Charles Morgan - Campden Hill Square, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.417 W 000° 12.078
30U E 694218 N 5709916
Quick Description: This English Heritage blue plaque, to Charles Morgan a novelist and critic, is attached to a house on the south east side of Campden Hill Square.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 9/29/2014 8:51:42 AM
Waymark Code: WMMJNY
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 0

Long Description:

The English heritage blue plaque tells us:

English Heritage

1894 - 1958
Novelist and Critic
lived and died

The Charles Morgan website tells us about the man:

Charles Langbridge Morgan was born on January 22nd, 1894 at Warreston, Rodway Road, Bromley, Kent, as the youngest of the four children of Sir Charles Langbridge Morgan (1855-1940) and Mary Morgan née Watkins, who died in 1907. CM’s parents had lived in Australia but returned to England; his father eventually became president of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Morgan entered the Royal Navy in 1907, at thirteen; he was educated at Osborne and Dartmouth, where he was cadet captain. He then went to sea as a young midshipman, and served in the Atlantic Fleet, and later on the ‘China Station’ in the Far East. His first ship was H.M.S. Good Hope, where he suffered the relentless hazing of young midshipmen then common in the Service: this is described in his first novel, The Gunroom.

Later he was transferred to H.M.S. Monmouth, where his superior officer, Christopher Arnold-Forster, provided a kindlier atmosphere and encouraged Morgan’s steadfast desire to be a writer. Arnold-Forster, who was the great-grandson of Dr Arnold of Rugby School, believed in Morgan, and the two became fast friends.

Morgan’s father helped him to resign from the Navy in 1914, and he was entered for Brasenose College, Oxford, for the autumn of that year. After the outbreak of war, however, he rejoined the Navy and was sent as a subaltern with the hastily-formed Naval Brigades to the defence of Antwerp. In a confused and catastrophic four-day action, Morgan’s Hawke Battalion found itself first lost, then across the border in neutral Holland, where officers and men were interned in Groningen. Those officers who would not give their word not to attempt to escape were then sent to the ancient and secure fort at Wierickerschans near Bodegraven, a fortress on an artificial island. Here he stayed for around a year, before he and some fellow-officers were released on parole and went to live on the estate of Roosendaal Castle, the home of the aristocratic Van Pallandt family. Both the fort and the castle figure in Morgan’s 1932 novel The Fountain, although the Van Leyden family there portrayed is fictional. It was here that he was introduced to the French language and civilisation then still common in Dutch aristocratic circles, and which became for him a lifelong love. It was here also that he wrote the first draft of The Gunroom.

Morgan was interned in Holland until 1917, after which he was allowed to go on leave to England. While crossing to England, however, his ship was sunk and all his belongings with it, including the manuscript of the novel. Leave was extended, and he rewrote The Gunroom; he was in England when the Armistice was signed. In 1919, after some time in hospital, he saw The Gunroom published by A & C Black, and took his place at Brasenose, reading History and becoming president of OUDS, the university Dramatic Society, where he produced Hardy’s The Dynasts and met the author. Through OUDS he met the dramatic critic of The Times, A.B. Walkley, who gave him a job on the editorial staff. After five years, Walkley died, and Morgan took his place as the newspaper’s chief theatre critic.

An intense and reciprocated attachment to Mary Mond, daughter of Alfred Mond, Lord Melchett, was broken up by Lady Melchett who sent her daughter to India where she married another. Morgan, deeply affected by this, eventually met a Welsh fellow novelist, Hilda Campbell Vaughan, two years older than himself, and married her in 1923. Living in More’s Garden, a block of flats on the Embankment in Chelsea, they had two children, Elizabeth Shirley, born in 1924 (since 1948 Marchioness of Anglesey), and Roger, born in 1926, later Librarian of the House of Lords.

During this time Morgan published his second novel, My Name is Legion (1925), which introduces a number of the themes developed in his later work, and in which we can see his characteristic prose style beginning to develop. It is an uneven work, and he himself said that the man who completed it was not the same as he who had begun it four years earlier. Later he regarded it as an apprentice work and, though he never repudiated it, never urged that it be reprinted.

His first major success was Portrait in a Mirror (1929), originally called First Love, the Bildungsroman of a young painter, which won the Prix Femina-Vie Heureuse the following year. By now Morgan was a successful novelist, and the family moved to a tall house at no. 16, Campden Hill Square in Holland Park. Here Charles and Hilda each had a workroom on the remodelled top floor, and here Charles completed his next novel, The Fountain (1932). This was an even greater best-seller than Portrait, being selected as the Book of the Month in America and selling over 100,000 copies – somewhat to the author’s surprise, as it is a novel about a man’s search for what he called ‘singleness of mind’, one of Morgan’s abiding subjects. The Fountain won the Hawthornden Prize in 1933, and Morgan at once began work on another long novel, Sparkenbroke (1936), which unites his three great preoccupations, as he put it to George Moore: ‘Art, Love, and Death’. Meanwhile, he had intended to write a biography of the novelist George Moore, but owing to Lady Cunard’s refusal to allow him access to her correspondence with Moore had to settle instead for a shorter but elegant and affectionate essay, Epitaph on George Moore (1935).  Morgan now tried his hand at writing, as well as reviewing, drama, and wrote a play, The Flashing Stream, with a prefatory essay ‘On Singleness of Mind’. It was produced in London in 1938.

As the Second World War began, Morgan was at work on a novel set in late 19th-century rural France, The Voyage, which was published in 1940, dedicated (without dangerously naming names) to his great French friends, Jacques and Germaine Delamain, the latter being his remarkable French translator.

Morgan spent most of the war in London working for Naval Intelligence and writing. His first short novel, The Empty Room, came out in 1941, and two selections of his weekly columns for the Times Literary Supplement, ‘Menander’s Mirror’, were published as Reflections in a Mirror, first and second series, in 1944 and 1946 respectively.  One essay was on the idea ‘that France is an idea necessary to civilisation’, and his involvement with France was intensified as that country’s troubles grew. In 1942 he wrote an Ode to France; and when in September 1944 the Comédie française was reopened, Morgan was asked to read his Ode from the stage – a moment Paul Valéry remembered as unforgettably moving in his Preface to The Voyage’s French translation two years later.

In 1947 Morgan continued his format of the shorter novel with The Judge’s Story, a captivating Miltonic tale of good and evil, of temptation and deliverance. Two years later he wrote a novel about the French Resistance and its ‘passing’ of downed British airmen, The River Line, and subsequently rewrote this as a play, performed in 1952. Another feature of Morgan’s postwar work was his increasing preoccupation with totalitarianism and its conjunction of science with control: this found expression in a 1951 book of essays, Liberties of the Mind and in The Burning Glass, his last play, published in 1953.

He was not completely dominated by these fears, and one of his finest short novels, A Breeze of Morning, about an adult love affair witnessed by a young boy, came out in 1951. His final novel, Challenge to Venus, featuring an Englishman in Italy and revisiting in brief some of the themes of The Fountain, appeared in 1957.

Charles Morgan’s love of France was reciprocated: he had been made an officer of the Légion d’honneur in 1936, and five years after his appearance on the reopened stage of the Théâtre français he was made a member of the Institut de France, the body of which the Académie française is also a part. This induction, wearing the habit vert, the Institut’s magnificent embroidered uniform, was perhaps the proudest moment of his life: the hilt of his ceremonial sword showed the tomb if Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia in the cathedral at Lucca, mentioned in Sparkenbroke.

Though Morgan’s work was read with attention and affection by many British readers, his greatest successes were abroad, especially in America and France. He was a Romantic, and claimed to be a Platonist: his influences include his wife’s ancestor, the seventeenth-century visionary Welsh poet Henry Vaughan, the Romantic poets, especially Keats; and George Meredith. His distinction as a writer was twofold: in the first place the novels lead the reader through extraordinarily vivid descriptive passages to characters distinguished not only by action and emotion but also by thought; secondly, the craftsmanship of his prose was unequalled if in no sense ‘modern’. No twentieth-century author worked with more absolute attention at the English language. A posthumous book of essays, The Writer and his World (1960) discusses this craft, to which he had devoted a lifetime and at which he had become a master. Among his acknowledged influences were the Book of Common Prayer, Keats’s letters, and the prose of Addison; he admired Churchill also.

Morgan was not at ease with a world of modern art founded on irony, and a culture of strident vulgarity. At no time is his work precious, but it is unabashedly distinguished.

Charles Morgan died of a bronchial ailment at his Campden Hill Square home on February 6th, 1958, at the age of 64. He is buried in Gunnersbury Cemetery in West London; his gravestone reads ‘Charles Morgan, Author, Membre de l’Institut de France’, followed by the following verses from Sparkenbroke:

Weep thine own exile, not my life.
With Earth for mother, Sleep for wife,
Here in the tomb is winter spring.
Who stays? A fool. Who knocks? A King.

Blue Plaque managing agency: English Heritage

Individual Recognized: Charles Morgan

Physical Address:
17 Campden Hill Square
London, United Kingdom

Web Address: [Web Link]

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