Finding Francis Urquhart and Michael Sadleir

Years ago, through the marvellous “Florence 1900” by Bernd Roeck, I found out about the Gabinetto Vieusseux in Florence – a private, subscription-only reading room and also a mandatory pitstop for the civilised, turn of the century traveller. I found their old registry books online recently and once in a while I randomly pick a month and year and go through the page to try to find anyone I might have heard of.

Papini at Vieusseux

©Gabinetto Vieusseux, original here.
Giovani Papini’s address and 3 month subscription, October 1910

(I have found Giovani Papini!)

Urquhart and Sadler in the Gabinetto Vieusseux Regisitry book

©Gabinetto Vieusseux, original here.
Urquhart and Sadler from Balliol, Oxford, September 1910

Possibly because it reminded me of the eponymous character – an academic as well -in  “The Cornish Trilogy” by Robertson Davies, reading the name of a Urquhart from Balliol, Oxford gave me pause. The two turned out to be unrelated but what an interesting character this real life Urquhart was. Francis Fortescue Urquhart lived most of his life at Balliol College, eventually becoming a Dean, and “his main role… was social rather than pedagogical”[1]. I imagine him as the larger than life academic type you see in old Evelyn Waugh-ish English movies set in Universities, throwing parties and elegant soirées in his rooms for both pleasure and edification. His main interests were in art and architecture and he would take a few chosen students to tour Europe with him in the summer. He owned a chalet in the Alps where he held reading and swimming vacations for Oxford students. He loved beautiful boys and took many photographs of them but “was celibate” -which I am not sure what it means because ever since learning that MR James was also “celibate” but participated in groping parties in Cambridge where the boys would masturbate each other[2], I fear Bill Clinton wasn’t the first to try to get away with a narrow definition of sexual relations.

M.Sadler in Urquhart Photo Album

©Balliol Archives and Manuscripts on Flickr, original here.
M. Sadler in one of Urquhart’s Photo Albums

So, I presumed this MTH Sadler from Balliol who was with Urquhart (his name is written in the same handwriting) was probably a Balliol favourite of his. It was a bit hard to track him down because he changed his name later on to Michael Sadleir. His father was also Michael Sadler, a university chancellor and education theorist, and he was probably not keen on being mistaken for his son who became a novelist writing shocking stories involving prostitutes and the Victorian underworld. Well, Sadleir was himself quite a multi faceted and learned man so it is no wonder Urquhart chose him as a touring companion to the Florentine sights. Sadleir was an art lover and, with his father, amassed a collection of German expressionist paintings in the early 20th century and was the first translator of Kandinsky’s “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”. He assisted John Middleton Murry in editing the modernist magazine Rhythm in 1911 and wrote articles on ground breaking art for the same magazine. Maybe Urquhart was taking Sadleir into the heart of the Renaissance to get his mind off the abstract, modernist rubbish.

©Modernist Journals Project, original here. Sadleir's article on the first issue of Rhythm, Summer 1911

©Modernist Journals Project, original here.
Sadleir’s article on the first issue of Rhythm, Summer 1911

In 1912, soon after leaving college, Sadleir became a publisher at Constable, a job he held until he retired. Among other literary interventions and discoveries, he made Jean Rhys cry because he insisted on her changing the ending of “Voyage in the Dark” – he wanted the heroine to survive the abortion rather than die. There seems to be endless feminist literary theory writing about the significance of this event.

He was a learned book collector – he became President of the Bibliographical Society and director of The Book Collector magazine – and had one of the most impressive collections of gothic literature in the country. Instead of aiming to buy famous, collectable editions, he was a curiosity hunter and was the first one to prove that the Gothic novels mentioned in Northanger Abbey were not just dramatic titles invented by Jane Austen but real ones – copies of which he unearthed. He specialised also in Victorian fiction and was possibly responsible for a revival of interest in Anthony Trollope – for which I am eternally grateful and in total agreement with Alec Guinness[3].

And, coincidence of coincidences, Michael Sadleir had a house not far from where I live and was buried in a cemetery only a few miles away. As if I needed a better excuse to go grave hunting once again.

Michael Sadleir's grave at Bisley Cemetery. ("Bibliographer and Author, died greatly loved")

Michael Sadleir’s grave at Bisley Cemetery. (“Bibliographer and Author, died greatly loved”)

Througham Court, a Jacobean farm house owned by Sadleir in the outskirts of Bisley, Gloucestershire.

Througham Court, a Jacobean farm house owned by Sadleir in the outskirts of Bisley, Gloucestershire.

The things you can discover these days without moving your behind from a sofa – except that the interior of the cemetery isn’t on Google street view and nobody has entered Sadleir into, otherwise…


(click on footnote number to return to post)

[1] From Urquhart’s short bio at Balliol College. Source.
[2] Blame Mark Gatiss and his MR James documentary on the BBC for this prurient bit of trivia. Source.
[3] Quoted in the Trollope Society website, Sir Alec Guinness wrote:

“A wise man told me I would learn more about life from a great novelist than from any other source. I did not believe him. Now I wouldn’t dream of going on holiday without a Trollope. He has enlarged my world.”


Stalking Dead People, a work in progress

(this is the continuation of a post on a previous blog back from when I was – for no good reason other than time travel gossip and social history – stalking Nevada Stoody Hayes, the american socialite who married the exiled uncle of the last king of Portugal in 1917 among other adventures)

Nevada kept travelling between New York, London, Madrid, Rome and Paris and I had already searched the American and English society pages in order to track her movements but I hadn’t look into the French newspapers which are now available online on Gallica, neither the online hemeroteca of the National Library of Spain.

Here goes:

La Epoca, May 11th – There is a rumour that the Duke of Oporto will soon wed a rich niece of the Duchess of Alvarez de Toledo.
La Correspondencia de Espana, May 25th – There is a rumour the Duke of Oporto will marry the eldest daughter of the Dukes de Montpensier.
LA Epoca, August 11th – Due to his shrinking fortune, the Duke of Oporto has dissolved the small court of Portuguese aristocrats who followed him to Naples. He is to meet his nephew, D. Manuel at Aix les Bains. It is unknown if the Duke will go on living at the Naples Royal Palace on King Victor Emanuel III’s authorisation.

Figaro, August 15th – Mrs Von Valkenburgh attended dinner on the yacht of Baron Henri de Rotschild in Deauville/Trouville.
Figaro, August 16th – Mrs Van Volkenburgh spotted in Deauville, wearing black and white pekinois and roses on her hat.
Figaro, August 18th – Sat on the reserved tribune at the Deauville hippodrome with other aristocrats and socialites.
Figaro, August 21st – Seen at the golf, in Deauville.
Figaro, August 22nd – Madame Philippe Van Volkenburgh is going to Dinard.
Figaro, Sep 30th – Mrs Von Volkenburgh was at the Longchamps races, wearing mostly beige and furs.
Figaro, Oct 7th – Mrs Von Volkenburgh was at the Longchamps races, wearing mostly beige and feathers.
Figaro, Oct 21st – Mrs Von Volkenburgh was at the Longchamps races, wearing mostly black and fox furs.
Figaro, Nov 11th – Mrs Van Volkenburg at the Auteuil races wearing beige velvet.

Figaro, June 2nd – Mrs Von Volkenburgh was at the Longchamps races, wearing mostly green.

Figaro, January 19th – An elegant dinner, followed by a ball was given by Mrs Van Volkenburgh, a charming American who has been staying in Paris, at the Hotel Meurice. (a list of aristocratic sounding guests is given)
Figaro, January 22nd – It was the Dowager Princesse de Faucigny-Lucinge who was at the Hotel Meurice soiree organised by Mrs Von Valkenburgh and not the Princesse De Faucigny-Lucinge.
Figaro, January 23rd – The Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld wasn’t at the Volkenburgh dinner. (Uh oh, that list of aristocrats might have been slightly embellished after all)
Figaro, February 11th – Mrs Von Volkenburgh has left Paris for New York where she will be staying for a few weeks.
Figaro, July 3rd – Mrs Von Valkenburgh has organised a dinner in honor of HRH the Duke of Oporto who is passing by Paris. The guests were princesses and also Miss Fanny Reed.

La Correspondencia Militar, July 22nd – A communication from Rome brings the information that the queen, her eldest daughter the princess Yolanda and the Duke of Oporto have gone to meet the King of Italy at the front of the War.

Figaro, August 6th – In Naples, the engagement of HRH the Duke of Oporto to Mrs Van Volkenburgh was announced. She was the widow of William H Chapman of New York who left her 10 million dollars. Her second husband whom she divorced, Mr Van Volkenburgh is a well known banker. She has many friends in Paris and in Rome.
Figaro, August 28th – The Duke of Oporto has married Mrs Van Valkenburgh at the American Methodist Church in Rome. The witnesses were the secretary and the vice consul of the USA embassy.
Le Gaulois, Oct 9th – the newly weds Duke and Duchess of Oporto have gone to New York after spending a few days in Paris.
La Epoca, October 13th – The Duke and Duchess have arrived in Madrid and are at the Ritz. They are on their way to the USA.
La Epoca, Oct 28th – The Duke of Oporto has been suffering from ill health and has been confined to the Ritz.
La Epoca, Oct 30th – The Duke, his health restored, and the duchess were at a reception at the Ritz for the Duchess of Uzes.
El Sol, Dec 24th – The Duke of Oporto has left for Granada after being retained in Sevilla for a few days due to his wife’s illness.

La Correspondencia, Jan 18th – The Duke and Duchess of Oporto are in Ronda.
El Dia, February 23rd – The Duke and his wife are spending a few days in Tanger.
El Heraldo de Madrid, March, 17th – After an excursion through Tanger and Andalucia, the dukes are back in Madrid at the Ritz.
Le Gaulois, March 23rd – The Duke and Duchess of Oporto were spotted at Gibraltar.
La Correspondencia, April 28th – The Duke and Duchess have left for Biarritz.
Le Gaulois, October 13th – The Duke and Duchess of Oporto will order a mass to be said at Naples next Wednesday in honour of the birthday of the late mother of the Duke, Queen Maria Pia.

La Accion, Dec 4th – The Duke is very ill in Italy.

Figaro, Feb 22nd – The Duke of Oporto is dead in Naples after having suffered from nephritis for a while now. He had married Mrs Van Valkenburgh some years ago and she has been his faithful companion to the end.
El Sol, April 30th – The Duchess has entered London after spending some days at Windsor Palace (first time I hear of this…)
Le Gaulois, May 27th – The Duchess of Oporto is on her way to Madrid and Naples after some days spent in Paris.
La Correspondencia, May 28th – The Duchess is staying at the Ritz in Madrid.
La Libertad, June 8th – The Duchess visited the pantheon in Lisbon having deposited flowers in the tombs of D. Carlos and D. Felipe.
Le Gaulois, Oct 19th – Among russian nobility, the Duchess of Oporto attended the mass for the repose of the soul of the Grande Duchesse Vladimir at the Russian church in the Rue de Longchamp, Nice.

Le Gaulois, Feb 19th – Next Saturday a mass will be celebrated on the 1st anniversary of the Duke of Oporto’s death at the Spanish church in Rue de La Pompe. The widow will be at a mass in Naples at the same time. Masses will be said in Lisbon, Madrid, Nice and Goa.
Figaro, March 10th – The Duchess of Oporto arrived in Paris.
Figaro, March 13th – The Duchess has arrived in Paris from Naples.
Figaro, March 20th – The Duchess is in London.
Figaro, April 10th – The Duchess of Oporto is, with the help of some remarkable Portuguese celebrity (?), to publish a book of memoirs and anecdotes of her late husband, the Duke, in London.
Figaro, May 15th – The Duchess departs for New York on June 1st.
Figaro, Sept 5th – A telegram from Naples announces the Duchess of Oporto’s arrival there.
Figaro, Oct 19th – The Duchess of Oporto arrived in Rome from Naples.
Figaro, Dec 14th – The Duchess of Oporto, accompanied of her maid of honour Princess Pignatelli (possibly Conchita Pignatelli, the gossip columnist?), has arrived in Lisbon for the memorial mass for her late husband, the Duke of Oporto.
Figaro, Dec 18th – The Duchess acquired a beautiful work of art (coffin, mausoleum?) in memory of her husband who is to be buried in the National Pantheon thanks to the efforts of the Duchess.

Figaro, Jan 5th – The Duchess of Oporto has arrived in Madrid.
Figaro, Feb 3rd – The remains of the Duke of Oporto have arrived in Lisbon on a military frigate from Bizerte (??). The Duchess was already there and the Duke had a state funeral having been buried alongside the deceased king Carlos, his brother.
Figaro, April 27th – The Duchess has left Lisbon for Madrid.
Figaro, May 10th – The Duchess left Madrid for New York on hearing the news of her father’s death.
Figaro, July 4th – Duchess of Oporto, Princesse de Braganca, has arrived in Paris.
Figaro, July 20th – The Duchess of Oporto has arrived in Paris from Naples, heading to London.
Figaro, July 23rd – The Duchess has arrived in London – from Paris and Naples.
Figaro, August 5th – Nevada was among the present at the funeral mass of the prince Philippe de Bourbon- Bragance, Count of Aquila, at the church of St Honore d’Eylau.
Figaro, August 18th – News from New York announce the death of Madame Waysse(?), the mother of the Duchess of Oporto.
Figaro, August 24th – The Duchess of Oporto is in New York where she is with her ailing mother. (not even the people who wrote these announcements read them, apparently).
Figaro, September 5th – The Duchess received the news of the death of her mother while still on the ship Mauritania even before arriving in New York. (no idea!)
Figaro, October 13th – The Duchess of Oporto has boarded the Berengaria in New York; she is on her way to London.
Figaro, October 24th – The Duchess has arrived in London – from New york.
Figaro, Nov 10th – The Duchess has arrived in Paris – from London.
Figaro, Nov 26th – The Duchess of Oporto is staying at the Hotel Meurice in Paris and she has been rather ill.
Figaro, Dec 4th – Good news regarding the Duchess of Oporto’s health: she had her first outing in a while, having had lunch at the Ritz with intimate friends.
Figaro, Dec 20th 1922 – Yesterday, at noon, The Duchess of Oporto left Paris for London.

La Libertad, February 6th – The Duchess was in Portugal where she was well received by the Republican government and despite the Monarchists not recognising her as a Princess of Portugal. She had a meeting with the Minister of Finance and she was granted the property of her husband’s valuables abandoned in the Palace when the royal family was exiled.
Le Gaulois, Dec 9th – The Duchess of Oporto, the marquis of Vitteleschi and his wife were guests at a dinner organised by Mme Alastair Cameron.
La Voz, April 23rd – The Duchess refuses to pay the inheritance tax due on her husband’s property, mainly works of art.

Figaro, Feb 25th – The Duchess has arrived yesterday in Paris from New York.
Figaro, March 7th – The Duchess of Oporto has arrived in Monaco.
Figaro, April 2nd – Duchess was at the Ambassadors gala dinner in Monte Carlo.
Figaro, April 6th – Duchess was at the gala dinner at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.
Figaro, April 15th – The Duchess was present at a “delighful” lunch and musical entertainment organized by Mr Osborne O’Hagan at Casa del Mare in at Roquebrune, between Menton and Monte Carlo. (Le Gaulois adds that Mary Lewis was part of the musical entertainment)
Le Gaulois, July 12th – The Maharajah of Kapurthala gave an elegant garden party at his home in Longchamp at which *everybody* was present, including the Duchess of Oporto. At the end of the party there was a tennis match between the Wimbledon champion Borotra and MM Brugnon, Feret and Danne.
Le Gaulois, July 16th – Many dinner parties are being organised by and for the Americans visiting Paris. The Duchess was at a dinner thrown by Mme Peter Larson which was also attended by William Eno, traffic control pioneer, who probably invented the roundabout and the stop sign.
Figaro, August 8th – The Duchess is on holiday at Cowes.
Figaro, August 14th – The Duchess has arrived in Paris coming from Norfolk.
Figaro, August 19th – The Duchess will depart on the Berengaria to New York where she will stay for 3 weeks. On the same boat will be the Prince of Wales on an official visit to the USA.
Le Gaulois, Nov 11th – The Duchess of Oporto is expected in Paris, arriving from New York.
Figaro, Nov 18th – The Duchess has arrived in Paris.
Le Gaulois, Dec 22nd – The Duchess left Paris for San Remo where she will be hosted by the Comtesse Calvi during the holidays season.

Le Gaulois, Jan 8th – The Duchess is arrived in Cannes for the season.
La Voz, February 23rd – The Duchess is off to Paris after having gone to Portugal to liquidate her husband’s inheritance affairs.
Le Gaulois, March 20th – The Duchess is recently arrived in Cannes.
Le Gaulois, April 1st – The Duchess has arrived in Monte Carlo.
Le Petit Parisien, April 26th – A 318 pearl, 120 cm long necklace worth 800k francs was stolen under mysterious circumstances. It belonged to the Marquise de Maleissye and she was wearing it at her Villa Hermitage in Cap-d’ail, Nice, during a brilliant reception she organised in honour of the Princesse Bragance, Duchess of Oporto. The reception was attended by portuguese officials participating in the horse trials. The Marquise took off her necklace when she went to bed and when she woke up the next morning it was gone from her bedroom.
Le Gaulois, July 9th – A brilliant reception was given at the Chateau de Kerstears in Brest by the Comtesse de Rodellec du Porzic in honour of the Admiral Dumesnil and the mediterranean fleet. The Duchess of Oporto is staying at the chateau as a guest and was one of the 400 present at the reception.
Le Gaulois, Oct 9th – A briliant dancing dinner at the Ritz. Present were the King Manoel of Portugal and many other aristocrats and socialites. The Duchess was also present. (possibly not at the same table as the royal family didn’t approve of the Duke’s marriage)
Le Gaulois, Oct 10th – The Duchess of Oporto is in Paris. As are the Aga Khan and Lady Curzon.
Le Gaulois, Nov 23rd – The Duchess of Oporto attended the charity ball at the Ritz, among russian nobility, in benefit of the russian children at the asylum of St Germain en Laye.

Le Gaulois, April 15th – The Duchess has arrived in Paris.
Le Gaulois, May 12th – The Maharaja of Rajpipla has given a dinner attended by the Maharajah of Kapurthala, the duchess of Oporto, the Hon. Mrs Greville, baron and baroness Fouquier (critic and president of the Academie des Oenophiles), the Indian tennis player Sirdar Dass (there was something about tennis players making it to maharajas parties), etc.
Le Gaulois, May 15th – There was a brilliant costume ball where everyone was wearing Louis XV dresses thrown by Mr. Leo Tecktonius (musician from a wealthy american family who eventually started a Parisian style salon at Delmonico’s). Prince Aagen of denmark, the Duchess of Oporto and a lot of american sounding names were in attendance.
Le Gaulois, May 23rd – Elegant dinner hosted by the Peruvian minister and Mme Cornejo, attended by the maharaja Kapurthala, the Duchess of Oporto, the prince and princess Petrocockino, etc.

Le Gaulois, Jan 14th – The Duchess of Oporto was spotted at the casino in Cannes.

Le Gaulois, Jan 3rd – The Duchess was one of the celebrities at the new year’s eve party at the Ambassadeurs restaurant at the casino in Cannes. The Minister of Peru was also there as was the Baroness Van Heeckeren, a keen balloonist who owned her own balloon L’Esperance.

Ambassades, May – Miss Vera Stanley Alder, a London native but a honorary citizen of Paris, Rome and Cannes has been painting, in a style typical of the anglo saxon tradition of portraiture, society ladies and famous celebrities. Among them is the Duchess of Oporto.
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La Epoca, March 23rd – The Duchess has arrived in Paris after a sojourn in Italy.
Le Populaire, March 3rd – Diamond bracelets belonging to the Duchess of Oporto were stolen while she travelled between Florida and New York. The bracelets were worth 500k francs and the diamonds came from the crown jewels of the late Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal. The police is looking for the perpetrators.

Le Temps, Aug 28th – In the chapel of the Villa St Michel, Rue de la Assomption, Paris, was celebrated a memorial mass of the Infante Don Gonzalo, son of Alfonso XIII. The Duchess of Oporto was present. (yet another victim of Queen Victoria’s bad blood)