Society member Trevor Moore writes:
In 2019 an article appeared in the Dulwich Society Journal about the publication of Words in Pain, a collection of thought-provoking and moving letters I co-edited for a centenary edition – the original, anonymous version, having appeared in 1919. (How I delved behind the original anonymity to discover the author’s identity – Olga Jacoby - for the 2019 edition is explained in the Foreword.)
In the four years since, the book has captured the imagination of many worldwide – we are on a third reprint. But what has astounded me is the number of further revelations and connections that have come about.
Perhaps the most surprising came in a text message I received, out of the blue, from someone who said they had seen Words in Pain in an Oxford bookshop and had something that might interest me. That ‘something’ proved to be the original handwritten letters that form the heart of Words in Pain. After I visited the owner to photograph them in a lovingly bound volume, he donated them to the Bodleian Library. It is a great comfort to know that they are in a safe place.
Most of the letters are addressed to ‘My Dear Doctor’. Up to the point of publication, neither I nor my co-editor, Jocelyn Catty, had been able to clarify who the mysterious, caring doctor might be. But at the book launch in Bloomsbury Jocelyn’s mother produced a somewhat damaged sepia photograph of a man looking a little like Charles Dickens from family papers and proudly announced: ‘You know, I think this might be a picture of the doctor.’ On the reverse appeared the initials F de H H. Those initials proved sufficient for me to follow certain factual clues in the letters to pursue more research and establish that the doctor was one Francis de Havilland Hall. Francis worked at the Westminster Hospital as a consulting physician. He also apparently supervised W G Grace when a medical student, before fame struck.
Perhaps the most curious connection came from an American Democrat Cory Booker – currently Senator of New Jersey. In a posting on social media, he recited the first part of one of my favourite passages from Words in Pain:
“Love, like strength and courage, is a strange thing; the more we give the more we find we have to give. Once given out love is set rolling for ever to amass more, resembling an avalanche by the irresistible force with which it sweeps aside all obstacles, but utterly unlike in its effect, for it brings happiness wherever it passes and lands destruction nowhere.”
For the curious, Words in Pain is still available to order from all good bookshops and online.