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From Peter's Morgue: "Amhuinnsuidh, a vast mansion in the island of Harris, built in what Osbert Lancaster might describe as Stockbrokers’ Scotch Baronial style, was taken by J.M.B. for the summer holidays of that year . The cost must have been fabulous. The fishing was to match. Among those w(Read More)
From Peter's Morgue:
"Amhuinnsuidh, a vast mansion in the island of Harris, built in what Osbert Lancaster might describe as Stockbrokers’ Scotch Baronial style, was taken by J.M.B. for the summer holidays of that year . The cost must have been fabulous. The fishing was to match. Among those who came to stay were Alf [A.E.W.] Mason, E.V. Lucas and his wife, Lord Lucas (no relation), Nurse Loosemore, and the Hawkinses: Anthony Hope and his wife and their two young children.
George (aged 19) was extremely intrigued by Lady Hawkins, and I think this was his first, and probably his last, experience of the delights of a flirtation with an attractive femme du monde. I also doubt whether Betty Hawkins ever had a more attractive adolescent to play with. They enjoyed themselves quite a lot, sheltering from the eternal rain in the fishing-huts by the side of those lonely romantic lochs. She was very easy on the eye, and American, which perhaps accounts for the circumstances, rare enough in those far off days, that occasional nips of whisky fed the flames of dalliance. I envied from afar on these occasions, and George forcibly taught me the elements of tact, i.e. the necessity of the making myself scarce, and I envied from afar, being just at the stage when poor J.M.B. had had to give me, by the banks of the burn, a small talking to for indulging at Eton in what my tutor euphemistically termed water-closet talk. He very nearly penetrated my juvenile defences by telling me it had always been his view that a man without some element of coarseness in his nature was not a whole man, which much disconcerted me, coming from him. But I don’t think he knew what was afoot between George and Betty: not that it probably amounted to anything.
I also remember vividly an occasion when some doubtless intolerable bickering and obstreperousness among “the boys” drove Anthony Hope into a fury, so that he cursed us roundly. There is no need to attribute this either to any knowledge on his part as to his wife’s little tendresse for George, when we bear in mind his celebrated cri de coeur, at the first night of “Peter Pan” – “Oh, for an hour of Herod!”
[AB: I wish I could add more information about the intriguing Betty Hawkins, but having scoured the internet, all I can find are the bald facts that she was born Elizabeth Somerville Sheldon in 1886 in New York and died in 1946. She and Anthony Hope (1863-1933) were married in 1903 and had three children: two sons and a daughter. In his autobiography, Hope mentions her only once: “I had to sail home [from New York] in the middle of April . … Besides all that I carried in my memory, there sailed in the same boat the American girl who a few months later became my wife.” So Betty was 22 years younger than Hope – and 7 years older than George, she being 28 in the summer of 1912. Their dalliance seems to have continued beyond the Hebridean holiday, for in January 1913, George’s grandmother Emma wrote to her daughter May, “George left this morning as Mrs Anthony Hope is taking him to a theatre tonight. I am not sure that I like George to see so much of her.” And in February 1914, Barrie was writing to George, “Jack was here the week-end but I barely saw him as he was so much taken up with–– mostly with the Hawkins’s I think. Ah, look out for your laurels!”
Later [4 Feb 2021]: My resourceful Atlantan sleuth Robert Foreman has sent a slew of press cuttings relating to the said Betty - or Bettie - including a less-than flattering photo. The Greenville News from South Carolina adds these tantalising details:
"Mrs Hawkins is about 22 years old, petite, a good musician and horse woman, and a lover of outdoor exercise. She is famed as a conversationalist, and speaks several languages. Her great native wit and brilliancy have been cultivated in the very best society in England and on the continent. It has been said that in her, Mr Hawkins has found the embodiment of his delicious Dolly, given worldwide popularity in his clever “Dolly Dialogues“.
Miss Elizabeth (Bettie) Sheldon intended to follow her sister, Miss Suzanne Sheldon, on the stage, but the latter would not permit it, sending her to live for a time with friends in Surrey. Soon after she gave up going on the stage it was rumoured that she was to wed the celebrated novelist, and next the engagement was announced."
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