June 6, 2001
All genuine friends are treasures in life. Friends, along with beloved family members, make the world go round without a doubt. And every now and again, we discover a Magical Friend has come our way. Magical Friends are a particular variety. Meeting one is an uncommon and rare occurrences in our lives when one does come along, it is worth the task to make note of their impact on your life so that you can recall every contribution that has since come into your life because of them. In my life, my Magical Friend was a British gentleman who is considered to be the Father of the New Age Movement, as it is called, in England, Sir George Trevelyan. George came from a stately and noble family, but quickly discovered that he was far more comfortable "off the ground" than with the politics of the ground. He resided in the energetic domain of life far more than the physical, although that was a characteristic those around him noticed and one of which he was totally unaware. I melted when I met this man. In his early seventies by then, George has shoulder length thinning white hair and a voice that could match Richard Burton's - deep, dramatic, and ever so proper. George and I used to do workshops around England together - oh, if I only had time to share those adventures with you..... But on this one occasion, it had been about six months since we'd seen each other. Arriving at the Findorn Community in northern Scotland where I was to meet him (and where he most certainly is now a legend), as soon as we spotted each other, he extended his arms (while dressed in this black cap that only an older British gentleman could get away with wearing) and said, "Come into my arms, my dear, I've been waiting for the return of your company all day". Now come on......is that irresistible or what?
Recently I was contacted by a woman in England who is now compiling stories for a large number of us who were indeed honored to have known Sir George. I decided that I would like to share my recall of him with all of you because of two reasons: first, because I loved this man very much and he contributed more to my life than I will ever be able to measure. It was Sir George who first introduced me to "nature spirits", "wind sprites" and earth "salamanders"....the guardians of the earth world. Whether you believe it or not, they are real.....(and if you want, I'll do a piece on how to interact with them...and what they like and don't like...)
Secondly, I thought it would be nice to remind you that you might have a Magical Friend in your life that is worth noting. And if not, perhaps one that has already come and gone. And if not that, one will surely come down the road into your life. You might be another's Magical Friend as well. All of which is to say I consider that we have somewhat of an obligation to share with others just a bit of the grace and magic these people brought into our lives...we are meant to carry on their legacy, whether that be in how they taught us to appreciate life, or gave us hope, humor, inspiration. These are the gifts that create "legacies" in life - they have the electricity that can make us go the distance. So, in his honor, I am sharing the material I contributed to what is soon to become his Biography, followed by a chapter that gives his family background.
"I first met Sir George at the Findorn Community in northern Scotland in 1985. I was captivated by his mythic nature and elegant persona. And then there was his spirit, so gregarious and magical that it could not be contained in his aging body. He animated the world around in. People watched him with a quality of delight that was unearthly, as if they had finally encountered someone who truly lived half in this world and half with the angels. I believed that to be true about George, and that was why I loved him the instant I met him.
"I was honored to teach with Sir George on several occasions. For several years we did workshops together in southern England. George always began teaching in the morning, stirring the psyches and souls of the people in the room with his dramatic reading of spiritual poetry and electric sharing of the coming New Age of love and humanity. When it was my turn to teach, I definitely lowered the spiritual atmosphere in the room with my information about the relationship of our biography to our spiritual biology. More practical than George's whimsical musings, our combination was like strawberry jam on a scone. We adored each other's company. I never before or since my gifted time with George have I taught with someone who stopped in the middle of his recitation of poetry to announce that the nature god, Pan, had just entered the room. I bolted out of my chair and said, "Where is he?" Now the interesting part of this was that it never occurred to me that perhaps George was imagining Pan - I simply accepted that fact that the mythical God of the Forest had joined us. But on the other hand, what else is imagination if not the ability to leave this rational plane constructed out of our five senses and slip into the realm of spiritual life? I should have imagined more back then, because perhaps I would have actually seen Pan. A few years ago, in memory of my friendship with George, I commissioned a painting for my home. The subject of the painting is Mother Nature and Baby Pan. I bought it in honor of my love and memory of George.
"But our professional association is a small part of my memory of George. It was the behind the scenes adventures that endear him most to me, like the time we were speeding down the M4 highway. George suffered a loss of hearing which was quite substantial and he also loved to drive fast - very fast. I had taken my mother to England on this particular workshop trip with George and on our few days off, George, my mother, a wonderful friend named Rhoda, and I were passengers in this car that he turned into a "speeding bullet". I watched as my mom started to get curious about the speed we were traveling, her curiosity inspired by the fact that we were approaching the point at which objects on the side of the road were no longer recognizable. In a panic, she turned to look at me in the back seat and her glace communicated that she was about to disincarnate from fear - unless he helped the process first by hitting a tree. I leaned forward and said, "George, you have to slow down a bit. You're scaring my mother to death". Holding the wheel tightly with his arthritically tormented hands, he bellowed back to me, "What? Can't hear a thing. You'll have to wait until I slow down". To this day, my mom recalls that trip when she sees sports cars.
One time on another adventure, George told me that he was going to take me to where Camelot had been. I can't quite recall where this was, but as soon as we were out of his car....that precious car of his....he was bouncing through the forest. "It was here, can't you feel it?" I was positively enchanted in that moment. I can still see the color of the sun penetrated the green leaves, created a sun-green shadow that filled the silent forest that I had followed George into. The ground was moss damp with leaves and branches and the fragrance was rich with that quality of humid and rich earth. I loved the feeling - I loved it. I knew I was in the midst of a rare moment, with a rare human being, the combination of which would never come into my life again. I held on to that moment and committed everything I could to memory. I remember what George was wearing, I recall that it was 2 in the afternoon on that day; I remember that there was not one trace of wind. The silence was like a barrier between dimensions - this one and the age of Arthur. So extraordinary was that moment that if George had suddenly led me to Excalibur and told me in secret that he was King Arthur in disguise, I would have believed him.
But Camelot or not did not matter to me. I was playing in the forest with the most extraordinary human being - a man whose life was filled with rich contributions to humanity and privately, a great deal of pain. In his personal life, George knew what it was to be lonely, to love someone and lose that someone and to collapse under the strain of guilt, sorrow, and hurt. His delicate body bore the scar tissue of that experience, crippling him with arthritis and putting him in a wheel chair. Then he faced the choice that he would spend the rest of his life inspiring others to make - he would forgive himself, accept, surrender in faith, and move forward. He fought back armed with this fire in his soul and regained the use of his legs, though his feet and hands would remain forever bent, indicators that this man knew what it was to resurrect himself - the Self - and ascend to a new life.
"I'm at the part in this small recollection of George in which I must say something of his spiritual contribution to this planet. In this moment, I'm not sure how to summarize the measure of a spirit of his elegance and innocence. He truly had no sense of the negative side of humanity. He lacked a sense of the shadow. There wasn't a trace of the energy of greed, need for fame, recognition, or any hostile thought toward another in his energy field. He had no use for earthly belongings, not that there is one thing wrong with enjoying every single positive pleasure that life can offer us. Those concerns were simply no longer a part of his life. He was near eighty and had long passed the stressful years of survival concerns. And that lightness of heart was delicious to be around. Doubtless he had these normal life concerns when he was a younger man and had financial matters with his projects to contend with, but even then the grounded and practical level of life baffled him. He needed substantial "spiritual looking after", and so it was given to him. He was provided for as needed and that fact was a part of the magic that animated his energy field. George's spirit contained the experiences of a man who had to heal himself as well as someone who had to trust that all would be taken care of in his life.
"I am honored to have known him. When I think of the enchanting chapter of my life, he's a leading figure. When I think of the New Age and the voices who lead its entry, I think of him. When I think of how I came to know about nature spirits, Pan, and other creatures who govern the domain of plants, animals, and the sky and seas, I think of him. I took my first tumble "down the rabbit hole" with George. He was the Knight who took me to Camelot - and I shall love this Knight for all the days of my life".
SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN THE FAMILY
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us' our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
- William Wordsworth
The story of George Lowthian Trevelyan must begin with Wallington, the ancestral home of his family for nearly 300 years. This great country house was built in 1688 of local Northumbrian dark grey stones, well weathered from their use in forming a medieval tower on the same site. It is substantial, imposing, and self-assured. It is described architecturally as, "square in plan with four ranges 120 feet long around a central courtyard" ; and it stands in 13,000 acres of farm and moorland just 20 miles north of Hadrian's Wall. This is craggy, romantic, Walter Scott territory, with a history of clans and battles and Border raids, with long, straight roads, dark mountains, dramatic skies. Wallington is unusual for a house of its size in that you can see it from the road (albeit from a distance). It is heralded by four forbidding stone griffins' heads which gaze out from the eastern side of the lawn. They were carried as ship's ballast on a return voyage from London to the port of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The establishment is unequivocally grand, with its acres and estate workers' cottages and Palladian Clock Tower. Its statistics are grand: the original great hall was 44 feet long; on the northern side the estate extends for eight miles. Like most such houses it is stocked with family portraits and antiques; it even has a cabinet of curiosities collected by an idiosyncratic ancestor, Jane, Lady Wilson, of Charlton Park, Greenwich. This is what George Trevelyan was born to in 1906, it is what he effectively lost in his early twenties, and it was a powerful emotional influence that stayed with him all his life.
The house and estate were acquired by the West Country Trevelyans from the Northumbrian Blackett family through a marriage. The portraits of three centuries' tally of Trevelyans hang in the house; that of the third baronet of the first creation, Sir George Trevelyan of Nettlecombe in Somerset, explains the acquisition. In 1733, this Sir George married Julia Calverley, only daughter of Sir Walter Calverley and Julia Blackett. The Blacketts owned Wallington, and were substantial Northumbrian land-owners with lucrative lead mining, colliery and shipping interests. Sir George died in 1768 before he inherited Wallington, so it went to his eldest son, Sir John Trevelyan. George Lowthian Trevelyan was the fifth baronet of the second (northern) creation, following his father Charles Philips (born in 1870). For several generations, Trevelyan men were called alternately George and Charles. For the sake of clarity George Lowthian Trevelyan, the subject of this book, is called simply George, or later Sir George. Other Georges, such as his uncle the historian George Macaulay Trevelyan, take their second Christian name throughout.
The original, West Country Trevelyans had a romantic legend: they were believed to be descended from Sir Trevillian, one of the Knights of the famous Round Table of King Arthur. Their name and origin is Cornish. The legend is depicted on their coat of arms: a white horse rising from the sea. According to one version of this tale, all the knights were dining on St Michael's Mount when they made a wager that no-one could swim ashore to the mainland, and Sir Trevillian was the only one who succeeded. Another version directs the horse back to the Mount in a thrilling escape from the flooded, magical kingdom of Lyonesse. August and serious-minded 19th century Trevelyan men attempted for years to authenticate this, seeking evidence and holding frequent family meetings, notably the big Round Table Conference. Even the poet laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, became interested in it, and its symbolism was to occupy George throughout his life. This fascination is symptomatic not only of the Victorian era but also of the family's almost genetic sense of chivalry, tradition, and aristocracy. But although the Legend of Lyonesse cannot be substantiated, the family can with certainty trace its ancestry to the Domesday Book (C1086, 820 years before George Trevelyan), when they were Cornish landowners. A house in the parish of St Veep, near Fowey, was listed in the book and still bears the family name. The shift northwards began in the fifteenth century when a Sir John Trevelyan, twice High Sheriff of Cornwall, married an heiress who brought him estates throughout the south west of England and in Wales. These properties included Nettlecombe, in Somerset, where some members of the family live now.
There is thus a long family history in which responsibility for their land and the people working on it figure significantly, and a feeling of continuity which George Trevelyan felt very strongly. In later years when he developed and refined his thoughts on the relationship between human beings and the planet his early understanding of concepts such as stewardship was central. An aristocratic relationship with the land was refocused to an ecological and spiritual relationship with the earth, but its origin can be traced to the Trevelyan family tree, with its ancient roots still visible in the West Country.
Trevelyan family loyalties were royalist, so that during the Civil War and the Commonwealth they were under something of a cloud, but their allegiance paid off at the Restoration when they received the title of baronet from King Charles II. Towards the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria the Northumbrian side of the family began to be liberal, making reforms on their estate and concerning themselves with the well-being of the local people. In this they followed a Whig tradition that existed quite strongly among some landed families of the time. By then the Trevelyan family were also noted intellectuals and politicians, often advanced in their views, always individual, energetic and controversial. They kept company with artists, academics and scientists. In mid-Victorian times many of them were also aggressively agnostic; they became politically more radical, and George's father developed into a true socialist. This put them at odds with the local gentry but they didn't care a bit: the privileges of aristocracy have always included the licence for eccentricity. Trevelyans could make their friends where they chose, and they chose like minds. These were minds of refinement, cultivation, social concern and high endeavour. There certainly does not seem to have been much in the way of frivolity to be had at a gathering of clever Trevelyans.
Thus aristocracy, land-owning and scholarship formed the core of the family. By the time of George's childhood the owner of Wallington was Sir George Otto, august and ancient former MP for the Border Boroughs in Scotland, Civil Lord of the Admiralty, editor of Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, and author of Early Life of Charles James Fox. He considerably restored the family fortunes by his writing, and "a mixture of scholarship and luck", according to his great-grandson Michael Dower. He was independent-minded, quirkily spirited, somewhat daunting. In 1903 he renounced wine for good. Sir George Otto Trevelyan adopted one or two unpopular opinions and made them his own. Against the Jingoism of the times he sympathised with the Boers; extraordinarily for an aristocratic Edwardian gentleman he supported the suffragettes. He also turned down the offer of a peerage from Lord Asquith. The political magazine Vanity Fair described him as being, "in every 'movement'.. For ever writing, speaking, questioning, moving, dividing, agitating". As time went by he became increasingly radical, to the point of campaigning for the enfranchisement of the working class. All the same he was a good deal less radical than his son Charles and their political division appears to have been the cause of lifelong friction. (In their turn, Charles and his son George Lowthian had few opinions - or even sympathies - in common.) If such extraordinary political activity were not daunting enough, grandfather George Otto Trevelyan, the second Classics scholar in his Cambridge year, read Latin and Greek "with an avidity rare even among scholars". He often read the Iliad and the Odyssey aloud in Greek to his eldest grand-daughter Pauline, who apparently lapped them up. When they became old enough the grandchildren were invited to take Sunday luncheon with grandmama and grandpapa at Wallington and some of them found it quite an ordeal: Sir George Otto simply had no conversational gambit for little children, and in the afternoon jigsaw puzzles and readings from the classics formed the entertainment.
Sir George Otto Trevelyan's son Charles married the beautiful and clever Mary Bell (Molly) in 1904. She was the daughter of Sir Hugh Lowthian Bell, Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding, and of his very musical second wife, who (incidentally) was a native French-speaker. The Bells had spent some time on diplomatic business in Germany. They were enormously proud of Molly's half-sister Gertrude, a famous traveller and archaeologist in the Middle East who was reputed to have provided local information for the British government. She dressed exquisitely and spoke many languages; in learning Arabic she had also mastered all its various modulations and could tell precisely which area any Arab came from. Gertrude Bell was remarkable: she went to Iraq, she was a leading light in the task of bringing King Faisal to power, she was a scholar who was called Queen of the Arabs, she collected information that was useful to the great T E Lawrence, and the British School of Archaeology in Iraq was founded in her memory. And all this at a time when women did not travel alone! For her sister Molly, the adventure of life was a different one. She kept the Trevelyan's beautiful stone house in the village of Cambo, a mile from Wallington, and it was happy and fruitful household. There were six surviving children. Charles and Molly's firstborn was Pauline (1905), George came next in 1906, followed two years later by Katharine (Kitty), Marjorie (1913), then twins Patricia and Hugh, (1915) and Geoffrey (1920). (Hugh died when he was little more than a year old.) Between 1904 and 1928 when Charles inherited, Molly established herself with the 89 Cambo villagers as a socially concerned lady. She started local mothers' groups, worked with the miners' wives and children, initiated educational self-help societies, served on committees.
George Lowthian Trevelyan was born into this exceptional family on Bonfire Night under the water sign of Scorpio. Subjects of this astrological sign are described as intellectual, discerning, decisive, often quite witty, occasionally somewhat judgmental. In a book that he co-wrote with Edward Matchett about esoteric astrology, George observed, "Incarnation under this sign is likely to be difficult and painful.... [and it] offers immensely important opportunities for taking 'the longest stride of soul men ever took'" . His rising sign was Leo, and his nephew Michael Dower says he explained inconsistencies or apparent contradictions in his character with reference to this difficult planetary combination. Scorpio is reserved and secretive, Leo open and smiling, this combines the introvert with the actor and public speaker. George Lowthian Trevelyan was the second child and the first son, especially welcome as his birth ensured the succession.
George's famous uncle was also named George. He was the famous George Macaulay Trevelyan, described as a pioneer social historian (History of England and English Social History), certainly among the greatest historical writers of the era, and from 1927, Regius Professor of History at Trinity College Cambridge. GM Trevelyan performed a great service to the study of history, simultaneously popularising and giving weight to it at a time when many Cambridge academics believed it to be a futile subject. He thus continued the great tradition of popular history set by his father George Otto and his great-uncle, Thomas, Lord Macaulay.
But for aristocrats as for all other classes, the age into which George Trevelyan was born was the end of a long era. Enormous changes were looming. This was the legendary, last Edwardian summer, the beginning of the end for England's industrial supremacy, imperial power, and rigid class system. Things were beginning to shift, and Charles, though not entirely alone in seeing it, was extraordinary in being able to acknowledge at last this particular party was signalling that it would soon be over. An aristocrat who could do this was a rare soul indeed.
Meanwhile, however, the family carried on entirely in the manner to which they were accustomed by birth and expectation, dividing their time between London during parliamentary sessions and Northumberland during parliamentary recesses. Charles and Molly's home at number 14 Great College Street was the nearest private house to the House of Commons, just five minutes' walk away. This meant Charles could get up during the first course of his evening meal, walk to the House, vote, and be back in the dining room before the rest of the family had eaten the second course. Until the outbreak of the First World War Charles was a Liberal, and he and Molly gave superb parties for politicians and intellectuals. Half a dozen people would come to dinner, 30 or 40 more would join them afterwards, Kitty records "a roar of talk" . Pauline, George and Kitty, the three eldest children, were allowed to stay up for these parties and hear what was happening in the world: the house was a talking shop where you met only people of influence. By contrast, their Northumbrian life in "just a couple of big cottages thrown together" was truly countrified.
Pauline noted that her parents were unusual in eating with their children and spending time with them. ("Eating with them" of course meant only the evening meal, the nursery was still the place for their daytime lives, for learning table manners from nanny or governess, and for really being children.) The fact that eating with their children was extraordinary offers only one instance of the extent to which comparisons are near-impossible, so unconventional was the family in its own era, so unimaginable is it today. In the country the parties were different again. To sustain the habit of unconventionality, when Charles and Molly were living at Wallington, the servants often joined the company after supper and danced as well. At Wallington the Trevelyans were able to entertain much more grandly and the house became a regular country retreat for half the influential members of the Labour party. Rhoda Cowen (then Harris) recalls, "Wallington was a heavenly place, it had a lovely atmosphere. I used to stay there often as a girl. George's mother was the striking one, she was terrific. Strong. A great personality, and she ran Wallington frightfully well. They had big parties, she put on a very good show." George's father, Charles Trevelyan, was tall, dark, blue-eyed and good-looking, and described as "tough in mind and spirit". (Indeed the term "spirited" could have been applied as much to his wife and children.) In 1892, after Cambridge, he began his political career as secretary to Lord Houghton, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; and in 1898 he went round the world with the socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Between 1899 and 1918 he was Liberal Member of Parliament for the constituency of Elland, in Yorkshire. In 1908 he became Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Education and began to move further to the left, his advocacy of state control losing him many friends. He was vehemently opposed to the First World War and supported a movement called the Union of Democratic Control, described as "the single most important agency of opposition to Government policy during the war" . This also brought about some estrangement from his own family. He was especially upset by his brother George Macaulay Trevelyan's mood at the time, and he wrote to Molly, "I am more discouraged by it than anything because it shows the helplessness of intellect before national passion".
For her part, Molly worked with Charles as a political wife, and took part in the Women's Liberal Foundation and the Rural Women's Organisation. The family unanimously describe her as "a notable chatelaine" - this skilled speech-maker, domestic administrator, organiser of the family and its social life and that of the house guests. She was also president of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, which had many aristocratic members; and she had a maypole erected annually in Wallington central hall for the spring dancing. Traditional Northumbrian dances included the Morpeth Rant and the Soldiers Joy. George learned Morris dancing because of his mother and was an enthusiastic country dancer all his life. Molly was free-thinking, informal, intuitive, impulsive, a fine hostess and a perfect foil and political partner for her serious husband. It is a matter of record that during their long lives Charles and Molly were invited to four English coronations and attended at least two of them. Their daughter, Mrs Patricia Jennings, still lives at Wallington. She recalls that for one of the coronations, "Mother took her sandwiches in her sponge bag". Sponge bag or not, the large portrait of Sir Charles and Lady Trevelyan in full regalia for the King is properly impressive.
Despite his stated anti-War feeling and a vote of no confidence from his constituency party, Charles continued to serve in the Liberal government of 1911-16. He did not have to go the 1914-18 War because Members of Parliament were exempt from military service. He would not have gone anyway as he was so opposed to the War and would have had to have been a conscientious objector; fortunately his parliamentary duties saved him the trouble. Charles had his family's serious morality, which included a strong sense of obligation. At the turn of the century when his parents gave up drinking they also gave up jokes, and devoted themselves to agriculture, scholarship, politics and the well-being of their tenants. This purposeful neo-Puritanism was passed on to Charles.
>From the first, he was concerned with the welfare of working people. He belonged to a movement to give access to open moorland and mountain spaces to everyone, believing strongly in the importance of healthy freedom of exercise in the countryside. In this at least he agreed with his own father. Later he joined the Labour party, believing that the Liberals were not doing enough for the poor, and in particular for their education. Charles represented the Central Division of Newcastle-upon-Tyne for Labour from 1922, to the great discomfort of his parents and most of his family. A family friend commented crossly, "He doesn't alter his life at all!" and he was right: Charles and his family lived very comfortably at Cambo House in the village on the Wallington estate, and when they inherited the title and moved to Wallington itself there were many who pointed out contradictions between their way of life and their professed beliefs. But while the county grumbled and gossiped the Trevelyans simply steered their own course. They supported Boers and suffragettes, they campaigned for free education for working class children, and in 1914 they opposed the mobilisation of troops for the Great War. In 1924 when the first Labour government was elected, Charles was made President of the Board of Education, serving with distinction under Ramsay MacDonald and further boosting the new party's fortunes by steering the fledgling MPs around the House of Commons and explaining how to navigate parliamentary procedure. Later when the Labour government faltered in setting up the welfare system Charles put it largely in place on his own estate and paid for it himself. From 1929 all married men who worked at Wallington received 2s 6d (12.5p) a week extra allowance for each of their children from the confirmation of the pregnancy until the completion of each child's education. Perhaps the county had to eat its words. In 1931 he resigned his post as education minister as a formal protest over the government's inactivity in the face of catastrophically rising unemployment.
Life in Cambo differed in style from life at Wallington and in London. There were country pursuits, acquaintance with the villagers, and for the children when they reached the age of seven, those formal Sunday luncheons taken with their august and ancient grandpapa at the great house which would one day become their own. Sir George Otto talked to the children exactly as he would to grown-ups, of politics, classics, current affairs, history. No wonder seven-year-old Kitty was apprehensive about her first Sunday visit. She thought Wallington was "like a church… so beautiful that I inwardly bowed before it". Others, however, were less impressed, and one of them recorded that the house was cold, and smelled of artichokes and cauliflowers. By this time Sir George Otto was in his seventies and "hunchbacked with so much thinking and stooping over books". (Back problems, arthritis and deafness run in the family.) Kitty wrote afterwards that Grandpapa "gave me chocolate drops out of the drawer and started holding a brilliant conversation about when he was in Gladstone's government. I didn't say anything, and after a time forgot to listen." 3 Luncheon was a proper, formal, Edwardian repast, taken in the vast dining room decorated with Swiss-Italian artistic plasterwork; the family silver and china laid on the long table, ancestral portraits watching every mouthful. Kitty found that, "the butler and footman, who were my natural friends, were suddenly withdrawn, decorous personalities". The grandparental version of Wallington was markedly different from the Wallington of Charles and Molly's era. For one thing, the grandparents had footmen and a butler "and all that sort of thing", an establishment which the younger children found archaic and starchy. Kitty's first luncheon contained another difficulty. "Mrs Stinchcombe made wonderful pastry, but I was being so polite that I could hardly swallow".
No such anguish attended George Trevelyan's dinners with grandpapa. Trevelyan men were historically-minded, with a tradition of participation in the forming of their country's opinions and the making of its decisions, and George enjoyed the talk. He also shared their outdoor interests as he was an athletic boy, roaming happily around the Wallington estate, up its hills and through its woods. He was a passionate participant in the Trevelyan Hunt, an annual, three-day man hunt around the Lakeland Fells. This sport had been invented by his uncle GM Trevelyan in 1898. It involved Trevelyan men and their relatives and friends, with three or more of the fastest runners appointed as hares given half an hour's start on the rest of the field, who chased them as hounds. From adolescence George was always a hare and would find ingenious ways of evading capture, enjoying the chase so much that he would show himself above bracken or from behind rocks to draw the hounds towards him. George shared the masculine Trevelyans' outdoor enthusiasms as he shared their interest in events.
In about 1910 a governess had joined the household. Pauline's diary recalls her invention of an outdoor war game of Romans and Picts which employed existing walls on the estate and necessitated the building of further small walls with stones that were lying about. But the governess was not the only pedagogue: both of their parents took part in the children's learning and Charles taught most of them to read. Pauline began when she was three. George and Kitty learned together every day before breakfast, sitting on either side of their father on the big flat wooden arms of the chair. Pauline began to learn Latin enthusiastically at the age of seven. Charles and Molly spent a great deal of time with their children. When the family was in London Charles returned home every night in time to bath them, sing to them, and tell them stories in their bedrooms. He often read to the children after supper, usually something historical or biographical. Their mother read Dickens or sang, as a family they all played letter games, card games, battle games, and acted and played charades. (GM Trevelyan attributed his fascination with campaigns and warfare, and ultimately with history, to his early passion for playing war games with lead soldiers at Wallington.) In an era when many middle and upper class parents saw their children only for formal half-hours, and even then not every day, such involvement was extraordinary. Molly was gentle and encouraging, keen on truth-telling and learning poems by heart, good at telling stories, and especially enthusiastic about getting out into the fresh air. Even on wet afternoons she would send the children out to walk, "or you'll be cross by tea-time", and they would splash about, enjoying the rain and wind, enthusiastically jumping into all the puddles. All the children kept their clogs under the settle in the hall of the house at Cambo, so they could quickly run out of doors without the bother of doing up shoe-laces. The close alliance which was formed early between George and Kitty was strengthened by the arrival in 1915 of twins, which threw them even more into each other's company. It was a precious friendship which lasted all their lives. Kitty wrote, "We achieve a relationship in which the tensions of man and woman are solved, yet the richness and fruitfulness left". According to Rhoda Cowen, "Kitty was much the strongest character in the family. She had fair hair, she was very attractive, and, rather eccentric this, she always wore sandals and no stockings. When she came into a room it was a different place, and there's no doubt she dominated the whole of Wallington. She and George were enormous friends." Other family members describe Kitty as outgoing and ebullient. Certainly she made an impression on all who met her.
The story of the wicker bath chair illustrates the comradeship. Kitty and George were about seven and eight years old when they found an old, wheeled chair in their maternal grandparents' house in Yorkshire. The location of the find was somewhat exotic: the chair was mouldering in the stick house in which were stored logs "as big as a four-year-old child". These logs were thrown entire onto a great fire to heat the parquet-floored games room, and then chained into place so that no sparks would fly out. George and Kitty used to play with the bath chair in the woods, steering it around the trees and directing its course by leaning out of it, rather like sailing a boat. One day they jumped on it for a downhill race, not realising that they were heading straight for a main road. The chair had no brakes. They careered down the hill, steered sharply to the left, threw their weight over the left wheel, leaped the gutter, sailed down the road (fortunately there was no traffic), then stopped, and the chair began to run backwards. Miraculously, it came to a standstill without injury to the children or to itself. George and Kitty hugged each other and giggled "till the muscles of our tummies ached". This was a typical adventure for them, demonstrating their mutual attraction to danger and their total trust in each other. George in particular always loved exploring. Sometimes he and Kitty would steal out of the house in the early morning before it was light, for the thrill of the strange, cold, greyness, and the pleasure of watching the dawn come up.
At the approach of the First World War the idea of pacifism became a family topic since Charles disapproved of fighting and the children naturally agreed. In 1914 when George was eight and Kitty seven they walked across the bridge over the Tyne in Newcastle, pausing to ask each other, "to save [stop] the War, would you jump over?" - and both cried "yes!" However, the children often found their departures from the majority view confusing. They could not, for example, hate the Kaiser, since their mother at the age of 19 had started off one of his balls in Berlin with his Vortänzer, and they found that they could easily imagine how lovely she must have looked. Molly's uncle Lascelles was British Ambassador in Berlin at the time. (There is an almost Mitfordesque feeling of paradox running through many of the contradictory ideas that seemed to be capable of residing in one Trevelyan head.)
The Trevelyan children could pursue any interest that took their fancy, and pursue it to the maximum. As a family they were uniformly energetic, inquiring, hard-working, and earnest. One more departure from convention was the absence of religion in the household. Though the family followed all and every intellectual avenue Charles was fiercely agnostic, and his perception was the one that prevailed at home. However, when the time came for the eldest children to go to school they were sent to the pacifist Quakers because Charles was so strongly against the First World War. Sidcot School, in North Somerset, gave them, "a proper attitude towards other people". Pauline wrote, "I think that this is the great characteristic of the Quakers; their evaluation of other people is not connected with either birth or opportunity. I learnt this attitude from my father too; respect for the individual person rather than for their worth in rank or money. I remember that he once said about the Labour Party, 'The leaders are well enough, but the rank and file are pure gold'." So Charles sent his children to Sidcot, where they were given a liberal, inclusive outlook that categorised no-one. Here was a departure from tradition: George Otto and his three sons had gone to Harrow. In Somerset, George Trevelyan became a passionate explorer of caves and underground passages and helped to found a club to explore the caves within the Mendip hills. He also did his first woodwork there. A subsequent headmaster wrote, "his love of the countryside of his native Northumbria and Somerset, and his spirit of questing and exploration, all contributed to his integrated philosophy of life". The school today makes the same claims as it did then, to be strong in drama, art and music. While he was a pupil George developed an interest in drama. Charades had been a popular family pastime, poetry was a deep study for George, and an appreciation of Shakespeare and the great visionary poets stayed with him all his life. In 1928, Charles and Molly inherited the title and Wallington, moved into the great, grand house, and found it to be in very poor repair. They set to work to replace the roof and instal bathrooms and electric light, and from Easter 1929 they opened parts of the house to the public during weekend afternoons free of charge. In time, other radical enterprises were begun: discussion groups and study weekends were held at Wallington.
Northumberland's first Ramblers' Hostel, which became its first Youth Hostel, was opened in its stables. Since he did not approve of living off income from tenants Sir Charles placed the money from rents into the land or social services. Shortly after he inherited, he made his views on private ownership of large properties by individual people clear both to his family and to the public. He believed it was no longer appropriate. Characteristically acting according to his conscience, Charles began to negotiate with the National Trust for the gift of Wallington to the nation. It was 13 years before, in 1941, the Deed of Settlement of Wallington on the National Trust was agreed and signed, and during those years Charles still owned the house and the estate and had full control of them. The Deed made the Trust his irrevocable heir on his death, which came in 1958. In arranging this gift Charles was motivated as much by practicality as principle; he foresaw what would happen to properties of that kind and he wished to preserve his own family's for the future. He could also see that leaving the estate in private hands, perhaps particularly in the hands of his son and heir George Lowthian Trevelyan, would almost certainly bring about the sale and probable breaking up of Wallington.
In the year when Charles inherited he was President of the Board of Education, and his government bill to raise the school leaving age to 14 and give grants to parents on low incomes was rejected. His response was to put all the measures in place on his own estate. However much the county and the gentry liked to criticise and gossip, no-one could say he was inconsistent in his behaviour towards his employees; Charles put his money where his mouth was to an extraordinary degree. His idiosyncratic behaviour went further even than this: he was so keen on the Soviet system that he lent about £70,000 to the Soviet government. (History assures us that it was repaid.) He and Molly had enthusiastically visited the USSR in 1935. Mrs Jennings still uses a very wonderful Russian doll tea cosy with a voluminous padded skirt which keeps the teapot warm. They brought it back as what she calls, a "tourist trophy".
Every summer the family moved north from Great College Street. In her diary Pauline noted, "not many domestic items were duplicated.. so when we set off to Wallington.. our luggage included things like sewing machines and nursery fireguards - all the things you would have thought we might have two of. This vast quantity of luggage, of detritus, went backwards and forwards between London and Northumberland several times a year and took up an entire guard's van on each occasion." Wallington was supported by a "small" staff of just 12 female indoor servants. With the work of catering, cleaning, tending and valeting the family and their guests was included the task of emptying chamber pots every morning as the house had so few bathrooms. In this it was not deprived: bathrooms were a rarity in country houses in those days. Molly herself was efficient and hard-working. The traditions of her own Yorkshire family compelled her to rise an hour early every morning for 23 years "to do the tapestry", an impressive, pre-Raphaelite depiction of the legend of Sir Trevillian which now hangs in Lady Trevelyan's Parlour. Sometimes Kitty helped, pulling the needle from underneath as her mother stabbed it through from above. Molly's local interests included the welfare of the working families, and the local dramatic society, in which she was a leading light. >From the early years of their ownership of Wallington the house was a focus for Labour party socialising. The visitors' book after 1929 shows the signatures of Stafford Cripps, Nye Bevan, Jennie Lee, Hugh Dalton, Michael Foot, Hugh Gaitskell, Barbara Castle, and Clement Attlee, among others. Beatrice Webb and leading Fabians stayed, and some luminaries from the arts world including George Bernard Shaw, Sir Lewis Casson, Dame Sybil Thorndike and E.M Forster. The number of guests recorded in 1929 was 101; by 1934 the figure had risen to 160. The house was always full of family and guests; it was a place for serious talk and outdoor pursuits, a continuous country house party which was unusual because it was without frivolity. It is from these boyhood experiences that George Lowthian began to form the ideas of the country house party as a forum for creativity and intellectual pursuits which were to find such spectacular realisation at Attingham Park in Shropshire.
Thus family life as lived at Wallington was rarefied, not in the manner of traditional aristocratic family life, but rarefied all the same. George's nephew Michael Dower sums up the Trevelyan family: "We were brought up to think we were special, the intellectual aristocracy. Huxley, Arnold, Trevelyan, Macaulay - we were all related. I believe George took from the family the manner, rather than the matter. George was the very welcome son, but I think Charles may have wanted him to be an intellectual or a politician, and it was clear he would be creative in a different way." He also remarks that George was temperamentally unsuited to be an historian or landowner, the other vocations at which Trevelyans excelled.
Wallington was a wonderful place to grow up, the children roamed the countryside, climbing, walking, scrambling and running, they read and studied and listened to clever talk, there were family dances and tenants' parties. In the library after dinner they played word games and guessing games and Mah Jong. Their intellectual gifts were stimulated and strengthened by constant exercise, almost not a moment was lost. They all learned poetry by heart. Kitty wrote of learning a poem a day from her governess as the governess was brushing Kitty's hair, and years later Kitty and George could still recite beautifully many epic poems, handing alternate verses back and forth between them. Socially, however, "we were absolute outrés". Friends of their own intellectual level came to stay, or the children went away to stay with their friends in other parts of the country. In Cambo they knew everyone; at Angerton they knew the Leatharts, at Belsay the Middletons, at Capheaton the Swinburnes. Otherwise they mixed locally only a little. Another obstacle was that there were no cars, and although all the children had ponies and the use of a pony and trap, the distances were too large for such slow transport. So they stuck at Wallington until one by one they went away to school. George went to Sidcot in 1913, the others generally went away after their tenth birthdays. The question of religion was one with which Charles appears not to have engaged very much and when one day Miss de Bunsen, an Anglican friend, charged him with neglecting this crucial element in his children's upbringing he apparently drew himself up and said, "I will be God to them". Whether this was meant as a joke is not clear, but it is true that the children were not baptised, did not go to church, they were not taught any scriptural lessons or given an understanding of any deity. Somewhat incongruously, Charles always attended the annual sermon under the Wesley Tree half a mile from Cambo with one or other of the children. After one of these sermons, at Kitty's request, the family began to have a weekly meeting called Sunday Reading. Charles and Molly would read an improving book such as Conduct Stories or the life of Buddha, then they would sing from the Labour hymn book, perhaps:
When wilt Thou save the People
O God of Mercy, when?
England, arise, the long long night is over
And always, famously, finishing with the Red Flag:
With heads uncovered, swear we all
To bear it onward til we fall
Pauline and George enjoyed the Sunday Readings and in particular The Evolution of the Idea of God with which they were concluded. This book was popular with Fabians because it demolished world faiths with its material analysis, but Kitty called it, "the cleverness of man picking faith to bits with his nibbling mind". Somehow, despite the Sunday Readings and his schooldays at Sidcot, George always maintained that he had not heard of God until he went to stay at Moatlands, the home of the Harris family, when he was about 22 years old. Certainly the Harris family always credited themselves with introducing him to the deity. At Moatlands George was more or less planted alongside Mr Harris and obliged to listen to the notion that God was the most important element in life. Doubtless he listened with proper attention for he had immaculate manners, but the message appears not to have made much immediate impact, though he said much later that it was one of the first moments that started him on a spiritual path. He was still at Trinity College, Cambridge, reading history in the Trevelyan tradition. Like the rest of the family he was also deeply inquisitive, profoundly searching. But his disposition still looked to criticise, to test against evidence, and his curiosity took him in many directions before it came back to this point.
1 Wallington, Raleigh Trevelyan, National Trust, 1994
2 Twelve Seats at the Round Table, Edward Matchett and George Trevelyan, Neville Spearman (Jersey) Ltd, 1976
3 Fool in Love, Katharine Trevelyan, Gollancz, 1962
4 CP Trevelyan 1870-1958 Portrait of a Radical, AJA Morris, Blackstaff Press, 1977
Here is a slice of the June Salon Issue
THE SALON: SECOND EDITION
SPIRITUAL ALCHEMY AND PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION
THE SECOND TRUTH: THE SCIENCE OF ALCHEMY IS THE SCIENCE OF LIFE AND
YOU ARE AN APPRENTICE IN THAT LABORATORY
Spiritual Alchemy is a science that has long intrigued me. I first became fascinated with the entire concept of turning "lead into gold" through stories of wizards and curious scientists who literally sought a way to take lead and convert it into gold nuggets. I think every one finds the idea of "secret knowledge" positively seductive. As a species, we love secrets - maybe because we are the only species on earth that has "secrets." Every thing else is in the open and exists just as it is. We are the species that cannot help seeking out ways and means of transforming this into that and for that reason; nothing is more compelling than secret knowledge.
You are constantly practicing alchemy. That may seem an unimaginable thought, but this science wears millions of disguises. The fact is, we are always trying to convert one thing into something else. At the base level of life, people who gamble are prime time alchemists using cards, dice, or any other physical substance, to acquire gold. Maybe "luck" is with them one day but not the next. But what is this "energetic substance" that we refer to as luck? Is it something that we carry into the casino with us in our shoes or shirts or socks? I can tell you that if a person is "lucky" one day, they are likely to repeat exactly what they did that day the next time they gamble because he or she sees that as a way of connecting with that same luck-loaded energetic substance. This behavior, more noted as superstition, is nonetheless an expression of alchemy in that the gambler is attempting to organize the flow of energy to duplicate winning the same way as the previous occasion.
PERSONAL GUIDANCE AND INSTRUCTION.....
The practice of personal alchemy begins with learning to use the laws of the science with consciousness. Thought creates form, therefore you must become conscious of what you are thinking and why. You now have to craft your thinking with the awareness that the entire atmosphere of life will absorb the consequences of your motivations. Like attract like (birds of a feather flock together) is a law that should be studied with great attention. Understood solely at the physical level, such as one broken heart finding another, will create only a broken heart matrix. Nothing should be evaluated in its physical form. That is where illusion lives. You must learn to see through physical form into its symbolic meaning in order to even begin to glimpse at the alchemical process occurring within the experience. At the physical level, two broken hearts finding each other may seem to be the beginning of a lonely-hearts romance, but that's the illusion. The actual alchemical process occurring through this relationship is one of providing an opportunity through which two people can build their self-esteem by seeing their reflection in each other. When this clarity of understanding is reached, the choices available to you in terms of interpreting the meaning of what you are perceiving become endless. Observing anything merely through your eyesight reveals only its physical form, but never its transformational power. The skill to penetrate through the walls of matter into the spirit of all form takes constant study and practice. It requires that you "look alive" at all times and practice self-examination on a regular basis. Simply put, it's work.
SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE AND QUESTIONS FOR SELF-EXAMINATION
And now for your personal work. As an apprentice in the Science of Alchemy working on your spiritual transformation, your beginning steps are to become aware of your engagement with the laws of the universe through becoming aware - period. With that goal in mind.
Register For the On Line Salon
Salon topic for July:
THE FIVE RULES FOR STAYING IN PRESENT TIME