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William Hale White - A German Beginning (Hans Klinke's Dissertation), by Nicholas Jacobs

It is a remarkable fact that, only six years after William Robertson Nicholl's Memories of Mark Rutherford (1924), the first - as the Germans would say wissenschaftliches (i.e. serious, based-on-research) study of William Hale White - was published by a young German postgraduate called Hans Klinke in Frankfurt on the Oder (his own birthplace), a town in Brandenburg some one hundred miles east of Berlin (the town now lies on the Polish border).

The work began as a dissertation subject given to Klinke by his supervisor, a Professor Lilyengren (on whom I have no further information - there are no entries on him in the BL catalogue), in July 1928 when Klinke was studying at the University of Greifswald, one of Germany's oldest universities, on the Baltic Sea. It was this dissertaion which ended up as a published book in 1930, with the title William Hale White - A Biographical Sketch with special reference to literary, cultural and other influences, including much unpublished material; the book was dedicated 'to my parents on their silver wedding'.

Klinke was born in 1907, the son of a baker; he was a Prussian citizen and a Protestant. He studied English, theology and Greek in Greifswald and Berlin. In 1926 (at the end of the Spring term) he attended the Seventh World's Christian Endeavour Youth Convention in London, where he heard speeches by Ramsay MacDonald and Lloyd George. He had an invitation to stay in England for three months and travelled in central England and Devon. After receiving his dissertation subject, he studied in Berlin in winter 1928/9. In August 1929 he returned to England and stayed with Dorothy White in Sherborne. He finished work on his dissertation in June 1930 and was vivaed on 24th July. The book was published that Autumn/Winter.

As the title suggests, Klinke's study does not contain an account, let alone discussion or critical analysis, of William Hale White's work as a novelist or writer. It is an attempt to record the intellectual influences upon him - his formación, as the Spanish say. In what follows I merely reproduce the notes I made of what stood out for me in Klinke's material. What was abundantly clear from the start - from a look at the remarkable bibliography in the first place - was that he received the ready cooperation of Dorothy Vernon White, as indeed we shall see.

Klinke begins his book with a quotation from one of the fifteen letters from John Ruskin to Hale White, listed in Dorothy White's inventory of letters to her husband (including seven from Robert Browning, three from George Henry Lewes, two from Emerson and one from John Stuart Mill). Ruskin writes: 'Strange - if people could see your own gentle and patient life.' Klinke stresses the retiring nature of Hale White's life vis-a-vis his work, amplifying this with a quotation from one of his letters in The Groombridge Diary (p. 174), and goes on to note that, whereas there are plenty of articles about his religion and his work, only the The Early Life of Mark Rutherford, Letters to Three Friends and The Groombridge Diary, and Massingham's introduction to The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford offered material on the life.

Having learnt from The Groombridge Diary that there was a widow and concluding that he would not find much material in Germany, Klinke wrote to her at 'The Cottage, Groombridge' and received an answer from Sherborne. Though he says he had found little in Germany, the list he sent Dorothy impressed her and her brother-in-law Humphrey Milford enough for them to invite him to stay and go through her material. (This included 'The Dorothy Book', of which Dorothy made Klinke a handwritten copy.

Klinke also stayed with Milford in Epsom and was taken by Dorothy to the house she had occupied with Hale White. Klinke talks of the modest, reticent, almost bare grave of White in Groombridge.

Klinke is often concerned to establish dates. Thus, when discussing Hale White's job at the Registrar General he points out that the The Early Life of Mark Rutherford is wrong in stating: 'I was there two or three years' (p.88). Klinke quotes a letter to him from Sir William Hale-White of 17 November 1929 stating: 'My father went to Somerset House in 1854, to the Admiralty in 1858.' Another date Klinke is eager to establish once and for all is Hale White's marriage: Sir William told him it was on 22 December 1856, living at 11 Serle Street, moving to 69 Marylebone Road. A further date: Klinke quotes a letter from Dorothy stating: 'He entered the Admiralty in 1858 and did not retire till 1902.'

Klinke mentions George Dawson, editor of the Birmingham Morning News (1852-4). He says that Hale White preached once or twice for him at the Zion Chapel, Birmingham. He says WHW was introduced to John Bright by Dawson, and refers to a friendship between them all.

Klinke says F.D. Maurice wrote a reference for Hale White on 27 January 1853 when Maurice was chaplain of Lincoln's Inn: 'Gentlemen, I believe Mr White to be a gentleman of excellent moral character, of superior education and general intelligence. He has taken a degree at London University and I believe given great satisfaction to his examiners. I apprehend that he has abilities for very honourable employment and that if he should obtain the one for which he is applying, he will conscientiously devote himself to the duties of it.'

This is an extract made by Dorothy Vernon White.

Sir William told Klinke that he was born on 7 November 1857.

Klinke more than once regrets the absence of a collection of Hale White's journalism 'in order to get to know his political ideas.'

More dates direct from Sir William. Samuel Arthur was born 24 August 1860 (died 20 April 1861). John Henry born 23 October 1861. Edward Victor born 17 April 1866 (died 3 April 1867).

Quote from a letter from Ruskin (11 January 1877): 'Yes, I entirely agree with you that nothing should more excite out indignation than the attempt of rich men to steal the people's land...'

Ruskin again (13 July 1880): 'This paper of yours on Antoninus (Secular Review) is entirely delightful and thoroughly true and well done. I hope to make use of it, and am most grateful to have it and to hear from you.'

More dates of children: 14 December 1869 Mary Theodora and Ernest Theodore (twins) born.

Klinke says Hale White reviewed Elizabeth Lynn-Linton's True History of Joshua Davidson. He does not state where, but suggests there may bhave been a correspondence between the two.

Klinke says that Hale White met Emerson on 25 April 1873, citing A Memoir of RWE by James Elliot Cabot.

Browning: from a Browning letter to Hale White of 9 May 1879, Klinke believes Hale White wrote first. Browning's letter says: 'So I have a friend without knowing it.' He goes on to say that he much appreciates Hale White's letter and offer of a Bunyan print: 'I am richer by the possession of your sympathy than I could have supposed.' Hale White sent the print and Browning thanked him and invited Hale White to visit. There is an Browning letter of 9 January about George Eliot and Lewis, and Browning expressed approval of Hale White's article in the Contemporary Review on 'Byron, Goethe and Mattthew Arnold'.

Klinke's short book - it is 145 pages long - is a dissertation, not a thesis . It is based on the published materials, particularly the Early Life of Mark Rutherford, Nicholl's memoir, Letters to Three Friends and The Groombridge Diary, and the journalism that Dorothy had to hand (there is no reference by Klinke of working in libraries or archives). In these rough notes, I have tried to avoid repeating material which can already be found in the printed sources, though I have only relied on my own faulty memory for this. It does not matter if I have repeated things, nevertheless. My concern is to get the flavour of Hans Klinke's work. Only twenty-five years later, with Catherine Macdonald Maclean's admirable biography of 1955 (written without knowledge, apparently, of Klinke), did an English book appear on Hale White. A primary task would be to check Klinke's bibliography (particularly the list of letters) against the holdings in Vancouver and in Bedford, and to establish whether his impressive list of periodical writings adds to what is already known (Stone, Crees). It would also be interesting to know if Dorothy's papers contain Klinke letters or material. I made an attempt to find out what happened to Klinke and was advised by the University of Greifswald that he was probably killed during World War Two. Somewhere in Germany, there may be a cache of Hale White research material, including the copy of the Dorothy Book'. Meanwhile, I have not given up all hope of persuading a German publisher to commission a translation of a 'Mark Rutherford' novel. It is not easy as that nation of allegedly serious readers has not yet even discovered George Eliot. However, let us hope that that the existence of a vibrant Mark Rutherford Society will greatly help this cause.