Author Topic: Clive Burt remembering Michael  (Read 371 times)


  • Administrator
  • Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 255
    • View Profile
Clive Burt remembering Michael
« on: September 11, 2019, 11:17:10 AM »
At Nico's recommendation, Sharon and I visited his friend Clive Burt in 1976: "Used to be a magistrate, exact contemporary Eton & Oxford, close friend at any rate at Eton ... a very attractive chap."

Well, we visited him. His memory was a bit rusty, but he had some good stories. I remember recording him although I seem to have lost the audio tape, but I found Sharon's notes, and in light of the on-going speculation re Michael's possible suicide:

We got off to a good start with him asking “Where does George come into it? Who was killed in the navy?”

"I don't recollect having any correspondence really with Michael, I may have done but my association with him was in the last year of the war. ... At Oxford I didn't come across him much although I knew Rupert Buxton years before ...”

Hugh Macnaghten [M'tutor at Eton]: “great sentimentalist“ – “a very great man, he eventually committed suicide very sadly.”

"I knew Michael more through playing football — I was the captain then, field as they called it — only because all the others had gone off to the war. Apart from being in sixth form – top 24 people in the school –  we were also the top people in Pop and athletics and that sort of thing, but apart from that my recollection of him is awfully bad.”

(Not much recollection of South of France holiday with Senhouse, Boothby and Michael — climbing trees!)

He used to stay with the Buxtons at Essex. Can't think why Boothby refused to speak to Michael because of Buxton. “Bob [Boothby] I knew quite well at Oxford, much more than Michael, went to stay with him in Scotland.”

“I know Rupert Buxton was a great admirer of Shelley — not a very bad thing to be! He was musical, very good boy cricketer, a strong character.”

[Re Boothby's comments about Buxton:] "There were a lot of people I knew at Oxford who were 'saturnine'!”

Did Buxton strike you as being a particularly melancholy person? “No, I wouldn't have thought so."

Did you, at the time of Michael's death, hear anyone suggest that it might have been anything other than an accident?

“Well, you know what people are like, it’s possible, that sort of thing, I never pay any attention to it.  A number of people committed suicide when I was at Oxford, but that was largely due to examination nerves and that sort of thing. No, I never heard anything of that kind. Sandford Weir is a dangerous place to bathe and anything can happen, get pulled down or whatever.”

(Clive agreed with Sebastian Earl rather than Boothby)

“I was not very introspective and never thought of these things ...”

Was it possible that Michael was ‘going through a homosexual phase’?”

“I would have thought quite definitely not. ... As I say, when he and I were prowling round Choral (?) Street, in the neighbourhood of the great philanthropists of Bloomsbury, it had nothing to do with homosexuality, I can assure you — other troubles! ... I'm sure that as far as the time at Eton was concerned there was nothing of the kind at all — and if there hadn't been then I can't have seen it developing later.”

Michael’s character?  “I would say rather reserved, not a seeker after popularity or great friendships I should have thought.”

(Would have thought the relationship between Michael & Seb. Earl a distant one other than writing up of [Eton College] Chronicle itself.)

(Starts remembering bits of S. of France holiday — being hoisted up the tree; nowhere to stay in Paris, Bob Boothby's uncle “well known” at the Meurice [hotel] but they got summarily ejected; retired to a Turkish bath; eventually got a prostitute’s type room in which a couple could sleep while the other 2 had to walk the streets ... ”I knew him very well, but I would say not intimately.”)

Attitude to war? — "Lemmings.” He wasn't called up either.

Did you ever meet Barrie? — “Yes, Michael took me to lunch there one day ... It was a rather late lunch. I can't remember whether Bernard Shaw was there or not but it was not a very great entertainment for me. I was shy and had never met the chap before.”

Did Michael give you any warning beforehand of what Barrie might be like?  “No. He [Barrie] was was quiet, but all I can remember is that we were hanging around for lunch.”

“I would have thought that he was not in the least sentimental, Michael.  When we were leaving Eton, you sometimes swapped photographs with people. I said to Michael, ‘Well I'd like a photograph of you, and on it he wrote  “Spill not thy seed upon the ground. Michael.”’

“Michael reserved if you like, not cynical, not sentimental, but as for his other emotional moods I wouldn’t have the faintest idea.”

During the time you knew him can you remember him ever having a girlfriend? “No I don’t.”

Relationship between Michael and Barrie? “He was obviously devoted to him and admired him very much and I think he was doing me a great turn by asking me to go and meet the little man.”

Didn’t know that Michael and Barrie wrote to each other every day.

Peter he knew for a short time at Eton, better later in the Isle of Wight with [his wife] P. “A gentle and friendly character.” Wouldn’t have thought him being in College would’ve made much difference between him and his brothers. “Michael was a much more reserved character”.

Nico? “Entirely different character, rather rough-tough I would say. I should think his humour was entirely different to Michael’s – he’s a great laugh, Nico – Michael was much more reserved. Nico would be more the comedian and less the wit.”

Got no impression from Michael what he wanted to do in later life.

How widespread in 1918/19 was the disillusionment with the War?

“Well I don’t think it had percolated quite frankly. We had one or two friends who were sensible and conscientious objectors, but apart from that everyone was involved in it … I think everyone was keen to go.”

Were you aware that Michael’s first 2 years at Eton were miserable?  “No.”

On Michael: “Certainly there was a reserved part which was not for public exposure. He was a cat who walked alone a bit.”
« Last Edit: September 11, 2019, 12:25:24 PM by Andrew »

Dandy Lion

  • Member
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8
    • View Profile
Re: Clive Burt remembering Michael
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2019, 02:32:09 PM »
Many thanks for all this information Andrew...very interesting. I don't know of a Choral Street around Bloomsbury way, there is however a Coram Street.