oh, "my old friend CRAMB"

Ottoline in 1902
portrait from the NPG here. 

Amongst Ottoline Morrell's correspondence are 94 letters tied in a pink ribbon from John Adam Cramb. In Ottoline's memoirs Cramb is mentioned only in passing-when she references him as  "my old friend Cramb." Why?

What is known of Cramb-a Scottish born academic-is his nom de plume-J.A. Revermort. Revermort penned the novel CUTHBERT LEARMONT. In the 1910 novel, the heroine, Mary Fortheringham has an affair with a Scottish divinity student-Can you imagine the rest of Our Story?
Yes- Mary bears a striking resemblance to OTTOLINE. According to biographer Sandra Jobson Darroch- the resemblance is much more than just physical-though Mary is a tall copper haired woman like our OTT.

Ottoline's 1903 existence parallels the character- " Mary had married a reliable but rather dull husband. Finding herself expected to lead the life of a doll in a doll's house, she hungers for a more romantic existence,craving a companion with whom she can share the experiences of the soul. Cuthbert whom she meets at a party, provides her with just such a kindred spirit; the meet again in the foyer of a theatre and agree to see more of one another. Mary, an elegant, artistic woman with a strange seductive voice and a weakness for dramatic hats, takes to having long intimate talks with Cuthbert, usually in her boudoir, where they discuss books, poetry, music and spiritual matters. They also go to art galleries and curio shops together. Mary, who often signs her mane with her initials, "an M curiously formed," suffers from intense headaches and sometimes oes off to seek cures at health spas.

CRAMB's letters are peppered with Latin, Greek and Italian-along with the use of "THOU"- his way of addressing Ottoline. He referred to himself  as "Thine Adoring RAYMONDE of RUYREMONDE."  Their meeting is much like Cuthbert and Mary's -the pair seem to have met around 1903-when Cramb offered her a cigarette in the lobby foyer of Queen's Hall. Their correspondence describes outings like the Novel Pair-& once after  Ottoline failed to show for a rendezvous- Cramb called her a "stern demi-goddess." Passages from the novel can be traced to known descriptions of Ottoline's Grosvenor Road boudoir- where the  REAL PAIR just as the NOVEL PAIR?
 It is hard to say.
 At one point  A CRAMB letter refers to OTTOLINE's emotional outburst "by the river." There follows a flourish of letters - a Telegram-a Meeting-then a Cooling Off Period & then an arduous CRAMB Letter saying:
" Thy Letter this morning was a Throb of Delight... O Thou Sweet Sister... coulds't but read my Heart today how Thou wouldst see there All that Feeling, All that Tenderness which Thou didst desiderate and demand!...
& I accuse myself for saying that thing yesterday-for hadst thou been well, I feel that thou wouldst have flung it back at Me or Simply Laughed- Yet in spite of my own pain how infinitely sweet thou wert- O Thou Heavenliest, Thou Heavenliest-what shall I say unto Thee? Thou Must See, Thou Must see Heaven, How coulds't thou Speak that Word!"
At the height of their "Friendship" in JUNE-Ottoline's letters cease-
CRAMB's "Thou hast not written? Hast thou a temper? I wish thou wouldst be sensible.".. follow.
Then- "I know nothing from thy wild statements."
Letters fly back and forth again, Much to CRAMB's relief -& he envisions himself as a Gazelle led by Ottoline on a chain.
Well-after that, It's no wonder things had cooled off by November.
CRAMB describes himself in a letter  as "triste vraiment," suggesting Ottoline wanted to break with him. Correspondence continued on- though in a  more formal tone-yet Cramb did continue to send Ottoline cigarettes & couldn't help remind HER- SO often had He sent round her Ladies' No 1 Gold Tipped that the clerk still knew her address by heart.
All the while "Our Lover"was writing his Cuthbert Learmont. 
How did OTTOLINE feel about it? We don't know. One can only guess from her History, this would be the  first "Affair" that resulted in published fiction-& NOT the Last!
A pattern for seeking out grand friendships- And passionate ones-with Men, began prior to her marriage (We've delved into some of those) and the CRAMB "Affair" was the 1st of many in her Married LIFE.
There are MORE-Many MORE to come!

No comments:

Post a Comment