'The English Tolstoy'
Waltham House, 28 Worple Road, Epsom.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.
Mr Hosken/Granville/James/Godwin etc - we shall just call him Charles from now on, to avoid confusion with the aliases - resided for a time at Waltham Lodge, Worple Road, Epsom. Under different circumstances he might have been perceived as a credit to the town, but in the event his short residence just dragged the address through the national and colonial press. (In 1911 the house was occupied by solicitor Mr R G F Hills, but he had moved to College Road, probably in 1912)
Charles Hosken, born c.1867 in Helston, Cornwall, was the son of an iron founder who was very well-read, which explains how at least two of his children became poets and writers. Charles started off promisingly, as this extract from The Cornishman newspaper of 23 January 1913 demonstrates.
About 20 years ago there was at Helston a young man of great promise, well known to his townspeople as Charles Hosken, who as a lad entered the offices of Messrs Grylls, Hill and Hill, solicitors, and became the assistant clerk to the Board of Guardians under Mr F V Hill and later Mr A E Ratcliffe, his successor. Mr Hosken had considerable knowledge of the Poor Law and of other legal matters and was entrusted at times with very important business. In his private capacity he launched out on ventures of his own, one of which was a canning manufactory, with the object of exporting goods to the colonies and elsewhere, and we believe, on one occasion he visited South Africa for this purpose. At one time he intended practising law, as he became an articled clerk for that purpose, and while with Messrs Grylls, Hill and Hill removed from his former residence to one of the largest houses in Helston. It was understood at the time that he had speculated successfully in shares and was a man of considerable means. On October 5th 1892 he married Miss Charlotte Mary Taylor, daughter of Mr T Taylor, the well-known educationist and member of the Town Council.
A really nice old photo of Helston (Coinagehall Street).
Image source: Helston History
Cross Street, Helston, where Charles had his large house.
Image source: Helston History
(Charles's house was Trevean, 11 Cross Street, which is now Grade II listed.)
The couple had one son, Basil Raymond, born c.1894 in Helston. So far so good, it seems.
Life starts to go wrong
It is certainly true that Charles gave up the law and went into business (he also wrote, but we will come to that). He next popped up at the London Bankruptcy Court in mid- 1898. In 1893 he had gone into partnership with the aforementioned Mr A E Ratcliffe as preserve manufacturers, operating out of Deal, Kent. In April 1897 he agreed to buy out Mr Ratcliffe, but fundamentally could not come up with all the necessary cash, and the creditors, including his former employer, Mr Hill, began to close in. There was some suggestion that funds had been misappropriated, which Charles denied. At this stage he was living in Little Gubbins, Harold Wood, Essex.
Charles was made bankrupt in May 1898 and apparently remained that way because he did not attend his final public examination. This was somewhere around the time when he became a full-time professional writer and took the surname of Granville. Unfortunately, there was another writer called Charles Granville (who was really Francis George Granville Egerton, Lord Ellesmere), so I am not sure who wrote what as far as novels are concerned, but neither of them seems to be highly regarded by posterity.
However, I have unearthed a long review in The Cornishman of 28 January 1915, which definitely relates to our man, and this is shown in full in the Appendix
, including some excerpts from Charles's poetry. I will give you one taster here in the main article, so that you can get a feeling for the kind of thing he wrote and, hopefully, some sense of the man himself. The review itself gives considerable insight into the man's character, warts and all.
Go make you whole!
Your heart bathe in the healing light
Of day, in the soothing shine of night:
Let the winds of heaven thro' your soul;
And make companions of the road
Creatures that in their lustihood
Of bloom and song fulfil their God -
These are your peers, and this is your role.
Before we proceed, I should mention that Charles's older brother, James Dryden Hosken, wrote serious verse and was known as 'The Postman Poet', admired by Gladstone and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. He tried unsuccessfully to make a living from poetry and became the town postman in Helston. At one time he emigrated to Adelaide, but returned to Cornwall eventually. One of his sons was convicted of bigamy in Australia, but we will have more than enough British bigamy to deal with in a moment. First, here is one of Dryden Hosken's sonnets, taken from his 1923 book of verse, entitled 'Shores of Lyonesse'.
THE DESERT CITY OF DREAMS
Not crowned with mosque and climbing minaret -
A glory blown across some magic heaven,
In faerie silence hidden from the fret
Wherewith the twilight realm of life is riven -
Not such as this queen of Niger lands
Grows from the burning desert on the sights
Hardened and browned by thousand suns she stands
In ancient desolation, barbarous might;
A point at which all desert ways have end;
And from the great lakes to the middle sea
She woos the merchant to the northern bead
Of her broad stream; and hearts in Araby
Dream of her; and the boatmen on the Nile
With her wild songs the sparkling nights beguile.
Back to the main plot! We know that Charles and Charlotte travelled abroad and an internet source says that he deserted her in 1908, while they were in Germany. Charlotte's father said later that he had last seen her in 1912 and that she had been travelling round the continent teaching for about five years previously. It was said that Charles had sent money to her. The internet source mentioned at the end of this piece says that Charlotte fled Brussels when the Germans invaded Belgium and returned to England and, as you will see in the newspaper article about Basil below, so did he, so it seems that they were together then.
The Germany Army marches into Brussels, August 1914.
Image source: IWM Collection
Enter Mrs Emily Parker
In 1905 Charles was in London, running the Rapid Language School and going under the name of Henry Charos James. Charlotte was still living with him at this point. An extraordinary thing then happened. A surgeon's widow named Emily Esther/Hester Tugwell Parker (née Humphrey, born 1854 Wandsworth) enrolled at the school and was apparently interested in some kind of business partnership. Before he knew it, or so he claimed, Charles found himself at Paddington Register Office on 18 November 1905, marrying her.
According to Mrs Parker, they became friends and he proposed to her, saying that he was a widower with one son; she lent him some sums of money, the largest being £20. After the ceremony they breakfasted at a restaurant and returned to her house. Charles then went out and vanished. About a week later she went to his address and apparently found him there with Charlotte. Speaking in 1913, she said she had considered him a kind and good man and two or three years earlier a firm of solicitors had sent her £20 or £25 on his behalf. She then wrote to Charles (Mr James, as she knew him), forgiving him for everything. She had probably not been too upset for very long, as in the summer of 1906 she married someone else.
Mrs Parker reported all this to the police at the time but they did not catch up with Charles until 1912. His defence was that she had drugged him or plied him with drink and he had no recollection at all of the 'wedding', a claim that was soundly rejected by the court.
The Lady from Riga
Old postcard of Riga c.1900,
when it was part of the Russian Empire.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
In about 1907 Charles met Mrs Caroline Leontine Fawcett in Brussels. Mrs Fawcett, née Gerhardy, born in 1866 in Riga (then part of Russia), was divorcing (or already had divorced) her husband, engineer John Lonsdale Fawcett, on the grounds of adultery and cruelty; the couple were married in 1893 at the Town Hall in Ixelles, a suburb of Brussels, and had latterly lived in Bridlington, Yorkshire. According to her petition, Fawcett had committed adultery, infected her with two types of sexually transmitted disease and knocked her about so badly that she feared for her life and left him. She was obviously vulnerable when she met Charles, but even years later she said that 'he was the finest and best of men anyone could live with'; she knew he was married but did not ask if his wife was dead because she simply didn't care. Both of them would have been quite happy just to live together, but pressure from her relatives persuaded them to get married. The ceremony took place in Portobello, a beach resort close to Edinburgh, on 3 November 1908. Caroline confirmed that Charles took drink and drugs while she knew him. She was described in court (1913) as being 'a middle-aged lady of refined appearance, wearing a heavy black veil' and a reluctant witness.
Charles and Caroline stayed together for several years, with Charles spending long hours on his writing, using the pen-name of Stephen Swift for poetry published in 'The New Age' literary magazine; he was also a partner in a London publishing house. In September 1912 he suddenly disappeared, leaving his partners in financial difficulties. It will come as no particular surprise that he had another woman, albeit that he was still supposedly with Mrs Fawcett. There is a suggestion on the internet that he had been living with this woman on the quiet during 1912 and that may be where Waltham House came into the picture. Anyway, the couple travelled to the continent and then Tangier as Mr and Mrs Godwin: 'Mrs Godwin' was described in court as an employee of his, but was not named. She was almost certainly Louise Helene Henriette Heilgers, who was born in 1882 in Camberwell district. The Heilgers family had a history in East India trade and Louise's father, Robert, was a financier. Louise was already a writer when she met Charles and became quite successful for a time.
It was not really the bigamy that did for Charles in the end (his bigamous wives seemed to be fairly relaxed about it all, because they thought he was a nice man, and the court did not regard it as the worst type of bigamy they had ever encountered). However, he had accepted £1500 from an investor in connection with a publishing company that he was intending to start (he said), but the money found its way into his own bank account; he drew it out immediately and fled abroad, leaving overdrafts and bouncing cheques.
The police were informed of the fraud, a detective was put on the trail and Charles was brought back from Tangier in October 1912; he was also charged with obtaining money from Mrs Parker, plus two counts of bigamy. Initially he was allowed bail, but then remanded in custody. At his Old Bailey trial in 1913 he tried to wriggle out of the dilemma - mistaken identity was his main excuse - but was convicted on all counts, receiving several concurrent sentences which came out as 15 months' hard labour.
Before the trial ended Louise Heilgers was delivered of a daughter, Dorothy, whose birth was registered in the surnames of both Heilgers and Granville.( In February 1918, in Fulham, she gave birth to twins, Mary and Elizabeth Granville.)
It is some time since I mentioned Basil Hosken and now that I do it is for a sad reason. Basil, who adopted the surname of Granville, became an Acting Captain in the 7th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers and was killed in action on the Western Front, aged 23, on 23 April 1917: he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial and on the Helston War Memorial, located at St Michael's Church.
Helston War Memorial (above), with Inscription (below).
Images source: Helston History
This article appeared in The Cornishman on 3 May 1917.
CAPT B R GRANVILLE KILLED
Captain Basil Raymond Granville, Royal Fusiliers, killed in action on the 23rd April 1917, was the only son of Mr Charles Granville, the poet and novelist, and was 23 years of age. Capt Granville witnessed the entry of the German troops into Brussels and later escaped through their lines to enlist in England. He joined the Public Schools and Universities Corps at Epsom*; received his commission in May 1915, was wounded in the Somme battle and was promoted to a captaincy about six weeks ago.
His Colonel writes of his death: 'He was most gallantly leading his men when he was hit ... He was a most keen and reliable officer and his loss is greatly felt by myself, all officers and men of the Batt., by all of whom he was much beloved. In him the country has lost a most capable and gallant young officer.'
Capt Granville was educated at Brussels, Pembroke School, Bruges, and Bedford Grammar School. He had adopted his father's pen-name, Mr Granville being better known in Cornwall as Mr Charles Hosken of Helston. He was a grandson of Alderman T Taylor, retired schoolmaster of Helston.
In a letter to Mr Granville, Col Hesketh, Capt Granville's commanding officer says: - 'I am writing to express the sincere condolences of myself and the officers of my Batt. in the great loss you have sustained through the death of your gallant son and to give you a few particulars of how he met his death. The Battalion, with many others, attacked the enemy's position in the early morning of the 23rd. Though there was a good deal of resistance we gained our objective and your son was gallantly leading his men when he was hit in the head by a sniper and killed instantaneously. I am sure it will be some consolation to know he was a most keen and reliable officer and his loss is greatly felt by myself, all officers and men of the Batt., by all of whom he was much beloved. In him the country has lost a most capable and gallant young officer'.
Charles claimed Basil's medals in 1920.
The following poem by Charles was published in The Cornishman on 7 June 1917.
FOR PARENTS OF THE SLAIN
BASIL RAYMOND GRANVILLE
Captain, 7th Royal Fusiliers
Killed in action 23rd April 1917, aged 23 years.
Weep not; they would not have us weep for them;
Weep not; for they are as the stars that shine;
Their glory spilt upon the darkened skies
Can not be dimmed by frailty, yours or mine.
They cannot die; eternal Spring has set
Unfading garlands on the undying brows;
Their gaze is fixed for ever on some goal
Where venturous morn no drowsing mid-day knows.
They cannot die; yet bid us not forget
The violet they loved; the lush deep grass;
Their bodies pressed; the stream; the elm tree shade;
The sunny nook; the lake; the rocky pass;
And above all the foam-girt shores that make
This land our land, England their own, the Queen
Of lands - aye, bid us not forget they fought
To keep her name and honour always green.
They cannot die; shall not the best survive?
The flower of man too has its seed in death;
And as the Phoenix soars from ashen dust
Man's spirit from the dead draws living breath.
They live with us as they shall live with men
Throughout the ages in the times to be,
Patriots and partners in the great emprise
To make and keep their cherished England free;
(Only when foul is fair and fair is foul,
And honour fails, shall men blot out their light;
Only when men shall call their courage crime
Shall England know oblivion and the night;)
They shall not die if men be worthy them
And the high motive shining through their deed;
If men be worthy they shall never die,
But shall be spirit-warriors at our need.
The above appears in the June No. of 'The Future'.
Mrs Hosken returns
And at last, in 1919, the elusive Mrs Charlotte Mary Hosken, who was supposedly 'addicted to drink', reappeared, brandishing the twins' 1918 birth certificates as proof of her husband's adultery with Louise: a decree was granted. Charles and Louise then married and at that stage were living at Parkshot House, in Richmond, Surrey, where she was running a correspondence school in writing.
So, did Charles and Louise live happily ever after? Unfortunately not. In 1928 she divorced him and so far I have been unable to establish what happened to him, although Louise was described as a widow when she died on 28 October 1954 in Eastbourne. We shall leave the subject of her daughters, since what happened to them is their own business. I have found no further trace of the first Mrs Hosken or Mrs Fawcett, but Mrs Emily Parker (later Jones) died on 17 April 1920, leaving effects of £53.
Postscript - 'The Chinese Lantern' café
There is one more twist to this tale, which concerns Louise. As I mentioned, the Heilgers family was in East India trade and one of Louise's sisters was named Sona Alexandria. Sona, which means 'golden', was born c.1890 in India. And it seemed that she was golden, marrying law student David Ramsay and having three sons. She liked to dress exotically and loved dancing. Then it all went wrong. David, who was a Flying Officer in the First World War, had a bad crash and was crippled. Sona eventually took over a café at Harbour Street on the cliff edge at Broadstairs, which was called 'The Chinese Lantern'. A male nurse called Charles Robinson was engaged to help David and Robinson also had an interest in the business. On 1 June 1927 Sona's body was found in one of the café bedrooms with a sheet over her head: she had been killed by a severe blow on the forehead from a blunt instrument, which transpired to be a heavy hammer. There were signs of a violent struggle and police found a long letter, apparently written by Robinson to his wife and children, saying that he had committed a crime and intended to do away with himself. He was found dying from self-administered poison in some bushes on the North Foreland at Broadstairs and died without regaining consciousness. It seems that Sona had been intimate with Robinson, who was prone to rages, and that he was angry and jealous because she went out dancing.
View of Broadstairs from the cliffs by Snapshots Of The Past
via Wikimedia Commons
Today the 'Chinese Lantern Café' is the clubhouse of the Broadstairs Sailing Club.
With thanks to Graham G Matthews at Helston History
, who allowed me to use some of his photos. Graham's website, which is very well worth a browse, was started by him as a tribute to his late grandfather, who recorded local history for many years.
Thanks also to the website Bear Alley Blogspot
, which filled in some holes for me.