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Writing From The Jaws Of Death - The First World War Diaries of E.W Hornung

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The Cavalry and Guards Club

127 Piccadilly

London

W1J 7PX

United Kingdom

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One hundred and twenty years ago, the imagination of the British public was caught by the appearance on the literary scene of the nonchalant, debonair figure of A J Raffles. Everyone has heard of Raffles, but E W Hornung, the master craftsman who created him, has gone from bestseller, to chiefly being known as the brother-in-law of Arthur Conan Doyle.

E.W. Hornung’s great great great niece, the novelist Kim Sherwood, will deliver a talk on how Hornung responded to the death of his only son, Oscar, in action in July 1915. Aged fifty-one – short sighted, asthmatic and slightly corpulent – Hornung left for France, volunteering at a YMCA Canteen a short distance behind the Front Line, in ‘the greatest glory of all my days – greater than I ever expected or deserved – just to be able to carry on for him like this.’ The war for Hornung is intensely personal, as he seeks out his son’s friends, and the children of friends back home, writing: ‘Such a nice boy – such a small war!’ Published for the first time, Writing from the Jaws of Death brings us Hornung’s ‘small war’, a new and significant window onto Hornung and his place in a changing world, as a generation of writers – from Rudyard Kipling to Arthur Conan Doyle – experienced unprecedented loss.

At the Front, Hornung takes on the role of carer, setting up a Rest Hut, a library where men ‘may really rest their bodies as well as their minds’ – men who ask when Hornung is away, ‘Where is Father?’ As the months pass, we see Hornung measure the value of words in war: ‘Has any civilian writer had a better chance than this in all this unending war?’ Hornung grapples with what that ‘chance’ might be, calling ‘story writing’ a ‘nursery-game’ next to the Big Push of 1918. Games have always been central to Hornung’s life and writing, and he longs here for the ‘simple play-the-game tradition’ of ‘old Public School men!’ Raffles glimmers in these pages, with a tantalising look at what spy-games Hornung would have plotted for the gentleman thief in the trenches.

Writing from the Jaws of Death provides an illuminating companion to the many selves of Raffles, as Hornung negotiates a new self, one forged by war and loss, a man who believes ‘fiction is just fiction’, a man who tells the soldiers what the war ‘has cost me, so that they may just know that it’s a sore heart which is in the whole thing.’ It is an extraordinary measure of Hornung, and his time, that he also assures his listeners that he does not grudge ‘the sacred Cause’ ‘my only child’. Marked by a boundless energy, in turn moving, harrowing, and deftly comic, Hornung gives us ‘humanity naked’, and finds in it solace and joy.

Kim Sherwood is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of the West of England. Her debut novel, Testament, will appear in July 2018 with riverrun/Quercus.

For more information please visit - www.memorialsforakingandacountry.co.uk/

This event will be held at the Cavalry & Guards Club, www.cavgds.co.uk on Thursday 8 February 2018 at 7 p.m.

Tickets to include a reception after the talk are £20 per person.

All proceeds will go towards the War Memorial Windows being dedicated to the Portuguese fallen of the First World War, and to the last King of Portugal. This event forms part of a programme of several educational events being held throughout 2018, to remember Portugal’s contribution in the First World War, “Memorials for a King and a Country.”

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The Cavalry and Guards Club

127 Piccadilly

London

W1J 7PX

United Kingdom

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Refunds up to 30 days before event

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