Travels with the English Speaking Union

Over the last decade, I have spoken for several ESU groups in New Jersey, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. Each has been lovely, and at each location, I have been treated very hospitable and have met some amazing people. Despite the many topics I have offered, chapters have always asked for the story of Jennie Jerome Churchill. I agree – she is fascinating – and I have enjoyed building my personal collection of books to include a number of her Anglo-Saxon Review, published 1899-1901. Her partner in bringing out this magazine was her good friend Pearl Craigie, who wrote under the name of ‘John Oliver Hobbes.’ Craigie was also an American, also wrote for the theatre, and was Jennie Churchill’s neighbor in Lancaster Gate, London. When Craigie suddenly and prematurely died in London in 1906, Jennie was one of the sponsors of a memorial plaque installed at University College, London. A few years ago, I finally had the opportunity to see it. I went looking for the librarian who had answered a letter I sent about the plaque some months before. “How interesting,” she said, “yours is the second inquiry I have received in a year about Pearl Craigie.” I think I must have disappointed her by revealing that both enquirers came from the same person. It would have distressed Jennie Churchill that her friend has been largely forgotten, but I keep hoping that an ESU chapter will respond to my efforts.