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George Calderon

(1868—1915) playwright


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(1868–1915) married (1900) Katherine Ripley née Hamilton. Fifth son of the painter Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833–98), he was educated at Rugby School and Trinity College, Oxford. He was called to the Bar (1894) and then, less conventionally, went to St Petersburg for two years (1895–97), working as a foreign correspondent and English teacher. He subsequently worked in the British Museum Library's Slavonic section (1900–3) and collected material for a projected book on Eastern European folklore. He was influential in bringing Russian literature to the attention of British critics; he translated Chekhov plays and published The Russian Stage (1912). His own series of plays began with The Fountain (1909). Earlier, however, he had published two novels. The Adventures of Downy V. Green, Rhodes Scholar at Oxford (1902) is a sequel to The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1853) by ‘Cuthbert Bede’ (i.e. Edward Bradley, 1827–89), in which an American descendant of the original green newcomer is gulled. Dwala (1904) is a satire about an anthropoid ape, the Missing Link, who learns to talk, comes to London as ‘Prince Dwala’, becomes Prime Minister, is unmasked, and dies of consumption. It is one of the most amusing of the many novels of this period which express anxiety about British political institutions by condemning the ease with which rich newcomers (especially Jewish, South African, or other foreign millionaires) could buy political power and social advancement in England. Calderon was an enthusiastic opponent of women's suffrage, and published two books on the issue. He enlisted in the First World War as an interpreter, was commissioned, and was killed during the Dardanelles campaign. A nostalgic memoir (1921) by Percy Lubbock (1879–1965) speaks warmly of Calderon's charm and ability. ‘Thickly as his path was strewn with books half written, schemes of all sorts projected and abandoned, [his] own work went forwards through everything, though the second half of the book might be replaced by a political campaign, and the campaign itself, after a round or two, lead into the production of a play.’

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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