Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The Mysterious Death of Hubert Crackanthorpe
One way or another I have been plunged back into the 1890s this week included being reminded about young Mr Crackanthorpe by the passage across my desk of this wonderful 1893 piece of book production (above), Crackanthorpe's first book, Wreckage. It was very well received and Crackanthorpe began generating for himself quite the reputation as an extremely talented writer. Like many of the literary characters of the 1890s however, Crackanthorpe was living a fairly unconventional lifestyle. His marriage, at the age of 23, proved to be difficult and he separated from his wife and fled to Venice where he shacked up with Richard Le Gallienne's sister Sissie Welch. He was then reconciled briefly to his wife who had also taken a lover during their separation and all four began an uncomfortable life in Paris that was doomed to failure from the start. Crackanthorpe's wife eventually walked out and headed back to England leaving Crackanthorpe in Paris.
What happened next is not known. Crackanthorpe disappeared and a after a few weeks a notice appeared in the press which seemed to assume his death. In this short clipping that I found inside this copy of the book you will see that The Sketch gossip columnist wonder aloud why someone should be presumed dead with no real evidence but unfortunately for this writer who was fully expecting to meet Crackanthorpe again sometime, the young man's body was pulled from the waters of the Seine the day after this little note was published, on Christmas Eve 1896. It isn't known if he committed suicide or was the victim of violence.
It's easy to romanticise the short, beautiful life, particularly when that life is part of a narrative around a group like the decadents of the 1890s. In reality though this was, of course, just a human tragedy like any other leaving people bereft, confused and grieving.