Calderonia – A Writer Goes to War

Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.
Wilfred Owen

George Calderon was killed on 4 June 1915 at the murderous ‘Battle of Achi Baba‘ on the Gallipoli Peninsula. When his death was officially confirmed in 1919 The Times wrote: ‘one is inclined to say that Calderon’s loss was the heaviest blow which struck the English drama during the war.’

This was no exaggeration. In 1909 Calderon’s comedy The Fountain was a hit with the Stage Society and taken up by all the new repertory companies. It was felt to be superior to Shaw. Calderon’s ‘combination of laughter and earnestness, of shrewdness and enthusiasm, give him a place alone among modern dramatists’ wrote The Times again.

The same year, Calderon successfully directed The Seagull in his own translation for Glasgow Repertory Theatre  the first time Chekhov had been staged in Britain. He wrote eight one-act plays ranging from farce to Symbolist drama, completed his friend St John Hankin‘s last play, Thompson, and collaborated with Michel Fokine on a number of ballet libretti. Most of Calderon’s plays went on to be broadcast on radio for decades and his version of The Seagull was last broadcast in 2010.

I have been writing the first full length biography of George Calderon and it is due to come out in 2017. We shall never entirely know what made him sign up in 1914, when his literary career was at full throttle and there was no ‘need’ for him to. But it seems to me that a day-for-day blog of his 1914-15 story can bring us close to his experience of the War and show us what kind of man this was, who sacrificed everything for what he called ‘the people’.

Patrick Miles

6 Responses to Calderonia – A Writer Goes to War

  1. Alan Robinson says:

    Dear Sir, You seem to have missed a rather lovely silverpoints drawing of Calderon by my late father in law Arnold Pienne, it is in Christchurch,Oxford and,although, I have a prejudice, it is quite beautiful.

    • Patrick Miles says:

      Dear Mr Robinson, Thank you for this most exciting Comment! A silver point drawing of George Calderon was commissioned by Kittie from Arnold Pienne in 1930 and the original donated by her to Trinity College, Oxford, in that year, where it now hangs on the Senior Common Room stairs. However, at least one facsimile was made of it, which Kittie retained in her archive, and perhaps there were more. Obviously, the portrait was posthumous. In fact, it was made from the ‘iconic’ photograph of Calderon taken by F. Hollyer in about 1912. This photo is shown on the masthead of ‘Calderonia’ on the far right. Would you be able to confirm whether the portrait you have seen in Christ Church is also from the Hollyer portrait and therefore, perhaps, a facsimile, or whether it is an entirely different portrait? Kittie Calderon knew your late father-in-law well through her own art training. Would I be right in thinking that ‘Arnold Pienne’ was one of his many pseudonyms, his birth name being F.E. Jamieson? I am most grateful to you for getting in touch. Yours sincerely, Patrick Miles

  2. Alan Robinson says:

    Thanks for this fulsome reply ! I hope that I can help. Arnold Pienne was his real name and he knew the old aesthetes,like Ricketts,Shannon, the Binyons, Sturge Moore etc. I am pretty sure – but might be mistaken that the portrait is in Christchurch,Oxford; I am sorry not be better informed. i didn’t think it was Trinity. I have a receipt for an enlargement of the small photograph, done for 10/6d in 1926. and this was made by Fred.Hollyer, Pembroke Sq.,Kensington. I also have – to be sold – a presentation copy, sent to him by Mrs Calderon, of George Calderon: a sketch from memory by Percy Lubbock. Let me know if I can help in any way, but it’s a world away fro my own.

  3. Alan Robinson says:

    I have done some checking with my wife. F.E. Jamieson did some work occasionally with Arnold Pienne’s father, who did “chocolate box style” commercial art in London. They collaborated from time to time but were two separate people. Arnold Pienne, the son, was the one who did the Calderon picture.

    • Patrick Miles says:

      Dear Mr Robinson, I must apologise for not having replied to your two Comments earlier, but I have been on holiday in N. Norfolk, where internet connection is very tenuous. However, I can’t thank you enough for pursuing the subject of Arnold Pienne, because you have probably solved the whole ‘mystery’ about him! There is a letter from him in Mrs Calderon’s archive, and when I tried to find out who he was the most common answer on auction/gallery websites etc was that the name was one of the 11 or more pseudonyms that F.E. Jamieson adopted to use for work done outside his regular lucrative employment for a London furnishing firm. (His paintings of the Scottish lochs and glens still fetch good prices.) But the dates most commonly given for him were 1895-1950. It’s difficult enough to discover Jamieson’s true dates, but I knew that he couldn’t have been born in 1895 as he’s a Victorian/Edwardian painter. Also, he seems to have died in the 1920s, whereas Arnold Pienne’s involvement with Kittie over the portrait of George falls in 1929/30. So, yes, I accept that Arnold Pienne was a separate person! Would you know his real dates? I have had an email from the gallery curator at Christ Church that confirms they do not have a copy of the Calderon portrait. At the moment, then, it is definite that the original, with provenance written on the back by Kittie Calderon, hangs in Trinity College, Oxford, of which George Calderon was an alumnus, and it seems that there is only one facsimile in existence, that made by your late father-in-law to hang in Kittie’s home next to Frank Calderon’s pencil drawing of George’s mother (I take this information from Kittie’s Will). I hesitate to trouble you further, but it would be marvellous if Pienne himself had kept a facsimile too, and any further information you had about Pienne would, I am sure, interest followers of the blog! Yours most appreciatively, Patrick Miles

  4. Alan Robinson says:

    Thank you. F.E. Jamieson was the co-worker of Arnoud (always spelt in French !) Pienne, 1885-1952, who was really a commercial artist. His son Aronold Pienne 1909-1987, was my father in law. He was very young when he knew these great people, having left school in order to study art at 14, he met many old people when he was very young – a wonderful recipe for an interesting life. I have a photograph of the silverpoints drawing in Trinity. I asked them for it in about 1987/8 and they had not already photographed it. They should now have a negative (or whatever the new negatives are called) Please let me know if I can help at all. Alan Robinson

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