Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ivo Pakenham

Ivo Pakenham (b. 4 December 1903; d. reg. Brighton, Sussex, July-September 1980)  

His name at birth was registered as "Robert Ivo Raymond Lygon Pakenham," but he evidently always went by Ivo, and usually gave his name as Ivo Robert Raymond Lygon Pakenham.  He was the oldest child of an Irish-born military officer, Captain Robert Edward Michael Pakenham (1874-1915), who served in the Boer War and died in France in the Great War, and his wife, Nancy Fowler (1881-1934), who were married on 12 September 1900. Ivo had a younger brother (who died as an infant) and a younger sister. 

He was educated at Wellington College, and in the mid-1930s gave his occupation as "interior decorator," with his special interests being medieval and classical history, as well as hunting, shooting, British numismatics, heraldry, genealogy, history and travel. He was a long-time friend of Ivy Compton-Burnett, and was known as a knowledgeable antiques dealer in Kensington. He died in a Brighton nursing home at the age of 76, survived by his male partner.

He published only one book, Fanfaronade (London: Rich & Cowan, [September] 1934). It is a time-slip fantasy set in France. It begins in 1928 when a brother and sister go to visit a very old chateau in France. The brother, Lucius, simply disappears from his room, and awakens as a young amnesiac in 1474. The reader follows this man, now called Blaise, for six years, until his memory awakens, after which time an epilogue returns the reader to 1934, where some lost rooms are discovered in the chateau, and there a manuscript is found in Lucius's hand from over four hundred years earlier. The book is dedicated to Pakenham's mother, "who did not live to see it published," dying about six months before the book was published, and to Maurice Lincoln (1887-1962), a "fellow-author," of novels and journalism, without whose "kindly sympathy" Pakenham says he might never have finished the book. 

Pakenham's short forward lists a number of his favorite historical works  that he used as background for the novel, and gives some relevant opinions:

I have quite frankly, for the purposes of my story, emphasised the colour and splendour of the dying Middle Ages, but I hope that I have not shown myself altogether unaware of the other side of the tapestry--of those loose threads of squalor, discomfort and superstition which were such an integral part of a brilliant period. 
     Against that stumbling-block of the historical novelist, the question of dialogue, I have come up in full measure. To use modern language seems to me to be a slovenly way of working, while that of the "cloak and sword" school is unquestionably worse. . . . All I have tried to do, therefore, is to endeavour to catch the cadence and intonation of fifteenth-century speech, in the hope of conveying to the ear some faint impression of what it probably sounded like. 

Pakenham concludes by noting that the poetry at the end of the book was verbally handed down in his mother's family for generations. "It is not known for certain who wrote it, but it has never, to my knowledge, before been published." The lines closely echo the published poem titled "The Falcon" in An Old Story and Other Poems (1868) by Elizabeth D. Cross

The dust-wrapper blurb entices the prospective reader with the following:

The author has painted for us a magnificent picture with a wealth of colour which should entrance even the non-historical reader. On his canvas, courtiers, priests and lovers, banquets, tournaments and pageantry glow against a dark background of treachery and witchcraft, politics and war. . . . There is about Mr. Pakenham's writing a beauty and fineness that mark him out as destined for big things. 

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