Cardus and Barbe: Gathering RosebudsMartin Chandler |
Author: Lawton Smith, Simon
Publisher: Lawton Smith, Simon
Rating: 4 stars
It would have been a reasonable assumption to make, following the appearance in the last couple of years of excellent biographies by Christopher O’Brien and Duncan Hamilton, that the well of new material on the life of Sir Neville Cardus had run dry. For just a few subjects however the desire for new information on their lives and times is inexhaustible, and it seems that in that respect that Cardus is right up there with the likes of Victor Trumper, JFK and Nelson Mandela.
In this splendid monograph Simon Lawton Smith has looked at just one aspect of Cardus, his Bohemian private life. Cardus married in 1921 and spent 46 happy, platonic and often separated years ‘with’ his wife, Edith. After several years of marriage he began a series of relationships with other women, by far the most important of whom was Barbe Ede who, despite being a wife and mother throughout, was in a relationship with Cardus through the 1930s until her tragic and untimely death in 1937.
Both O’Brien and Hamilton looked thoroughly at Cardus’s private life, as did an earlier biographer, Christopher Brookes, and Cardus himself dwelt at length on his relationships in his various autobiographical works. The difference there, and all were well aware of Barbe’s existence, was that in their books Cardus’s love life was incidental to the main thread of their work and it is, in its concentration on that subject and particularly on Barbe, that Lawton Smith does Cardus aficionados a great service.
The source material that Lawton Smith had at his disposal was necessarily restricted by the fact that Cardus has been dead for almost fifty years and Barbe for much longer, but he has found some interesting references and, more importantly, had the opportunity to talk to Barbe’s two grandchildren, two ladies themselves now in their seventies, who have shared with him the memories passed down to them by their mother as well as a few fragments of memorabilia.
In his introduction Lawton Smith gives up a little of himself. He is retired and in his early sixties. What he did in his working life he does not say, although the list of cricket clubs played for suggests he may have been a civil servant. Whatever the answer to that one is the bottom line is the man can certainly write, and Cardus and Barbe: Gathering Rosebuds contains none of the jarring syntax and grammatical eccentricity that is characteristic of some hobbyists’ writings.
As for the production of the booklet it is A4 sized and well laid out with a good selection of photographs albeit, as is so often the case with self-publishing platforms, the reproduction of some of them might have been better. One point however merits special praise, and that is the referencing system that Lawton Smith adopts. It is always helpful to know where information comes from but, personally, I detest the increasing tendency of publishers and authors to include voluminous end notes at the rear of the book. It is, I suppose, pure laziness on my part, but it is grating to have to keep moving to another part of a book in order to properly enjoy the reading experience. Quite why more writers do not, as Lawton Smith does here, place their references at the foot of the page, is beyond me.
But the biggest problem with Cardus and Barbe: Gathering Rosebuds is getting hold of a copy. Lawton Smith has produced an edition limited to fifteen signed and numbered copies, all of which he has given away. There is however some hope for the not inconsiderable number of enthusiasts who I am confident will wish to acquire a copy. Lawton Smith has intimated that he might consider a reprint, or making the booklet available electronically, and whilst we are not about to start a formal petition, we will pass to him all expressions of interest received.