Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Dear Rogue, edited by Katherine de Marne Werner

Katherine de Marne Werner, editor. My Dear Rogue: Sir Granville Bantock's Secret Romance that Influenced the Music of One of Britain's Greatest 20th Century Composers. Waitsfield, VT: Distinction Press, 2013. 329 pages. ISBN 9781937667108.

In 1936, Muriel Angus Mann met Sir Granville Bantock and commenced a relationship that lasted four years. Muriel was the 39-year old mother of three teenage daughters, and she was in the midst of a painful divorce. Granville was the 68-year old married father of four grown children, and not in the middle of a divorce. Highly energetic and charming, Granville began to court Muriel, meeting her family and promising her a future together.

Granville was a musician and music teacher who travelled the world conducting examinations for the Trinity College of Music in London. With their shared love of music, Granville and Muriel fell in love and corresponded faithfully for the next four years. Granville travelled to the United States a half dozen times during those years, conducting examinations up and down the Eastern seaboard and the Caribbean, and making time to meet with Muriel whenever he could. My Dear Rogue contains the letters that he wrote to Muriel during those years; unfortunately, her letters do not survive. Interspersed with his letters are some notes and commentary written by editor Werner's mother, Muriel's daughter Sis.

I found this book interesting as a study of the cultures and mores of the 1930s. The looming violence of World War II is always in the background, and in the end, prevents Muriel and Granville from meeting again. By 1940 Muriel has given up hope that they will ever marry, and she moves on to another relationship and marriage.

My Dear Rogue contains photographs taken of Granville and Muriel while visiting in South Carolina, as well as photos that Granville sent to Muriel of his travels around the world. It includes forewords written by two of Granville's grandchildren, as well as an afterword by a Bantock scholar. The afterword could have been better edited; I found numerous typographical errors in that section. Overall, though, this is an interesting story that evokes the time and society of 1930s South Carolina, with the shadow of the depression and European unrest always present.

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