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Kevin

Do you think that this poem is intended to speak specifically of Tessimond's own experience of family, or more generally of his feelings on all families?

JRWB

That's a very good, but a very big question. Certainly it's tempting to read this as specific to Tessimond's own family circumstance, but we do have to be careful. At this stage almost nothing is known about his childhood, to the point that his close friend and literary executor was seemingly unaware of his sister's existence (though we might assume she left 32, Devonshire Road soon after the poet's birth).

What this poem is saying about families is more generalised than relating to just the Tessimonds. 'People', 'houses', 'families', are all terms that imply that this is a common problem, not common to everyone, but that there is a type of person who diffuses their self amongst others in order to not have to face up to their fear of who they are. Is this what George and Amy did? Well, possibly... but the real answer is that we just don’t know. Even with more of an impression of what went on at Devonshire Road, we cannot really say that this is what his parents were doing.

I’m intending at some point (after this celebration is over) to go and look at Hubert Nicholson’s papers to see if any more light can be shed on Tessimond’s life from those. There were also 105 copies of a short pamphlet on the poet’s later life published by the artist Frances Richards in 1979. The background is all very intriguing – I’d be fascinated to know more about his mother’s donation to the Lord Baldwin Fund; £5 stands as a very large private bequest. How did this potentially politically motivated act square with the poet’s dodging of conscription a few years later?

All of this is a side issue to the poem itself. The poem is there to express a view, one of loneliness within families, within houses, but ultimately loneliness brought by a separation from who the individual is themselves. Though it may have been what Tessimond felt about his own family, it’s something that exists beyond that circumstance, and though perhaps not universal, is shared no doubt by a great many people.

SG

the poet was hospitalised for hiccups - thus he 'dodged' conscription.

he was fond of his cousins- enough to dedicate poems to them.

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