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Post Memoir Writing; The Ronald Hilton Memoirs
Created by John Eipper on 08/11/17 10:29 AM

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Memoir Writing; The Ronald Hilton Memoirs (John Heelan, -UK, 08/11/17 10:29 am)

Regarding memoir writing, John E asked on August 10th: "What advice do you have for Robert Whealey? How honest should you be? I would say 'very,' unless you want your memoirs to ring superficial and self-serving."

I would hesitate to recommend anything on writing memoirs to Prof Whealey, and agree with JE's comment about being honest. Regrettably--and I realise that my next comment might well constitute anathema in WAIS circles--I personally found that Ronald Hilton's memoirs on his experiences in the Spanish Civil War occasionally fell into the description of "superficial and name-droppingly self-serving."

For example I found it difficult when comparing timelines of RH and "Lorca and his ilk," whom he hated and blamed for the Spanish Civil War, to place both in La Resi (Residencia Estudiantil, Madrid) at the same time. Moreover, I did not receive an answer from RH when I questioned him on the lacuna when chasing down the few people still extant who has actually met Lorca.

JE comments: This is a delicate topic, especially because Ronald Hilton is not here to respond.  Prof. H's stay in the Residencia de Estudiantes was in 1936 (he was there when the Civil War broke out).  RH'a From Monarchy to Civil War does not claim that Lorca and Hilton were at the Resi at the same time, only that "Lorca lived in the Residencia de Estudiantes as I did."  (More dramatically, Robert Frost and I both studied at Dartmouth, but not together.)  John:  Wasn't Lorca at the Residencia in the 1920s?  Lorca had already been murdered by August '36.

RH's memoirs are no autobiography.  They could better be thought of as an intellectual history of the Hispanists and other thinkers he encountered Oxford, Madrid, and elsewhere.  RH preferred to talk of others more than himself, and readers searching for "what makes this man tick" will be disappointed.  Moreover, except for a brief epilogue, his narrative ends in 1936, when he was only 25 years old.

(From Monarchy to Civil War can be accessed in full in the "Publications" section of the WAISworld homepage.)


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  • Federico Garcia Lorca, Ronald Hilton, and Madrid's Residencia de Estudiantes (John Heelan, -UK 08/14/17 4:14 AM)
    Reviewing my research notes for the Hilton/Lorca timelines (hidden away in our attic), I now find it appears that Ronald Hilton graduated in 1936 arriving at La Resi (Madrid) by the end of that year; however Lorca had left for South America in September 1933, returning to Granada in May 1934. They could have coincided between November 1934 and May 1935 when it seems both were in Madrid with RH about to leave for his tour of Italy and North Africa arriving back in Spain in January 1936.

    JE asked if Lorca was at La Resi in the 1920s. He was briefly in May 1919 thanks to a letter of recommendation from de los Ríos to La Resi's director but then Lorca was grounded in Granada by his father in Granada to complete his law degree, which he did despite being a remarkably poor student (some suspect the degree was thanks to his law professor friend of his father's, de los Ríos again).

    Lorca returned to La Resi in February 1923. So it appears there were few opportunities for RH "to know Lorca at La Resi." I have failed to find any evidence of such a meeting in Lorca's letters or the many biographies I have read about him. I still think that RH's antipathy to "Lorca and his ilk" stemmed from a difference in ideologies and RH having been snubbed by an arrogant Lorca. Pity--I would have loved to have been able to discuss Lorca with RH.

    JE comments:  Lorca was also 13 years older than RH, and was already a superstar in literary circles.  The omission of an RH encounter (if there was one) in FGLl's letters is therefore not surprising.  Nor did the martyred poet have much time left to reflect on anything.  He was dead by August of '36.

    John Heelan forgot to mention what I consider the most significant outcome of contacting Prof. H in his Lorca research:  WAIS gained a friend and a prolific correspondent.  (That would be 1313 postings and counting, just since 2010--you're the superstar, John!)

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