• ‘A foreigner’s apprehension of a country at its most critical time’: Hugh Walpole in Russia in World War 1

      Poesio, Giannandrea; Weedon, Alexis; University of Bedfordshire (Hugh Walpole Society, 2021-02-19)
      Hugh Walpole travelled to the Eastern front as a volunteer for the Russian Red Cross. He stopped in Petrograd before joining his Otriad on a tour of duty near Lviv in the Ukraine in May 1915. After six months he returned to the UK to raise support for a British initiative to counteract German propaganda and in 1916 he went back to found the Anglo-Russian Bureau in Petrograd. During this time he kept a journal and wrote two novels about his Russian experience. Looking back, he reflected, ‘they are not bad books because as records of a foreigner’s apprehension of a country at its most critical time, they are true.’ (Walpole, 'The Crystal Box', The Bookman Feb. 1923 p. 688). From 1912 to 1916 he listed books he read on the verso pages of his journal and on the recto he listed the plays and operas with location and performers. It is a detailed record of an eclectic reader and theatre-goer. Later he published fragments of autobiography where he described how he fleetingly met Lenin and his official report on the early months of the revolution contains his eye-witness account of the demonstrations and the shots fired at him on the office balcony. From these sources we can see how his time in Russia influenced his taste and how closely he intertwined his experience of the theatre with his recall of the war.