SOLD Hammer price: €900, Estimate: €600-800
Kipling ‘Not a Gentleman’
Naval Interest: Groome (Admiral Robert Leonard 1848 – 1917). Memoirs of his naval service, typescript, unpublished, 150 numbered pp, inscribed presentation copy, with some manuscript notes in the author’s hand, some photographs of naval action laid in, also a few cartoons apparently from Japanese newspapers. Quarto, superbly bound in full crushed brown Morocco, spine with raised bands, no title or title page except for the dates of his service ‘1861-1907’ in gilt on upper cover. Marbled endpapers, t.e.g., doublures with an elaborate gilt roll, in excellent condition. Evidently one of a handful of copies at most, possibly a unique copy (not found in COPAC).
The memoirs cover Groome’s service from the day he entered the Navy as a midshipman in 1861, aged 12, through his appointment as an officer, later Captain and Commander in a variety of ships, to his retirement as Admiral in charge of the British Home Fleet in 1907. He writes with a refreshing disregard for discretion (evidently the memoir was intended only for private circulation to friends). He gives a valuable insider’s view of the British Navy as it developed through the Victorian era of imperial expansion, pointing to the Navy’s failings as well as its strengths. Much of his service was on the Chinese and Japanese stations, where he witnessed the Russo-Japanese and Sino-Japanese Wars, and also off Latin America. He comments caustically on the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by European missionaries in China, reinforced when necessary by the threat of force, and pulls no punches in his references to fellow officers (and their wives) who fell below his standards. To give just one example, on meeting Rudyard Kipking he ‘was never so much disappointed in a man in my life..R.K. was disappointing to meet in every way; his conversation did not amuse.. but he must have had a most marvellous knack of picking up copy and then putting them in as his own experiences. How he could describe a gentleman, God knows, for he certainly was not one himself..’ [p. 117].There are references to many junior and senior officers whom he encountered, including [Lord] Jacky Fisher who was evidently a friend in later years. A most interesting and valuable insider’s record of the most powerful navy the world had seen. The Author eventually became Admiral of the Home Fleet. (1)