1884-03-13

HUGH WALPOLE, An English novelist, was born on this date (d: 1941); As a young man, the future dean of English letters who could make or break literary careers and reputations hero-worshiped Henry James, more than forty years his senior. Walpole called him “my very dear Master,” and James responded with “darling Hugh” and “my belovedest little Hugh.”

Little Hugh, the story goes, once attempted to seduce the virginal James, who promptly broke into tears and cried, “I can’t…I can’t” Of the many who could, and did, Walpole’s greatest loves were the Danish tenor Lauritz Melchior and a married Cornish constable names Harold Cheevers who had once been revolver champ of the British Isles. Like E.M. Forster’s London bobby, Cheevers was brawny and masculine and stayed with Walpole until the day the writer died.