 1915.

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This was Southwell's attitude to the new house. White regretted the absence of machinery in the hall; the sort with a leathern, undulating belt that whirrs ceaselessly and goes 'p-lonk', as he said. Both men always regarded engineering as a sorrowful mystery. The new house soon became a home, and they became intimate with new surroundings.

Men with such a feeling for words and phrases were clearly enamored with books. Neither was in a true sense 'widely read' perhaps; but both had the rarer gift of remembering intimately and in detail the books of which they were fond; and when once an author, were he Shakespeare or Jerome K. Jerome, was admitted a classic of the house, quotations from him were permament. Southwell's shelves in particular comprised a strange medley, Atalanta in Claydon living neighbour to a volume on the Golf Courses in the British Isles. But there were favourites in common to both; Richard III, Orthodoxy, The Four Men, Ronsard's poems, The Pickwick Papers (on which Southwell was almost infallible), the Song of Taliesin from the Mabinogion, The Babe B.A., Salt-Water Ballads, and A Shropshire Lad; Lamb's Essays were equally dear to White, and Southwell read The Pirate every Christmas. Perhaps the most quoted and best loved book of all was The Path to Rome: Charles Amieson Blake was an accepted member of the household, as was Michael Finsbury. Of the classics, Virgil was the special favourite. On the whole, White had the better memory for subject matter, Southwell for detail: but this is not to limit an exclusive province for either. For both quoted freely: 'Not what I need (said the Babe) but what I want'; ' why, then, I will have some of that excellent beer'; 'Positively the last appearance of the Great Vance' ( the latter Southwell would quote to his form on the final exit, it may be, of Polyphemus). These are phrases that recur to the memory; and of the other literature:-

Today the Roman and his trouble

Are ashes under Uricon,


Rue, even for Ruth, here shortly shall be seen

In the rememberance of a weeping queen.

They both spoke strongly in approval or disapproval of books that they liked or disliked, with feats of exaggeration that were humorous, but never intolerant. For all that, Southwell, who had an infinite patience with tiresome conversationalists and was generous to a fault, could be impatient with a tiresome author. He forgave men more readily than books; yet even in his literary antipathies he never lost balance; whatever is meant by the 'Artisitic Temperament', creative or critical, it shone clear in him; so clear, indeed, that his obvius sanity over all things vital and human was the more remarkable. Though his preference was for imaginative writing, he showed remarkable grip of an arguement, for all his pretence that he could not follow the plot of Kidnapped. His standard in grasping the meaning of an author was so high that, where others might claim to have arrived, he seemed to himself hardly to have set foot upon the way. Once fascinated by an author, he was only content when he had searched for his innermost meaning and thrown light on every obscurity.

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He would evolve long genealogies to clear up a point, but he was never pendant. Though he was, by his own confession, an amateur in music, his detailed analysis of parts of Bach's St. Matthew Passion is thonged with ideas; and there was one saturday in term time when we had a breakdown after motoring to a point twelve miles from Shrewsbury and six from any station; after six hours unavailing effoert, we accepted the inevitable at midnight; and at 1.30 Southwell was still reading himself to sleep, on the floor of an inn-parlour, with an article on harmony in an encyclopaedia chosen at random from the shelves. He was seldom heard to talk of polotics, and - strangely enough - with few exceptions, such as the 'Mona Lisa', pictures had little interest for him; characteristically he devoted his time almost exclusively to other forms of art which appealed to him more. White said of him, that had he not been a schoolmaster, he would have been known as a critic; and it is probably true. Yet imagination was the reigning quality even of his criticism; that is clearly seen from these notes od his, taken from his copy of the Aenied:-

Book 2. 1-13

These are lines whose appeal is not all Virgil's own, and yet I read them almost kneeling. For in them is shown a glimpse of the whole conscious soul of the epic. It is not often that we catch the Epic Muse introspective. Yet here, I think, if anywhere, she sits pondering in sad triumph with all the cities of antiquity broidered on her robe, and nursing nearest her heart they have best of prowess and of pain. Great sieges and long endurance, patient wanderings and the enmity of Heaven - all these arise to meet the vision of the greatest city of all time, whose foundations were laid in song. And more, there clings round these lines some of the strange morning-wonder of the Middle Age - her lawns afire with minstrels and her colleges dreaming in stone, and the long memory of the dear company of scholars, our kin, who in ways forgotten of wisdom and of folly have gloried or blundered over the tale. Let us go gently and remember our fathers, as befits men approaching a great mountain Valhalla of the praises and pains of famous men. - Lie quiet, Dido: it is the last hour of Troy.

Book 2. 223.

Simile, short. But this point has to be considered; I am not yet sure if I think a simile must be long to be among the best. The end of the Scholar-Gipsy, of course, and some of Homer's and Virgil's; I think I like the long ones best.

Book 6. 58.

I correct my vision of the Isles of Greece with 'obeuntia'. I don't think 'Mulcentia' will do: too much of it altogether.

Book 6. 203.

'Gemima', if right, is one of the 'lonely words'. It is right for four seasons, which I know.

Book 6. 314.

'Tendebatque manus ripae ulterioris amore'. The definition, I think, of Poetry.

Book 8. 242.

C. thinks 'regia' is in mockery: it will not do. For (1) the whole passage is stately, (2) Virgil has not much sense of humour.

Book 9. 92.

'Prosit nostris in montibus ortas'. I will have some fun somewhere with this line.

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White had Southwell's love of imaginative writing. If he had not himself so marked a gift of self expression the power was not wanting. His interests were varied; he was fond of idealistic discussions on religion, history and polotics, and could read a text book on 'Insanity' without a trace of morbid interest, with profit, and with appreciation of the humour of such an action. He was interested in problems of the day, but impatient of catchwords, and - like Southwell - fully aware of how much was needed before he could claim understanding of the subject. He was fond of pictures, particularly of the English water-colour school and the landscapes of David Cox; with the realism of the Dutch painters, too, he had great sympathy. Though he said himself that, had he had the power, he would greatly devoted his life to poetry and criticism of poetry, it is with music that he is more especially associated. He felt the debt which he owed to Southwell for literary interest, and Southwell was grateful to him for what he had learnt of music. It was the claims of the Cambridge Musical Club which, as he said with amused regret, left him at the end of a Cambridge term with nothing but an undigested speech of Cicero to his credit. Yet he was far from blind to the beauty of the Classics, and had been one of many who were alive to the inspiration of Walter Headlam. At King's he was a voluntary member of the choir for several years. Till Shrewsbury won the first place in his heart, Cambridge was to him the home of all that made life best worth living. He left it with a knowledge of men, and a mind awake to innumerable interests. Not least of its gifts to him was the power to tkae part in a string quartet, often at first sight, with confidence and skill. He had a great memory for tunes, and could remember without hesitation a passage which he had only once heard, and that some years before. Many will remember his solo from the Meistersinger, sung at a school concert, followed soon afterwards by a difficult sonata of Beethoven for the violin. He was devoted to Purcell and the English composers of Madrigals; and perhaps his greatest musical achievement was that, largely through his connexion with the Worker's Educational Association, he organised forty people from the town, whom he conducted once a week in madrigals and folk songs for a concert which was only prevented by the outbreak of war. 'Such as found out musical tunes and recited verses in writing'. The works seem vividly to recall them both.

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At the New House the time slipped happily by: there was the work of school hours every day, of living interest to both, and in the evening we would 'sit round' (to use Southwell's phrase) and (with Southwell himself often asleep in a chair) discuss books, theories, or the days events; or there would be boys to tea, and one would look into Southwell's room and find a silent ring engrossed in books before a winter fire; there was the famous night on which a dog barked persistently in a garden along the road, and George Fletcher, exasperated, ventured out in pyjamas at three in the morning, and cried emphatically at the offenders gate: 'Take in your dog, Sir! Take in your dog;' the house was tenanted, as was discovered later, by three maiden ladies.

On November 5, White annually let off five fireworks in the garden dressed in a scholastic gown and broad brimmed felt hat, looking for all the world like 'Tall Agrippa' come to life: and there was a lazy summer afternoon when Southwell in a fit of boredom suddemly announced ' A ride in a cab is required'; and within the hour we were wandering sleepily round Shropshire lanes in an open victoria, whose driver had orders to stop at every bridge, where he received a cigarette while we watched the stream under the willows; and so home, when Southwell fled to the river to coach the Henley eight, or played the 17th Fugue of Bach, which he called 'The Foundations of the Earth'. Meals were necessarily spasmodic, and White would heighten their irregularity by presenting arms from 'The Port', or giving a detailed rendering of the 'Eroica symphony', or imitating a puma in its cage at the zoo. On winter evenings we would find exercise by running in the dark; and on Thursday mornings, having no early school, Southwell practised this alone before breakfast, recalling the days of Putney. And on summer afternoons their was cricket to watch, or we sat in the garden by the half grown privet hedge; 'and if it doesn't grow quickly' Southwell would say, 'we shall be overlooked by a long necked man in a straw hat@.

Expeditions were frequent; sometimes 'up river'; sometimes (in winter) to the town, from which Southwell would return with twenty collar studs and an early edition of Ossian; sometimes, too, farther afield, often in company with boys, to the Briedden hills or Ludlow or Church Stretton, to climb Caradoc. Southwell often went by himself on the spur of the moment, and visited the Long Mynd or lost himself on the uplands of Clun Forest. Or White would be taken in Goerge Fletcher's side car, and together they would scramble on the rocks of the Stiper-stones. To both Southwell and White the precession of the seasons was a pageant; the winte term was always the most welcome, but all times of the year had their glamour and mystery. They appreciated the fireside and the hillside alike, the 'Friendly Town' and the 'Open road', November winds and days of heat in the summer when it was almost too hot to row; and all with an affection that was far stronger than mere liking.

'How well I know what I mean to do

When the long dark autumn-evenings come,'

White quoted in a letter; and it was a happiness common to them both.

Behind all their tastes and interests, Shrewsbury was the dominant fact; to the school they were devoted with a rare measure of unselfishness. To strangers they were reserved, and however freely they might speak to friends, their reserve was a permament feature of their characters. Words meant much to them, nor did they laugh freely at a joke unless they were amused; their reticence never made others feel awkward, yet their approval was a compliment.

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Unreal enthusiasm and bad taste made them unhappy, and the coined a new word, 'spinal'(1), for the feeling, yet their sense of humour invariably prevailed, and left them generous and kindly. They were readily adaptable to new places and surroundings, though the power of self-adaptation came to White by effort and to Southwell by nature; but there was no circle which after a month did not receive both with open arms. White felt himself a stranger for a time at Shrewsbury; he was drawn by so many incentives, and was the slave of so many visions, that the settled habit of surrender to its atmosphere came slowly, and he was beset with doubts as to his ultimate work. These uncertainties gradually faded, and - by the time that he left - the place and its life lay close to the centre of his affections; he felt happy in his work, and one of his colleagues dared call him 'the ideal schoolmaster'. It was high praise, but at least shows that White was not far from finding his life's work. Southwell, with equal humility, was yet fond of Shrewsbury from the day of his arrival, and his happiness was infectious. Throughout, it was the one real pivot of his interests. Religion was to both a thing of wonder, not to be directed in direct speech, defying analysis, but vital. Life remained to them a mysterious web, shot with tears and folly and that laughter which marks a 'gross cousinship with the most high, and feeds a spring of merriment in the soul of a sane man'. Their humour was of that rich sort, which does not pharaphrase itself, but confidently assumes its equivalent in others; yet it was never cynical, and never far removed from sympathy. It is for these, among other gifts, that their memory is treasured.

At the beginning of August 1914 the Shrewsbury Corps went to camp as usual, and White was with the contingent. On the outbreak of war camp was broken up, and for a time it seemed possible that he might be called up as a Territorial Officer. But in the course of a few weeks it was decided by the War Office that only such officers of the O.T.C. as could be spared from the schools were to go; and White was needed at Shrewsbury. In view of the courage with which he faced all risks later on, it is perhaps not unfair to quote from one of his letters words which show his first, instinctive attitude to foreign service; indeed they emphasise the high quality of the courage which could overcome his doubts, and enable him to say later, 'The onlt thing I am really afraid of, is that I shall be afraid'.

To H.E.E. Howson

The Hill Top

Radlett, Hertfordshire

August 1914.

I came down here yesterday to stay with my sister at a charming little house. I've still had no news as to what is being done with O.T.C. officers.

I'm feeling very cowardly about it all; doing nothing, and not a bit keen about volunteering for foreign service, and wretched with myself for not being keen to do so.

(1)This word, which occurs frequently in their letters, was a word used in the household to express the uncomfortable feeling in the small of the back, produced by embarrasing recitations, etc. But its context in each case will best explain its meaning.

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Hardly surpising he wasn't keen to go abroad when you read of the charm of their lives at Shrewsbury. And it is to his credit that he performed so well when he did go.


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