Date Published: 1960 to 1976
Binding: No binding
William Gerhardi, later 1971, Gerhardie, was an Anglo-Russian playwright and novelist. At the beginning of his career, he was the toast of literary London and won praise from Evelyn Waugh, H.G. Wells, Edith Wharton, and other notable authors. The reaction of the general public never approached the literary response, however. In 1939, he stopped publishing. Thereafter, he lived in relative seclusion, although he told his friends that he was writing a novel entitled “The Present Breath”, a tetralogy in one volume (see correspondence below with Neville Braybrooke).
This collection includes 16 items dating from 1960 to 1976, specifically, 14 letters, 1 partial manuscript/typescript and 1 photo.
7 Letters (6 ALS and 1 TLS) and 1 partial ms/ts. to Neville Braybrooke (1923-2001), poet, novelist, essayist, biographer), 1960-2:
• ALS, 31 December 1960, 2 pp.;
• TLS, 16 June 1961, 1 p.;
• ALS, 27 July 1961, 1 p.;
• ALS, 12 October 1961, 2 pp.;
• ALS, 7 November 1961, 1 p.;
• ALS, 19 November 1961, 2 pp.;
• ALS, 11 December 1962, 1 p., notes on verso.
• Partial ms./ts. of “The Present Breath: A Tetralogy in One Volume”, 12 pp. (opening and closing of the book). Total 22 pp. Most of the correspondence pertains to “The Present Breath: A Tetralogy in One Volume”.
7 Letters (4 ALS and 3 TLS) to Hugh Massingham (1905-1971), journalist and writer), about articles commissioned, his past, his novels and method of working:
• TLS, 5 March 1967, 1 p.;
• TLS, 4 April 1967, 1 p.;
• ALS, 9 April 1967, 1 p.;
• TLS, 5 May 1967, 1 p.;
• ALS, 21 July 1967, 8 pp.;
• ALS, 16 January 1969, 3 pp.;
• ALS, 2 July 1971, 5 pp. Total 18 pp. Fold marks, slightly crumpled but text clear and complete. (5 March 1967) He suggests a “poignant and dramatic” article on the abdication of the last Tsar or an eye-witness account of the Russian Revolution (50th Anniversary), saying that he was in the British Embassy at Petrograd - which he should have gathered from his novel Futility, adding “there can't be many eye-witnesses of both Revolutions alive today”. He explains in a postscript his “reversion” to an “earlier ancestral spelling” of his name, with “e” added as in Shakespeare, Dante, etc. (4 April 1967) He responds enthusiastically and facetiously to a suggestion for articles, saying “I once wrote a commissioned article 'Mr Gerhardie Goes to the Opera' without altering a single word after I'd gone”. He suggests meeting at his flat, currently a shambles undergoing spring-cleaning. (9 April 1967) He arranges a meeting. (5 May 1967) He apologizes, describing Massingham as his “new Maecenas” and accepting his offer. He mentions something casting a shadow, that he was advised by Arnold Bennett “to part with the British Serial Rights alone. But suppose we adhere to the wording of R.S. Thackeray in respect of my article 'When the Tsar's Hour Struck' .” He discusses his activity, preparation for an article “on the subject of Father and Son or Father and Parents, for which I intended as a motto-theme for my tetralogy of novels in progress.” He asks if he should continue preparing to entertain new ideas (21 July 1967, 8 pp.). He is making notes and other preparations for a “very vivid, unusual, rich article”. He's also making notes for a second article as yet not commissioned, considering the “Consequences of the Bolshevik Revolution as it affects the Western World”. He is also making notes for a third article, “Father and Son”. He expresses his pleasure in the work. He wonders if Massingham has approached an American publisher “to reprint my biographical history - the Romanoffs before I can produce a copy. Publishers, Panther, are stting on his only copy. “My stage play Rasputin is being televised”, and he is appearing in a TV interview “recounting my experiences in the Russian Revolution” (16 January 1969). He thinks “Payment without publication is insult without injury”, apparently in reproach for some treatment meted out by a Sunday newspaper. “I should have thought that a highly personal article from the most neglected writer of his time, who had met everybody, was what you really wanted?" (2 July 1971). He had suggested that Massingham who expressed “tender feelings” for Futility might like to review it. But he did not tell Gerhardie when he actually did so. He is upset. He tells of a Swedish Ph.D. student in his novel, other interest in Futility and Polyglots (for example. Anthony Powell, who criticized Edith Wharton's liking of Futility).
1 B&w photo:
• Gerhardi 80 years old, Universal Pictorial Press and Agency Limited, November 1975 / March 1976. 4 x 5 inches.
Collection on consignment with LDRB.