In Clarence's Time - his relationship with Sir Thomas Hanbury

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Thomas Hanbury from Hortus Mortolensis 1912clarence c1905 esperanto starThe conference of 26 January 2019 at the Hanbury Gardens has the title “Clarence Bicknell e Thomas Hanbury: due grandi vittoriani” (Clarence Bicknell and Thomas Hanbury: two great Victorians on the Riviera). These two, whose images are shown here, were men of dignity, science and benevolence, and we consider them both as “great” men. But does this tell the whole story? 

I have developed an increasing curiosity about Bicknell and Hanbury’s relationship, and the differences between their personalities. My research and conclusions are published today on this web site... Bicknell and Hanbury relationship in PDF

Valerie Lester in her book MARVELS: The Life of Clarence Bicknell describes the two men as friends . Clarence himself writes of “an old friend of the family”, a different concept, but it is not clear whether Clarence thinks of himself as a friend of the Hanbury family or Hanbury a friend of the Bicknells . I know of no meeting between Sir Thomas and other Bicknells, nor of Clarence and other Hanburys.

Graham Avery, student of Bicknell’s botany, and vice-chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association, writes that Hanbury and Bicknell were not friends . My contribution in this paper is to argue that Clarence’s shyness and inferiority complex might have kept him at a distance from Sir Thomas. He might have felt his station was below that of Sir Thomas. Rather than being Hanbury’s friend, Clarence might have been in awe of him and of his construction of the Hanbury Gardens.

I discuss in my paper Clarence's speech impediment, his inclination to violent prejudices, his prejudice against the pompous, Bicknell family traits, and Clarence's friendship with Alwyn Berger. With with evidence in mind, I think Clarence would have felt ill at ease with Sir Thomas. It would not have been one of Clarence’s priorities to seek out Hanbury’s company; indeed he would have thought of a trip to la Mortola as being an opportunity to talk seeds with Berger. But the two men would have had immense respect for each other and their achievements.

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