By Ross Davies
Donald Hankey was once a author who observed himself as a ’student of human nature’ and peacetime Edwardian Britain as a society at conflict with itself. Wounded in a murderous sunlight infantry cost close to Ypres, Hankey begun sending despatches to The Spectator from clinic in 1915. Trench lifestyles, wrote Hankey, taught that ’the gentleman’ is a kind no longer a social classification. in a single calm, humane, eyewitness file after one other lower than the byline ’A scholar in Arms’, Hankey published how the civilian volunteers of Kitchener’s military, many with little stake in Edwardian society, placed their betters to disgrace still. A runaway best-seller on either side of the Atlantic, Hankey’s prose vied in attractiveness with the poetry of Rupert Brooke. After he used to be killed at the Somme in one other sunlight infantry cost, Hankey joined Brooke as a world image of promise foregone. British propaganda subsidized book in the-then impartial usa, but at domestic Hankey needed to evade the censors to inform the reality as he observed it. This, the 1st scholarly biography, has been made attainable through the restoration of Hankey papers lengthy idea misplaced. Dr Davies strains the lifetime of an Edwardian insurgent from privileged beginning right into a banking dynasty that had owned slaves to spokesman for the standard guy who, while placed to the attempt of conflict, proves to be not-so-ordinary. This research of Hankey’s lifestyles, writing and giant viewers - army and civilian - enlarges our knowing of ways in the course of the English-speaking international humans controlled to struggle or suffer a battle for which little had ready them.
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Extra resources for ’A Student in Arms’: Donald Hankey and Edwardian Society at War
Robert Hankey noted that his son ‘had a tendency to morbidity’ (Letter to DWAH, 23 August 1905, HA1/25), which Dr Hodgkiss translates as ‘given to morbid introspection’, a term used in nineteenth-century psychological medicine to denote the condition in which an unhealthy man, overly aware of his body, turns away from being busy in and with the external world, and turns in upon himself, so entering a vicious circle in which the normal setbacks of life are magnified to feed his self-absorption to the point of hypochondria, depression and even madness.
For a critical biography of Benson, see David Newsome, On The Edge of Paradise (London, 1980). ‘Blasphemy and Filth’ 35 first involves and then disarms. Hankey was to achieve his greatest success with what were called ‘Letters from the Front’ in which he too attempted to voice his frustrations with not one, but two systems, the Church of England and the Regular Army. , the ‘Student’ presents a consolatory view of suffering. So buttonholing was the language of Hankey’s wartime ‘letters’ that his death in action drew letters in which reader after reader speaks of feeling as if he or she has lost a friend.
They have been returned to him by the widow of a friend, Herbert, an author who had died in some form of self-imposed exile on Madeira (like Mauritius an island). B. describes himself as ‘very near the end of my tether’; he is a literary-minded schoolmaster in a games-mad, philistine educational system which he detests. Hankey’s ‘Student’ feels the same about ‘bull’ in the Army, and about ‘medieval dogma’ in the Church of England. Even in self-doubt a way forward may be found, however. B. and Herbert are two sides of Benson, a writer whose fearsome literary productivity was fuelled by a lifelong manic depression.