Curious connections

Throughout my great-grandmother Katharine Dracopoli's diaries there are references to well known people of the day. Her aunt Sarah Ridley Watts knew the painter John Singer Sargent. She herself knew the artist Mary Sargant (later Sargant Florence, no relation to the above) who had a house at Marlow called Lordswood. She herself stayed with the artist Claude Calthrop and his wife Louise while she studied art under him. He was a figure painter whose works are in among other places the Tate Gallery in London.

My great-grandfather Nicholas Dracopoli was at the Lycee Louis le Grand in Paris which is where he met Prince Nicholas of Montenegro who was to be King Nicholas 1 from 1910 to 1918. After he was deposed he and his family lived in a villa at Antibes where he died in 1921.

My grandmother stayed with Mary Sargant for a while to study art, her daughter Alix was married to James Strachey and they were responsible for translating the works of Sigmund Freud into English. My great uncle John was a sculptor in Paris before the First World War and there he met the two American artists of the Synchromist movement; Morgan Russell and Stanton MacDonald Wright.

My family knew the artist William Lamb Picknell and Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn the British impressionist painter. One of their first homes in England was near Poole in Dorset and not very far away lived the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace who proposed my great uncle Nazio for a fellowship of the Royal Geographic Society. A friend of my great-grandmother Mrs Bishop knew John Ruskin and the writer Edwin Arnold. On one of her last voyages to the south of France my great-grandmother met the writer Axel Munthe and she knew at Antibes Dr Agnes McLaren who did much to try and get medical care to women in India.

Also known to my family was the Gavan-Duffy family. George Gavan-Duffy represented Sir Roger Casement at his treason trial in 1916. My great-grandmother had friends who were involved in the Suffragette movement one of whom May Wallace Dunlop was imprisoned for trying to attach a protest banner to the House of Parliament. She was sent to Holloway Prison but released after a hunger strike.

My great-grandmother knew the novelist Anne Ogle who knew Algernon Swinburn. She lived with her sister Isabel at Chesters near the Roman wall. She wrote two books, the earlier and best known being ‘A Lost Love’. My great-grandmother met her regularly over the years perhaps the last time being in May 1916. I managed to find a copy of ‘A lost Love’ inscribed by the recipient as having been given to her by Isabel at Chesters in 1918, the year that Anne Ogle died. A friend of my great-grandmother at Antibes was Caroline Grout who had been the niece of Gustav Flaubert. As Caroline Commanville she is said to have done much to relieve him of his fortune.