[ilds] Heraldic Universe

Wilson, Fraser Fraser.Wilson at eht.nhs.uk
Tue Jun 5 04:34:55 PDT 2007

Dear Group,

In the wake of recent discussions around LD and intellectual property, I would like to raise once more a possibility that I aired a couple of years ago; that Durrell's heraldic universe concept was derived to some degree from Christopher Kininmonth; author of 'The Children of Thetis', published in London by John Lehmann, 1949. 

In the conclusion to this book, he seems to make claim to the idea using deliberately proprietorial language. To quote:

" But all the symbols of this truth exist alongside all the other valid creations of man's imagination. This climate - or territory, or plane - I call the Heraldic Universe. 
The Heraldic Universe contains every man's individual interpretation of all the figures placed there by others as well as those he himself creates; all the products of all the love, the hero-worship and the inspiration of others which any of us have experienced." (Page 216)

The "truth" to which he refers is the "mother goddess" of  Robert Graves, on whose (now) famous book he draws heavily as he cobbles together a metaphysical framework for his island experiences.

Kininmonth was in Corfu by ( and no earlier than) 1937, although his book is otherwise limited in scope to the Aegean islands.

It seems probable that he was involved with the 'Partridge group' to some degree. 

Credited in his acknowledgements are LD, Freya Stark, Walter Marsden, Rebecca West, Patrick Evans, Peter Gray, Theodore Stephanides, William Miller, Francis  Turville-Petre, Robert Liddell, Matsie Andreou, Andreas Cambas, Michael Melas, George Katsimbalis, Nicholaos Baltazzis-Mavrocordatos, Philip Dragoumis, Stephanos Syriotis,  Stelios Katsantonis, Marinos Caligas, Lia Caligas, R.W. Hutchinson, Alex Mermingas, Aleko Xydhis, Bill Barron, Alan Chalkley, Pierce Hubbard and Thanos Veloudios.

We do not know when he first met Durrell, nor does he state unequivocally that he met him at all, as he is credited as being among those who 'helped him to an understanding of Greece'; a feat which one might argue does not necessarily require an acquaintance.

The chronology is clearly problematic in that by 1936 Durrell was discussing this idea in correspondence with Miller. Jamie kindly pointed out to me that Durrell's conceptual work on his notion of the Heraldic Universe was already largely in place before the 1935 publication of Pied Piper of Lovers.

The facts are that by 1949 a fledgling writer of travel books was apparently claiming some degree of ownership to an idea which by that time had become associated with another writer of similar interests. Both were obviously moving in similar social circles, and with some overlap involving key figures in Durrells life. 

They may have met on Corfu in 1937 as the likelihood of contact between English speaking residents was strong. Alternatively, it is possible, although less likely that Kininmonth was not acquainted till much later with Durrell, Stephanides, Katsimbalis or the others. We have 1949 as an upper bracket, so to speak. 

To argue convincingly for a flow of ideas from Kininmonth to Durrell, it would be necessary to show that they had met, or were in correspondence, at least by 1936. A dearth of biographical information on Kininmonth makes this difficult.

To argue that Kininmonth derived the idea, consciously or otherwise from Durrell is somewhat easier, yet seemingly at odds with Kininmonths own view. He seems to think that it is his own idea. Could be have absorbed it subliminally from byegone conversation with Durrell or others ? The DJ mugshot reveals an overtly 'decent' looking chap (if a little geeky by modern standards). Consciously stealing an idea from Durrell would not have gone down well with the closely knit group of philhellenes and greek literati that he was presumably eager to impress.

Kininmonth subsequently wrote a number of Mediterranean travel books. His wartime service offers some clues to literary associations. For example he was in Alexandria in 1943 from where he embarked for Leros, raising the possibility of contact there with a number of characters mentioned. He was on Samos in the same year, and I wonder if he ever chanced upon Maurice Cardiff, who was to become a friend of Durrell after the war. Cardiff's account of his time as an intelligence officer on the island, 'Achilles and the Tortoise' is published under the pseudonym of John Lincoln.

Best wishes

Fraser Wilson 

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