23 January 2018

Portslade Poet – Alfred de Kantzow (1827-1919)

David Sharp 2018

Alfred de Kantzow (1827-1919)
Alfred de Kantzow, the poet, composed his collective works of Ultima Verba (1902) and Noctis Susurri (1906) while living in Portslade from 1870 until 1916.

He is recorded as living at Clive Villa, number 8 Carlton Terrace in the Kelly’s Directory for the years 1890 and 1899. After these dates his house was re-numbered as 11 when new properties were built between the existing houses.

Alfred was born in 1827 in Lisbon, Portugal and baptised a year later at All Soul's Church Marylebone, London. As a young man Alfred served as a Lieutenant in the East India Company’s 22nd Madras Native Infantry. He retired from military service in 1854.

Baron Carl Adolf St George de Kantzow’s Family

Alfred de Kantzow (1827-1919) came from an illustrious aristocratic Swedish family who originated from the Swedish-controlled and German speaking Pomerania which today is an area of land now split between Germany and Poland on the Baltic coast.

The de Kantzow family were granted Swedish baron status in 1821, and were introduced into Sweden's House of Knights in 1822. After the family’s promotion into the Swedish aristocratic system, the ‘von Kantzou family’ adopted Swedish spelling of ‘Kantzow’ for their family name.

Alfred’s father was Baron Carl Adolf St George de Kantzow, the Consul General for the Swedish Government in Lisbon. His mother was Emma Bosanquet the daughter of the Governor of the Bank of England, Alfred had five brothers and two sisters.

Carl Adolf (who was born in Portugal to a Swedish Diplomatic family) held a number of titles and honours:- from his home country, the Swedish Court awarded the honours of a Knight of the Order of the North Star and Commander of the Order of Vasa.

The King of Portugal in grateful appreciation for the help that earlier generations of Kantzows had given the Royal Family in helping them escape from invading Napoleonic Forces in 1803, granted the titles of Baron de St George, Knight of the Order of Christ and Commander of the Tower and Sword.
Carl Adolf St George de Kantzow died in the spa town of Bad Kissingen, Germany in 1867.

Alfred de Kantzow’s five brothers and two sisters were:-

Baron Edvard Bosanquet St George de Kantzow (1826-1905). As the eldest son, he inherited the title of Baron St George, and served as a Swedish Government Official and Diplomat.
Edvard was the author of the romantic novel Harald och Elmira (1892) and he also published two books of poetry Georginer Dikter (1894) and Alprosa Dikter (1901).
Edvard died in Stockholm in 1905.

Herbert-Philip de Kantzow (1829-1915) was a Captain in the Royal Navy. He saw action in the Royal Navy’s South American Anti-Slave Trade Squadron. He finished his long naval career at the rank of an Admiral. Herbert de Kantzow was the author of Summer Days in Auvergne (1875).

Walter Sidney de Kantzow (1831-1927) served as a Captain in the Royal Navy, later to be promoted to a Commander. He saw action in the Russia-Crimean War and in the Royal Navy’s Anti-Slave Trade Squadron off East Africa, North America and West Indies.

Rosette J de Kantzow (1832-1905) married Gustaf Leijonhufvud in Sweden.

Charles Alphonse de Kantzow (1835-1927) served at a Lieutenant in the 48th Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry. He was honoured for bravery in the Indian Mutiny. His heroic exploits were widely reported in the national press and books devoted to the history of the Mutiny.
To counter this national acclamation Karl Marx, in his Notes on Indian History regarding the Mainpuri rebellion wrote, ‘ a young brute of a lieutenant, one de Kantzow, saved the treasury and fort’. Charles finished his long army career in the rank of Colonel and retired to Brighton, living in Queen’s Road. In the 1901 census he gave his nationality as a Portuguese subject.
Charles Alphonse later moved to 15 Chatham Place, Brighton.

Henry Ives de Kantzow (1837-1895) Commander in the Royal Marines, retired to St Leonard’s, Sussex

Florence de Kantzow b./d.1842

Alfred de Kantzow’s Marriage

 Copyright © G. Osborne
Clive Villa, number 8 Carlton Terrace in 1900
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne 
for granting permission for the 
reproduction of the above photograph
from his private collection.  
In 1854 Alfred married Mary Maria Farmer at St James Church Westminster. Maria’s father was George Winyett Farmer a Silversmith of Dean Street, Soho, London.

Alfred and Mary lived in London where their following children were born
Lucy Alice b.1855
Charles Adolphus b.1857
Herbert b.1861
Frances Ada b.1863
Nellie b.1866

In 1868 Alfred and Mary moved to Brighton where their daughter Minnie was born.

The earliest recorded date for Alfred and Mary’s residence in Portslade was the birth of their daughter Marguerite in 1870, 

Alfred and Mary are recorded as living at number 8 Carlton Terrace, Portslade, in the Kelly’s Directory for the years 1890 and 1899. After these dates their house was re-numbered as number 11 when new houses were built between the existing houses.

The 1891 census in the Parish of St Nicolas shows Alfred de Kantzow as a retired Indian Army Officer, his wife Mary, and their children, Marguerite (b.1871 in Portslade) and Hugh Bosanquet Winyett de Kantzow (b.1877 in Portslade). Also a part of their household was their servant Alice Holden.

The 1901 census in the Parish of St Nicolas again shows Alfred and Mary.
Alfred gives his occupation as retired Indian Army Officer and Poet. Hugh (b.1877) was still living with his parents but was now joined by his older sister Lucy de Kantzow (b.1855).

Alfred's eldest son Charles Adolphus emigrated to Australia and became a school master. When his father Alfred died, Charles placed a notice in the Sidney Daily Telegraph :- ‘31 May 1919, C. A. de Kantzow announces the death of his beloved father Alfred de Kantzow aged 92 who died on March 30th 1919 at Brixton, London.’ Charles had two sons born in Australia, Herbert and Sydney H.
Charles Adolphus died in 1947 aged 90.

Charles Adolphus son Sydney H. de Kantzow, served during World War II as a pilot for the Royal Australian Air Force. In 1946 Sydney co-founded with the American Roy C. Farrell the global airlines Cathay Pacific Airway. Sadly, Sydney died in a car accident in 1957.

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
The former Miss Heatly's Girls' School
 at 5 The Drive, Hove where J. C. Powys 
taught in 1893
Alfred de Kantzow and John Cowper Powys

John Cowper Powys (1871-1963) the philosopher, lecturer, novelist, literary critic and poet, who later in life was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, lived in Southwick from 1894 to 1896 before moving to Court House at Offham, Lewes.

Powys graduated from Corpus Christi, Cambridge with a £60 a year allowance from his father to take up a teaching post in Hove, which Powys constantly refers to being called West Brighton in his autobiography.

He chose Southwick as he wanted to live in ‘rural seclusion’ from his teaching posts in Hove at the girls’ schools of Mrs Walder at 26 Wilbury Road, Miss Heatly at 5 The Drive and Miss Cadwallader at 39-41 Tisbury Road.

Powys took lodgings at a £1 a week above Mr Pollard’s grocers shop at 99 Albion Street opposite the Southwick end of Shoreham Harbour which pleased Powys as it reminded him so much of Weymouth Harbour.

Powys would walk the 4 miles to the girls schools in Hove each day along the coast past Fishersgate and Portslade-by-Sea, passing Portslade Gasworks and large expanses of open land.

Portslade-by-Sea at this time was not fully developed with large parcels of land used as market gardens and plots of land marked out for the late Victorian housing expansion in the area, a ‘melancholy and desolate’ scene that did not please Powys.

  Copyright © J.Middleton
Powys wrote, 'Here I used to meet one of those emblematic, and, to my mind, with its persistent search for “omens of the way,” mystical figures, messengers of the Grail you might almost call them, that all my days have at intervals crossed my path. Such was the madwoman I used to encounter by those Portslade gasworks'
copyright © G.Osborne copyright © G.Osborne cMr Pollard was very perceptive in realising that Powys, living in a rural seclusion at Southwick, needed some stimulating conversation from someone of a like mind. At first Powys was reluctant to meet in Pollard’s words ‘a man you would admire’ as he could not see Portslade in the mould of another Cockermouth (Lake District poets) or as a place that produced someone of interest to him.

 Copyright © G. Osborne
 Powys lived on the north side of Albion Street next door to the high gabled Southwick Methodist Church shown on the right of this photograph, of which Powys described as a 'rather sorrowful looking dissenting chapel in the middle of the main street' this view has completely changed since Powys' time in Southwick, the only building to survive the massive redevelopment of the 1950s-1960s is the Schooner Public House on the right of this photograph.
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph  from his private collection.

Powys finally agreed to meet this ‘Portslade gentleman’ and wrote of this encounter:- ‘And now I come to one of the most extraordinary episodes in my life — an episode that must have lasted nearly ten years — my intimate friendship with the poet Alfred de Kantzow. I owe this high privilege, one of the happiest chances of my life, to none other than my enterprising host, Mr. Pollard’

 Copyright © G. Osborne
Powys described the walk along this road through Fishersgate and Portslade-by-Sea to Hove as 'melancholy and desolate’ 
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph  from his private collection.

Alfred de Kantzow was already well known locally in Portslade for his picturesque personality and his eccentric Bohemian lifestyle, dressing in rags and rarely having laces in his shoes. Alfred’s lifestyle and dress was a complete contradiction to his neighbours in Carlton Terrace, a road of expensive properties and sited on the edge of open downland and close to Portslade Railway Station.

 Copyright © G. Osborne
Carlton Terrace at the time when Alfred de Kantzow lived at number 8
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  

Powys remarked about de Kantzow ‘He could live — and did actually live at a pinch — on crusts and scrapings, but he also had the greatest power of swallowing raw spirits that I have met in anyone before’.

Powys noted in his autobiography ‘We used to meet and talk, both of us in very loud voices discussing poetry and Alfred’s early life in India, on numerous excursions along those Sussex highways. All the shabbier and more out-of- the-way taverns between Shoreham and Brighton knew us, and we would extend our pilgrimages in a great many directions beyond that coastline.’

  Copyright © J.Middleton
The only road in the 1890s north from Southwick to the countryside was Southwick Street/Mile Oak Road which would have led John Cowper Powys and Alfred de Kantzow to Portslade Old Village with its two public houses The George and The Stag's Head which would have pleased them both.

  Copyright © G. Osborne 
A view of Portslade Old Village which John Cowper Powys and Alfred de Kantzow would have known well, Portslade's  Brewery with its French style chateau roof can be seen clearly from the surrounding hills and would have acted like a magnet drawing the two poets down to the two village pubs.
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.

In 1896 Powys moved to Court House Offham, Lewes and still in the thrall of Alfred wrote, ‘I eventually made my grand efforts to get him the public recognition which he deserved. I have never put myself out so much in all my days as I did for Mr. de Kantzow . I was his disciple, his faithful lieutenant, his equerry, his man- at-arms, the bearer of his shield, the purveyor of his cap of maintenance.’

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
Alfred de Kantzow's former home at number 11 (8) Carton Terrace, 
like many of the houses in the road have been converted into shops etc.

In 1901 Alfred’s wife Mary Maria (Winyett Farmer) died. She must have been an extraordinary loving and forgiving woman to have been married so long to a man who pursued an eccentric Bohemian lifestyle. Alfred remarked to Powys, “you cannot live with a woman for forty years without loving her!”

Mary Maria de Kantzow was buried in St Leonard’s churchyard in Aldrington, Hove.

 Copyright © J.Middleton
St Leonard’s Church, New Church Road, Aldrington, Hove.

In de Kantzow’s Noctis Susurri (Sighs of the Night - 1906) he included the following poem which was written in memory of his wife’s burial in St Leonard’s churchyard.

The bells of the church would have been clearly audible at Alfred’s home in Carlton Terrace.

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
Mary Maria de Kantzow (1833-1901)
and her son Hugh Winyett Bosanquet de Kantzow 
and his wife Lillith Ruth.
(St Leonard's churchyard, Aldrington, Hove)

Chill stillness pervade the air,
Its calmness partakes of despair,
And leaden the landscape and sky.
I’ll not drink to the New Year— not I !
And when the bells ring I will sigh.

If I called her to me would she come !
She lieth unconscious and dumb,
Around her damp dews from the sky.
She is dead. Alas ! why did she die !
And when the bells ring I will sigh.

She was like a white rose on the wall,
Whose petals are destined to fall.
She is far as a star in the sky
Worse ill from the gods I defy,
And when the bells ring I will sigh.

At approach of New Years that are gone,
The bells of St. Leonard rang on
On mine ears thro’ the sombre grey sky,
But now they are only a cry,
And when the bells ring I will sigh.
 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
Barry de Kantzow
the son of Hugh & Lillith
(St Leonard's churchyard, Aldrington)

St. Leonard’s was ruin of old,
More ruin ’tis now manifold,
For she lies there inert ’neath the sky.
The bells will be rung by-and-bye,
And when the bells ring I will sigh.

Methinks to escape from the sound,
But here by a spell I am bound,
In a circle of earth and of sky,
I shudder as midnight draws nigh,
And when the bells ring I will sigh.
From Noctis Susurri by Alfred de Kantzow (b.1827-1919)

In 1902 John Cowper Powys and his wife Margaret moved to Burpham, near Arundel. In August of that year their son Littleton Alfred Powys was born. It was arranged for young Littleton to be baptised in St Mary’s Burpham with Margaret’s father Alfred Lyon and Alfred de Kantzow to be the Godparents, even though Powys had doubts as to whether de Kantzow would turn up for the ceremony. Powys wrote of the occasion, ‘ Mr. de Kantzow! It was a pretty sight to see this aged Lucretius clasping in his shaky fingers, the wrong side upper- most, a neat version of the Book of Common Prayer as he stood at our Burpham font; and it was a charming poem you may be sure, in the old-fashioned courtly style, that he composed to celebrate that day’.


Not with firm faith and not with holy zeal
By this stone font in this lone church I kneel ;
In struggling prayer subdued, I bend the knee,
Invoking God to bless and cherish thee.

Plato, Confucius, Zoroaster, sought
The way to Truth, by arduous stress of thought ;—
I, their poor follower, ask forgiveness if
I cannot read this Church's hieroglyph.

Ah ! child, thou heir of Time, thy parents' hope.
Astrologer may cast thy horoscope,
I may not—I can only humbly pray
No broken lights like mine shall e'er distract thy way.
From Noctis Susurri by Alfred de Kantzow (b.1827-1919)

Powys was good to his word and helped de Kantzow to publish two volumes of poetry entitled Ultima Verba (1902) and Noctis Susurri (Sighs of the Night 1906). Powys came up with the suggestion for the Noctis Susurri title.

Powys said of his help to de Kantzow, ‘nothing could induce me to relinquish my exhausting editorship of Ultima Verba and Noctis Susurri or my eternal assignations with Mr de Kantzow. Towards this old gentleman indeed I acted more like a devoted young woman than like a fellow poet.’

The Manchester Courier reported on 23 February 1906 at Claremont, Pendleton, Manchester that John Cowper Powys had given a lecture on the career of Alfred de Kantzow quoting extracts of poetry from Ultima Verba and appealed to his audience to interest themselves in Noctis Susurri, Alfred’s lastest volume of verse shortly to be published.

Locally a selection of Alfred’s poems were printed in the Brighton Gazette and also published in booklet form by the same newspaper.

  Copyright © J.Middleton
The Brighton Herald reported on 10 October 1908 that John Cowper Powys M.A. would be giving a series of University Extension Lectures at Hove Town Hall on alternate Mondays starting at 3pm

Powys wrote the following of their parting as follows, ‘Alfred de Kantzow must have been over seventy when I first met him and I remained his devoted henchman for nearly ten years. It was only his final retirement to London under the care of his son who was always kind to him that separated us at last. I never learnt the circumstances of his death nor do I know where he was buried. I served him well, and the last time I saw him he declared in such thundering tones, in the big restaurant at Victoria Station, that my son was like a Greek God’

In the 1911 census it is recorded that Alfred de Kantzow was living in Twickenham with his son Hugh Winyett Bosanquet de Kantzow (born in Portslade 1876). Alfred was described in the census as an army pensioner aged 83. It appears that Alfred returned to Portslade and was recorded in Pikes Street Directory, for the years 1912, 1913 and 1914, as still living at 11 Carlton Terrace but now listed under the title of Baron de Kantzow. It appears that some time between 1915 and 1919 Alfred moved to London to live with his son Hugh in his final years.
Alfred de Kantzow died aged 92 on March 30th 1919 in Brixton, London.
A curious coincidence concerns one of Alfred de Kantzow’s poems ‘Gold is Worshipped Without a Temple’ and a James Wood, who lived a few houses away at number 27 Carlton Terrace. In Alfred’s poem, the Biblical figures of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba are mentioned in connection with the main theme of 'gold' running through the verses.

James Wood was known as ‘King Solomon’ by members of his religious sect ‘The Army of the Lord’, which also included a 'Queen of Sheba' and a 'Queen Esther'.
‘King Solomon’ accepted gold and jewels from his followers as he sat on his throne dressed in robes of purple and gold and holding a sceptre in the richly adorned sanctuary at his Carlton Terrace home which he renamed as Arregosabah.
James ‘King Solomon’ Wood died in 1916 aged 85 and is buried in Portslade Cemetery.

The above 1st September 1922 newspaper article comes from The Telegraph (Brisbane Queensland, Australia)

Obviously Portslade Council were unaware that Alfred de Kantzow had died in London three years earlier. For an Australian newspaper to report on an English local news story may suggest that Alfred’s poetry was well known in that country.

A postscript to the above (not shown in the above Australian newspaper) was printed two months earlier in an article in the British Evening Telegraph on the 6 July 1922:-

The headlines were ‘No Ghosts Found in The House’, followed by the sub-headings:- ‘Derelict Residence Explored To-day’, ‘Practical Joker Leaves Trail Behind Him’ :-
‘The six year mystery of the haunted villa in Portslade, which provided a local sensation has been unmasked. The house belongs to Miss de Kantzow, a daughter of Mr Alfred de Kantzow, a local poet, who died three years ago.’
The article went on to say Hugh de Kantzow explained the situation of his sister who was in her 70s to Council officials that she moved away to London as she felt unsafe in Portslade during the Great War and had completely forgotten about her house. When Mr de Kantzow entered the house with Council officials they found a white sheet with two small holes which was used by some practical joker. Mr de Kantzow said he would do whatever Portslade Council deemed necessary to rectify the situation regarding the empty house.

The story of Alfred de Kantzow’s empty house also appeared in The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror
and The Observer.

The de Kantzows still owned 11 Carlton Terrace in the 1940s, Alfred’s daughter Minnie (1868-1948) wife of the late Dr Frederick A Fisher lived there with her daughter. 

  Copyright ©  D. Sharp
A view from Foredown Hill to Mount Zion near Portslade's Old Village, Alfred would have known this ancient route to the South Downs and possibly an inspiration for his poems 'Voices of the Downs' and 'A Walk to Poynings'.

Fortune hath smiled, who never smiled before ;
I must not taunt her—she's a woman still;
But these my verses when I live no more, They will.
(from ‘To the Reader’ by Alfred de Kantzow)

Brighton Herald
English Census’
Evening Telegraph
Inside Shoreham and Southwick June 2011
Internet sources
Kantzow A., Noctis Susurri (1906)
Kelly’s Directories
Langridge D., John Cowper Powys: A Record of Achievement (1966)
Lawless Lee G., History of the Bosanquet Family (1966)
Marx K., Notes on Indian History (1947)
Meyer C., A Genealogy of the Bosanquet Family (1877)
Middleton J. Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade (2001)
Powys, John Cowper., Autobiography (1993)
Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon
The Powys Society
Thomas C., Looking for Mr de Kantow, The Powys Society Newsletter, No.67 (July 2009)
Trove Newspapers Australian.
Young G., Beyond Lion Rock (1988)

Thanks are due to Mr Chris Thomas of the Powys Society for supplying additional information from his extensive research into the life of Alfred de Kantzow.

Also Thank you to Mr G. Osborne for allowing us to reproduce five of his wonderful photographs  

Robert Carrington, Portslade composer and performer, set Alfred de Kantzow’s poem ‘The Pantheist’ and The Bells of St Leonard’s to music, Robert Carrington and Paul Neville co-founded Pastores Ensemble.

Copyright © D.Sharp 2018