Maurice Baring

Maurce-BaringMaurice Baring (1874-1945) was a poet and author some of whose work was borderline fantasy and/or science fiction. He writes a brief vision of “Venus” in a story collected in his Orpheus in Mayfair (1909), which also contains a story about precognition, “The Shadow of Midnight” (originally 1908). The title story “Orpheus in Mayfair” translates the Orpheus myth into the modern world; this is an idea he also explores in The Glass-Mender (1910). He produced a revised selection of his stories in Half-a-Minute’s Silence (1925). My information comes from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy.

Maurice Baring was born in Mayfair in London, a member of the banking family Barings (founded 1762, went bust 1995). His father became the first Baron Revelstoke; his uncle was Evelyn Baring, first earl of Cromer. He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College Cambridge (though he did not complete his degree). He had a gift for foreign languages, and between 1898 and 1904 worked for the Foreign Office, being posted to Paris, Copenhagen and Rome. In 1904 he went on behalf of the Morning Post to Manchuria, to cover the Russo-Japanese War (see his book With the Russians in Manchuria, 1905), and then acted as special correspondent for them in St Petersburg. In 1909 Baring he went to to Constantinople and in 1912 he worked for The Times in the Balkans. He described all this in The Puppet Show of Memory (1922), where he describes his joining the Catholic Church as “the only action in my life which I am quite certain I have never regretted”.

By the time of the Great War, he had published several books, of poetry and prose, and two historical plays, and a book about Russian literature (much later he selected the poems for the Oxford Book of Russian Verse).

During the Great War he was in the RFC and then the RAF: see his war experiences.

His first novel, Passing By, came out in 1921, and this was followed by several others. His books included a biography of Sarah Bernhardt (1933) and In My End is My Beginning (1931), a novel telling the story of Mary Stuart from the point of view of her ladies-in-waiting. His most popular book was Have You Anything to Declare? (1936), an anthology of favourite extracts from literatureBy 1936 the symptoms of his Parkinson’s disease had appeared, and between 1940 and his death at the end of 1945 he was looked after by friends in Scotland.

So far my information comes from Robert Speight’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (revised by Annette Peach).



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