The Rowers of Vanity Fair/Hemmerde EG

Hemmerde, Edward G. edit

“The New Recorder” (Spy), May 19, 1909 edit


Although Mr. Hemmerde is only thirty-eight years of age he already has a reputation of which an older man might boast. Needless to say, his popular success has not been along the lines he would have chosen. Most people think of him as a brilliant K.C., whereas his heart's desire is to shine as a politician. Mr. Hemmerde is a philosopher, however, and has learnt that we usually break a toe against substantial success while chasing a butterfly.

He was born in London and educated at Winchester and University College, Oxford. At Winchester he won twenty or thirty prizes for running, jumping, and hammer-throwing, and at Oxford represented his college in Association football and at Rugby in cricket [sic]. Rowing, however, was his favourite recreation. He rowed in the University Trial Eights for three years, and captained the University College Boat Club for two years. Later, in 1900, he won the Diamond Sculls at Henley, defeating Howell, who had won in the two previous years.

Devotation to sport did not prevent his appliction to study. He won a college scholarship in 1890, a first-class in Classical Mods. in 1892, graduated with honours in Classics in 1894, took honours Jurisprudence in 1895, and the degree of B.C.L. in 1896.

In 1906 he was elected Member of Parliament for East Denbighshire, and in August, 1907, went to Jamaica, and, after being called to the Bar there, won the caes against the insurance companies arising out of the famous earthquake fire. He also successfully contended the Appeal Case in Privy Council, as a result of which the companies paid about £700,000 in claims and £75,000 in costs.

In 1908 he was returned and took silk at the same time as F.E. Smith, with whom he is persistently associated by the public, presumably because they differ on every point of opinion. He is now Recorder of Liverpool, while about fifteen years younger than any previous holder of the post, and his friends confidently prophesy that he will break other records.

He is an advocate of the democratic cause, a decided Free Trader, and a popular orator, who will no doubt quickly enhance his reputation when his party goes into Opposition. He has insight and decision, is a precise and logical speaker, and will not fail for lack of self-assurance. He is tall and broad -- and deep.

Edward Hemmerde (1871-1948) rowed for University College, Oxford in the Visitors and Wyfolds in 1894. He did not return to the Henley regatta until 1899, when he entered the Diamonds and advanced to the final against Howell, who won by a verdict of easily. In 1900 they faced off again in the Diamonds final, which the regatta records reported as follows:

This was a desperate race from start to finish. Mr. Howell led for the first half of the race, and was half a length ahead at Fawley Court Boathouse, but at the three-quarter mile mark Mr. Hammerde was a trifle in front, led by a half length at the White House, was clear at the lower end of Phyllis Court, and led by two lengths opposite the Grand Stand. Mr. Howell, however, making a desperate finish, only lost by three-quarters of a length. Time 8m. 42s. Mr. Howell fell out of his boat on stopping. He had a bad attack of malaria in the early part of the week, which caused the weakness from which he suffered.

Romance and Rowing, Part II: “In Which a Hero of Henley Suffers Adversity” edit

B. Fletcher Robinson, who had rowed for Jesus College, Cambridge in the '90s, edited Vanity Fair from 1905 to 1907. In the July 4, 1906 issue he contributed the following as a companion to the debate on foreign entries that appeared in the same issue and offering a different perspective on romance and rowing than had appeared previously:

Henry Denton Marshall, commonly called "Bunker" Marshall, for reasons which I have never determined, was a fine oar. Had I the pen of a lady novelist, one of those brilliant idealists who, when they discourse on Cambridge life go yet further astray in their enthusiasm than when they analyse London society, I should translate "Bunker" Marshall, who was a well proportioned lad with a cheerful face and a cherubic complexion, into a god-like youth, the joy of dons, the darling of a mythical University society, and the object of a slavish adoration by the entire undergraduate fraternity. There are, hower, as many sets in Cambridge as in Mayfair. "Bunker" was a member of the "Pit;" but did not wear the pink and white of the Athenaeum. He had not the prestige of an old Etonianism. The son of a respected Yorkshire manufacturer who suffered permanently from a cut-throat competition, he had neither the money nor the birth to become an object of admiration amongst the young gentlemen who play indifferent polo, fall in gallant fashion over impossible fences with the Drag, are not unknown at the Savoy and the Carlton, and generally labour to prove themselves men of the world and very terrible fellows.

Yet "Bunker" Marshall had sniffed the incense of hero worship. He had been a rowing Blue for two years, and winning years at that. Both his dean and tutor, who had seen him raise the college boat five places on the river in that period, were his firm friends. Freshmen, when he was pointed out to them by their seniors, glanced at him humbly; and the undergraduates of his own college of -- let us say -- Boniface (which was not Trinity, but might have been the Hall, Jesus, or Caius) regarded him as their natural leader. He was not unaffected by this admiration. He was no fool, but he knew that he was a person of some importance, and bore himself accordingly.

He had met Miss Dereham at his college ball. She was the daughter of General Sir Hugh Dereham, G.C.B., C.M.G., &c., &c., and her brother, a freshman from Radley, had rowed bow in the Boniface Eight. She was a tall girl, graceful, brown-eyed, and brown-haired, and two-and-twenty years of age. Dick Dereham was very proud of his sister; also he worshipped "Bunker" Marshall. That the two had become friends pleased him; that "Bunker" had fallen desperately in love he failed to perceive; which is the way of brothers.

At the conclusion of the May races the Boniface boat had been left second on the river. They would have gone head, in the general opinion, if there had been another night of racing, being an uncommonly good crew, big and strong, though still capable of further improvement. To Henley they migrated as a matter of course. Things went so well with them that their chances for the Grand Challenge began to be seriously considered by the experts who sit after dinner on a first-floor veranda of the Leander Club. The Press, however, excited by the freaks of training practiced by a visiting American Eight, neglected them altogether.

"Bunker" Marshall saw much of Miss Dereham, for the General had taken a house in the Fair Mile for the regatta. It was, moreover, plain that Miss Dereham took a personal interest in "Bunker." She was frequently to be seen upon the tow-path watching the practice of the Eight. On Sundays they laughed and chatted away the afternoon in the General's garden, while Dick sneered over the sporting papers in the shade of the big yew, or they went up-stream in a launch which the General hired. The position of affairs was accepted by the crew, though not without apprehension. For a man to fall in love while training was a dangerous experiment. The weight of their captain was carefully noted. One week when he fell away by four ounces Miss Dereham became quite unpopular. The only two excepted from and entirely unaware of their secret consultations were Dick Dereham and "Bunker" himself.

It was nine o'clock in the evening, and the Saturday before the Regatta. "Bunker" had been interviewed and photographed several times during the week, and the crew had been pulling his leg during dinner over the efforts of various weekly papers. As the Canadian canoe which he shared with Dereham drifted past the Phyllis Court wall "Bunker" referred to the matter.

"Of course it's all nonsense, Dereham," he said. "Yet it's fame of a sort. I can see my sisters snipping out the pictures -- they keep a book of cuttings about me. Women like a man to be talked about, don't you think?"

"Rather," said Dereham. "But what a rotter that chap on Field Sports must be, making you say that a swivel rollock was--"

"I suppose it will be a long time before I am as famous again," sighed "Bunker," careless of the interruption.

"Did you see what The River said about you?" urged Dick.

"I don't care what they say. When a man is a sort of public character he's fair game. Look at the way they slang Chamberlain."

"Anyhow, it's a beastly cheek," said Dick, accepting the parallel as reasonable.

"They'll talk about you just the same someday."

"Do you really mean it, 'Bunker'? Do you think I--"

"If you continue to improve as you have in the past fortnight you'll get your blue all right."

"By Jove! but the governor would be pleased. And Ida -- she thinks a blue is the end of all things."

"Does she really?" said Marshall, sitting up suddenly.


"Bunker" Marshall hesitated, settled himself amongst the cushions, gave a lazy stroke or two with the paddle, sat up again, and finally spoke.

"Look here, Dereham," he said, "I really don't quite know how to put it, but the fact is -- perhaps you may have -- well, I love your sister very much."

Dick whistled and stared.

"Do you think I've any chance?"

"Chance? Why of course you have. My dear fellow, a man like you, President of the 'Varsity, one of the best Sevens that ever rowed -- I'm deuced glad. It's splendid, really splendid."

"It's awfully good of you, Dereham," said "Bunker."

"You're such a modest chap. You don't know how famous you are. The boatmen and townees point you out to trippers. 'That's Marshall. He was President last year. Finest oar Cambridge has had for years.' You'd hear them yourself if you listened."

"If I have a chance," said "Bunker," modestly, "and if you back me up, Dereham -- well, that's something."

"Don't you worry, 'Bunker.'"

"You won't say a word to anyone, Dereham. Promise now."

"Of course not."

* * *

Now, as the Fates ordained, the Boniface Eight was promoted on the following Tuesday afternoon into an object of International interest. The sporting sections of the two peoples, which are separated by the Atlantic, fixed their eyes on Mr. Marshall and his crew. For Leander was beaten by the Tuxedo crew in the first heat of the Grand Challenge, and the Boniface Eight paddled home a length in front of St. Benedicts, the head of the river at Oxford. Plainly if the Cup were not to follow other articles of silver plate across the Atlantic Boniface would be the cause of its retention on English soil.

On Wednesday both crews won their heats with ease. On Thursday came the final.

It would have caused surprise, and perhaps some indignation to the group of enthusiasts who watched the Boniface Eight push off from the landing-stage if they had known the state of mind in which the stroke -- for it was at that thwart that "Bunker" sat -- then found himself. For so healthy a young man he was pale -- not very pale, but far from red. It was remarked on the bank that "Bunker" had a pretty bad needle which, being translated, means an attack of nerves usual to oarsmen in such circumstances. As a matter of fact "Bunker's" head was buzzing with a few words snatched from a wildly enthusiastic young lady who had pressed his hand as he carried his oar down to the boat. "Dear 'Bunker,'" she had said; "you'll beat them, I know you will." "Dear 'Bunker'" what did she mean? Could it be -- "Forward," cried the cox -- did she really -- "Are you ready?" -- she must have -- "Paddle." And so they swept down the course towards the starting-place.

"Bunker's" amatory speculations were still unfinished -- was ever a stroke in so cruel a situation? -- while he passed his sweater to the boatman, undid two buttons at the waist, wriggled himself in his sliding seat, and regarded the straps that confined his toes. Yet for a moment Diana conquered Venus. "Now you men," he addressed the boat, "Don't get flurried. We're all right; but for Heaven's sake pick it up when I quicken." "Are you ready, Marshall?" called the Starter. "Yes," he answered, regarding the trim lines of the Umpire's launch moving slowing upon them. A similar question to the Americans alongside, a sliding forward, a moment of tense, vicious excitement little less acute to some members of the crew than that which the condemned man suffers when the hangman lays his hand on the lever of the drop, a voice, a pistol, the swish of oars, a short second stroke, the thud of a cannon from somewhere on the bank -- and the great race had begun.

And "Bunker" kept his head, like the good man he was. The Americans were gaining on him; he could see nothing but their rudder now as he took a swift glance from the tail of his eye. But he knew their style of rowing, those short and rapid strokes that drive a boat so fast and tire a crew so quickly. They were both clear of the island now, and the white launch was flying after them with a curl of foam at the bows. They had reached the farm. He looked at the cox. "Three-quarters of a length." It contented his soul. The boat was going well; the men rowing cleanly together. He was not afraid -- if they stuck to it.

"Two, you're late," cried the cox. He cursed two in his heart; the shout interrupted his thoughts. He must keep his head clear. Fawley -- they were near the half-way post. "Close on a length," said the cox. He nodded his head. "Pick it up," cried the cox, and the crew took the spurt finely.

They were amongst the thick of the pleasure craft now. A great dull roar filled the air, a mass of inarticulate cries. Once he saw an American flag waving over the boom that guarded the course, and heard a shrill ordered war-cry from a score of Tuxedo supporters somewhere on his left. Beyond that he could not remember to have heard or seen anything from the island to the half-way post beyond the cox's face and the white curl on the launch's forefoot, and the dull rumbling of people shouting it might have been miles away. "Under half a length," cried the cox. They were going up, then? They were close on Phyllis Court now. Again he spurted. A glance from the tail of his eye; there was the enemy's rudder coming back to him. And now it was their cox, with an odd megaphone attachment on his head that made him look so funny. Curse that cox, what a fool he looked! Another spurt -- they were passing the wall. What a noise there was. There could be little in it. Come on, you men! Row, row, row! For the honour of English muscle and English skill -- row, row, row! There was the Yankee stroke. He was falling back; he was behind them. Row, row! He could not see very clearly now. Perhaps it was all right. Row, row! A gun. "Easy all," cried the cox. "Half a length, 'Bunker,' half a length to the good, by God."

And yet the cox was a pious little man.

* * *

Oh, what a hero was "Bunker"! How they shouted as he stepped from his boat! How old veterans came running up to slap him on the back! How the college boatman clasped his hand, shouting, with tears in his eyes, "Gawd, it was wonderful! Gawd, it was wonderful; and I've won two quid." Oh, "Bunker" Marshall, you will never be so famous again, so worshipped by friends, so admired by even your beaten enemies; not even if you become Prime Minister of England and reduce the income-tax!

It was next morning, under the yew tree in the General's garden, that he came upon Ida Dereham. She was alone. To be truthful, Dick was still in bed suffering from what he accurately described as a sick headache. There was little of the hero about "Bunker." Indeed, he spoke to her with a hanging head.

"I have something to say," he began. "It's this. I love you very much. Will you marry me?"

"My dear boy!" she said.

"Is there no hope, then?"

"You'll soon get over it," she said, cheerfully. "And now tell me some more about the race. You're a hero, you know."

* * *

"And you refused him, Ida?" cried Dick, in vast indignation some two hours later.

"My dear Dick. Please let me manage my own affairs."

"Oh, but I say--"

"Why you should wish me to marry a boy that has just left school I can't imagine. Besides, who are his people? What can he do but become a schoolmaster or something on half commission in the City? Don't be so absurd."

"But everybody knows "Bunker" Marshall. He is as famous--"

"As a professional cricketer, perhaps. But would you ask me to marry a professional cricketer?"

"Oh, I say!" said Dick Dereham.

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